The mirror was showing me a different woman than usual, with bright pink lipstick, thick dark eyelashes, hazel contact lenses, and shoulder-length chestnut hair. She looked like she’d just come from a party—not the one who’d always worn square-framed eyeglasses and hair in a tight bun.
You changed yourself for the better, so you won’t look older than your age.
I was turning twenty-six this year, but I was still a late bloomer. I didn’t take too much time in front of the mirror and I never cared about my appearance until I realized why men don’t date wallflowers like me. In short, I was unattractive.
And in trouble.
I was fifteen minutes late according to my wristwatch; I came back yesterday from a two-week peaceful vacation in Southampton. I wasn’t supposed to return today, but I had grown tired of my boss’ frustrating calls and e-mails. He had called me repeatedly, saying he needed me back at once. It wasn’t easy to work as an executive assistant to a boss who couldn’t even make a decent cup of coffee.
Adam Cavendish was one of the most infuriating men I had ever met. He was the kind of man who munched work for breakfast, lunch and dinner, then disappeared on Friday afternoons; I was guessing he was looking for supermodels he could screw on weekends. He was a man who had a suit designer, owned several limited-edition shoes and wore a different thousand-dollar watch every day. He was also, unfortunately, a boss who required his employees to work twenty-four-seven. There were times I wanted to slap him for being a clueless prick.
At first, my job sounded promising. I worked for the CEO of Cavendish Enterprises—a top architecture and interior design firm in Manhattan. Every economic magazine, newspaper clipping, and internet news site was plastered with his name. Entrepreneurs called him a genius and women named him the sexiest man alive.
Pfft! If only they knew. My job was supposed to be his assistant, not his maid.
I stepped into Mr. Cavendish’s office. He didn’t notice me until I placed a cup on his desk, as he was busy scribbling on his table. The strokes of his favorite Montblanc black fountain pen were the only sound I could hear.
I cleared my throat to get his attention.
“Good morning, Mr. Cavendish,” I greeted, smiling pleasantly at him, it almost hurt my lips.
My boss smirked, still writing.
“Good morning. It’s good that you’re back. I can’t manage this alone.”
“Well, I’m here now,” I said. “How’s the Maxima Motors contract? I’m sorry I wasn’t there during the signing but did it go well?”
My boss, as usual, still looked magnificent in his Vanquish three-piece gray suit and classic pompadour haircut. The cream he applied to his hair was shimmering against the office light.
“Good. Everything’s fine,” my boss answered and didn’t bother to look up.
“Hmm,” I sang. “Is there anything else you need?”
“Nothing at the moment,” he replied simply.
“I’m going back to my desk then.”
He didn’t respond. I turned and was about to exit when Adam called for my attention.
He frowned, and his jaw hardened. “Julia?”
“What is it?”
I frowned. “I believe you’ve been repeating my name. What’s wrong?”
“Is that you?” He put down his pen, then wiped his face down to his chin.
I blinked. “Yes, what’s wrong? You looked like you’ve seen a ghost. Do I look bad?” I asked curiously.
“Hell no! You look great, but what did you do?”
“What do you mean, and why the question? Well, I got a new haircut.” I touched my shoulder-length hair with my palm.
“As I can see, it’s just that—you never wear a skirt.”
I glanced down my gray pencil skirt. It wasn’t even my first time wearing one, though I usually wore trousers. Maybe he didn’t notice.
I set my eyes back on him. “It’s a makeover.” I shrugged.
My boss studied me, from my red high heels to my top, under his lashes; then he shifted to the other side of the chair.
“Fine. Now, you can leave.”
“You can leave early this afternoon.”
“Are you sure? I thought we—”
“I said you could go home early,” he cut me off. “Henry is coming today. I’m taking him out.”
“Sure, Mr. Cavendish. Is there anything else you need?”
“Nothing. You can go.”
I didn’t answer. I left his office, sighing as I march back to my workspace.
Henry Cavendish. I licked my lips as I recalled the reason for my makeover. I wanted to be a new person. I wanted to impress my boss’ brother.
I met Henry, his brother, at the gala I attended last summer. While Adam Cavendish was a man who would always exasperate me, Henry was the kind of man I wanted to marry. He was a gentleman, sweet and not to mention, ridiculously hot. Though both of them shared the same features, Henry seemed more compassionate, unlike his older brother, who frequently roared at simple things.
Mr. Cavendish had informed me of his brother’s arrival from Los Angeles before I took my vacation. He had appointed Henry as the new Vice CEO of the company, and despite my boredom working for his grumpy older brother, that news caused a twinge of excitement inside me.
I groped a mirror from my purse and checked my face one more time. I was confident with the cosmetics I had applied this morning, but my boss didn’t seem to like it. Had I overdone myself? Did I wear my skirt too short? Was there something wrong with my top? The designer said it would look good on me.
“You should stop looking in the mirror. You don’t look bad.”
I dropped the mirror in surprise. “God! You scared me,” I exclaimed as I looked up at my boss, annoyed. He was standing at the door, leaning against the frame with arms folded across his chest.
“There’s something about your sudden change.”
I sighed heavily. Was he curious or just wanted to annoy me? We were not close enough to talk like friends, but I always thought we could get along.
“Right. I didn’t get it right,” I muttered.
“What? No, it’s fine. You look great.”
So many words of appreciation.
I looked at him and smiled sheepishly. “I know nothing about seduction.” Wait a minute. What the heck was I saying?
“Seduction?” he repeated, but his tone confused.
“Yes, I know nothing about romance,” I added.
“What are you talking about? Are you dating someone? Is that it?”
“No.” I chuckled nervously. “You know how busy I am. I can’t dwell on such things as dating and boyfriends.”
What was I doing? He was my boss, and this was something I shouldn’t talk about with him.
His eyebrow arched. “Something’s up. Do you care to tell me?”
“No. I’m sorry about that, and let’s not talk about this anymore.”
“You should have kept it to yourself. Now, I’m getting curious. I didn’t know you’re dating.”
Why was he so interested in this?
“I am not dating anyone, Mr. Cavendish. I didn’t know you can be so nosy about such trivial things.”
“I can’t help it.” He grinned. “If you’re not dating, why are you talking about romance and seduction?”
I rolled my eyes. “I like someone.” There. I said it outright.
“Oh, so who’s the guy? Do I know him?”
“I can’t tell you.” I pressed my lips together firmly.
“So, I know this guy. An employee?”
“You’re not opposing that? I thought you made yourself clear about the fraternization policy?”
“Come on, as if anyone hasn’t done that, but I still forbid it.”
“Are you going to fire me?”
“Of course, not. You’re my assistant. Maybe a reprimand would do.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. How was I supposed to tell him it was his brother whom we were talking about? “I can’t tell you his name. Not to you.”
“Oh, I just remembered that I have tons of things to do. Shall we go back to work now, Mr. Cavendish?”
He chuckled. “So, you’re the boss now?” he teased. “Fine, but I won’t let this go. You’ll tell me about it later.”
I sighed in frustration when he finally went back to his office.
I was officially out of my goddamn mind. Having a casual conversation with Julia wasn’t new. I wasn’t an open person, but I could trust her on a few things—things that had something to do with women. I screwed different women every week since I wasn’t into serious relationships. Unfortunately, I had to ask Julia to get rid of them. She even advised me to, at least, send them goodbye gifts before chasing them away.
That isn’t the point.
There was something about her new skirt. It was short. I never knew she had such shapely legs under those baggy trousers. Her face was always pale, and she never wore makeup. I couldn’t believe she’d changed herself so much just to impress someone. She was beautiful. Fine. She moved me a little.
Julia wasn’t my type. She was short, dark-haired, and had never attracted me. I always thought someone like her wasn’t desirable. I never even saw her with a man.
I don’t care. She had to tell me who it was.
“Hi, Mr. Cavendish—yes, he’s here…” The woman who invaded my thoughts appeared at the door with my brother. “Come in, sir.”
“Henry.” I grinned as I stood. “You are early.”
“I’m bored. I still have to see my new office.” Henry walked towards me.
“How’s your trip? I thought you were coming next week?” I said as I hugged him briefly.
“I can’t wait to see the site. Maxima Motors is about to change, and it’s better to be up early.”
“It’s good to have you back,” I said. “Oh, you met my assistant Julia, right?”
“Yes, yes. How could I forget?” He turned back to Julia and flashed a grin.
“We’ve met, Mr. Cavendish.” Julia smiled back at my brother, just like every woman I knew. I scowled in confusion.
“Julia, it’s been a while.” Henry approached her, addressing her with familiarity. He shook her hand swiftly and firmly.
“Do you want coffee? Tea? Or me...” she cleared her throat, “I mean, water?”
“Why are you offering him something when you offered me nothing?” I asked her suspiciously. I meant it as a joke.
“I gave you a cup of coffee this morning,” she reminded.
“Really? You don’t have to be formal with him, you know.”
“It’s fine, Adam.” Henry patted my arm. “I got one this morning, too.”
I crossed my arms. “I’ll tour you around the building. How’s that?”
“Sure. I saw it earlier, but I still have to be familiar with the place. Let’s go!”