Ellie barged in Hardy’s office and shut the door.
“He was going to ask me out again!”
Hardy took off his glasses and raised his eyebrow questioningly.
Ellie whispered loudly.
“Dirty Brian. He cornered me in the break room and I knew he was going to ask me out again! I panicked and I ran away pretending you were waiting for me.”
Hardy’s eyes were wide an unblinkingly fixated on her.
“How could you know he was going to ask you out?”
“He had The Look.”
“What the hell are you on about?”
“Don’t be daft. You know what I mean. The Look! He’s been getting closer for the last few weeks, hinting at it. I’ve been trying to avoid him, I thought he’d understand I wasn’t interested. I suppose he thinks he has a chance because I was desperate enough to ask him out during the trial.”
She sat down heavily on the sofa and put her face in her hands in desperation.
“What is wrong with you? Just tell him you’re not interested.”
“I’d rather he understood on his own and found someone else to harass.”
Hardy stood up and put on his jacket.
“You’re bloody mad, Miller. Well, get it together because we have to go upstairs to the Christmas party. You can have a drink and forget about it.”
She followed him out, making sure to use Hardy as a shield in case Brian was around.
“Quite right. I could use a drink.”
Ellie was enjoying the Christmas party. At first she’d been a bit tense, scanning the room every few minutes to make sure Brian was not closing in on her. But a couple of drinks in and she’d forgotten about him and was laughing with her colleagues. She looked for Hardy and found he was surprisingly still around and talking quietly with Jenkinson on the other side of the room. He caught her eye and gave her a tiny smile. She felt a little hot suddenly and made her way to the loo to splash some water on her face. Time to slow down on the champagne she thought.
She was standing by the entrance of the party room trying to find Hardy when someone whispered in her ear.
“Looks like you’re waiting for someone to kiss you Ellie.”
Ellie whipped around and came face to face with Dirty Brian who was looking suggestively at her and the mistletoe that hung above her head.
She was petrified. Her hand turned instinctively into a fist as Brian bent his head towards her.
“Bloody hell! Sorry about that mate! My feet got caught in some chair!”
Hardy had barrelled into Brian and made him spill his drink all over himself.
“I better go and get cleaned up, excuse me.”
Brian left and made his way towards the men's room.
Hardy turned to Ellie who was standing there frozen.
“Are you alright?”
“I thought I’d have to punch him! Why didn’t you warn me he was coming behind me?!”
“Are you bloody joking? I just saved you from him!”
“Saved me? I’m not some damsel in distress, you wanker!”
“Awright then! I won’t help anymore”
They were shooting daggers at each other, red faced and huffing.
Nobody seemed to have noticed their little spat except for Jenkinson who’d just come out of the loo.
“Watch it you two. You’re under the mistletoe.”
She left them standing there, both frowning at the offending leaves.
Ellie glanced at Hardy and then at her feet.
“Well, I’d better go home, it’s getting late.”
He was still looking at the festive branch overhead.
“Right. I’m not leaving yet, I have some paperwork to finish.”
Ellie seemed rooted to the spot.
“Sorry, I yelled at you. I’m glad I didn’t have to punch him.”
“I don’t think you’re a damsel in distress.”
She stopped looking at her feet and met his eyes.
Hardy took a deep breath.
“Don’t punch me.”
And he gave her a quick kiss.
When Hardy came into the office the next morning he had a black eye.