(1) How I Met Her
Christian trained his gaze on the women coming in the conference room and settling on their designated seats around the table. He was pledged a dozen flirty smiles and appreciative glances here and there. Up on his floor to his office, his team would’ve probably trade football tickets to be in his shoes right now – surrounded by women equipped for flirtatious deeds.
No surprise there. They run a magazine dedicated just about those deeds. Sassy, however, is not different to Bachelor. Except they approach the topics testosterone style. Plus, the presentation boards crowding the room plastered with perfume, lingerie and cosmetic ads is a far cry from what they operate up there. He doesn’t mind it though.
Oh, and the women too.
A clearing of throat snaps him out of his train of thought. He spun his chair in the direction of Sassy’s stoic boss. Audrey Danler has been the editor in chief of Sassy – sometimes partner and rival to Bachelor – longer than he acquired the position to his magazine. They have known each other and never once had he seen her less collected. There were rumors going around that she was dating his older brother Vren Parkinson.
“So, I heard you and my brother are dating. That true?” He leans to her ear.
Audrey cuts him a vacant look. He was used to her stiff poker face. It would’ve ward off some of the interns, but no, not Christian Parkinson. Her blonde hair is always a neat bun on her head, her eyes reserved and her entire demeanor screamed “reticent.” It is a wonder how his brother made her bat an eye at him.
He chuckled. “I take that as a yes.”
Christian is third of six siblings. Their happily married oldest brother, Cade is a renowned entrepreneur in Finance. A recluse, yes, but Christian blames it on his IQ. Vren runs top-notch hotels that eventually branched out into growing chains of luxurious hotels and resorts as quickly as his flings. And there was Christian, former soccer player who ended up behind a desk at a high-rise building. He used to play the field – he still does. Well, in an informal sense of the words now. He’s been told he’s a player – off field. And he doesn’t bother to deny that. Not to gloat over his long lists of exploits though.
Then came his charitable younger brother, Matthew. He had charities as Christian had strings of flings. Matthew finished a degree in the medical field, even graduated with flying colors. Medical conferences keep him away from home. Which is good because he tends to make Christian look worse than his reputation. There wasn’t any rivalry. There was just his heart as golden as their mother’s.
But on the bright side, Christian made his brothers look better next to him. He’s worse than his brother Vren, therefore a little less labeled the heartbreaker. He’s worse than Matthew, therefore he was the one brother with the shimmering halo.
Then there was Andrei. He never preferred a woman company, so he was never tortured in bringing a decent girl home. He owns a restaurant with a friend. He’s been showing off his culinary skills at him since then. Their youngest sibling, Ichinandra is following Matthew’s footsteps. She hated having five brothers around, but she’s gonna have to shove them back to their mother’s womb to rid of them.
Audrey stood, jerking him from his thoughts. The conversations trickled off. “Good morning, everybody.”
He straightened in his seat.
“Obviously, we have testosterone in the room today,” she speaks eyeing everyone on the table who’s been staring at him way before the introductions. “We all know that Christian Parkinson is the editor in chief of Bachelor which rivaled and partnered with Sassy in more ways than one.”
Christian rewarded her staff with a slow grin.
“We’re all here, including Mr. Christian Parkinson, because I have an announcement to make.” Her voice grew more authoritative. Their eyes shifted to her, sensing the importance of said announcement. “I’m taking a time off. Mr. Parkinson will be overseeing Sassy while I’m gone.” She gestured to his direction.
There were gasps around the table. The shock began to ebb. Meaningful and playful looks flung his way. They were coming to terms with the news more ideally than he thought.
“Wait, what? But he’s just a boy.” A voice echoed in the room. Heads snapped to the source. Christian followed the direction of their curious gazes. And there she was, standing by the door, a scandalized look on her face. She had on a body-fitting dress in a soft shade of pink underneath a denim jacket, some flowers sewn on the fabric.
Her dark hair was held by a scrunchie that matches the flowers of her jacket. Her face appears so soft and smooth – he wondered if it feels like it too. The rest of her face are tiny except for the dark brown eyes that were innocently round and utterly arresting. She was a different kind of pretty. She was... cute. And small despite the heels. It’s hard to believe the burst of outrage came from a tiny frame.
He had to admit, it was an adorable source. He was called a bastard and many other names before. Mostly by women who thought he could change, but he was never called a “boy” ... ever. It was supposed to be an insult, maybe a tiny pinch on his ego. However, he was just amused.
His lips curved into a boyish grin. “I can assure you I wouldn’t be just a boy.”
She stood tall, unmoved. She stared him in the eye. “I don’t mean to be disrespectful, sir. But wouldn’t it be uncomfortable knowing you’ll be our leader for a few months? Sassy is not Bachelor. What about the story assignments that honestly kind of opposite to your field?”
“I’ve been an editor in chief for a long time. I’m confident I can do the job.” Christian leaned back on his chair. Now he was a ′sir.′ She was entertaining.
“Yes. But have you assigned a story to your writer about Botox? Not that they would need that much push. They’re a group of competent and insightful women. Have you discussed topics in a room, each one being types of yogurt, which shade of eye shadow suits better, do’s and don’ts on first dates, types of lingerie, something like that? Or how about a how-to on hot-tub sex?”
The room went dead silent. People around the table had their mouths hanging open. She looks younger than the rest of the group. Yet she holds her ground with her smart mouth.
Okay, she’s really amusing.
“I know I can trust your judgments. Regarding the how-to on hot-tub sex though, I’m pretty sure I can you show better.”
Giggles went around the table in hushed noises. Her brows lifted an inch, unfazed. He still had something up his sleeve, but Audrey raised her hand to interrupt.
“Leave her alone,” she whispers and gives him a look as stern as her warning. She clarified a few things, answered questions that were raised regarding her upcoming sabbatical leave.
He had his eyes on the girl who had flowers for a ponytail. He was staring blatantly at her. But she’s hardly acknowledged the attention he was giving her.
Like he didn’t matter.
The meeting was adjourned. He didn’t even realize it until everybody on the table were exiting the conference room, the girl holding the door. She smiles, her face melting to the sweetest thing he’s laid his eyes on. It would have been better if that smile was directed to him. No, he was invisible, apparently. She told Audrey about his brother Vren waiting in the lobby for her.
“Do you need me to grab you some coffee?” She offered.
“Okay, great.” She left. No backward glance.
He stood there, clueless of what to make of her.