“The New York subway system was built with the idea that one-hundred-year storms happen only every hundred years. Unfortunately, that is not reality. Disasters like Hurricane Sandy have proven that what was once planned for once every century, has happened every few years. The US is spending billions, with talk of raised entrances and floodgates, and given that we’ve worked extensively with the London Underground, they want our input, too. So I’ll be gone for one month to attend an International Summit on Emergency Preparedness for public transport, air travel, and urban infrastructure.”
“One month?” a senior engineer asked, echoing what we all had to be thinking. I wondered if anyone was also echoing my mental fist pump at the idea of an Anthony-free office for so long a stretch.
Anthony nodded in her direction. “There are three separate summits taking place. Not everyone who is invited is staying for the duration, but given that our firm specializes in both public transport and urban infrastructure, Richard decided that he’d like us there for the lot of it.”
“ ‘Us?’ ” asked one of the executives from Niall Stella’s department.
“Right,” Anthony said, tilting his head to the left. “Niall will be accompanying me.”
“You’re both going away for a month?” I blurted, instantly wishing I could take my words back and shove them down my throat. I was an intern. One of Anthony’s unspoken rules seemed to be that we didn’t speak at this meeting unless asked a direct question. I could feel the weight of everyone’s eyes on me again. Even worse? I could feel his, pressing on my skin, probing.
“Er, yes, Ruby,” Anthony said, clearly a bit confused. He walked around his chair to stand beside me, hands tucked into the front pockets of his pants. “But no worries, I know you’ve got the Oxford Street project nearly wrapped up, and my being gone won’t affect signing off on that in any way. If you need anything from me, you can always call.”
“Oh,” I said, feeling the heat slowly fade from my face. “That’s good to know, thanks.” Of course Anthony thought my burst of word vomit was because I was worried that he was leaving—you know, my boss?—and that perhaps his absence might somehow interfere with my work.
“Smooth,” Pippa said, as her long oval nails clicked across her keyboard.
I had no idea whether Niall Stella was still looking this way, and the twelve-year-old part of me wanted to drag Pippa into the ladies’ room and have her replay the scene, moment by moment.
But I knew that would be a mistake. The first day he seemed to actually notice me and I blew it, acting like some kind of psycho. I couldn’t take her telling me that he’d made that face in my direction, the one where he frowned and looked like someone had just spilled cream on his hand-tailored suit.
I’d rather we go back to him not knowing I was alive.
The end of the day found me at our long, shared desk, sorting through a stack of permits. My Diet Coke had grown warm, and I was counting down the minutes to a hot bath and a hotter book when my email chimed, signaling an incoming message.
“Finally,” I sighed. I’d been waiting for a confirmation number all day, and now—maybe—I could go home.
Or maybe not.
Pippa yawned next to me and stretched her arms over her head. It was already dark out and the walk to the Tube would be cold and wet. “Can we go now?”
My shoulders dropped. “Actually, that was an email from Anthony,” I told her, frowning at my screen. “He wants to see me in his office before I go and I can think of at least a hundred other things I’d rather do instead.”
“What?” she said, leaning over to peer at my monitor. “What does he want?”
“Doesn’t he have a watch? We were supposed to be gone twenty minutes ago.”
I typed out a quick reply, letting him know I was on my way, and began shutting things down for the night. “Wait for me?” I asked Pippa.
Pausing mid-drawer slam, she gave me a sad little frown. “I’ve got to hustle, I’m sorry, Rubes. I waited as long as I could, but I’ve loads to do tonight.”
I nodded, feeling somehow uneasy being left in the offices alone this late with Anthony.
The halls were empty as I stepped into the elevator and headed to the sixth floor.
“Ruby, Ruby, come in,” he said, pausing where he’d been pulling a few things from around the room and arranging them in a box on his desk. Had he been fired? Dare I hope?
“Close the door and take a seat,” he continued.
I felt a frown tug at the corner of my mouth. “But nobody’s here,” I said, leaving the door open.
“Why did your parents name you Ruby?” he asked, eyes making a slow circuit of my face.
My frown deepened. What? “Um . . . I’m not actually sure. I think they just liked the name.” Anthony clung to several old business rules, one of which included keeping a crystal decanter of scotch on a table behind his desk. Had he been drinking?
“Did I ever tell you that my gran was named Ruby?”
I eyed the scotch, trying to remember how full it had been the last time I was in here.
Anthony walked around his desk and took a seat on the corner nearest me. His thigh pressed against the side of my arm and I shifted in my seat.