Holding her shoes in her hands, Sally crept silently down the shadowy steps. She clutched the railing, unsure of her balance both from the night before and from the elegant curve as the staircase descended. Everything was all twirling in her head too.
How could she have been so stupid?
Reaching the main hall, Sally paused, leaning on the curling end of the rail, staring moodily at the waist high vases that decorated each side. Maybe they were there to catch the remains of anyone who slid down the bannisters. The thought choked a giggle out of her. Did anyone have that kind of fun in John Shelton’s mansion? She doubted it – but she’d been very tempted.
Shaking her head, to clear the last alcohol fumes from her brain, she took stock of her situation. Preliminary assessment – an epic disaster.
“Sally, you are as big an idiot as you thought,” she muttered. In the distance she could hear a clock ticking, echoing in this uber silent house. Creepy.
“You’d better get your backside out of this place,” she told herself in a stern whisper. Her own voice made the situation seem less crazy. “If you’re still here when he wakes up, you’re doomed,” she added for good measure. If she was very lucky, John’s alcohol misted brain would refuse to remember who had left the party with him last night.
OMG...please let him forget.
“Got to get home,” she muttered, and fished out her phone. A few taps and a car was on its way to pick her up. Estimated time, 8 minutes. Then, confidence beginning to bubble into her brain, she tiptoed toward the front door. She would slip on her shoes on the outside step.
“No…no…no…” Sally gently bumped her head against the door. To one side, a security alarm blinked lazily at her. Why couldn’t John Shelton be like ordinary men and have the code scribbled on a sticky note stuck to the wall?
Because John Shelton wasn’t like other men. He was brilliant, sexy, and she had found out last night when her head swirled from too many cosmos, very kind. He had given her a cool washcloth, murmured reassurances, chuckled at her embarrassment-fueled jokes, and then when she collapsed on his bed, covered her up. At least he must have done because she was pretty sure at that point, she’d passed out.
Sally stared at the tiny blinking panel. “You are a problem solver, Sally, so solve the problem.”
The window! She could crawl out the window. If those panes were wired, no one could ever open one for fresh air…ergo, they were clean.
Giggling, Sally stole into the living room. Yes! One of the long panels was ever so slightly ajar. Relief left her gasping. Should she add house breaking to her resume? Oh, God, she so didn’t want John to remember his new Assistant VP of Marketing from the party last night.
Had other people seen her leave with John? Would it be all over the office that she was trying to sleep her way to the top?
Would hurling herself off the roof of the office tower simply add to the cliché she was becoming?
She had to get out of there. Headlights were making their way up the long drive. Please, please don’t let the driver honk.
“Sally, you are a complete idiot,” she declared, and threw her long leg over the window sill.
“I find the door so much handier.” John’s voice, lit with amusement, washed over her.
“Oh…I…” she squeaked, lost her balance, and pitched out the open window into the shrubbery.
John stuck his head out the window, looming over her. “Are you okay, Sally?”
So much for incognito. Or professionalism. Lying there amid the sticks and leaves, Sally closed her eyes. She could feel a rip-roaring headache coming on. Probably fatal. Just part of being doomed – ruining her reputation and her career in one night.
“In my defense, they were very good cosmos,” she said sadly.
She could hear the laughter in his voice. It was better not to see, so she simply kept her eyes closed. Maybe he had an automatic sprinkler system that would start any second and just wash her away.
But she was trapped by branches. Maybe she should just give in to fate and lie there until she died. A few feet away, she heard the door open and close followed by John’s murmured voice, and then the driver sped away.
His hands, strong and warm, gripped her under the shoulders. “If I give a good pull, will you be able to get out?”
“I’m okay,” Sally protested. But he ignored her and lifted her shoulders. She wiggled like a worm on a hook, and then ended up on her feet.
He was grinning when he picked the twigs and leaves out of her hair. “Should I ask why you were climbing out my window?”
“I am so sorry,” Sally tried for dignity, but with the sexiest man…her boss…twitching greenery out of her hair, maybe the effect wasn’t all she hoped for.
“Sun’s coming up,” John said. “Why don’t I scramble us a couple of eggs and you can tell me all about it.”
“And coffee,” Sally said, shaking her head. “There has to be coffee or I’m never going to be able to explain this.”
She could see his eyes twinkling in the golden light creeping over the horizon. “Quite a night,” he said, and tucked her arm into his. “And I think we both need that coffee before we get to know each other.”