Marry Me by Zena Wynn

“Guess who’s in town?” Mandy’s excited voice carried far. Its high pitch drew Korbin Brandtly to the connecting interoffice door.
Marry Me
Marry Me by Zena Wynn
Cassandra Jones, more commonly know as Cass, squinted at the squiggly handwriting she was trying to translate. “I swear I’m buying Korbin one of those books they make for little kids to practice their handwriting. He writes worse than a doctor,” she muttered. Korb winced, knowing it was the truth. He had horrible handwriting. “Cass!” “What?” She shot an annoyed looked the speakerphone. “I said, guess who’s in town.” “Who?” “No, you have to guess,” Mandy cajoled. “Forget it. You know I don’t like guessing games. Either tell me what you know or get off the phone. I told you I’m on a deadline.” Cass flipped through the handwritten notes until she found the page she needed. “Okay, okay, okay,” Mandy capitulated with a laugh. “Reginald Hawkins.” “Reggie?” The papers paused mid-air. “Your former college sweetheart? Yes, the one and only,” Mandy stated with apparent glee. “That’s nice,” Cass said, her tone nonchalant. “It’s better than nice. He’s moving back.” “Here?” Cass’ voice sounded strangled. “Yep. His daddy’s opening a new store and Reggie’s going to manage it. Not only that, but he’s still single. Single, handsome, well-to-do, and from what I hear, asking about you,” she crowed. “Now that, I don’t believe,” Cass said firmly. “What, that he’s coming back?” “No, I always knew he liked living here and given the opportunity, he’d return. What I don’t believe is that Reggie is asking for me.” “And why not? The man asked you to marry him, in case you’ve forgotten.” Mandy sounded outraged that anyone could forget such a momentous occasion. Cass tugged on a lock of hair. “No, I haven’t forgot.” “So, he’s single. You’re single. Maybe this time…” Cass frowned. “Just because the man isn’t married doesn’t mean he isn’t involved with someone.” “If he has a woman in his life, why’s he asking about you?” Mandy asked logically. “We were good friends—” Mandy snorted. “You two were joined at the hip.” “It would be natural from Reggie to want to catch up with an old friend upon his return,” she continued, undeterred. “Whatever. I want all the details when he contacts you.” “If,” Cass corrected, still staring at the speaker with apparent concern. “When,” Mandy said firmly. “Look, I’ll let you get back to your project. We still on for tomorrow night?” “Yes, I’ll meet you at seven.” “Cool. See you then.” Mandy disconnected with a click. Korb watched the object of his obsession nibble her lower lip as she stared off into space unseeingly. Then a slow, somewhat pensive, smile appeared. Troubled, he eased away from the door where he’d stood half-hidden. His nemenis, Reggie, was everything Korb was not. Popular, athletic, good looking, his family had money, and most of all, black. Not that Korbin thought Cass and her family were racist. They’d treated him like family for years. Two years ago, when Reggie left, Korb had thought he’d finally have a chance with Cass. He’d been in love with her for years, but she’d never seen him as more than her older brother’s best friend. Presented with a golden opportunity, he had come up with an unbeatable strategy, or so he’d believed, and acted accordingly. Newly out of college, he talked Cass into coming to work for him and Sid, ostensibly to manage their office and put her business management degree to good use, but really so he could spend time with her. That led to strategically planned—on his part—late nights at the office. When she’d moved into her own place, Korbin had begun dropping by on one pretence or another until he’d intergrated himself so deeply into Cass’s life, she couldn’t sneeze without him saying ‘Bless you.’ However, despite all the time they now spent together, she still thought of him as just a friend. Korb needed to open her eyes and quick. He wished he could have asked Mandy how long until Reggie came on the scene. Not that it mattered. In his heart, Korb knew it was time for drastic measures. Cass loves me. I know she does. Now he had to get her to admit it, before he ran out of time. Out of the blue… “Marry me.” “What?” Busy typing a contract, Cass glared at her way too handsome and sexy boss over the computer monitor. Who knew such a geeky kid would grow up to become a Greek god? Bet the girls from their old neighborhood were kicking themselves now for not latching hold to him while they could. “Marry me,” Korbin repeated. “No.” Cass dismissed him by turning her gaze back to the monitor, her fingers flying over the keyboard. “Since you’re breaking my heart, at least tell me you love me,” he persisted. Sighing heavily, Cass murmured, “I love you, now leave so I can finish.” “Why?” Is he serious? One look at his intent expression revealed Korbin wouldn’t leave until she gave him an answer. Willing to go along with whatever game he was playing, she answered solemnly, “Because you’re not as annoying as my last five bosses.” He stared at her a minute, then grunted and wandered off into his office. Her gaze followed, wondering what the hell had gotten into him. If at first you don’t succeed… One hand typing out a steady beat on the ten-key pad of her calculator and the other using a ruler as a guide, Cass glanced up with a scowl when she felt a presence looming over her. “What? You need these figures by noon, remember?” Irritated as she was, she still took a minute to admire the mouth-watering picture Korbin made. With black wavy hair, piercing gray eyes, sun-kissed golden skin, and the face and body worthy of a GQ cover model, the sight of him always caused her heart to skip a beat and lust to course through her flesh. After so many years of practice, Cass was sure none of what she was feeling showed on her face. “Marry me.” Nonplussed, she stared, fingers hovering over the adding machine. He’d interrupted her flow for this craziness? “No.” If she sounded short, oh well. She really didn’t have time for his games today. “Always with the no,” he complained. “Don’t you have work to do? Or did you palm it all off on me?” “I don’t understand why you keep turning me down. At least tell me you love me. Soothe my aching heart,” he stated with his hand over his chest, mildly rubbing it. Holding back a snort of disbelief, she echoed as though by rote, “I love you,” and went back to work. “Do you really? Why?” When she ignored him, Korbin’s large masculine hand landed on the paperwork she was adding. Her gaze trailed disbelievingly from his hand to his face. “I’m busy. Hello, deadline? Any of this ringing a bell? Go pester someone else,” she snarled. “As soon as you tell me why you love me?” She rolled her big, brown eyes. “Because you make your own coffee. Satisfied? Good,” she continued, without waiting for a response. “Now scurry off so I can get this finished on time. You’re messing up my schedule,” she complained as she waved him away. Korbin slowly lifted his hand off the paper, his eyes boring a hole in the top of her bent head. “Tick, tock, tick tock. The clock’s ticking,” she reminded him. Finally, he spun on a well-shod heel and stalked off without another word. Shaking her head, Cass went back to checking the totals on her spreadsheet. As she worked, her mind drifted. Too bad he wasn’t serious. If he’d been for real, she would have shouted yes the first time he demanded she marry him, having been in desperately love with him for well over five years. But as far as Korbin was concerned, she’d always be his best friend’s pesky little sister. Once upon a time, Cass had thought she could trick her heart into accepting someone else. Reginald Hawkins had been everything a woman could desire – loyal, fun-loving, didn’t drink or smoke, kept in shape, didn’t have a mean bone in his body and—she sighed—a great lover. She’d tried, really she had, but when Reggie proposed, Cass realized it wouldn’t be fair to him to say yes when her heart belonged to another. She’d loved Reggie in her own way. How could she not? But not the way a great guy like him deserved. Sometimes life really sucked. Shoving the thought from her mind, she glanced at the clock. Eleven-ten. She had less than an hour until lunch. Determined to finish early, Cass blanked her mind to every consideration except the project she was working. More weeks and three proposals later… “Marry me.” Cass spun around in her chair to face him. “What is it with you? Did your mother not hug you enough as a child?” His gray eyes narrowed. “Cass, you know my mother. She’s very loving. What has that got to do with anything?” She jumped to her feet and placed her hands on her hips as she snapped, “Well, are you not getting enough fiber in your diet? Stuff beginning to back up and poison your brain? Inquiring minds would like to know.” “My colon is fine. Thank you for your concern. Now answer the question,” he commanded. “Question?” Her left eyebrow arched delicately. “Sounded more like a demand to me.” Korbin crossed his arms over his chest and glared down at her. A staring contest which Cass quickly loss, afraid she’d embarrass herself by drooling. Looking over his shoulder, she finally answered, “No.” “But you love me, right?” “Of course I do,” she mumbled. “Why?” “Why?” Cass echoed, stalling, mind scrambling for a reason to give him. Something other than the truth, which she was determined to take to her grave. “Yes, why?” He circled around her like a shark scenting blood. The scent of the cologne she’s bought him—he refused to wear anything else—filled her nostrils, making her want to lean in close. Cass felt her body sway and jerked back before he noticed. What was the question? Korbin’s close proximity never failed to rattle her brains. Something about…Oh, yeah, now she remembered. “Um…” What to say? She’d already given him every nonsensical reason she could think of. Things like, “’cause your breath’s always minty fresh,” or “you gave me that big, fat bonus last month,” or her all time favorite, “because you finally grew into those humongous ears of yours.” “Why, Cass? Why do you love me?” he demanded. “Why?” she stalled, her mind frantically plucking and discarding answers. “What’s not to love?” she asked in an offhand manner, hoping the slight bit of sarcasm in her tone would disguise the truth of her words as she moved around him and continued on her way to the file cabinet. She could feel him glaring at her. Finally he muttered under his breath as he walked away, “Why do I bother?” Excellent question. One she’d like to know the answer to as well. Fuel to the Fire… “Reggie? How are you?” The soft pleasure in Cass’s voice stopped Korb in his tracks. Intimate laughter. Damn it, she’d never laughed like that with him! “Yes, I’m still single. You?” She tucked a piece of hair behind her ear and turned her chair to face the wall. Korb cursed under his breath. If he moved to keep her face in view, she’d know he easedropped on her conversation. “I’m sorry to hear that. Maybe…” Sorry to hear what? That the guy was involved? “I see.” See what? Why didn’t she have the call on speaker? Cass hated holding a phone. “Coffee? I don’t—” That’s right, baby girl, turn him down. “I know, but—” Stick to your guns! There was a long sigh. Then a soft, “Yes, I’ll be there. What time?” No, damn it! “A movie afterwards?” Not just no, hell no! Korbin had to physically restrain himself from marching around and snatching the phone out her hand. “No, I’m not doing anything important.” He stiffened in outrage. What am I, chopped liver? We always hang together after work. Another soft chuckle. “Yes, I remember.” A pause. A sigh. “I remember that, too,” she confirmed in a voice that screamed sex. Beside himself, Korbin wanted to storm off before he did something stupid, but morbid curiosity held him prisoner. When Cass’s voice dropped to murmurs, punctuated with sighs and whispers, he couldn’t take it any more. He entered the office, closing the door with a snap. “Cass, did Morison send that bid proposal?” She spun the chair around so he could see the receiver held to her ear and held up a finger. Korb crossed over and planted his hip on the corner of her desk, smiling when Cass frowned at him. “Look, Reggie, I have to go now…Yes, it was nice hearing from you too…I won’t forget. See you later.” “Reggie?” he asked, brow arched. “Your old boyfriend, Reggie?” Those acting classes his mom had made him take as a kid were finally paying off. He only sounded mildly interested. “Yes, and no, it hasn’t arrived. You want me to call?” She reached for the phone she’d just replaced in its base. “No need. There’s no rush.” He played with her pen holder. “So, what kind of pizza do you want tonight?” Her gaze slid away from his and she straightened the desk blotter. “I made plans.” “But…it’s the season finale of The Bachelor.” Not that he gave a damn about the show. Cass did and it was a way for him to spend time with her. Now she looked at him. “I know, but it’s Reggie’s first week in town and he wants to reconnect.” “Reconnect?” he asked mildly. “Is that a euphemism for ‘get back together’?” Where she couldn’t see it, Korbin’s hand clinched into a fist while he awaited her answer. “No, not that it’s any of your business if it is,” she said, a hint of anger in her voice, but her face flushed with embarassment. He clutched both hands to his heart, dramatically. “You wound me. I thought we were friends.” She frowned briefly before a sad smile appeared. “Friends. Yes, I guess that’s what we are.” Cass glanced at her monitor. “I’ll have these contracts ready for you in an hour,” she said in a more brisk tone. Dismissed, Korbin sat there a minute longer, feeling like he’d just missed something vitally important. God, why hadn’t he been born psychic? Then he could read went on inside that complicated head of hers. He walked into his office and dropped into his chair, swiveling it to look out the window as he brooded. She ‘guesses’ we’re friends? If Cass had to think about it, he hadn’t made as much progress as he thought. Time to regroup and hope lover boy didn’t make a move while he was reconfiguring his plan of attack. Two weeks with no proposals passed… Cass snarled as yet another driver cut into her lane with mere inches to spare and blared her horn. “DIDN’T YOU SEE ME?” The idiot had the nerve to wave ‘thank you.” Cass flicked him her middle finger. Rain poured from the sky in sheets. She hated driving in the rain. That’s when all the non-drivers came out in force. In this city, especially downtown with its maze of one-way streets, there were a lot. A beep sounded in her ear and she automatically reached for the button on her Bluetooth to accept the call. “Cass.” “It’s me.” Cass groaned. “Don’t tell me I left something.” She was making an emergency delivery of paperwork which needed to be there now. No time to wait for the courier service they normally used. Any other time she wouldn’t have minded, but today, in the pouring rain, with idiots crawling out of the woodwork? “Marry me.” Tires squealing and car fishtailing, Cass cussed the air blue as the idiot jerk in front of her slammed on brakes for no apparent reason, then slowly crept forward. “Cass?” “WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR PROBLEM?” The car in front of her hesitated at the intersection. No blinker, nothing. “You talking to me?” “IF YOU’RE GONNA TURN, THEN TURN, DAMN IT!” The lane next to her suddenly cleared and Cass whipped over. A push of the button and her passenger window rolled down. Ignoring the rain that poured inside, as she drove past, she hollered, “PEOPLE LIKE YOU SHOULDN’T BE ALLOWED TO DRIVE…” “I see you’re busy. I’ll talk to you later.” “…YOU EVER HEAR OF METRO? GIVE ‘EM A TRY AND STAY OFF THE ROAD!” Cass picked up speed, still angry but feeling better for having expressed herself. Suddenly she remembered she was on the phone. “Korbin? Korbin?” No answer. She shrugged. “If it’s important, he’ll call back.” Back at the office… “Was that Cass?” Sid asked from the doorway. Korbin’s head jerked up. “I thought you’d gone to lunch.” “It’s storming out there. I’m not going out in that. I can eat later. So, was that my sister’s sweet voice I heard?” Warily, wondering how much Sid had heard, he answered, “Yes.” “I see she’s still having issues with road rage.” Korbin unnecessarily straightened the already straight stack of papers on his desk, and laid his pen on top at a precise angle. “Apparently.” “So…” his best friend and business partner paused, “you asked Cass to marry you, over the phone, while she’s driving in the rain, which we both know she hates to do…” He felt the burn start with his neck and work its way up, and knew his face was beet red. That’s what I get for having the speakerphone on with the door open. “I was hoping you hadn’t heard that.” Sid grinned and came and sat in one of the armchairs in front of his desk. “Look, Korbin, I know you’ve had the hots for Cass every since she came home from college. What I don’t understand is why you don’t just man up, take her somewhere nice to eat, and propose properly? All romantic, like you see on TV.” Korbin leaned back in his chair with a sigh and confessed, “You know Cass. It would be a disaster. She wouldn’t simply go with the flow. She’d ask a ton of questions until I’d be forced to tell her what I wanted, simply to shut her up,” he grumbled. Sid burst out laughing and when he’d settled down, said, “True that. You’d have hell just getting her to the restaurant, but still…this is my baby sister we’re talking about. You gotta do it right.” “I’m afraid she’ll say no, all right? Besides, Reggie did that—flowers, the ring, expensive dinner—and she turned him down cold.” Korbin tugged at the neckline of his polo before admitting, “I’m trying to catch her off guard, hoping if I time it right, she’ll say yes before she realizes what she’s committed to.” Sid’s mouth dropped open. Then he shook his head in disbelief. “Everyone but you and Cass can see how crazy y’all are about each other. I’m telling you, man, do it the right way. She won’t say no. I promise.” “You think?” Korb asked eagerly, needing all the encouragement he could get. “I know.” Then Korb remembered his competition. “But what about Reggie? He’s back in town, you know. I know she’s been seeing him.” “What about him? She said no once. What makes you think she’s changed her mind?” Sid pushed his six-foot-four lanky frame out of the chair, shoved his glasses back up his nose with his forefinger, and then strolled to the door. “Do the right thing and hurry up already. The quicker you two start pushing out grandbabies, the sooner mom will leave me alone.” Maybe Sid had a point. Maybe he should just… Nah! His way would work. He simply needed to catch Cass at the right time. Several Nights Later… The phone rang. Sitting on the bed, munching popcorn and watching the late, late, night movie, Cass wondered who would be calling her at two in the morning. Concerned it was a family member in trouble, she spilled kernels all over the bed as she snatched up the receiver mid-ring. “Hello.” “You sound wide awake.” Her brows furrowed. “That’s because I am. Is something wrong?” “Why aren’t you asleep? Is someone there with you?” he asked, sounding suspicious. Cass held the receiver away from her ear and stared at it briefly in amazement. “Korbin, you called at TWO A.M. to ask me why I’m not sleeping? And what do you mean? Of course no one’s here.” “No, of course I didn’t. How was I to know you’re awake? Everyone else with any kind of sense is sound asleep at this time of night.” “Except you,” Cass couldn’t help but point out, wondering if he realized the flaw in his logic. “And you. So if no one is with you, why on earth are you awake at this time of the morning?” “I’m watching Lifetime. I didn’t cut the T.V. off in time and the new movie hooked me,” she admitted. “Oh. What’s it about?” “Are you for real? Korbin, go to bed. We both have to be at work early in the morning to prepare for the meeting with our new client.” Cass grabbed the remote and flipped off the television, remembering after the room was dark that she had popcorn all over her bedspread. She pressed the button again and began picking up kernels, throwing them back in the bowl when something Korb said struck her. “Wait! If you thought I was asleep, why did you call?” “Uh, I’d better go. Like you said, we have that meeting. Can’t be late. See you at the office.” “Korbin! Korb!” He’d hung up. A week later… The door of Korbin’s office was cracked just enough for him to watch Cass unobserved. To him she was beautiful, despite her slightly crooked front tooth and irregular facial features. Her somewhat gamin appearance suited him just fine. It didn’t matter how she wore her hair, in braids or up in some fancy do that was freeze dried in place, or long and flowing in hair obviously not her own, he was enthralled. Her pretty brown skin enticed him, and her brown eyes sparkled, especially when she laughed or was irritated with him. And her body…What he couldn’t do with those breasts, those hips, those thighs. The skinny, gangly, tomboy Cass had been had blossomed into a woman with curves in all the right places. Gone were the jeans, oversized t-shirts, baseball caps, and sneakers. In its place were mini-skirts and ultra feminine tops made of some type of floaty material that made him want to reach out and touch, and spiked heels that emphasized long shapely legs. A sigh of longing escaped. If only she didn’t continue to see him as her big brother’s, annoying best friend. Korbin knew she wasn’t taking his proposals seriously. “Korbin!” “Huh?” “Have you heard a word I said?” Sid asked in an exasperated tone of voice. “Uh…no, I didn’t. But look at her. Could you concentrate with that as a view?” Right then Cass stood and bent over, and Korbin almost fell out of his chair trying to get a good look at her butt. The door snapped shut with a click. “Hey!” “Now that I have your attention, maybe we can get some work done,” Sid stated dryly as he moved away from the door. Korbin threw his pen down on the desk. “It’s no use. I can’t concentrate. Your sister has me going out of my mind.” “Man, I told you what to do. Buy Cass a nice ring—” “Which she’ll hate since she says I have lousy taste in jewelry,” Korb said. “Ask her out to dinner—” “She’ll want to know why.” “Take her to a nice restaurant—” “Even you have doubts that I can drag her out the house,” Korbin intoned wryly. Sid glared at him. “Fine. Bring her a picture of a ring you picked out, and surprise her with take-out lunch and a proposal, here at the office.” Korbin gave Sid a knowing look. “And hear for the rest of our lives how I was too cheap to take her out to a decent restaurant when I asked her to marry me?” “Well, you two spend a lot of time watching television together. Cass loves popcorn. Pop her a bag and hide the ring inside.” Korbin arched an eyebrow. “Knowing Cass, she’d choke on it.” “True,” Sid admitted. He frowned, then snapped his fingers. “I’ve got it. Hire one of those skywriters to write out the words, ‘Will you marry me, Cass? Korbin.’” “It’s summer time. Cass is worse than a vampire about avoiding the sun. How do you suggest I get her outside?” Through narrowed eyes and clenched teeth, Sid suggested, “Sprinkle a path of rose petals from the front door into her office and write out your proposal on the floor where she can’t miss it.” Korbin grinned. He couldn’t help it. “Cass would go ballistic at the mess. You know she has OCD.” Sid threw up his hands. “You’re impossible.” Korbin sighed. “No, your sister’s the one that’s impossible.” “So why do you want to marry her?” “God only knows. She makes me crazy. Always has,” Korbin admitted mournfully. Shaking his head, Sid said, “If this is what being in love is like, God spare me.” Three weeks later… The office door burst open and slammed shut just as suddenly. The whirlwind calmed to reveal an eyes glittering, heavy breathing Cass in its wake. “Get your friend before I kill him,” she raged. Since she appeared perfectly capable of committing homicide at any moment, Sid murmured into the phone, “Gotta go. Time for an intervention.” “An intervention?” the sultry, sexy voice on the phone asked. “Mmm-hmm. Hurricane Cass just blew into the office. See you later tonight.” “I’ll be waiting.” “Me, too.” Sid reluctantly hung up the phone with a sigh, focusing his attention on his irate sister. “This is about Korb, I take it?” “He’s driving me crazy! At first it was kind of funny. I wasn’t sure what the game was but I was a good sport and played along. But now he’s gone too far. He calls at all times of the night. I can’t sleep. I can’t work. Every time I try to focus, here he comes with his bogus proposals.” Cass paced back and forth in front of his desk, hands flying in emphasis. Sid rocked in his chair. “How do you know he’s not for real?” She stopped dead in her tracks and stared at him for a long silent moment. Then her eyes narrowed. “I should have known. You’re in on it. This is some sick sort of game you two are playing.” Sid straightened abruptly in his chair. “What!” Cass’s hands came up to rest on her hips. “I can’t believe you’d do this to me. Of all the juvenile, asinine, stunts to pull…” Her breath caught and she spun away from him. Alarmed, Sid realized a hint of tears sparkled in his baby sister’s eyes. Cass, who never cries. I told that fool... Enough is enough. I’ll kill him myself. He stood and ordered as he rounded the desk, “You. Sit.” Her whole body stiffened and she turned, the picture of outraged. “Don’t you tell me—” “SIT. DOWN. NOW.” Her mouth snapped shut and flounced over to the chair and plopped down. “Don’t move!” He opened the door, stalked down the hallway and threw open Cass’s office door, and continued through her office to reach Korbin’s, throwing it open as well. “You! In my office. Now!” Pivoting on his left heel, he marched off before his friend could comment. Once more in his office, Sid sat on the corner of his desk. “I can’t believe you—” “Quiet!” Had Korbin not entered the room at that moment, Mount Cass would have erupted all over him. As soon as she spotted him, she closed up tighter than an oyster shell. Arms crossed defensively over her chest, face averted, Cass crossed one leg over the other in a move that left her turned slightly away from both of them. “What’s going on?” Probably sensing the tense atmosphere, Korb’s gaze traveled from him to Cass where it got stuck. A complex look of love and pure, unadulterated lust filled his face. Sid swore Korb’s eyes glazed over. He sighed and shook his head. The poor sap had it bad. “Korbin, have a seat,” Sid said in the tone he reserved for difficult clients. His friend almost tripped over his own two feet in his haste to get next to Cass. Sid rolled his eyes. Any idiot could see how these two felt about each other, except the two idiots sitting in front of him. He sighed. Time to put an end to this craziness. As soon as Korb was seated, Sid pinned him with a glare. “You, tell my sister how you feel about her,” he commanded in a ‘don’t mess with me’ tone. “How I f-feel about Ca-Cass?” Korb stuttered, running a finger in the collar of his shirt to loosen it as his face turned an interesting shade of red. “I… um…you see…that is…well I…” “He loves you,” Sid interjected. They’d be here all day waiting on Korb to spit it out. “Yeah, what he said,” Korb mumbled, his relief evident. “Now Cass, your turn. Tell Korb how you feel about him. How you really feel,” he stressed, knowing his sister was liable to say something flip. “He does?” Cass glanced at Sid over her shoulder, her eyes widened in shock. She relaxed her death grip on her arms, allowing her hands to fall into her lap. An expression of budding joy crossed her face. In the process of turning to face Korb, she paused. Then her gaze narrowed suspiciously. “Wait a minute. This isn’t some type of trick, is it?” “No, it’s not a game,” Sid huffed. As if he’d joke around with something this serious. “Oh! Well, in that case, I…” She fidgeted, gaze lowered as she played with the flounce on her skirt. “I might, maybe…sort of…love him, too,” Cass mumbled. “What did she say?” Korb demanded. “She said she loves you, too. Now that we have that settled, I think you can handle it from here,” he told his friend. “Marry me!” Korb immediately commanded. “Or perhaps not,” Sid murmured, shaking his head. Cass whipped around so fast, her butt almost slid off the seat. “Marry you?! We’ve never been out on a date. Never even kissed and you expect me to marry you?” “Oh boy, here we go,” Sid said under his breath. He crossed his arms, settled back and waited for the fireworks to begin. “Hell, Cass, in the last two years we’ve spend more time together than any couple I know, and when we’re not physically together, we’re on the phone.” “The man’s got a point, Cass,” Sid said. She shot Sid a glare. “That’s business. I’m your personal assistant. It doesn’t count,” she refuted. Korb leaned forward aggressively. “It does, too. We talk more than work. Next to Sid, you know me better than anyone on earth.” Cass rolled her eyes. “That’s all well and good, but what about romance? I deserve to be courted, appreciated!” “She’s right,” Sid interjected. This time Korb pinned him with an angry glare. “Just whose side are you on?” Turning back to Cass he stated, “I’ll give you all the romance you can handle, after the wedding.” “After? Who says there’s going to be a wedding? You haven’t even asked,” she bellowed. The two were almost nose-to-nose. “And I’m not going to either. You’d say no just to spite me,” Korb declared. Sid groaned and slapped his hand over his face. Cass gasped as she drew back. “Spite you? Is that how little you think of me?” Korb shot to his feet, confused and angry by the looks of things. “Hell, no, woman. I already told you I love you—” “You didn’t. He did.” Cass jabbed an irate finger in Sid’s direction as she jumped onto her feet. “—but I know you,” Korb continued undaunted. “You don’t do anything the easy way.” Sid snorted. “He’s got you there, Cass. You are contrary, and stubborn, and willful, and…” “Shut up!” she shouted at him. To Korb she said, “I’m not marrying a man that can’t be bothered to ask me to do so.” Cass planted her hands on her hips and gave Korb a ‘now take that’ nod. Throwing his hands up in the air, Korb asked, “I’ve been asking. What do you want from me?” “You call that asking? How about a night on the town with dinner and dancing? Or maybe a movie? Did it ever cross your mind to bring me flowers? Or maybe, God forbid, get down on one knee and actually propose!” She was shouting by the end. “Told ya,” Sid felt compelled to remind Korb. They both turned to him and in unison ordered, “Stay out of this!” Both his eyebrows shot up. “Gosh, I’m only trying to help.” “Flowers! I bring you flowers all the time. Half the plants in your office were purchased by me,” Korb stated in a highly offended tone of voice. Cass waved dismissively. “That’s different.” “Different how?” “I’d like to know, too,” Sid murmured to no one in particular. “Will you shut up?” Cass demanded. “Hey, it’s my office. If you don’t like it, leave.” “She’s not going anywhere until we settle this,” Korb said. “Cass, I buy you plants, lunch, cute little stuff for your office and home. I did everything I know to do to show you how I feel about you.” “But the words,” she insisted. “You never said the words.” “Well, I’m saying them now. I love you. Satisfied?” “No! You didn’t say it like you mean it.” “You…I…” Korb let out a primal yell of frustration which startled even Sid. He reached out, snatched Cass by the upper arms and yanked her close. Then his mouth landed on hers in a kiss that scorched Sid with the intensity of it. Frankly, he didn’t realize his friend had it in him. Cass struggled for all of a second before melting into Korb’s body like they were melded together. On and on it went. Cass’s arms slid around Korbin’s waist. One of Korb’s hands slid up into Cass’s hair and the other dropped down to cup her butt. When Cass started trying to climb Korb’s body and her already short skirt began to rise, courtesy of Korb’s marauding hands, Sid knew it was time to call a halt to things. “Uh, guys, this is interesting and all, but it’s time to stop. Korb? Cass? Guys? I’m serious. Enough’s enough.” Sid gave up when they began sinking to the floor. “Fine. Keep the office. I’ll leave. Call me when you’re done. I’m going to lunch.” He rose from the desk, grabbed his suit jacket, wallet and keys, and walked out the room, careful to close and lock the door behind him. “My office better not smell like sex when I get back,” he muttered as he walked out the building. All’s well that ends well… Sid returned after an extended lunch to find his office door wide open and the room empty. Taking a cautious sniff, all he could smell was the fragrant crystals Cass insisted each of them keep in their offices. A quick trip down the hall revealed both Cass and Korbin were nowhere to be found. Hoping mightily this time Korb had managed to get it right, Sid got to work. Their corporate security company wouldn’t run itself and his business partner, and soon to be brother-in-law, was otherwise occupied. Two hours later Sid, hearing a sound, looked up to see a glowing Cass standing in the doorway. A smugly satisfied Korb stood close behind her, his arm around her waist. Cass held out her left hand, fingers down, displaying a rock with a lot of bling. “We’re engaged,” she announced happily. “We wanted you to be the first to know.” He rocked back in his chair. “About damn time. Congratulations.” “Thanks. You know you have best man duty,” Korb informed him. “I’d better.” “No naked women at the bachelor party,” Cass warned. Sid simply grinned. “I mean it, Sid. I’m telling mom if you do.” Sid and Korb burst out laughing. His mother was a fierce little thing. She wouldn’t hesitate to take either one of her children to task if she deemed it necessary. That included Korbin, who was already considered a member of the family because of their long-term friendship. “All right, Cass. You win. No naked women.” Sid winked at his best friend. Naked women, no, but maybe women with thongs and nipple tassels wouldn’t be amiss, he thought to himself, grinning wickedly. “I don’t like that look on your face,” Cass growled. She tilted her head so she could see her fiancé. “Korb, tell him. The only naked woman you’re allowed to see from now on is me.” One at last… “I now pronounce you man and wife,” the minister intoned. “You may kiss your wife.” “It’s about time,” Korbin heard Sid, his best man mutter as he bent Cass over his arm and kissed her dramatically. Hoots and hollers filled the air as people began to cheer. Only when breath became short did he lift his now blushing bride to a righted position, enjoying the dewy, passion-glazed look in her eyes.


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