Authors: Nikki Steele
Copyright © 2016 Nikki Steele
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the Author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This book uses the American spelling of most common words.
This is book one in a four part series. Each book is a self-contained episode, but just like a good TV series, there
cliffhangers that build a larger storyline.
It is a short,
. It contains strong, explicit, smoking hot sex scenes. You’ve been warned!
* * *
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Most girls would give anything
to work at a major film company – even as an assistant. It’s the closest many ever get to Hollywood.
So why was I dreading it with every fiber of my being?
And why was the need for a cigarette suddenly tearing through my soul?
I hadn’t touched a cancer stick in almost two years now.
The woman at the front desk, like so many women in LA, was tall and lean. She had hair that would make Goldilocks jealous—a stark contrast to my own mousy brown. I fiddled with my glasses as she surveyed my ID, then waved me down the hall. “Mr Williams is at the very end. You’ll have your own little office right beside his—I made sure the door was left open for you; you can’t miss it.”
She seemed friendly. That was a good start, at least.
Though it would make what I had to do harder in the long run
. I turned, mind on other things, and immediately tripped over thin air.
The receptionist cried out as I fell to my hands and knees, then hurried around the as I began frantically shoveling things back into my bag. “Nothing like being branded the company klutz on the first day,” I joked, laughing nervously.
Oh god—people were turning to look at me
. I was naturally clumsy, even more so when I had a reason to be nervous.
Once I had straightened myself out, I walked carefully down the hall. I saw Mr. Williams’ office first. It was enormous—the size of my entire apartment, and well-furnished; as decadent as you might expect a billionaire movie maker’s office to be.
Unfortunately, it was also empty. I checked the time on my phone. Perhaps my boss came in late on a Monday? I guessed you could, when you owned the studio. He must be some crusty, greasy old man whose lackeys did all the real work. Rich people were usually like that, as far as I could tell. It was the whole reason I was here.
I moved onto my office. Compared to the previous room, this was like a janitorial closet—perhaps that was even how it had originally been conceived. It was crowded, and only contained a rolling chair and desk. At least the laptop looked new.
There were instructions on a post-it note, stuck to the top of the machine. They included my username and password.
So much for security
, I thought. There was also a key taped to it; I assumed that was for the lock on the door.
“Hey,” I heard, and whirled around with my hand covering the post-it. The man standing in the doorway was young; tall and gawky, all knees and elbows. Surely
wasn’t my boss?
“You must be the new girl working for Mr. Williams,” the kid said with a smile.
“I am,” I said. “Josie.”
“I’m Christian,” he said, extending a hand. “Intern. Film school student. I sorta float around, handling things for whoever needs help.”
“Nice to meet you,” I said with a smile.
“I guess you have a lot to do, so I’ll leave you alone. But if you need anything, give me a ring. I have a desk in the copy room, extension 413.”
I frowned as he walked away.
Another nice person—this wasn’t looking good at all.
I turned to my machine and booted it up, keeping an ear out for movement from Mr. Williams’ office. I’d been given a brief on my new employer the day I’d agreed to the job. He’d crashed onto the Hollywood scene with a string of blockbusters; in the 10 years previous, his films had netted over 20 billion dollars in the US alone.
Most of that money, he’d retained. In his first movie—the one that nobody had thought would amount to anything, he’d negotiated a share of box office and merchandising instead of the usual wage.
It must have seemed a good idea to someone high up. At least until the movie became a surprise hit. Overnight it had made him a multi-millionaire. He’d used the money to start his own production company, earning him billions of dollars more, and the hate of every executive that hadn’t gotten a piece of the action since.
Then suddenly, a few years ago, he’d moved on to smaller projects. The blockbusters continued, but for those he was an executive producer; he didn’t direct them himself. Instead, he started focusing his energies on more personal documentaries— exposés on sex slavery, and child labor. His latest investigative piece looked at the Syrian refugee crises, and what the world could have done better. He seemed on a one man quest to save the world—or at least to make it just a little better.
I could admire that, of course. But I wasn’t fooled by it. I knew all about hidden agendas; companies that said they were going to save the world and then did the opposite. He’d be no different, it was just a matter of how deep you dug.
I touched a hand to my high-necked blouse, a style staple in my wardrobe. He’d be a complete jerk, but I couldn’t get angry. Anger always made a funny red rash pop out on my neck which the blouse never quite covered up.
On cue, I heard a strident male voice float down the hall. It sounded friendly, but carried authority. I stood, smoothing down my clothes and shaking out my hair.
would be Mr. Williams. I took a deep breath.
I really could use a cigarette.
He was already in his office when I walked next door; I paused in the doorway when I saw him, taking him in.
No—not crusty or greasy at all. And not old, either. He was my age, with blonde hair, slightly tanned skin and a short cropped beard just barely more than a five o’clock shadow. He was slimmer than I’d thought too, but toned—the way a jungle cat didn’t have to be wide to be powerful. I felt a shiver run though my body as a funny little tingle settled in the pit of my stomach.
I knocked at the door, feeling more awkward than I had all day. He glanced up from beneath the brim of his ball cap. I sucked in a silent breath—
he had the most amazing, ocean blue eyes.
He broke into a smile. “You must be Josie!” He got up from his desk and extended a hand to shake mine, but then pulled it back—it was filthy. “Sorry. I helped a lady change a flat on the freeway earlier. I was hoping to be in early so I could show you around but, well…” He looked at me and shrugged.
“Oh… that’s okay, Mr. Williams” I said. It was hard to say anything else—his eyes were mesmerizing, like if I’d dived forward, I might swim in them all day. I took a step toward him before I caught myself.
My hands went to my neck.
I also got red when I was embarrassed, or aroused
. Any strong emotion, really.
“Please, call me Archer,” he said. “Why don’t you come for a walk with me down the hall, so I can stop and wash my hands? I can take a few minutes to chat.”
I walked beside him. He began to talk a mile a minute. “What I’ll really need your help with is handling the little time sucks. Know what I mean? The things you think will only take a few minutes but can end up wasting an afternoon.” I nodded; I knew all too well how that went.
“So the basic things, like getting my coffee for me; you’re always welcome to get your own, my treat,” he said. “Picking up lunch; same deal as the coffee. Least I can do. You’ll figure out pretty fast who the people are that bug me the most often; I’ll give you a list if I get a chance to jot down the names. I just can’t spend all of my time answering their calls, so I’ll need you to be my last line of defense. Do you think you’ll be comfortable with that?”
“I—I think so,” I mumbled.
“You sure?” he laughed. “You don’t sound very sure of yourself.”
Because I’m not
, I wanted to say.
None of this was right
. But I didn’t tell him that. “I’m sort of shy, I guess,” I explained, opting for another truth. “But I do what needs to get done.”
We reached a restroom, which I guessed was for visitors since it was unisex. He walked in and held the door open; I leaned against it, propping it open to avoid having people wonder why we’d just walked into a bathroom together.
He scrubbed his hands vigorously. “You’ll be handling scripts from screenwriters; when they come in I just hand them off to a reader, so keep an eye out for those. Sort my mail, please. You might be asked to send faxes, make copies, that sort of thing. Oh, and you might have to make hand deliveries occasionally. But above all is my schedule. I just need you to keep an eye on my meetings, make sure I’m not double booking people; I tend to forget how many things I commit to over the course of a day. You have no idea how many times I’ve double and even triple booked. I’m a mess.”
“Sounds good,” I said. “I think I can handle it.”
“Great,” he said with a smile, looking at me in the mirror. “The first thing I’m in desperate need of is a cup of coffee. There’s a Starbucks next door. Could you get me a quad venti non-fat latte?”
I looked at him, confused, and he laughed. “That’s Starbucks speak for a large cup, lots of milk, and four shots of expresso.” He winked.
I smiled gratefully. “Sure,” I said, and he handed me a random credit card. It was heavy; I realized it was a Black Amex.
He walked past me, out to the hallway, then turned back. “Oh, I almost forgot,” he said, extending his clean hand. “It’s great to meet you.”
“Mom?” I called as I
walked into the house. It had been a long day, but a good one. Christian had even covered for me when I spilled Archer’s coffee on the way back to the office.
I saw the empty sofa and panic immediately shot through my system. Mom
watched the news at this time of day. “
“I’m in the kitchen!”
I hurried in to find my mother standing by the stove, stirring sauce in a pot. “Mom, jeez,” I said, taking the wooden spoon from her, then guiding her to a chair at the kitchen table. “How many times do I have to ask you to stop doing things like this?”
“What? Taking care of myself like an adult?” she asked, voice sour. It was an old argument, one we repeated almost every time I came to visit.
I sighed, stirring the sauce and meatballs she’d taken from the freezer to heat for dinner. “Nobody’s trying to say you’re not an adult. I just want you to be careful. The doctor said you shouldn’t be on your feet for long stretches, remember?”
“I’ve still got plenty of life left in me yet.”
I smiled at her fondly. “Let’s keep it that way, then. Shall we?”
She rolled her eyes, but sat down as requested. “Fine.” Then she became excited. “So, tell me all about your first day at work!” she said. “How did it go?
I hesitated. I shouldn’t have enjoyed it—I wasn’t meant to enjoy it, but… “In a word? Amazing. Everyone was lovely.”
“Did you see any stars?” she asked.
I had to laugh. “Not today, sadly. But it was just the first day, after all. I’ll be sure to get their autograph for you, when I do. Today was about learning the ropes, that sort of thing.”
She sat back with a dreamy smile. “I wonder what it must be like, living that sort of life. Being famous, having people wait on you hand and foot…”
I couldn’t resist. “And yet you raise a fuss when I ask you to relax and let me take care of you. Hmm…”
She ignored my little jab. “Do you think you’ll be happy working there?”
“Of course!” I turned from her to drop pasta into boiling water, so she wouldn’t see my face. “Who wouldn’t? It’s a dream come true.”
“What about your boss? Is he as cute as he looks in his pictures?”
I turned back sharply. “How do you know what he looks like?”
She waved her hand. “Oh go on—that breakup of his with that movie star, Crystal Holmes, was all over the magazines last year.”
I had to laugh.
My mother knew more about my boss than me.
“Well?” she asked, eyebrows arched.
I felt a blush rise to my cheeks. “He
kind of cute,” I admitted. “And you know what? He’s a super nice guy, too—way nicer than I expected.” I frowned. “You wouldn’t think such a rich, well-known person
be so nice.”
“Rich doesn’t mean nasty,” Mom pointed out.
I shrugged, deciding not to argue the point
. Cigar man had been nasty
. He was the only other rich person I knew.
Mom was still off in her own little world. “You never know,” she said dreamily. “This could be a love connection! Rich, handsome Director sweeps you off your feet.”
Her eyes focused. “It has been a long time between men, dearie.”
I rolled my eyes, but didn’t say anything.
At least one of us still had hope for me
. Romance was something for star-eyed dreamers. It didn’t happen outside of the movies she watched.
That jogged my memory. “Hey,” I said as I carried the food to the table. “Know what’s on tonight?”
“I’ll give you a hint—it stars your favorite actor.”
“Cagney? Oh, let’s see…”
“Another hint: White House stairs.”
Her eyes lit up. “I haven’t seen
Yankee Doodle Dandy
“Mom, I got it for you on Blu-ray.”
“It’s not the same as seeing it on TV, though.”
I had to agree. That was one thing I’d picked up from her, aside from my love of old movies: It was just better when the movie came on TV. Then everybody else watching that channel was watching one of your favorites. Sad but true.
We sat eating dinner, with her pumping me for information on my exciting new job. I did my best to talk it up, knowing how happy it made her to think that I was happy.
After I cleaned up the kitchen we sat as we so often did, on opposite sides of the living room sofa. I had no idea how many nights we’d spent this way, watching game shows after dinner, then turning on a movie and escaping to a beautiful old world.
I couldn’t get sucked into the movie this time, though, even though I was in desperate need of escapism. I had too much on my mind.
I looked around the cozy living room, and down the hall to Mom’s bedroom. She had needed a single-story house, the doctor informed me, since walking up and down the stairs would be too much for her weak heart. And while they did have those chairs that glided up and down stairs, we both knew that Mom wouldn’t have the patience to sit in one. She’d probably use it take laundry up and down the stairs while she walked.
I had searched high and low for just the right home for her. One that was close to a hospital, and aged care help too. A home that she could be happy in, for the rest of her life.
When I found this little place, it had seemed too good to be true—a hospital five streets away, if an ambulance needed to get here quickly, and an aged care service even closer, if there came a time when she needed regular help. It even had a white picket fence, just like all those movies we watched in black and white. It was perfect in every way.
And far more expensive than I could afford
In desperation I went to my boss at
—the company I had been with before getting my job with Archer. They were a huge company with billion dollar profits, and I’d heard they occasionally did company loans for employees. It was my last resort.
He’d been very understanding and sympathetic, nodding at just the right times, expressing concern for Mom’s health as well as my own.
“I’ll feel so much better knowing that she’s taken care of,” I explained once my little presentation was complete. “And I really believe that having one less thing to worry about will make me a better employee.” I remembered how I sat in his office, my sweaty hands clasped in my lap, resisting the urge to fidget with my hair. I kept dropping my pen on the floor.
But he had agreed to the loan, and on very good terms. I danced out of his office and straight to the real estate agent. Before I knew it, I was handing the keys to Mom.
That was one of the happiest moments of my life, pulling up in front of the house and giving her the keys. Seeing the look on her face. I knew, though she hadn’t wanted to admit it, how much the thought of moving to a nursing home frightened her.
I looked over at Mom now, sitting with her feet up, happily humming along while Jimmy Cagney sang about a grand old flag. It was ironic that this house brought her so much joy.
Because it was also the source of all my troubles