Office Affair

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A Downright Dirty Birthday

I expected my return to work with Gabriel to be awkward but instead, he's been perfectly patient and respectful. I'm impressed, but somehow also disappointed. He really kept to his word of maintaining a professional attitude.

"Good progress today, Jade. Your report was amazing. It was exactly what I wanted."

Holy shit, a rare compliment from the boss... "Thank you, I appreciate that. Any updates on Byron's case?"

"I wasn't able to contact his ex-wife today. According to the investigator, she may have left Spain entirely."

"Why? Where would she go? Our court date is approaching. Doesn't she need to be in the country to meet with her lawyers?"

"Exactly. We need to find out what she has up her sleeve."

"Could she be coming here? What if she's planning to sabotage our case?"

"I doubt it. Interfering with a fair trial wouldn't look good in front of the judge. But we can't be so sure. You're still on good terms with Melany, right?"

"Yes, she invited me to her piano recital next week."

"Great. Keep an eye out for any clues that could help us."

"I'll do my best. See you tomorrow."

"Keep up the good work." He leaves to his office, and I go back to my computer screen, unaware at that point that I'm being watched.

Kelly stood outside her office listening. Jade and Gabriel seem to be getting on better these days. I heard their case is going well..which is terrible news. Over my dead body will I let him take the partner job away from me.

*Later that week: What a beautiful spring morning! And it's not just any old day. I got a text from my sister.

Chloe: happy birthday, sis!

Jade: please, don't remind me.

Chloe: Are you at work today?

Jade: yes, it's Thursday, after all.

Chloe: okay, well put on your best dress, because I'm taking you out for a birthday drink afterward!

Jade: i'm already excited! you should come out with a couple of my friends and I afterward.

Chloe: i can't my next exam is coming up. but i'll definitely see you after work.

Jade: cool, see you then!

After work drinks would be fun with my sister. I should choose an outfit for work that's birthday-worthy. After putting on a silky jumpsuit, I smiled. I love this! It makes me feel like real birthday girl! And it'll look great for going out!

"Good morning, Jade."

"Morning, Kelly." I wonder what she wants today.

"I just came to say happy birthday."

"You did?"

"Yes and... I'm sorry. It wasn't fair of me to confront you like how I did the other day. As your ex-mentor, I just feel protective over you. I hope you can understand."

"I appreciate the apology."

"Good! Because I'd love to take you out for lunch for your birthday."

"That sounds nice, actually." We're interrupted by a deep, sexy voice.

"Jade, it's your birthday?"

"Good morning, Mr. Howard. I didn't see you there. Yes it is."

"Happy birthday! If I'd have known, I would have..."

"Given me the day off?"

"No."

"Bought me something?"

"No."

"A birthday cake?"

"I would have attached an e-card to the task list I just emailed you. "

"Oh."

"There's no time to rest with our court date coming up fast."

"Give the girl a break, Gabriel."

"I'm sorry, I actually WANT to win our case. I know that's a concept you're not used to."

"All you boys care about is winning. You don't care who you violate on your way up."

"Violate? I like the sound of that." He cocks his eyebrow is clear provocation.

"Ugh." Kelly frowns in frustration. "You really don't possess an ounce of common decency."

"I say what I must to achieve the desired effect. And apparently, it's working."

Oh no, I don't want any drama today! If we could all smooth out the differences, work would be so much more enjoyable. Maybe I could work my magic by inviting him to lunch with Kelly and I. Celebrating my birthday with him would make things more exciting. And she'd see that he's not as bad as he seems.

"Mr. Howard, Kelly has just invited me out for a birthday lunch. I'd love for you to join us."

"I'm sure Kelly wouldn't want me there."

"You've got one thing right today, Howard."

"....so my answer is yes."

"Of course it is."

"Perfect! Now, if you both excuse me, I've got some work to do."

The morning flies by, and soon it's time for lunch. Kelly chooses a boutique cafe nearby, full of French pastries, cakes and other sweet treats.

"Kelly, this place is adorable!"

"It's okay."

"I thought it would be perfect for an understated birthday lunch. I'm glad you like it! Gabriel, I wouldn't expect you to appreciate a place like this."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"You wouldn't approve of anywhere that's not a big overpriced Michelin star restaurant."

"I'm sorry, are you trying to insult me by acknowledging my excellent taste?"

"No, I'm trying to insult..."

I take a deep breath.

"Thank you. To both of you, for joining for my lunch on my birthday."

"It was the least I could do. I'm glad we could smooth things out between us."

"Smooth things out?"

"Yes. I may have underestimated Jade's loyalties to you. She's a very good assistant. I'd hate to see her waste time on an asshole like you."

He scowled. "I..."

"Guys..." I shook my head.

"Fine. I'm glad that's one thing we can agree on."

"She WAS taught by the best."

"Thank you, I'm glad you finally admit that."

"I was referring to myself."

"I should've known there was a catch." Gabriel nudges my leg under the table. I look into his eyes and see a slight glint of amusement. Seeing that he's secretly having fun, I relax.

"I've learned a lot from the both of you. I know you're both going for the partner, and honestly, the firm would be in good hands with either of you in that position."

"You seem awfully diplomatic for a lawyer."

"A good lawyer knows which battles are worth fighting for, Kelly."

I can't get either of these two to agree on anything!

"Would you excuse me while I use the bathroom."

"Sure."

Kelly leaves the two of us alone.

"So, have you got any birthday plans?"

"Yes. I'm being taken out after work for a drink. Then I'm meeting with some old friends."

"You're being taken out after work, huh? That doesn't sound wise when you have work in the morning."

"You know I'm always on time."

"Even so, I don't like the sound of it."

"Why?"

He inches closer to me, our hands almost touching. I can feel his breath on my cheek...and there it is: the urge to kiss him. Right here, in this public place. I push the temptation away.

"I didn't know you were letting other people take you out."

"Excuse me?"

"Is this the first time? How long have you been seeing each other?"

I frown and begin counting on my finger and laugh. "Let's see...I think I've known my sister since I was two years old. And no, this is not our first time going out together."

His relief is so visible that is makes me grin. "Your sister? That's who you're going out with?"

"Yes, who else would it be?"

"No one."

"I know what you thought. Even if I did want to date someone else, it wouldn't be any of your business."

"I don't like the idea of it."

"I thought we were just colleagues."

"So did I." And then we're interrupted.

"Hey, I'm back! Did I miss anything?"

"Jade was just telling me how she doesn't plan on dating while she remains my assistant."

"That's definitely not what..."

"Oh, what a wise decision! I wish I had been as smart as you when I was your age. I wasn't focused on my career at all. I thought if I married rich, I'd be okay. But look at me now-divorces at 32!"

"What a great cautionary tale, Kelly."

"On the contrary, I think it's possible to achieve some balance."

"And look at Gabriel! Okay, so we don't see eye to eye, but he isn't called the shark in the suit for no reason. His dedication to this job should be an example for you."

"Thanks, Kelly. I'm glad you share my views on this."

Well, I guess I didn't see this backfiring one me. "We really don't need to discuss my love life anymore. Why don't we take the rest of our food to go? Lunch hour is almost over."

"So it is. I'll just get the bill."

"It's on me."

"Oh Gabriel. There's no need for that."

"It's already done."

"Well thank you, that's almost thoughtful of you. If you're not careful, I'll have to retreat some of my earlier insults."

"Don't worry, I doubt it'll come to that."

"Maybe not."

"And Jade, there's not much that needs to be done in the office today. If you need to leave early, you're free to go. As long as you get the paperwork finished by our deadline."

"Thank you, Mr. Howard."

"Really, it's nothing. And...Happy birthday. Have a great time tonight."

"Thanks! I'm sure I will!" It paid off to bring him to lunch, after all! I send a quick text to Chloe to let her know I finished early. One cab ride later, I meet her at a new, trendy bar downtown. "Happy birthday, sis!"

"Thank you again, Chloe. And you really didn't have to spoil me with these gifts. Are you sure you don't want to grab food with my friends after?"

"I really shouldn't. My exams are next week."

"How is studying going?"

"Well, I;m actually doing great. It seems that my prison scare was the kick up the butt I needed."

"I'm happy to hear that."

"I've been cooped up in the library for the past few weeks. "I've forgotten what it's like to have a life so I'm dying to hear what's new with you."

"Well, work is going well. We've got a few ongoing cases and a high-profile trust fund case."

"You've got to give me something juicier than that! Any cute guys at work?"

"I...actually had a short fling with the boss."

"You what?! Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because it wasn't suppose to happen. He's my boss - I could've been fired! It's all over now, and that's the main thing."

"You don't sound happy about that."

"It doesn't matter. I've got to put my career first. I don't want to be an assistant forever."

"It's a shame you can't have it all."

"Tell me about it."

"Okay, so he's off-limits. Anyone else?"

"There IS one cute client. His name is Byron."

"Tell me more!"

"We've been working with him for a few weeks now, and he's always been pretty flirty whenever we meet. His daughter invited me to her piano recital this weekend and he wants me to go to his house after."

"Yay! That's so exciting! You HAVE to call and tell me everything."

"I will, don't worry."

"Perfect."

"It's getting late-I think I might head back to the library for a few more hours."

"No problem. I'm due to meet my friends soon anyways. Good luck with your exams. I know you'll crush them this time."

"I hope!"

I pull into a sister-bear hug before she fights herself free, laughing. "See you soon."

"See you!"

*Several hours later: What a night! It was lovely seeing Chloe and my friends were full of fun and games as always. Wait...What's that on my doorstep?

I stoop down to look at a bouquet of white roses covering the entire length of my doorstep. I enjoy the sweet floral scent for a few moments, before noticing the small envelope within it. I've never gotten flowers before! I wonder who they could be from. "To my delightful, hard-working, occasional pain in the ass and downright dirty assistant. Happy birthday. Next time, don't keep it a secret."

I can't believe Gabriel did this. I should tease him back. I pull out my phone with a smile on my face. This birthday is pretty perfect. Jade: downright dirty assistant? I didn't know you still thought of me that way.

Gabriel: You're a perfectly good assistant...But that doesn't stop me from mentally undressing you every time you walk in the room.

Jade: i thought we were keeping this professional.

Gabriel: so did I. Then I had a drink...or two. Now I'm desperate. What are you doing tonight?

Oh god...


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