Around a month had passed since Eva joined PMC Group and she’d gotten into a decent groove while she tried to gain enough trust from Caleb, Justin, and Adrian to learn more about how they’d been able to come up so quickly in their industry. Although she had access to their files and schedules, Eva could tell that she was missing a big piece of the puzzle. And whatever that piece was, it would likely be enough to effectively sabotage PMC Group.
As for her interactions with the three men, little to their knowledge, Eva was in complete control every time.
When it came to Adrian, he would tell her to call him by his first name rather than “Mr. Collins,” but Eva would only do so on occasion, positioning it as more of a “treat” for him instead of a given.
For Caleb, Eva’s plan of showing him indifference continued to be an effective one. She could tell that he was becoming increasingly frustrated with her lack of emotion toward him and knew it was only a matter of time until he’d make more obvious efforts to get her attention.
With Justin, Eva was still formulating a plan for him. Unlike Adrian or Caleb, he didn’t seem to have many obvious desires outside of doing well at work and impressing his family, so Eva knew that her approach would end up needing to be more complex.
“Hi Ms. Eva,” Adrian greeted with a smile when he arrived for their usual morning meetings. Eva knew that he meant it playfully, but she still found herself slightly turned on whenever he said it.
And when he did call her that, he would receive his small reward.
“Good morning Adrian.” Eva returned his smile with her own before getting up to follow him into the office.
As Adrian set up his desk, Eva took notice of a new tattoo on his forearm.
“Did you get a new one?” Eva asked, gesturing at Adrian’s arm.
“Yeah, I did.” He turned out his arm so that Eva could have a better view of his new tattoo, which was a black and gray compass with detailed shading that gave it a three-dimensional shape and small red roses were placed diagonally on each side to complement it. It was covered with a clear saniderm patch to protect it for its first few days of healing.
Eva gently cradled under Adrian’s arm to hold it, being sure not to touch the tattoo itself, even though it was covered. When she made contact with his skin, he couldn’t help but enjoy the feeling of her soft hands on him and the way her fingertips caressed other parts of his arms while she admired his tattoos.
“These are all really good,” she commented. “Do you have a specific artist you typically go to?”
“Yeah,” Adrian gulped as Eva continued to lightly run her fingers over his arm while he spoke. “There’s this guy in Brooklyn who does all of my work.”
“Well, he is very talented.” When she let go of Adrian’s arm, it felt too soon for him and he grew increasingly aware of just how attracted he was to her.
“What about you, Eva? Do you have any tattoos?”
“I do,” she nodded. “I have a quote tattooed on my thigh.”
“And what does it say?”
Eva smirked at Adrian and had a glimmer in her eyes. For a split second, he interpreted the nature of her gaze as flirtation until she let out a small giggle and shook her head.
“I got it when I was like 16,” she started. “It says: ‘If you obey all the rules, you’ll miss all the fun.’”
“Why do you act like it’s something you’re embarrassed about?”
“I’m not embarrassed. I just think if I’d gotten it a few years later, maybe I would’ve made the words more complex or something. But, the sentiment is still there. It’s definitely my life motto.”
“So you’re a rule-breaker?” Adrian questioned with a raised brow.
“I can be,” Eva shrugged. “Many of life’s greatest pleasures are guarded by society’s most arbitrary rules. Shame is often associated with the things in life that we find most pleasurable. For example…” She touched Adrian’s arm very lightly and traced over another tattoo. “Your tattoos are something enjoy, right? But an arbitrary societal rule says they’re unprofessional and that they should be hidden.”
When she again pulled away, a sharp breath crossed Adrian’s nose before he pursed his lips and nodded. “You make excellent points…” He thought about his tattoos as well as other things he knew gave him pleasure and the shame with which they were often associated.
“I try,” she chimed with a wink. “Oh! Speaking of rules… Would you mind if I took my full lunch break today? Away from my desk?”
“Of course! I’m actually sorry that you’re stuck taking most of your lunches at your desk because we have you so busy. In fact, why don’t you take an hour for your lunch break today?”
“Thank you, Adrian.”
“So, does this mean you have special lunch plans today or something?”
“I have a date,” Eva responded casually.
Adrian’s first reaction was a tensed jaw before he eased up and reminded himself that Eva was an employee. She is your secretary, Adrian, he thought to himself. It doesn’t matter if you’re attracted to her — you shouldn’t feel anything about her going on a date.
“That sounds lovely,” he responded through a fake smile. “So, you’re meeting with your boyfriend for lunch?”
“Nah, I’m single. It’s just some guy I met at a bar.”
“Oh, I see…” Adrian held himself back from prying further. “I hope you enjoy it. Now, let’s have a look at my schedule for today.”
Eva was counting down the minutes until her lunch break. She had a decent enough conversation with Darius after he’d bought her, Greg, and Jade drinks at the bar and they agreed to make plans to meet up sometime.
While Eva wasn’t a fan of relationships and realized after she ended things with Eric that they weren’t for her, she still very much enjoyed dating. Eva liked reading people — it was something she was good at and it would often keep her entertained as she’d make her initial assumptions and assess which ones were correct upon getting to know the person.
Her eyes went up when she saw from her peripherals someone approaching her desk and Eva didn’t bother to smile at the the man who came up to her. It was Ben Davies, a mid-level associate at the company who she noticed spent more time kissing up to the big three rather than doing his job.
She read him as a social climber when they met her first week given that he was often short or impolite with assistants unless he was trying to set up a meeting with one the executives through them.
Ben’s obvious shallowness reminded Eva of Caleb, but his arrogance was still nowhere near the disdainful CEO she was working under. Also, as much as Eva disliked Caleb, she could admit that the quality of his work was immaculate, while what she’d seen of Ben’s was subpar and it was clear he’d gotten by in life with a mix of his privilege and superior schmoozing skills.
“Hi Eva,” he greeted when he reached her desk.
“Hello Benjamin,” she replied dryly. “Can I help you with something?”
“Yes, you can. Mr. Matsuda put out a request for anyone at mid-level who speaks Japanese to join him at his meeting with those executives from that Tokyo-based fashion line in a couple weeks?”
“Yes, he did send that email.”
“Right, well I’m the only one who happens to speak Japanese. I studied for my first two years of college and passed all my classes with flying colors.”
“Interesting…” Eva knew where the conversation was going, but had no intention of showing Ben any sense of urgency.
“Do I need to spell it out for you?” he said sharply with a change in his tone.
“Have you spoken to Mr. Matsuda about joining his meeting?” replied an unbothered Eva. “He’s keen on it going perfectly.”
“Yes, I am well-aware of Mr. Matsuda’s high standards and I am more than capable of meeting them. He and I have already chatted briefly about this and he’s invited me to the meetings.”
“Okay,” Eva sighed. “Let me just confirm with him…” She picked up her phone to dial Justin who quickly answered.
“What is it, Eva? I don’t see anything on my calendar until around 2:00PM. Did something come up?”
“No, I just need your confirmation on something, Mr. Matsuda. Ben Davies is in front of me and said that you’ll be allowing him into your meetings with the execs from Japan. Is that true? And if so, would you like me to schedule some time for the two of you to prepare together? I know you’ve expressed numerous times that you want this go perfectly and—“
“Ben is an excellent worker who is on the fast-track in this company,” Justin interrupted. “I trust his testament of his skills and I’m sure he’ll be well-prepared for the meeting without me needing to hand-hold him. Thank you, Eva.”
After Justin hung up, Eva had to catch herself before rolling her eyes and instead met Ben’s gaze. “Mr. Matsuda confirmed, so I’ll be sure to add you to the meeting. Please make sure that you are at least 15 minutes early.”
“Of course,” Ben huffed before turning and walking away.
Eva shook her head and added Ben to the meeting. While she waited for 12:45PM to come, Eva scrolled through Caleb, Justin, and Adrian’s meetings, taking note with whom they were speaking in search of any connections to the fashion lines her family owned. She knew that this undertaking wouldn’t be quick or easy, but she hoped to at least find some hints to start putting together some theories on what shady tactics PMC Group was using to acquire so many companies and if it was beginning to target Thompson Luxe.
“I thought you had a lunch date?” Adrian asked, coming out of his office and approaching Eva’s desk on his way to lunch.
“I do. It’s not until 1:00PM, so I won’t leave here until 12:45PM.”
“I see, so it’s not too far from here?”
“Nope, we’re meeting halfway at some ‘American fine dining’ spot just a few blocks over.”
“Oh! I knew exactly which spot you’re talking about. Smith’s Restaurant, right? I can recommend some—”
“Let’s go, Adrian. I’m fucking starving,” Caleb groaned as he exited his office. “This intermittent fasting gets me ravenous as soon as the hour hits when I can eat.”
Adrian cut his eyes at Caleb, annoyed that he interrupted him and didn’t bother acknowledging that Eva was sitting right there while that they were obviously having conversation.
“Did you really need to cut me off like mid-sentence?”
“What are you talking about? Oh…” Caleb turned and saw Eva sitting at her desk. “Can’t you just send whatever you need from her in an email?”
“It wasn’t about business. I was just about to give Eva some lunch recommendations.”
An amused smirk pulled at Caleb’s lips and he looked down at Eva. “I have a recommendation and it’s right downstairs. You can go to Saladworks and get the spring mix with a light vinaigrette.”
An unfazed Eva replied, “I much prefer topping my salad with avocado and a bit of lime juice.”
It was clear to her why Caleb was suggesting a salad, but she responded as if he was making a genuine recommendation to her, taking away the power he thought he’d have with the snide remark.
“Whatever,” Caleb mumbled before walking away, leaving Adrian behind.
“Enjoy your lunch, Adrian,” Eva said loud enough for Caleb to hear and he was immediately agitated at her use of Adrian’s first name and realizing how friendly they’d become. He thought that it was normal for Eva to treat all of three of the men like a chore as she did with Caleb, but it turned out that was not the case. In fact, Caleb was the one of the three who seemed to receive the least response from Eva and he wondered why the others warranted more attention from her than he did.
Caleb turned to Adrian as soon as the elevator doors closed. “So, you’re on a first name basis with the assistant?”
“Yes, she’s been working for us for over a month now and there’s not much need for all those formalities.”
“Don’t let her get too comfortable or she’ll take advantage of you and try to cut corners or get special treatment or some shit.”
“Humph,” Adrian huffed. “Funny coming from the guy who’s fucking half the assistants in the office.”
“Hey, they come to me,” Caleb shrugged. “I just accept what is offered.”
“Bullshit. Anyway, what’s your problem with Eva? She’s good at her job and very friendly.”
“Friendly?!” Caleb challenged with tense brows. “She seems unengaged more than half the time. Maybe she has a crush on you or some shit. I bet if you buy her a burger or a milkshake, she’ll suck your cock.”
“Or maybe she’s only unengaged when it comes to you. Eva is relatively social with many other people in the office. It could be that you just don’t pique her interest.”
“Oh, please… I’m a young and hot billionaire. I pique everyone’s interest.”
“Evidently not Eva’s,” Adrian taunted.
“We’ll see about that.”
A/N: Thank you for reading!
Question for those of you reading this book who follow me/have read my other books: Do you use Wattpad? I'm considering taking this story off of here and only having it there.