“Mr. Taylor wants to see you,” Liam’s deep voice carried from down the hall. “He’s waiting in his office. I think he needs to ask you something.”

So much for his oldest friend, he was going to be his deadest friend by the end of the day.

The soft clicks of Cynthia’s heels warned of her approach. Mitchem scanned his desk, looking for some viable question he could ask Cynthia, but all he saw was the oriental burgundy and cream rug, leather chairs, and bookcases full of academia. No answer.

Cynthia dipped her head around the door. Her short hair fell over her high cheekbones, the dark strands a stark contrast to her bright eyes. Eyes that could melt a man’s soul and make him do stupid things. “Mr. Harrow said you wanted to see me.”

“Yes, I wanted to know if you wanted to attend the banquet with me tonight.” Stupid things like asking assistants to work functions, or any functions for that matter.

She smiled, but he couldn’t tell if it was a pity smile for the widower, or a happy smile for the invitation. The room remained silent a moment too long, and he couldn’t take it. “I mean it’s a business thing and I’d like to have you there to help represent our department.”

Cynthia stepped further into the room. One of her hands rested on the curve of her hip as the other held one of her leather bound classic stories she loved so much. “I see. I’m sorry, but I’m not sure I can cancel my plans for tonight. It’s awfully late notice.”

Plans? She had plans? A date? Who would she be going out with? Was it Dave from the coffee shop she mentioned the other day? Or Professor Winters from Neuroscience? His stomach rolled at the thought. “I see. Well, I wouldn’t want to make you cancel a date or anything. It’s okay. I’ll invite someone else. I just thought—”

“No date. I just have plans with friends.”

“Oh.” Get it together, Mitchem. What the hell’s wrong with you? “Well, I wouldn’t want you to cancel on your friends either,” he chuckled nervously. “I guess I’ve been hoping the entire event would be canceled.” He shrugged. “Hence, the late notice.”

“It’s a great honor,” she said. “You should feel proud.”

“Great,” he muttered, his voice cracking like a pre-pubescent boy.