Chapter One: Dante.
It was just hours before dawn when Dante is already up and running on his treadmill. The high velocity he has chosen has him sweating bullets, but in just a few more minutes he would be finished.
Just a bit more, Noble.
The machine beeps loudly, echoing throughout his workout space to tell him that his session had finally come to an end. He's panting heavily and he thinks back to the last time he's done a heavy cardio exercise. In one fluid motion, he's off the treadmill and trudges towards the exit already feeling the familiar ache in his legs.
There's noise in the kitchen that stops him from heading to the bathroom of his bedroom. He wanders over to find Ayana eating some crackers. When the woman looks up she grins at Dante, but all he offers in return is a shake of his head.
Thought she would have left by now.
"Jones," Dante calls disapprovingly. His eyes give her a look over and are surprised to see her wrapped in the sheet of his bed.
"I know, I know," Alana says, rolling her eyes. With a sigh she walks away from the kitchen, grumbling about what an asshole Dante was, but the man didn't care about the snide remarks.
Some shuffling and muttering later Alana emerges clad in her clothes from last night; a skin-tight dress, and heels. The woman glares at him then leaves the penthouse, slamming the door behind her.
Dante laughs. Oh, Alana.
After a glass of water, Dante makes it to the bathroom and steps into the shower. As he lets the water cascade over his body he goes over his to-do list in his head. Attend a meeting, review progress reports...Call Leon. Dante sighs. How much time did his VP need in Seattle? Were he in Leon's place he would have closed the deal, and then some, but the man insisted that he go in Dante's place and if he wasn't capable of it Dante wouldn't have let him go. Still, it's taking Leon longer than necessary.
It wasn't long till Dante was ready to go with a few minutes to spare. His housekeeper walks in and apologizes for being late. His eyes look down at the time on his cellphone. 4:55 AM. Dante doesn't reply and walks out of the penthouse to leave the maid to do her job.
As he neared his BMW he feels as though he's forgetting something, but can't quite figure out what. He brushes it off, slides into the driver's seat, and turns on the ignition; the hands-free rings as soon as he turns on the car.
"Noble speaking." He waits for a reply as he pulls out of the parking lot.
"Mr. Noble," a gruff voice answers. "This is Mark from operations, I want to go over some things with you if that's okay."
"How much time do you need?" Dante asks.
"Just a few minutes."
"Email them to Mrs. Giordano." Dante hopes that Norma doesn't mind taking on extra work in the absence of his PA.
"Yes, Mr. Noble." Mark hangs up.
There were a few minutes of silence before another call comes in. Its Dante's father. He weighs his options and picks up in the end, readying himself for the inane, one-sided conversation between Dante and him.
It was as Dante expected. The drive to work consisted of nothing, but the ramblings of a 50-year-old announcing his 7th wedding and the planning of.
One that would most likely fail. Again.
The call ends as he pulls into the lot of Hassan Enterprises.
Looking at his watch again, he walks briskly towards the elevators of the building only humming in reply to the security's greeting at the front desk. He looks at the monitor of the elevator as he does every time he comes to work, waiting until he's on the last floor while a boring little tune plays.
Might request a change in music.
At the last floor—only consisting of a long, white hallway leading up to his secretary's desk, Leon's office, and his own—he takes a breath and goes over the list of things to do today yet again. He can't help but think he's missing something.
Norma is already waiting for him at the end of the hall, tan arms crossed in front of her. She glares at him, her Columbian accent bouncing off the walls as she speaks.
"Mr. Noble," the 42-year-old starts, but Dante is well on his way to his office. He can hear the click of her heels as she follows him through the door.
Dante stops in his tracks at the sight of a figure seated upon one of the chairs in front of his desk. He looks back at Mrs. Giordano questioningly. She grimaces.
"An applicant was able to make it to the interview," Norma informs him.
Dante looks back at the woman sitting at his station who has turned around to look at both of them, doe eyes darting between Norma and him. With a sigh, he gestures that Norma leave so that he can commence.
Fuck. I forgot about the interviews.
The woman stands up and offers her hand as soon as he makes it around to his leather chair. He shakes it. Her skin is smooth, but clammy, the girl realizes this and pulls away quickly with a nervous smile. "Hello, sir, I'm Eva Santiago, I applied for the position of assistant," she says.
Eva takes her seat as Dante took his. There's a folder on his desk with her name on the tab. He opens it up and skims over the information. Dante remembers seeing this file when he was going through the applicants. She has a bachelor's in business administration, but her work history was lacking. Java Lava, he recalls the coffee shop Eva is currently employed at. Why his top three candidates couldn't make it, he did not know, but he was willing to give her a chance seeing as no one else decided to show up.
"Tell me about yourself," Dante says, still overlooking the folder.
"Well, I graduated a couple years ago—"
"From what college?" he asks even though it's clearly printed on the papers.
"New York Community College."
He hums. "Go on."
"Uh...I've been working in restaurants for as long as I can remember before and after graduation," Eva says and he looks up. Her eyes are everywhere, Dante notes, except on him. He glances down at how she's fiddling with the hem of her pencil skirt. She's incredibly nervous.
Looking at her, Dante can say she is lovely slight, in an uncommon kind of way, though a little too thin for his liking. Her skin is ivory and her face flushes when she trips over her words, Eva looks at him with big, brown eyes and the color of her cheeks deepen to a darker shade of red that reaches her ears. She looks down. Eva licks her lips several times till she leaves them bright red and swollen. The sight of her fidgeting amuses Dante, its also a bit endearing, but can he trust someone that has trouble looking him in the eye to help him with important tasks?
When he looks at her again she's chewing on her lower lip and looking at him innocently. Dante curses mentally at having realized that he had not been listening to Eva this entire time and that she was patiently waiting for his response.
"Java Lava..." Dante muses. "How's the coffee there?"
A sudden, random question, he admits, completely unrelated to the initial topic, but the faster she's out of his office the better.
"Oh." She smiles. A genuine action that had Dante smiling back. "It's great."
He's silent for a moment, and she turns her attention to the large window behind Dante that overlooks the city. A feature in his office that he enjoys so much. Dante, however, is looking over her features once more. He's watching her with interest and how often she licks her lips and chews on them the more anxious she becomes. His eyes trail down to her hands which are clenched tightly together on her lap.
"Yes?" Dante snaps back to meet her eyes. Lovely...Wait, what?
Miss Santiago opens her mouth then closes it again. She looks like she's mulling over what to say to him, and she speaks up. "Do you have any other questions for me other than the quality of Java Lava's coffee?"
Dante is taken aback, and her words urge another genuine smile out of him. "Yes, I do, actually. Its just- Its been somewhat of a long morning. I was asking about the coffee, because I think I need some right now."
"I can go get you some," Eva says too quickly, and clears her throat and in a much more calm tone she continues, "If that means I'm hired."
Dante lets out a hearty laugh at her boldness and shakes his head. "How about we finish up the interview first and you can go get me coffee."
This time she's the one that laughs, looking more relaxed than when she first came in here. Again, this leaves Dante smiling at her.
What the hell is wrong with you today?
Maybe I'm just coming down with something. God.
The interview had gone on without a hitch now that both of them had broken the ice between them. Eva being more relaxed as the conversation between them continued. Dante feels satisfied with her answers, and now that she was out of his office he was able to continue with the rest of his tasks.
He dials Leon and the man answers on the first ring. "Yo," Leon says.
"You done there yet?"
"The first day I got here," Leon replies and Dante can hear the cocky smirk in his voice.
"What's keeping you?" Dante asks.
"Damn, boss, you're starting to sound clingy. Miss me that much?"
"Leon.," Dante warns. The young CEO isn't unfamiliar with Leon's way of joking it often got on Dante's nerves and he would normally be up to banter with Leon, but not when he's spent almost two weeks out in Seattle screwing around.
"Yeah, yeah," Leon responds and its the second time today that someone disregards Dante. It irritates him. "I'll grab the next flight back home."
Before Dante can say anything, Leon hangs up and he's left wondering why he puts up with the current VP. But they've been friends for a long time now, and there's no one else that Dante would rather have at his side managing a company.
Norma strides in minutes later with the same glare from before. "I sent you the summary of what Mark wanted to go over," she says.
"Good." He nods.
"Please tell me you hired her." Norma groans as she takes a seat. "I can't do two jobs, you know. I need a raise."
"I did," Dante says, "and hopefully she does a better job than the last."
"And that raise?" Norma asks in her thick accent. "I have been doing your assistant's job for well over a month now and I didn't even get a thank you."
Dante raises an eyebrow at the Colombian woman.
"Well." Dante smirks. "Thank you."
Norma rolls her eyes. "I suppose that's all I'm getting out of you." She walks away, muttering things in Spanish.
Dante smiles and shakes his head, but continues to work afterwards.