The room was alive with music, chatter, and laughter. I looked around and sighed. That was not the way I wanted to spend my night off. My initial plans for the evening consisted of cuddling a blanket on my couch with a pint of cookie dough ice cream, and binge-watching Friends.
If Mr. Stein had not insisted I show my face, I would have happily been doing just that. Those office parties were nothing but a way for people to kiss up to the big guy. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understood why the single ladies jumped at the chance of landing a bachelor like Milo Stein. He wasn’t only an absolute god in looks with his flaxen hair and chocolate eyes, but he was wealthy. His company was one of the largest publishers in the country.
I started as his assistant when I was twenty-four. It was supposed to be a temporary job. Photography was where my heart truly lied. There was nothing quite like capturing life’s precious moments. I only started there to buy some time until my big break came. After a few months and no luck, I stayed to pay my bills. Suddenly, another hopeless year had passed, and I decided to continue working at Stein Corp while keeping my passion for myself.
Just as I chose to relieve my sore legs, I heard him hollering my name from across the room. I absolutely wished that he wouldn’t call me like some kind of pet. It was degrading. Tossing a carrot stick back onto my paper plate, I pushed up from the table. My long raven hair concealed my nervous face from the prying eyes.
“Come, Miss Carter,” He hollered, using his hand to beckon me forward. Following a struggle to push through the large crowd, I was at his side. Mr. Stein looked down at me with his deal closing smile and placed a hand on the small of my back, flagging down a server. Although I worked close to him every day, the innocent gesture made my heart twitch nervously.
“Four years, Miss Carter, and I’ve never seen you just relax,” He stated, handing me a glass of champagne.
How would he know what I looked like relaxed? It’s not like he had ever taken the time to get to know me. The most common phrases, I heard out of his mouth were “Get my coffee, where’s my lunch, tell so-and-so that I’m unavailable”.
I did most of the talking, informing him of appointments, and when his dry cleaning would be picked up. Don’t even get me started on the numerous messages I relayed from desperate women begging for his returned affection. Those proved to be a bit awkward reading out loud. Some of those women were not shy about their sex life.
“What good would I be if I sat on my ass, relaxing in the office, sir?” I asked him, taking a sip of my fruity champagne.
When he laughed, my lips formed a smile. It was a rare thing to hear him laughing sincerely. He often used a halfhearted chuckle in the office when a client presented a poor joke.
“I wasn’t aware, you could be such a smart ass,” He smirked with curiosity knitting his brow.
“Well, I wasn’t aware, you actually had a sense of humor.” My boss’s eyes traced my face, making me question my choice of words.
In all the time I had been there, he never gave me more than a short sideways glance, so the long look was very hard for me to understand.
The pointed coughs from our surrounding coworkers demanded his attention. Something about the way he looked at me made me want to run as fast as I could towards the door. I can’t deny, I had taken more than a handful of moments to stop and appreciate his mouth watering looks.
On the other hand, I harbored no interest in anything romantic with him. Not only because he was my boss, but he sat far too deep in the public eye than I’d ever cared to be. Any outing involving a woman, regardless of it being a date or not, turned into weeks worth of messy gossip.
“Milo, I hear your parents are separating. I hate that for you but lucky for me. Your mom’s a real looker. Think I got a chance?“ Joe Anderson spewed from his thoughtless mouth.
Joe, my least favorite person at Stein Corp was the company’s hotshot lawyer. He was nothing more than an arrogant pig. He had a firm but insisted on having his own space there, so he could keep close to his top payer. His rude comment surprised me. He spouted ignorant things to everyone else all day long. But when it comes to Mr.Stein, he was perfectly professional. More often than not, I found myself searching his wrinkled face to make sure his nose hadn’t turned brown.
I cautiously slid my eyes to Mr.Stein’s face after catching him grip the side of his pants. He had his poker face on. Except from my point of view, I could see his jaw moving ever so slightly as he clenched his mouth shut.
“Maybe, but I wouldn’t recommend any advances just yet,” He said, striving to keep his composure. Noting his uncomfortable position, I sprang into action. After all, it was part of the job.
“Mr.Stein, I know we’re supposed to be relaxing tonight, but I just remembered the deadline for Joann Mason’s manuscript is on Monday. I regretfully forgot to get your final approval this afternoon.”
“Joann?” He questioned. Raising my eyebrow at him, I hummed my confirmation. Catching on to my plan of escape, he flashed his brilliant smile at the large group.
“My job is never done. Please, excuse us.”
Staying a reasonable distance behind, I followed him into his office, nervously rubbing my arm as he shut the door behind us. I made my way to the large window in the back of the room and looked out at the city lights. It was always so beautiful at night. I only got to experience the city like that on when I worked late, even then I couldn’t stop long enough to appreciate it. I looked through a split in my hair as he took his place next to me.
Mr. Stein huffed, “Thank you. I guess I wasn’t as good at hiding my feeling as I had hoped.”
“No, you were. I just recognize your tells.” The intrigued stare he was giving me made my heart jump. “I’ve been at your side four years, Mr.Stein. If I couldn’t see such things, I’d be no use to you.”
“I guess that’s true,” He sighed, taking a step back. “I’ll be right back.”
I turned towards the door as he scurried from the room. When he returned, he had an unopened bottle of champagne and two glasses. As he sat them on his desk, I took a seat in his red leather computer chair. He playfully scoffed at my actions.
“Where am I suppose to sit now?”
“There’s a seat right over there,” I tittered, pointing towards a chair in front of the desk. He handed me one of the glasses and sat down.
“Because of your job, you have some insight into my life. Yet, I know nothing about you. I’ve never seen a friend or family member, not even a photo of anyone on your desk. What’s the deal there?” I wasn’t aware rescuing him would be an open invitation for him to pry. I wasn’t up to telling my story. It remained irrelevant. I was capable of doing my job just fine, if not better, keeping the details to myself. I wasn’t about to give him any office gossip.
“There’s not a deal. I have a mom and a dad just like you. They live in Louisiana, and I’m an only child.”
“That’s all you’re giving me? No friends or lovers?”
“I have a few friends back in Slidell, but here, no. As for a lover, you keep me far too busy for one of those,” Hiding a smirk behind my glass, I downed my champagne.
I wasn’t sure why he was showing interest in me so suddenly. Perhaps, he was merely making small talk to let the awkward air clear in the next room. Nonetheless, I was enjoying an actual conversation with someone other than cashiers in the grocery store.
“I’m not that demanding! You get the weekends off!” He bitterly protested.
“Mr. Stein, please, remind me of the last weekend, you didn’t call me in?” Lightly tapping a finger to my mouth, I waited for his reply. Watching as he threw his head back, his eyes stared at the ceiling as he scanned his brain for the answer.
“Eh, you got me,” He said, moving around the desk to sit in front of me.
“What about you Mr-” My words were cut short when he stuck his hand up.
“Laynie you probably know more about me than my mother, when it's just us, call me Milo.”
“Okay, Milo, which of the long list of women have you set your eyes on?” His eyes raking over my body made me squirm in my seat in an attempt to hide the shiver he provoked.
The champagne was starting to work its magic and honestly, it had been four grueling years since I’d seen any action. Mr. Stein kept me on a tight schedule. I rarely had the energy to make it to my bed. Which said a lot since there are only three rooms in my apartment. He let out a sigh, using his legs to pull the chair closer. Feeling my heart starting to race, I quickly adjusted my eyes to my lap.
“None, ” He frowned, "They’re all women, my mother has forced my way. I give them a chance to satisfy her, but they’re usually the same woman in a different shell, not a one has done anything for me.” Glancing under my thick lashes, I found him leaning dangerously close. I swiftly jumped from my seat with my heart racing and turned back to the sparkling lights of the city. As much as I could have gone for a one-night romance, it couldn’t be with him. Or could it?
When Milo wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me against him, I threw all caution to the wind. After turning to look my handsome CEO in his eyes, he introduced our lips in a breath-stealing kiss that led to the frantic disposable of our clothes. The moment he lifted me against the cold window and slid inside me, I lost all concern about tomorrow. All I cared about was letting that man take me over.