Daniel Knix was not an easy boss. In fact, he wasn’t very nice. He kept his tone sharp and his words clipped whenever he spoke, and he never blinked those piercing ice green eyes. It was unnerving and had been from the first moment we met. We hardly interacted, which was strange seeming how I was his PA. He barely said anything to me, only a quick thank you for his morning coffee and a few sharp words here or there when he needed something. So, when he called me into his office one late August evening, I couldn’t help the anxiety that washed over me.
I had been working as his Personal Assistant for almost six months now, and I was doing a great job—at least, I thought I was. I was just returning to my desk after filing away some last-minute paperwork Mr. Knix had sent me via email, when his voice came through the small speaker at my desk.
“Miss Douglas, please come into my office.” His voice was low, and it always managed to intimidate me. I swallowed, feeling how dry my throat had suddenly become, and turned in my chair. It was Friday evening, and everyone else had already left for the night. I usually left by 7 o’clock, and it was now a quarter to eight. My boss had obviously noticed that I had stayed late tonight, but what had prompted him to call for me?
I had worked hard to get where I was. After three grueling years of college classes, I had graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business management. It took me two months to finally get settled into the small town of Sleepy Hallow, Virginia—four states away from my home town—and locating a job had been difficult.
“I can’t lose this job,” I reminded myself, pushing to my feet and straightening my cream blouse. Not only did I have rent to pay and a car payment due next week, but it had taken everything in me to get this job. I needed it, not just for myself, but for Jamie. Running a hand through my dark hair as I moved around my desk, I paused in front of his office door. Oh god, please don’t let him fire me!
Taking a deep breath, I let it out slowly as I knocked lightly on the big oak door. I didn’t have long to wait before his deep voice called out. “Enter!”
Rolling my eyes at his answer, I momentarily forgot about my impending doom. This could be the end for all I knew—and here I was, rolling my eyes at him. Get your shit together, Lacey!
I pushed the door open slowly, partially because of my nerves and partially because of how damn heavy it was. A soft grunt slipping from my lips and I peered around the corner to see if he’d noticed. Mr. Knix sat at his large desk, his eyes focused on a stack of papers in front of him. One hand held the edge of a paper, the other speared through his dark hair before shuffling through the salt & pepper at the sides. I almost didn’t go in. But that was a sure-fire way to get fired. So instead of sneaking away as if I was never there, I stepped into the room and cleared my throat lightly.
His head shot up, his dark eyelashes falling closed as he blinked twice. I had never seen him smile, but something very close to one appeared on his lips at the sight of me. He was an attractive man when he smiled, a small dimple appearing in his right cheek. He reminded me of photos I’d seen of my grandfather when he was young, before the lung cancer ate away at him. Mr. Knix leaned back in his chair, relaxing and steepling his fingers in front of his lips.
“Ah, Ms. Douglas.” His tone was softer than usual, almost as if he were being cautious. He gestured to the chairs opposite his before speaking again. “Have a seat.”
I didn’t want to. I wanted to turn and run in the opposite direction, be a coward and hide. But over the last seven years I’d learned to stand and face my fears head on. My tongue now dry, I took a few hesitant steps closer to his desk before perching on the edge of the plush black seat, ready to flee if I needed to. My eyes were focused on the spot just above his shoulder, refusing to meet his eyes. To be completely honest, he scared the shit out of me.
“Was there something you needed, sir?” I asked, clasping my hands together over my knees. My palms were sweating.
“How long have you been my assistant?” he asked, his eyes narrowing on mine as he rocked back in his chair. I tried swallowing around the lump in my throat and licked my dry lips.
“Six months,” I breathed out, clenching my fingers tighter as they began to shake. The only time I remember being this nervous was when I had first interviewed with him. I hadn’t even been this nervous when I’d fought for Jamie when I was sixteen. There was just something about Daniel Knix that made me want to shit my pants.
“Ah, yes.” He fell silent then, studying me. My fingers itched to fidget under his hard glare, but I tucked them between my knees to still them. I could not afford to have him fire me.
“You’ve been a fabulous addition to our team,” Daniel began, leaning forwards and resting his elbows on his desk. I felt my heart sink at his words, my breath catching in my throat. This was it. “But I’m afraid this will be our last day together.”
This couldn’t be happening. He just fired me.
“Thank you for this opportunity, Sir.” I choked on my own saliva as the words slipped from my lips. My knees felt weak as I pushed myself to my feet, and I couldn’t stop the shaking in my hands. As I turned around, ready to leave, I heard him clear his throat. I paused, lifting my head to glance at my boss. To my utter humiliation, a small smile pulled up the corners of his lips.
“Please sit back down, Miss Douglas,” he said, standing and moving around his desk. He gestured to my recently vacated seat. I bit back the tears of relief and embarrassment threatening to fall and sank back into the plush armchair. “I wasn’t firing you, Lacey.”
The sound of my first name coming from my boss was jarring. I had never heard him use it before, not even at my interview. I was shocked—not only that he had used my given name, but also the tone with which he said it. His tone was almost fatherly. A tone I hadn’t heard in years.
“You weren’t?” I asked hesitantly, feeling slightly sheepish, and altogether childish. He shook his head; the light smile still present on his face.
“I like you, Miss Douglas,” he stated, sitting on the edge of his desk. He studied my face again for a moment before picking up the file he had been staring at when I came in. “You’re a hard worker. I need you—this company needs you.”
I swallowed back my confused response and tried to focus on his next words. If he needed me, what had he meant by his earlier words? This will be our last day together.
“My eldest son is supposed to take over the company one day,” he continued, his fingers flipping through the papers. I wasn’t sure where this was going, but as long as he didn’t fire me, I didn’t really care. “He has just graduated from Virginia State with a degree in Business, but he has absolutely no work ethic.”
He lifted his icy gaze back to mine, making sure I was still paying attention. “I need you to help him.”
“And how do you expect me to do that?” I had a sinking feeling that I wasn’t going to like his answer. I was right.
“Well—to start—by becoming his new assistant.”