Read an Excerpt
By Lynne Silver, Lewis Pollak, Stacy Abrams
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Lynne Silver
All rights reserved.
"Darn it." Michelle Kolson clicked her mouse furiously on the print button. No dice. The large gray box on the stand in the corner remained silent and still.
"Don't you curse at me, young lady." Mom's voice came through the phone loud and clear.
"Sorry, Mom. The stupid printer won't work."
"Why are you still at the office? It's eight thirty at night. Even Walmart employees don't work such crazy hours. What's wrong with the management?"
Michelle rolled her eyes. Mom didn't get it, didn't have a clue about the life she wanted. If she were still back home in Minsker, Iowa, she'd be with Brad, waiting on an engagement she didn't want and working a job she hated.
Nope, not for her.
On cue, Mom just had to mention her ex-boyfriend. "I ran into Brad at the diner. He was eating burgers with Rebecca. Do you think he's dating her?"
"Mom, stop worrying. Brad and I are done. He's free to date anyone he wants." She got up to check on the printer, stretching the desk phone cord as long as she could. She examined the printer closely. The green light was on and the tiny gray screen said "Ready." Why then wouldn't it print? Arrgh. She gripped the handset tighter, resisting the urge to bang it against the printer.
"Mom, I have to go. This thing is due tomorrow."
"Fine. I'll call again soon."
"Bye. Love you," she said almost absently. Priority number one was getting her time sheet and record log finished and on her jerk of a boss's desk. He wouldn't forgive printer problems. Though why he couldn't approve it via e-mail like every other twenty-first-century office worker, she didn't know. Ironic, really. You'd think a company specializing in eco-friendly products would have policies about paper usage. But this was her first week at the job, her first real job in an office anywhere, unless you counted working at her parents' secondhand store since the age of ten—which she didn't.
If she did count it, she'd still be in Minsker, working at the family store. Or if she were truly lucky, the Walmart, where Missy McQueen, high school cheerleader and popular girl, was manager and still making people's lives miserable. Ha. If life had any sort of justice, Missy McQueen would be fat, unemployed, and suffering karmic justice for her behavior in high school. But she was still thin, beautiful, and mean as a snake.
Michelle sighed as she glanced around the space. LiteWave Tech was an open office environment, her coworker explained on her first day's tour. It meant no cubicle walls were in sight. Instead, a sea of desks stood in rows, looking like a wood-and-computer army. She could see all the way to the windows where the finance cluster stood. Her department was on the third floor: the boring floor, she'd learned. The floor where the bills got paid, benefits were doled out, and customer calls fielded.
All the fun stuff happened on the fourth floor, where the tech, graphics, and marketing teams lived. Michelle had only been up there once, but it had been more colorful somehow. The desks had been personalized with photos, comics, and toys. Down here it was Any Office, USA, and it was currently dead. No computer screen flickered other than hers. Darn it, that meant no one to help.
Time for a last-ditch effort. If it didn't work, she'd have to grab a flash drive and pay to print out the document at the twenty-four-hour printing store near her house with money she didn't have. She kicked the printer stand and caught it as it wobbled.
"That never works, but I appreciate the sentiment."
She jumped and whirled around to see a young guy, looking nerdy in an endearing way. He wore a ratty black T-shirt with the words There's no place like 127.0.0.1. She guessed it was a computer joke. Despite her confusion, she took note of the way the numbers spread across his wide chest, hinting at some interesting muscles hiding behind the geeky demeanor. She had to lift her chin to see his face.
"You startled me." She placed a hand to her chest to calm down her wildly beating heart, which jumped thanks to being startled but also at her close proximity to a tall, handsome man. At least, she thought he was handsome. A baseball cap pulled low over his brow prevented her from seeing most of his face, other than a nicely squared jawline shadowed by a hint of a dark beard.
"Do you need help?"
"That would be amazing. I have to get my weekly time sheet and call log printed and on my boss's desk."
"Let me see what I can do, but for future reference, the help desk is always on call here."
"The IT group whose sole purpose is to assist—"
"The office Luddites."
He grinned. "You said it, not me." He bent over the printer.
"I didn't even know such a thing existed. It's my first week here. My first week anywhere." She blushed and tried to stop rambling.
He started to say something, then stopped and walked back to her desk to fiddle with her mouse. He spent a few minutes hitting buttons until he looked up and grinned. "I found the problem. Come with me."
She followed him around a row of desks to another printer stand that was spitting out a sheaf of papers. She snatched at the pile to see that her document was there in triplicate. Her hand brushed his wrist as she reached for the paper, and then understanding of her silly mistake dawned. She flushed and wanted to hide. "I was sending to the wrong printer bank. I must not have heard it, since I was on the phone."
He grinned. "Yeah. Easy mistake to make. I would've assumed the closest printer too, but now you know."
"Thank you." She stuck her hand out. "I'm Michelle." She felt a bit foolish shaking hands as if they were being formally introduced, but she wanted an excuse to touch him, to feel his strong and capable-looking hand in hers.
* * *
He grinned and thrust his hand out. "Sark," he said, granting her permission to call him by the name all his gamer friends used. Her soft hand fit in his perfectly, and he wanted to keep holding on. Back when he'd first founded LiteWave and it had been fewer than a dozen employees, he'd been Sark to everyone. Now, he was mostly Noah or Mr. Frellish around the office. But he definitely wanted Michelle to be in the small circle of people to call him Sark.
Her long brown hair was the kind of soft he wanted to run his hands through, not to mention the skin on her face looked as soft and smooth as her hair. But she seemed kind of jumpy. A lot of employees got that way with him. Did they think he walked around with a pocket full of pink slips or something? She'd only been there a week, but she had to recognize him. They always plastered his face up on the screen during orientation meetings.
The thought of his corporate headshots reminded him that the trendy glasses he wore for press meetings had fallen off and cracked during his last bike ride and he was wearing his older, supposedly geeky ones. Jane from PR was going to kill him for having to order yet another pair. She claimed he needed to look "nerdy chic." He didn't care, as long as he could see and they stayed on during a long, sweaty bike ride.
"Nice to meet you, Sark. You helped me out of a tight spot tonight. Jim made it pretty clear that these time sheets are pretty important. Maybe he'd fire me if I didn't have it done."
"For real?" And who's Jim? Then the memory clicked. Junior head of the customer service Director level. Maybe he did have the power to fire someone and it was going to his head. Sark made a mental note to look into it.
"You work in the call center? They recently hired you?"
"Why did you sound surprised? I'm a hard worker."
"It's not you. I'm sure you're great. I've ..." He started to say he'd signed a contract to move the call center overseas, but he didn't want to start a companywide panic. He had to be tactful. "A lot of big corporations are moving their call centers to India."
Her face fell. "What?"
"Something about bottom-line costs to us and helping the global economy."
"What about the domestic economy?" Panic flitted across her face. "Do you think LiteWave would do that? I ... I need this job."
His stomach clenched as he looked at the pain in her pretty face. He wanted to offer her another job, but he couldn't. First, it wasn't his place. He wouldn't be a very good CEO if he went around handing out jobs to every girl he thought was pretty. "Maybe there's another position in the company somewhere." For a brief glorious moment, he imagined her applying to be his administrative assistant. He'd get to look at her and better, talk to her, all day. But he swallowed back a snort at the idea. For one, he had an admin already, she was damn good at her job. And two, he didn't know if Michelle was qualified.
"Where? Jim made it clear they were being nice to hire me without a college degree." She muttered the last part, obviously upset about her lack of credentials.
"A degree doesn't mean everything. I never finished my education, either. And maybe my information's off. I've been wrong before."
A smile lit up her face, and he stared, struck by a bolt of attraction for her, even as guilt stabbed at him. She was his employee. The attraction was verboten, but it was hard to ignore when her pink lips spread across even white teeth and an adorable flush colored her cheeks. "You don't have a degree?" she asked, looking entirely too happy about his failings in academia.
"Uh, I never finished," he said, remembering his mother asking him weekly when he was going to present his dissertation for his PhD. Somehow he knew he'd sound like an ass if he mentioned a graduate degree.
"What does your shirt mean?" she asked suddenly.
He looked, trying to remember if he wore his MIT Let there be Light chemical equation T-shirt. Nope, it was his IT one. Thank you, Think Geek, for providing him with his wardrobe. "Oh. This shirt? It means there's no place like home. The numbers stand for the IP address for home on almost every device." Seeing her confused face, he hastened to add, "It's an IT thing. Only a handful of people in the company get it, and they all work the help desk or in the engineering department."
Relief flooded her face. "Oh, good. I was worried it was something everyone would get but me. Since moving to Chicago, sometimes I feel like an alien. Like everyone is speaking a different form of English. Do you know what I mean?"
Since he found himself in that situation nearly every day, mostly regarding social or media interactions, he nodded. "Yep. But you're no nimnul."
"Huh?" She looked confused again. "Now you are speaking another language."
He laughed. "I am. Literally. Kayo." At her totally confused look, he added, "Mork & Mindy?"
She shook her head.
"Great seventies television. Never seen it?"
"Nope. I mean, I've heard of it, but never seen it. How do you know anything about seventies TV? You don't look much older than me."
"Cable. I had a lot of free time in high school." Shut up, Sark. Don't be a loser, but come on, Mork & Mindy and admitting you were a geek in high school is not the way to get the girl. And to get her, he wanted. He liked Michelle of the warm smile and sweet blushes. Her Luddite comment had been funny. And her body was smoking. He knew he shouldn't notice these things, as it had all the makings of a sexual harassment case, but it was hard to miss her full chest, which narrowed into a trim waist then flared back out to a bottom he wanted to cup in his palms.
He'd only been on a few dates since the company had gone public and he'd made his money. At first it'd been flattering that beautiful women asked him out and invited him to their beds afterward. It had taken three women for him to realize they liked his bank balance, not him—though they did a pretty good job of faking it. Not that he'd had enough experience in bed to know. Sarah from college had been his first lover, and the relationship lasted for a few years until she took off for the West Coast to lead another engineering team. Thinking of Sarah reminded him it had been a long time since he'd been in a relationship. Too long.
While some of his friends teased him that he was part computer, he was still a flesh and blood man with needs and desires. And Michelle was suddenly one of those desires.
"Huh?" He looked down at Michelle. She looked up at him with a worried look on her face.
"There you are. Thought I lost you. You drifted off."
He ducked his head. "Sorry. I do that sometimes."
"It's okay. As long as I'm not boring you ...?"
"Absolutely not. Hey, since you got your documents printed, are you done here? Can I take you out for coffee or something? At the very least, give you a ride home?"
"I'd love coffee and a ride home, if you don't mind."
"Not at all." Too late he remembered he had ridden his bike to work. It was okay, though; he could afford a taxi.
"Are you finished soon?" she asked.
"My hours are pretty flexible. I can take off when I want."
"Sounds nice. Maybe I should join another team at the company. Maybe that mysterious help desk you mentioned."
He laughed. "You'd have to understand my shirt first."
"Guess I'm out."
He waited patiently while she shut down her computer, grabbed her purse, and shrugged on a light coat. She asked if he needed one, and he tried to remember whether he'd brought a coat to work that day or not. Luckily, it was still warm for fall, so he'd be okay without one.
Once outside, he led her to a nearby hole–in-the-wall coffee and sandwich place where he did a lot of his late-night coding. They both ordered and, after some pseudo-heated discussion, he allowed her to pay the whole bill. "It's the least I can do for you fixing my printer nightmare," she said.
He loved that she insisted on paying her way and his. He couldn't remember the last time someone had offered to cover his bills. It was as if everyone assumed the guy with the most money should always pay. In this case, he would've been more than happy to do it for Michelle, but her offer was still much appreciated. "Consider the computer help on the house. Can you imagine if people started tipping the guys on the help desk team? Some departments would never get service again."
His joke earned a warm grin and a laugh. "Well, I won't tip the help desk, but I will resort to bribery for future technical needs. Do you think homemade cookies would do the trick?" She leaned over the table a little, and he caught a tantalizing glimpse of her cleavage. He forced his gaze back up to her face. It was no hardship.
"Definitely. Tech guys are notoriously easy to please. All we need are lots of caffeinated drinks, a few gigs of memory, and a pretty girl to flirt with." Crap, he'd been too forward, hadn't he? But the pretty girl comment had slipped out almost effortlessly, which was interesting considering how tongue-tied he usually was around attractive women.
She didn't seem offended or turned off by the comment, though. If anything, her smile grew warmer and she inched her chair closer to the edge of the table, leaning forward. He asked her where she was from and was treated to an insight about life in small-town Iowa.
"Pickles on pizza, for real? And at a gas station?" he asked, adjusting his glasses.
"Yep. It's the best. I know Chicago is famous for its pizza, but give me Casey's any day," she said.
He shook his head, trying to imagine it. He laughed as she shared her description of traffic in her hometown. He'd been late to work thanks to gridlock, but never because someone's John Deere tractor had overturned. "I've actually been to Iowa once."
"You have?" Her face brightened.
"Yeah, I participated in RAGBRAI a few years ago. Has it ever gone through your town?"
"Nah. Minsker's too small to host thousands of people and their bicycles," she said about the weeklong massive bike ride across the state of Iowa. "I went once to watch it. Maybe I saw you. My boyfriend took me on a road trip."
His stomach churned at her mention of a boyfriend. "I mean my former boyfriend," she added, and he breathed an inner sigh of relief. "I'm not with him anymore. I'm not seeing anyone." Was she interested? He couldn't be certain, but why else would she be so adamant about being single?
Words continued to flow effortlessly and it was refreshing to just be himself, especially with a woman. After their mugs had been cleared, he stood, hoping the night wouldn't end too soon.
Excerpted from Love, Technically by Lynne Silver, Lewis Pollak, Stacy Abrams. Copyright © 2013 Lynne Silver. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.