My father always said the way to learn the job you want is to spend every second watching someone do it.
“To get the job at the top, you’ve got to start at the bottom,” he told me. “Become the person the CEO can’t live without. Be their right-hand man. Learn their world, and they’ll snatch you up the second you finish your degree.”
I had become irreplaceable. And I’d definitely become the Right Hand. It just so happened that in this case, I was the right hand that most days wanted to slap the damn face.
My stomach clenched tightly at the thought of him: tall, gorgeous, and entirely evil. He was the most self-righteous, pompous prick I’d ever met. I’d hear all of the other women in the office gossip about his escapades and wonder if a nice face was all it took. But my father also said, “You realize early in life that beauty is only skin-deep, and ugly goes straight to the bone.” I’d had my fair share of unpleasant men in the past few years, dated a few in high school and college. But this one took the cake.
“Well, hello Miss Mills!” Mr. Ryan stood in the doorway to my office that served as an anteroom to his. His voice was laced with honey, but it was all wrong . . . like honey left to freeze and crack on ice.
After spilling water on my phone, dropping my earrings into the garbage disposal, being rear-ended on the interstate, and having to wait for the cops to come and tell us what we both already knew—that it was the other guy’s fault—the last thing I needed this morning was a grumpy Mr. Ryan.
Too bad for me he didn’t come in any other flavor.
I gave him my usual. “Good morning, Mr. Ryan,” hoping he would give me his usual curt nod in return.
But when I tried to slip past him, he murmured, “Indeed? ‘Morning,’ Miss Mills? What time is it in your little world?”
I stopped and met his cold stare. He was a good eight inches taller than me, and before working for him I’d never felt so small. I’d worked for Ryan Media Group for six years. But since his return to the family business nine months ago, I’d taken to wearing heels I used to consider circus height just so I could approach him near eye level. Even so, I still had to tilt my head to look up at him, and he clearly relished it, hazel eyes flashing.
“I had a bit of a disaster morning. It won’t happen again,” I said, relieved that my voice came out steady. I had never been late, not once, but leave it to him to make a thing of it the first time it happened. I managed to slip past him, put my purse and coat in my closet, and power up my computer. I tried to act like he wasn’t standing in the doorway, watching every move I made.
“‘Disaster morning’ is quite an apt description for what I’ve had to deal with in your absence. I spoke to Alex Schaffer personally to smooth over the fact that he didn’t get the signed contracts when promised: nine a.m., East Coast time. I had to call Madeline Beaumont personally to let her know we were, in fact, going to proceed with the proposal as written. In other words, I’ve done your job and mine this morning. Surely, even with a ‘disaster morning’ you can manage eight a.m.? Some of us get up and start working before the brunch hour.”
I glanced up at him, antagonizing me, glaring, arms crossed over his broad chest—and all because I was an hour late. I blinked away, very deliberately not staring at the way his dark tailored suit stretched across his shoulders. I had made the mistake of visiting the hotel gym during a convention the first month we worked together and walked in to find him sweaty and shirtless next to the treadmill. He had a face that any male model would kill for and the most incredible hair I’ve ever seen on a man. Freshly f**ked hair. That’s what the girls downstairs called it, and according to them, it earned its title. The image of him wiping his chest with his shirt was forever burned into my brain.
Of course, he’d had to ruin it by opening his mouth: “It’s nice to see you finally taking an interest in your physical fitness, Miss Mills.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Ryan,” I said with just a hint of bite. “I understand the burden I placed on you by making you manage a fax machine and pick up a telephone. As I mentioned, it won’t happen again.”
“You’re right, it won’t,” he replied, cocky smile firmly in place.
If only he would keep his mouth shut, he’d be perfect. A piece of duct tape would do the trick. I had some in my desk that I’d occasionally pull out and fondle, hoping someday I could put it to good use.
“And just so you don’t allow this incident to slip your memory, I’d like to see the full status tables for the Schaffer, Colton, and Beaumont projects on my desk by five. And then you’re going to make up the hour lost this morning by doing a mock board presentation of the Papadakis account for me in the conference room at six. If you’re going to manage this account, you’re going to prove to me that you know what the hell you’re doing.”
My eyes widened as I watched him turn away, slamming his office door behind him. He knew damn well that I was ahead of schedule with this project, which also served as my MBA thesis. I still had months to finish my slides once the contracts were signed . . . which they weren’t—they hadn’t even been fully drafted. Now, with everything else on my plate, he wanted me to put together a mock board presentation in . . . I looked at my watch. Great, seven and a half hours, if I skipped lunch. I opened the Papadakis file and got down to it.