“Hello Samantha, right on time.” Sara greeted Samantha with a cheerful smile when she parked in their driveway the next morning.
“Good morning, Sara,” Samantha chirped with a huge smile on her face.
“A fantastic morning to you, dear. Come on in. Axel just hopped into the shower.”
“Come here, have breakfast. I made berry pancakes, bacon, and scrambled eggs, Axel’s favorites.”
“Oh, no thank you. I had cereals on my way here.”
“Come on, that is no proper diet. You need to eat real food. One pancake won’t hurt your stomach, Sam.”
Samantha laughed as the bubbly woman in front of her, dragged her to the dining table, placing a plate loaded with pancakes, bacon, and eggs.
“Oh my God, I cannot eat all this.”
“Sure, you can.” Sara’s shoulder long golden brown hair bobbed with her movement as her blue eyes twinkled with joy.
Samantha could see where Axel got his eyes from and she liked the elder woman who reminded her so much of her mother.
“Where is Henry?”
“Henry went for his morning walk. He’ll be back in half an hour.”
“The food smells divine, mom.” Axel strutted inside with only a pair of sweatpants and Samantha choked on her pancakes. His blue eyes met her wide honey colored ones and held as she looked away with a deep blush.
“Huh... Ah... Good morning, s-sir.” Samantha bit tongue and felt embarrassed at her stutter. Well, how do you expect someone to behave when a hot guy walks in flashing his sexy torso? His hair was dripping wet with a few droplets of water falling on his shoulders that trickled down his chiseled muscles.
So much for the self-control Samantha, he’s your boss for God’s sake.
“What are my appointments this morning?” Axel asked, amused by her unease.
“Ah... about that... I–um...”
“No talking business at the dining table, Axel. I taught you better than that,” Sara scolded saving Samantha from further embarrassment as she winked at Axel who smirked but said nothing.
Axel wasn’t expecting to see Samantha at his table and by the time he saw her, it was too late to back out and her expression gave him enough confidence to stay put. Her reaction seemed to amuse him and he played along. They finished their food in silence. Samantha never took her eyes off her plate the entire time. She breathed in relief when he left the table to get dressed.
“So, what do your parents do for a living?” Sara asked when they waited for Axel show up.
“My dad and brother run the family business. Mom prefers to stay at home, she loves to read and bake. I have a younger brother and a sister.”
“That sounds wonderful,” Sara chimed. “I have two sisters and always wanted a big family for myself. A complication of my pregnancy almost cost my life and after that Henry was adamant he wanted no more kids.”
There was a pinch of sadness in the older woman’s voice and she also couldn’t help but notice the way her eyes twinkled when she spoke warmly about her husband.
“Sounds just like my father,” Samantha added.
“I’m ready,” Axel announced breaking their conversation, and they left his home, waving at Henry who was just returning home.
“Samantha, I want you to call Jenson and schedule a meeting sometime today.”
The day was busy as usual. Axel tried to finish the tasks which required his attention before his travel. It was around one in the afternoon and they scheduled to meet Jenson at two-thirty.
Closing the file he was going through, Axel sifted through his email and responded to the important ones. The work seemed to drain him of energy and he longed to have a heavy meal instead of the sandwiches he relied on.
Axel exited his office and smiled when he noticed her cute frown. She was busy typing something away and hadn’t noticed him yet.
“Huh!” Samantha almost jumped out of her skin at his sudden appearance next to her desk.
Axel’s chest rumbled with laughter. Her reaction was priceless, and he wondered if her eyes could go any wider than it already was.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you,” he commented in between the laugh that has now slowed down to soft chuckles.
Samantha continued to look at him with wide eyes. She couldn’t believe her boss was laughing out loud, he never laughed. She couldn’t take her eyes off his handsome features, his smile had lit up his face and for once he didn’t look grumpy.
“Um... C-can I help you with something?”
“Yes, we are going out for lunch. Before you ask we are going to a different restaurant this time and no fights.”
“I-I can order if you want,” she offered half-heartedly, her conscious pushing her to go out with him. She also had so much work to finish before the end of the day.
“No, I wanted to make it up to you for yesterday. Also, all this work is suffocating. Come on, let’s go.”
“You don’t have to do that,” she whispered, her eyes frozen on his face. His smile is so attractive. Why doesn’t he smile often?
“I want to,” he stressed once again meeting her eyes.
Hearing her name coming from his mouth felt so good and her heart skipped a beat under his gaze as a soft blush crept into her cheeks. He called her Sam and continued to call her like he has known her for ages.
“Okay, I will just save the files and log out.”
“Sure, I’ll wait.”
Samantha saved and closed the files, shutting down her system. Axel watched intently as she picked up the folders she was working on, placing it inside the cabinets before locking it and taking the keys with her.
Once again Samantha drove. “Where do you want to go for lunch?”
“There is a nice restaurant near Jenson’s office. We could eat there before the meeting,” Axel replied as he made himself comfortable in the seat.
“Okay. How is your hand?”
“Fine, there is no pain.”
“I have rescheduled the other meetings. You have to sign a few papers and check the -”
“Let’s not talk business, shall we?” He interrupted with a smile and Samantha cast a surprised glance at him. What was going on with him?
Axel felt happy just thinking about his travel. It has been two years since he met his favorite grandpa and he couldn’t wait. He felt like an overexcited kid. He was counting days and couldn’t wait for the next week to get over.
“Very much excited, I see,” Samantha commented and bit her tongue for speaking out of turn. She remembered once a female staff, from the marketing department asked him a question out of work and Axel not only replied rudely, but also warned her not to speak to him out of turn.
“Yes. It’s been two years since I met my great-grandfather and I can’t wait to see him.”
His reply surprised her. However, she stayed quiet for the rest of the drive. Just because he replied need not mean he was being nice to her, his mood could change anytime.
Her boss had always been an arrogant man. He had constant mood swings which were worse than that of a pregnant woman. No offense, but he surpassed them in that department.
She still remembered the day of her interview with him.
“Mr. Finlayson will see you now.”
A girl in her early twenties announced. Samantha nodded as she got up and smoothed the non-existent crease in her formal shirt. She was nervous, not only because this was the last chance she had for a job, but also she had heard a lot about the CEO of Finlayson Group of companies.
Her roommate extended her condolences the moment she discovered her scheduled interview for the post as his secretary. None of the women before her seemed to last long in the company, mostly because of his arrogant nature.
However, she had no option but to go. It was this or her going back to work with her father and brother. She knocked the door to his office and her knees shook when she heard his stern voice calling her in.
The man who sat behind the desk wore a tailored suit with a steely expression. Axel Joaquin Finlayson was an attractive man, an epitome of masculinity. If she thought he was cold-hearted upon seeing his photograph in the business magazine, he was more intimidating in person.
Samantha scooted to the nearest chair as she ticked against ‘Arrogant’ in her mental checkbox.
“What’s your name?”
Samantha added another tick against ‘Impatient’.
“It’s Samantha D-”
“Do you have any experience?” He asked as his boring eyes sized her up.
“No Sir. I’m a-”
“I don’t like to beat around the bushes, Samantha. I want you here at eight-thirty every morning, you can leave at five p.m. You might be asked to stay late if needed. I do not tolerate flirting or gossiping in my organization. You can join tomorrow and I will send the remaining details to your email. You may leave now,” he said, dismissing her.
Samantha ticked another box ‘Rude’.
“Close the door behind you, Samantha,” he ordered going back to the file he was working on.
She got up and left his office without a second look as she ticked another box ‘Jerk’.
Axel didn’t ask her last name, until now. It worked to her advantage. No one wanted to hire her for the job when they learned who she was. Her father was a force to reckon with.
There were several times she wanted to quit because of his rudeness, but she held back as she didn’t want to go back to her father as a failure. Every time Axel spat a crude remark, she let it slide and continued to work harder.
The man carried a scorpion on his tongue. Though his venomous words stung, she didn’t let them bother her as he never made his comments personal or never once disrespected her.
After the first few months, which were so hard, he had mellowed down his rude retorts. He stopped being rude and gave her clipped answers. After eight months their conversation came to a point where she was not afraid of asking him if he liked his coffee black or with cream.
Now, after a year and two months, he had stopped being an ass. He smiled at her every morning and now he was taking her for lunch. She couldn’t even believe she would have lunch with him.
Although it was strictly professional, they never had lunch together. They had gone to several meetings before and he’d never even offered a cup of water. There were times she felt she would faint with the lack of food, but he never asked if she had eaten.
But then, she also remembered that every time there would be a takeaway paper bag with food waiting for her at her desk when she returned. She didn’t know it was him until last month. Axel seemed to care for her in his own way and it warmed her heart. Instead of asking her had she eaten, he had it delivered to her desk without her knowledge.
Axel always worked like a robot once he stepped inside the building, and it was only last month she brought him lunch. Though reluctant at first, he ate. She mostly fixed the sandwiches for him in their office cafeteria.
It took two days to know he didn’t like tomatoes on his sandwich. Axel never once told her he did not like them. He removed the tomatoes from his sandwich and ate the rest. She was just glad he didn’t yell at her for putting tomatoes in his sandwich.
Samantha parked the car in front of a restaurant near Jenson’s office and shook her head to clear her thoughts about her boss. Axel was already out of the car when she locked it and she walked behind him.
A good-looking waitress greeted them with a professional smile and handed them the menu cards.
“What do you want to order?” Axel asked Samantha, without taking his eyes off the lunch menu.
“I think I will stick to the fried chicken sandwich.”
“Okay, get me the same,” Axel ordered.
“What can I get you both to drink?” The waitress asked and Samantha appreciated her professional attire.
“I will have orange juice without sugar,” Axel responded.
“Same,” Samantha said with a smile.
Soon, the waitress brought their sandwiches with salads and fries with orange juice.
Samantha dug in right away appreciating how it tasted against her tongue. She should come here often.
During lunch, Axel spoke about anything and everything except work to her surprise. It was easy to converse with him when he was not biting her ass.
On the other side of the restaurant, a pair of curious brown eyes observed the most arrogant CEO having lunch with a woman and conversing casually. To be honest, he was surprised. Taking his camera, he clicked several photos of the pair, so happy that he got the news.
He was hunting for news, stalking the celebrities, well-known businessmen for the past couple of weeks to get the sensational news with no luck.
Today was his lucky day. He could sell the photos for thousands and use it to pay bills with that money, he smiled at the thought.
Axel Joaquin Finlayson has never dated or never been seen with a woman in public. Even his ex-employees had depicted him as a rude and an arrogant male.
Yet, the man before him was not the Axel he had seen before. For the one who never smiles, this man smiled a lot and their mixed giggles attracted the attention of the other customers too. Who was that woman with Axel? She didn’t look familiar.
The media would do anything to know this new development. He clicked a few more photos before taking his shoulder bag and left the restaurant to make quick money. There was a reason they called the paparazzi, they were everywhere, observing, and waiting for the one news that will grace the headlines.