Author’s Note: If you’ve read Office Politics, you’ll remember Frannie mentioning in passing an incident where she had stepped back from the coffee maker only to find Sam right behind her. The full-body contact was something she had been unable to put from her mind, even though Sam had married someone else. Now you know the story behind that incident (plus a little glimpse into the character of Gus Haldemann, my readers’ favorite hero, hands-down. Writing The Sam Chapters convinced me to do more with Gus than make him just a potential rival for the heart of Sarah in The Secret Dreams of Sarah-Jane Quinn.)

“You’re going to have to actually ask her out someday, you know,” Gus says, giving me a look from the corner of his eye as we head across the lobby toward the elevator.

“I know.”  I don’t need to be reminded.  Every minute of every day of the last three years has been colored by the entirely pleasant thought of Frannie Freeman—thoughts I really shouldn’t be having, since I’m her supervisor.  “I’m just waiting for the right moment.”

Gus keeps pace with me, not willing the drop the subject.  We skirt past a crowd of suited executives huddled around the reception desk, and as we join the queue for the elevator, he presses the point.

“The right moment?  Buddy, that was last year, right after she broke up with that yahoo she’d been dating.”  He pauses, considering the wisdom of saying what’s on his mind.  “Glaciers move faster than you do, Sam.”

I sigh. “So you’ve been saying for at least the last year.  I think we even had this same conversation, verbatim, about three months ago in exactly this same spot.”

“When are you going to listen to me?  I know what I’m talking about.”

That makes me laugh.  “Yeah?  You, who’s pining away with unrequited love for a married woman?”

Gus frowns at me.  “Who said anything about love?  All I ever said is Gretchen Clark is freaking gorgeous.”

I smirk, but I don’t say anything because the huddle of Suits at the reception desk has moved behind us to wait for the elevators—which, by the way, are taking a hell of long time to get to the lobby. That tells me some Senior Executives are holding the doors open, talking to their colleagues about the upcoming weekend and the Vegas Christmas party while we white-collar fringe are waiting to get to work.

“Let’s take the stairs,”  Gus says.  “I don’t have time for this.”

We shoulder our way out of the crowd and head for the curving staircase by the reception desk that, for reasons known only to the architect—who quite possibly had a stroke while designing this building—completely bypass the second floor and go right to the third.

Now I can say what I wanted to, because we’ve moved away from the gossip mongers.  The grapevine in this particular company is efficient and vicious; the last thing I want is for rumors to start circulating about Gus being involved with a married subordinate.  As an executive, he could get in a lot of trouble.

“You watch her like a love-struck teenager. Or a hormonal one.”

“Yep. Hormones. That’s all it is.”

“And if you’re not obsessing, why aren’t you dating other women?”

“I haven’t met any I want to date,” he says absently.

I realize he’s not paying attention, and I follow his line of vision: Frannie is in the break room, making coffee.  As we continue to climb toward the landing, I can just make out her indistinct humming.  It seems like she’s always humming or singing under her breath.

I recognize the glint in Gus’s eye.  “No.  Now’s not the right time.”

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