Released April 27, 2015
Have you ever met that someone who steals your breath with just a look? That someone you can’t stop thinking about, no matter how hard you try?
I met her in a dream. Never would I have expected her to step right into my reality, though.
But she did.
Although I can’t explain why, Payton Fowler makes me want things I never imagined I could have. She soothes the chaos in my head. But she doesn’t know who I really am, and she doesn’t see the darkness that lives inside of me.
She’s supposed to be off-limits to me. But that’s not a problem because I’ve perfected the art of breaking the rules.
My name is Sebastian Trovato, and this is the story of how I met the woman who unhinges me.
“Ms. Fowler, I’ll never be able to stress enough how important this is,” the domineering woman who stood just a few feet away, hands on her hips, head cocked to the side, said as she glared down at me. “Mr. Trovato’s biggest pet peeve is his calendar.”
I tried to pay attention, really. I was doing my best to jot down notes, but I’d recently learned — in the last hour and forty-seven minutes — that Jasmine Masters talked faster than anyone I knew. And based on what this woman told me, Mr. Trovato, the man I was now working for, was quite needy — at least in my humble opinion.
As much as I was trying to like Jasmine, the feat was rather difficult to do with a woman I’d met less than two hours ago. The same one who insisted on narrowing her blue eyes on me as though I was growing mold on the side of my face or something. Even once I got past her condescending tone and belittling stare, I still wasn’t sure how she managed to sneak so many words into a single breath.
Maybe talking like punctuation wasn’t in existence was one of the requirements of being an administrative assistant to the most powerful man at Trovato, Inc., and if that were the case, I was beginning to wonder whether or not I was actually qualified for the job.
When a representative of Trovato, Inc. had called a few weeks ago to tell me that I’d passed the first series of aptitude tests and to come in for an interview, I had nearly passed out. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I submitted my application, but without any other alternatives, I’d given it a shot. Now, I wasn’t so sure I was going to fit in here.
“Every morning, you need to make sure you have his calendar printed and placed on his desk. He will also check and double check it on his phone. He gets here no later than six o’clock, so I suggest you get here at five.”
I wondered if Mr. Trovato knew that his admin made him sound like an anal wack job. Who did that? Who studied their calendar like that? I didn’t state the question aloud. After all, that wasn’t my business. I’m sure I had a few quirks people didn’t understand.
“He’ll expect coffee and a briefing of what his day entails,” Jasmine added before turning and walking away from me.
Where was she going now? I wondered as I took off after her.
“Briefing?” I realized just a second too late that I sounded like an idiot.
“Yes.” Jasmine glanced back at me as though I was a third-grader who had just screwed up reciting the alphabet. Then again, maybe I had. With so many instructions and rules running through my overloaded brain, I wasn’t even sure whether today was still Monday or if we’d already moved on to Tuesday.
“When he arrives, make his coffee, give him ten minutes to get situated and then knock on his door,” Jasmine instructed as she retrieved a sheet of paper from the printer before thrusting it in my direction.
I skimmed the page, unable to read the fine print, but I did clearly see the title: HOW TO MAKE COFFEE.
Awesome. I could hardly make coffee for myself and now I had the responsibility of making it for someone else. The day just kept getting better.
“Once he invites you in, you’ll go over his meetings for the day,” Jasmine continued. “Be sure to tell him who he’s meeting with and when, whether or not he’ll be taking a call or if he’s expected to be somewhere.”
Wouldn’t he already know this if he studied his calendar three times?
Rather than ask that, I nodded. “Are most of them calls?” I waited for Jasmine to answer while I wondered just how this all worked. Since the extent of my job history was as a billing assistant at a small computer company and the little bit of time I’d worked at my dad’s body shop, I just didn’t know.
“Not usually, although he’ll have plenty of them. Most of the time he’ll meet with people in his office.”
I would too if I had an office like his. The place was the size of a starter home and that made me wonder just what kind of pompous asshole I was going to be dealing with. I mean seriously. The building wasn’t all that big to begin with, but that office… it was roughly the size of the warehouse area downstairs.
“If he has a trip coming up, make sure you remind him every day until the day before,” Jasmine continued, evidently oblivious to my internal thoughts. “Getting his itinerary right is crucial. Make sure everything’s in order, flight information, car service, hotel, dinner reservations. And if you screw that up, he’ll make you come along on future trips so you can suffer right along with him.”
Come along? Oh, no. No way. I certainly wasn’t signing up to travel that was for sure.
“But that should be easy for you,” Jasmine commented snidely.
What should be easy for me? I was lost for a moment, staring back at Jasmine. Was she saying that I wasn’t capable of handling this job? Did she doubt me, too? Or was that just me?
I didn’t get to ask any questions because Jasmine tacked on, “I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.”
No, actually, I was completely lost, thank you very much.
My head was spinning and I was already convincing myself that I would screw this up. I possibly already had based on the way Jasmine was scowling at me.
“Come on, girl, you can do this, right?” Jasmine pinned me with her sapphire eyes.
I was pretty sure those were contacts, but I wasn’t getting close enough to find out, mainly because Jasmine never stopped moving.
“Sure,” I lied, trying to sound confident. I’d been an assistant before, so surely I could figure this out. It wasn’t rocket science. I mean how freaking hard could it be to manage someone’s calendar and to bring him coffee every morning?
I got the distinct impression that those were just two of the millions of things I would have to do as Mr. Trovato’s assistant. The only frame of reference I had where the job was concerned was my father’s shop. I’d been his assistant for a short period of time, but since he owned a small body shop with roughly ten employees, it really wasn’t the same thing. Jasmine had kindly informed me that Trovato, Inc. had somewhere around two hundred employees.
Yep. That’s like… one hundred times two.
That might not sound like a lot, but to me, it was.
Jasmine placed her hands on her slender hips and faced off with me once more. Not wanting to appear any more incompetent than I already had, I squared my shoulders and looked up at the woman. She made me feel as though I were two feet tall and that didn’t have anything to do with the fact that I was short either.
I fought the urge to squirm in the ill-fitting business suit I was wearing. Although it was supposed to be a power suit, it didn’t help me feel at all powerful when I was greeted by Jasmine, who was wearing a pair of designer jeans and a colorful blouse, her auburn hair severely pulled back in a ponytail. I figured the woman was in her mid-thirties, but she looked all of eighteen dressed like that.
Since I hadn’t seen anyone other than the gray-haired receptionist who greeted me at the main entrance — and she was sitting behind a desk — I really wasn’t sure what the dress code actually was around this place. Was it different for me because I was new? Or did everyone wear casual wear to the office on Monday?
As I fought the urge to scratch beneath the itchy polyester blend, I prayed someone would tell me. I wasn’t looking forward to dressing up tomorrow, not to mention, I really wasn’t sure what else I had to wear. I’d spent a pretty penny on this stupid suit, along with another one that I’d worn to the interview three weeks ago.
“What time did I say he gets here?” Jasmine asked, her snootiness dragging me out of my thoughts, forcing me to forget about what was hanging in my closet in my tiny little apartment.
Refusing to look down at my notes, it took me a second to scan my memory. I had to mentally flip past the few pairs of jeans in my closet before it came to me. “Six,” I stated uncertainly.
I was tempted to stick my tongue out at her, feeling incredibly childish and a tad rebellious. I wasn’t sure what it was about me that made this woman want to look down her narrow nose, but it was really beginning to grate on my nerves.
Jasmine laughed haughtily, at what, I don’t know. I don’t think I stuck my tongue out, but hell, maybe I did.
“And what time will you be here?” she asked, her arms crossing over her chest, as though she figured I surely couldn’t answer two questions in a row.
“Five,” I stated more affirmatively. Although I sounded somewhat sure, I was already trying to figure out just how I was going to drag my ass out of bed that early in the morning. As it was, getting here at eight that morning had been hard enough. But to be there by five, I was going to have to get up at… three. Oh, crap. I fought the urge to hang my head in defeat.
When I had originally applied for the job, I admit that I hadn’t paid any attention to where Trovato, Inc. was located. I’d Googled the address for the interview only to find that the company had recently moved. Rather than their previous location near downtown Austin, they had moved to be more centrally located to the Circuit of the Americas. Since the new Formula One race track had been constructed south of the Austin airport that put me, oh, like an hour away. Okay, maybe not that far, but it was at least a forty minute drive and that was if I took the toll road. The idea of paying for tolls didn’t sit well with me, especially when money was tight at the moment. But then again… a few dollars for an extra half hour of sleep. Hmm.
The job was paying well, so maybe I could work that into my budget.
Jasmine leaned over her desk, placing her perfectly manicured hands flat on the top as she stared back at me. When she began to tap one fingernail repeatedly, I realized she was waiting for me to say something.
Oops. I think I’d gotten lost in my own head again.
Rather than answer, I got distracted by the little design on her fingernail.
Note to self: this weekend get a manicure and have highlights touched up.