Ryan McGraw[12:49 AM]: I do - Master of the universe, huh? 1




I rolled my eyes and smiled.



Julia Hayes[12:49 AM]: When was the last time you had to create a scorecard? Dont you have a whole team of people working for you to do this sort of stuff?

Ryan McGraw[12:49 AM]: dont be a smartass, Julia

Ryan McGraw[12:49 AM]: :)



Oh my God, Ryan McGraw uses emoticons.



Ryan McGraw[12:50 AM]: I just want to help. I know what Catherine and Stephanie want to see in a scorecard.

Julia Hayes[12:50 AM]: Good point

Ryan McGraw[12:50 AM]: When are you planning on working on it?

Julia Hayes[12:50 AM]: Tomorrow. I dont like procrastinating.

Ryan McGraw[12:51 AM]: Do you want to meet on campus somewhere?



Yes. But I dont have my car.



Julia Hayes[12:50 AM]: Youre really serious, arent you?

Ryan McGraw[12:50 AM]: Yes.

Julia Hayes[12:50 AM]: Ok then. Meet me at Building 7, on this side of the lake?



Building 7 was a satellite office in south Lake Union of Seattle; I could easily take the bus there. Since I had just agreed to this, I instantly felt a little guilty about declining Kyles earlier offer of assistance to do the same thing. But then again, Kyle wasnt Ryan.



Ryan McGraw[12:50 AM]: Good idea

Ryan McGraw[12:51 AM]: Ill book us a conf room



Why did that sound so sexy?



Ryan McGraw[12:51 AM]: Im sorry for not being honest with you to start.

Julia Hayes[12:51 AM]: Youre forgiven. :)



It was my turn to flirt with emoticons.



Ryan McGraw[12:51 AM]: What time?

Julia Hayes[12:51 AM]: 10 ok?

Ryan McGraw[12:51 AM]: that works

Julia Hayes[12:52 AM]: Ok. I guess Ill see you in the morning.

Ryan McGraw[12:52 AM]: See you Julia

Julia Hayes[12:52 AM]: See you Ryan



Holy shit! I had a sort of date with Ryan tomorrow.

In retrospect, I was relieved he had opted not to call me directly with the Lync phone feature. There was something about instant messaging, text messaging, and emails that gave you a bit more courage than if you were speaking on the phone. Maybe this was because in person, your eyes, your body language, your voice could give more emotions and feelings away than you intended. Youre more vulnerable in person. Behind the hardware and software, you can present a much more controlled image.

In a way, these different technology communications vehicles were sort of like alcohol. They gave us courage to flirt, to be bolder and braver, without really showing all our cards. Maybe this was one of the reasons people found the use of these tools so addicting and why online dating was so popular.

Just after one am, I saw a little message on the bottom right corner of my screen pop up, telling me I had an email from Ryan in my inbox. A little shot of adrenaline piped through me. It was a Schedule Plus invite for tomorrow at ten in the morning, with a conference room booked in Building 7.

I hit accept on the invite. Before I hit send, I decided to edit my reply. Thanks, Ryan. Im looking forward to it. Julia.

I hit send before I could think too much about my reply. It was either the alcohol talking or else the courage of hiding behind my computer.



After last nights surprising turn of events, it took me a while to settle down enough to sleep. Thankfully, I didnt seem to have a hangover from last nights overconsumption of wine. I woke up early because I was both nervous and excited to see Ryan this morning.

It had been almost three weeks since that memorable evening at Bettys. That awesome night was forever burned into my brain, but now I was having doubts. Maybe our amazing chemistry and connection was all in my imagination. What if it becomes awkward and uncomfortable when we see each other? Then hell quickly come to realize that offering me help today was a mistake. Hell try to find a delicate way to extract himself from the situation to save me from any further embarrassment.

My intuition told me that that wasnt going to happen and I was just letting my imagination and fears get the best of me. I wasnt sure exactly what to expect, but a little part of me hoped that things would continue where we had left off. I was curious if we would be able to establish the same level of comfort and chemistry we had at Bettys.

I chose my clothes carefully. I didnt want to look like I was trying too hard or make it look like I was dressing for just another day at work. I wanted to wear something casual, but not too casual. After all, it was a Saturday morning. I needed to wear something that would enhance my best assets, too. I settled on my favorite pair of ass-flattering skinny jeans and a flowing white tank top with an empire waist which emphasized my breasts. Since I had to walk a few blocks to the bus stop, I opted for my black ballet flatscasual and sweet yet demure. I tied my hair into a ponytail to help finish off the I didnt try so hard look I was after. Looking at myself in the mirror, I smiled, satisfied with the final result.

I decided to skip breakfast. I didnt have much of an appetite, most likely the result of my nerves. Instead, I headed for Café Vita, located on the main bus route. I wasnt much of a bus rider, so I needed to double check the routes that would get me to Westlake and Denny. Thank God for mobile phones and the internet. It was 9:30 by the time I got my coffee. I needed to hurry if I was going to catch the next bus.

Like a true Seattleite, I needed my daily dose of caffeine to start my day off well. That first sip of coffee in the morning was like heaven. I walked briskly towards the bus stop, coffee in hand, and thirty minutes later, I rushed into the building lobby and headed up to the MS floors. I was running a few minutes late and it was making me edgy. I searched for the conference room that Ryan booked on the meeting invite. Being late and with the caffeine freely flowing through my veins, I was a bundle of nerves. I finally saw the conference room, took a deep breath, and peeked in.

Ryan looked up and gave me a big grin, ear to ear. It was a heartwarming, sexy, adorable smile, which made me melt and my heart skip a beat. I was so in trouble. I nervously opened the sliding door and walked into the small room.

Hi, Julia, he greeted eagerly. Its good to see you again. He stood up from his chair too fast and it fell backwards. He let out a nervous chuckle and mumbled something under his breath. Eventually, he resettled the chair, shifting it over to make room for me. He didnt shake my hand or hug me. Rather, he awkwardly stuffed his hands into his front pockets. It warmed my heart a little that a man so normally confident and commanding appeared just as nervous as I was.

Hi, Ryan, I replied and smiled. I hope he couldnt hear the loud beating of my heart, which felt like it was going to literally jump out of my chest at any moment. I was momentarily speechless, captivated by his piercing blue eyes gazing down at me.

We just stared at one another for a long moment and then both burst into laughter at the awkwardness and craziness of the whole situation. Our little fit of laughter helped me relax. I brushed by him to sit. He smelled like fresh soap and some really sexy aftershave. My pulse raced faster just being in close proximity to him.

Im sorry for being a little late, I said apologetically. I, um had to take the bus over here. Do you take the bus often or is something wrong with your car? he asked.

I situated myself in the padded booth seat next to him. We were facing the same direction so that we could view a shared laptop and look at the whiteboard if needed. The room wasnt so much a conference room; it was more of an office being repurposed as a meeting space. The small size of it forced us to sit close together, making it feel very intimate.

I shook my head. No. I was out with some friends last night and had too much wine. I thought it best not to drive home.

Ah, gotcha. He nodded in understanding. I couldve picked you up.

Really, it was no trouble, I lied. Not to mention I dont have your phone number and only recently learned your last name.

He nodded again. Where did you and your friends go? Rays Boathouse.

Nice. I havent been back there in a while. I take it you didnt want to stay for the post All Hands party at Lucky Strike then? he asked with a smirk.


I giggled at his sarcasm. Actually, I did go. But then a few of us decided it might be more fun elsewhere. I started to pull my laptop out of my backpack. I take it you arent much of a bowler? I teased.

Not really, he said, smirking and shaking his head. Though, it mightve been worth it to watch you.

My head snapped up and I flushed a deep crimson. Wow. Hes flirting with me and Im falling for it hook, line, and sinker. Before I could recover and respond with a witty comment, I saw his face falter into a frown. I followed his gaze to my laptop. He took in the sad-looking duct tape holding the battery pack together. It was starting to peel around the edges, having picked up dust and lint from my backpack.

That doesnt look too good, he said, furrowing his brow. Is it like that because of the accident?

My mouth tightened and I nodded.

Oh man, he said with dismay and ran his fingers through his hair, mussing it up in an adorable way. I owe you a new laptop.

Hmm even frustrated he was attractive. Oh, dont worry about it. Im sure my new manager, Catherine, will get me one soon. Shes traveling right now, though, so it will probably be a few weeks. I shrugged nonchalantly. It really wasnt a big deal. It looks worse than it is. It works perfectly fine.

Ryan looked momentarily distracted and creased his eyebrows together. Well, I cant believe youve been carrying that around for the last three weeks. It looks sort of sad and pathetic. Ill see what I can do.

Wouldnt that be an abuse of executive power? I said, smirking back at him and arching one of my eyebrows.

No, it wouldnt, he answered with the utmost sincerity.

Hmm maybe he was serious.

Ill tell your manager about the car accident and she can cross charge it to my IO.

Oh, okay thanks, I said appreciatively, somewhat surprised at how quickly and easily I just got a new laptop. It must be nice having your own corporate IO. An IO is basically an internal purchase order you can charge to like a credit card. Without knowing what else to say, I decided to change the subject. What did you end up doing last night? I asked.

Nothing muchI stayed in and read. What are you reading?

Outliers. Its a book by Malcolm Gladwell.


That sounds like very executive material, Mr. McGraw. My voice was teasing, but I tried to keep a straight and serious face.

He furrowed his brows at me again. Youre not very comfortable with my role at Megasoft, I can tell. He didnt say it as a question.

Gosh, was I that easy to read? Why do you say that? I asked uncomfortably.

Youre always referring to it and I think youre using sarcasm to hide your discomfort. He gazed at me with a smug look on his face, asking me without explicitly saying so to prove him wrong.

I squirmed a little in my seat and looked down before I replied. Well, okay, Dr. Freud. Youre, um Y-youre a VP, for Gods sake, I said incredulously. And its certainly a first for me.

Whats a first? he asked directly, genuinely curious and confused about where my mind was going.

Oh great. I felt my eyebrows rise. I was going to have to explain this to him. Well, you know, I felt the blush creeping up my face, Im not used to socializing with MS executives, and having them scrutinize me in a um I struggled for the right words. In a non-work related setting.

He threw his head back and laughed loudly. He thought I was being funny! My face had to be full-on pink right now. I was actually getting a little irritated that he was making me so uncomfortable and seemed to be enjoying it so much.

I looked at him pointedly. So, why are you helping me, anyways? I demanded.

He looked surprised and taken back by my question. Right back at you, Mr. McGraw.

Because you asked me to help, he said, still smiling.

I looked at him with one eyebrow raised. No. You offered, I corrected. Then I kept silent. I learned once from an MS training class that sometimes if you remained silent in the middle of a negotiation, people got nervous and theyd end up giving up more on their end.

He paused for what seemed like a long time, no longer smiling. Because I wanted to see you again, he answered honestly. Because I havent been able to stop thinking about you.

Holy shit. I think my heart just stopped. I won the negotiation, but he completely disarmed me in the process. Me too, I whispered.

The air was palpable. I was unable to look him in the eyes. There was a long silence as we both considered the impact of our words. I finally looked up at him shyly. His blue eyes, the color of a stormy ocean, were gazing at me with smoldering intensity.

He cleared his throat and I saw him swallow. He then slowly spoke. So now that thats all cleared up Do you want to get started?

What? Oh yes, he was talking about our so-called work session. I sighed more loudly than I intended. I felt self-conscious under his gaze, so I gave him a nervous smile. Uh, yeah. Lets get


He chuckled and then leaned forward in his seat, looking at the screen on my laptop. How he was able to transition from smoldering hot, sexy mood to business professional beat me. I was still reeling from our admissions.

All right. He was all business now. Why dont you tell me what it is you need to do.

I was always a person who learned and thought through things best when I could visualize them. So I stood back up and went to the whiteboard, glad I was wearing my ass-flattering jeans. I peered over my shoulder; he seemed to have noticed them, too. I turned back to the whiteboard, grinning. In my head, I did a double back flip somersault.

Considering that I was with a VP of a major Fortune 100 Corporation, I was surprisingly calm as I started drawing up my ideas and focusing on the whiteboard. I knew he was spot on about me being uncomfortable with his position at the company. It was the thought of him in this visible leadership role that made me nervous, not actually being with him. Being with him in person and talking to him was fine. I was more than fine. In fact, I was downright comfortable at the moment and relieved that I could be myself with him. I felt the same way that night at Bettys. It was reassuring to know that my feelings hadnt changed since the last time I saw him. The only thing that changed was my knowledge of his role at MS. He was right. If I had known who he was out of the gate, we never wouldve gotten this far.

I turned my focus back to work. He did offer to help, after all. I had done some initial thinking on what Catherine had asked me to do, but I needed to bounce off my ideas on someone and get some feedback. Ryan listened attentively and agreed with some of my suggestions, respectfully disagreeing with others. He told me he knew both Stephanie and Catherine well, especially what their hot buttons were. He obviously had the skill of diplomacy when it came to giving feedback. I took it all into consideration and ended up making modifications to my original plan.

Whatever you end up putting on the scorecard, be sure youre able to speak to it. Take this as an opportunity to learn the business and what your subsidiaries are doing. If you just compile the information for others, thats all you become, the compiler. Then you become forgettable. People will remember you if you can speak intelligently to everything on this single slide. He stopped talking and then looked at me apologetically. Sorry, Im being a little condescending and managerial right now, arent I?

No, youre fine. I like all of your suggestions.

He looked at me wearily, like he didnt believe what I was saying. Really, go on, I said with encouragement.

He continued on his monologue. I enjoyed hearing him talk. It brought me back to the evening at Bettys, when I listened to him talk about his family and his time in San Francisco. I could see the wheels turning in his head and he was able to process so many different ideas, numbers, metrics, and concepts all at the same time. In my limited career, I observed that the most talented executives, purely from a business perspective, were those that could process the macro level information and simplify it down to actionable decisions or conclusions. I got lost a few times in his more experienced view of what a good scorecard should communicate about the business, but he read his audience well and adapted to my level of understanding.

I had always found smart men incredibly sexy. He could be skinny and geeky with bad hair, but his intelligence would win me over. My ex-boyfriend, Matt, was a skinny computer science guy and it was the same with him. I loved the idea of learning from someone else. As the cliché went, knowledge is power, and I found commanding knowledge and confidence extremely attractive; I valued that over a nice body, nice hair, or nice pecs. I was in awe that I was standing here in front of a man who possessed the whole package. Here was Ryan, with his nice, lean, toned and muscular body, his sexy smile and charm, his kind and warm blue eyes, and the brain of an executive genius to match. Could he be any more perfect?

We switched positions and Ryan now stood facing the whiteboard and I was seated at the table. I took the opportunity to check out his ass; I just couldnt help it. Ryan looked hot in a pair of old Levis, faded and weathered in all the right places, and a navy blue t-shirt, which showed off his chiseled biceps and late summer tan. He was downright yummy.

When he turned back around, he stopped. I blushed. Busted. He chuckled but was gentleman enough not to comment. Also, make sure you track ROI, return on investment, for each campaign. This is critical. That will be the first thing any executive will ask you.

I watched his lips, biting my own as I imagined what his mouth would feel like on mine. There are a lot of corporate systems that can help you get this data, he continued.

Focus, Julia. Focus. Stop thinking about those lips!

He gave me the list of people and teams that could point me in the right direction. And you already know how to get the email campaign metrics, he said, still focusing on the scorecard layout drawn on the whiteboard.

This last comment distracted me from his hotness. How did you know that? I dont think I ever told you about my previous job, I said with surprise.

He froze and momentarily cringed. You caught me, he confessed. I uh, read your LinkedIn profile last night. He looked like a kid that just got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

I giggled. Funny you mention that, because theres a lot of stuff on you out there, too, I admitted sheepishly.

Like what? he asked. He didnt seem fazed by my admission that I was stalking him online last

night, too. Apparently, wed both been doing some research. You mean youve never checked? I was astonished. No, he said simply.

Seriously? I was shocked. Bing me; now Im curious.

Okay, scoot over. I went to the Bing search engine and typed in Ryan McGraw+ Megasoft into the search box.

The same list of search results that I had seen last night appeared in front of us. Ryan scooted closer to me to get a better look at the screen.

Hmm was all he said. However, both of his eyebrows were raised in moderate surprise. Oh man, thats a really old article and that one was, like, two years ago.

I shook my head and laughed at his childlike curiosity at the results of his own name search. As he continued to scroll down the results page, he would click on the occasional link. Our knees bumped into each other and our thighs were flush against each other, but neither of us moved away. Being this close to him made me a little breathless. I started to feel warm and tingly all over.

Okay, enough. He chuckled to himself. Who knew?

I gave him a peculiar look. I was still shocked that he never did a search on himself. I cant believe he was never curious enough to look before. What did this say about him? He was probably too busy to worry about his own search results, or maybe it meant he didnt have a big ego, which was refreshing for someone in his position.

We got back to the task at hand. After about an hour, we were almost done. I adapted the scribbles on the whiteboard into a format that was the culmination of our joint ideas. Ryan took a photo of it on his phone and emailed it to me. As he finished up jotting notes in my laptop, I thought of the picture in Catherines office. I decided to mention it to him.

I saw a picture of you in Catherines office, I said.

He momentarily stopped typing. What was the picture of? he murmured absentmindedly, continuing to type out our remaining notes.

It looked like an old launch party event or something. When did you guys work together?

We still do, sort of. He looked up at me. I mean, even though were in separate orgs, I have teams that rely on her team as you already know.

I recognized you, but I didnt know your name at the time, I added. I didnt ask Catherine about it, though.

He looked relieved when I said that last bit. Im guessing this was probably because he didnt want others to know about our fraternization. It would be a bit awkward to explain to others. In fact, I couldnt help wondering what my team would think if they knew that the Ryan McGraw, US Subsidiary CVP, was sitting next to me right now typing out scorecard notes.

We actually go a long ways back, he said, pulling me out of my reverie. Weve known each other since we were kids. Our parents were family friends. Working together is just a coincidence.

I was surprised by this new information. Had I asked Catherine about the picture, I wondered what sort of reaction or comment she wouldve made. In retrospect, I was relieved now that I never had the chance to ask her further about it. For some reason, I wanted to keep this whole thing, whatever it was between Ryan and me, strictly between us. If she had a family and childhood history with him, it wouldve been too personal. I didnt want to start that sort of relationship off with my new manager. She wasnt dumb and I bet she wouldve been able to see right through me.

Before I could respond to this latest information, Ryan said wearily, Julia, I have no right to ask you this, he looked down uncomfortably at his hands, but can we keep this meeting and all of our meetings, to just ourselves? He looked at me cautiously. I just dont want to have to explain my personal life to people at the office. And I dont want us to be the focus of office gossip.

I nodded emphatically. Yes, I completely agree. I can only imagine the reaction of my co- workers if they knew about any of this.

His face softened with relief.

I liked his reference to all of our meetings and the us part. Did this imply that we would be seeing more of one other? Neither of us was addressing the elephant in the room. What exactly did this liaison of ours mean? Frankly, I didnt really need to know right now. It was enough for me to know that he wanted to see me today. Hed thought about me, it seemed, just as much as Id thought about him over these last several weeks, but there was certainly some danger in what we were starting here, whatever it was.

The rumor mill.

Could rumors hurt his career? Would other executives care who he was seeing? Even though I didnt report into his chain of command, was there possibly some HR violation that I didnt know about that said this sort of relationship was forbidden? I knew that it could certainly hurt my reputation. I would be accused of sleeping my way to the top, or having an unfair advantage of some sort. Whatever this was between Ryan and me, I came to the conclusion that it was best to keep this private. Apparently, he agreed.

Ryans smooth voice interrupted my thoughts. Are you hungry? Its almost noon. Um, yeah, I am actually. I skipped breakfast this morning.

Ryan narrowed his eyes and gave me a disapproving look. Then lets go somewhere to eat. Okay.

Do you have to be anywhere this afternoon?


I have some dinner plans later this evening with my sister, Anna, and a friend of mine whos visiting from London. But thats not until seven, I replied.

How would you feel about grabbing lunch somewhere downtown and going for a walk afterwards? Its so nice out today. He looked up at me sheepishly. I dont want to say goodbye to you yet.

I blinked in surprise, floored and flattered by his comment. I dont need convincing. Id love to. Well, since you dont have your car, I guess youre riding with me. I can take you back to your

car later this afternoon, though, so you dont have to take the bus again. Really? That would be perfect, actually. Thank you, I said appreciatively.

Good. He grinned, making me want to reach out to touch those adorable dimples of his. Instead, I just I smiled back and packed up my laptop, excited to be spending the day with Ryan.



The Pink Door always made me feel like I was in on a little secret. The entry to the restaurant was located in Post Alley Way, the famous quaint little alley in the middle of the bustling Pike Place Market. You wont see a sign on the door, but it was implicit in the name because what you did see was a pink metal door.

The interior of the restaurant was decorated in rustic Italian. Even with dark wood, velvet curtains, and chandeliers, it felt unpretentious. In the evenings, they featured a burlesque show, which I had never gone to before. On a warm summer day, the highlight was sitting out on the back terrace, shaded by a wooden trellis and looking out onto a glistening Elliott Bay. Sitting in unmatched chairs in front of floral tablecloths, I couldnt think of any other place I would rather be than sipping red wine on the terrace with Ryan McGraw.

We ordered the caprese salad as a shared entrée to start. There was something very intimate and couple-like about the act of sharing food. It made me feel like Ryan and I were on a date. Were we on a date? For lunch, he ordered the cioppino; I ordered minestrone soup and salad.

So, who did you go to Rays with last night? Ryan asked. Do I know them?

I nodded. I went out with Mia Lee and Kyle Warren, and Mias boyfriend was there, too, I said casually. Kyles in your org and Mia is on same team as me.

Yeah, I know Kyle. Good guy. He nodded, but his eyes narrowed and his expression seemed to have darkened. Is he your boyfriend?

Interesting reaction. Was he actually jealous of Kyle? No, I said. I took a sip of my wine, feeling like I needed to explain further. Hes good buddies with Mias boyfriend. Kyle and I are just friends coworkers. Actually, last night was the first time weve gone out together socially.

He seemed to relax a little after my explanation. So, do you have a boyfriend? he pressed. Um, no, not presently. I avoided his eyes and took a sip of my wine.

Really? He sounded genuinely perplexed, like there was something wrong with me.

Yeah, really, I muttered, now embarrassed. Why are you so surprised? I sounded more defensive than I intended. He blinked a few times. I guess I just assumed someone like you would have a boyfriend. I was feeling pretty self-conscious right about now. Why? I said, confused.

You have to ask? he said, looking at me like he was trying to figure out a problem. When I didnt answer, he added, Youre really pretty, Ive told you that before. And smart, and witty, and theres something very disarming and honest about you. Im just surprised, thats all.

: 2015-09-15; : 8;

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