By: Leddy Harper

By the time I’d made it home last night, she was hysterical. I did everything I could to be patient, supportive, and calm her down. But nothing seemed to work. She had no desire to talk, and she refused to take anything. All she did was curl into a ball and cry. Finally, she fell asleep, but it didn’t come so easily for me.

I’d tossed and turned, the weight of guilt crushing me. Guilt for not wanting to be home, for going to the bar when I knew her mood before I’d left for work yesterday morning. However, the majority of my shame came from not being able to be what she needed. For not being able to take away the pain and misery she felt day in and day out.

After less than four hours of sleep, I woke with the sun, already knowing I’d slept later than intended. I hadn’t wanted to wake her—she needed to sleep—so I quietly got ready for the office, which did nothing but make me run even further behind.

I made it through the heavy doors, the ones with “Kauffmann Investments” boldly etched into the glass, with enough time to catch a blur of red hair in the lobby. Suddenly, my tardiness no longer plagued me. I stopped in my tracks and watched the woman as she made her way through the doors to the public relations department.

I shook my head. It couldn’t have been Eden. Eden had a degree in finance. She’d have no business in public relations. My attention was immediately taken from my thoughts of Eden when Gina, the main receptionist for the building, greeted me.

“You’re late. Is everything okay?” Crystal-clear blue eyes, decorated with smile lines that showed her age, met mine, and in them, I saw deep concern. Yet another reminder of how off-kilter my morning had started.

I checked my watch and glanced back up at her with exaggerated distress. “I’m not late, Gina.” I waited until she cocked her head, confusion marring her slightly aged face. “You must’ve gotten here really early this morning. Just for that, I’ll make sure to bring you flowers twice this week.”

Her cheeks brightened as she swatted the air between us. “The ones you brought me last week are still very much alive. You spoil me, Mr. Kauffmann.”

I peered over both shoulders, taking in the lobby behind me, and then leaned over the desk toward her. I lowered my voice and said, “My dad’s here? Where? Tell him I’m in a meeting.” When she giggled, I leaned back and winked. “One of these days, Gina, you’ll learn to call me Dane. Mr. Kauffmann is my father.”

I smiled and carried on down the hall toward my office with slightly less weight on my shoulders than when I’d walked in.

I had about seventy emails waiting in my inbox when I turned on my computer, but I ignored them and logged right into the applicant database. I needed a peek. Just one quick look to ease my mind. I only needed to prove to myself it hadn’t been her in the lobby.

But then I found it.

Eden Lesley Clare, twenty-five years old.

It had all her credentials: her schooling, majors, minors—which were quite impressive—and recommendations from her professors at NYU. Her résumé was flawless, and it was clear she’d come to the right company. However, she had an interview for a receptionist position in public relations. I couldn’t fathom why she would waste her talents in the wrong department.

I picked up the phone and dialed the number to find out the answers I sought. After a few questions, my suspicions were verified. Eden Clare had an interview with them. For the receptionist position. I hadn’t even hung up the phone before standing from my chair, my decision made.

I don’t remember leaving my office or flying down the hall. I don’t remember passing the building’s receptionist counter or making my way into the lobby of the PR department. Even the cold door handle didn’t register. Everything was a blur until I found her sitting alone in the waiting area.

Eden Lesley Clare, age twenty-five.

She was as gorgeous during the day as she was at night.

And all I could do was stare.

Luckily, she didn’t notice me. She kept her head down, reading a magazine in her lap, so I took the time to admire her and put myself in check. She had her hair up in a sleek bun. Her makeup was soft and natural, not at all like last night. Her lips were glossy, though not a hint of color to them. However, I found her equally as stunning as before.