Chapter 2: Coffee, Models and Heels
Tuesday arrives far too quickly, I nervously pull my hair up into a high ponytail and slip into some pumps. I head out of my room and bump into Marisa who is also rushing to get dressed. Robin leisurely lounges at the bar in a large baggy shirt, I glare at her and she smirks in response. Lucky girl had the day off and instead of catching up on the manuscripts, she feels her time is best spent shovelling pancakes into her mouth.
“You ready, Mar?” I shout out.
Marisa pops her head around the hallway and holds up two fingers, “give me a couple.”
“Hurry up!” I sigh and grab two pancakes off Robin's plate. She follows my hand with a furious gaze, and I roll my eyes at her, “you can make more.”
Robin looks at me shocked, “you guys really don’t care if I starve!”
“You’re not going to starve.” I look down pointedly at her remaining four pancakes. Looking up at the clock, I groan. Marisa has agreed to take my car to and from work, primarily due to always being late, but now I wonder if her tardy traits will rub off on to me. I grab my blazer and purse along with my phone, “Marisa!” I shout out.
“Coming.” She calls back.
I move to the door and wait for her; she hops her way to me while tugging on her heels. Shaking my head, I allow her out first and then pull the door closed. We head to the elevator and then down to the underground parking space. I slip inside my vehicle and Marisa takes the passenger seat, instantly pulling down the mirror to fix her makeup. I begin driving and smirk while trying to ensure I turn corners sharply or hit one too many bumps, “once more and I’ll burn your underwear.” Marisa voice is calm yet strained.
“Fine. Calm down.” I laugh and park in the employee section of the parking lot in front of Alfonsi International. “I’ll meet you in the lobby for lunch.” I lock up my car as Marisa exits it and then leave her as she adjusts her clothing.
Walking inside I find myself once again gobsmacked at how enormous and mesmerising the building is. Amelia notices me and stands, she waves and beckons me over. “So you got it?”
“Sure did.” I grin.
Amelia leans forward, “I heard the Vice President’s decision was overruled by Mr. Alfonsi himself.” She speaks as if she’s telling me a secret, which I guess it is by her closed in posture. “You’d better head up now... he hates his staff coming in late.”
“Sure. And, thank you. Come grab lunch with Marisa and I later on?” I offer with a grateful smile. I can already tell I’m going to get along well with Amelia.
“I’d love that.” She grins and then nods towards the elevators.
I wave a little before heading in the direction she’d nodded towards. Pressing the arrow pointing up I wait patiently, two men come to a stop next to me. They discuss some project and huddle over a folder. I curiously watch the interaction, they seem stressed and a bit worried. The metal doors open and I enter with the men after a woman walks out. Pressing the twenty-ninth floor I lean against the mirror and find myself hoping mystery man shows up.
The two men exit on the eighth level and I’m left in the large rectangle alone. My phone buzzes and I look down to find Robins nickname flashing across the screen, I leave the message unread as the doors open. I greet the receptionist and she leads me towards the large glass doors. Together we walk inside and I find a large opening with a frosted glass desk in the middle of the room, there is a small sofa area and against the back wall is a beverage station. The last wall is a full length window. Then I notice a second oversized misted glass door, the receptionist smiles encouragingly.
With shakily legs I make my way to it and knock three times, when no one answers I turn back to look at my escort, she makes a motion with her hands that tells me to walk in. Swallowing I grab the large door handle and push it back, the glass door swings back with resistance. I step inside and it closes with a soft thump behind me, looking up from my feet I notice a large profile gazing out the wall size window, he seems to be muttering curses through his phone.
I realise one side of the whole building is made up of windows looking down at the city. The office is simple and elegant. A large black frosted table takes place opposite the window, there is a lounge space and a closed off conference room, caged by clear glass. I lean against the big door and nervously wait for the man to acknowledge me.
Two minutes later Mr. Alfonsi ends his call, he spins fast and finally notices me. My eyes enlarge and I release a curt breath. “Miss. Williams.” There is no way mystery man is the boss. He walks towards me and holds his hand out, “it’s good to see you here early. We never got the chance to exchange names last night. I am Red Alfonsi.” His voice is a husky purr, tinged with a sensual accent.
I snap out of my daze and stand up straight, even then I barely meet his chest. Clasping my hand within his outstretched one, I clear my throat out and smile softly, “great to meet you, Mr Alfonsi.”
His domineering gaze scrutinises my profile and I lick my lips absently. “Take today to familiarise yourself with the workload, your trial begins now... do not disappoint me, Julia.” He releases his merciless grip on my hand and I feel a current of desire course through my fingertips right down to my toes. He makes his way towards his desk and takes a seat on the plush office chair, he reaches for me with an indicating finger. I quickly move forward and accept the folder he is holding out to me. “Mrs. Jenkins will assist you.” He dismisses me casually.
I turn and head out of the room, once I’m out I brace the frosted desk and calm the emotions wracking through my body. What kind of name is Red, even...? It’s enticing. Don’t you dare start! I straighten up just as the glass doors open and my interviewer walks in. I try to act neutral but I remember what Amelia had told me; this lady wasn’t going to hire me.
“Miss. Williams, I see you’ve met the boss.” She steps further into the room.
I nod politely and place the folder in my hand on the glass desk next to me, “I have.”
“Come, I’ll show you the departments.” I nod and trail to her, she leads me out of the room and begins to point out what each of the offices up here are for. I keenly try to memorise everything she explains.
An hour later, I’m walking back through the large glass doors into my office. Mrs. Jenkins had informed me this is where I’ll be working. My job is simple; take calls, make coffee and assist Mr. Alfonsi. Seems easy enough. The mid-aged woman shows me how Red likes his beverages and shows me how the calls and take messages.
By mid-day I’m completely famished and thoroughly educated on Alfonsi International Architecture & Design Group. Stretching in my seat, I lean forward and continue to type a letter to one of Red’s clients and schedule a meeting with another. As the minute’s pass I become more and more comfortable with the job and find myself easing into familiarising myself with the company. At twelve-thirty I stand up and head to Red’s office, knocking twice I step inside after waiting a moment. He looks up from a folder and raises an eyebrow in question, “is there anything you’d like me to grab you for lunch?” I question twisting my hands behind my back.
He seems surprised, “anything is fine, Miss. Williams.” Don’t secretaries grab lunch for their bosses? I nod and leave him, heading out of my office I smile at the receptionist and enter the elevator.
I step out of the lift and find Amelia and Marisa waiting by the reception desk, they see me and wave. I head to them and Amelia leads us to a café about two minutes from the company headquarters. We order and for the next twenty minutes Marisa and I form a close friendship with Amelia over salads and wraps. I stand up after I’ve finished my lunch and head to the counter, I order a steak wrap along with fresh tropical juice.
After paying for the items I head back to the table and grab my bag, “who’s that for?” Marisa teases.
“Shut up, idiot. You have ten minutes.” I remind them before heading to the counter and thanking the waitress for the takeaway bag and food. I cross the street and walk back to the building. Three minutes later I’m in front of Reds office. I hear something smash and forget knocking, instead I practically barge in. “What happened!?” My question is laced with panic. “Oh my god, I’m sorry.” I mumble, once my brain actually processes what’s happening.
I turn and quickly flee the space. A woman who I recognised to be a famous lingerie model was situated on Reds desk, with him leaning back and her hand trailing down his chest. The smashing was caused by a fallen cup probably knocked over by one of them in their clearly intimate interaction. A couple of minutes later the woman exits the room, she stops in front of my desk and straightens her skirt, “sorry about that.” She doesn’t seem sorry.
“It’s not my business, ma’am.” I smile politely and help her to the door. Something in me however wants to let the door slam against her, tightening my grip on the cold handle I wait for her to disappear. I take in a couple of breaths before walking to the second door in my office. This time I knock and wait a few extra seconds, then I step inside. Red is standing and re-tying his tie. I am unable to make eye contact so instead I walk forward and place the lunch on his desk, I then bend down and begin to pick up the broken glass.
“What are you doing?” Reds voice is close; I notice his designer shoes stop next to me as his large frame shadows over me. “Get up.” He orders.
I nod, “just a sec.” I mutter.
“Get up now, Miss. Williams.” This time the order is more forceful. As I go to pick up another piece, a strong hand grabs onto my arm and pulls me up, my finger slides across the glass and I yelp out as it breaks the skin. “Fuck!” Red tugs me into his arms.
“I’m fine.” I try to pull away from him.
He bands an arm around my waist and uses his free hand to hold my injured one captive, he analyses it. Red pulls me towards the glass door that leads to my office, once we enter the substantially lighter room, he pulls me towards the beverage corner and places my hand under the tap. His large muscular frame presses against my back as he stands behind me holding my cut finger under the stream of cold water. “If I tell you to do something, you do it. Understand?” His chest vibrates against my back and something about it causes my stomach to clench.
I nod, “Okay.”
I bite the inside of my cheek, “I understand, Mr. Alfonsi.”
“Good.” He keeps hold of me and I feel my legs turn to jelly. Thankfully a moment passes and he moves away, I turn slowly to face him. He doesn’t seem too pleased with me, “there’s bandages in the cupboard.” He steps forward but then something flashes in his eyes and a cold expression morphs the angered one, he turns away from me and retreats back inside his office.
I find the first aid kit in one of the cupboards under the sink and bandage up my finger after disinfecting it. I then settle back in my seat and continue working. At two I stand up and greet Mr. Ashford, an old friend and client of Reds. “He’ll see you in a couple of minutes, if you’d like you can take a seat.” I direct him to the sofa.
“You’re not a familiar face.” Mr. Ashford doesn’t take a seat, instead, he follows me as I move around my desk. “Are you new?”
“Today’s my first day.” I smile. “Would you like coffee or tea?” I question.
He shakes his head, “no, thank you, beautiful.” I flush at his compliment; this doesn’t go unnoticed by him. “What’s your name, sweetheart?” He leans against my desk while I lean against the beverage bar.
“Julia Williams.” I reply. Just then the glass door to Reds office opens, “sir.” I straighten up from my relaxed position and turn to face him. Red seems annoyed, he glares at me before greeting Mr. Ashford. “Would you like anything to drink?” I question.
Red leads Mr. Ashford into his office, “no. He won’t be here long.” His voice is tense.
“Okay,” I sit down at my desk and continue with the summary I was creating before Mr. Ashford had disturbed me.
Red wasn’t kidding, several minutes later Mr. Ashford exits the room with Red on his heels. I stand up. Mr. Ashford holds his hand out to me, I place mine in his and he shakes it, “it’s been a pleasure meeting you, beautiful.”
“The pleasure’s all mine.” I smile up at him and then lead the good looking man to the door due to Red clearing his throat out.
Before Mr. Ashford leaves he bends down and places his lips against my ear, “I’ve known Red for quite some time, don’t let his cold exterior get to you.” The man then grins wolfishly before turning and heading down the large open hallway.
“I pay you to work not fraternise with clients, Miss. Williams.” Reds deep voice has me turning around real damn fast, his hands are clenched by his side and an arrogant glint shines through his eyes.
I step back a little intimidated, “my apologies, sir. I hadn’t realised that was what I was doing.” I state and then instantly bite my tongue. Way to go, already snapping at the boss!
Red doesn’t reply for a moment. “Bring me a coffee.” He grunts out before turning and walking back into his office. I release a thankful sigh and then head to the coffee machine, I prepare him a simple concoction and then create a design with the milk and powdered chocolate. I’d learnt how to create a range of designs while working for Marco, Lee had taught me.
I move from the bar after placing the cup on a tray with some biscuits. Holding the tray carefully I make my way to his office. He doesn’t look up when I enter and I make my way to his desk, just before I reach him my heels buckle and the tray slips from my hand. I catch Red jumping to action from the corner of my eye and brace for an impact... that doesn’t arrive.
Red’s arms wrap around me and I feel the hot coffee burn through my shirt and probably his too. I cling onto him for a moment, before I can do anything he’s already tugging at my shirt and trying to pull it off. “Merda! Take this off!” He curses in his mother tongue and commands me to remove the blistering blouse.