Book 2, Chapter 024

It was at about that time that Rachel got back to work from her unpleasant encounter with Ean.  She marched into the break room and started a pot brewing.  The only good thing that had happened to her since moving here, it seemed, was that she had ended up getting Ean’s job when he lost it – which got her out of the chain of command she would have been in otherwise.  After seeing her would-have-been boss throw a cup of hot coffee in someone’s face, she was very thankful that she didn’t have to deal with him on a day to day basis.  Especially since she could look at his online calendar and the office instant messaging system and time her rounds to coincide with his absence.

To herself, she had started referring to her would-have-been boss as ‘Doom.’  After all, she was – if I may say so – a very smart young woman.  Unfortunately, as steamed as she was, she failed to notice that Doom was waiting for her until after she’d sat down, woke up her laptop, and he’d sidled over.

"Hey, Fred," she started to say in greeting before it hit her usual lunch companion had been replaced.  Fortunately, she caught herself before she actually called Doom by the wrong name and swiftly changed tracks.  "Uh… hi." She choked out.  "What are you doing here?"

What he was doing was invading her personal space – in the absence of a nearby chair Doom was standing far closer than propriety allowed, and leaned over to look at the screen of Rachel’s laptop.  "Having lunch," he said.  "Yourself…?"  His voice trailed off as he turned back to face her, but didn’t quite make it – instead, his gaze was arrested at about the middle of her blouse, and since he was leaning over her Rachel was uncomfortably aware that meant he was looking down it.

Under normal circumstances, Rachel wouldn’t have noticed that or read anything into it – but under normal circumstances, it wouldn’t have happened.  She’d spent most of her life being ignored by everyone around her, and now that she was being noticed she couldn’t help but frown.  Ean had been the first, but it had been happening more and more since then – Fred had started spending his lunches with her, and occasionally hinted that maybe they could go out to a sandwich place.  The checkout guy at the grocery store had started taking an inordinate amount of time bagging things up; the postman had started always waiting long enough to hand her mail to her personally, and now Doom was getting weird, too.

But unlike the others, who were more subtle about it – or Ean, whom she still had the damnedest feeling she could trust – Doom set off mental alarms she’d only felt once before.  And although she hadn’t listened to them then, she certainly wasn’t going to make that mistake again.

Et Alia, Book 2: Black Magic, Secret Agents, Shakespearean Tragedies and Interoffice Dating

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