I was nearly breathless when I reached the lobby of my apartment building. Once I got out, Julian smirked coyly and held up both to-go cup in his hands. To think I already messed up, he had to be the one who got coffee in hand.
“Why are you…? I should be the one getting the coffee.” I informed grimly as I reached him.
“Good morning, Ms. Curtis. And you’re welcome.” Julian greeted.
I was about to interject again, but he stopped me by shoving the cup in front of my face. I got it out of his hand without words. I was going to try again when he opened the back seat door of the black car behind him. When I hadn’t reacted, Julian sighed and gestured towards the door.
“Are you for real right now? You’re not going to let me know why you’re suddenly here, and even know where I lived?” I finally burst.
“You’re not the only one Rufus has given a file.”
“The same file you have of me. Now, would you get in the car? I don’t want to get stuck in morning rush hour.”
I opened my mouth to reply but closed them again, agreeing to his point. With a heavy sigh of defeat, I got in and Julian quickly followed. Seeing Jeffrey for the first time, I briefly greeting the man. He looked young for his age. His had gray streaks on his dark hair. Plus, the slight crinkle on the side of his eyes as he smiled was another sign of his age.
On the drive to the office, which would be my first time being there, Julian hardly spoke to me as he got occupied with his phone. With Jeffrey concentrating on the road, I pulled out the notebook planner on my satchel, going through the schedule I copied from the soft copy data of Julian’s daily schedule. I covered a good month last night. When I noticed Julian putting away his phone, I cleared my throat and decided it was a good time to finally talk again.
“Mr. Hawksley, I have some things I want to confirm with you before we reach the office…” I started but Julian held up his hand and got his phone again.
“Hey, Jensen,” he said after answering the call.
With a sigh, I leaned back and waited for him to finish his conversation. While I waited, I eavesdropped on his chat – though it was one-sided. It was inevitable not to overhear since we were in a car.
“No, I’m no longer in London. I just got back yesterday.” Julian informed nonchalantly on the man’s question over the phone. “You’re not mom, Jensen. I don’t need to call and tell you where I am. And yes, I had told her I arrived fine back here.” He cheekily added.
Julian listened again for another second, which made him a bit frustrated. “Could you handle that without me? Why do they need to see me anyways?”
He listened to the reply and huffed in defeat. “Fine. I’ll set a meeting with them by the end of the month.” There was a brief pause before he asked. “Are you free for lunch? You could bring Kyla with you… how’s little Charlie?”
I abruptly turned in surprised, seeing him glowing as he said that name. It got me slightly more curious with the conversation. “Good. I might drop by at your place after I settled all of your screw ups.” He jokingly stated.
Julian snickered and hastily ended the call without even a goodbye. Once he put his phone away, he looked at me and arched his eyebrow. “What?”
“Was that your brother?” I asked. And how he was comfortable talking to the person, it was obvious.
“Yes. It was.” He smiled. “He and his wife had their first babay nearly a year ago. He’d been a slacker since she came home with them. But at least he hadn’t burned down the hotel he’s managing… yet.”
“Which hotel is that?”
“The Grand Hotel. Didn’t you know?”
Feeling a bit stupid for asking, since this should have been common knowledge – and somehow I forget that information upon seeing Julian’s sweet smile, I hid my blunder with a scoff. “Of course, I know. Sorry.” I muttered and cleared my throat. “Anyways, I want your approval on your schedule for the week.” I smoothly changed the topic to business.
I got him to sanction all of his schedule before Jeffrey announced we’ve arrived. As I got out of the car, I was momentarily fascinated by the architectural design of the building. Though I’ve been around town and visited the Loop, I’ve never got the moment to appreciate the view. Now I had a brief moment to take it all in – and also the reality of my current position, I proudly smiled. But that all swiftly turned to ash as Julian tugged my arm, nearly dragging me along towards the lobby.
“I can walk just fine… sir.” I muttered angrily and broke away from him grip.
Julian didn’t argue back and gestured towards the elevator. “Let’s go. I don’t like lingering too long in this area.” He softly muttered, which I overheard. “One of these days, I’ll buy the whole building myself. The old man is such a scrooge.”
I hid my chuckled with a cough and followed him. He looked relieved when the elevator was empty. But as the door closed, a hand stopped the door. A man entered who looked to be in his early thirties, wearing a clean suit – though, it didn’t look as expensive as what Julian wore.
After the man pushes the button for his floor, he finally noticed Julian. I watched his face lit up in enthusiasm as he approached him with an outreached hand. “Mr. Hawksley, it’s lovely to meet you this morning. I’m Ron Brown. Head of the Marketing and Sale department of Caesar Marine Corporation. Our company had taken up office on the tenth floor.”
Like a switch, I watched Julian’s whole demeanor changed. His grumpy mood was gone and replaced with a smile. And from the look on his face, it was an expression he put on for the sake of pleasantries.
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Brown.” Julian was curt and released the handshake. “I hadn’t heard that your company had an office in this building. Have you transferred recently?”
The man’s smile grew wider upon hearing Julian’s interest. “Yes. We’ve just transferred this month. We’re still dealing a bit with the move, but the place is very much operational.” From the tone of his voice, the last tidbit was intended.
“Well, welcome to the neighborhood. I hope everything goes great.” Julian beamed. But his stiff cheeks seemed like he was pushing it.
Understanding his not so subtle signal, I cleared my throat and got the man’s attention away from Julian. I was in awe he hadn’t noticed me at all. “Hello, I’m Zoey Curtis, Mr. Hawksley’s secretary. It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Brown. I hope you and your peers would settle comfortably in your new office.”
He looked a bit guilty and held out his hand towards me, which I briefly shook. “It’s nice to meet you, Ms. Curtis.” He greeted before peering back to Julian.
As I was about to draw his attention back to me again, which he wasn’t clearly interested of right now with his star struck look on Julian, the elevator halted on his floor. He was forced to make a quick exit with more haste flattery, which leaned more towards Julian – of course.
“And again, Mr. Hawksley, it was nice to meet you. I hope we’ll get a more formal meet…” the metal door closed on him before he finished his sentence.
Once we were alone again, I let out a heavy sigh and glanced towards Julian, who was looking at me in amusement. “Do you think I look funny?” I sarcastically inquired as his lips twitched into a smile.
“No. Of course not. But are you annoyed that the man was paying more attention to me than you?” It took him a bit effort not to laugh.
“Oh boo… Mr. Popular.” I scoffed and started pressing the button of our floor like it helped the elevator ascended faster.
Reaching our floor, I got out ahead of him – still a bit infuriated at his teasing. But the mood shifted as I saw the person behind the reception area facing us. Behind the high marbled counter top was Amy in all of her red hair glory. She was already smiling from ear to ear upon seeing me walked up towards her.
“Zoey! I thought I’ve never got to see you. I heard the news from Rufus. Congratulations.” She walked around her desk and met me half way for a hug.
“Thank you.” I reciprocated and lightly squeezed her back before letting go. “I didn’t know that Rufus told anyone about this… um…. transition. Well, other than Jeffrey and you, who else knows about this?” I inquired, a bit alarmed how Rufus was making this more real than it should be.
“From the expression of people coming in the office who I haven’t told yet, not everyone knows other than the department heads.” Amy answered nonchalantly.
Behind us, which I’m surprised was still there was Julian, who let out a heavy exasperated sigh at Amy’s news. “Damn it, Amy. I was going to tell these people this afternoon. You don’t have to beat me to it.” Julian started making his way towards the right corridor, leaving Amy and I in worry.
“Did he just…?”
“He’s a bit pissed. You should follow him in, now.” Amy urged and lightly pushed me towards were Julian had left. “And a bit of a heads up, keep him away from anyone until he cools down.”
“Aren’t you concerned that you made him angry?” I asked, baffled at her calmness.
“This isn’t my first rodeo,” she stated smugly. “Now, go.” When I still didn’t budge, she nudged me again. “Go.”
“Alright.” I hurriedly walked towards the general direction where Julian disappeared. It wasn’t difficult to find him since the path was pretty much straight, and the interior design of the place was more glass than cement or wood.
As soon as I was by his side, we’ve reached an opened work area, which got me a bit aghast. It was then I felt the gazes on us, mostly on me, got heavy. If I were them, I would be shock and breaming with questions on who was this petite brunette walking beside their impeccably handsome boss. But more or less my question would be inclined towards why does my boss still look like a male model after running a multi-million-dollar conglomerate? I’m still asking it even in my sleep.
“That’s you.” Julian curtly pointed at the desk across an office with his name in gold sticker and the title CEO of Hawksley Inc. – Chicago branch underneath it.
“I’ll be in my office. If someone wants to speak to me, tell them I’ll take all of their question this afternoon. And set that meeting with the department heads as well. Do that first.” He commanded before entering the clear glass room, which screamed over on top.
After he was gone, I felt a wave of slight relief. I turned towards the cubicle a few steps outside his door, which had a good view of him. I wasn’t surprised to see it so clean and coordinated. I’ve always noticed Rufus cleanliness even the short time I’ve seen the man. As I settled and got the computer running, which Rufus had e-mail me for the password, I took a deep breath and started with my first task of the day.
As the hours passed and I remained in my desk, I knew I wasn’t giving a great impression towards my work colleagues. I’ve already seen a few of them giving me a brief greeting as they passed by my desk, who clearly wanted to have idle chitchat. But I wasn’t having in the mood for it since work was staring at my face. I nearly skipped lunch until Julian tapped the counter top of my cubicle.
“Hey, let’s go eat. I’m famished,” he said. When I hardly reacted to his words, he sighed and reached down towards the pile of papers beside the keyboard and flipped in facedown. “Come on. We’re going with me.”
“At least ask,” I muttered dryly.
“From the look on your face, I already know you’d refuse. So I’m not asking.” He countered and clicked the button that turned off the screen on my computer.
“What the…?” I stopped myself before I get to cuss him out.
“Let’s go. We’re stopping by somewhere first.” He stated and slowly backed away.
“Can you just let me stay today? It’s my first day.” I tried arguing again.
“No. I have a brief meeting with a possible client, which is why we have to go now.” He finally informed and peered down his wristwatch.
“What? Why wasn’t I informed about this?” I finally got up from my seat and grabbed my purse.
“He’s a friend. And I’ve just set the meeting with him an hour ago.”
“And you didn’t feel the need to tell me this?”
Julian stopped on his tracks and stared at me. “I just told you.”
“Yeah, like a few minutes before we’re heading out.”
Julian sighed and continued walking. “You’re unbelievable.”
“I can hear you.”
“It wasn’t meant to be heard.”
As we walked passed the open work area again, I was a step behind Julian. Halfway through the middle, he hastily gestured towards an office on our left. “That’s my sister-in-law. Remember that since we’re meeting her and my brother later as well.”
“Glad you’re finally letting me know all of this now.” I dryly remarked as I walked closer.
“I can hear you.” He mocked the same quipped I used.
“It was meant to be heard.”
From his brief lack of response, he didn’t like my sassy copied retort. He sighed and shifted the conversation to more work related. “While we’re still conversing, have you already booked my flight this weekend to New York?” He asked monotonously.
“Of course, I booked that since last week.” I confidently replied.
“Did you also get yourself a ticket? You’re going with me on that trip as well, now that Rufus is no longer in the picture.”
He finally pulled the gun on me. “What?”
Hearing my alarm, he stopped again and looked at me. “Did you expect I’ll be going to that weekend meeting without my secretary?” He scoffed and turned around like my distress meant nothing.
“Wait! Hold up! What?” I called when he continued walking towards the elevator.
Once we reached the reception area, I peered at Amy, who was already looking at us. She arched her eyebrow in question, seeing my anxious expression. I grimly smiled in response before following Julian in the elevator.
“When were you going to tell me I’m going with you to New York this weekend? Since you’re in the mood on sharing.” I rephrased my question once we were alone.
“I did. A few minutes ago.”
I’m happy that the elevator stopped and two people came in. If there weren’t anyone with us in that moment, I would have snapped rounds of profanity at the man. And I thought the day would spare me the surprise for later.