Surprise Me Maybe

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Cornelian Dilemma

It’s just hilarious that I feel like a teenager having her first crush once again. My days have been filled with an adrenaline rush, the smile that never leaves my lips, and the optimistic feeling as if life has become ten times better than it has ever been. Yes, I’m in cloud nine because of Ashton.

As expected, it’s not easy to find time to see each other during weekdays since we can’t really interact in the open. Besides, his tight schedules keep him away most of the time. Once he’s in his office, he spends his time glaring at the reports of our sales figures before summoning the managers to cook them alive.

I don’t understand why he can’t be a hot-and-cold CEO like those characters in romance books, where the boss’s job is only to sign documents, and the company rolls by itself from there so that he can spend more time to seduce his employee. In this case, me.

But I can’t complain. Ashton has shown up at my place late at night, twice this week, after he managed to get out of his demanding workload. Chloe was already in her bed by then, but still, we needed to be careful. That’s how we always ended up sitting in his car in my dark driveway to chill. Or more.

The ringing intercom on my desk pokes my premature daydream. Mindlessly, I pick it up and Max’s voice is on the line before I have a chance to greet. “Charlie, are you free for a talk during lunchtime?” His tone sounds different. Something is off.

“Yes, sure. Is everything okay?” I ask.

“We’re going to discuss the issue at lunch,” Max replies but does not really answer my question. “And Mr. Knight asks you to be in his office once you’re done with the clients’ data. Is eleven-thirty perfect?”

“Y-yeah. Eleven-thirty is fine.”

“Good.” With that, Max hangs up and his voice is replaced with the beeping noise from the phone receiver. I haven’t even had a chance to ask for what reason I’m being summoned to our CEO’s office room.

Filling in my clients’ data has never been this long because my head is elsewhere. It’s nine floors away from where I’m sitting now, to be precise. I have to meet Ashton in an hour and then I have something seemingly important to discuss with Max at lunch. What’s going on? Did one of my clients file a serious complaint about me? Or oh, did he magically find out about me and Ashton?

When I finally arrive at his office, Ashton’s door is wide open while he is sitting behind his desk, eyes on papers in his hand. I’m almost sure I can hear his buffalo grunts within this distance.

“Ms. Garnett is here, sir,” Andy, the executive assistant, informs after softly knocking on his boss’s door, prompting Ashton to lift his gaze. His piercing green eyes turn slightly softer when our gazes meet.

“Ms. Garnett. I’m glad that you show up as per request,” Ashton greets before looking at Andy. “I’m not taking any calls until after lunch break. And, the venue for the two o’clock meeting will be in a meeting room instead of my office.”

Andy gasps. “But I’m afraid there will be no room available due to this very short notice.”

“Just find a room for me, Andy.”

“Y-yes, sir.” With that, Andy walks back to his desk.

From the corners of my eyes, I can see Andy glancing at me as I slowly enter our CEO’s room. As Ashton’s former personal assistant, I know what is going on inside Andy’s head right now. He’s pitying me because Mr. Knight requires my presence in his lion den. He’s probably expecting me to come out of this office room ruined and soulless.

“Can you close the door behind you, Ms. Garnett?” Ashton commands.

Without wasting any second, I close the door without breaking eye contact with Ashton. Once we’re hidden from Andy’s sight, he roams his eyes shamelessly over my body as his gaze turns darker.

“Come here. Now,” he growls.

“We have thirty minutes until lunch. It’s more than enough for ten times quickies,” I reply, seductively swinging my hips as I walk to him. “Office quickie with my boss during working hours. My oh my, I feel dirty already. I’m getting paid for banging my CEO.”

Ashton yanks me to him once I’m within his reach, ushering me to sit on his lap. “We don’t have time for ten times quickies. We will need to attend a lunch meeting with the Chief of Human Resources. It’s about your work transfer.”

“Oh.”

“And I want you to be prepared.”

I raise my eyebrow. “To be prepared, how? By sitting on my boss’s lap?”

“Well, that’s a bonus.”

I giggle in a low tone, not wanting Andy to hear us even though I doubt that it’s the case. I could never hear anything from Ashton’s closed-door back when I was sitting at the assistant’s desk eight months ago. “So, prepare me, Boss,” I slur.

Ashton answers it with a long mind-blowing tongue kiss, making me dizzy from the intensity. “That’s what you get from acting slutty at work, Ms. Garnett.”

“You’re the one who made me sit on you,” I argue, still panting from the kiss. “So, tell me about this lunch appointment. Why did I get notified only twenty-five minutes before the meeting?”

“Because the original plan was, you didn’t need to come to this meeting. It was supposed to be just me, Max, and the Chief of Human Resources, but since you’re available, we decided to tag you along.”

“Ah, this is the lunch talk Max told me about.” I click my tongue. “I almost suspected he knew about us,” I chirp before realizing something and I freeze. “Oh.”

“Yes. Oh. At this point, he knows you’re the mother of my child.”

“OH.” I gulp. “Does he know that we’re seeing each other, too?”

“No, of course not,” Ashton replies, “unless someone has planted a bug somewhere in my office.” His answer makes me jerk away and sweep his room with my eyes, earning me a chuckle from him.

“You’re joking, right? Okay, about the meeting. I want to hear more,” I say as I plop down on his desk, creating a reasonable distance between us. “I can’t sit on your lap while we’re discussing my career future. My brain isn’t designed for that.”

“Fair point.” Ashton smirks and adjusts his sitting position, hiding the volume in his pants. “So, about the meeting. Basically, they’re going to give you options. First, staying with us in this subsidiary company, but then you know it will cost you some inconvenient situations. Your achievement and promotion will always raise questions from your colleagues and the rest of this company group. It’s not possible that the nature of the relationship you have with your team changes. Everything about you will be associated with me.”

I clutch the edge of Ashton’s desk, feeling my stomach churn while listening to Ashton’s explanation.

“Furthermore, if they find out about us, one of us needs to resign–”

“Which is going to be me.”

“Exactly,” he replies confidently, making me groan and hate myself for being a peasant in this company hierarchy.

“What is the other option then?”

“Joining the international marketing team in the headquarter office. There is an opening. No more handling existing accounts, but you need to bring new clients from abroad. Higher target, more stress, but if you nail it, the compensation is gold.”

“Pff, either way, I will get extra stress from both choices anyway. Wait, is there even a division for that?”

“That’s the thing. It used to be under the marketing division, but it’s been growing well and they’re now setting up a new division focusing on overseas clients, and–” Ashton interlaces his fingers before bringing it under his chin “–Dickson is going to run the division.”

“Fuck me,” I groan again.

Ashton sighs. “So, it’s going to be that. You will be given time to decide, of course. Also, considering Chloe’s birthday is in a week, where I and the rest of the Knights will be there as her family in front of everyone, I’m going to make this public soon.”

“Public as in informing the executive members first, right?”

“Hmm... that also.” Ashton leans over as he caresses my outer thighs, distracting my ability to think.

“I have a bad feeling about this. Spill.”

“Public as in company-magazine public?” His hands’ movement is getting bolder.

“You’re kidding,” I groan, swatting his hands off my legs.

“Have I ever, Char? As I said, let’s just get this done with,” he murmurs as he glances at the wall clock. “Dammit, we don’t have a lot of time left.”

“What? You can’t get it up that fast anymore? Poor old man.”

Ashton laughs. “I need to teach that pretty mouth of yours to shut up, don’t I?” With that, he gets up and cups the back of my head before slamming his lips on mine.

---

Ashton looks tense. I know he dislikes the options as much as I do, but Max is the unhappiest person at this lunch meeting desk at the moment. He is about to lose one team member, for the second time this year.

“So, it’s decided. Your transfer will be official per October the first, the same day as the new International team is launched. Considering the short notice, you will be given extra weeks with Mr. William’s team regarding the clients handing over. However, I will encourage you to start joining the preliminary meeting with the International Marketing team next week. Mr. Dickson Knight, your future leader, will be there too. It’s going to be a good opportunity to get to know your teammates.” Mrs. Smith, our new Human Resource Chief recaps. She smiles at me, closes her notes, and takes a deep breath. “So, any questions, Ms. Garnett?”

I purse my lips, feeling surreal with all these coming abrupt changes. Switching to a new team means I have to start over again, and it’s not easy. Especially when my new boss is the infamous Dickson Knight, which I’m sure is the reason for Ashton’s sour face at the moment.

“No question for now,” I reply to Mrs. Smith.

I was tempted to stay with Max since I’m beginning to catch up with the team rhythm and I’ve set a good start by closing a huge deal. But where will this bring me if my relationship with Ashton grows? I will need to give it up and move to another subsidiary anyway. Plus, the offer I’m getting now is better than I anticipated except for the Dickson part. So, why not just do it now and get it done with? If I don’t perform well in the International team, I will know it soon enough, then it’s time to decide what I’m going to do next.

“If you have any question that you would like to discuss with us, feel free to reach out to me directly, or my second in command, Miss Adrian,” the Human Resource Chief adds.

I nod. “I’ll do that.”

“Very well.” She smiles before shifting her gaze to Ashton. “And once again, I would like to convey my apology regarding the misused information about your daughter. We notice that it created an unnecessary rumor around the work environment. It must be uncomfortable for you, especially for Ms. Garnett. We will try to clear this up in this month’s company magazine.”

“Wait, clear up how?” I ask. If my name is going to be mentioned on one of those pages, then I need to know first.

“Basically, it’s a short article to combat the misinformation that is going around right now. It has become a public opinion that the employment of the mother of Mr. Knight’s daughter is based on her connection with Mr. Knight, not because of her qualifications. This is discouraging and it shall be cleared up. We took part in creating this unconducive situation and we will fix it.”

“I don’t think it will change anything,” I interject. “They might go even wilder knowing that the Human Resource is defending me. It’s going to make it worse. Don’t you think so?”

Mrs. Smith tilts her head. “What do you suggest we do?”

“Just let them be. I mean, you can just share the information about Mr. Knight reuniting with his daughter, who happens to be Ms. Garnett’s daughter, and that’s it. Bringing up the gossip is like throwing fuel into the fire.”

Mrs. Smith doesn’t reply. Instead, she glances at Ashton, seeming to wait for his reaction. In the end, his words are her command. Sitting with one leg across the other, Ashton drums his fingers on the round table that separates the four of us, his face as flat as Dutch pancake.

“Mr. Garnett’s concern is valid and the rumors will affect her more than it affects me. Thus, please proceed with what she has suggested.”

“Well noted, Mr. Knight,” she replies, followed by my audible relieved sigh.

This is just a start. The first storm of my career in the Remington Group is coming my way, but I need to keep sailing, hoping that it will be behind me sooner than later.

“And Mr. William,” Mrs. Smith continues, turning her head to Max, “the new Account Executive is ready this Monday. But considering Ms. Garnett is leaving, we will also proceed with the other candidate if you approve.”

Max nods. “That’s fine, call her in. Wait, she’s not a single mother, is she?”

Mrs. Smith opens her mouth before pressing her lips together as if she tries to suppress her smile. “I will get back to you regarding her personal information.”

“Please do. We prefer to not have another Charlie.” Max glances at me and Ashton. “No offense.”

“None taken,” I reply.

Ashton narrows his eyes on Max. “How many kids do you think I have out there?”


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