Sierra grunted. Her fourth game of Spider Solitaire and she was about to lose again.
Then her office phone rang out.
Eyeing the small screen, she noticed Jonas was calling. What on earth did she do for her boss to call her an hour before closing time? Sighing, she answered with a casual greeting. “Hello?”
“My office. Now.” He hung up.
Sierra sighed, placing the phone back on its hook. She’d been in her small, six by seven office the entire day doing nothing, and not once had he called for her. Maybe it was just that, she thought. Sending emails and gathering information on clients was mediocre work and she was now nonessential.
Exiting her game, she pushed back the chair and strolled to the mirror by the door, smoothing an unruly curl that sprung free from her updo. At least her face wasn’t as oily as it usually was. When she was finished with clearing the spot in the middle of her forehead, she adjusted her maroon pencil skirt, opened the door, and floated pass everyone who sat in their cubicles.
Sierra took a right and then pushed the glass door marked Jonas Rivers Real Estate Manager before stepping in.
Jonas was on the phone, possibly arguing with someone. “How on earth did you get the chickenpox! I still don’t understand. No, don’t humor me with your bullshit. I cannot go fourteen days without you. I need you back now. I don’t care if you have to infect the entire office, Conrad. Get your–Hello? Hello?” Jonas slammed the phone down.
Jonas looked up. “Can I help you?”
She took a step forward. “Uh, you called?”
“Oh, right.” Jonas ran a palm down his weary face. He looked off today, his brownish golden hair was disheveled and needed combing. If anything gave him away, it was the stain on the shirt he wore yesterday. Sierra also noticed the fair line circling his ring finger. “Have a seat, Ms. Parker.”
She took the seat in front of his desk and crossed her legs.
Jonas was a brilliant manager, but he often had a nasty attitude whenever things didn’t go his way. His ivory-tan complexion matched with his extremely good looks always got him on the best side with the ladies. If he wasn’t that old—forty-seven to be exact—and married, Sierra saw herself getting entangled with the old bloke. But she probably would have died with a broken heart because Jonas never kept his dick in his pants.
Sierra twiddled her thumbs as Jonas sifted through a stack of forms on his desk. He took one up, placed it behind the other in his hand, and then put it down. He took it up again and then dropped it, sighing out loud. Sierra checked her watch and counted forty-five minutes until she could go home. Clearly, whatever Mr. Rivers had in mind to tell her, wasn’t that important. But as she was about to dismiss herself with an excuse to use the bathroom, Jonas glanced up, slipping his black-rimmed glasses off his face.
“Ah, Sierra Parker. Tell me, how long have you been with us? Two years?”
“A little over, sir.” Her stomach roiled. She knew it. She knew there would be a time when he fired her for being useless. They were cutting back on staff and decided to start with her first. She knew it. What did a certificate in property management and entrepreneurship really do for her here? Nothing. She should have done marketing.
Jonas took up the papers in his hands again and peered at it, his face wincing at whatever he had buzzing through his mind. “Do you have any real estate experience? Like, selling houses or anything?”
She shook her head. “No…not at the moment, sir.” Surely he should have known that. Wasn’t he the one who’d hired her? “Is there something wrong, Mr. Rivers?”
He dropped the paper and passed a rough hand over his forehead, exhaling. “Why now? Why this week,” he grumbled. Jonas’ hand hovered over the telephone but he pulled it back as if to prevent himself from doing something.
“Mr. Rivers?” Sierra pressed.
“I have a job for you.” He didn’t look up from his papers.
“A job?” Sierra’s heart flickered to life, but she kept her excitement inward, not wanting to alarm her boss or disappoint herself if it was something minor—like cleaning the microwave or the refrigerator because the janitor took a vacation. She cleared her throat, “What kind of job?”
“It’s nothing too difficult. Something you should be able to do within a week.”
Was he sweating? Sierra leaned forward. Yes, he was sweating—profusely. Why on earth was her boss sweating in an air-conditioned place? The room practically had ice for walls and even her sweater felt as thin as a polyester scarf. She never believed she saw Jonas sweat before. “Are you okay? You seem like—”
“I’m fine,” he cut her off. “I would like you to fill in for Mr. Hughes.”
Sierra swallowed. “As in Conrad Hughes?” Conrad was a marketing specialist. He sold houses within a few days and no one had complaints about their sale. Last year, he sold a house for twenty-eight million dollars to Cassandra Pierre, a British actress. He did the transaction within three days, no sweat. So, when Jonas asked her to fill in for him, Sierra couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow.
“That’s what I said, Ms. Parker.”
“W-what about Kirk?” she sputtered. “I’m sure Kirk—”
“Kirk is on a vacation and is out of the country. Not even the CSIS can get in touch with him. Listen, are you able to do this job, or do I have to give it to Mildred?”
Sierra’s eyes bulged. “Your secretary?”
“Yes…” he drawled. “Conrad has the chickenpox and was advised to stay at home for two weeks. Two of my best are gone, and this only leaves you to do the job, Ms. Parker. So are you up for it?”
Sierra stayed quiet for about ten seconds, her mind turning and twisting about how something big like this could be possible. A Real Estate Agent? She’d done the licensing exam but had no experience whatsoever. She was twenty-five for Pete’s sake, how on earth was she to know how to do anything besides what she learned in the classroom? And now her boss wanted to throw her straight into the fire?
“If you succeed at this, you will receive a ten percent commission and an end-of-year bonus. You will also be promoted as a recognized agent of the firm,” Jonas continued. He seemed as if he was trying his best to convince her. “I would do this myself but I already took on a lot of big clients. So, I’m asking you, would you be able?”
Well, it wasn’t as if she had a choice. But to receive a commission, plus an end of year bonus? She could finally buy a new car and get rid of her old beetle wagon. And to be called an agent? “Yes,” she finally said.
“Good.” Jonas slipped the white papers into a folder and pushed it toward her, “This is a major client of ours. Adrian Burhan. He is new and it’s his first time buying a house in Canada. We are glad he chose us for this new venture.”
Sierra opened the folder and her breath caught at the sight of him. A simple white background passport photo stuck to the edge of the folder did little to stop her from ogling him. He was beautiful.
“That is his basic profile. I expect you to find out more about him such as his likes, dislikes, loves, hates, and if you can, the past houses he lived in. Get an idea of what his tastes are. You are expected to close this deal within a week. The earlier the better. The longer you take, the least interested the client gets.”
Sierra nodded, her eyes still trapped inside the folder. Arabian? As she skimmed through it, she realized how bare the profile was. His marital status wasn’t listed and the children section was blank. He lived in London but owned a construction company in Dubai. Mr. Burhan was an architect in his own firm.
“Did you hear me?”
Sierra looked up, “Hm?”
“I said, close this within a week. Your first meeting with him is on Friday at seven o’clock. I trust that you will get your information by then. You may leave now. I will check in with you on Thursday.”
Friday? So she had three days to gather information and present the best houses in Vancouver? Sure she had tons of experience collating profiles for Conrad and Kirk, but for herself? Never in her life, she believed she would have to be doing this. Sierra rose from her seat, still in awe, and left Jonas’ office.
She didn’t leave until an hour pass home time.
“Let’s see what you’ve got.”
Sierra peered up from her computer to see Mr. Rivers plopping himself down in her guest chair. She minimized the Solitaire game and turned to him. “Hm?”
“What did you get on Mr. Burhan?”
Pulling her desk drawer, she retrieved a red folder. She chose red because Mr. Burhan seemed like the type to like red. Well, when she googled his name and his credentials, she didn’t find much, only the fact that he was a millionaire, rich from his parents’ inheritance. Sierra opened the folder and pushed it toward her boss and he took it, opening it on the second to last page as he always did. She always knew to put the pertinent information on that page to capture his interests.
The folder had ten pages that outlined most of his likes, dislikes, interests, and hobbies. Mr. Burhan hated cats but loved dogs. He enjoyed working out at the gym and loved to cook whenever he had the time—things she gathered from his Facebook business profile. His personal profile, however, had a video of him playing with a golden retriever. Anything else was private for close friends. And based on what Jonas had before, she learned that Adrian Burhan was thirty-four years and the eldest of one brother and four sisters. He worked for his own company called Burhan Construction Limited and established over six branches in five countries—Canada being his seventh. He owned three properties, two in London and one in Dubai. The one in Dubai boasted of being an eight-bedroom mansion with a fifteen-foot swimming pool and a tennis court. He owned four sports cars, all of which were red, and a green motorbike. He was described as forward, assertive, and cool.
“This is fine. It should have been a bit more extensive,” Jonas said. “But given our time limit, this will have to do.”
“It was all I could find. He is really…” she trailed off, trying to put together the correct word, “discreet.”
“Discreet does not get us sales, Sierra.”
She rolled her eyes, but not in his direction.
He handed the folder back and stood. “I gather you’ve prepped yourself for his meeting tomorrow morning?”
“Do not be late, Sierra. Seven sharp. Try to be there before him. He seems like the type to be punctual.”
Sierra nodded again.
Jonas walked to the door and turned back, “Mr. Burhan might be our largest client ever if he buys. So don’t ruin this for us. If you do this, your future here is sealed. And you can very well be promoted next to Conrad.”
Next to Conrad, Sierra thought. That would be the pinnacle of her career. At age twenty-five she would be something—she could be something. And she certainly wouldn’t have to sit at her small desk and push papers for everyone and play solitaire for the next five years.
Opening the folder, she scanned the details again. She had to make the information stick. She would memorize every word on each page because her career was riding on it. She had to seal the deal, no matter what it took.
Sierra rolled over, slapping her alarm clock the fourth time on snooze. Her body ached with regretful tiredness after Kristoff, her boyfriend of two years, took her to a bar near her workplace last night. He’d coerced her to go out and have a few celebratory drinks. A few too much…She wasn’t supposed to be out that late because—
Her eyes shot open. “No, shit!” Sierra flew off the bed, snatching the clock off the nightstand—six-forty-five. “No, damn it.”
Throwing the alarm on her bed, Sierra leaped into the shower and threw her clothes on the floor. She was late. No, she was extremely late. Her heart sped up as she scrubbed every corner and crevice of her body within three minutes. They would fire her. Surely they would.
She skated out of the bathroom, brushed her teeth, and fetched the darkest and cleanest suit in her closet. She slipped on her stockings and then her navy blue pencil skirt. She donned a red chiffon blouse with a tie at the front and threw over her matching jacket.
Sierra exhaled, peering into the mirror. Her hair, God, her messy hair. She hadn’t the time to gel it under her satin scarf last night. She cursed Kristoff under her breath. With a wide-teeth comb and a spray bottle of moisturizer, she spritzed and combed until her hair was soft enough to rake her fingers through. Quickly, she tied it in a scrunchie and draped a red bandeau over her crown, leaving the end of her thick and coily black hair to settle as an afro puff. “Nice,” she said, slitting the hairline with her fingers.
She checked her clock again, mortified that it was seven minutes past seven. Grabbing her purse and keys, she scurried out of the door, ran down four flights of steps—because the elevator never seemed to work—and pushed the door to the car park.
Praying to the Gods that Mr. Burhan ran late, she shoved the key into the ignition and…nothing. She turned it again. Still nothing. She slapped the steering wheel, “Damn it, you piece of shit!” She turned the key only to hear coughing and sputtering, followed by smoky carbon monoxide thick enough to put anyone to sleep within ten seconds. She checked her time again and grunted when the time elapsed by five minutes. She would have to foot it. There was no other way. A taxi would take forever to reach, and by that time she would be fired. But she probably got fired already since she was here and not there. She’d let herself down and even Jonas.
But she couldn’t leave the man there. Fired or not, she had a job to do, and it would be utterly unprofessional to not show up. She thought about calling Jonas to tell him she was late but figured it would be a bad idea.
Grabbing her purse, she called a taxi as she walked out of the car park. She texted Kristoff about her car and now she had ten minutes to think of the perfect excuse to tell Mr. Burhan why her black ass was late.