Elegant Deception

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Ten

We decided not to intrude on the couple. Instead, we headed back to the reception area and waited for their call.

“Albert, we need to take action and precaution. We can’t let this happen again.” I felt partially guilty for this fallout, even though I wasn’t part of the security team.

“I know. And I’m ashamed that I wasn’t able to do my job properly,” he ruefully admitted.

I abruptly grabbed Albert’s arm, stopping him mid-stride. “Albert, this isn’t just your burden to carry. You did your job and kept them safe. This was beyond your control, okay? Don’t blame yourself.”

Albert opened his mouth to reply, but he was unable to find his words. He cleared his throat and tried again. “I know. Thank you, Amy. It’s just that…” he trailed off in defeat.

“Don’t beat yourself for one mistake, Albert. Learn from it and never make that same mistake twice.”

He nodded and gave me a weary smile. “Let’s head back. I feel bad leaving Greg there by himself.”

But once we arrived, Greg wasn’t alone. However, the police officer with him was gone. Instead with him was Dean, all in his tailored black suit and tie. Once they saw us approached, Dean and Greg stood up from where they sat by my desk.

“Amy, we’d like you to meet the new recruit…” Greg started but trailed off as I interjected.

“And you’re a freelance security guard as well, I see,” I stated, arching my eyebrow as I gazed at him.

Dean smirked. “I am, so it seems. But I was never a bartender. And I occasionally help out my aunt at her store.”

Albert and Greg glanced between Dean and me with confusion. “You two already know each other?” Greg asked.

“Yes. Well, not that well-acquainted,” I replied.

“We met at her birthday last Saturday while I covered a shift for my bartender friend,” Dean added as well.

Albert and Greg kept quiet for a moment before everything clicked. “Bartender? The Bartender? You were the bartender that night? The bartender?” Greg asked and kept repeating the word.

“Yes, I was. Is there something wrong about that?” Dean asked in confusion by Greg’s response.

The mood shifted altogether.

I wasn’t pleased where this was going. But Albert warned him to be professional. I’m glad he wasn’t one who’s prone to exaggerate. Although, he hid his amusement with a cough and excused himself to talk with the building security about the incident.

By the time Albert was gone, Greg was on full interrogation mode, ignoring Albert’s prior warnings.

“I know you’ve sent your résumé to Albert, but I hope you won’t mind me asking more question,” Greg stated.

Dean nodded in reply.

“So, what were you doing before taking this security job?” He didn’t hesitate to get right to it.

“I used to work for the Bureau.” He curtly replied.

I looked at him wide-eyed. Greg whistled in appreciation. “How did you end up with freelance security job after that job description?”

“My Uncle owns a security company. He decided to retire after he’s been diagnosed with prostate cancer. I hadn’t considered retiring early from my previous job, but I can’t let my uncle continue working in his condition as well. Under those circumstances, plus my parent’s moving back here in Chicago from England, I decided to return home and help with the business.” His sincere answer brought Greg and me to a halt. How were we going to react to that?

Dean saw our expression and lightly chuckled. “No need to feel put out with my situation. Though I did say I hadn’t considered this job, I’m here willingly. I don’t do things half-heartedly.” He added.

Greg placed a hand on Dean’s shoulder and gave it an assuring squeeze. “I don’t personally know you, but I’m glad you’re here with us, Dean.” He stated in a serious note.

Then he peered at me with a mischievous grin. “You’d be a fool not to consider to date this man, Amy.”

I flushed at his underhanded attack. “Greg,” I said in warning.

Dean glanced between us with slight confusion. “Did you tell him that I asked you out for coffee yesterday?” His question only made it worst for me.

“Oh!” Greg nearly yelled and laughed. “You asked her out? Where did this incident take place?” he inquired with interest.

I pursed my lips, not in the mood to be answering any personal questions. However, Dean didn’t feel the same way.

“I was helping out my Aunt at her store yesterday before my interview with Albert. She happened to stop by my aunt’s store… that’s when I asked her.” He kept his explanation short.

Greg looked too ecstatic about this revelation. Even I wasn’t that excited about it – maybe. “And? Where you able to have your coffee date?” He pressed further.

I held up my hand as Dean was about to willingly reply. “I’ll stop you right there, Greg. This isn’t the time or place to be discussing our personal life. How about you check Julian and Zoey and see if they’re fine before people start coming in?” I suggested grimly.

Greg arched his eyebrow but otherwise followed. “This isn’t over, Amy. I’ll have my answers later.” He lightly threatened.

I rolled my eyes and gestured him inside. Now that he was gone as well, all that was left in the reception was Dean and me.

There was a brief moment of awkward silence.

“Am I supposed to guess what that’s about or –?” Dean’s question dangled as he waited for my response.

“That was nothing. They were just teasing me, per usual,” I willingly informed.

“Was this what you were talking about yesterday?” He asked with slight humor.

I groaned. How could he remember that? “Partially. I know they mean well. But it’s gotten a bit problematic after I’ve introduced them to a friend yesterday. He was here for a job interview.”

“I see. Was that also why you didn’t accept my offer yesterday as well?” He pressed. Now I see where he was going.

I had to bite my lip in order to hold back a smile. “No. That didn’t have anything to do with it. And I never refused you on your offer.” I defended.

“But you said, maybe.” He enunciated the word like it was a rejection.

I chuckled, which made him arched his eyebrow in question. “I was serious about taking you out for coffee, you know.” He added when I didn’t say anything. “I’m offended.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to laugh. And I only said ‘maybe’ because I wasn’t sure when I would be able to see you again. As you’ve said, you only help out at the store. You might not be there on my next visit.” I reasoned.

“Since I’m here now, does that mean…” He trailed off when I coyly smirked.

“Since I already have a coffee, how about lunch?” I boldly asked. Even for me, that was courageous.

He grinned and nodded. “Lunch then.”

Our conversation with cut short as when Dean had to leave on Albert’s call. Greg returned to the desk moments later, but he quickly followed Dean and Albert as well. As soon as the rest of the staff had arrived, news about the incident with Julian and Zoey quickly circulated. When Kyla stepped out of the elevator, I knew she’d heard about what happened to Julian and Zoey from her expression. Since she and Rhea were across town for a meeting for most of the morning drama, by the time she arrived, I was ready for her questions.

“On the day I’m at a meeting, something like that happens,” Kyla groaned. “I mean, I’m happy I wasn’t here, and I’m worried for those two, but if I were here…” she trailed off and started muttering in profanity.

“How are they, Amy?” Rhea inquired while Kyla composed herself.

“Greg checked on them about a couple of hours ago. I haven’t been in there since I saw those two huddled in each other’s arms while a police officer was asking Greg questions,” I replied. “But Greg did say that they’re fine.”

“I see.” Kyla nodded. “Thank you, Amy. I’ll check on those two now and see it for myself.”

“Please do, Kyla. And let me know if there’s something I could help them.” I offered.

“Of course.”

Her and Rhea walked inside with a look of determination. Then I was left by myself on my desk in peace to do my work. But by quarter to noon, the three security staff returned. Albert looked even more pissed than he did this morning. I was impatient to ask for more news, but kept quiet and allowed them to cool off first.

Thankfully, Greg was chatty – seemingly annoyed about it. So he was able to give me some insight into what happened.

“They had a new recruit who took the night shift. He got too lenient since it was nearly the end of his shift. I know it can be tiring, but it was no excuse for him to be lax with security.” Greg let out his frustration.

“I hope he’s not in too much trouble,” I stated in worry for the staff who allowed the trespassing paparazzi in the building.

“Building management is handling it with our request.” Albert firmly informed.

Greg sat down beside me with a heavy sigh. “They should already implement the identification scanner. Didn’t Mr. Hawksley already requested this and they’ve greenlit the idea?”

“Yes. They did. However, since they’re multiple companies leasing each floor of the building, it’ll take time.” Albert replied.

“If you don’t mind me asking, why wasn’t the building already equipped with that type of security? Most modern office buildings have that kind of security. I’m surprised that this building didn’t,” Dean asked.

“Primarily, this building used to be owned by one company. However, they’ve relocated and sold the place. But the owner wasn’t able to lease it for a single company, so he had it leased for multiple corporations instead,” I replied. Since I was one of the people present, other than Rufus who’s no longer here when Julian signed the leased. I have the best answer.

“They were still newly refurbished when we got this place two years ago. So, they haven’t gotten around modernizing some of its building function yet,” I added.

“I see. That’s truly a problem for us. But, haven’t Jul…Mr. Hawksley considered something like this happening?” Dean continued asking.

“When he leased this place, this was supposed to be a temporary office until we found a building of our own. We’ve signed a two to three years lease on this floor. But I’m confident that Julian isn’t planning on making this the office’s permanent residence. Plus, Julian never anticipated that he’ll meet Zoey while we were still new. This was beyond his power, Dean. We can’t blame him or anyone for what happened. All we could do now is prevent the same thing from happening again.” I stated, feeling his slight resentment to our boss.

“Of course, I don’t blame him. But he should have known better.” Dean bitterly stated.

There was brief awkward silence after his remark. Once Zoey’s called in for me, it was a welcomed excuse to get away from the tension. I hastily headed inside and asked Greg to manage the desk while I’m away, as he mostly did when it isn’t Sean’s shift. I could still feel a bit of stress as I walked away. Dean’s gaze seemed to follow me until I disappeared around the corner.

I breathe out a sigh of relief when I reached Rhea’s desk. She was standing there like she was waiting for someone. As it turned out, she was waiting for me. I wasn’t the only one called by Zoey.

“What’s happening?” I asked as Rhea and I walked side by side towards Zoey’s desk.

In the corner of my eyes, I could see most of the secretary staff had gotten up and approached Zoey’s desk as well.

“Zoey’s calling for a brief meeting from all the secretarial staff. That’s all I know, Amy,” Rhea replied. She looked as confused as I am.

We both hurriedly made it to her desk before any of our co-workers arrived. I didn’t beat around the bush and bluntly asked her.

“Zoey, is something the matter?” I inquired.

Seeing Rhea and me, Zoey stood up and gestured towards the small conference room that Julian mostly used when he had an executive guest for meetings or conference calls.

“Please, come with me. It’s better I address this with the whole group so there won’t be any miscommunications,” she said.

Rhea and I nodded in unison and entered the room first before the rest of the secretarial staff followed. When we were all present, minus the ones who weren’t scheduled for the morning shift, Zoey got everyone’s attention.

“Firstly, I’d like to apologize for those who were here this morning to witness what happened with the ‘uninvited’ guest. I hope you were not harmed while they were here.” Zoey looked calm as she addressed everyone in the room. However, her tired gaze said otherwise. She’s still not okay.

When no one interrupted her, she continued with her speech. “I called you all here to ask for your help. I know you have a task of your own. But I have faith in your capabilities to do this job with me. With us together, we could finish this as quickly as we can.”

It was then I spoke up. “We’ll help you in any way we can, Zoey. All you need to do is ask.”

Everyone around me nodded and muttered in agreement.

“What do you need from us, Zoey?” Rhea spoke up next, asking the questions which we all wanted to know.

Zoey peered at Rhea and me with a smile. She took a deep breath before getting to the point. “Mr. Hawksley and I had already talked about relocating the office for the past couple of months. Though we haven’t maxed out the capacity of this floor, we saw – from today’s event – that this place is incapable of addressing our needs and security. So I asked you to help me in the next couple of weeks to find a better-suited office for us to lease. I know it may seem like an easy task, however, this is Chicago. We should consider cost and location, and sometimes those things aren’t amicable. But with these team, I know we can get this done fast.”

“We’ll help, Zoey,” I avowed. Everyone nodded in agreement.

“Thank you so much. I truly appreciate it, everyone. And again, I apologize for the inconvenience this event had caused you. It was a personal matter. Julian and I are taking responsibility in order for this not to happen. But we both know we can’t do this by ourselves. I hope you won’t resent me for it,” Zoey admitted truthfully.

I stood up and reached out towards her for a hug. She wholeheartedly accepted my comfort. “It wasn’t your fault. We can only do better and not let this happen again in the near future.”

Everyone muttered a ‘yes’ in agreement. My fellow colleague’s words gave me confidence that this event only made the company and team stronger. It reminded me why I took the job in England and remained with them all these years. The people who worked closely for Julian and his family are good people – which reflected the family’s image and their standing in the business world. Hawksley Holding was a good company run by good people.

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