Daddy’s Watching by Pepper North
“Let me know when you have those reports, Elaine,” Easton Edgewater requested from the door to her office.
“Will do. I’ll get them to you as soon as possible. I know there’s a lot riding on how the numbers look this quarter,” Elaine answered her boss as her fingers tightened on the folders in her hands.
“Take the time that you need for accuracy. I know these reports are a bear to complete, but you’re right. Speed is important. I appreciate your efforts, Elaine. I couldn’t ask for a better second-in-command.”
Elaine nodded and turned into her office. It wasn’t as elaborate as the CEO’s, of course, but it was spacious and welcoming. She passed the empty desk with the cleared wooden surface with a grimace. Damn, I need an assistant. Once in her private space, she dropped the folders on the cluttered desktop and collapsed into her chair.
She gave herself exactly ninety seconds to whine inside at having to complete the reports. They were her least favorite thing to do. I love seeing it all laid out for the company when it’s finished.
With that cheerier thought in mind, Elaine turned on her computer and got started. She was deep into the first set of data when an air horn bleated incredibly close.
Reacting instinctively, Elaine jumped from her chair. Standing next to her desk, she attempted to control her racing heartbeat for several seconds before dashing into the adjourning room. A handsome young man looked up from her assistant’s desk with a grin.
“Sorry. I bet that interrupted your train of thought. I’ll put it in the bottom drawer,” he apologized.
“Who are you?” she asked, staring at the devastatingly charming man, filling the chair so attractively. With ruffled black hair and eyes so dark she could sense their color even from a distance, he presented such a picture that she had to school her expression into stern disapproval instead of drooling. That wouldn’t do.
“I’m Fane—your new assistant. Sharon picked me out of the admin pool to come replace your old one. You go through a lot,” he shared as he pushed up the black-rimmed glasses that did nothing to disguise his good looks.
That assessment stopped her from sightseeing. She stared at him, unable to answer his insinuation that she was tough to work with. Good assistants were hard to find. I’ll hold on to one as soon as I find the right fit. It’s not my fault that I expect the highest level of competence and dedication.
This man would have been her absolute last choice. Laughter lines bracketed his mouth and his brown eyes twinkled. With finger-tousled hair and cuffs rolled up to reveal elaborately tattooed forearms, there was no way he fit the professional profile she needed to greet visitors to her office, even in the black horn-rimmed glasses that partially cloaked his obvious wild side.
Trying to pull her eyes away from the charismatic man, she noticed the large box sitting on the desk. A variety of brightly colored items spilled over the top: a Frisbee, a large tie-dye colored stuffed bear, a plastic golf club, a wooden handle… that wasn’t a… Elaine looked at him in disbelief.
“I don’t think this will work, Fane…” Elaine began, trying to be diplomatic.
“Sharon told me not to let you scare me off. She thought you needed something different.” He stood to spread his arms, drawing her attention to his toned body. “You got me.”
Closing her mouth with a snap, Elaine pivoted and stalked forward into her office, slamming the door behind her. We’ll just see about that!
She picked up the phone and called Sharon’s cellphone. It connected, and she heard the former executive assistant say as if she were a recording: “Welcome to Edgewater Industries, you’ve reached the Administrative Assistants Pool. We have restricted your privileges due to system overuse. Fane Bogart is your permanent assistant, with Easton Edgewater’s approval. Have a good day.”
“Sharon! Stop this nonsense. I can’t work with this man… he brought toys to the office.”
A click answered her statements as the phone disconnected.
“What?” Elaine looked at her phone in astonishment. Sharon had just hung up on her. “Enough!”
She’d handle this. Elaine walked into the outer office, ignoring her new assistant’s cheerful welcome back as he decorated the top of his desk with a large blue stuffed bunny. Stomping out the door in determination, Elaine headed for Easton’s office.
“I need to see Easton!” she barked on her way to the door. After attempting to twist the handle, Elaine turned to look at her boss’s new secretary. “This is urgent.”
“Mr. Edgewater left this note with me,” Piper shared, lifting a small sticky note.
“Deal with it?” Elaine read incredulously.
“I know we don’t know each other well yet, Elaine. I have gotten to know a lot of the other administrative assistants. He’s the one everyone goes to when they need help with a problem. Everyone thinks the world of him. Give Fane a chance. There are several divisions that would leap at the chance to get him assigned for their group.”
“They can have him. Fill me in on Easton’s schedule. What’s his first opening?”
Elaine watched Piper pull up a schedule on the computer. When Piper announced a date two months in advance, she stared at Piper in disbelief. “That can’t be his first available appointment.”
“Mr. Edgewater blocked out a freeze on changing employee assignments until that day. You can have the first time at eight,” Piper offered cheerfully.
“This is ridiculous.” Elaine turned on one high heel and returned to her office.
“How can I help you with the report?” Fane asked as she entered.
“Stay out of my office and be quiet,” she hissed before closing the door. Elaine heard his response before it clicked.
“I’m here when you need me.”
“Never!” Elaine swore under her breath.
Two hours later, she couldn’t put it off any longer. Elaine had to use the bathroom. Standing, she paused to roll her head in a circle and wiggle her shoulders back into place. Tension from looking at all those numbers and stacks of data had given her a stress headache. Well, that and missing lunch.
She walked briskly to the door and paused with her hand on the knob. When she leaned in to press her ear to the wood, Elaine caught herself. No one would make her hide in her office! Flinging open the door, she strode through the outer office, rubbing her temple to try to ease the pain away.
“Good afternoon. I brought…”
Fane’s words died out as she continued down the hall to the women’s restroom. That would show him. She’d just ignore him.
Quickly using the restroom, Elaine washed her hands and wet a paper towel to wipe the back of her neck in a vain attempt to revitalize herself. She frowned at her reflection. Pale and drawn, Elaine looked just like she felt—overworked and stressed out.
Slower this time, she traveled through the hallway to her office. Pausing outside the door, she gathered her professional persona and walked into the office. Fane came out of her office with a smile.
“Don’t go into my office. There is classified information on my desk,” she snapped.
“I understand, Elaine. I didn’t mess…”
“Good. Just leave me alone,” she cut him off as she walked through the door and closed it firmly. Resting her forehead against the panel, Elaine despaired. She’d never make it two months this angry at the incompetent man.
Turning to head to her desk, Elaine stopped in her tracks. Sitting on the desk was an iced coffee, a sandwich, two painkillers, and the stuffed blue bunny. She walked slowly forward to sink into her chair. Picking up the tablets first, she swallowed them with a sip of the drink. Elaine clapped her hand over her mouth to muffle the moan of delight at the delicious taste—exactly how she liked it.
Without thinking, she picked up the stuffie and hugged it. It was absolutely squishable and soft. Looking at the closed door, she felt bad. She wasn’t giving him a chance. Fane had obviously gathered information about her favorite drink and had ordered lunch for her. In one half day, he had taken more interest in her than any of her previous administrative assistants.
At a light knock on her door, Elaine said softly, “Thank you.”
“Need anything else?” he asked through the wooden barrier.
“No, this is great.”
She waited for him to say anything else, but Fane didn’t. A few seconds later, she set the stuffie aside and picked up a sandwich half—turkey on wheat with mustard and sweet pickles. Her favorite. Taking a big bite, Elaine chewed in enjoyment. Within a few minutes, she tossed the wrapper in the trash. She’d been starving.
Elaine picked up her drink and took a long sip as she considered the door. If he kept the air horn and that embarrassing paddle put away, maybe she could deal with him. She decided to use the two months as a trial period. Pulling up her email, she sent Fane a message.
While I’m concentrating on these reports, I need you to set up two-hour meetings with the heads of each division beginning next month. Do not schedule more than one a day. The topic will be future expansion plans. They are to prepare a report of their current staffing and what they would need to handle a double workload. Thank you.
With that completed, she turned back to the report she was compiling. After a couple of late nights, Elaine knew she’d be able to wrap it up. Losing herself in the data, she clicked through the next bit of needed information.