First-day jitters had never been a thing for me. Even when it came to my first days of school each year or going on first dates or starting new jobs, I just wasn't a nervous person. Instead, it was more thrilling to me than anything.
I wasn't COO of my investing app anymore, but I would have the opportunity to try out a new area of business that I had always been interested in. As the Chief Marketing Officer of this new company, SoulMode International, I would finally get to put my Master's Degree in Marketing to use.
I was excited to get started at such a prestigious place as SoulMode International Clothing. I knew I didn't have to create something with my own hands in order to feel successful, so while it was tough to leave a company I had been co-operating for more than four years, it was refreshing to get to start again.
My mother had always told me that's how businesswomen had to get through work and through life. That's how she got through divorcing my father, anyway.
She was a master at making a decision and sticking to her guns till the end. I admired her for that and aspired to be like her in that way.
It was that steely confidence that navigated me through the introductions and orientation, logging in and smiling for my badge, and touring and… everything else.
After four interminable hours, I was finally left in my office to finish my intake paperwork.
Once I dotted every 'i' and crossed every 't', my signature distinct and final, I slammed my hand onto the stapler, expecting to finish the sheaf once and for all. Nothing. I slammed again, knowing full well by now that I was probably making a ruckus. But I was determined to show this thing who was boss.
Just as I raised my hand to give the stapler a final smack, a small head of dark, well-groomed hair suddenly popped into my office.
“Ms. Loveless, seems like that stapler is… giving you some trouble," said the man. I recognized him from my morning introduction, but there was no way I had anyone's name memorized at that point.
I laughed dryly. “Yes, well, I couldn't let it win on the first day. You've got to assert your dominance right off the bat."
He smiled with bright, crinkly eyes. “No argument from me there," he said. “But I can show you where the extra office supplies are. I'm sure it would be exhausting to fight that thing all day. Have you had lunch yet?"
Well, he seemed friendly.
I shuffled the loose papers on my desk and glanced at the tabs and unopened emails I already had coming in. The day was flying by. It was already past 1:00.
“Now that you mention it, I could refuel," I replied with a smile.
“I'll lead the way, then, as I'm sure you don't have the layout of the building memorized just yet," he said.
He was correct. SoulMode was housed in a ten-story building, using five of the middle floors as its headquarters. I did recall that there was a bakery and a gourmet sandwich shop on the first floor.
I nodded and stood up from my chair.
“By the way, my name is Jonas. Jonas Grady. I wasn't sure if you'd remember me out of the other thirty people you met this morning," he chuckled as we took off down the hall.
“Jonas, I'll be sure to remember your name next time," I said. “You're the…"
“Content Marketing Specialist," he finished for me. “We'll likely be seeing a lot of each other, so please feel comfortable with me and let me know if there's anything I can ever do to help make your transition easier."
“Sure, thank you. I would appreciate that," I responded politely. I wasn't sure what his angle was yet. If anything, my mother taught me that everyone was running an angle, especially in the business world. But for now, I'd give Jonas the benefit of the doubt.
In the elevator on the way down to the first floor, Jonas told me about his position, keeping the talk mostly professional. He did mention something about his girlfriend's favorite item on the menu when we got to the fancy sandwich shop, but that was as personal as he got.
Thankfully, Jonas didn't ask me too many questions about myself. I was still navigating the waters here on my first day, and didn't know yet who I wanted to—and didn't want to—get personal with.
“Oh, I'll buy," Jonas insisted, pulling his card out of his wallet when the waitress brought the bill to the table. “Think of it as a welcome gift."
I nodded a thank you and waited for him to pay, folding my hands deftly in front of me and trying not to look as awkward as I suddenly felt. Another of my mother's adages warned about owing a man anything. Any man.
“I'll take you by the storage office on the way back and let you get back to work," Jonas said, pressing the button on the elevator. “I need to get some more paper clips, anyway."
“Thanks." My phone buzzed in my pocket, and I slid it out to find a text from Erin asking how my first day was going.
She was such a thoughtful friend. I searched for the strong arm emoji in the sea of emoticons.
The elevator door dinged. I caught a blurry glimpse of two suited bodies rushing out, swirling up the scent of bergamot and amber. It seemed familiar.
Suddenly, my stomach dipped with a flashback of two nights before. My momentous night on the rooftop of the bar jolted my attention up from my phone. But there was nobody standing there except for Jonas and me.
I didn't even recall noting that guy's fragrance that night, but it must have stuck with me subconsciously for a stranger's scent to set me off like that. All at once, my mind was full of memories of his lips on my lips, his hands eager and confident on my breasts.
A flutter stirred in my belly…
“Are you getting in?" Jonas asked, blocking the elevator doors from closing.
I shook my head and entered the elevator. This was not the place or the time to be having those kinds of thoughts.
But what was worse was the thought that my chances of meeting him again were very slim. I didn't know how to find him either, considering we never even shared names.
Despite his cute, quirkiness, maybe he had no desire to see me again. Maybe it was just a half-drunken rooftop hookup for him. Maybe that's all it was to me....
Reality slapped me with a bag of bricks when I got back to my desk to find a ten-inch stack of papers with a blue sticky note on top that read: “The CEO expects you to have familiarized yourself with these sales trends by our meeting on Wednesday."
If anything, this new position was a reminder that I was no longer on top. I would have to fight to earn respect from the higher-ups, just as I had made others earn respect from me at Coral Investments.
“So what do you think of the boss?" Rosie asked me in the breakroom. She was an assistant, and just as quick to want to get close to me as the ever-present Jonas.
I pressed the button for the coffee and the machine whirred awake.
“I haven't met him yet, actually," I said. “The CEO seems to be very busy."
It was strange to me that I had been there for three days now and hadn't so much as caught a glimpse of Callan Arison. I heard his name often and received a couple of curt emails from him, but I didn't know much about him other than what I'd heard from my friends who followed him in tabloids and social media.
Though I was more interested in forming my own impressions, Maggie had assured me that Callan Arison was one of Seattle's most eligible bachelors, worth billions of dollars, and word had it that he was quite handsome, to boot.
Unfortunately, based just on office gossip alone, his good qualities seemed to end there.
“You should prepare yourself ahead of time," Rosie continued, dumping four packets of Splenda into her coffee cup. “I don't want to badmouth the boss or anything, but he's very tough. Nobody makes him happy."
I glanced over at Jonas, who was nodding vigorously in agreement. “It's true. We've gone through something like four Chief Marketing Officers in less than six months. Apparently, Mr. Arison is very difficult to please in the marketing realm."
I harrumphed silently. That didn't scare me at all.
“Though…" Rosie whispered, leaning in close to me, “I heard, since all of the last people in your position were women, he fired them after he slept with them."
I narrowed my eyes in disbelief. “Surely not."
Jonas shrugged. “Obviously, that's just a rumor. She's not saying that that's the actual case."
“But, Mr. Arison really is a tough nut to crack," Rosie said, leaning back into the counter and speaking more normally. “He's so cold to all of us that most of us are afraid to meet his eyes. I bet half of the staff couldn't even tell you what he looks like because they're too afraid to look at him and piss him off."
His emails were quite short and direct, but I thought that was just a combination of tact, time management, and clear communication.
I picked up my full coffee mug and took a sip of the black liquid, then winced at the bitterness, and added more sugar. Real sugar. I was a sweet tooth at heart.
“I guess I'll just have to decide for myself what kind of person he is whenever Mr. CEO finally shows me his face," I said with a shrug.
A throat cleared behind me. “Perhaps you'd like to save the speculations and get back to work, Ms. New Girl."
I swirled around, shocked. Then another blast of shock hit me when I saw this new speaker's face.
It was him. Rooftop Guy.