Once I was in my Mazda, it took me only ten minutes to get to the office. As I passed a familiar building, I realized my new job had yet another perk—my dance studio was close by. Time would be in short supply this summer, and if I wanted to keep dance a priority, I’d have to come up with some creative scheduling. Maybe I could squeeze in some mornings before work, or during a lunch break, or whenever I could carve out an hour or two after work. Thankfully, my summer class was an independent study, so as long as I clocked four hours of studio time every week, I’d pass the course.
After double-checking the address on the outside of the building with the address and suite number I had in my phone, I found a parking spot and headed to my first day on the job.
I was always nervous on a first day of anything, but this morning I was all butterflies. I would have thought I’d be more chill, since I kind of knew Anton, but that seemed to create the opposite effect. Maybe because he was India’s brother, and I didn’t want to put either of them in an awkward position if things didn’t work out, or maybe I was nervous because administrative assistant sounded like a pretty professional job for a college student.
As I was heading through the revolving door, my phone chimed. I slid it out of my purse. I stopped in the middle of the foyer so I could admire the picture. Jude was in his gym gear inside the locker room, extending a handful of roses. Red roses. The text read, sORRY I COULDN’T BE THERE TO HAND THESE TO YOU IN PERSON.
Just like that, the nerves were gone. One picture and a handful of words from Jude and I was calm as calm could be. Before heading toward the elevator, I texted back, I’M ONE LUCKY BITCH.
I was lucky for so many reasons. All of those reasons starting and ending with Jude.
Once inside the elevator, I couldn’t resist checking out the picture again. When I looked away, a few of the people around me were staring at me like they couldn’t possibly imagine why I was beaming on a Monday morning.
If only they knew.
The doors whooshed open on the fifth floor and I headed down the hall, still running on grins and giddiness. When I came to the door that read, XAVIER INDUSTRIES, I ran my hands down my skirt, rolled my shoulders back, and only once I was sure I looked what I felt like an admin assistant should did I open the door.
The office wasn’t huge, nor was it exceptionally welcoming, but it was how I envisioned a cubicle city–type office would appear. It smelled like copy machine, and there was even a rubber tree plant stuffed in the back corner where the watercooler stood. It looked like I was the first one here, because I didn’t see a single top of a head over the maze of cubicle walls, or any computers humming to life.
The lights were on, though, and someone had to have unlocked the door, so I couldn’t be the lone ranger at Xavier Industries. Taking a few more steps inside, I saw what I guessed would be my desk, situated outside a large enclosed office.
I didn’t know this because of the nameplate in front that read, LUCY LARSON; nor did it have anything to do with the nameplate on the door behind the desk that read, ANTON XAVIER. I knew it was my space because there were a dozen vases dotting the desk, brimming over with red roses.
That beam that was starting to hurt my smile muscles burst again as I reached for the white envelope on one of the arrangements. So maybe I could kind of be there in person. The note was signed with an, XXXO, Mr. Amazing.
Talk about a great way to start a first day at a new job.
Plus Mom and Dad had left a voice mail for me on the drive over, wishing me good luck and a great first day.
“I wish I could say I’d come up with the idea,” a voice sounded behind me.
I spun around, my mouth dropping. I could have been looking at a male India, only a couple inches taller, maybe a shade darker. I would have mistaken Anton and India for twins if I didn’t know Anton was a few years older.
“What idea?” I said, figuring that if he wasn’t going to start off with a common greeting, I didn’t need to either.
“The flowers,” Anton replied, gesturing at my desk. “It’s your first day and your boss didn’t think to order flowers to welcome you. Good thing someone else did.”
I decided not to mention that if Anton had thought to order flowers for me and Jude ever found out, Anton would be speaking an octave higher for the rest of his life.
“I wasn’t sure what the dress code was, so I hope I did all right,” I said, looking down at my outfit. In contrast, Anton had on a stylish navy suit and a maroon pencil tie. I was definitely underdressed if this was the standard.
“You couldn’t be more all right if I’d dressed you myself,” he replied with a smile.
“Oh,” I said, diverting my attention from him. He was staring at me in that unblinking way, not sexually, but in a searching way that made me uncomfortable. I didn’t want to be inspected. I wanted to clock in, make my money, and clock out. “That’s good.”
Anton came toward me and extended his hand. “Nice to finally meet you in person, Lucy Larson,” he said, his smile so white and perfect it didn’t seem real. “And if I had known you were even prettier in person than in a picture, I never would have hired you.”
I rolled my eyes. He was a flirt. Like brother, like sister.
“Why’s that,” I shot back, realizing my smart-ass self was going to fit in fine here, “because you’d no longer be in the office running for best-looking?”
Anton’s head tipped back as he laughed. His laugh, like his voice, was clear and almost musical. “India warned me you were a firecracker. For once, I’m glad she was right about something,” he said, his shoulders still shaking. “But no, that’s not the reason. At least, not the main reason. My dad keeps one rule, and one rule only, in business. He says all the rest you can bend along the way if need be, save for one.” He paused, studying me again. I watched his pupils, and never once did they wander south of my face.