Lies and Loyalties
"I can't believe Gabriel left for Spain without me."
"Why do you look shocked? It's barely a surprise. You should know what he's like."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm not blind. I know something is going on between you."
"Is it that obvious?"
"Honestly, I'm surprised I'm the only one who's noticed."
"Regardless of what's going on, just know I'm dedicated to this job."
She shoots me an annoyed look. "It's not your job that I'm worried about. It's mine. Bakewell, our founder, is still considering who to make partner, and he's asked to speak to you tomorrow."
"What? But why..."
"When you're considering who to be loyal to, just remember that you wouldn't just have even landed this job without my recommendation."
"I know, and I'm grateful."
She nods approvingly. "Gabriel couldn't care less about you. He's in Spain alone, taking all the credit for the case. Do you honestly think if he was to become a partner, he'd want to keep you? He's already trying to transfer you. He's a jerk! I would've thought you were smarter than to get involved with a guy like him, Jade."
"I'm not comfortable having this conversation. My working relationship with Mr. Howard is nobody's business."
"Very well. I hope for your sake, reality doesn't catch up with you." She frowns at me one last time and goes back to her office.
Now I can drop my game face and pray she's not right. Am I really that disposable to him? I need to speak with him ASAP. I'll try to contact his personal number.
Jade: where are you? Did you really go back to Barcelona alone? Please get back to me soon.
Gabriel: AutoMessage: "MR. GABRIEL HOWARD is currently out of office. Messages will be responded to as soon as possible."
Ugh! That again. I sure do hope Kelly is kidding.
I keep my phone volume on max for the rest of the day, jumping whenever I receive a text...but unfortunately, I don't hear back from him. My worst fears are coming true.
By the time the next day comes around, my restlessness turns into anxiety with the meeting with Bakewell.
*At the appointed time: "Good morning, Mr. Bakewell. You wanted to speak with me."
"Ah yes. Jade, right?"
"Please make yourself comfortable. I called you here to ask about how you're finding the job. You're working with Mr. Howard quite closely, I'm aware of what goes on."
Oh shit, does he know about us? Is this the part where I get fired for sleeping with my boss? "I don't know what you're talking about, Mr. Bakewell."
"You of all people should know about Mr. Howard's reputation."
"When you say reputation, I assume you mean..."
"I mean his tendency to rule the office with an iron fist. You're his third assistant in many months."
Thank god! He doesn't know about us. "I can't argue with that!"
"As you must have heard, we're looking to make another partner. He is one of the lawyers we're considering for the job. So, any information you give me could influence our decision. Please be as honest as you can. How's it been working with him?"
Besides being an utter jerk? "Mr. Howard is an incredible lawyer. He's efficient, knowledgeable and his clients trust him. Yes, he can be a little blunt sometimes but he's been an inspiration to work with, and I think he would be perfect for the position of partner."
"You don't have a bad word to say about him, which surprises me. You're quite possibly the first person who has responded so positively about him."
To my relief, Bakewell smiles at me.
"Unfortunately for Mr. Howard, this means I'm going to reject his request for a new assistant. You're just the kind of assistant he needs, and I think working together could challenge him in many ways."
"Thank you, I think."
He nods, and I get to leave, realizing the meeting is about to end, but he then motions me to stop. "A word of advice. Mr. Howard only bites when he's given a reason to. Be prepared for each day, do thorough research for the cases and always think outside the box. If you're a step ahead at every chance, you'll not only be in a good position with Mr. Howard but you'll also work your way rapidly up this company. You hold more potential than any of the assistants he's had."
"Thank you, Mr. Bakewell. That means a lot, especially from you."
"Keep up the good work."
I leave his office, trying to contain myself to not laugh of happiness. It feels good to be appreciated by the founder of the firm! Working my way up to becoming an associate is my goal. His advice was invaluable. Wait, why is Gabriel's office door open? Is he back? I peek in and see him. He looks tired.
"You could've replied to my messages."
"That's the thing about flying. You don't get signal 35,000 feet in the air."
"Hmm, interesting since you fly first class with unlimited Wi-Fi."
"What were you doing walking in here anyways? I suggested to management it would be best if you worked with another lawyer."
What did Bakewell tell me again? Ah yes, to stay one step ahead. "Yes, I got the memo. Unfortunately for both of us, Bakewell insists we continue working together. Apparently, you've been struggling to keep an assistant for longer than a week."
"How dare you suggest..."
"As for coming into your office, I noticed your door was open, and I know you don't like uninvited visitors. So, I came to make sure no one was violating the rules while you were gone."
"I find that hard to believe. I closed the door behind me."
"Then I think you should consider repairing the knob."
"And I think you should consider heading back to your desk so you can get started on the list I'm about to email you."
"Of course." I go back to my desk and I see him press the intercom as I leave.
"I'd better call our receptionist. Brooke, get in here."
"Yes, Mr. Howard?"
"It seems that my door needs a new knob. Can you arrange that, please?"
"I'll look into it."
*Meanwhile... The look on his face to still see me here was priceless. If he wants to pretend like we never happened, that's fine by me. I'll show him how professional I can be. I still have so much to prove.
As the next few days pass, I begin to notice Gabriel's tasks are making my job as difficult as possible. But much to his arrogance, I maintain my professionalism, stepping up to every challenge. I refuse to show weakness, noticing he's losing his cool.
"Good morning, Jade. I forgot to include a few items in the task list. I'll need you to file all the August reports, draft a document for Mrs. Slater, and do some more research on trust fund legalities."
"When would you like to be done?"
"The end of the day."
"That can't be possible! Mrs. Slater's document will be at least 8,000 words alone! I..."
"Are you saying you can't do your job?"
"Oh, I'm more than capable. Consider it done."
"Good. I wouldn't want a reason to fire you."
"Of course not."
There's no way she can finish all of these jobs.
There's no way I'll let him see me fail at this.
"Oh, I also forgot to bring lunch today. Would you mind having some delivered to my office in an hour?" He gives a big fake smile and walks away.
Asshole! I should've known he'd do this. If I'm going to get this done, I'll have to delegate some tasks. Report filing can be easily done by our legal secretary. I'll also ask her to get takeout from the cafe she visits for lunch. next, I know Kelly had a trust fund case a few months back. I can ask her to share her research files. That would leave me free to work on Mrs. Slater's paperwork for the rest of the day.
My fingers are aching by the time I finish typing up Mrs. Slater's document. But I do it on time. And so, when Gabriel calls me to his office, I feel confident for action.
"You wanted to see me, Mr. Howard?"
"Yes, I wanted the draft of Mrs. Slater's contract."
"I already emailed it to you an hour ago."
"You did? Completed?"
"I know better than to do a half-finished job."
"What about the filing?"
"The research I asked for?"
"In the printing room. I also took it upon myself to highlight the areas which were relevant to our case."
"So...you finished everything?"
He blinks at me, completely speechless. "I, um... I didn't expect...Thank you."
"No problem. Anything else?"
"There's still 20 more minutes."
"No. There's nothing else I can think of. Nothing work-related, anyway."
He looks at me with a mischievous grin. "There's plenty of other activities that we could do in 20 minutes, though."
"What are you suggesting, Mr. Howard?"
"You've been a very well-behaved assistant today. I know that's not an easy task for you. So, I suppose you should be rewarded."
His fingers find the top of his tie, as he begins to loosen the knot.
"What are you doing?"
"Don't you think it's getting a little hot in here?"
I watch, wide-eyed, as his hands move down to his shirt buttons, slowly teasing them open. His muscles tense, and he almost seems to caress himself as he proceeds to show more skin.
I can't believe he thinks he can just fuck me to win back power over me.
"I suppose it is hot in here. Would you like some help with that shirt?
"Well, it's a two-person job."
"You've been saying all the right things today."
"Yes. You don't even just know how irresistible you are." I slowly move closer to him, until we're inches apart. I linger for a moment and watch the rise and fall of his chest quickening under my gaze. I slide my hands under the fabric of his shirt, and I push it over his muscular shoulders and down his arms exposing his rippled torso."
"Enjoying the view?"
"Very." Clutching the shirt in my hand, I realize how bad of an idea this is. As I beeline toward the door, he quickly reacts and blocks my path.
"Where do you think you're going?"
"Let me out."
"You have my shirt. Do you think I'm stupid?"
"Well, you certainly aren't very insightful if you think for one second that I'd come crawling back to you, after how you've treated me."
"I've treated you like an assistant. If you don't like it, you should just quit."
"Oh, you'd love that, wouldn't you?"
"Yes. Because then I wouldn't feel guilty every time I look at you. Every glance makes me want to rip your clothes off. If you quit, maybe I'd be able to do my job properly."
"That's why you tried to get rid of me?"
"I told you. I can't have anything or anyone throwing me off right now."
"You didn't even have the decency to tell me. I thought you were having some kind of power trip."
He grins at me, then leans closer and whispers "Maybe I was. In fact, I still am."
I feel the heat of his bare torso, only inches from me. I feel my pulse speed up. Stop Jade. He reaches towards my face and strokes my lips with his thumb. I feel like melting under his touch, feeling like my plan has backfired. Knowing how badly he wanted me this whole time... He slips one hand around the back of my neck and another around my waist. I can't do this. It's so wrong. He leans down, showing the need to feel his lips on mine.
"This isn't very professional of you, Mr. Howard."
"Should I act professional?"
"Fuck professional." He lowers his lips on mine, but this kiss is hard and desperate. I slide my hands over his back, remembering how it felt to feel him inside me, laying on his desk. I want it again... A moan escapes my lips and then I nearly jump when someone knocks at the door.
"Ah, I... I'm not expecting anyone."
He opens door, seeing Brooke. "I'm sorry to interrupt. You have a visitor here to see you. I know it's almost 5, but he said it was urgent."
"Send him in."
My eyes widen when I see it's none other than our top client. He seems stressed.
"Mr. Howard, Jade, you have to help me! My daughter Melany found out about the lawsuit. She disappeared!"