Stuck with You (The STEMinist Novellas #2) by Ali Hazelwood

            And, of course, the walls are looming over me. Pushing us closer and closer together. I shiver and curse power outages. The walls. Erik.


            “Are you cold?” he asks.

            I lift my head. I’m wearing my usual work outfit of chinos and a nice blouse. Solid, neutral colors. Professional enough to be taken seriously; modest enough to convince the dudes I meet through work that my presence at any given meeting is to assess the efficacy of the biofiltration system design and not to provide them with “something cute to look at.” Being a woman in engineering can be tons and tons of fun.

            Erik, though . . . Erik looks a bit different. He’s wearing jeans and a dark, soft sweater that stretches around his chest, and it seems unusual, given that in the past I’ve only ever seen him in a suit. Then again, I’ve only ever seen Erik twice before, technically on the same day.

            (That is, if one doesn’t count the times in the past month that I glimpsed him around the building and promptly turned away to change direction. Which I very much don’t.)

            Still, I cannot help but wonder if the reason he looks uncharacteristically informal is that earlier today he was working on-site. Supervising. Consulting. Maybe he was called in to give recommendations on the Milton project, and . . . Yeah. Not going there.

            I straighten and square my shoulders. My resentment for Erik Nowak, the feeling I’ve been cradling in my pocket like a little mouse for the past three weeks, the one I’ve been feeding bile and scraps, stirs awake. And honestly, it feels nice. Familiar. It reminds me that Erik doesn’t really care whether I’m cold. I bet he has ulterior motives for asking. Maybe he wants to sell my organs. Or he’s planning on establishing a pee corner on my rotting corpse.

            “I’m fine,” I say.

            “You sure? I can give you my sweater.”

            I briefly picture him taking it off and handing it to me. I’ve seen him do it before in flesh and blood, which means that I wouldn’t even need to get creative. I remember well the way he grabbed the collar and pulled it up over his head, his muscles flexing and contracting, the sudden expanse of pale flesh . . .

            He’d hold the shirt out to me, and it’d still be warm. Maybe even smell like his skin, or like his sheets.

            Wow. Wow, wow, wow. What was that? I’ve been in this elevator for approximately nine minutes and my brain is already developing Swiss cheese–style holes. Holding on strong, Sadie Grantham. Congrats on your emotional fortitude. Way to be horny for a truly horrible person.

            “No need,” I say, shaking my head a little too eagerly. “Are you sure we should just wait?” I ask. “Just—do nothing and wait?”

            He nods calmly, clearly broadcasting that it’s not hard for him to be a good sport about this situation, that the idea of being stuck with me doesn’t bother him one bit, and that, unlike some of us, he’s not tempted to bury his face in his hands and cry. Show-off.

            “What if we scream?” I ask.


            “Yes—what if we scream? This is a giant building. Someone is bound to hear us, right?”

            “At eleven on a Friday night?” His reply is much kinder than my idiotic question deserves. “While the elevator is stuck between floors? This elevator?”

            I look away because he’s right. Frustratingly right. This cursed elevator we’re on is in the deepest part of the building, next to a hallway no one would walk by at night. A true tragedy, overshadowed only by the fact that it also has the narrowest car I’ve ever seen. Guests and clients rarely use it, which is why it has the advantage of being quicker—and the disadvantage of being small.

            As in: minuscule. I knew it was tiny, but there’s nothing like realizing that this might be the place where I die to register how tiny. If I stretch my arms, I’ll bump into Erik. If I stretch my legs, I’ll bump into Erik. If I thrash around on the floor like I so desperately want to, I’ll also bump into Erik. What a quandary.

            “Are you okay?” he asks softly. His eyes look soft, too. A ball of something I cannot quite define knots in my chest.


            “Here.” He rummages in his bag for a moment. Then holds something out to me. “Have some water.”