I’m singing along to Maroon Five’s “Don’t Wanna Know” when a call comes in. Penelope’s name flashes on the screen. Penelope is my friend from college, the only friend who I kept in touch with. She runs an HR firm that specializes in placing temps. She is the reason I have this job right now.
“Hello,” I say while I wait for her voice to fill the car.
“Hey, there, just checking in. You ready?” she asks me. I hear her rustling papers in the background, so I know she is already at her desk.
“Yup, I’m on my way there now. I’m so nervous, I may puke, though. But I’ll be on time.” I chuckle at the thought of me barfing all over my new boss. I brake for the traffic that is slowing to a crawl in front of me when I feel my van jerk forward slightly. My head flies forward and then snaps back. Looking in my mirror, I see that someone just hit me.
“Oh my god. Someone just ran into me. Fuck me, P. I have to call you back,” I say, unlocking my seatbelt and climbing out of the car.
I put my Tory Birch sunglasses on top of my head, walking to the back to see the damage. I don’t even have time to get there before I hear a raspy voice ask, “What the hell is wrong with you? You just stopped!” I put a hand over my eyes to block the sun and see him. And boy, do I see him. My heart skips a beat when he whips his aviator sunglasses off his face.
He’s about six feet tall, maybe taller, with dark hair that’s short on the sides and a bit longer at the top, which almost looks like it was combed back by his hands. His eyes are a mossy green with shimmery gold flecks in them that I can see thanks to the sun hitting them just right. A freshly-shaven face that shows off the strong angles of his jaw and hints at where I’m sure a five-o’clock-shadow of delicious stubble will emerge in a few hours.
He’s wearing a suit minus the jacket. His dark blue pants are a perfect fit, molding to him like they were made especially for him, and from the looks of them, they probably were. His crisp, white dress shirt is open at the collar and covers his broad chest and thick biceps. His sleeves are rolled up to his elbows and show off a big, masculine silver Rolex watch.
He throws his hand up as he angrily asks, “Is something wrong with you? Are you drunk?”
I take a step back, putting my hand to my stomach. “Are you talking to me?” I look around wondering if there is someone else he could be talking to. “You hit me. You. Hit. Me.” I storm to the back of the car to assess the damage. I see that my bumper is a bit scratched, but his Porsche is going to need some body work.
“I can’t believe this. I can’t flipping believe this! Now I’m going to be late because you were probably too busy on your phone texting to pay attention to the road.” I walk to my car, opening the door and leaning across the seat to grab my purse. Cars pass us slowly, everyone taking a look to see what’s going on.
Looking at the clock on the dash, I see that I have to be at my new job in twenty minutes. Grabbing my license, registration, and insurance ID card, I slam the door and walk over to see him leaning on the side of my car, watching me.
“I’m going to be late. Is there any way we can just exchange numbers and get all the information after?” I ask, looking through the papers.
I hear him huff. “You probably don’t have insurance, which is why you want to call me later so you can get some while I drive around with a missing a light.” He walks over to his car, leans down, and grabs his phone from the driver’s seat.
I look at him. “So, you weren’t on the phone? Riiighhhhttt,” I say glaring at him.
“I don’t have all day. Some of us have actual work to do. What do you want from me?” His tone is snarky.
“Actually, I don’t want anything from you. My car has a scratch, yours is the one that is damaged. Besides, it wasn’t even my fault. Maybe we should call the police to make a report so we can get it on the record that you were driving while texting.” I lean my head to the side. “I’m not a police officer or anything, but I think that’s against the law.”
He snarls at me, “Just give me your number.” I tell him my number, and when he asks my name, I gladly tell him. “The woman whose car you hit because you were texting while driving.” He looks at me and his eyebrows pinch together. “Is that name already taken?” I ask him, waiting for his answer. When I realize he isn’t going to reply, I ask him, “Now, what’s yours?” He shoots off his number, and I store it in my phone.
I turn around to walk away. “Aren’t you going to ask me my name?” He puts his hands on his hips, his biceps bulging and his chest looking impossibly broader.
“Nope, no need. I just put you under ‘Asshat who texts while driving and hit my car.’” I smile at him. “Have a fabulous day,” I grumble, turning around and getting back in the car.
Fuck. I see that I now have ten minutes to get there. I dial Penelope right after I buckle and take off watching the asshole get into his car. “I think I might still make it,” I tell her even before she says hello.
“It’s okay. I called and told them there was an accident on the way, and they said not to worry, that Austin was going to be late, too. So, you’re still good to go. How’s the damage?” she asks.
“Minivan: 1 – Porsche: 0.” I laugh and tell her I’ll check back in with her at lunch.
When I finally make it to the office building, I check my face and apply lip gloss one more time before walking inside. I look at my phone and notice that I’m only seven minutes late. Not bad all things considered. I walk in and tell the security guard I am there for Barbara at Mackenzie Jacob Associates. When he calls up, he gets the all clear to send me up.
I make my way up to the forty-sixth floor and walk to the receptionist, who is smiling from ear-to-ear. “Hi. I’m here to see Barbara. My name is Lauren. I’m the temp,” I explain as she gets up and comes around to shake my hand, introducing herself as Carmen. She then takes me back to meet Barbara.
Barbara is short with white hair, and her glasses are perched on her nose. “Hey, there, Lauren. I’m so happy to finally meet you. I’ve heard great things from Penelope.” She reaches out to shake my hand and motions for me to sit down.
“Thank you so much, and I’m so sorry I’m late. I was in a little fender bender, and I tried to finish as fast as I could,” I tell her, sitting down in the chair in front of her desk.
“No worries. I heard Austin was going to be about ten minutes late, but he got here right before you did. Now, if you will fill out these papers here, I will get your elevator pass ready for you,” she says while she goes to her cabinet in the corner.
Because this is just a temp job, I don’t have to do much. Just an emergency contact form. “Now, I should warn you that this is the tenth temp we have hired for this position… this month,” she finishes quickly.
I look at her, confused. “But it’s only the seventeenth of November.” My heart starts racing. What if he throws me out? What if he laughs at me since I haven’t worked in ten years?
“Mr. Mackenzie is, um, well… special to work for,” she murmures while looking down at the papers in front of her and not even trying not make eye contact with me.
“Special? What does that mean?” I ask, my eyebrows pinching together.
“Let’s just say that my money is on you.” She gets up. “Shall we?” She points to the door. I nod at her, trying to get some saliva going in my mouth. It’s dry, and my palms are sweating. I think my armpits are actually starting to sweat, too. Oh boy. I can’t do this. I should turn around and run away.
But before I can make my move, we reach a door that is closed. The big brown door is solid, and the windows that look out into the office have their shades drawn. I hear Barbara knock on the door before we enter.
I don’t see much in front of her. I just look around the office at the view of the city, since there are wall-to-wall windows affording it an amazing view. I don’t have a chance to look much further, because all I hear is a raspy voice asking, “Are you fucking stalking me? Did you follow me here?” I whip my head around to look at him.
Just my luck. It’s the asshat from this morning, the one who hit me. Except now, the asshat is sitting behind the desk, the desk that apparently belongs to my new temporary boss.
I’m already having the shittiest day ever and it’s only fucking eight o’clock. My alarm didn’t wake me at five a.m. like it does every day, so I didn’t have a chance to get my run in before I had to head to work.
Just a quick shower and a coffee before I hurried out. I walked out of my apartment, rushed to the elevator, and ran smack into my ex who, according to her, ‘just happened to be in the area.’
It took a lot for me not to roll my eyes at her. She wasn’t in the area; she’s fucking the dude who lives upstairs. Not that I care. I was the one who let her go. Whatever, I blew her off and headed to my car.
Right as I started up my car, my mother decided it was a great day to call and lay out everything that’s wrong with my life. I’m nearing forty; all I have is my career, blah blah blah. Newsflash, Mom, that’s all I want.
So, just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I hit a mini bus, or a van, or whatever the hell it’s called.
I expected a frumpy housewife to get out of the car, but instead I was greeted by a woman who could only be described as sex-on-a-stick, or I guess I should say two sticks, because those legs of hers aren’t something I’ll forget anytime soon. I couldn’t even talk I was so stunned. Then she bent over her seat and presented me with the most perfect ass. I think I actually groaned.
My cock was getting ready to salute her right then and there as she walked back to me from her minivan. The thought that she was someone’s wife and I was jonesing on her made my skin crawl. I may be an asshole, but I don’t fuck with marriages or people in relationships. There are more than enough single people on earth to not get involved with someone who isn’t.
I tried to see if she was wearing a ring, but I couldn’t see anything. I took her number, and she rushed away.
The whole way to work, I replayed the scene in my head over and over again. I tried to think back on anything that I could have said that would have had her reacting so hostilely.
I got to the office just four minutes late. I absolutely loathe tardiness; people who are late drive me nuts. I built this company from the ground up. I am now the most sought-after commercial contract developer in the city, especially when it comes to entertainment establishments. If you want to open a restaurant or nightclub in this city, let’s just say I am known widely as the best choice to make sure it happens.
There is never a dull moment in this business. If I have to get in there and swing a hammer or wash the damn glasses myself, I do it. There is nothing I won’t do to protect my and my company’s reputation. If you are opening a restaurant or a nightclub and you attach it to the name Mackenzie Jacob, chances are it’ll be a hit from day one.
So now, here I am walking into my office a few minutes late. The cute new receptionist, Carmen, is batting her eyes at me as I walk in, dragging out her greeting. “Good Morning, Mr. Mackenzie.” She’s new here, so she mustn’t have heard the news yet, but I don’t fuck where I eat. Ever.
“Morning. Is my new temp here yet?” I ask her, getting right to the point as she hands me my messages. A new temp who is yet another thing I didn’t need today.
Since my secretary retired last month, I’ve gone through six or seven temps…okay, maybe ten. But it’s not all my fault. I can’t take it if they’re stupid and I have to sit there and spell things out for them. I need someone who can take direction, get it right the first time, and just do what I ask the first time I ask it. It’s simple, really.
When I ask you to get me coffee, I’m not asking you to join me for a cup. When I tell you to scan and email something, I don’t need reporting of the task as if you’re waiting for a sticker on your paper. When you have a caller on hold, I don’t need you announcing them to me through the intercom in a singsong voice. I also don’t need you knocking on my door every few minutes to ask me if I need anything. Trust me, when I need something, you’ll be the first one to know.
“Can you tell Barbara I’m in now?” I prompt her, walking away while I pull the collar from my neck, making my way down the hall toward my corner office.
I walk into my office, taking in the view of the city. We are on the forty-sixth floor, so I can see the skyline perfectly, and at night, it’s even better. I eat, sleep, and breathe my work. There aren’t set hours for my work. So, if I have to be at the office for fifteen hours a day, then that’s what it takes. Which is why I don’t need, or want, a wife at this point. I’d just let them down.
I’ve lost count of how many relationships I’ve had that have ended because I wasn’t there when I said I would be. I’m married to my work, and she is my first priority.
Sitting in my chair, I start going through the messages. I flip through them, seeing two messages from Vegas. I’m thinking of branching out and opening an office there, but something is stopping me. I like to stay local. I like to show up during construction. I like to pop in when you least expect it, and I wouldn’t be able to do that if I branched out to Vegas.
I’m about to call them back when there is a knock on the door. I don’t even have to tell them to come in before Barbara opens the door. I look over at her. She’s been here from day one, but she isn’t what I’m looking at this morning; it’s the girl behind her.
Fucking unbelievable! This crazy chick followed me to my work. She is probably coming to sue me. I’ll show her. “Are you fucking stalking me? Did you follow me here?” I growl at her while I stand up behind my desk.
Barbara’s face pales and her mouth hangs open, but not the sassy one behind her. “Follow you? Are you insane?” She looks at Barbara. “I can’t do this. I totally understand why you’ve gone through so many temps. Who would work for him?” She shakes her head. “Not only did he hit my car”—she looks at me—“while texting. The first thing he asked was if I was drunk!” She looks back at Barbara, who then glares at me. Great, just great, she’s on crazy chick’s side. “You would think he would ask me if I’m okay, right? Nope, not this guy. He wanted to know if I was drunk at eight a.m. Who the hell drinks at eight am anyway?” She folds her arms under her breasts, unnecessarily pushing them up. Fuck. I can’t stop the mental image of her standing there, arms crossed under her tits, in nothing but her shoes. I shake that thought from my head.
“Wait.” I throw the messages on my desk. “You, you’re my temp?”
“No, sir,” she says, and fuck me, but does that ever make me want to hold her hands behind her back as I bend her over my desk and pound into her while she calls me sir. “I was your temp.” She looks at Barbara. “I wish you well.” Then she turns and starts walking out the door.
Barbara’s raised voice stops her. “Wait a second!” She looks at me. “Austin Montgomery Mackenzie, is Lauren telling me that you hit her car and then asked her if she was drunk? I raised you better than that, young man,” she chides in that sharp tone I remember from my childhood. Okay, so Barbara was also my nanny growing up. That was to be expected when you’re the child of world-renowned doctors who jetted around the globe saving lives. One is a cardiologist, and the other is a brain surgeon. They had very little time to raise a child. So, that’s where Barbara came in, and she stayed until I was eighteen. She retired, but when I opened this firm, she was the first one I thought of to handle the HR side of the company, something I knew she would handle far better than me. “Apologize right this second, Austin,” she demands, and I scoff at her. I will not do any such thing.
“She braked suddenly for no reason! There was no one in front of her,” I defend myself. Barbara’s eyebrows pinch together, and she takes her glasses off so they hang on the chain around her neck. I know that if I don’t say sorry, this will just end in her quitting again. Last time, it cost me a month-long Mediterranean cruise. “Fine,” I huff out, “I’m sorry I accused you of being drunk. I should have just called you what you are—a reckless, clueless female driver.”
Lauren stands there glaring at me as Barbara yells, “I quit!” This must shock Lauren, because she immediately goes to Barbara and strokes her back. “Oh no. No, no, no. Please, really, it’s fine. It’s totally okay. I accept his apology.” She aims a glare at me. “I understand now why so many women left, he’s a…” She leans in and whispers in Barbara’s ear. I don’t know what she says, but they both snicker. Great, just great.
“Yup, my money is on Lauren.” She looks at me. “You’re lucky she saved you this time.” She smiles at Lauren. “Let’s do lunch tomorrow. Austin’s treat.”
She leaves the room leaving us all alone. “Fine. I guess I’ll try and work with you, for Barbara.” She walks out to the desk facing my office. She puts her purse on it. Turning the computer on, she grabs a pen and notepad and comes back in. “No time like the present to get this out of the way, so why don’t we start with your expectations of me?”
I look at her while she sits in the chair in front of me, crossing her legs at her ankles. I sit down, leaning back in my chair, and start rocking. “Okay, fine. I expect you to be on time. Every day. No exceptions.”
She doesn’t write it down. “That isn’t a problem. I hate when people are late, so you don’t have to worry about that. Unless, of course, irresponsible people hit my car while I’m innocently driving, I’ll be here on time.”
“There is a list on your desk of routine tasks required of this position that you can read. If it’s not clear enough, then come ask me questions. How’s that?”
She gets up. “That sounds like a plan.” She turns to walk away, and I watch her. Every fucking step she takes she swings her hips; the best thing is, she has no idea she’s doing it. She has no idea that I’m sitting here negotiating with myself about my own rule. I’m not sure how I’m going to get anything done, because fucking her on my desk is the only thing I can think of that needs to be done right now.