Chapter 1

1731 Words
Late, late, late!! Those words kept repeating themselves in Natalia Sheffield's head as she rushed into her office building. Pushing through the double glass door, she was thankful to see the elevator doors opening just as she stepped in front of it.  'Please hold it for me, Nat!'  A voice called for her as she stepped inside and turned around. Smiling, she placed her hand on the door to let her friend and colleague in. 'You too, huh, Linda?'  Linda rolled her eyes, taking a sip from her latte as she watched the numbers go up. 'This issue of using the bus is cramping my style!'  'When is your car getting out of the garage?' At the ding, they both stepped out and started walking towards their respective offices.  'End of the week,' with a shrug Linda pushed her door with her back, her smile lightening up her face. 'See you at lunch. We still on, right?'  'Yeah, we are,' Natalia replied, with a small wave heading to her own office. Sitting down, she fired up her computer before going through her schedule and that of her boss that day.  Working as an executive assistant to one of the busiest and wealthiest men in the world would be challenging, daunting even for some people, but Natalia lived for those challenges. She has had challenge after challenge in the past three years and from them, she triumphed.  'Good morning, Miss Sheffield,' her boss' voice boomed as he walked past her to his office.  'Good morning, sir,' she replied, already getting up with her diary in hand to follow him. Getting in, she made herself comfortable on the seat in front of her boss. 'How was the weekend, Natalia?' he asked, leaning back on his comfortable black leather chair.  Gibson Howard was the only person who called her by her full name, regardless of the times she  tried to get him to shorten it. She was always called Nat, and long ago someone used to call her Talia. With a smile, she nodded, 'It was fine, sir. How was the meeting in Singapore?'  'Piece of cake. I will need the minutes for that before end of day and also get in touch with Mr. Alberto's assistant. From there..' for the next ten minutes Gibson narrated what he wanted Natalia to do as well as listen to his schedule and updates from the week he was away. 'I think that covers it. Oh and this weekend we will have our anniversary party. My wife would love to talk to you about the catering company that we have been using for our corporate functions. She will call you later on in the day.'  Natalia stood up, and with a nod she walked to her desk. Before she could start work her cellphone rang. A quick glance at the screen had her smiling before taking the call. 'Hello, handsome,' she answered, a smile so bright playing on her face. After a five minute conversation with the only man in her life, Natalia was ready to start her day.  'Come on, Nat!' Linda groaned as she downed her turkey sandwich. 'You have to start living again. You are young, beautiful not to mention successful. Why won't you give romance a chance?'  Natalia shook her head. This was the same conversation that they always had at these monthly lunches that they did. 'Linda, darling. How many times do I have to tell you this? At the moment I am not looking for any relationships. I have just gotten back on my feet, things are just now going straight for once in three years. And,' she said, holding up her index finger before her friend could say anything, 'I have my house to decorate!'  'Don't use your house as an excuse,' Linda hissed, her blue eyes narrowing. 'Even if you are not looking, the men surely are looking at you! If only I was not married to my Prince Charming.' Linda exaggerated a sigh, placing her hands over her heart. 'I swear all those men who have their eyes on you would be mine by now!' Natalia had to laugh. Linda Maxwell was the greatest person one could hope for in their lives. She was funny, witty and down to earth. 'Of course you would! Loose woman,' Natalia clicked her tongue on her. 'Come on, we have to head back now. I have to talk to Mrs Gibson about catering for their anniversary party this weekend.'  'Oh, by the way, did Mr Howard tell you about him retiring?' Linda asked as she placed a few dollars on the table before reaching for some candy on the bowl by their table. Natalia froze. 'What do you mean, retiring?' she asked softly. 'Oh oh, spoke too soon. Well, this is really his last week at the office. He will be announcing his retirement during their anniversary party. He will be running things from behind the scenes, if at all.' Linda took a large sip of water from the glass in front of her. 'Who will be my new boss? If I will still have a job,' Natalia asked. What if he/she comes with their own assistant? Gibson was a hard boss, demanding and a perfectionist. After grooming Natalia to the perfect secretary, he never trusted anyone else to take her position. There were times that when Natalia was sick, Gibson would drive over with a file, just so that she could look at it, proof-read it when she was feeling much better. Linda shook her blonde hair, 'no, no! We are all safe. There will be no change whatsoever, just the new man coming in. He will be here for a few days per month in a year to begin with.'  'Do you have any idea who he is?' Natalia asked, hoping it was someone who new their job, and not one who expected her to do everything for him.  Linda shrugged and stood, 'I just know he is a big shot in the business world. As if that's some help!' She rolled her eyes as she answered herself. 'Do you know how many big shots there are in the business world?' Natalia narrowed her eyes, 'Who told you this, if you don't mind me asking?' 'Who else than Molly from Finance,' Linda laughed. 'She never misses anything.' As Linda continued talking as they made their way back to their office, Natalia's mind was working overtime. Gibson Howard had taken in a twenty one year old, barely graduated girl under his wing and made sure she was what she was today. Three years of hard work saw her climbing the corporate ladder, from doing temp work for Mr Howard to being his executive assistant. No one had wanted to hire her, claiming that she was not qualified enough. It was during her second interview at her current office that she had met with Gibson Howard. She had been sitting with the Head of Department, when Mr. Howard poked in his head and asked her if she wanted the job. At her nod, Gibson Howard had told the HOD to put her up as a temp, giving her only two weeks to prove herself. The rest, as they say, was history. Looking back, she had a lot to thank that man for.  That Saturday, during the Howard's anniversary party, Natalia kept on looking at all the business colleagues of Mr Howard, thinking about who would be taking over from him. He had called her to his office on Friday and broke the news to her then. His reason for not telling her sooner was that he did not want her to find another place before his replacement came.  'I know you, Natalia. You have gotten so used to me that the thought of working for someone else might seem impossible, scary even. I know that you will have a hard time adjusting to this new person,' he had given her a small smile. 'But I want you to do your job just as if you were still working for me.' With that he frowned, 'well, actually you are still working for me but you get what I mean. I would not choose a person that I know will give you a hard time.'  Natalia smiled as she took a sip from her champagne glass. Yes, she did understand what he meant. And he was right. She had gotten so comfortable with Gibson Howard, seeing him as the father figure she never had. Scanning the room, her eyes took everyone in. She knew most of these men and women, having had accompanied Gibson to meetings and events that she attended. As her eyes moved crossed the room, she frowned a bit when she noticed a man whom she was sure had never been to any of Gibson's parties before. Even though he had given her his back, she knew he was not a regular. But there was something about him..something about his broad shoulders and the arrogant tilt of his head that reminded her of someone. But who?  Before she could move toward him for a better glimpse, Gibson took the microphone and walked up to the stage. Turning her attention to her boss, the strange man was forgotten.  'I never liked using such things, but I think I need it today,' Gibson wiggled the microphone in his hand. After the longest speech he has ever given, Gibson waved to someone in the crowd. 'And now to present to you my successor at the Howard And Associates. Christian, mind joining me up here?'  Natalia's heart skipped a bit. Could it be? No! God would not be that cruel! She screamed to herself as she watched a tall man walking towards Gibson. His walk was just like his, the man who broke her heart. Please do not let it be him. She thought as she moved without thinking, her mind telling her to make sure it was not who she thought. But the closer she got, the more her heart told her it was the person she thought it was. The man who haunted her dreams and nightmares, for the past three years. The same man who she had vowed to never set eyes on again. The man whose name was...  'Christian Ryan will be taking over from me as of Monday.' Gibson announced.
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