“Cupid’s been busy today,” exclaimed Marla’s co-worker.
“Whoever came up with the concept of Valentine’s Day needs to hang by their toenails from the stuffed animal display at the nearest Hallmark store.”
“Wow, what’s gotten into you?”
Marla packed up her laptop and grabbed her purse. She knew exactly what she would be doing this Valentine’s weekend and it didn’t involve chocolates, red lacy lingerie, sickeningly sweet cards, or another other nonsense. She had a report to compile, copy, collate and have bound by Monday morning.
On her way to the elevator Marla did her best to ignore the assorted flower arraignments, cards, and stuffed animals that adorned her co-worker’s desks, particularly since hers was barren of such sentiments.
Marla didn’t mean to be in such a sour mood, but what did she have to celebrate during this weekend of love? Absolutely nothing. She hadn’t been in a meaningful relationship in well over a year. Her dating prospects had all but dried up and the last guy who paid her a compliment had also been holding a sign that read will work for food… and work was spelled wrong.
This year Marla had vowed to approach Valentine’s Day with a positive attitude, but after her fifth co-worker received a dozen roses, a teddy bear, and a diamond tennis from her fiancé, she couldn’t help feeling grumpy.
Love was everywhere, except with her! Stupid Cupid.
Was there some force field surrounding her that kept love at bay? Was she unknowingly repelling love? She didn’t think so. She tried to be pleasant and friendly. She dressed well, had a good job, kept in shape, and stayed on top of current events. So why had Cupid’s arrow never pierced her heart? Apparently she was sporting some super heavy duty armor around her heart that clearly was impenetrable.
As Marla stepped off the elevator into the garage she tried really hard to focus on the weekend of work that was ahead of her. It wouldn’t take her all weekend to compile her report but there were other things she could do to keep herself busy and away from any Valentine’s foolery. Thankfully she had enough food at home that she wouldn’t have to go out to eat. She didn’t think she could suffer through watching one restaurant marriage proposal after another as she tried to eat her dinner in peace.
Walking to her car Marla was paying more attention to the exact spot her keys were hiding in her purse instead of the person she was about to run into. Retrieving her keys she looked up but not in enough time to run smack dab into…startled, Marla dropped her purse and several items from inside it.
“I’m sorry,” came a deliciously rich voice from an equally delicious looking man.
“No problem,” she muttered reaching down to pick up the spilled contents of her purse.
“Please, let me help.” The stranger helped her pick up tubes of lipstick, pens, keys, and several other items.
As she stood to leave Marla looked at the stranger to thank him and noticed he was smiling.
“Marla? Marla Stevens?”
“Uhm…” Everything she had ever learned about keeping herself safe suddenly flooded her brain, but something else kept her from fleeing. It was his smile. Not only was it beautiful, but there was something vaguely familiar about it.
“Ash. Ash Starling,” he said.
Wow! Not only did Marla remember Ash, she’d spent a great deal of her teenaged years daydreaming about her classmate’s brother. Tall, dark, handsome, athletic, smart, funny, and now gainfully employed, and handsome (she couldn’t help but add that twice).
“I was stopping by to surprise a buddy of mine who works here, but he cut out early. I forgot about it being Valentine’s weekend,” he added with a slightly embarrassed smile.
“Look, I know this might seem a little strange, but I’m here in town this weekend for my grandmother’s birthday. While I love my family dearly I’m going to need a reprieve at some point. If you’re not happily married or engaged to some lucky guy, would you like to go out to dinner with me tomorrow night or maybe brunch on Sunday?”
Taken aback by Ash’s unexpected offer Marla didn’t quite know what to say.
“I’ll tell you what,” said Ash. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a business card. He scribbled something on the back and handed it to Marla. “Just think about it. I wrote my cell number on the back.”
Smiling, Ash turned to walk away, then paused. “It was good seeing you, Marla. I hope this isn’t the last time.”