Gray, who had wisely taken up his post out in the hall away from the dust and clutter, now raised his head and whined. Nikki pulled her thoughts back to the present. How long had she been staring unseeing at her clipboard? Then she heard the tight male voices. They kept low and urgent, which signaled trouble to her. Ringo had been that way, almost purring before he shot Brock.
That was Brock's voice, she realized with a prickling sensation up her back. What was he doing here? She hurried around the corner, into the lobby. Brock stood in the doorway to outside, and Rich blocked his way with the bucket and mop handle.
"I don't care what you think," Rich growled. "You're not coming in until you tell me what you want with her."
Nikki felt sick. She glanced at her watch, only quarter after twelve. The scenario was easy to guess. Brock had walked over from the Tabor Picayune to see her on his lunch hour, and Rich had gotten possessive and protective. He had been trying to inch his way into the position of being her assistant and bodyguard in the last few days, and had intervened a dozen times already when other people wanted to talk with her. Nikki thought her last talk with Rich had finally sunk in -- but obviously not.
"You were looking for me?" she asked, as Brock opened his mouth to retort.
"Yeah. Mr. Clean here seems to think I need a hall pass." Brock moved to cross the lobby to her. Rich hesitated and missed thrusting the mop handle in his way. Nikki had the oddest feeling he had tried to shove the stick between Brock's legs to trip him.
"I told him you were busy and he wouldn't go away," Rich grumbled.
"It's break time." Nikki tried to think of where she could lead Brock where they wouldn't be alone, but still have privacy to talk without being overheard. The noisy cafeteria a few dozen steps away might be the perfect place.
"He's got no business wasting your time."
"Why don't you let Nikki decide for herself?" Brock snapped. "I'll bet you didn't give her any of my messages the last few days, did you?"
"Messages?" Nikki hated how her face got warm. She didn't like Brock getting angry when it came to her. Not through fear, but because for so long, making him happy had been the focus of her life.
"Hey, I'm a busy guy." Rich jammed the mop back into his bucket and slowly wheeled it down the hall. "Not your secretary."
Since when? she wanted to snap at him. If he insisted on getting involved with everything she did, everywhere she went, knowing every detail of her entire schedule, then he had better accept some responsibility with it. Especially if he accepted messages from Brock for her, and yet neglected to deliver them.