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Startled, Billie Fowler looked up from her desk and into the beaming face of her co-worker, Jenna Fields, with amazement. She couldn't have heard what she just thought she did. "Excuse me?"
"Fuck Cupid," Jenna repeated with a smile as she jiggled an envelope in her hand. "That's the theme this year for my annual Anti-Valentine's Day Party. Fuck Cupid."
Billie winced again. The obscenity grew louder every time Jenna said it. Quickly standing, she snatched the invitation out of Jenna's hand and looked around over the walls of her gray cubical, hoping no one else had heard her insane colleague. "All right, girl, I heard you the first time. I was just hoping I hadn't."
"Oh, you heard me, all right." Waggling her eyebrows, Jenna grinned. Decorum wasn't a word in the extroverted woman's dictionary. She was all about shock factor, the dirtier the better, but at eleven o'clock in the morning, it felt like a bit much. "So are you going to come to my party?"
Jenna's parties were legendary around the office--hell, around the whole city. To the petite blonde, bashes were a way of life. No matter how much Billie tried, she couldn't get Jenna to stop inviting her. It wasn't that she didn't like Jenna, because she did. Billie just didn't have the energy for the Sex in the City lifestyle that suited Jenna.
A girl had to sleep sometimes.
"I don't know what my plans are yet," Billie lied, trying her best to politely refuse. She knew exactly what her plans were. They included sweatpants, a Lean Cuisine, and her Dirty Dancing DVD.
A quiet, safe Valentine's Day, where the only heart that could possibly be broken was her heart-shaped candydish.
"Don't give me that 'maybe' stuff. I want you front and center this year. There are going to be a lot of single people there, and no one is allowed to bring dates. It's a get-laid-palooza. Even you can't screw it up."
"Thanks," Billie scoffed. Was that supposed to be a selling point? It was a good thing Jenna was her friend, not her enemy. Lord only knew what she might say.
Jenna had the grace to look a bit embarrassed. "Ahh, come on, you know what I mean."
Billie had a pretty good idea. "That I'm a hopeless shut-in with no future for a mate."
"Not even. I'm just saying that it's time you need to get out there. You know, embrace your inner wild child. Free your alternate you..."
"Shave my legs."
"Exactly." Jenna beamed, missing Billie's sarcasm altogether. "So you'll be there tomorrow night. Oh, wear red."
Billie watched Jenna stroll away, bemused. Apparently no wasn't in her dictionary, either. Looked as if Billie might be going to a party after all, whether she wanted to or not.
Shaking her head, Billie pulled the scarlet invite out and almost swallowed her tongue. The party theme was spelled out in large, bold, black letters, with a picture of Cupid being sodomized on the cover. Unfortunately, the wide-eyed cherub didn't seem to be enjoying the plundering all that much. It was obscene, offensive ... and so Jenna that it was downright hilarious.
"Jenna has a way with visual aids, wouldn't you say, Holiday?"
Billie smiled as she began to place the invitation back in the envelope. The play on her name and the smooth Latin accent could only mean one person. "I agree; I think Levin should put her in charge of the ad department."
"Somehow I don't think that's a good idea." At his soul-deep chuckle, Billie looked up. As usual, when she was next to her handsome co-worker, Tomás Mendez, her heart did a silly little pitter-patter in her chest. It was sickening how drawn to him she was.
The uncomfortable silence between them lengthened as they stared at one another, both seemingly looking for something to say. Not that words were always a necessity; Billie was quite at ease with sharing stolen moments of peace with him as the world at large whizzed by them.
Unfortunately, in her moment of bliss, Billie didn't realize she hadn't put the card up completely and the dirty picture caught Tomás's eye. "So can I see the whole picture, or am I just to look at the large ... member?"
Tapping her finger against the card, Billie eyed him in amusement. She wouldn't have classified Tomás as conservative or anything, but he did seem a bit above bawdy bathroom humor. "I don't know. It's a bit graphic."
Her words came off more like a challenge, not at all what she had been intending. "If you can see it, Holiday, I think I can take it."
"Suit yourself, Tomás, but don't say I didn't warn you."
Raising a brow arrogantly, he took the card from her outstretched hand. Their fingers brushed as he pulled the card away. The contact, although brief, led to them looking into each other's eyes. One stared questioningly, the other surprised.
Of course the second he pulled the card out of the envelope, all unasked questions were forgotten.
"Oh, my God!" He choked on his laughter as he studied the card. As she watched him, Billie realized she was such a goner.
She couldn't help it. Tomás Mendez was the total package. With wavy dark hair and smooth skin blessed with a natural tan, Tomás was the quintessential Latin heartthrob. He was handsome, charming, and successful--everything a woman could possibly want, and then some.
The only problem was, when she wanted to drool over him, she had to get in line. In the seven months he'd been there, he'd had the entire female staff--and some of the male staff as well--panting after him.
Where the other women were audacious about their wants, Billie was more comfortable with just sitting back and playing the cards where they lay.
She would never approach him in any way that wouldn't be deemed friendly. She just wasn't that type of person. And it was probably one of the reasons Tomás sought her out. He saw her as friend, someone he could speak to over coffee breaks with no risk of injury to his posterior.
"You'd think she'd have something better to do." Shaking his head, Tomás shoved the invitation back into the envelope and handed it back to Billie, who was wearing an I told you so expression on her face. "What's the deal with the Anti-Valentine's Day party?"
"It's a bitter single woman thing. You wouldn't understand," she replied, as she tucked the invitation into her purse.
"You're assuming I wouldn't understand, why?"
Leaning against her desk, she wondered where he was going with this. "Because you're not bitter or a woman."
"But I am single."
That was good to know. "I'm sure Jenna has every intention of inviting you."
"Should that scare me or make me feel better?"
"Now, that is the real question."
Tomás leaned against the wall of her cubical and crossed his arms. "So you're not bitter, but you are a woman, and single; are you going to rearrange your Valentine's Day plans so you can go?"
Billie liked the way he didn't assume she didn't have plans. "I haven't decided yet. What about you? You have a big night planned?"
"I'm still pretty new to the area. A little too new to have a Valentine."
"I've been here for five years, and my big competing plans involve a frozen dinner and an old movie."
"Sounds like it might be a hard decision to make."
"It is my favorite frozen dinner and movie."
"I guess it would be kind of hard to compete with the two of them."
"It is." She tsked. "Lesser men have tried."
"That's the whole problem right there, Holiday." A slow, sensual smile spilled across the fullness of his mouth. "Lesser men. Not real men."