Authors: Debbie Bailey
“Hell, Joe, I told you we should have gone somewhere else for lunch,” was all Stephanie said, and everybody burst out laughing, everybody except Kane.
* * * *
Kane stood and stared at the woman who had ripped his heart out ten years ago and felt it finally start to mend again. She had matured a lot since he last saw her, but she was even more gorgeous than he remembered. He knew the moment he looked into her eyes that he was still in love with her and that this time she wasn’t going to get away from him. Striding over to the counter, he spoke to the lady behind it, handing her some money. He kissed her cheek and then strode back to the table.
Turk had already let her up off his lap, and she was standing there waiting for him.
“Does she have a place to live yet, Joe?” Kane asked, his eyes never leaving hers.
“She was going to stay with Helen and me until she found a place. She came straight to the paper when she got into town this morning, so she hasn’t unpacked anything from her truck yet.
“Good, you’ll be moving in with me and Turk tomorrow. You can spend the night visiting with Helen and Joe, but tomorrow after work you come to us. Is that clear?”
He stood looking down at her, and all she could say was, “Yes, Kane.”
“Good answer, angel eyes.” Kissing her quickly on the cheek, he nodded to Turk and headed to the door.
“Damn, baby, this is going to be so good,” Turk said excitedly then pulled her into his arms and kissed her forehead before heading off in search of Kane.
What the fuck had she just let happen?
After numerous hugs and “welcome backs” from people in the diner, she and Joe had finally been able to make their way back to the paper.
Walking in the front door, she was still in a daze. Where did the tough-as-nails woman of the last ten years go?
Shayne stood, greeting them with a huge-assed grin on his face. “I hear your lunch was rather exciting, boss.” He was trying not to snicker, but she could see it in his eyes.
“Shut up, Shayne, and get your ass upstairs. You and I need to go over a few things, and after the lunch I just had, I’m not in the best of moods, so let’s see how quickly you can get me out of it.”
Shayne quickly went to his desk, pressed a few buttons on the phone, forwarding all calls to his office upstairs, and turned on the video camera behind his desk so they could see who entered the building through the monitors they had set up in both his and her offices. Since the bad run-in with one of the local busybodies last year, Joe had insisted that monitors be installed so he could see who entered the building.
Joe smiled and headed for the stairs with Stephanie right behind him.
After another minute, Shayne grabbed the last of his belongings and followed them upstairs.
When Stephanie got to the top of the stairs, she was stunned. She hadn’t bothered to come to see the paper before she bought it because she knew that Joe had taken great pride in it. But she hadn’t expected the modernized offices that lay before her. Truth be told, she had expected more pen and paper and less computers and printers.
“This is incredible, Joe. You’ve done wonders with her.” She slowly walked around the medium-sized area, checking out the different departments.
“Okay, everybody, listen up. There will be a staff meeting in the conference room at three today. Everyone must attend, no exceptions,” Joe bellowed to the room.
“Christ, Joe, we’ve got a deadline, and you want to stop and have a fucking chitchat,” said a burly looking man standing outside the advertising department.
“If you haven’t learned time management by now, Jeff, then that’s your problem. Just be at the meeting at three.” Joe smiled and headed into his office.
Shayne had already started to set his office up. He was creating quite a stir from some of the young ladies in the office. Shit, just what she needed right from the start, fucking office politics.
“Shayne, my office, please,” she yelled.
She loved her new office. It was huge in comparison to the tiny, little shit box she’d had before. It didn’t matter how good her work was there. She could never get them to give her a better office. And when she had taken over as editor in chief, she hadn’t spent a great deal of time there, so she hadn’t bothered to move into the bigger office.
Feeling a little better already, she was now going to put her new assistant through some paces.
Stephanie had so many ideas for the paper and how she wanted it to be run and what type of people she wanted working with her. But she needed someone in the office that was completely loyal to her and her alone.
That was one of the things she had learned from her boss, Frank, when he promoted her to his assistant after only being at the paper two years.
She became his buffer against the world. She was his confidant, his whipping girl sometimes, and the only one in the office who he let really know him personally. She’d spent time with his family, and his wife had even taken her on a girl’s shopping vacation to New York City one year. They had been both so proud of her when she took over for him at his retirement.
She wanted a right hand like that, and according to Joe, Shayne was more than up to the task. He already knew everyone who worked here, past and present, for the last five years, he had a great sense of humor, which he was so going to need, and he had, according to Joe, a quick mind.
Shayne came into her office, and she just stood there looking at him.
“Close the door, please, and sit down.” Once he sat down, she closed all the blinds that faced out into the other offices and the pit.
Shayne sat stiff as a board, waiting.
“Fuck, will you relax, Shayne, you’re going to have a coronary worrying about shit too much.” Sitting back down at her desk, Stephanie picked up her favorite NERF basketball that she always carried in her backpack with her and threw it at Shayne.
“You and I are going to go over a few rules regarding working with me. Rule number one, get rid of the uncomfortable-looking clothes, and dress anyway you want that is halfway decent. The only clothing not allowed is sweatpants. I fucking hate sweatpants. Rule number two, your salary just tripled. Rule number three, as I told you before, you are my balance. You are the one person in this office that I will give all my trust to. I’ll trust you with personal information as well as business information. I’m hoping that we’ll become friends as well, so that you’ll feel comfortable giving me shit when I need it. Joe’s told me a lot about you and your work here, and it’s really impressed me. You haven’t given in to office politics, and that’s something that is really important to me. We all know it happens, but I need you to be my eyes and ears when I’m not around. I can’t afford sexual harassment lawsuits, and I won’t put up with bullying, either. I want everyone here to really enjoy coming to work and giving their best, and if I’m left out of the loop on something important then things get fucked up, and I won’t have it. The paper I worked for was pretty much the same way, but it was too big for the editor to keep up with everyone’s lives. I want to get to know everyone personally along this journey.”
* * * *
Shayne sat across from her still stiff as a board. He couldn’t believe that the woman across from him was for real. He had really loved working for Joe, he was a lot like Stephanie, but she’d just tripled his salary. That meant he’d be able to finally move out of the apartment he shared with his sister and her family. They had been so wonderful over the past year, but they need to have their own space without him underfoot all the time.
“Shayne…Shayne…snap out of it, boy.” Steph giggled at him, snapping her fingers in front of his face.
“Sorry, Steph. I’m just stunned, that’s all. You’re really gonna triple my salary?” he asked.
“Damn straight, I want you to be comfortable here as well as at home, and money eases the way at home.”
“You have no idea,” he said.
“Well then, tell me a little about your home life, Shayne?” She wanted to get to know him as well.
“Right now I live with my sister and her family in a small two-bedroom apartment. I moved in there after we lost our parents in a house fire a year ago. It was ruled arson, and they never found out who set it. I had been away with some friends on a camping trip in Arizona at the time. I got a call on my cell when we got back to the lodge we were staying at for our last night there. My sister moved me in right away because she knew I couldn’t afford to live on my own, but now I can, and I’ll also be able to give back a little to her for all that they’ve done for me. Shayla is only a year older than me, but since Mom and Dad died she’s taken on this mother role, and I don’t want her to feel that she needs to look out for me anymore. She has a beautiful baby girl and a great husband, and I want them to have a wonderful life together. She’s given up a lot for me over the past year. The one thing that I want to give them is a honeymoon. They had only been married about three months when we lost our parents. They had decided to put off the honeymoon until after Jason finished school in the summer. Shayla was a manager at a restaurant in the next town over, and Jason was the part-time cook there while he went to school to get his degree in architecture. He graduated at the top of his class just before the fire. They were so excited, too. He had received a great job offer from a firm just outside of Houston, but he gave it up to stay here and start his own small firm so Shayla could be close to me.”
Grabbing a box of tissues, Steph blotted her eyes, trying to stem the flow of tears, but Shayne could see, even after only knowing her a few hours, that she felt deeply for him and his family. His eyes lit up when he talked about his sister and just how much she meant to him.
“When they found out they were pregnant, I told them I’d move out so they could turn my room into a nursery, but Jason told me he wouldn’t hear of it. “You’re family, Shayne, and we take care of our own, always,” he said to me. He’s never made me feel guilty or blamed my sister for having to give up on the Houston job. He just opened his own business and hired his wife as his receptionist, and he just trudges along one step at a time and never loses focus of what really is important to him, my sister and my niece.”
Shayne was going to make sure that Stephanie could meet his family really soon. He loved his family, and they deserved the best out of life, and come hell or high water, he was gonna see that they got it.
Looking at his watch, Shayne jumped up and said, “It’s almost three, so we better head to the conference room for Joe’s meeting. You don’t want to be late for your own introduction, do you?”
“I guess we better head there so I can introduce you as my new executive assistant and let them all know that my door is always open.”
“Are you sure you want to do that, boss?” Shayne asked as they headed to the meeting.
“Why wouldn’t I, Shayne?”
He couldn’t help but laugh as he said, “Because the moment you do that, every one of the craziest of the bunch will be at your door with a story idea.”
“Let ’em come, Shayne. Some of the greatest minds in the world believe in some really bizarre things, so let ’em come.”
Both Kane and Turk were waiting in the conference room with Joe when she arrived, and that scared the shit out of her.
“What the hell are they doing here?” she whispered to Shayne just before they reached Joe.
“Good, you’re here now. Maybe you can introduce Shayne to them so that I can get some work done. Why’d you have to bait them with this poor boy, anyway?” he said to her before heading to the front of the room, laughing.
Shayne recognized both men right away, and he could almost feel his balls crawl up inside his body in fear. Over the past few years, Kane and Turk had built a solid reputation doing some serious security work for certain people, and they were known to be a couple of real badasses when necessary.