A Sentimental Heart Ch. 04-05bytotallyatease©
He hesitated for a moment more, allowing himself to dream for a precious moment that things could be different, but then with a regretful sigh, he turned to switch on the engine and drove out of the car park as they began their journey in silence.
Miranda let out a slow and quiet sigh of relief, mixed with regret... she had seen the look on Marcus's face and it had frightened her with its intensity... but her pulse had quickened and her heartbeat had strengthened, and for a moment she had felt... so very alive!
"I'm still not familiar with the one way system around here... so you'd better tell me which way to go." Was his only comment and though it wasn't said nastily, it was a little curt.
"Turn right at the next corner and then left on to the main road," she instructed unhappily.
Once on the main road she gave him a few more directions, which would lead them to the street where she and Peter lived together.
When he pulled up outside her house she made a grab for the door. "Thank you for bringing me home... goodnight!" she said in a rush -- already half way out of the car.
"I'll see you inside before I go." He was beside her before she got to her gate, and his hand was once again on her elbow in a 'don't even bother to argue with me,' kind of way.
"Very well, since you insist," she responded reluctantly.
"I'm glad that you understand that."
She heard the tone of amusement in his voice, and once again her heart did a little flip.
He waited patiently while she dug through her bag searching for her keys, and his closeness to her made her feel...
As she unlocked and opened her door she suddenly stopped and looked up at him. "Would you like to come and share some supper and a pot of tea with me?" she asked uncertainly, wanting to keep his company for a little while longer.
"What did you have in mind?" he smiled warmly at her and his eyes twinkled nicely, as he seemed to relax once more into that easy going young man she had spent the evening with.
"Nothing spectacular I'm afraid... just some cheese on toast," she told him apologetically, feeling embarrassed at inviting him to such a lame meal.
"I've not had that since I was a boy!" he declared happily. "My grandma used to make it for me, when I went to stay for the weekend."
Great! She thought to herself, I'm now lumped in there with his grandma and cheese on toast! Way to go on making a lasting impression!
He sat at the kitchen table watching her as she put the kettle to boil and prepared their supper. By the time she had finished she felt stressed and nervous and had to force herself to sit down opposite him and not run from the room.
"Why are you so jumpy Miranda?" he asked her as she let her eyes drift to her plate.
"Just tired I guess," she mumbled picking up her toast and biting into it defiantly.
They ate their supper in silence but over tea he began a gentle conversation, and she gradually relaxed and the tea and talk flowed nicely. He asked her about other times they'd attended the concert in the park, and the conversation drifted from there to her parents.
She kept to the facts of their deaths as much as she could, but Marcus heard the loss and devastation in her voice... the pressure that she had felt in taking on the responsibilities... for Peter's final education, keeping their home together...
Marcus felt his heart constrict as he thought about how alone she must have felt... he wished so much that they could go back in time and that he could have been there for her... to help her and hold her and tell her that everything would be okay...
When she stood up to gather the pots Marcus stood too. "I'll just help you with the washing up, and then I'll leave you in peace."
"Thank you," was her weak response, as a wave of disappointment washed over her at the prospect of his leaving.
She walked him to the door where he bent and kissed her lightly on the cheek. "Thank you for my supper," he told her quietly.
"You are always welcome." She stood looking up at him not realising that everything she was feeling was right there in her eyes; clear for him to see.
Marcus paused to stare into those glorious eyes for a few moments, knowing that it would be so easy to fall for her, to seduce her... to become involved with her...
"You should go inside; it's getting cold out here," he instructed abruptly.
She was his employee, she was his assistant's sister; to become involved with her would... complicate things needlessly.
"Good night Miranda," he sighed regretfully as he stepped back from her porch, and turned to leave.
"Good night Marcus." She frowned at his back in confusion, sensing again a change in him; from the easy going man she had shared her evening -- and her supper with... now he had gone back to being her boss again.
She felt the change, but didn't quite understand the need for it.
Miranda closed her front door, and dropped the catch, Peter had his key, so would be able to let himself in.
She stood listening to the sound of Marcus's car, as he switched on the engine, and then a moment later she heard as he drove away.
Miranda knew that she had to be careful around Marcus, she wasn't exactly experienced when it came to dealing with men; but she did know that she could trust him, and that if ever she had a need, then Marcus would be the one she could turn to. And she also realised that she felt drawn to him, and it would be only too easy for her to develop an emotional attachment to him, maybe even a dependency... Miranda had been independent for a long time now, and thought of needing someone else -- frightened her.
The next few weeks drifted along, and Miranda settled into her new job. Mrs Rogers was still as abrupt and surly as ever, but she was gradually handing over more and more work, and responsibility to Miranda; and Miranda began to feel more of an equal to Mrs Rogers, as she began to do more than just the typing.
All of this was helped by the great influx of work that they suddenly found themselves facing, almost on a daily basis. It kept them both busy all day every day and Miranda often left the office feeling 'brain dead'. She wondered how Mrs Rogers coped with it all!
It was nearing the end of October, and Miranda was in early on that Monday morning, feeling happy and energised after a relaxing weekend; and looking forward to the next weekend, since her and Peter had been invited to a Halloween party.
Mrs Rogers came into the office looking very grumpy. "I hate this time of year." She declared miserably. "It's cold and wet and gloomy all the time."
Miranda looked at her in surprise. "Oh I love this time of year! It's such a busy season what with Halloween and bonfire night not to mention the build up to Christmas!"
"Huh!" Mrs Rogers snapped. "Well you would, you're still young and pretty. You probably dress up for Halloween and really get into the spirit of the thing -- don't you?"
"Well I do try, and I do enjoy it yes... I love to see the kids, as they go out trick or treating!" Miranda smiled happily refusing to let the older woman's ill feeling discourage her. "And my old employer phoned me at the weekend, and invited me and Peter to a party he was planning -- for Halloween... he said that 'dressing up was an absolute must', and he would accept NO excuses!" she laughed lightly.
Their conversation was brought to a halt by the entrance of one of the men from the research and development department, he had a handful of files, and a slightly sheepish look on his face.
"They had a breakthrough on a joint project, and came in over the weekend," he explained apologetically. "They've got mountains of data; that they're sorting out, and almost all of it will find its way across to here."
It was a gloomy prediction, but accurate, and as the morning drifted along, both ladies found their desks buried with paperwork.
"This is the last of it." It was the same guy as from first thing, and he handed the last file to Miranda with a friendly grin. He hesitated for a moment, and his eyes glanced across at Mrs Rogers nervously before fixing on Miranda once more.
"There's a cocktail night, over the road, starts later this evening... most of us try and get to it... even the boss tries to make one once in a while! Do you think you'll be going?" he asked her awkwardly.
Miranda shot him a friendly grin, Peter had already told her about this monthly ritual, and they had agreed to go together. "I might be yes... if I can get finished here on time, and get home for some dinner and a change of clothes."
"I'll maybe see you there later then?" he returned her grin before turning to Mrs Rogers. "And what about you Mrs Rogers?" he asked jovially. "Will we have the pleasure of your company tonight?"
"Huh!" she snipped. "I'm far too old to be off doing things like that." She sniffed. "I leave it to you young ones to party away the evening - and on a week night too!"
She looked pointedly across at Miranda who just smiled again at the pleasant young man. "I'll see you later then!" she declared brightly.
The man left with a sly wink at Miranda, and Miranda settled back down to work again, conscious of Mrs Rogers' disapproving stare.
"You've probably got some hot young man taking you?" she said abruptly and there was a hint of spite in the older woman's tone.
Miranda refused to let her get under her skin. "Well, I suppose some would think that my brother Peter is hot," she conceded with a smile.
"Well just make sure that you are able to get in tomorrow -- is all I ask of you!" Mrs Rogers sniffed again.
"Good morning ladies, would one of you be kind enough to type this up as soon as possible." Marcus strolled casually into the room; he looked at Mrs Rogers questioningly.
Miranda sucked in a quiet calming little breath, as she looked across at Marcus. He'd been the perfect boss these last few weeks, courteous, and respectful; and totally professional towards Miranda; and she began to wonder if that evening at that open air concert had all been a dream.
"I'm only in for a few hours this morning and I've plenty to finish before I can go, so you had better give it to Miranda." Mrs Rogers just managed to keep her tone respectful.
Marcus turned to Miranda who smiled politely at him. "Of course Mr Phillips I'll put it at the top of my pile." She indicated the mountain of files and documents on her desk all needing her attention.
"Do you need help with that lot?" he asked her formally.
"It looks worse than it is," she reassured him with another little smile.
"Very well then..." He put the papers on her desk with a little grunt. "As soon as you're able please Miss Redmond." He left the office without further comment and Miranda settled down to work, making sure that Marcus's was the next thing she put her attention to.
She was just printing off the last of it when Peter wandered in. "Any sign of that file Marcus bought in to you?" he asked her cheerfully.
"I've just sent it to the printer," Miranda told him indicating the pages the printer was even now spitting out.
She scooped up the last of them, and placed them neatly into the folder before handing it to her brother. "There you go!"
She sat down at her desk again and gathered up the next folder needing her attention. Peter looked as if he were about to say something, but seeing that she was snowed under, he simply said a cheerful; "thank you," and left again without further comment.
Half an hour later, Mrs Rogers stood up and pulled her coat on. "Those other things will just have to wait until tomorrow," she grumbled, "or I'll be late with my doctor's appointment."
"If you want to leave them on my desk I'll sort them for you," Miranda offered cheerfully.
"You look like you've got enough to keep you going all day - and then some," Mrs Rogers observed reluctantly.
"So I'll work a little later - or I'll miss lunch." She shrugged indifferently.
Mrs Rogers hesitated for a moment clearly feeling uncomfortable. "How about if I ask the cob-shop over the road to send you some coffee and sandwiches; at about... say twelve thirty; and you could have lunch at your desk and carrying on with your work?" Mrs Rogers offered suddenly.
"That would be wonderful, thank you!" Miranda beamed up at the older woman.
"Well, okay then." She put the paper work onto Miranda's desk keeping it separate from her own work pile. "But make sure you finish your own work first." She hesitated for a moment more, before smiling down at her. It was the warmest, sincerest smile she had given Miranda since they had started to work together; and Miranda took heart from it. "Have a good time tonight," Mrs Rogers offered in a more friendly tone.
The rest of the morning passed in a blur, but bang on twelve thirty there was a tap on her door; and a young girl came in with a covered beaker of coffee, and a pack of sandwiches. "I was asked to bring you some lunch up," the girl stated cheerfully.
"Thank you." Miranda smiled grabbing her bag. "How much do I owe you?"
"Oh the lady paid for them when she placed the order," The girl said as she turned towards the door, with a little shrug.
"How very kind of her!" Miranda murmured; touched by the older woman's unexpected generosity.
Between bites and gulps, Miranda kept working steadily; and by three thirty she had finished her own pile, and was able to make a start on Mrs Rogers' remaining work. Another half an hour, she thought with a sense of satisfaction, and she would be done.
Marcus strolled in carrying a small batch of papers. "Ah, almost done I see... good, if you could sort these out as soon as you can... Excellent." He put the papers down in front of her, and left again before she could even take a breath.
It was as if he'd burst a damn! The phone started to ring and it seemed like every couple of minutes something urgent was placed on her desk by some harassed looking assistant.
All too soon her nearly empty desk was buried under a mountain of paperwork; and Miranda didn't know whether to laugh or cry hysterically.
She bit her quivering bottom lip, and brushed away the harassed tear in her eye; and with a resolute sniff she pulled the next file towards her.
Marcus waited for nearly an hour for the expected documents, but when neither they -- nor Miranda appeared; he went looking for them.
"What the hell!" he exclaimed as he entered her office to see the piles of work on her desk.
Before she could respond the telephone began to ring, she snatched it up as if it was a snake. "No I'm sorry Mrs Rogers won't be back until tomorrow morning," she said down the line. "Well if you absolutely must have it tonight then you had better send it across and I'll see what I can do; but I'm not promising anything," she sighed, her voice filled with resignation.
"You're expecting to get this lot done by five?" he asked incredulously.
"I'm not expecting anything!" she protested. "Everyone else is."
"What is this lot?" he demanded.
Miranda shrugged miserably. "I don't know some typing, some proof reading and corrections. A couple of draughts to be finalised... ALL to be passed on to you, for your final approval, or recommendations."
Marcus didn't bother to answer her. He simply leaned across her desk and punched in his own extension number. "Peter! Call down to the typing pool and have them send someone up to your sister's office; and then you come and join us here."
He replaced the phone and picked up the first folder. "Right then, let's sort out who needs to do what."
By the time that Peter arrived, with the woman from the typing pool hot on his heels; they had gone through the files and separated them all into four different piles. Marcus handed the first pile to the woman."You take these and get them typed up over there," he told her indicating Mrs Rogers desk.
The woman took the paperwork and with a little nod she went to work on the other side of the room.
"Peter you take these files, and start proof reading them, make sure that they are all clear and concise; so that my signature will be all I need to add to them." He handed the folders to Peter who took them and went and sat at the table in the corner.
Marcus turned to Miranda with a third pile of work. "This is the more sensitive stuff that only you and Mrs Rogers can deal with." He frowned thoughtfully for a moment. "A lot of stuff that comes in here could quite easily go down to the general typing pool... I think I need to broach this at our next meeting."
Miranda was already starting to type up the notes and paid no attention to Marcus's mutterings. He glanced at her fingers tapping away at her keyboard; 'beautiful hands', he thought to himself, slender fingers with neatly filed and polished nails, but then everything about Miranda was beautiful...
He cleared his throat slightly in discomfort at his wayward thoughts; and picking up the fourth pile, he joined Peter at the table in the corner.
For the next hour the only sounds in that office, were the two ladies thumping away on the keyboards; and the printer occasionally spitting out their typed up documents.
Each time the printer stopped, either Peter or Marcus would go over and get the paperwork and place it on their table.
By six o'clock the job was done. Miranda arched her aching back and glanced to the corner, Marcus was watching her, his eyes bright and she blushed before looking down again at the file in front of her.
"Is everyone finished?" Marcus asked the room in general and as the three people all said yes, he stood up and said; "Excellent! Thank you for all your efforts people; you can all go home now." And he left the room before anyone else could even speak.
The lady from the typing pool stood up and walked over to them. "Right then, I'll say goodnight to you both," she said cheerfully.
Miranda smiled warmly at her. "Thank you so much for all of your help... goodnight."
Peter also said goodnight to her and the woman left the two of them alone.
"So come on then sis', let's go and get some dinner; and then we can go to that cocktail party - just as we planned."
Miranda groaned "Do you mind if we skip it Pete? I'm absolutely beat."
"Yes I mind. We agreed that we would go, and it's important for you to meet people on a more -- social level... and I think that we deserve a treat." He smiled suddenly. "I'll tell you what; I'll order a take away while you grab a shower," he cajoled her.
"Oh no cooking! How could I resist such an offer?" she laughed as they left the office together.
Miranda decided to dress up a little for this evening out, she opted for a long black skirt with long thin pleats in it, and a shiny smooth finish to it.
When she turned around it fanned out slightly, making her feel light and feminine.
She paired it up with a deep blue top, which glittered when the light caught the tiny sequins which decorated it lavishly.
She dug out her pair of dark blue stiletto shoes, and brushed out her hair.
By the time she had done her makeup, Miranda was feeling, slightly glamorous, and all ready for a night out.
She didn't stop to think too much about why she had made such an effort for what was really just a casual night out with workmates.
She didn't allow herself to wonder if Marcus would make it to tonight's gathering, as he apparently sometimes did; or whether this would be one of those that he would miss out on.
She couldn't help herself when his face came to her mind; how he had looked when he'd told her of the emptiness he felt his life had now become.
"He needs someone to take care of him," she murmured softly as she picked up her small handbag and her coat.
"Aren't you ready yet Miranda?" Peter shouted impatiently from downstairs.