Settling into the new apartment was easy. The apartment manager had given me a lease contract to fill in then had taken me up to my apartment. It was beautiful, spacious and welcoming. The afternoon light bathed the living room as I walked around with my arms open. “This is beautiful.”
“We pride ourselves on providing top quality living. Only the best views for our residents.”
“No kidding.” I smiled.
“Well, I’ll leave you to it. Mr Clarke advised that he has left some paperwork of his own in the study for you to peruse.”
I nodded and walked over to the woman who smiled at me.
“Uh, one more thing. How do I pay the rent?” I added. She hadn’t explained the financial side of things to me yet, I still had no idea how much the monthly damage was on a place like this. If it was out of my budget, then my savings could catch it for a month or two, but I’d have to find somewhere else pretty quick smart.
“Uh, Ms Moritz, Mr Clarke has advised that this is part of your contract at work. He’s requested you pay no rent.”
I frowned and tried not to feel annoyed, but I did. “Has Mr Clarke paid in advance for me or something?” Maybe I could get her to give it back to him. I wanted to be self sufficient, I didn’t want to rely on anyone, least of all my boss.
“Ms Moritz, Mr Clarke owns this complex. What he says goes. Is there anything else you need?”
I shook my head and stood confounded on the spot as she left the room. He owned the apartment complex?
Still dazed, I walked through the illuminated apartment in awe. I’d never been in something this extravagant. I came from humble beginnings, I wasn’t used to expensive furniture and underfloor heating. I made my way into the study, opening the doors as I walked down the hallway.
The bathroom was larger than my bedroom had been in the old apartment. There was a spa bath in the corner and a shower in the other. The room was like the rest of the apartment, bright white walls with a minimalistic feel. It was obvious now the ice king had something to do with this place. His crisp clean touch was all over the place.
I opened another door, expecting the same punch of minimalism, only to be confronted by a warm room, it was bathed in light, and the walls were a soft shade of purple. The four poster bed had a floral bedspread, with a mosquito net that draped down around the dark wooden posts. I detoured, the study and the paperwork could wait. I walked into the bedroom and let out a soft gasp. It was like the room had been designed, specifically for me. Like someone had stepped inside my mind and taken a picture of the room I’d always hoped to have.
“Asshole… my ass.” I muttered under my breath.
I left the room and walked down to the study. There was a brown envelope sitting on the desk. I sat down and opened the envelope. It was a copy of my contract, and highlighted under expenses it said “All business related expenses to be covered by the business.”
I frowned. Maybe he was an asshole after all.
I climbed into my nice new bed a few hours later and despite the very real frustration I still felt in regards to the apartment and Tobias’ I was grateful for the extra hours sleep the next morning. Waking up in a comfortable, warm, bed with nice sheets and the sun streaming in, was by all accounts amazing as well. Still I planned to walk into work and demand to pay rent, despite what my contract stated. I didn’t need favors. I wasn’t a charity case.
I showered and dressed, leaving the apartment with twenty minutes to spare. I arrived at work a short time later, walking into the building with at least five of the girls from the second floor.
“Oh… Uh, Rubina isn’t it?” One of them said, placing her hand on my shoulder as we approached the elevator.
“Ruby.” I corrected her.
She nodded and flipped her perfect blond tresses back. “You’re still here then. Our beloved boss hasn’t tossed you out on your rear yet?”
The way she said ‘beloved’ dripped with sarcasm, and I stood there wondering if she had ever even spoken to him in the flesh. If all I had ever known of the guy was what I had been told, then I’d still think he was a mean man with no softness at all. I closed myself and saw our kiss, the moment we had shared in his office. The one I had avoided thinking about since it had happened.
“I’m here.” I replied.
The other girls whispered between themselves, before the blond bombshell smiled and let out a chuckle. “But for how long is the question.”
I wanted to call her out, but the doors of the elevator pinged open on level two. I smiled and stood back as they walked out. I wasn’t going to stoop to their level and make claims about them that couldn’t be backed up. The doors closed and the elevator continued up. Before the elevator made it to the top floor it stopped on floor 8, the stationary and mail department. Jimmy stood there when the doors opened, pushing a large trolley stacked with parcels out into the elevator.
“Going up?” I questioned. Jimmy nodded and walked inside.
“Is that all for Mr Clarke?” I asked pointing to the parcels.
“Yep, there is actually another trolley in the mail room, but I only have two arms.” He chuckled.
“Well, how about when you bring the other trolley up we have a coffee?” I suggested. I needed to extend who I knew in the office, beyond just Tobias anyway.
Jimmy nodded and leaned on the trolley. “There’s a coffee machine up there?”
I nodded, I had only used it myself once or twice, but there was one in a small smoko room behind my office. It wasn’t a percolator like the machine down on floor two either. It brewed real coffee.
“Well sounds like a plan to me. Don’t tell the other mail room guys, but at 25 I swear I’m about 40 years younger than most of em.” Jimmy laughed. “They’ve all been here since the start of the late Mr Clarke, I’m the new kid. Speaking to someone close to my age would be kind of nice”
“How long have you been here?”
“Since I dropped out of college. Five years ago.” He murmured. “I don’t want to be here for the rest of my life, but the pay is alright.”
“What had you been studying.” I asked as the door finally opened. Jimmy and I walked down the corridor and into my office.
“I was meant to go into medicine eventually. But I never really felt it ya know?” He stopped and looked down at the mail. “Granted I don’t feel this either… but it’s more me. I’m a hands on… without the blood kind of guy.”
“You’ll figure it out.” I smiled. “And at least you’re doing something while you work it out.”
“I wish my parents saw it that way too.” he mused.
Before either one of us could say anything Tobias’ office door opened. He looked at me and then Jimmy and then back at me. His eyebrows curved and his mouth fell into a frown, he looked at the parcels on the trolley.
“Am I paying you two to chat or work?” he asked.
I walked around to my chair and sat down while Jimmy pushed the trolley over to the world’s suddenly grumpiest boss. The man I had seen over the weekend seemed to have gone, but I didn’t know why. Once Jimmy had finished unloading the trolley he pushed it passed my desk and waved.
“Coffee, yeah?” He said with a grin.
“Yeah.” I replied as I watched him leave.
Tobias cleared his throat, giving me a fright. I jumped and looked up to my left. “I didn’t realise you were still there.” I choked out.
“Obviously.” He gave me a short reply and walked over to his office door.
“Sir, could we talk?
“If it’s about what happened on Saturday call it a lapse in judgement.” He replied darkly “I hope your new accommodation is suitable. Amanda told me you asked about paying rent. Your company expenses are covered, as set out in your contract. That’s final.”
I closed my open mouth, aware I was unable to say anything in response. Not only had he lambasted me about wanting to pay my own way, he had erased our kiss. The kiss I couldn’t stop thinking about. He stood there for a minute regarding me with his critical eyes before walking into his ice box and closing the door. I slouched in my chair, I had to admit that he still had the ability to be incredibly disarming, even if I knew the truth about his not so icy personality.
I stood up and walked into the break room and made two mochachinos. Jimmy would be back soon, and while he wasn’t paying us to chat, our contracts stated we were entitled to two 15 minute breaks at a time of our choosing. Jimmy returned about 5 minutes later with another trolley. “Gees, did the guy buy a whole shop or something?” I mumbled standing up.
“Looks like it.” He laughed.
I knocked on Tobias’ office door. I heard his chair move, and then footsteps across the floor. The doors opened. Tobias gazed over the boxes before picking up two and pointing to the rest. “The rest are yours.”
“Huh?” I replied, sounding completely unprofessional, but in the moment I didn’t care. Why was I getting deliveries.
“The rest are yours.” He repeated, only this time he spoke slower.
He closed the doors and left me standing there dumbfounded next to an equally shocked Jimmy. I sighed and walked over to my desk. “Pull over a seat. You can help me find out what is inside the boxes.”
“He’s kind of odd isn’t he.” Jimmy whispered as he wheeled the trolley behind my desk. I nodded, although odd was an understatement. The guy was a walking conundrum.
Jimmy grabbed one of the spare black leather chairs on the other side of my desk and placed it by the trolley. I held out a coffee for him and he took it.
“Mmm, You make a good coffee.” Jimmy murmured after taking a sip. “And I’m a bit of a coffee snob.”
“Well thank you, although the machine did most of the work. I think it might be the brand Tobias uses. I’ve never seen it before, Has a really exotic name.”
“Yeah that’s the one.”
“No wonder.” He said taking another sip. “You have to get the stuff imported and it costs almost four times as much as most coffee you can buy on the market. He’s got good taste.”
I took a sip and nodded. Jimmy was right, it was amazing coffee.
“Should we get on with it?” I pointed to the boxes, there were seven of them in total. I looked around the office, trying to figure out what I was missing, but the place had everything.
I picked up the smallest, I opened it slowly being careful not to rip the box. There was another box inside the plain brown packaging, only I recognised the logo on the second box. It was a phone, a state of the art, extremely expensive top of the line phone. I frowned, I had a cellphone, sure it wasn’t spectacular, but it worked well enough and Tobias knew he could reach me on it. I placed the branded box down without opening the box and opened the next.
“Looks like it pays to be the bosses PA.” Jimmy said in shock as I pulled out a new apple laptop.
“I guess.” I frowned. “Uh, i might open the rest of these later.”
I took the boxes off the trolley and stashed them under the desk. Tobias’ spending spree had left me feeling uncomfortable.
“I should probably get back anyway.” Jimmy noted standing up. He finished his coffee and stood up just as Tobias opened his office doors. He looked at me and then at Jimmy.
“You’re still here?” he questioned his voice wasn’t cold, but he didn’t sound happy either.
“I’m just leaving Mr Clarke sir.” Jimmy said lifting the chair he had been sitting on up. He returned it to its spot before retrieving the trolley. He winked at me as he walked from behind the desk and down the corridor to the elevator. The doors pinged open and he left, leaving me alone with Tobias and his intrusive eyes.
“You and the mail boy are fast friends.” He said softly.
“Yes.” I agreed, and truth be told, it was nice to finally have someone I could consider a friend of sorts. Tobias nodded and pointed down at the box that still held the phone.
“Part of the contract.” He murmured. “Same with the laptop, and the rest of the items. I’ve also set up an account at Junipers. I’m not saying you don’t dress up to standard, but if you think you need more items.”
“I’ll pay for them.” I mumbled. “And I don’t need a phone or a laptop or whatever else this is.”
“Ruby.” He warned.
“Tobias.” I replied. His eyes lit up the moment his name left my mouth. He tilted his head back and watched me, waiting for my next move. I couldn’t tell if he was angry or intrigued. “All these things, they make me uncomfortable. Like I owe you. I worked very hard to be independent. I worked hard to start again after my parents and then again after….” My voice trailed off.
“I didn’t do any of it to make you uncomfortable.” he replied, he seemed to find the fact I was feeling that way abhorrent. “I did it for work purposes.” I could tell by his tone he was being genuine. Perhaps Josanna had been afforded the same privileges when she had been PA as well?
“Okay.” I murmured. “Then thank you. So if I were to leave I return the items?”
I looked up and studied his face, he clenched his jaw and shrugged. “If you want. Are you planning on leaving Ms Moritz?”
“No. Not currently.” I responded.
Tobias stood there for a moment, he went to speak but instead turned and walked back to his office. I focused on work for the next couple of hours. I had meetings to organise and reports to type out. My feelings about Tobias, the kiss we had shared and the obvious weirdness that hung between us was going to have to disappear.
At lunchtime Tobias walked out from his office. “I have a lunch meeting, I won’t be back until 2.” he said curtly before walking down the corridor to the elevator.
I worked through lunch, snacking on a sandwich I had made and brought from home as I worked. When Tobias returned just before two he placed a coffee on my desk.
“Have you even left your desk?” he mused.
“Yes.” I whispered. I had, to use the bathroom about 30 minutes prior.
“Well the lady at the cafe made an extra coffee.” he exclaimed. “Would you like it?”
I looked at the tall mocha and nodded. “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me.” He replied. “Thank the lady who made the extra coffee.”
And with that he walked into his office and closed the door. Our paths didn’t cross the rest of the day. In fact I was running errands around the office for most of the afternoon. It was about 4:30pm when I had finally sat down again. A minute later my email notification beeped.
The meeting I went to at lunch time was for a multimillion dollar client. He’s holding a formal function this weekend and as I wish to win him over, I have accepted his invitation.
You will go as my date.
I stared at the email for almost five minutes. I wondered if it was a joke, if Mr. Serious really had a funny bone deep down. I opened google and searched for functions the Clarkes had been known to attend. Every photo I could find of the guy had him standing alone, or if he was with someone, it was his father. He didn’t take dates, he never had. Why now? Why me? I hit reply.
While I wish you all the very best in acquiring this client, I must ask why you want me as your date. You usually go to these types of functions dateless.
Also, I don’t have anything close to appropriate to wear for such a formal function.
P.S. you could have said please.
I regretted my sarcasm the moment I hit send, but it was done and he would be reading it already. I watched with surprising anticipation for his reply. No less than a minute later my email notification beeped again.
That is none of your concern. Your only concern is that I, (your boss) require a date to a formal function. I do not wish to attend this function alone.
I will take you shopping for something appropriate. Tonight if you like.
I smiled. He was being facetious now, playing along with me. I hit reply once more and bit my lip.
I’m not sure a dress would come under work equipment for work purposes. Please remember my earlier remarks in regard to independence.
Tobias’ reply was instant.
I’m making you attend, I cover the cost.
Just say yes.