Whilst twiddling my thumbs with an energy that can only be described as infuriating, I glance at the clock on the far right hand side wall and almost combust when I realise fifty minutes has gone by without so much as the man in front of me taking a breather. Fifty five year old Jimmy Wallace, founder of Tropic Relaxation, is stood before me decked out to the nines in his knife-sharp suit and tan Gregson’s; his rather overbearing aftershave irritating the back of my throat in all its spicy glory.
“So as you can see, Tropic Relaxation made an overall profit of roughly 53% last year and if you take a look at our year for year sales, were up 18%.” states Jimmy, regurgitating his very ill thought out business presentation.
The poor sod even pauses for dramatic effect, although I’d hardly call 53% a figure worth shouting about. In fact, I would cower in shame if my business ended the year on a number like that. Poor attempt, indeed.
“Mr Wallace, I hope you don’t mind me interrupting but I’d be interested to know what your most recommended treatment is in terms of making a profit?” questions Scott Michaels, twenty six year old business entrepreneur and my new boss as of seventy two hours ago.
He, alongside his older brother Spencer, who has taken a step back for medical reasons, inherited his grandfather’s hotel chain, which consists of five major sites across the UK and Southern Ireland, each one named after an iconic lady in the Michaels family.
The first and most prestigious is the Adelaide Estate, which dates back to the 1920′s and is beautifully positioned in the heart of the Lake District, looking over the waters of Lake Derwent. It’s named after Adelaide Ross, the founder’s wife at the time and Scott’s late grandmother. Next in the chain is the Catharine Estate which sits elegantly near the Yorkshire moors and is named after Scott’s Mother, Catherine Michaels; fifty four year old daughter of Lord and Lady Jennings. Following those two is the Isabelle Estate and the Leila Estate; both situated in the south of England and named after Spencer’s wife and daughter, although questions are circulating the renaming of first one due to a very messy, very public divorce settlement currently underway. The final hotel, the Delilah Estate, is located in Dublin and no amount of Google searching can tell me who or what that one is named after and to say it has my curiosity spiked is an understatement. It opened in 2010 and is the only hotel to have received such speculation over the choice in name. Upon landing myself this job just a little over a month ago, I made it my personal mission to dig deeper and find out more regarding the mystery. However, seventy two hours is perhaps a little too soon for such searching, so for now I’ll hold off.
“Oh, I’d absolutely recommend our facials as a number one money maker.” gloats Jimmy, flashing me a teeth-whitening smile. “They’re very popular in women over the age of thirty five.” he adds, flicking forward a few slides to show us just that.
I strain my eyes to view the tiny writing and just about make out the small figures, quickly doing a round of maths in my head.
“Is that your personal opinion, Mr Wallace?” I ask, neutral in my questioning. “Because while I can see your facials clearly bring in the most custom, they’re not your biggest money maker.” I continue, instantly triggering a look of total panic to spread across his face.
This man is fucking clueless when it comes to running his own business.
“I’m not sure I follow your way of thinking.” replies Jimmy, frantically switching his gaze from myself, to Scott.
“Well,” I begin, quite shocked I even have to explain myself, “you claim the facials make you the biggest profit, which looking at the figures on your screen I can see why you would be led to believe that. Yet, I feel you’re not taking into consideration other elements. Materials needed, staffing issues. You charge the same price for a back and shoulder massage as you would for a facial and both treatments take sixty minutes, correct?” I pause, waiting for his confirmation.
“That is correct.” he nods, still looking like a deer caught in headlights.
“Yet a facial requires multiple ingredients; specific moisturisers, exfoliating machines, electrical usage. A simple back and shoulder massage requires one oil base and a pair of hands. So my way of thinking is that while your facials bring in more money, they cost you more, so in actual fact, from a business prospective, a back and shoulder massage ensures a larger profit.” I finish, hoping I’ve made myself clear.
Talk about having to spoon feed a fucking baby.
From beside me, I hear Scott inhale a sharp breath and watch in silent joy while he nods his head in approval, seemingly intrigued to see what Jimmy will come back with.
“Not all business is about making money, Jess.” he defensively fires back, the muscle in his jaw ticking, much like the clock on the wall eating into my time.
“Mr Wallace, I apologise if you feel somewhat attacked in my way of explaining. I can assure you that was not my intention and I must ask that you address me as Jessica, for that is my name, not Jess.” I irk, slightly pissed off that he’s throwing the toys out of his pram in the form of unprofessional remarks.
“I in no way feel attacked and I do appreciate your comments. Forgive me. I can sometimes act like a protective father over my business.” he explains, adding in a humorous chuckle which I in no way find amusing.
“We all do.” ensures Scott, maintaining the peace. “Mr Wallace, it’s been a pleasure, we’ll have a think over your quotes and get back to you on how we wish to proceed.” bellows Scott, shooting me a ‘hell will freeze over before I collaborate with this muppet’ look, to which I find myself smiling at.
Taking the business to the next level and collaborating with a spa company is a delicate move and one in which we absolutely have to get right. It is essential that we choose the correct brand to represent the hotels, whilst also catering to the guests needs. It’s as much a partnership as it is anything and while the reigns are firmly in our grip, both parties involved will benefit highly by working together and doing so with Jimmy Wallace seems like a sodding nightmare.
“Amazing, I look forward to hearing from you. Mr Michaels, Miss Turner, thank you both for your time, the pleasure was all mine.” states Jimmy, looking about as pleased to be leaving as a child in a sweet shop.
“Cora, can you show Mr Wallace out, please?” asks Scott, shooting the secretary a friendly smile and scribbling down some notes on his pad.
“Of course. Mr Wallace, this way if you please.” Cora gently coaxes, finally exiting with the man in tow.
“What a fucking dipstick.” breathes Scott, once the door to the meeting room is closed and we’re both firmly contained within its confines.
“Certainly a dipstick.” I agree, firing up my laptop to forty two unread emails. Bloody hell. “His sixty seven slide presentation couldn’t save him on this occasion.” I remark, chuckling to myself at the expense of the brutally ignorant man, whose business sense is really rather shocking.
“Sixty eight slides, you’re forgetting the ‘thank you’ page, Jessica.” mocks Scott, outraged I’d somehow forgotten.
I laugh at his tone and flick through my calendar for the rest of the day, rest assured I have no more meetings to attend this afternoon.
“So it’s a no to Tropic Relaxation?” I question, knowing exactly what I would do but understanding the final call lies with Scott.
“No, we’ll keep looking.” he replies, stretching back in his state of the art swivel chair, the moss green in his iris’ disappearing as he closes his eyes on a rather reluctant sigh. “I’m in talks with another company, I’ll get them in next week.” he adds, running a hand through his sandy blonde locks and pulling slightly on the roots, agonisingly so.
This particular project is close to Scott’s heart as the first hotel to join forces with a spa company will be the newly built Rosalie Estate, named after his fiancé, a twenty two year old Barbie looking thing. Its modern style exterior stands proud in London’s West End and as the fast approaching opening date nears, so does the stress that comes along with it.
“Mr Michaels, your brother is here to see you.” Cora suddenly states, her voice sounding through the intercom system in the meeting room.
“What, Spencer is here?” squeaks Scott, flying from his chair is an instant mass panic, startling me slightly.
There’s a moment of complete silence before another, much deeper voice speaks, its slight amusement hard to ignore.
“Unless you have another brother I don’t know about, yes Spencer is here you moron.” replies the voice, which I am now assuming belongs to Spencer himself.
The richness of his tone flows effortlessly through the speakers and I find myself drawn to the manliness of it, noticing the entire sound to be rather invigorating. I’ve seen pictures of Spencer and it’s no secret the man is a looker but hearing him in person does wonders for my ears, not to mention the area in between my-.
Scott’s abrupt tone shocks me yet again and I almost jump out of my skin as the curse words only continue, “fuck, shit, bollocks!” he chants, pacing from one end of the meeting room to the other.
“Is everything ok?” I enquire, worried for my boss’ current mental state.
He abruptly halts his endless pacing and drops his pleading gaze on to mine, silently conveying his answer.
“Not exactly.” he breathes, sounding stressed in his revelation. “Spencer doesn’t know about you yet. He doesn’t know I hired you to help.” he adds, suddenly making sense in his strange reaction.
“You mean he doesn’t know you’ve hired me to replace him?” I question, raising my brows disapprovingly at him. “Jesus, Scott he’s going to hit the roof!” I scorn, lifting myself up from the seat and joining him in his relentless pacing.
“Uncle Scott, Uncle Scott! Daddy said I can play in the office for the rest of the afternoon.” yells a sweet voice, followed by a blur of yellow barrelling through the door.
“Hey Kiddo, that’s great. Where is he?” enquires Scott, panicking slightly when there appears to be no sign of Spencer.
His tone is soft when speaking to his niece, who I guess is Leila, Spencer’s five year old daughter and although young, she quite clearly has her head screwed on the right way if her flat out reply is anything to go by.
“Stop panicking, he’ll find us.” she ensures, suddenly looking up to me and evaluating my every feature.
“Leila, baby girl, what have I told you about running off. You’re my eyes remember, sweetheart?” laughs the voice I now associate with Spencer as the man himself elegantly strolls into the room, but not before filling the entire doorway with his charcoal grey suit covered body.
Yes, certainly a looker.
His smile reaches the tips of his mouth in a delightful curl and I watch in awe as he searches the room for his daughter, pin pointing her exact location by listening for the tell-tale signs. It’s her girlish giggle that eventually does it and I shift slightly, wondering if he can also sense my presence in the room.
Having undergone complicated brain surgery ten months ago, thirty one year old Spencer Michaels has taken a back seat in his joint business after the procedure left him blind in both eyes. It somewhat saddens me that one half of the famous brotherly duo has had to take a step back for reasons out of his control and even more so that his wife was caught having an affair with Kensington’s top notch lawyer, Alister Branning, the same lawyer whose firm just so happens to be representing her in the divorce settlement.
Talk about rubbing salt into the wound.
“Daddy, you’ll never learn if I have to guide you everywhere.” scolds Leila, rushing over to her Dads side and grabbing his hand to lead him towards Scott, suspiciously eyeing me up whilst doing so. “Who’s she?” she adds, presenting me with a hidden batch of sass that appears somewhat tucked away under that frilly skirt of hers.
Not that I’m surprised. Given who her Mother is, it’s no wonder she’s a brat.
"She is Jessica and don’t be so rude misses!” laughs Scott, shooting me an apologetic smile afterwards, as if somehow her behaviour is his fault.
She softens towards her Uncles slight telling off and quickly changes her stance, opening herself up to me, both physically and emotionally.
“Hi Jessica, I’m Leila. It’s my birthday next week. Do you want to come to my party?” she offers, flashing me a toothless grin, whilst lowering her gaze to my floral patterned Ted Baker heels. “You’ll have to get me a present of course but I’m sure you can afford it. You have the same shoes as Mummy and she says they’re very expensive-”
“That’s enough, Leila! That is not why you’re having a party.” expresses Spencer, clearly mortified by his daughter’s motives. “And apologise to Jessica for being rude.” he continues, deepening his tone slightly, leaving no room for objections.
Jesus Christ, even I’m intimidated.
“Yes it is! Everyone gets presents on their birthday.” argues Leila, sounding outright annoyed by the prospect of her birthday being about anything else.
“And you won’t be getting any unless you apologise in the next five seconds.” he retorts, glaring his bright green eyes into hers, which I find awfully impressive, considering he has no use of his sight.
For the love of god, kid just apologise and spare us all the metaphorical heart attack that comes with waiting for Spencer Michaels to lose his cool.
“Five.” he states, deadly calm, “Four.”
“You don’t want me to get to one, Leila.” he warns, all signs of playfulness gone as he continues his countdown.
Scott and I share a fleeting look and I seriously consider getting the fuck out of here while I still can. Lord knows I don’t want to be around when he gets to one.
“Fine, I’m sorry.” she bites back, crossing her arms over her chest.
Her own eyes land on mine and in that brief second, I see her Father in her. Having taken on the same emerald green shading and slight gold colouring, they are the exact replicas of his and I can even see some of Scott in her, confirming the young girl has definitely inherited the Michaels gene.
“Apology accepted.” I smile, keen to show Spencer I hold no hard feelings. Annoying or not, she’s only a kid after all. “I do appreciate your abruptness though. You’ll make for a fantastic business woman one day.” I laugh, hoping to just about add a humorous spin on things.
Scott laughs, Spencer doesn’t.
“Leila, go play in Daddy’s office for a while. I’ll be through in a minute.” he orders, clearly stating his dominance as far as his daughter is concerned.
I quickly switch my gaze to his, finding his intense eyes are already on me and while his focus is slightly settled to my right, I feel awfully scrutinised under his gorgeous greens.
“Forgive me if I’m being rude, Jessica but I don’t recall us ever meeting before.” he speaks, offering out his Rolex clad arm and signalling for me to accept his professional handshake, which I do so without hesitation.
His free hand comes up to circle my wrist and as his firm fingers come to wrap around my beating pulse, I have to make a conscious decision not to moan out loud at the strangely erotic gesture.
“Spence, you haven’t met before.” explains Scott, his voice lowering to a gentle whisper. “Leila, sweetheart, listen to your Dad. We won’t be long.” he further suggests, clearly attempting to get rid of the little girl’s presence before shit hits the fan, so to speak.
She simply offers her Uncle a curt nod and turns to leave, stopping briefly in the doorway.
“Your hair is like Ariel’s.” she states, not being the first child to make the connection between myself and the well known Disney princess.
Having natural auburn hair, people are often passing comment on how unique the colouring is and with inhumanly pale skin to accompany it, I find I often stand out from a large crowd, which has more often than not proved beneficial being a woman in this line of business.
“Red is Daddy’s favourite colour.” she suddenly adds, removing herself from the ever thickening tension in the meeting room and confusing me as to what I’m supposed to do with that random piece of knowledge.
Kids are strange.
Thankfully, I don’t have to speculate much as an almighty sigh falls from Scott’s lips; the three of us remaining silent as neither one of us is prepared to initiate the metaphorical shit storm.
“You’ve fucking hired someone, haven’t you?” Spencer eventually barks, certainly not messing around in his enquiry.
“You need to calm down, man. I need help, I can’t run this business on my own.” defends Scott, making me feel a little awkward, stuck in the middle of this family feud.
“You’re not on your own; I’ll be back in a few months. I can’t believe you’ve hired some complete stranger to run the business, our fucking business.” he bellows, fists clenching in anger. “Does Dad know you’ve done this? Employed a pretty face who’s barely out of her university degree?” he adds, throwing his bitter insult straight my way.
I’m not usually so timid, but Spencer has knocked me for six with his assumptions of me and worse still, he’s not wrong. I am barely out of university but that certainly doesn’t make me any less capable. I did graduate with a first class honours in business management, after all.
Though, I suspect that means bugger all to him.
“Don’t be so patronising when you know she’s standing right there.” interferes Scott, making me feel about as useful as a boat with holes in my way of defending myself.
I remain tight lipped; stuck between wanting to defend myself and knowing when to shut the hell up.
“I’m not being patronising, I’m being honest. Her lack of experience is hardly enough to establish a career, yet you’ve just made her your bloody business partner and behind my back no less.” yells Spencer, clearly furious at his younger brother.
“We had no actual experience when we first started working here, does that make us incapable too?” questions Scott, catching Spencer out in his bold statement.
Ah, the old reverse physiology method. Scott certainly knows how to work things to his advantage, although I expect nothing less from the famously brutal man who can manipulate any business deal to his advantage. Still, I very much remain out of place and actually contemplate leaving both men to it, feeling nothing short of bloody uncomfortable stuck in between their argument. It’s not like I can contribute to the discussion in any way, they’re both quite clearly fighting about me and while I’m entitled to stick up for myself, I’m impartial to the actual matter at hand.
“That’s different, we were born into it. From the second we entered this world, we were brought up to run this business one day.” Spencer answers back, hell bent on getting the last word, which evidently pisses me off.
He is no more aware of my personal circumstance as I am his and the fact he seems to smug about being right all the time quite frankly grates on my gears. His anger towards things being done without his consent is truly justified but that was neither my fault, nor my intention. I only bloody found out myself ten minutes ago!
I laugh. I actually laugh, which sharp brings both men from their intense back and forth; both of them looking at me as if I’ve just done the unthinkable.
“Not all business is born into. Some aren’t lucky enough to inherit a family company. They have to work their way to the top instead and it doesn’t make them any less equipped for the job.” I offer, turning Spencer’s once furious expression suddenly murderous.
Oh shit, you’ve certainly opened the can of worms now, Jessica.
“Luck? You think me and my brother have kept this business running on luck.” he asks, rhetorically so, though being the stubborn pain in the arse I am, I decide to answer him.
“I think it’s a contributing factor, yes.” I admit, noticing Scott’s rather desperate plea of “for the love of God, shut the fuck up, Jessica!′
Of course, I choose not to.
“Your Grandfather opened the first hotel in 1927 and stated, and I quote, ‘with a lot of passion and luck, I made my dream come true’. Twenty five years later, your Father said something similar when doing an interview for the Evening Standard, so yes Spencer, I, alongside this company’s heritage, would agree you and your brother have a lot to thank luck for.”
His nostrils flare and his eyes bulge, hinting toward his total lack of appreciation towards my defence and although I’d be lying if I said I weren’t a little intimidated, I certainly don’t back down.
“So you’ve done your homework on my family’s past. Well done to you.” he mocks, taking a sufficient step closer, offering me a generous helping of his manly scent; an aftershave I fail to recognise with an added hint of pure sex.
“What is your point exactly. Jessica?” he breathes, fanning his warm breath on my cheek.
“My point is I am more than capable of helping you and your brother run your company and I don’t much appreciate you assuming my experience or background makes me anything but.” I state, hoping for the love of God I sound strong in my doing so. “And for your information, when I signed the contract I was under the impression you knew about me joining.” I add, shooting Scott and firm glance, silently portraying my disapproval at him keeping Spencer in the dark for this long.
I may be over stepping my boundaries but I don’t care. Spencer has more than dished out his fair share of nastiness and I’m not about to be branded incompetent by this moron. He may well look like a Greek God but he’s certainly an arsehole who lacks any natural personality.
“She’s signed a fucking contact?” he snaps, rubbing his temples with a roughness that appears to be far from comforting. “This is not what I need right now. This is not what I bloody well need today of all days.” he chants, still furiously caressing his seemingly aching head.
I quickly glance at Scott, suddenly concerned for his brother’s wellbeing and signal for him to check on him.
“Spencer, what up?” asks Scott, rather stupidly so, as next to pour from his mouth is the back lash of his anger in the form of a poisonous rant.
“What’s up is that every single person in my life is treating me like I’m some fucking invalid incapable of performing the simplest of tasks.” he yells, clearly at the end of his tether “I’ve got no control in my life anymore and my soon to be ex-wife is threatening to take full custody of Leila right as we speak. I’m on my way over there now to sort this shit out and just as I thought I could leave my daughter with the one person I trust, he goes ahead and springs this shit on me.”
I remain rooted in my position, neither prepared nor ready to pass comment on his situation. Truth be told, he’s a massive bellend but I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. He’s clearly distraught over the circumstances and perhaps that explains his far from compassionate behaviour towards me so far.
“Fucking hell, Spence. She can’t do that; she can’t take Leila away from you. You’re a damn good father to her.” argues Scott, his tone hardening as he, no doubt, registers the spite brought on my Spencer’s soon to be ex. “Do you want me to come with you? I’ll drop what I have on this afternoon.” he adds, obviously wanting to be there for his older brother, who appears to be undergoing a rather stressful time at the moment.
“No, I don’t need fucking babysitting; I need you to look after Lelia for a few hours. I would’ve asked Mum but I’m not worrying her with this.” replies Spencer, his tone, understandably, full of aggravation. “Isy certainly knows what she’s doing, every time she calls some bull shit emergency meeting it’s no coincidence I have Leila with me at the time. It’s like she’s already eating into our time together.” he adds, making me somewhat sympathise with him and his current predicament. No one deserves this shit, even a pretentious arsehole like him.
As if reading my mind, Spencer suddenly stiffens in his stance and twists his head to glare in my direction. His hard as nails expression is far from friendly and the noticeable rage flaring in those hypnotising greens of his would have me covering away in fear if I weren’t so damn stubborn. Thankfully, Scott presents him with a distraction and somewhat defuses the situation with his silk-like tone.
“Look, Spencer, it’s not that I don’t think you’ll come back, I know you will. I just think you need longer than a couple of months to adapt, especially with all this shit going on. Your priorities lie with Leila and rightly so. Come back once you’re fully ready and in the meantime, Jessica and I will run things. She’s great Spence, she put Warrick Daniels on his arse within five minutes of meeting him.” states Scott, referring back to my first day here when a rather over friendly client got his fair share of a mouthful when his hand tried to greet my backside. “An extra pair of hands is not a bad thing and without sounding like a dick, there are certain things you can’t do anymore. I need someone to run through the figures with me and how can you do that if you can’t read them off the screen.”
By the time he finishes, his voice has adopted a rather gentle edge and he even goes as far as to offer his hurting brother a comforting pat on the back.
“I love you, brother and I can’t wait to have you back in here, the way it should be but you need more time. You need to adapt and until then, I need Jessica here or there’s a good chance there will be no business for you to come back to. I’m rushed off my feet as it is and we think Rosalie might be pregnant.” he admits, letting slip yet more personal information I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t know about.
“You dick.” laughs Spencer, seemingly cheering up some. “You can’t spring that news on me and expect me to stay mad at you.” he adds, smirking at his younger brother’s methods in manipulation.
“Exactly, I’m a bastard, Spence. You know this.” he smiles, both of them appearing to forget about me for a few seconds.
“And her role, is it only temporary?” asks Spencer, his rather rude, obnoxious behaviour, returning and proving to be infuriating as he talks about my job position, knowing full well I’m still in the room.
“It’s a six month contract.” replies Scott, shooting me a ‘you have nothing to worry about’ smile. “We’ll review Jessica’s position once that time is up but I’m telling you, Spence, she’s a fucking asset to this place.”
His compliment has me brimming with pride and I just about jump for joy at the hands of being called an asset by Scott-fucking-Michaels of all people. It’s no surprise that the family have their fair share of time spent in the spotlight; being somewhat famous in the business world, and to receive such praise from one of them is a great achievement. Believe me when I say I’d have that written on my gravestone if I could.
Growing up, I lived for praise and to some extent, still do. My career is the most important thing to me, alongside my Mum, Dad and older brother, Sam and to think I’ve landed such a job in my early to mid-twenties is an achievement I’m damn well proud of, as are my family.
We’ve not always had it easy and with my Mum now in full time care, it’s important that I earn enough salary to ensure she has the best possible support. It’s essentially what pushed me towards choosing a business degree in the first place and I’ve not had a single regret since. It’s not that I don’t enjoy what I do, quite on the contrary really, but without that added nudge, perhaps my life would’ve taken on a different route.
“Hmm, we’ll see.” states Spencer, not sounding the least bit convinced. “You have already impressed one half of this business team but I have yet to be persuaded. You’re running on thin ice after the way you spoke to me before, and I’m not as easily pleased as my brother is.” he warns, attempting to intimidate me with his deep, baritone voice, which I’m afraid to say is working.
“I spoke to you no differently than how you spoke to me. Respect is earned, Spencer and it works both ways.” I argue, certainly not backing down in surrendering to him.
I won’t give him that satisfaction.
He appears somewhat shocked by my response but recovers quickly; running a hand through his thick, dark blonde hair and pulling slightly on the roots. With that, he turns on his heels and strides towards the door with those lovely, lean legs of his.
“Thin ice, Jess. Remember that.” he remarks, annoying me more so than ever.
“It’s Jessica!” You knob.
My insistence is met with nothing but a smirk that undeniably screams amusement; his cocky demeanour annoying me more so than ever. With that, he exits the meeting room, leaving me stood with Scott; blood boiling and eyes twitching.
I knew this job was too good to be true. Why does Spencer Michaels have to be such an arse? And why am I so bloody attracted to him?