Deborah Beck, my friend and editor.
This one is for you.
And, as always,
To my Matthew—my reason for everything.
I BENT OVER THE TABLE, the din of the busy restaurant fading into the background as I struggled to contain my anger. Repressing the urge to yell, I kept my voice low, fury dripping from the words. “What did you say? I’m sure I didn’t hear you correctly.”
David relaxed back in his chair, not at all concerned by my ire. “I said, Tyler is being promoted to partner.”
My hand tightened around my glass so hard, I was surprised it didn’t shatter. “That was supposed to be my promotion.”
He shrugged. “Things changed.”
“I worked my ass off. I brought in over nine million. You told me if I surpassed last year, I’d be made partner.”
He waved his hand. “And Tyler brought in twelve million.”
I slammed my hand on the table, not giving a shit if it drew attention to us. “That’s because the bastard went behind my back and stole the client. The campaign idea was mine. He fucking ripped me off!”
“Your word against his, Richard.”
“Bullshit. This is all bullshit.”
“The decision is made, and the offer has been extended. Put in the effort, and maybe next year will be your year.”
“That’s it. You’ll get a generous bonus.”
I didn’t want another fucking bonus. I wanted that promotion. It should have been mine.
I stood up so fast my chair toppled back, hitting the floor with a loud thud. I drew myself up to my full 6’4” height and scowled down at him. Given the fact that David didn’t break the 5’8” mark, sitting, he looked rather small.
David raised his eyebrow. “Careful, Richard. Remember, at Anderson Inc., we’re all about teamwork. You’re still part of the team—an important one.”
I regarded him steadily, tamping down the desire to tell him to go fuck himself. “The team. Right.”
Shaking my head, I walked away.
I strode into my office, slamming the door behind me. My assistant looked up, startled, a half-eaten sandwich in her hand.
“What did I fucking tell you about eating at your desk?” I snapped.
She scrambled to her feet. “Y–you were out,” she stuttered. “I was working on your expenses. I thought . . .”
“Well, whatever you thought was fucking wrong.” Reaching across her desk, I plucked the offending sandwich from her hand, grimacing at the concoction. “Peanut butter and jam? Is that the best you can do on what they pay you?” I cursed as the jam dripped on the edge of my jacket. “Goddamnit!”
Her already pale face blanched further as she looked at the red smear on my gray suit. “Mr. VanRyan, I’m so sorry. I’ll take it to the cleaners right away.”
“Damn right you will. Get me a sandwich while you’re out.”
She blinked. “I–I thought you went to lunch?”
“Once again, your thought process is incorrect. Get me a sandwich, and a latte—extra foam—no fat. I want Brian Maxwell on the phone—now.” Impatiently, I yanked off my jacket, making sure the pockets were empty. “Take this to the cleaners—I want it back this afternoon.”
She sat stock-still, gawking at me.
“Are you deaf?”
“Which would you like done first?”
I flung down my jacket. “That’s your fucking job. Figure it out and get it done!”
I slammed my office door.
Fifteen minutes later, I had my sandwich and latte. My intercom buzzed. “I have Mr. Maxwell on line two for you.”
“Fine.” I picked up the phone. “Brian. I need to meet with you. Today.”
“I’m fine. Thanks for asking, Richard.”
“Not in the mood. When are you available?”
“I’m booked all afternoon.”
“I’m not even in the city. The earliest I can be there is seven.”
“Fine. Meet me at Finlay’s. My usual table.” I hung up, punching the intercom. “Get in here.”
The door opened, and she tripped in—literally. I didn’t even bother to hide the fact I rolled my eyes in disgust. I had never met anyone as clumsy as her—she tripped over air. I swore she spent more time on her knees than most of the women I dated. I waited until she struggled to her feet, picked up her notebook, and found her pen. Her face was flushed, and her hand shook.
“Yes, Mr. VanRyan?”
“My table at Finlay’s. Seven o’clock. Book it. My jacket better be back on time.”
“I asked for rush service. It, ah, there was an extra charge.”
I raised my eyebrows. “I’m sure you were happy to pay it, considering it was your fault.”
Her face darkened even more, but she didn’t argue with me. “I’ll pick it up in an hour.”
I waved my hand; I didn’t care when she retrieved it, as long as it was in my possession before I left.
“I have to leave today at four. I have an appointment. I sent you an email about it last week?”
I tapped my fingers on my desk as I observed her. My assistant—Katharine Elliott—the bane of my existence. I’d done everything I could to get rid of her, but I’d never had any luck. No matter what task I gave her, she completed it. Every demeaning chore she handled without complaint. Pick up my dry cleaning? Done. Make sure my private washroom was stocked with my favorite brands of toiletries and condoms? Without fail. Alphabetize and clean my massive CD collection after I decided to bring them into the office? Completed—she even boxed up every CD when I “changed my mind” and had them delivered back home, spotless and in order. Not a word passed her lips. Send flowers and a brush off message to whomever I had dumped that month or week? Yep.
She was at the office every day without fail—never late. She rarely left the office unless it was to do an errand for me or scuttle to the break room to eat one of her ridiculous brought-from-home sandwiches since I forbade her to eat at her desk. She kept my calendar and contacts in precise order, my files done in the exact color-coding I liked, and screened my calls, making sure my many exes didn’t bother me. Through the grapevine, I knew everyone liked her, she never forgot anyone’s birthday, and made the most delicious cookies, which she shared on occasion. She was fucking perfection.