“Mr. Hawksley, good morning sir. I apologize for coming down a bit late.” I greeted nonchalantly like I hadn’t seen him a few minutes ago in our shared hotel room. Though I had considered rubbing it in before she got a word out, I wasn’t feeling haughty today. After the draining night I had, I don’t have much strength for snarky comebacks.
Good news for her.
“Ah, Ms. Curtis. Glad you’ve finally joined me,” Julian briefly paused and turned to Grace. “I think you know Grace Allen. She’s a close associate of mine.” Julian introduced, which Grace timely held out her hand in my direction.
“It’s nice to meet you, formally, Ms. Curtis.” She sweetly said.
I took her hand and briefly shook it before letting go. “Me too, Ms. Allen. It’s nice to meet one of Mr. Hawksley’s close associates.” Though the last tidbit was me rubbing a bit of salt on her wound, seeing her eye flinching at how Julian introduced her.
“Yes.” She sounded dry and sarcastic but quickly hid it with a smile. “I heard from Julian that you’re taking Rufus’ position as his secretary. Congratulations on the abrupt promotion. I’m glad Rufus finally got a chance to head back home. He’s been missing his wife and kids.” She stated.
“Oh? I didn’t know he was married.” I admittedly said, breaking my poker face.
“Really? I thought you’ve known why he’ll want to stay in England. At least Julian must have told you himself…” she trailed off dramatically when she peered at Julian, who was shaking his head slowly. “Well, congratulation to you anyways.”
“Thank you,” I muttered. For a moment I considered about taking another table, away from her, but then Julian tapped the empty seat beside him.
“Put your things down, Ms. Curtis. Grab something to eat. We have a long day of meetings today.” Julian informed, shifting the conversation.
“Oh! Will you be able to get some free time tonight? I’d love to take you out for dinner at this new Asian fusion restaurant in upper Manhattan.” Grace gleefully asked.
Julian kept his smile in place. “I’m sorry, Grace. I think my meeting would run throughout my stay here over the weekend.”
“Then how about meeting here again for breakfast tomorrow?” she changed her offer.
If I get to see her again early tomorrow, I’m packing my own breakfast and stay in the room.
“I don’t think we’ll be having breakfast here tomorrow. I have an early meeting with an old business associate.”
“How about lunch?”
Get the message, woman! He doesn’t want to see you.
“I’m sorry, Grace. Maybe next time while I have some free time back in Chicago,” he skittishly offered.
“It’s a date.” She beamed.
I hurriedly placed my things on the chair and headed towards the array of food on the buffet table. And while I got my food, I ate them while wandering around to find something more to fill my rumbling stomach. Before I could finish my meal, still lingering by the buffet area, Julian had stood up and gathered both our things. I watched from afar, with nearly empty plate in hand, as he gave Grace a small kiss on her cheeks. Once he said his goodbye, he quickly approached me. He arched his eyebrow, watching as I finished the rest of my meal.
“I’m glad you’re very considerate and didn’t find another table to eat,” Julian whispered in frustration as he reached me.
As I finish the last piece of bacon on my plate, I handed it to a passing staff before grabbing a tissue from the closest empty table. “You’re welcome,” I muttered in the same tone and got my satchel from him. “Just a thought, maybe next time you should warn me about these things. My feet are getting numb. But at least all the food had gone straight to my stomach not back up my mouth.” I feign a gag reflex.
“At least help me out. I thought we’re past our differences and help each other get out a tight spot with our past lovers.” He whispered back as he grabbed my arm and started guiding me towards the lobby.
“Really? Isn’t she still your lover?” I snorted.
“What difference is there between emotional and physical relationship?” He quipped.
I could only look at him in awe. Men.
Throughout the day, I hardly left Julian’s side - which wasn’t voluntary. From one meeting to another, Julian and I kept a business demeanor as we addressed each other. He was back again in his big shot CEO persona. However, this time, rather seemingly haughty in my eyes, Julian looked dignified and praise-worthy. It was a first for me to see my boss in such a way. Not because he looked ten times much handsome in the aesthetic department than most of my previous bosses. It was the way he stood. The way he talked. The way he presented himself in front of these business partners, who were far more his senior. While they sat across from him, their seniority both in experience and age hadn’t mattered. I was sitting in front row seat and witness the growth on one of the country’s top CEO.
As evening fell, we both sat at a booth table in a luxury restaurant with wine our glass filled, waiting for our last meeting on today’s agenda. Julian looked disheveled. A few strands of his neatly gelled hair had fallen over his forehead as he leaned by the table.
“How long would we have to wait for him? Did you really text his secretary?” Julian inquired for the third time.
“Yes. I did. But he’s stuck in traffic.” I replied with the same response. “If you’re hungry, just order something. I think he wouldn’t mind since he’s actually late.”
Julian groaned and peered at the menu placed by his elbow. “Fine.” He muttered and held up his hand, calling for the waiter.
To make him less guilty at my advice, I ordered a light meal as well - a salad. Once the food arrived, like on cue, Mr. Rhodes had arrived. Julian kept his smile as he greeted the man and jokingly informed how he was hungry and couldn’t resist with the smell of food swirling the air. The fifty-year-old man looked amused that Julian even bothered to explain the situation. He didn’t seem to mind.
After the dinner meeting, which got engrossing I had to stop shoving food in my mouth and took notes, it's already passed ten in the evening. By the time we got back to our hotel, it was already eleven. I thought about heading out for a bit and grab something from the fast food chain I saw a block away, but I didn’t have the energy to go.
Once we were inside our room, out of professional courtesy, I asked Julian whether he needed something before I hurriedly head to bed. My hope on getting out of my suit and in my sleepwear was shattered when Julian caught me by surprise.
“Don’t you want to eat anything first. I know you hardly ate that salad. And I presume the pasta you had for lunch wasn’t that appetizing. The last meal you’ve actually enjoyed was breakfast, which I guess wasn’t a favorable atmosphere to eat as well.”
I closed my mouth, holding my retort as he understood my expression. Then Julian picked up the phone beside the living room couch. After he waited for the call to connect was then I realized.
“Yes. I’d like to order some room service. Do you have any bacon and egg sandwich?” He paused to listen to the response. “And fries as well? Please.” He added. “I think that would be all. Thank you.” He then put the phone down.
“Mr. Hawksley…” I started but I choked on my words. I tried again. “Mr. Hawksley. I’m fine. I’m not that…”
“You don’t have to be shy. I’ve seen you eat.” He chuckled. “And maybe next time, speak up if you need more serving. I’d rather have a secretary that’s healthy and full rather than groveling throughout the day hungry.”
I felt my face flushed at his remark. “Right. Of course. Thank you, Mr. Hawksley.”
He looked proud of himself and gestured towards the kitchen table. “While we wait for your food, do you want us to go through things from today’s meeting? I’d like to revise a few things on the contract Mrs. Flores had given us this morning. And I’d like to have another meeting with her before we leave tomorrow, if possible.”
I straightened up and nodded. “Of course, Mr. Hawksley.”
After we’ve finished finalizing his meetings tomorrow, my food arrived. Looking bashful to be eating a plate full of sandwiches and fries, Julian left me while he got himself ready for bed. I ate as fast as I could without choking. By the time Julian come out from the bedroom, I finished eating and drank some water.
It wasn’t right how he appeared in that moment, wearing a fitted white shirt and pajama pants that were hanging dangerously low. I choked on my water. In a fit of coughs, I turned away and headed to the sink, cleaning myself.
“Are you okay?” Julian called out in worry. I heard his footstep drawing closer.
Once I cleared my airway, I held up my hand. “I’m okay,” I said loud and clear.
“Oh…great. Great.” Julian trailed off and halted a few steps away.
When I turned, I found him standing by the dining table, eyeing the remains of my food. “Are you finally full?”
“Yes. Thank you.” I timidly answered.
We lingered there for a moment in awkward silence before he pointed back to the room. “Well then, I’ll be heading to bed early, if it’s okay with you. I’m tired.”
“Of course,” I said and gathered my things on the table.
Julian studied me for a moment. “Would you like some help with those?”
“No. I’ll be fine. You can head to bed early, Mr. Hawksley. Good night.” I firmly stated.
He looked hesitant but headed back to the room. I took my sweet time yet followed him a bit later. However, once I was inside, I noticed him lying still on his bed. As silently and stealthily, I grabbed my evening toiletries and gotten ready for bed. By the time I returned to the bedroom, I could hear soft snore in Julian’s direction. In peace, I was able to retreat to my own bed without him witnessing more of my blunders.
On our last day of our weekend trip, Julian kept his word from Grace yesterday and moved one of his meeting for breakfast at a bistro a few block from our hotel. However, as we headed out, one of the receptionist called my attention. Julian kindly waited by the lobby already going through e-mails.
“Ms. Curtis, I apologize for stopping you. But a young lady had inquired about Ms. Hawksley. And usually when Mr. Hawksley had queries while he stayed in our hotel the information goes to Mr. Fletcher, his secretary. However, from yesterday, you had informed us you are Mr. Hawksley’s current secretary?” Her words fell into a question.
My eyebrow creased, somehow already seeing where this is going. “Yes. I’m Mr. Hawksley’s secretary. May I know who have asked for him? Did they leave any names?”
“Oh, no, ma’am. And no message as well. She was asking if he had left this morning.”
She, huh? “Thank you…” I paused and briefly peered at her nameplate. “Thank you, Janice.”
“Your welcome, ma’am.” She smiled. “Is there anything you’d want me to do if she came back and asked again?”
I thought about it for a moment. “It’s best not to tell her anything of our whereabouts, especially the specific time we’ll be leaving today.” I informed, though I knew the said person in our conversation, Grace, already knew.
“Of course, ma’am.”
“Thank you again, Janice.”
“Have a good day, ma’am.”
I hastily head back to Julian, who was sitting idly on one of the single couches, still bend down reading on his phone. I cleared my throat to get his attention. Once he looked up, I gestured towards the exit. He got up and followed. On our way, Julian finally asked what the fuss was about with the receptionist. Rather than coming up with a lie, it’s better to go with the truth. From past experiences, which was lying for my old boss in my first job in New York, I had been targeted by his multiple lovers as the root of why their relationship hadn’t last. It was mainly because he had multiple relationship that those women don’t last.
“Mr. Hawksley, I want to be blunt about something if I may.”
Julian quickly nodded and gestured for me to continue.
“I have experience with my previous boss about their… um… love life over lapping with their work. And being the boss, sometimes these things couldn’t be avoided. However, sir, I’d rather not be some errand runner who’d order flowers or chocolates for valentines, birthdays or anniversary, and even when you want to apologize to these woman…”
“Ms. Curtis, I’m not in multiple…”
“Of course you’re not. But I’m basing these on past experiences, sir.”
“Then what would be your point, Ms. Curtis? Because I’m sure I haven’t asked you to send any woman flowers or chocolates for me since Rufus hired you.”
“No, you haven’t…”
I sighed. “But, you do have trouble handling them, sir.”
“What?” His eyebrow creased as he looked at me in confusion. “What do you mean I have trouble handling them? I know how to deal with my business, Ms. Curtis.”
“Then, why is it your lover from yesterday morning - the same one who was accompanying you in your apartment over a week ago - asking for information about your whereabouts like some stalker… sir.” I nearly ticked off again, but somehow defused before my voice reached into new heights.
“Grace? Are you sure it’s her?” He looked surprised.
“Positive. The receptionist clearly informed me what she looked like since she didn’t inform who she was… like a stalker.” I muttered the last words curtly.
Julian glared but otherwise didn’t correct me. After a few moments, he sighed in defeat. “Well, I think it’s a bit my fault. She had texted me a couple to times yesterday and I hadn’t replied.”
“How many times?” I inquired both with interest and worry.
“More than I think was normal.” He admitted.
“Stalker.” I pronounced.
“No. No. It’s my fault I hadn’t clearly told her that I couldn’t…”
“Are you sure that’s the excuse you’re going, Mr. Hawksley?” I interjected. “If you don’t want to date this girl anymore, I suggest you say it clearly and not in a roundabout way. I don’t understand why some men couldn’t even do it. You’re only creating more drama in your life.”
Julian looked astounded before a smile creeped in to his face. “You’re not the crazy girlfriend type, are you?”
“Huh?” He lost me there for a moment.
Looking at my confused expression, he chuckled. I hadn’t noticed we’ve reached our destination when Julian opened the door for me. “Come on. We’ll talk about this later. But first, we have work to do.”
I studied his unwavering smile, not sure if he was serious. But I didn’t humor him. I walked ahead, ready for day two of meetings.