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Anthony Gambese managed to destroy Bree’s morning without even being in the office early.  She read his email and felt a chasm open beneath her feet through all forty-two levels of Governor Macquarie Tower.  Was he deliberately trying to wreck her life or just ineptly stumbling all over it?  Did he not understand what he’d put in email was incredibly personal and deeply compromising, no matter how he’d tried to disguise it in officialise.

And what kind of a bastard act was it, given Anthony simply had to understand every piece of electronic communication in the office was stored for audit trails?  It didn’t matter whether the email was deleted off their computers, it lived on in the firm’s servers, forever accessible, forever suggesting Bree Robinson was—what?  He hadn’t put two and two together about roller derby or she’d have heard about it.  He wouldn’t have been able to help himself.  So, what precisely did he think she was—clumsy?  And what did he mean by asking if there was anything he could do in relation to that.  Did he mean to walk beside her and stop her bumping into furniture or...

Oh God.  She jumped up from her desk as if it’s been electrified.  Anthony thought she was being victimised, smacked around.  Oh dear God.  In his blundering way he was genuinely trying to help.

She sat back down; glad to her You’re a Piza Work pink toenail polish no one had witnessed her panicked state.  She spent the next half hour furtively watching the door from the lift well for Anthony—no Ant, she needed to start thinking of him as Ant—a dunderhead who was trying to be gallant.  If you considered gallant boxing her in a small room, ignoring her requests to leave, harassing her for no good reason, and then revealing that reason on permanently recorded email. 

The minute he cleared the foyer door, his eyes were on her.  He gave her a tight, toothless grimace and a quick bob of his head, but that was it.  He went to his desk and two minutes later his eyes were down on his screen.  Bree spent the next half hour trying to attract his attention and failing.

She took the long way to the water cooler to walk behind his workstation—twice.  She engaged his closest neighbour, Mal, in a discussion about currency adjustments largely to put herself in Ant’s eye line, and when all her tricks failed, and before Christine smelled a rat, she reopened his email and typed a response. 

Re:  A moment.  Thank you for your obvious concern and your offer to assist.  However I believe there’s been a misunderstanding.  No need for you to worry.  Again thanks.

It was bland, clear and unambiguous.  It said back off, without spelling it out.  It said thank you, without welcoming further discussion.  And that would hopefully be the end of it.  They could go back to comfortably avoiding each other, like normal, even if that comfort was now a little lumpy.  She read the email back.  It was so to the point it was verging on rude, but there was no way he could misconstrue it as anything other than a dead argument.  She shifted her cursor, hit send then tried to recapture her lost morning. 

She didn’t get much done in the half hour he gave her.  And she knew he was behind her before he spoke.

“Bree, I’m wondering if you would look over my quarterly predictions report.”

She half turned her chair so she was side on to him.  “Me?”  Did he smell like sunshine and saltwater or was she imaging that?

“Yeah, you’re the senior analyst.”

And he was a passive aggressive low life.  What was she supposed to say to that?  No, and half the office would hear her being unhelpful, not Ant being a dickhead.  Yes, and she’d have to talk to him, and sure as it was around the usual time he nicked downstairs to buy more of that strong coffee he liked, he’d make a big deal about buying her one too.

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