Masked by Design - Chapter Nine

Once again Erik disappeared.

Hunched over her model but not really working on it, Kristine stewed in the fact that Erik had not been there to greet her for their breakfast, had not asked her opinion on anything as if her answer was the most vital thing in the world, had not led her up to their office and had not imparted any architectural pearls upon her.

Yes, after those first few days where he avoided her altogether, he was usually there.  On the rare occasion he wasn’t, he always showed up by the time she got to work upstairs.  Today he was gone the entire time.

She stared down at the tiny little faceless people she would soon add to the model, picking up a brunette female in a dress and a brunette male in a business suit.

With a sigh she shook her head, flicked the female out of her palm and replaced her with a blond male, putting him next to the other man.  In truth, they made the perfect couple.

Why this depressed her, she did not know.  She should be happy for the man who obviously had been through a lot in his life.

Maybe it was because all the magic and potential was gone.  Even though nothing would have ever happened between them, there was something about having that option open.

Who was she kidding? She just had a crush on her masked boss.  The gruff, usually rude but brilliant man who stared at her with an intensity she never felt before.

Again, she took in the sight of the two males together in her palm.  

To one Mr. Erik De Anton, she had to be nothing more than one of his projects.

With the sun sinking lower, and still no sign of her boss, she put on her headphones to drown out the thoughts in her head with some music while she finished up for the day.

Some sappy, slow music rang through her headphones.  The familiar lyrics filled her mind and instinct took over as she built her model.

As an homage to her boss and to remind her of the reality of her situation, she placed the blond and brunette males side by side walking on the path toward the building, and then placed the woman in the dress behind them all alone.

She found a blonde woman in a dress that reminded her of Meg, her best friend, the woman she’d called her sister for most of her life and frowned.  

After the death of Meg’s mother, her friend escaped, not that Kristine could blame her.  While she threw herself into finishing her degree, Meg took off and most of the time forgot that cell phones also worked in different countries.  

Somehow, Kristine always ended up by herself and while she tried to accept it, part of her continued searching for her place.

She put the blonde aside and changed the music.  Eventually, she would find her place.

Now welcomed hard rock pounded through her.  This was what she needed, music that made it impossible to think of anything except the screaming stanzas of makeshift poetry.

In an attempt to lift her mood, she joined in with the band, assisting the lead singer in bringing the lyrics to life.

The music leading her, she shimmied and shook her away around the table as she continued her work. The sinking sensation she carried around with her since she realized Erik wasn’t going to show up today lifted.  She got what she wanted—he was helping her study, she was working under a great architect—everything was being set up for the future.

In between making up stories about the people she placed on the path to her building, planning on what fast food she would pick up on her way to class, and singing along with another one of her favorite lead singers, something touched her shoulder.

“Erik?” She nearly tripped on her own two feet, jumped up, and pulled her headphones out of her ears.

“Wrong man of the house.”  Trevor chuckled.  

Right, she had the wrong man of the house and had to remember there was and never would be a woman of the house.  Still, that didn’t make this moment any less embarrassing.  Her cheeks heated and she put her hand over her mouth.

“That’s one of my favorite bands.”  Trevor winked at her, then took her phone and plugged it into speaker on his laptop.

The music that moments before was only in her ears, echoed throughout the room. 

Trevor took over singing right where she left off and even danced around the room.

She had to admit, no matter what side of the fence the man watered his flowers on, he was a sight to behold.

“Come on.”  Between verses Trevor motioned for to join him.  “Erik hates this music, let’s take advantage.”

Maybe it was the fact that Erik would hate this music, or maybe it was the fact that making a fool of herself in front of Trevor didn’t mean anything because he was taken, or maybe it was just because she needed to get over herself and her own mind, but for whatever reason, she joined him.

It felt great to let loose.  Nothing mattered because there was no potential.  Perhaps it was time to stop lamenting what she would never have, and be thrilled she had some friends. 

Together, they did the dance moves that fit with the video of the song, they sang out the words, and when it came to the chorus, Trevor put his arm around her, and they belted the song out at the top of their lungs.

Oh yes, she had a friend, and as they repeated the chorus once more, the two of them started laughing, hanging on to each other as their bodies went weak.

Then the music stopped.

The room went silent.

Everything stilled and there, right by Trevor’s computer, stood Erik.

Erik in a long black trench coat with his arms crossed and his golden eyes that glowed with only what Kristine would call rage.  

She gasped, choking on her own breath and sidestepped away from Trevor, grabbing the edge of her modeling table for support.

He appeared like a jealous lover who caught two people in the act when Erik and Trevor and she all knew that wasn’t the case.  She was most definitely the wrong gender to cause any concern.

Of course, if she got out of her thoughts of this man as anything other than her boss and mentor, she would realize he looked exactly like a pissed off employer who found his worker messing around on the job.

The world seemed to stop, and though she wanted to say something, anything, there was nothing she could utter to make this situation better.  

His focus solely on her, he never even bothered glancing in Trevor’s direction.

When at last she thought she couldn’t take it anymore and was either going to say something or just run out of the room, Erik finally spoke. “Kristine.”  Where normally his voice came out smooth and what she would describe as sultry, now his tone cut through her.

Like a guilty person caught in the spotlight, she straightened up, only stopping short of saluting him.

“Would you mind coming with me?”  His expression didn’t change.  Kristine was fairly certain he didn’t even blink.

Though he asked the question, there really was no other answer than to give him a slight nod.

With expert precision, he spun on his heel and headed out of the office.

Before following, she gathered up her phone and other belongings.  Something told her that her boss wasn’t her friend, and this would be her last time here.

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