My Coworker Found Me Online
- 👁 65
- ⭐ 7.5
- 💬 1
When Derek Jensen joins the popular dating app Fish, he never expects to be matched with his sexy coworker and boss, Jessie Morrison. As they flirt and connect online, they can't help but be drawn to each other despite the fact that they work together and really don't know it. But as their online romance heats up, they must decide whether they're willing to risk revealing their identities for a chance at eternal love and bliss. Will Jessie and Derek navigate the complexities of dating in the digital age and discover whether they're meant to be more than just swipes online?
Derek recognized Jessie’s soft, clean perfume the moment she entered any room. He’d know it was her, blindfolded, every single time simply from the way her scent danced in the air around him every time she breezed through. He’d bet his life on it.
It made it damn near impossible to make it through his workday, considering they shared a cubicle wall.
“Well, the badge scanner is on the fritz again,” Jessie Morrison announced as she strode straight into Derek’s cube and dropped off two cups of coffee on his desk. She peeled off her knit cap, completely oblivious as the motion sent little droplets of melted snow sprinkling onto Derek’s desk papers before picking up her cup and taking a hasty sip. “That’s the third time this week!”
Derek spun in his office chair to face her, eyeing her from beneath his heavy brows. “I didn’t realize you were keeping track.”
Jessie shrugged. “I’m not trying to. It’s just obvious and annoying, and therefore, I remember. It was fine Monday, it happened Tuesday and Wednesday, and it worked fine again yesterday. Now today it’s-”
“Back on the fritz,” Derek finished for her.
Jessie cocked her hip to the side and rolled her eyes as she whipped off her gray scarf. “Yes,” she said with a sigh.
“I’m sorry?” Derek offered, giving Jessie a sheepish look before reaching for his coffee. He took a sip and grimaced as he swallowed. “Jesus, what the hell is this?”
“It’s coffee,” Jessie replied, furrowing her brow at him. “Obviously.”
“I know it’s coffee, but where the hell did you get it?”
Jessie blinked. “The new place that opened right downstairs.”
“It’s open? I didn’t know that.” Behind him, Derek turned to see the notification that pinged on his computer, sitting the coffee cup back down on his desk. “Oh, shit, meeting in the conference room in five.” He reached for his tablet and shoved a pen into the chest pocket.
“Mmm,” Jessie grumbled, picking up her latte and pursing her lips at Derek as she backed out of his cube to head into her own. “And good morning to you, too, Mr. Grumpy.”
* * *
Derek closed his eyes and hitched a quiet breath at her words, silently blessing the cube wall separating their workspaces for the little privacy it gave him. It was moments like these that brought him back to just why being Jessie’s co-worker made getting through his day feel like a Sisyphean trial.
For the last two years, he’d worked with Jessie, sometimes sharing projects and lab testing, but always right next door as her cube neighbor. Ever since that spring day Jessie joined the firm, he’d been, well… slightly obsessed. And the worst part of it all was that Derek was one-hundred percent certain Jessie did not see him in the same light.
Derek spent the entire design status meeting spinning his pen around his first and fourth fingers, sending into a little helicopter propeller motion - something his coworkers had long learned to ignore. Derek claimed it helped him concentrate, but what exactly he was concentrating on was far from work.
He was stuck on her, no matter what he did to break free of it, though he was the first to admit he did little to fight it. It was all too easy to let his thoughts spiral, and it seemed to getting worse with each passing week, ever since company party back in June. Their engineering firm had rented a yacht from Green Bay as a company outing and had taken the staff on a scenic city skyline ride along the Hudson and East Rivers. The skies had been clear, the summer sunset bright, the music pounding, and the bar open. And like the rest of their coworkers, Derek and Jessie had downed a few drinks over the three-hour dinner cruise, loosening their lips just enough for Derek to have learned all about Jessie’s new boyfriend.
Well, that had been a joy.
And ever since, the obsession - which prior to that day had been a minor interest - had flared to life like gas on a flame. Derek didn’t know what made him feel so angry hearing about Rick or Rob or whatever-the-hell his name was, but it turned his stomach sour and got his heart pounding entirely uncomfortably.
* * *
The trip was over. Everyone said their goodbyes and left for home, but something inside Derek had never really left that boat’s bar. The vinyl stool he’d sat on beside Jessie the whole time they’d amusedly watched their drunken colleagues make fools of themselves on the dance floor became something else entirely in Derek’s mind - a prison of his own making: the dreaded Friend Zone.
Months passed and here they were, just weeks from Christmas, and Derek was still stuck on that damn yacht, watching Jessie leave.
“What do you think, Derek?” Terrence asked from across the conference room table, one dark brow crooked in question, snatching Derek from his memories. “Will the new chassis design have room for the additional circuitry?”
Derek cleared his throat, buying time, trying to recall what the hell they might have been talking about. He took a shot and replied with a nod, “Yes, I think we could accommodate that change.”
“You think or you know?” Terrence pressed. “We don’t want to go to production and have a real estate issue on our hands,” he added, steepling his fingers beneath his chin. “Why don’t you connect with Morrison on this one and have her create a 3-D prototype of the new chassis, so we can be sure?”
Sucking in a breath at the mention of Jessie’s name, Derek tamped down his excitement at having a reason to pull her onto his current project, making even more of an excuse to spend time with her. Feigning nonchalance, Derek shrugged. “Yeah, okay.”
“Good,” Terrence said with a nod, satisfied. “That should be it for now. I’ll schedule a follow up with the team for one week from today; that should be enough time for you to get with Morrison and get what we need.”
I wish, Derek thought wryly.
“Shouldn’t be a problem,” he replied aloud, keeping his thoughts to himself as he gathered his tablet and slid his glasses back into his pocket, along with his spare pen.
* * *
Derek’s heartbeat was erratic as he loped back to his desk, his six-foot-three body leaving him feeling a bit awkward and strange in his own skin. He needed to get his thoughts under control before talking to Jessie. He peeled off the main hallway toward the men’s room to use the bathroom and just chill for a second; practically salivating over the chance of working with Jessie hours at a time the following week.
I need to get a grip on- his thought was briskly interrupted as he turned the corner and crashed directly into a sweet-smelling wall of Jessie, knocking her into the gray cube right as the collision sent Derek’s tablet slipping from his grip directly onto the toes of his shoes.
“Hey!” Jessie called, surprise thick in her voice right as at the same time Derek howled beneath his breath, “Ouch, Jesus!”
“What the hell, Derek?” Jessie asked, staring at him wide eyed as she rubbed her shoulder. “You practically ran me over.”
“Shit, sorry, sorry,” Derek said as he clamored to pick up his tablet and kneeled to rub at the top of his left shoe. “I... think I broke my toe.” He was busy pressing down on his throbbing baby toe when Jessie’s hearty laugh had him tipping his chin back up to her in disbelief. “What’s so funny?” he mumbled, the pain in his toe subsiding as he stared at the dimple on her right cheek.
Jessie sighed, squatting down to be nearly eye-level. “Oh, Derek,” Jessie shook her head, her hazel eyes dancing with humor, “there’s no way you broke your toe through the leather of your shoes.”
Derek blinked, realizing the pain was now completely gone. He looked down at his foot and felt the heat creep up his neck toward his hairline. “No, I guess that’s not likely.”
“Nope,” Jessie agreed, shaking her head back and forth slowly. She reached over to pat Derek’s right shoulder. “Come on, Ferdinand, let’s get you up.”
Derek stood, tucking his tablet beneath his arm. “Ferdinand?”
“You know, Ferdinand the Bull, the children’s story?”
He chuckled, “No, I must’ve missed that one.”
“Well, let’s get you to your desk and you can sit and smell the flowers for a few minutes and mind that toe of yours.”
Derek didn’t know what the hell she was talking about, but it didn’t matter because Jessie still had her hand on his bicep, gently leading him back toward their cubicles. Her hand felt warm even through the thin cotton of his dress shirt, his top button suddenly feeling way too constricting even though it was unbuttoned. And was that a bead of sweat rolling between his shoulder blades?
“Here we go, Jansen,” Jessie announced as she gently shoved him into his cube, motioning toward his chair. “Have a seat and perhaps you can distract yourself from the pain of your toe by asking me if I’m okay, considering the bull in a china shop move you just pulled.”
He was an idiot. An absolute grade-A idiot.
“Oh, Jessie, I’m so sorry,” Derek began, eyes wide. “I was rushing to the bathroom after the meeting and wasn’t paying attention. Did I hurt you? Are you okay?”
Jessie giggled again, crossing her arms over her chest. “Of course I’m okay, you blubbering fool,” she replied, rolling her eyes playfully. “I’m not quite as delicate as china.”
Derek swallowed, images of Jessie in delicate lace, delicate positions, her delicate skin marked by him... they flooding his mind at the most inappropriate moments in all of time and space. “No, of course you’re not.” It was a weak, unconvincing reply, but he’d managed it.
“Of course I’m not,” Jessie echoed. “Now that’s done with, let’s get some Thai for lunch later.”
Jessie pulled her cell phone from her back pocket and unlocked it, opening up the app to get an order placed for later. “I’ve been craving spring rolls.”
The side of Derek’s lip lifted in a hint of a smile, his heart rate finally settling into something resembling normalcy. “Only you could crave spring rolls. You don’t even get the fried ones.”
Jessie lifted her brow. “Well, some of us eat things that are green and some of us survive on ‘swill’ and negativity.”
Derek felt his lips twitch again as he watched the mirth in her eyes. “You’ll get my negativity in full force next week when I’m constantly dissatisfied with the 3D prototype of our new design you make me.”
“Really?” Jessie’s voice rose an octave as her eyes lit up. “I love prototyping!”
Derek nodded. “I know, but don’t thank me. It was all Terrence. We need to be sure the new design’s circuitry will fit in the chassis without having to change dimensions.”
Nodding, Jessie agreed. “Makes sense. I’m sure I can find time to work on that, along with my other projects.”
Jessie snapped her head when the sound of her desk phone rang on the other side of the cube. “Shoot, I’m expecting a call from a vendor. Let me grab that,” she said, distractedly dropping her cell down on Derek’s desk as she shot over to her cubicle.
Just as she stepped away, Jessie’s cell phone pinged, an alert lighting up her lock screen. Derek didn’t mean to look, but since the phone was just inches from his face, it was hard for his eyes not to notice Fish’s obvious icon - one he recognized from his own lukewarm on-and-off experiences with the same dating app.
Since when was Jessie on a dating app? What happened to Rick or Rob, or the guy from the summer? And why the hell did Derek not know Jessie was single again? And why was he staring at her phone screen, memorizing her screen name - “A.A.Bev” - and reading notification that some dude named Jeremy wanted to connect with her?
Derek did not like this guy called Jeremy.
But Derek had an idea.
A very, very bad idea. An idea that could help him get the one thing he’d wanted for the last six months: Jessie finally seeing him as someone other than a co-worker or friend. Derek wanted out of the Friend Zone.
He ached to know what every inch of her skin felt like. Derek wanted to memorize the shape of her body with his hands. He yearned to recognize the taste of her tongue, the way he recognized her scent in the air. He was desperate for her to see him in a new light - not as her crabby, awkward colleague, but as a man worthy of her affection.
Maybe, someday, a man even worthy of her love.
“Desperate times and all,” Derek murmured, emblazoning Jessie’s screen name in his memory for after work.
He had a new profile to make.
The next day
“I don’t get him, Paige,” Jessie said, shaking her head as she chewed and swallowed her last bite of her burger. “Sometimes it’s like he’s two different people.”
Paige took a swig of her beer and set it down, her face stone-cold serious. “Wait. Are we talking about Derek? Again?”
Jessie shrugged. “Yeah. So?”
“So it seems to me that you spend an awful lot of your time thinking about the guy.”
“Well, he’s strange. It’s like… he’s a mystery I’m trying to figure out.”
A single, dark brow arched over Paige’s right eye. “Uh, huh? Right.”
Jessie grabbed her bottle of beer and brought it to her lips, shaking her head. “No, no. I don’t think I do.”
“Oh, really? Then why do we spend every dinner discussing him for at least forty percent of our time together?”
“We don’t,” Jessie scoffed.
“We do,” Paige stated. “I think he sounds a little strange, yeah, but mostly he sounds… I don’t know… nice?”
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