Waiting For It - Allyson Lindt

Chapter One

The one thing that made crunch time tolerable was my boss. It wasn’t his fault we were working eighty-hour weeks to wrap up our company’s most anticipated game ever; he took his directions from the people above him, like the rest of us.

Besides, even at eleven at night, when had both been staring at the same code problem for the last three hours and were punchy from lack of sleep, he was gorgeous. Dark hair that was cut close, piercing dark eyes, and tonight, a tantalizing hint of stubble.

Luke clucked. “Anne, Anne, Anne... Why the fuck isn’t this working, Anne?”

“Gremlins?” I loved the way my name rolled off his tongue. And I was too tired to pretend I didn’t want other bits of me on his tongue as well. I also didn’t have any better answer to his question than any other time he’d asked it tonight.

We were in his office. As a director, he got one of the mid-range offices, with room for a small table in the corner and a great view of the mountains. I was sit-leaning against the edge of his polished-wood desk, watching him work. God, I loved the view. It almost made up for the fact that we were working on a Sunday.

Luke had returned to the flow chart we started an hour ago, and was drawing another series of lines. He jabbed the marker into the board several times, leaving a series of ink freckles. “The hobbits had a more direct, easy route walking to Mordor. Who wrote this shit?”

It didn’t matter that his question wasn’t funny. I still had to cut off my laugh before it became one of those drawn-out, sleep-deprived giggles. “We did.”

I’d had more coffee in the last week than I used to drink in a year. Anything with high amounts of caffeine had been added to my Best Friends list since this project went sideways, shit itself, and landed face down, ass up in a ditch at the bottom of a deep ravine. Laughing was one of the only ways to stay sane in the midst of it all.

He sighed and dropped the marker. It clattered against the tray and bounced to the ground. “In hindsight, we should have just chartered a helicopter and flown into the mountain. The direct path is always the best.”

And it was rarely the path a group of developers took. Partly because we all had different definitions of direct. “I’m at the point where I’d sell my soul to Sauron to fix this issue. I wouldn’t hesitate.”

“You’d make a horrible ring wraith. The hood and eternal damnation would obscure those gorgeous eyes.” He turned back to the board and bent at the waist to pick up the marker, the muscles along his back and arms rippling under his T-shirt. He was a Marine-turned-developer and still had the physique.

“And you’d make a lousy hobbit.” I smirked to hide my uncertainty. When he did things like compliment me in a way that sounded suspiciously like flirting, and then kept going as if nothing happened, it was almost impossible to take my eyes off him.

Too bad I was so lousy at seeing the signs of someone’s intent. Misread it one too many times in an ex.

“Are you kidding? I’d make the best fucking hobbit. First of all, look at the size of these feet. Legit thirteens right here.” He raised his foot.

I bit back my you know what they say about guys with big feet comment. That visual was for me alone. “And you’d forgo adventure, to stay home in the Shire and live a peaceful life?”

“I wouldn’t forgo it, but I would make sure we were back in time for afternoon tea.” He cupped his hand to the side of his head, like he was covering an earpiece. “Alpha Echo Sierra, this is Foxtrot One Half. We’re ten clicks out from Mount Doom. Over.”

My giggles threatened to return. I loved Luke’s impersonations. I couldn’t do the voices like he could, but that rarely stopped me from participating. “This is Sierra One Half, on your three. We’ve got orcs inbound. Spinning up the guns. Over.”

“I’m going in. Give me cover.” He mimed holding onto something, then made a tossing gesture. “Ring is in the fire. I repeat, ring is in the fire. Tea’s getting cold. Let’s head out, boys.” He straightened again. “See how much easier that would have been?”

I laughed. “Tolkien fans everywhere would have your hide.”

“They’d need to get in line, behind the X