Michael continued dutifully taking notes at the back of the conference room as his boss, William Turner, bellowed at the executives sitting around the table.
“If the SEC blocks our takeover that means one of you didn’t do their damn job! I didn’t spend six months of my life to get cockblocked by some government bureaucrats.” His Texas drawl made his words sound even more formidable.
The other executives cowered beneath his rage. Some darted furtive looks at their colleagues. William was an imposing man, heavyset in a way that suggested muscle rather than flab. He had a trim beard and slicked back hair, both of which were black-going-grey. His displeasure made his heavily lined face take on gargoyleish proportions and Michael had heard rumors that some executive in the past had once pissed their pants when faced with one of his tirades.
“You realize if this deal doesn’t go through we lose half a billion dollars? I lose half a billion dollars. And I don’t like losing money!” William slammed his beefy hand down on the table.
Michael glanced at the faces of the men and women seated around the impressively large conference table wondering if the pissing rumor was true and, if so, if it had been one of the people in this room. Michael sat behind William, next to the wall of floor-to-ceiling windows that looked down on the city below. His laptop was opened on his lap, ready to continue taking notes of anything important that may come of this meeting.
Michael was glad he wasn’t the target of William’s rage. He feared that if William ever yelled at him like he yelled at these executives it would be Michael pissing his pants. Michael’s work ethic was based on a dedicated motivation not to be noticed or singled out and he was incredibly good at his job. He was so practiced at going unnoticed that on several occasions he was nearly locked inside stores during closing time because the employees had forgotten about him.
As William’s assistant, it was Michael’s job to make sure the office ran smoothly. That meant everything from ensuring the perfect coffee—two shot macchiato—was set on Willem’s desk each morning just before he walked in, to keeping any unwanted visitors—of which there was a long list—out of William’s inner office. Michael had been around long enough to know exactly what would set William off. He knew how to break any bad news in the blandest way possible. He knew when was a good time to make a request and when was a time to keep his head down. If he did his job perfectly, William would acknowledge him with the merest tip of his head on his way in and out of the inner-office. Michael’s intense dedication to the whims of his mercurial boss was part of what left him still single even as he was nearing his late forties.
One of the executives, a balding man with piggy eyes, began to speak up: “But Mr. Turner, the law says—”
“I don’t give two shits about the law. The damn law changes all the time, you just make sure it’s in our favor!” William cut him off, leaning forward in his chair and staring daggers at the man. He looked around at the rest of the table. “I better hear something different by the end of the day or you all better start looking for a new company where they reward incompetence. Now get out.”
The men and women filed out of the office silently, refusing to meet William’s eye. William sat back in his chair and glared at their backs until the last one had left. When it was just William and Michael, William sighed and swiveled his leather chair around to face Michael.
“You believe this shit?”
Michael shook his head in sympathy, careful to maintain a neutral look. Always better to be neutral because sticking his head up was likely to get it shot off. “No, sir,” Michael said.
William sighed. “What’s next?”
Michael opened William’s email and consulted his schedule, ticking off each item. “Ten thirty call with the board.”
“Eleven o’clock meeting with the mayor.”
“Who called that? Us or her?”
“Move it to the afternoon. Show her who’s boss.”
“Marketing wants to go over the latest national campaign this afternoon.”
“Get them down here in thirty minutes. Keep ‘em on their toes. Any word on my daughter?”
“Plane touched down an hour ago. Carl says they’re on their way.”
“Carl,” William snorted. “She’s got him wrapped around her finger. Man doesn’t know whether he’s coming or going.”
Michael had never met William’s daughter, Natalie, and the only pictures he’d seen of her were the baby pictures on her father’s desk showing a chubby girl playing by the ocean. But if she was anything like her father Michael doubted she had any man wrapped around her finger. More likely she had them ground under her boot. It was nearly impossible for Michael to imagine that anyone coming from William’s family would escape inheriting his impressive jawline and boxy figure. Maybe she was cute in the way that a baby gargoyle might be cute but Michael doubted it.
William drummed his fingers along the solid oak board table as he gazed out at the Dallas skyline. His eyes flicked over to Michael and appraised him. Michael forced himself to return his boss’s gaze, even though he felt like a bug under a microscope. Then William shook his head again and dismissed Michael.
Michael returned down the hallways, past the expensive prints and intricate sculptures that William had bought to “class up the place”. Michael’s desk was right outside William’s glass-walled office where he could see his boss and be ready to jump up at his slightest whim. It was also, critically, directly in view of the elevators at the far end of the hall so that Michael could intercept any unwanted visitors.
Michael settled into his squeaky chair and plugged his laptop back into the power. He set to work rescheduling William’s appointments. William went into his office and shut the door behind him as Michael was talking to the mayor’s assistant, apologizing for the change of plans but explaining that unfortunately something had just come up that required Mr. Turner’s attention. Michael had just finished getting an earful from the mayor’s assistant and had hung up the phone when the chime of the elevator down the hall caught his attention.
He looked up just as the doors opened and a leggy blonde stepped out. Sunglasses were perched atop her head. Her golden hair was swept down one side of her face and then spilled down in wavy waterfall over one shoulder. Black thigh-high boots clung to taut thighs, leaving a sliver of leg visible below a shimmering golden skirt. A black sleeveless top hugged her trim form and a tiny black purse was slung across one shoulder.
Michael’s eyes were drawn to her like a magnet. He couldn’t look away as she sashayed towards him, an enigmatic half-smile on her face. She seemed to draw all the light in the room and men and women alike poked their heads out from their cubicles to watch her go past. A heavily built man in a suit followed behind her. The man was Carl, so the woman must be Natalie.
Michael stepped out in front of William’s door, ready to greet her. She was coming right towards him, her wavy blonde hair bouncing gently at each step. Now Michael could make out her angelic face and her startling baby blue eyes. When her gaze landed on him his mouth went dry. He fought the urge to try to smooth back his thinning grey hair. Michael was instantly smitten but he managed to croak out a “Hi, you must be Natalie.”
He held out his hand and she took it. Her fingers were warm and graceful and he felt blessed just to be able to touch such a perfect vision. He had a sudden longing to pull her close as she shook his hand.
“You must be Michael. I’m just goin’ to see my daddy.”
She knew his name! Michael hadn’t been as instantly smitten with anyone since high school. He felt blessed just to hear her say his name and honored to lead her to William’s open door. Michael knocked on the door and William looked up from behind his magnificent oak desk.
“Natalie is here,” Michael announced.
Natalie flashed Michael a smile – all pearly white and magnificent – and headed confidently into William’s office. Carl gave Michael a quick appraisal and evidently found him lacking. In that brief look Michael sensed a jealousy in Carl that was unbecoming a bodyguard. Natalie really did have him wrapped around her finger.
“Daddy!” Natalie said, coming around the end of the desk and giving him a hug.
Michael had never seen William hug anyone. He was notoriously prickly and would only ever shake a person’s hand if they truly deserved it. And God help the person who touched a thing on his neatly organized desk. But Natalie just sat herself on the corner of his desk and absently picked up one of the pair of silver pens William had been gifted and which took pride of place at the center of his desk. William leaned back in his chair with a rueful smile but didn’t admonish her as she twirled the pen about her elegant fingers.
“Have a good flight?” William asked.
“Yes, daddy. That new masseuse is divine. I had so much stress trying to get everything sorted.”
Michael had arranged all the flight details, the personnel, and even her packing. He wondered what on earth had been left to be sorted.
“That’s good. I’m glad you made it. You know how important this is to me and God knows your momma wouldn’t help me out.”
“I know, daddy.” Natalie carelessly dropped the pen on to the desk and rummaged through her tiny purse. She pulled out a compact mirror, flipped it open and eyed herself in it, carefully adjusting her blonde locks so that they hung just so across her face.