One more minute.
Seth moves the phone to his other ear, doing his best not to zone out. He’s used to ramblings and chatters, monotone or grating voice you name it, it’s a part of his job. But it’s like Evan Bourne’s voice is specifically made to put him to sleep. And he doesn’t know when to shut up.
“I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do about it. Drew’s fully booked this week,” Seth cuts him off, not as polite as he was ten minutes ago. “He’ll see you on Thursday.” Seth’s boss is a very busy man, that much is true. He also won’t give Mr. Bourne more time than necessary, but of course the guy has no idea.
Bourne lets out a loud huff that shoots through Seth’s ear, making him wince. “He’s a hard man to get in touch with. Hasn’t even answered my emails.”
There are eight of them to be exact—Seth didn’t even forward them to Drew. They’re all pointless questions that will be answered in the meeting. Drew receives up to four hundred emails per day, and though not all of them need to be replied, they all must be read. So it’s Seth’s job to screen the emails, only passing him the important ones.
“All your questions will be answered in the meeting,” Seth tells him firmly. The minute is almost up, it won’t be impolite to end the call now. Seth has endured—he glances at the clock—enough phonecall torture since eight thirty from Mr. Sandow, Rodriguez, DiBiase, and now Bourne. All of them are on Drew’s ‘don’t bother unless I absolutely have no choice’ list. Seth will run out of excuses very soon.
“Have a nice day, sir,” Seth says again before hanging up. Fucking finally. He leans back on his chair to breathe, hearing nothing but silence. Apart from the ticking clock on the wall.
He’s been here for some time and still not used to this odd tranquility. Office floors are supposed to be buzzing with noises, chaos, people talking loudly on the phone inside their cramped cubicles. It’s what he’s familiar with, and his old department (Legal Finance) was exactly like that. Until he moved here six weeks ago. This entire floor only have six offices, one of them being Seth’s small one adjacent to Drew’s huge one.
William Regal, the CEO, and his assistant Paige occupy the two offices next door. And the last ones belong to two senior partners who are only here once or twice a month.
Seth could open the connecting door and talk to Paige, which he does when the silence becomes unbearable, but there’s only so much the two of them can talk about all day. Besides, she and William aren’t always here; half the time they’re in the London headquarters.
Another glance at the clock tells him it’s eight minutes into his lunch break. Well, big deal, it’s nothing new. He exhales and pushes himself up from the chair. Time to face the music. The sooner he does this, the sooner he can go. His knuckles tap lightly against the elegant wooden door, then he waits for two seconds before opening it and slipping inside.
The spacious room is just as nice as the door. It’s modern and understated, yet sophisticated with the combination of the white wall, beige furniture, and black panels on the windows. The big glass on two sides of the wall shows an abundant view of the New York City skyline, which from the sixty-seventh floor looks nothing short of breathtaking. Thank God Seth isn’t afraid of heights.
Drew is sitting behind his desk, gaze fixed on the laptop screen as he types. His blue pinstripe tie is slightly loosened around his neck, and his navy suit jacket hangs on the back of his leather chair. Apart from that he looks as put together as usual, not even one strand of hair is out of place.
“Yeah?” He keeps typing away.
Like everyone else in the company, Seth can name twenty other things he’d rather do than be alone with Drew McIntyre. Unfortunately, as Drew’s personal assistant it’s something he can’t avoid.
“Mr. Bourne called again, demanding to talk to you. I told him everything will be answered in the meeting but he didn’t listen. Sure he’ll call again tomorrow.”
Drew finally stops typing. He looks up and his blue eyes are locked on Seth’s.
Seth feels his heartbeat quicken as he’s trying not to flinch. Come on, it’s been six weeks. He’s supposed to have gotten used to this by now. Seth’s not one to be easily intimidated by anyone, he really isn’t. But there’s just something about Drew that makes him uneasy. People say blue eyes are cold. In Drew’s case they’re not just cold. They’re icy, and totally capable of freezing anything in their way.
“He’ll get that one meeting. That’s it. I’m not wasting more time on him,” Drew replies, averting his gaze back to the screen, much to Seth’s relief.
So I thought. “You’re not the one having to listen to him every morning,” Seth mutters, before he can stop himself. There’s only so much Evan Bourne’s rambling he can take in a week.
“Is basic phone correspondence bothering you?” Drew’s voice is dangerously frosty. And his eyes are back on Seth.
He should’ve known the relief would be short-lived. “No. Of course not.” Seth takes a step away. “Right, I’m going for lunch. Do you want anything?”
“Just coffee.” Drew is back to his efficient typing even as he speaks.
His usual coffee—roasted black—which suits him perfectly (because the coffee maker in the pantry isn’t good enough). Seth can’t picture him drinking fancy lattes with some leaf or heart pattern on top. It sounds so absurd. He steals a glance at Drew’s profile, at his straight nose, neatly trimmed beard on his strong jaw, and a dimple that appears as he purses his lips in concentration. Seth’s not blind, he knows Drew is gorgeous. But he’s also unreachable and heartless—if he had a heart it must be made of pure ice. His old boss Randy isn’t the friendliest person in the world either, but compared to Drew he’s an angel.
How Seth misses working for him.
“Is there anything else or are you expecting a typing course?”
The voice shakes him from his reverie. Seth blinks, realizing he’s had his eyes on Drew the whole time. Crap. “No.” He turns around and hurriedly leaves the room, back to the security of his office. One day, Drew McIntyre will stop making him feel this way. One day.
He’s just about to lock his computer when the door that connects his office and Paige’s opens, and her head peeks out. She and William arrived from London yesterday.
“Late for lunch again, babe?” she asks, opening the door fully.
“When was I ever not, since I moved here?” He lets out a sigh. Getting promoted from the account manager’s assistant to the COO’s personal assistant is career advancement; no doubt about it. The salary is better, and Seth can really use the money. But the workload is also a lot heavier, because Randy, for one, only leads a department, while Drew is responsible for the entire company.
Paige smiles at him sympathetically. He barely manages to return the smile.
She’s a pretty girl. Dark eyes, and long, raven hair that looks striking on her fair skin. The funny thing is, she and her boss are as different as they can be. William has an aristocratic air about him (his surname ‘Regal’ couldn’t be more perfect), and Paige is like a gothic Snow White. But against all odds, they work together really well.
“Drew hasn’t left, has he? William wants to talk to him about the Cayman account,” she says.
“No, he’s inside.” William is one of the very few people that Drew genuinely likes. Not even the majority of senior partners and shareholders have that privilege. He is Drew’s mentor, and everyone in the company and their mother know Drew will take William’s place as Magnolia Capital’s CEO once the latter retires in a couple of years.
“I gotta get going. See you later.” He’s only got less than forty minutes left—and he still need to get Drew’s coffee from the coffee shop one block away. Depending on the line, it can take fifteen minutes. Ten if he’s lucky.
Paige gives him a small nod as she waltzes across the room.
In the cafeteria, Seth didn’t expect to see the four colleagues he used to hang out with, ‘cause they normally have an earlier lunch break. The last time he saw them was nearly a month ago. A part of him wants to sit with them and catch up, but the other part hesitates. He knows what would happen if he joined them. But it’s too late; Billie spots him and waves her hand excitedly. Next to her, Peyton calls out in her squeaky voice, telling him to sit with them. Oh well.
“Hey guys, why’re you having a late lunch?” Seth says, as soon as he sits down on the empty seat beside Tyler. He takes a bite of his cold cut sandwich, trying not to look at Tyler’s inviting duck salad. The crispy skin… No, the sandwich will do. There’s no time for anything else. Between the chewing and swallowing, he notices that the girls are watching him from across the table, with a smile on their faces.
They haven’t been working here for long. Both got transferred from the subsidiary company in Sydney four months ago, to fill some vacant positions in the Legal Finance Department.
“We had a meeting that was dragging on and on. You know how much Ethan loves listening to his own voice,” Billie replies, then her smile widens. “What about you, mate? Can’t stay away from your hot new boss now, can you?”
Here we go.
Before Seth can say anything, Peyton beats him to it. Unsurprisingly. Those two talk like exploding firecrackers on Chinese New Year. “Drew is so good looking, isn’t he? A little terrifying, but still very hot.” She gazes at Seth expectantly, as though waiting for him to confirm.
“Try again,” Seth says in between bites. The sooner they’re prepared to face reality the better. And if he has to be the one bursting their bubble, then be it. But there’s nothing worse than walking into the room, blinded by Drew’s deceiving beauty, only for him to give you that look and stomp on your fragile, little heart. Been there, done that.
Peyton opens her mouth and shakes her head. “It can’t be that bad.”
Well, Seth didn’t think it would be that bad either when he started, even though a lot of people had warned him. He learned his lesson the hard way.
“Oh it is,” Xavier chimes in, pushing his empty plate away. Seth glances up at him. Good, at least he has back-up.
“You think it can’t be that bad? You think someone so beautiful cannot be cruel?” Xavier continues, being his normal, dramatic self. “Just wait until it’s your turn to be on the receiving end of his deadly stare. Last week I was in a meeting with him and Jack Swagger from Mortgage, and man, didn’t he tear Jack to shreds for putting a wrong number on two loans’ collateral value. The poor guy went super pale, all colors being drained from his face. And he looked sick, like he’d thrown up any second. Thank goodness he didn’t.” He pauses, with flair, his gaze moving deliberately slow from Peyton to Billie. “Moral of the story: don’t cross Drew McIntyre. And don’t let his beauty fool you either.”
The girls exchange doubtful glances, but doubt is good; it’s better than being blinded.
Next to Seth, Tyler earnestly nods. “He’s drop-dead gorgeous, totally my type, but I’d rather do all Anderson & Co.’s accounts by myself than be in the same room as him,” he adds.
Thank you, Tyler. And me, too.
“That’s three now, you can’t say all of us are wrong,” Seth says.
“Yeah, but—“ Peyton trails off, can’t seem to find the words. Billie gives her a shrug when she turns to her for help.
As entertaining as this conversation has been, Seth has to go. He trusts Xavier and Tyler to do the job of replacing the girls’ rose-tinted glasses with black ones. For their own good. He picks up his tray and tells them goodbye. His friends say they hope to see him again soon, maybe get a drink after work.
“Whenever you can escape from your ivory tower,” Xavier jokes. Yeah, very funny.
He manages to get the coffee and back with six minutes to spare. That’s pure luck. The elevator ride isn’t a problem. The sixty-fifth to sixty-eighth floors have their own private elevator, which can only be activated by a special keycard. Seth holds the cup with one hand, retrieving the keycard from his trousers’ pocket. But just as he’s about to scan it on the card reader, someone calls his name. Seth’s face automatically breaks into a smile when he sees who it is.
“Drew’s been keeping you busy?” Randy asks as he steps out from the corridor, his signature half-smirk ghosting on his lips.
A familiar sensation crawls in Seth’s stomach, closely followed by tingling warmth on his skin as old feelings are creeping back. It’s totally reckless to have a crush on your boss (now former), even more so when said boss is straight. But he can’t help it. If we could control our feeling and choose who to give our heart to, how easier life would be? There’d be no more messy break-ups, no unrequited loves; those stupidly painful things.
The crush isn’t a secret, pretty much. A lot of people have figured it out, especially because Seth’s not the most subtle person in the world. Maybe even Randy knows about it. But well... it doesn’t matter. It’s not like it would go anywhere.
“It’s my job. I don’t—” Seth replies diplomatically, but Randy cuts him off with a low snort.
“Don’t worry, I’m not gonna tell him.” He smiles again, more conspiratorial this time. “You know what, Seth, I’m starting to regret giving you up to Drew. Zelina is fine, most of the time, when she’s not giving me too much attitude. But she isn’t you.”
What? Seth looks up at him, lips parted in bemusement. Don’t read too much into it, his common sense tells him, it’s Randy. Yeah, Seth is fully aware of who Randy is. The company’s most opportunistic bastard, nobody even comes close. He cares about no one but himself, and will only do something if it benefits him in the long run. It was Randy himself who suggested to promote Seth to COO's personal assistant—when Drew’s previous one ran for the hills, again.
Now he’s probably tired of snarky Zelina and wishes he could have Seth back, because Seth is a damn good assistant who always gets the job done. So far Drew hasn’t skinned him alive, yet, or kicked him to the curb. And God knows he won’t hesitate to do both, if Seth shows even one tiny sign of weakness.
Randy is smart and calculative, and you can say… manipulative. All those traits shouldn’t look sexy on him, but they do. And Seth always falls for the bad boys, though he should’ve known better.
“Can’t you take me back, then?”
Randy’s blue eyes bore into him as his smirk slowly deepens. “Don’t tempt me, Seth.”
Seth licks his lips that suddenly feel so dry, clutching Drew’s coffee in his hand. Oh shit, Drew. Pressing the elevator button, Seth almost runs inside when the door opens. He has—three minutes to make it back up.
“Sorry, I gotta go,” he blurts out, apologetically.
“It’s alright. Later.”
He has no time to ponder on what Randy told him, because the elevator ride goes fast and the door glides open on his floor before he knows it. Paige’s office is closed, meaning she and William have gone to a meeting somewhere. Seth keeps walking towards his, thinking he made it. But he stops dead in his tracks when he sees someone sitting on his chair.
“At last. You kindly remember to show up, two minutes late.” Drew stands up, his movement looking impressively graceful for a man his size. “Get Bo Dallas up here.”
It takes a moment for Seth’s scrambled mind to register what he’s talking about. The last five minutes have been hectic, with the coffee shop run and bumping into Randy. Then his stomach sinks as it dawns on him. Oh, no… There have been speculations that Bo Dallas from Marketing is gonna get the sack. Now it’s not a speculation anymore.
He has never worked with Bo, only heard that he made some serious error that has costed the firm a pretty penny. So, it’s not unexpected news, and the guy probably deserves it. But still, he can’t watch somebody being fired and not feeling anything at all.
“Are you going to do it or do I need to ask someone else?” Drew says again, fixing his sharp gaze on him. As usual, his face is devoid of any visible emotion. “And try not to look as if someone has died. We’re not running a charity. If you’re not good enough, then you shouldn’t be here.”
Seth stares at him.
Seriously, what is this man made of? He bites his tongue before he launches himself into a rant about human empathy. Must be a foreign concept to a person without a heart. But sadly, it’s not worth losing his job for.
“Your coffee. I’ll be right back,” he murmurs, almost giving in to the temptation to spill the hot coffee onto Drew’s hand. How satisfying it would be. As he steps back into the elevator, he recalls his conversation with Randy not even ten minutes ago.
Sighing soundly, Seth scans his keycard and presses 31 on the panel.