“Why the hell are you here at six in the morning?” Amanda asked as I walked into the office, my hair a mess, trying to straighten in the mirror on the elevator before it got to the sixth floor. I was completely frazzled, having woken up late, and had almost missed the early morning train that took me to the office.
“I have some stuff to catch up on,” I said, hanging my jacket up on the rack and rushing into the office that I shared as an office secretary with my friend Amanda. “Why are you here?”
“I’m always here this early,” Amanda said. “But not to work.”
“I can’t believe you sneak into Dirk’s personal shower in the morning,” I said, laughing as I sat down at my desk. Amanda shrugged.
“What the boss doesn’t know won’t hurt him,” she said. “It has the best water pressure, girl, you have to try it.”
I laughed and pulled out the file I had been working on the day before, eager to finish highlighting and separating out the dates of the cases before the CEO arrived. Dirk was a mean man, always on my ass, but I did my best not to let him get to me. I had wanted to work at this advertising agency since I’d learned about it in school, and was desperate to make a good impression on the boss.
“You really need to take it easy,” said Amanda, watching me as I filed through the papers, focused intently on my work. I glanced up at my friend, shaking my head.
“You really need to get some work done,” I told her. She laughed, sitting at her own desk, kicking off her shoes and putting her feet up on the wood. I shook my head, no longer surprised when she started painting her toenails a cherry red right there at the desk.
“I have to get this finished, Amanda,” I said desperately, cutting her words off with a look. She shrugged and continued what she was doing. I heard a door open then and my heart started to pound in my chest, knowing that Dirk was here and would be ready to look over my work. He had told me the day before that he wanted to meet with me this morning, and I could only hope that it meant he was giving me the promotion I had been working my ass off to get for weeks.
I waited for a few tense moments, holding my breath until Dirk appeared in the door of the office I shared with Amanda. He knocked on it, smiling at me with an advertiser’s smile, not at all genuine.
“Can I see you in my office for a moment, Violet?” he asked. I swallowed, standing up and straightening my skirt. I smiled at him.
“Of course,” I said, and he gestured for me to follow him out of the office. I exchanged an excited glance with Amanda, who gave me two thumbs up as we left.
Inside Dirk’s office, I sat down on the chair across from his desk, perched nervously at the edge as I waited for him to speak.
“Want some coffee?” he asked.
“No, no thank you,” I said, too nervous to drink anything. He smiled at me.
“Come on, Violet. You look like you need a cup of coffee.”
“Okay,” I said, not wanting to argue with him. It seemed to take him an excruciatingly long time to pour us both a mug. He handed it to me and I thanked him for it, but my hands were shaking too badly for me to hold it without sloshing coffee over the rim. I set it down and looked at Dirk expectantly.
“What did you need from me, Mr. Jasper?” I asked him. He stared at me, rubbing his hand over his mouth.
“I’m reassigning you to a new position. I think that your skills will be more of use there.”
“Oh,” I said, finding myself smiling. “Oh, that’s great, Mr. Jasper.”
He raised his eyebrows. “I’m so glad that you’re not disappointed with the news.”
“Why would I be disappointed?” I asked, suddenly wary.
“Well,” he said. “I know it might seem like a demotion, but—”
“I’m getting demoted?” I asked, a sinking feeling in my stomach. “Why?”
“You’re not getting demoted, Violet. I’m just reassigning you to work with Patricia.”
“Oh,” I said. I had heard about Patricia, how temperamental she was, how much she sucked up to Dirk and the other board members. She was the head company manager, not a board member, and being her secretary was certainly a demotion from my current job.
“Can I ask why?” I asked him.
He cleared his throat.
“Certainly. I have found somebody to take your place. I just think that I would work better with somebody else.”
“Did I do something wrong?” I asked him blankly. He waved the question away.
“Of course not,” he said. “I just think this girl is better equipped to my working style. Known her a long time. Her father’s a good friend of mine.”
“Oh,” I said dully, trying not to show the disgust and anger that bubbled within me at the words. “I see.”
He stood up then, reaching forward to shake my hand.
“I’m so glad you understand,” he said with that bright smile that I wanted to slap off of his face. “It has been good working with you. I think you’re really going to like Patricia. She’s a character.”
“Yeah,” I said. “A character.”
“She’s waiting for you now. Thank you again for all your help.”
“Sure,” I said, leaving the office without thanking him back or wishing he’d have a good day. What I really wished in that moment was that he would fall and break his leg—I had earned that job, worked for it every moment since I’d started school, and now it was being given to some girl just because she had a personal connection to the CEO. My body was tense, my fists clenched at my sides as I went into the office that I shared with Amanda. She frowned at the look on my face.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, standing up.
“I got demoted.”
She stared at me, her mouth open in shock.
“I thought you were getting promoted.”
“I did too,” I said, moving around to my desk, haphazardly throwing my things into a box to transfer to the fourth floor of the building. “He’s sending me to work with Patricia. Said he found someone else to do my job.”
“Who?” Amanda asked. I shrugged.
“A friend’s daughter. Some girl who probably doesn’t have half the experience,” I said, trying to keep the bitterness out of my voice. Amanda put her hand on my arm, then wrapped me in a hug.
“I’m so sorry, babe,” she said. “I’ll clog up his shower next time. Stuff handfuls of hair into it. It’ll cost him a fortune to get it fixed.”
I had to laugh. “Nah, the cost of that is nothing compared to what he makes.”
“I know,” Amanda said. “But it will annoy him.”
“That’s a good point,” I said, grinning. She hugged me again and I pulled away, telling her goodbye before leaving the office and making my way to the elevator. I waited for the doors to open, holding my breath, and once I was inside and it started to move I let out a soft scream of frustration. I felt like pulling my hair out, like I had worked for nothing. I managed to pull my face into a smile as the elevator door opened, and I made my way through the lobby and down the hall to Patricia’s office. I knocked on the door and her sharp voice called out for me to come in. I took a deep breath before I did so, holding my box on my hip, opening the door to see Patricia sitting at her desk.
“I don’t have an office for you. Your desk is over there,” the woman said, gesturing over to a small wooden desk that was barely larger than a computer table.
“Thank you,” I said to her, trying to keep the irritation out of my voice. “I’m—”
“I know who you are. Violet Ingrid. And you know who I am. No need for introductions.”
“Oh,” I said. “I—”
“Listen,” the woman said, picking up her purse from the floor, opening it, and pulling out a twenty-dollar bill. “Go downstairs and bring me a large Americano. I just want it black. Two sugars.”
“What?” I asked dumbly as she thrust the money at me.
“Quickly,” she said. I felt numb as I took the bill, turning around, in shock at her rudeness as I left the office. I went downstairs, waiting in line to buy her coffee. I tapped my foot on the ground impatiently, feeling like I was going to scream. I looked at the front door, wishing desperately that I could go outside, take the day off and just go home and wallow. But I had no choice other than to get Patricia her coffee, so when it was my turn to order, I did so in a blank, even tone, just wanting to get it over with.
I brought the coffee back upstairs to Patricia, who didn’t even look at me as she swept out of the room.
“Do some dusting, would you?” she asked on her way out. “It’s bothering my allergies.”
I gritted my teeth, about to open my mouth to protest when she shut the door behind her. I sighed and got to work, knowing that there was nothing else that I could do. It was a few hours later before she showed up again, almost time for me to leave for the day. I picked up my bag and put it over my shoulder.
“Goodnight, Patricia,” I said to her, trying to hurry out the door.
“Wait a moment, Violet, I need you to do one more thing for me,” Patricia said. I gave a deep sigh, not trying to hide how annoyed I was.
“I need you to go find Cooper Maverick and send him here,” the woman said.
“Cooper Maverick?” I asked. “The board member’s son?”
An annoyed look passed over the woman’s face.
“Currently a board member, yes. A board member who will not answer his phone. I need you to go get him for a meeting in an hour.”
“But—” I began.
“He is staying at the Copper Hotel,” Patricia said. “You can ask for him in the lobby. Tell him that we need to see him as soon as possible.”
“That’s not on my way home,” I protested.
“Am I putting too much pressure on you, Violet? Do you think you’re going to have trouble doing this job?”
I swallowed hard. “No.”
She smiled then. “Good. Please let Mr. Maverick know that we are waiting for him.”
“Okay,” I said to her, and turned and left without saying goodbye.
I sighed deeply as I walked to the train station in the opposite direction of the one I took home, waiting in a crowd of people for the evening train to come. I stared at my watch, nearly growling in frustration when the bus hadn’t come within ten minutes of the anticipated arrival time. The ride itself was forty minutes, which meant that if Cooper Maverick didn’t have a very fast car or the ability to fly, he would definitely be late for his meeting. I sighed, glancing at my watch to see that it was nearly 7:30 by the time the train rolled onto the tracks. I hurried on, finding a seat near the back and sitting there miserably as I waited for my stop. It was after eight by the time I got there, and it took another five minutes to walk from the station to the hotel. The place was massive, at least twenty stories, luxurious and built to look like an old Roman palace. I went inside, walking quickly to the front counter, where a man with a polite smile stood.
“Hello, welcome to—”
“I’m looking for Cooper Maverick,” I said, the words rushing frantically out of my mouth. “Cooper Maverick. Do you know what room he’s in?”
“I cannot tell you where a guest is roomed, ma’am,” the man said. I sighed in frustration.
“Can you call him? Or tell him I’m here? My name is Violet Ingrid. I’m with Maverick Ad Agency.”
“Cooper’s over there, honey,” came a voice behind me. I turned to see a woman who looked like a model, with long legs and pale skin.
“Where?” I asked her. She nodded in the direction in the bar.
“Over there. He’s probably with a woman. You shouldn’t interrupt him unless—”
“Unless?” I asked.
“Unless you’d rather go up to his room instead,” the girl said, leaning in close to me. “I highly recommend it.”
“Uh, no thanks,” I said to her, pulling away. “I just need to talk to him. Thank you.”
“Mhm, honey,” the woman said, and I walked past her toward the bar, cursing when I realized that I didn’t know what Cooper Maverick looked like. I searched the booths and the tables, most of which were filled with couples, though most of them were older than Cooper probably was. I spotted a man with a woman at the bar, a flirty smile on his face as he sipped from a glass of amber liquid on ice. The man was handsome, obviously tall, broad with dark brown waves and eyes that I could tell were blue even from across the room. His cheekbones were prominent, jaw strong and square, and I knew immediately that it had to be him—I had heard from other women in the office that Cooper Maverick was handsome, but I hadn’t been prepared for what he was really like, especially when he turned his eyes to mine.
“Can I help you?” he asked. The woman he was with stared at me with open disdain. She was thin and gorgeous, just as pretty as the last, and looked nothing like me in any way. Where she was dainty with curves in all the right places, I had thick hips and thighs, a soft belly and breasts that were heavy and full.
“Are—are you Cooper Maverick?” I asked, cursing myself for stumbling over my words. “I’m Violet Ingrid.”
“Hello, Violet,” he said, his eyes on mine. There was a look of interest there, of curiosity that for some reason made me blush and look away. “What can I do for you?”
“I’m going to use the restroom, Cooper,” said the woman in a haughty tone, giving me a disgusted look. “I’ll be back.”
“Fine,” said Cooper in a bored voice, his eyes still on me.
“What can I do for you, Ms. Ingrid?” he asked politely.
“There’s a meeting. At the office. Patricia wanted you there. She said that you didn’t answer your phone, so she sent me to find you.”
“What time is this meeting?” Cooper asked, looking at his watch.
“It was supposed to be at eight,” I said to him lamely. He stared at me, raising one eyebrow.
“And she just now sent you to get me?”
“The train was running late,” I explained. He stared at me as he took a sip of his drink, his eyes darting briefly down to my lips, almost imperceptible.
“What do you expect me to do with the knowledge that I have missed an important meeting because the public transportation was running late?” he asked in a cold voice. I glared at him.
“I was told to come get you. I’m getting you.”
“I see,” he said. “You’re getting me over half an hour late. You do realize how useless that is, right?”
“Look, I’m sorry I’m late, but—”
“You just start working for Patricia?” he asked.
“I was working with Dirk.”
“Oh,” he said. “How did you get transferred downstairs?”
I gritted my teeth. “That’s really none of your business.”
He laughed. “It is my business. It is literally my business. Tell me.”
“They’re waiting for you at the office,” I said, turning away from him. I wasn’t going to indulge his teasing, that cocky way he probably always had with women. I had done my job, and I just wanted to get away from him. I ignored him when he called after me, waving him off.
“Rude girl,” he said, and I heard him chuckle as I walked away.