Heat Exchange

By: Deana Farrady

Unfortunately, her body didn't seem to have gotten the memo. It was on full red alert as she gaped at him. Until the elevator dinged and the door in front of him opened.

Almost too late she realized she'd been standing there like a star-struck teenager. She grabbed her totes and scrambled onto the elevator, feeling her face heat. Three people were running from the lobby towards the elevators as the doors slid shut. Hastily she hit the button to keep the doors from shutting, but too late. The doors closed before the elevator chasers made it and the elevator started ascending.

Hoping her face wasn't still too blatantly flushed, she hit the button for the seventh floor and glanced over at the elevator's other occupant with a rueful look meant to convey, too bad, I wasn't quick enough.

She did manage to catch his eye, whereupon he gave a token curve of his lips. She recognized that distant smile well, having dealt with her share of business clients. Not unfriendly, but not interested in chit-chat, either.

Janey shrugged. At least the elevator guy was honestly antisocial. Unlike Vince. Vince was friendly and—she had thought—nice. And he'd seemed interested. He'd actually patted her hip in his company's break room. That had struck her as tacky, but it made her think at least it was worth a shot. Sadly, in retrospect Vince now seemed to be one of the sleazebags instead of the good guys.

The elevator rose slowly past one, two floors. The old downtown building had only twelve stories. She thought she'd better get her act together fast if she was going to face her clients, a group of lawyers who'd have zero tolerance for their hired caterers crying all over their fancy plastic dishware.

She stared down at her bags, not really seeing the supplies. How, how, how had she reached this advanced age in this state? Her hormones functioned perfectly well. Sure, she'd never felt any kind of raging, irresistible passion for anyone. But she did like guys. And guys liked her well enough as friends. But only a handful of them ever wanted to date her and never had she had a real boyfriend. Guys just weren't interested in her that way. It was some kind of law of the universe.

Except, she reminded herself ruefully, for the attached ones. Janey had had more than her share of invitations from taken men, but that was her idea of an insult, not an opportunity.

All her friends told her she was just too picky, or not sending out the right signals. Maybe it was true. But secretly she was sure she knew the reason. She was just too boring. Nice, decent, and attractive guys simply weren't wowed by size 12, un-suave girl-next-door types. They went for the exciting girls. Janey couldn't think of a single case where a guy chose somebody less happening then they were.

The elevator jerked and stopped suddenly and Janey stumbled. That halt had come with a stronger-than-normal impact. Startled, she checked the doors, then the buttons. They were between the fifth and sixth stories.

"Oh, no," she blurted.

"Fuck," the elevator's other occupant said simultaneously.

Janey was taken aback. The man ignored her, staring at the button panel. He let go of his briefcase, letting it drop to the floor, and stepped forward to read the instructions on the panel. A moment later he was pressing one of the floor buttons. Nothing. He pressed a red flat panel button. Static came on, then a male voice speaking over the intercom.

Speaking in a low, smooth, velvety voice—Janey could easily imagine it coming from a movie theater's sound system- her elevator companion traded information with the security staff member. The exchange was brief, clipped, polite. At one point Janey was asked if she had any medical conditions.

"No," she responded clearly.

"We're good," the man said and continued the discussion. A minute later, the static ceased and the intercom clicked off.

Janey observed the whole thing with fascination. Except for that initial expletive, the man had kept a lot calmer than she was managing to and was undeniably efficient.

"Did I just hear him say it might be hours?" Janey said.

The man had his phone in his hand. He glanced at her then as if in surprise that she was still there. Janey's hackles rose. Where did he think she'd gone, through the floor?

"Could be hours," the man said. "Probably more like one. We have electrical and connectivity, so it can't be that bad." He put his phone to his ear, waited a minute, and started talking into it.

Top Books