Your gaze is drawn to the young receptionist sitting behind the tidy desk, face faintly lit by the computer screen. Speedily her fingers fly over the keyboard with a furrowed brow, absorbed in her work. She’s more than likely typing out the notes you’d given her earlier from yesterday’s meeting.
Her concentration is only disturbed briefly by a deliveryman asking for her to sign off on a package. The man in question keeps a respectful distance from her, which is in stark contrast from how the deliverymen usually act around your female workers. But you can’t blame him.
You take another sip of your luke-warm coffee, standing in the doorway of the company’s breakroom. When shifting in place, you catch your reflection in the glass-wall opposite. Critically, you study yourself.
The minimal make-up barely hides the dark rings under your eyes or the paleness of your cheeks. People might start to take notice soon, if they haven't already. You should probably put more effort into your appearance in the mornings. If nothing else, so to put any gossip to rest immediately. Weeks of too little sleep and being shut-in all day in the office is no good for the complexion.
Being rather tall, at least a head taller than any of the women in the office, is the feature that you like the most. Very rarely can even men tower over you. And that's an advantage in negotiations and meeting clients, seeing as most men in you line of business are more likely to show respect if you possess more masculine than feminine qualities.
Angling your arm adorned with an expensive wrist-watch, you see that break’s almost over. Whilst weighing the pros and cons of refilling your coffee cup, the deliveryman leaves and is replaced by an older man. The receptionist’s face is turned up towards the new person as she listens attentively.
Terminator, you call her. Well, not to her face, obviously, it’s more of a mental nickname. She doesn’t let anything deter her from finishing her work as efficiently and as quickly as possible. Even as a beta, she often displays alpha qualities, and you’re impressed by that. If only all of your employees were as hard-working as she is.
A polite ‘hrrmm’ noise makes you turn around, facing a woman with smooth chocolate-brown skin and curly hair of ebony. She's dressed impeccably in pressed white pants, a white fitted jacket over a red strapless shirt, and a discreet golden necklace decorating her slim neck.
“Y/N, here’s the report you wanted.” She's smiling. “I’ve listed our customers in alphabetical order.”
You stifle a groan at the sight of the thick bunt of paper. “Thank you, Liz.”
Liz’s eye wanders over to the receptionist curiously. “This is the second week in a row.” Lowering her voice conspiratorially, “Is she dating an alpha?”
Even if terminator had been better at hiding the bite-mark on her neck, she couldn’t disguise the obvious scent of alpha lingering on her skin. You’ve seen several people take detours to steal glances at the receptionist for days now, obviously aware of the fact that she has a new guy and wanting to be the first to find out who he is. Anything to fill out the gossip-breaks in the hallways. Why even waste their time on such nonsense?
Though you’re forced to agree it’s a bit unusual that an alpha chooses a beta. Even one such as terminator.
The old man's still hovering over the receptionist. You grind your teeth, patience running out. Doesn’t he have work to do?
Irritated, you turn to Liz.
“I need your timesheet filled out the end of this week. Or it will affect this month’s salary,” you give her an annoyed look. “You should get on it.”
“Of course,” she replies, a slight blush on her cheeks and smile washed off.
Instantly you feel a bit guilty as she scurries way. Liz didn’t really deserve that. You know why you’re irritated. Running on barely four hours of sleep and at least six cups of coffee by now, it’s a miracle that you’re even still operational. You shake your head, heels clicking on the marble floor as you turn around to walk back to your office. On your way there, you're stopped by another employee; Helene. An slightly older woman, more grey than brown in her hair, she wears her age with dignity. Though a vain streak in her still refuses glasses, prefering contact lenses instead.
“Y/N, do you have a minute?”
The woman's wearing a frown, prodcasting the fact that she's bearing bad news.
“Yes, of course. Come on in.”
Sitting down behind your desk, you raise the coffee cup to your lips by habit only to realize you’ve emptied it already. Putting it aside, you focus on the woman taking a seat opposite.
“What can I help you with?”
Helene goes straight to the point.
“We have too many orders to fill and not enough people. It’s only me, Liz and Dana that’s working the main accounts right now. Dave’s still at the hospital and it doesn’t seem likely he’ll return anytime soon, and Dana’s going on maternity leave in less than three weeks.”
You frown. The main accounts are the most important customers you have; those who has been with the company the longest and/or gives you the most business. It’s always been at least four employees managing the main accounts.
“I'm going to give Dave's fiancée a call later this week. Get an update. But in the meantime, how about transferring Clarise to a main account? Dana can train her before she-”
Helene shakes her head. “You shouldn’t count on Clarise anymore. She bonded with an alpha a couple of days ago. She’s already talking about leaving.”
“What?” You’re dumbfounded by the news.
“You know, that’s why you should listen more to office gossip,” Helene reproaches you.
“I’ve not received any notice of resignation from her,” you protest.
Helene shrugs. “I think she’s postponing it for as long as she can. You can get a bit… you know.”
Leaning back into the leather chair, closing your eyes momentarily, you exhale. Damn it. Why had you gone and hired an omega for? Everyone knows that they will just up and leave as soon as they get a partner. Then it hits you.
“Terminator, is she leaving too?”
Helene raises an eyebrow. “Who do you-? Ah.” The older woman must’ve smelled the receptionist these last days as well. How could anyone avoid it? Anyway, she quickly caught on to your meaning.
“She’s not bonded yet, as far as I know.”
“Obviously she’s caught some alpha’s attention.”
“Yes.” Helene didn’t deny it. “But she’s a beta. She’s not as needy as these omegas are,” she says dismissively. “She’ll still need a job even if she bonds with him.”
These goddamn alpha-males. Taking your workers. You tap your fingers on the polished table.
“Do you know who it is? I don’t recognize the smell.”
“Curious? I thought you didn’t like gossip,” she teases.
“I don’t,” you clarify sternly. “It’s just… it’s a rather smallish town. I thought I knew the scent of all the alphas living and working around here.”
Helene hides a smile behind her hand.
“I don’t know. Wanting to keep track of each other is an alpha thing. We betas don’t care.”
You snort at that. The whole office with the exception of Clarise and you are betas. And damn if they’re not all incredibly curious about everyone and everything.
“In any case, Clarise's leaving. And we’re already down two people from before. We need more people.”
“You’re right,” you sigh. “I was hoping Dave would return but there’s no sign of that and if both Dana and Clarise’s leaving…” You massage your temples, a headache slowly brewing. “The time it will take to put out ads, process all the applications to pick out good candidates, interview them and then train them… It’s time we don’t really have right now.”
“I know.” Helene nods. “That’s why I’ve already talked to Andrei.”
The words gradually sinks in and you stare at her. “What?”
“When I attended the Eastside Conference last month, I met him there,” Helene refuses to back down from your critical gaze. “He told me he’s looking to change jobs. And now when the circumstances are what they are… I called him. Explained the situation and-”
“You talked to Andrei?” You repeat. “And offered him a job behind my back?”
“Someone had to.”
Andrei and you worked together previously several years ago, before starting your own company. He knows the business and has been employed at one of your main competitors for years. You’ve always held a kind of begrudgingly respect for him. But he also annoys the hell out of you. And employing another alpha might not help your work situation but actually make it worse.
Frustrated, you bite your lip. But Helene’s right. He’s the obvious choice.
“Fine. Do you have his contact information?”
“I’ve already scheduled a meeting for tomorrow. At eight o’clock.”
Helene rises from the chair, in effect ending their small meeting. Raising an eyebrow at the fact that she’s taking such liberties, you decide to let it go. Helene was the first employee you hired and she’s been at your side when things were rather rough.
Even though Helene isn't a co-owner of the company she still treats it as her baby. You’ve both put down too many hours of work and sweat down to just let it fall to pieces.
You relent. “Okay. But if you hear anything about anyone else leaving, let me know. I don’t want any more surprises, okay? And get Clarise in here. I want to talk to her.”
You stumble through your front door after midnight, keys in one hand and handbag in the other. It's quiet and dark as usual, but you know your way around well enough to drop off your things on top of the bureau even in darkness. The keys jingle and then it’s silent again.
Dead-tired you throw off your shoes without caring where they end up, then feel your way through the spacious living room until you find the bathroom. Avoiding the harsh ceiling lamp and instead turning on the two small ones over the wall mirror, your weary reflection's revealed.
Undressing with care, you try not to wrinkle your suit jacket and skirt. You don’t really have the time to have them pressed.
Carefully removing your make-up and letting down your hair, the image of your half-naked body is barely recognizable. You’ve lost a lot of weight. The bra hangs loose over your shoulders, ribs showing more prominently than before, and your ashen face is encircled by dry and frayed hair.
Rubbing tired eyes you avert your gaze. You’ve no time to stare, needing to get some sleep. Removing the last of pieces of clothing, you step into the shower for a quick rinse.
Work has been plentiful for months, which is good for business but bad for your personal life. It isn’t unusual for you to come home this late.
One part of you relish the fact that you’ve gotten so much work done but another part of you hates it. Hates the fact that you're bound to your work to the degree that you can’t even hang out with friends or watch TV when you come home. There’s simply no time if you want to get some sleep in-between your workdays. Not even weekends see the workload lessen.
Quickly sweeping yourself in a large towel after exiting the shower, you dry off sloppily, too exhausted to care. Falling down on the soft bed, drawing the covers up to your chin, you’re expecting to fall asleep immediately. But sleep doesn’t come easy tonight.
Thoughts of Andrei haunt you. It's been little more than a year since you saw him last. Thinking back, it was probably at last year’s conference. You vaguely remember Helene not being able to make it and leaving it to you.
Andrei had attended the conference. Which, as far as you know, he always does. He'd been charming, easy-going and filled with such confidence. Even other alphas were drawn to him. And you can’t blame them. But the mere thought of having to meet him tomorrow morning and offer him a job… you’re not looking forward to it.
He’s outstanding at his job. No doubt about it. And a good co-worker. You had, after all, been employed at the same company as him for some time. But for some reason he gets on your nerves. The way he talks to you, watches you, he’s made no secret of the fact that he wants you.
And not only in a sexual sense.
Otherwise, if that had been the case, you'd been able to handle it better. You're used to men hitting on you and know how to reject them. But Andrei wants more of you. And he’s a man used to getting what he wants. Typical alpha male. The only problem is… you share those qualities.
Couples consisting of an alpha pair are very common; many families want to keep the bloodlines pure. In arranged marriages the couple rarely has to meet each other at all if they don’t want to. Only often enough to produce an heir. It’s more a business contract than anything else.
But outside of arranged marriages alpha pairings are a bit rarer.
The fact is that an alpha wants to dominate and protect his or her partner. It’s in your nature. So for a successful relationship between two alphas one has to take the slightly less dominate role.
In your parents’ case, that lot had fallen on your mother. Though their marriage were an arranged one, they choose to live together and seem content enough. Though you still remember those first early years growing up, how the forced meekness had taken its toll on your mother.
You refuse to follow in her footsteps.
In every relationship you’ve had with an alpha, it ended up with arguing and anger before one of you broke it off. Having no wish to share your mother's fate, you're spending most of your relationships constantly on edge, waiting for the day your partner will try to control you.
Tiring of it, you even tried dating a beta once. But he was too feeble for your taste and too eager to take the submissive role. You don’t like that either. And you have no interest in a clingy omega.
Not everyone is meant for a partner, you suppose. And you’re already pushing thirty-two.
Thankfully your family's been occupied with your two younger brothers who are already married and have children. If not, your parents might have tried an arranged marriage with you and you don't want to alienate them by refusing to comply. Even though that's what you'd ultimately end up doing. No one will ever push you around. Not even your family.
Your parents are proud of your success in the world of business, there's no doubt about that. Your father brags about you often enough at family gatherings. But they don’t see you as successful as your brothers who both have comfortable well-paying jobs as well as families.
Though you've tried to ignore it, it still makes you a bit resentful.
The alarm clock on your bedside table is showing 01:10 in an angry red light. Shutting your eyes, you try to keep these haunting thoughts at bay, knowing that they won’t do any good. You need to be well-rested tomorrow.