What was it Elliott had said? Extremely driven? That was an understatement if I’d ever heard one.
Henry had hinted that his brother didn’t quite share his laid-back personality, but when I’d seemed concerned he quickly put my mind at ease. “He has a tendency to be a bit stiff and completely anal retentive at times, but don’t worry about it, Chloe. You can handle his bark; you guys are going to be a great team. I mean, come on,” he said, wrapping his large arm around me. “How could he not love you?”
I hated to admit it now, but by the time he was set to arrive, I had developed a bit of a crush on Bennett Ryan. I was extremely anxious about working with him, but I was also impressed with everything he’d accomplished in his relatively short life. Looking up his picture online didn’t hurt either: the man was a specimen. We communicated through e-mail leading up to his arrival, and although he seemed nice enough, he was never overly friendly.
On the big day, Bennett wasn’t due in until after the board meeting that afternoon, when he would be officially introduced. I had the entire day to work myself up into a ball of nerves. Being the good friend she is, Sara came upstairs to distract me. She sat in my chair and we spent over an hour discussing the merits of the Clerks movies.
Soon I was laughing so hard I had tears running down my face. I didn’t notice that Sara stiffened when the outer office door opened, and I didn’t notice that someone was now standing behind me. And though Sara tried to warn me with a swift hand across the throat—the universal sign for “shut the f**k up”—I ignored her.
“And then,” I said, giggling and holding onto my sides, “she says, ‘Fuck, I had to take a f**king order off a guy I blew after junior prom once.’ And then he says, ‘Yeah, I’ve waited on your brother too.’”
Another bout of laughter hit me, and I stumbled backward a bit until I collided with something hard and warm.
Spinning around, I was mortified to see that I had just ground my ass onto my new boss’ thigh.
“Mr. Ryan!” I said, recognizing him from his photographs. “I’m so sorry!”
He did not look amused.
In an attempt to ease the tension, Sara stood and extended her hand. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you. I’m Sara Dillon, Henry’s assistant.”
My new boss simply glanced at her hand without returning the gesture and raised one of his perfect eyebrows. “Don’t you mean ‘Mr. Ryan’?”
Sara’s hand slowly fell as she watched him, obviously flustered. Something about his physical presence was so intimidating she was at a loss for words. When she recovered, she stuttered, “Well . . . we are fairly casual around here. We’re all on a first-name basis. This is your assistant, Chloe.”
He nodded to me. “Miss Mills. You will refer to me as Mr. Ryan. And I expect you in my office in five minutes so that we may discuss proper workplace decorum.” His voice was serious when he spoke, and he nodded curtly to Sara. “Miss Dillon.”
Sliding his gaze to mine for another moment, he turned on his heel toward his new office and I watched in horror as the first of his infamous door slams took place.
Hoping to smooth things over, I went down to the café to get him a cup of coffee. I’d even asked Henry how he took it—black. When I nervously made it back to his office door, my knock was followed by an abrupt “come in,” and I willed my hands to stop shaking. I curved my lips into a friendly smile, intent on making a better impression this time, and opened the door to him talking on the phone and writing furiously on the notepad in front of him. My breath caught when I heard his smooth, deep voice speaking in flawless French.
He ended the call but never lifted his eyes from his papers to greet me. Once I was standing in front of his desk, he addressed me in the same stern tone as before. “In the future, Miss Mills, you will keep all non-workplace-related conversations outside of the office. We’re paying you to work, not gossip. Do I make myself clear?”
I stood speechless for a moment until he lifted his eyes to meet mine, raising an eyebrow. I shook myself out of my trance, all at once realizing the truth about Bennett Ryan: although he was even more breathtakingly gorgeous in person than in photos, he was not at all like I had imagined. And he was absolutely nothing like his parents and brother.
“Very clear, sir,” I said as I walked around his desk to set his coffee in front of him.
But just as I was about to reach his desk, my heel caught on the rug and I lunged forward. I heard a loud “Shit!” escape his lips—the coffee now nothing more than a scorching stain on his expensive suit.
“Oh my God, Mr. Ryan, I am so sorry!”
I rushed over to the sink in his bathroom to grab a towel and ran back, falling to my knees in front of him and attempting to wipe off the stain. In my haste, and in the midst of humiliation I didn’t think could get any worse, it suddenly occurred to me that I was furiously rubbing the towel against his crotch. I averted my eyes and hand, feeling a heated blush spread from my face down my neck as I caught a glimpse of the noticeable bulge in the front of his pants.
“You may go now, Miss Mills.”
I nodded, rushing out of the office, mortified that I’d made such a horrible first impression.