The day started out like any other, but then I received an email from Cordelia Irwin, the human resources director, and it was tagged urgent. She requested to meet with me in one hour without reference to the purpose of the meeting. Baffled, I accepted the scheduled appointment before grabbing my phone from my purse. Surely George knew what this was about.
A year ago, I’d landed a prestigious marketing position with Mitchell Enterprises, a top-ten company according to the statistics in all the elite magazines. George was my supervisor but he and his wife, Andrea, had quickly become dear friends. I respected him and his guidance, and he valued my work ethic. They both had been there when I had no one else. On numerous occasions, George had given approval for me to work from home—or from a cold sterile hospital room, not knowing if that would be the day my mother would take her last breath.
Me: I’ve been summoned to HR. Know anything about this?
Ten minutes passed with me staring at the device the entire time, willing it to chime with his reply.
George: You get in trouble while I’m in Boston?
Me: I’m being serious.
George: So am I.
Me: I have to be in HR in a few minutes.
George: I’ll call you after I get out of the next session.
Me: Do you know what’s going on?
George: You’ve got this. I’ll call you.
Me: Got what?
The sounds of my sensible three-inch heels clicking against the white marble flooring echoed throughout the corridor as I made my way to Cordelia’s office on the fourteenth floor. Hesitating in front of the frosted glass door, I bit my lip and rubbed my palms down my formfitting pencil skirt. Exhaling a deep breath, I stepped inside.
“Good morning, how may I help you?” greeted a cheery young receptionist.
“I’m Brooke Sheridan. Ms. Irwin is expecting me.”
“Of course. Have a seat.”
The desk phone rang as I took a seat in a gray chair against the wall. I noticed her nameplate, which said Charlene, as I nervously glanced around. The modern décor in creams, grays, and blacks made for an inviting environment. Art appreciation hadn’t been my forte in school, but I remembered studying the piece hanging on the wall, and it screamed original.
Garrett Mitchell, the CEO, had been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and I expected nothing less than impeccable interiors based on the internet search I’d tinkered around with before applying for employment at his company. Plenty of information and photographs existed at the click of a button. His family owned a major oil company that had been established four generations before. None of them had to work, each having a piece of the pie, but all three of the Mitchell brothers had made their own separate fortune. Garrett’s claim to success was his empire of hotels and resorts all over the world.
On rare occasions, he dropped in at the marketing department, and when he did, everyone scattered about, making themselves scarce. Breakroom gossip sessions had everyone steering clear of his rumored wrath. Fortunately, I’d never been in the office when he’d popped in, and if I had, I’d have kept my distance—not because I was afraid of him, but because I was afraid of myself. I had a rather short fuse, but I also had my mother’s bills to take care of on top of my own, so I needed my job.
Finally, a buzzer sounded from the phone intercom. “Yes, Ms. Irwin? Yes. I’ll send her right in.” Holding the phone to her ear, Charlene called over to me. “They’re waiting.”
Regaining my composure, I stepped inside the corner office. Cordelia sat behind her desk with Mr. Mitchell towering over her, and the pictures hadn’t done him justice. Steely brown eyes stared at me, his face pure knock-the-breath-out-of-you handsome. His dark hair was short and neatly combed, and he had a chiseled jaw and tanned skin. The three-piece black suit fit him perfectly, clinging to his body, and it had probably cost more than my entire monthly salary.
My feet guided me forward nervously. I swallowed hard, attempting to walk to the plush leather chair with a slow and steady gait. His eyes gleamed, sending a shiver running down my spine all the way to the tips of my toes.
As I pulled my bottom lip between my teeth, my imagination veered into a place I’d forbidden a long time ago—sexual attraction. A stretch of silence passed before Cordelia’s hand, scribbling something onto a notepad, pulled me out of the trance causing a ball of nerves to explode inside me.
Get a damn grip, Brooke!
Mr. Mitchell eased his gaze to a letter-sized file folder in his large hands, glancing over the contents as Cordelia continued scrawling out a note.
“Ms. Sheridan, please have a seat.” She gestured with her hand without looking up.
“Good afternoon, Ms. Irwin, Mr. Mitchell.” I mustered up a nervous smile, forcing a steady voice.
He tossed the open folder on the desk, and I immediately recognized my CV attached to the left half. Fastened with shiny gold brads on the opposite side were what I assumed to be performance reviews, benefit information, and other pertinent documents.
“I’m guessing you’re wondering why you’re here.” She looked toward me, wearing a genuinely welcoming expression, which gave me slight peace of mind. Surely people who were about to be fired wouldn’t get a smile out of HR.
“You’ve been recommended for a promotion.” She sighed. “However, in reviewing your credentials, we see that your degree isn’t one we’d usually consider. Based on the strong recommendation from George Davidson, Mr. Mitchell has made an exception and requested to meet with you.”
Well, technically, he hadn’t lied—he’d just elected not to fill me in.
I blinked, stuck in a state of awe. No doubt, George had my best interest at heart, and he knew I’d do anything to make my mother’s life easier. My heart assaulted my rib cage with its heavy pounding, and my knee began to resemble a jackhammer. I crossed one leg over the other, forcing myself to get control of my nervous jitters.
Cordelia tapped her pen on the papers in my file, and my gaze drifted to Mr. Mitchell. He folded his arms across his chest, leaned his back against a window, and drew a foot to the glass. His expression was unreadable, but his presence filled the room with power, confidence, and fierceness—and I felt it devouring me.
An overwhelming rush spread through me. More than anything in the world, I needed to get a breath of fresh air. I needed to cut to the chase, find out what they wanted, and get out of that office as soon as possible.
“I’m sorry, this meeting has caught me off guard—what job am I being considered for? With all due respect, I may not be interested.”
Ms. Irwin’s lip curled into a smile as she scribbled another note, and I saw surprise flicker in Mr. Mitchell’s eyes. He ran a hand under his chin and narrowed his eyes. Beautiful blue skies illuminated the scene like a backdrop, but it was him that made it gorgeous.
What is wrong with you? He’s more than off limits.
“You changed your major from business to marketing—have you ever regretted that decision?” His deep voice dominated the room.
Silently I prayed he didn’t ask why I’d made that decision. That was a chapter in my life that was out of bounds. I never talked about the biggest mistake of my life—not ever.
“I still minored in business, and since I love marketing, no, I don’t have any regrets. I feel I’m prepared to slide into any business opportunity.”
“George seems to have the same opinion. He described you as a fast learner, an overachiever, punctual, a problem solver, intuitive, a self-starter, and excellent with social skills. Would you say those things about yourself?”
My face warmed as I crossed my ankles to keep them still. I hated talking about myself. Nerves bundled in a knot in my stomach as I tried to find the best approach to answer.
“I like challenges and I don’t know how to fail, Mr. Mitchell. I believe it takes all of those things George said about me to be successful.”
His mouth curled into the most stunningly wide smile I’d ever seen. A wave of warmth coursed throughout my body—one that wasn’t welcome. I pressed my toes down into the carpeted floor, transfixed by him. He was the first man since my biggest regret to provoke tingles in places that were forbidden.
I didn’t date.
I didn’t quiver at the first sight of a sexy piece of eye candy.
And I didn’t have sex—not anymore.
I shook my head, trying to snap out of the silent mental reminders of the ABCs of my own rules, ones I’d set in place a long time ago.
He’s your damn boss, not the cover of a magazine.
“Effective immediately, I’d like to offer you a temporary position as my executive assistant. This position should last approximately six months.” He crossed his arms, and silver cufflinks monogrammed with his last initial flickered in the sunlight streaming through the windows. He ran his eyes over my face as if calculating my reaction to his offer.
This was big.
An administrative position—even a temporary one—meant a raise. I’d been saving every dime to pay the second mortgage on the house I grew up in for my mother. My last two years at college, she hadn’t said a word about her illness. Instead, she’d taken out another loan to pay my tuition instead of her own medical bills.
I owed this to her.
She had been prepared to give up her home, to live her last months in a nursing home with palliative care, to surrender—but I wasn’t.
My mother belonged in her bed, surrounded by all her oversized pillows covered in white eyelet. I was bound and determined to see that she was comfortable while we waited for the call saying she’d received the gift of life, a new heart—though it was a call that may never come.
“Before signing the acceptance offer, you’ll need to know some of the obligations. There will be traveling, often on short notice. I expect you to always be available. There will be numerous meetings, including after-hours board sessions. Late nights are common, and you may have to arrive before dawn. Some Saturdays are expected. Sundays are off limits. The job is salaried. With successful completion, you’ll be awarded a bonus. Are these things you can live with?”
I nodded. “Yes.”
“Cordelia, prepare the personnel action forms for my signature. Also, give her an elevator key card. She’ll also need appropriate digital access to administrative files.” He turned his attention toward me. “After lunch, move your things up and familiarize yourself with the top floor. You won’t have time tomorrow.”
After a few clicks on her computer, Cordelia pulled the forms from the printer and handed them to Mr. Mitchell. He scrawled his signature along the line on the bottom of the page before moving around the desk toward me.
“Read over it before signing. I’ll see you in a couple of hours, Ms. Sheridan.”
“Thank you for this opportunity, Mr. Mitchell.”
“We’ll see if you feel that way after a week of working for me.” He raised an eyebrow, wearing a sexy smirk.
“After a week, you might find it’s me who’s two steps ahead of you.” The words flew out of my mouth before I could stop my snarky thoughts from rolling off my tongue.
He neither smiled nor frowned, and I couldn’t tell if he was amused or perturbed as he shook his head and left the room.
Oh God, oh my God, oh my God.
I wanted to fall between the cracks in the sidewalk far below us. I made a witty remark to a man who didn’t look like he laughed about much, and I was going to be by his side more than I would see my own pillow for the foreseeable future.
Ms. Irwin’s chuckle drew me back to the here and now. “Brooke Sheridan, the first administrative assistant with a sense of humor.”
I didn’t reply because I didn’t know the appropriate response.
She closed the file and folded her hands atop it, wearing a grin. “Please feel free to contact me if you need anything HR related, and don’t let Garrett intimidate you. In my forty years with the Mitchells, he’s been the kindest, fairest, and easiest to work for.”
I almost laughed. I’d never heard anyone refer to him as ‘kind’. In fact, it had always been the polar opposite.
“How long have you worked for him?”
“Nine years. It was supposed to be temporary, and I came out of retirement to work six months while he started a land development company, long before moving into hotel and resorts with his brother. Recently he and his brother released each other from a partnership before going out on their own, and here I am, happy as can be, still working for him.”
“How many resorts does he own?”
“I don’t know an exact number, but when I first started, there were fifteen employees, and we now have thousands worldwide.”
“Out of curiosity, what happened to his previous assistant?”
“She resigned. Read over the papers carefully and sign. You can return them after lunch if you’d like.”
I didn’t need to read before signing. Bottom line, I needed the money, and this opportunity had come at a crucial time. I could give my mother comfort and put my own mind at ease. After signing the forms, I slid them across her desk.
“I accept the position. I can handle the job and all that comes with it.”
She lifted her eyebrows then handed me a plastic key card. “Very well. Swipe this to gain entry to the top floor. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a lunch engagement.”
Almost an hour later, I finished eating a chicken salad sandwich at my soon-to-be old cubicle. I’d sent a thank you text to George, but I still hadn’t received a response.
Tossing a few meager personal items in a box, I knew I was going to miss the people in that department, especially George’s deep laugh and his habit of spilling coffee on his shirt almost every morning.
As soon as the elevator doors opened, the reception area came into view. A woman with spiky jet-black hair dressed in a grey pantsuit stood and greeted me with a smile.
“You must be Ms. Sheridan. I’m Greta Allen, your secretary. Let me show you to your office.” She moved toward me like a butterfly, happy and giddy.
Aren’t I the secretary?
She led me down a hallway to the first door on the right. I blinked a few times, in awe of the lush, spacious room and the wall of windows. It had to be the most beautiful view of the Dallas skyline the city had to offer. There was a large L-shaped desk with a computer, laptop, tablet, and smartphone sitting atop it.
“After you’re settled in, I’ll be glad to show you around before filling you in on important upcoming meetings and the events that are already on the calendar.”
“Thank you. I’d like that.”
“Will there be anything else, Ms. Sheridan?”
“Brooke—please call me Brooke,” I said, still confused by her introduction of herself as my secretary.
She nodded and pointed toward another door across the room. “Your office adjoins Mr. Mitchell’s. In the corner, there’s a closet with a place to hang your coat and shelves to store whatever you like, and you’ll also find a small refrigerator and a cabinet filled with snacks. If you let me know what you like, I can have it delivered by this afternoon.”
Speechless, I blinked hard.
She pointed to the opposite corner. “You have a private bathroom with a nice dressing area and another small closet to keep a change of clothes.”
Unable to contain myself a second longer, I blurted out, “This is not what I was expecting at all. I mean it’s lush, amazing, and…crazy. What kind of assistant has an office like this?”
She let out a soft laugh, letting her shoulders relax. “An executive assistant who works for Mr. Mitchell, that’s what kind. Wait until you see his office—he has penthouse-like amenities.”
“As in he sleeps here?”
“On occasion after working late into the night, he’s too tired to go home. He has the works—small kitchen, living area, master bedroom, and bathroom. I saw it once, when the painter came. There’s also a bar inside his office. Perks of being the boss—get to drink on the job if you want. Speaking of Mr. Mitchell, I need to be at my desk before he returns. Is there anything you need before I head back?”
“No, I’m good. Thanks.”
Sinking down in the high back, cream leather chair, I pivoted the mouse, making the screen flicker to life. Immediately, lime green text scrolled across: GARRETT MITCHELL IS A BASTARD WITH SMALL DICK SYNDROME!
I leaned my head back against the headrest and let out a chuckle.
“I assume after you get your kicks, you’ll find a better screensaver.” Without warning, Garrett’s deep voice rang out, and he clearly did not find the message cute at all.
The laughter died on my lips as I grew still, hand frozen on the mouse. I opened my mouth to apologize but then clamped it shut again.
He studied my face for endless seconds before a lazy smile brushed the corners of his mouth. He had a perfect God’s-gift-to-women face, and I couldn’t wrench my eyes away from him.
Focus, Brooke. You need to fucking focus.
I cleared my throat. “I’ll take care of it.”
“Good. I’ll be out of the office the rest of the afternoon, and we’ll start at seven tomorrow morning.”