Cole walked by his laptop, cursing and snapping it shut. After spending half the night Googling his boss, he proceeded to give his snooze button a hand job one too many times this morning. Now the damned thing mocked him while he raced around his sublet studio. He didn’t even have time to shave, so the stubble shadow on his face would have to remain an impromptu accessory, he thought, checking himself one last time in the mirror. He ran a hand through his hair, still damp from his quick shower and groaned. “Just perfect!”
Grabbing his satchel, jacket, and a to-go-cup of coffee, he hurried out the front door and descended the several flights of stairs at a sprint. Lucky for him, the office was only a few blocks south. He trusted his feet to get him to his job in better time than a cab fighting through rush hour traffic.
When he finally stepped into the elevator of Jacobson-Wright Contracting and hit 6, Cole was already 20 minutes late. “Shit!” He poked the “close door” button a few more times but apparently the damn thing was in league with his alarm clock.
Shaun’s little errand boy, Henry greeted Cole with a huff of annoyance when he arrived on six, “you’re late.”
“Really?” Cole grunted and moved past the kiss-ass, making a beeline for Shaun’s office, grimacing when he found the damn thing was empty.
“The meeting is on the 27th floor. Didn’t you read your email?”
Cole fought the urge to choke the assistant out with his bright green, designer tie. But instead of committing murder with just cause, he spun to face the nitwit and spoke through gritted teeth, “don’t you have anything better to do?”
Henry shrugged his shoulders and looked down, inspecting his well manicured fingernails. “actually, Ms. Wright sent me down to fetch you. She thought you might be lost.”
“Lucky me.” Cole dropped his things in his own office, taking only his notebook and pen. Joining a meeting late with a cup of coffee in hand just seemed bad mannered. You couldn’t manage to make it on time however, you were still able to grab yourself a beverage. Yeah, not the message he wanted to relay at all, considering he was already skating on thin ice.
Not waiting for his unwanted escort, Cole made his way back to the elevator ahead of Henry and hopped inside when the doors split. He was pushing 30 minutes late and he had no idea how long the meeting was actually supposed to run. Please let it be an hour at least, he pleaded to himself and any divine being that would listen. As the car made its ascent, both passengers stood in silence. Cole was never really one for small talk and he certainly had nothing to say to Henry; Nothing that should be said out loud at least.
When they made it to 27, Henry took the lead. “This way.”
Cole followed in complete awe of what he walked out into. The whole open expanse was constructed solely from glass to allow for lots of sunlight, complete with a view of a lush outside garden that appeared to also run along the floor’s border. It was breathtaking. A sight certainly designed to wow any client who considered hiring the talent of Jacobson-Wright Contracting.
“Don’t you think you’re late enough?” Cole hadn’t realized his feet stopped moving until Henry barked at him. Clearing his throat and shooting over a glare, he followed the office assistant to a large conference room to the left of the elevators. When they entered, Robert was sitting at the far head of a long, rectangular glass table with eight other suits occupying both sides. Cole’s gaze landed on Shaun who stood next to his uncle in front of a presentation screen projecting one of his sketches. Today’s attire consisted of a slender, charcoal grey skirt that stopped at the knees where a small strip of skin bridged the gap between a pair of black knee high boots. Her upper-half curves were brilliantly hugged by a black ribbed turtle-neck that looked soft to the touch. Her hair finished the look of office sex-ecutive, swept up in some type of ornate twist and her pale green eyes sparkled sans glasses. Cole couldn’t peel his own eyes away.
“Thank you for gracing us with your appearance, Mr. Jacobson.” She placed her hands on her hips and the rest of the employees sitting at the table, turned to look at him. “Maybe next time we’ll schedule our staff meeting at an hour that better suits you.” She glanced sideways at Robert who wore a matching sneer of disapproval before returning to glower at him.
Biting back what he really wanted to say, Cole apologized and found an empty chair at his end of the table. He cursed to himself again and again. What a great first impression. Then to add insult, Shaun just had to make a bigger fool out of him in front of his uncle.
He sat back, unable to stop replaying the images that popped up on his laptop screen last evening when he was doing a bit of recon work on his new boss. Every picture he found consisted of her being on the arm of some handsome celebu-brat until the last few recent ones, which linked her to the up and coming model actress, Olivia Stiles. The two together were breathtaking and each of the society rags had some scandalous spin on their match up. One of the more clever headlines read, “Will Daddy Morebucks, Preston Wentworth-Wright orphan his Annie after finding out she is a lesbian?” The tabloids were cruel, but at the moment he found it very hard to feel any pity for Ms. Shaun Wright.
“Cole?” The deep baritone of his uncle jolted him back into the meeting. Shaun now sat in the seat next to Robert. She dropped her pen after jotting something down and glanced in his direction as well. Cole jogged through his memory, piecing together the bits he caught while his mind had wandered and recovered as best as possible. “I can have the final sketches to you by tomorrow morning.” Cole knew the feat would be near to impossible. However, he already looked enough like the company idiot. Even if it meant sleeping in his office, he would not let his uncle join the party Shaun hosted at his arrival.
“Good. I will expect it by 8 am then.”
Cole met Shaun’s eyes and saw a flicker of concern in their light green depths, but he didn’t give a shit. He wanted nothing from her, except her resignation so he could get the hell out of this city.
Robert began to close the meeting but surprisingly Shaun interjected, “I don’t think we need the final sketches just yet. Jasper already expressed his satisfaction in Cole’s work. In fact, Cole and I are meeting with him later today.” She offered a hint of a small smile at Cole. “I think we should wait to see what Jasper has to say before we waste the effort of drawing up anything final.”
Robert adjusted his tie and Cole covered his mouth with his hand to hide a threatening smirk. Apparently, Shaun never received the memo regarding his uncle and how he preferred complete agreement with all things Robert. That was if they expected to keep their job. Cole admired the balls that she apparently hid beneath that tight little skirt of hers.
“I think we’ve discussed enough for today.” Robert rose from his chair, not acknowledging the override by Shaun. Cole could see the anger hidden on face that only someone who knew his uncle would recognize. A female version of Henry stood as well and followed his uncle out of the conference room like a lap dog.
Shaun got up from her chair next and addressed the uncomfortably silent audience. “Great work, everyone.” She forced a smile and Henry flew to her side to clean up the papers in front of her. Her gaze wandered to Cole who stared back in shock, before she exited. He jumped up and went in pursuit of the walking, talking female dichotomy.
“What was that all about?”
Shaun stopped in front of the elevator. She pressed the call button and looked over at him. “What was what about?”
Cole rested a hand on the wall to the right of the elevator door, blocking the view of anyone behind him. “You pretty much make me look shit when I show up late, but then when my uncle decides to make an example out of me, you lay your neck out knowing it would piss him off.”
Her shoulders lifted slightly. “Robert was being ridiculous.” She reached forward and pressed the button repeatedly this time, as if the arcade-like rapid-fire would make the car come faster. “I’m your boss. It’s my job to set you up for success. If you fail, I go down with you.” The doors parted and she stepped inside, turning to face him. “Going down?”
The thoughts that scrolled through his mind at her question were surely grounds for immediate termination. He even raked a heated gaze down her body before he could stop himself. Clenching his fists at his side in attempt to stop all his blood from flowing south, he took a step back. In a low drawl he managed an answer, “not yet, but soon.”
Shaun’s resulting expression as the doors closed let Cole know she understood his response had nothing to do with the elevator. He wiped a hand down his face. Their game of cat and mouse was getting to him. Who exactly was the cat and who was the mouse? He started back to the conference room to retrieve his notebook and pen when a familiar stick figure in a dress blocked his path. “Mr. Jacobson would like to see you in his office. Now.”