The Contract(2)

By: Melanie Moreland



“Yes, Mr. VanRyan?”

“My table at Finlay’s. Seven o’clock. Book it. My jacket better be back on time.”

“I asked for rush service. It, ah, there was an extra charge.”

I raised my eyebrows. “I’m sure you were happy to pay it, considering it was your fault.”

Her face darkened even more, but she didn’t argue with me. “I’ll pick it up in an hour.”

I waved my hand; I didn’t care when she retrieved it, as long as it was in my possession before I left.

“Mr. VanRyan?”

“What?”

“I have to leave today at four. I have an appointment. I sent you an email about it last week?”

I tapped my fingers on my desk as I observed her. My assistant—Katharine Elliott—the bane of my existence. I’d done everything I could to get rid of her, but I’d never had any luck. No matter what task I gave her, she completed it. Every demeaning chore she handled without complaint. Pick up my dry cleaning? Done. Make sure my private washroom was stocked with my favorite brands of toiletries and condoms? Without fail. Alphabetize and clean my massive CD collection after I decided to bring them into the office? Completed—she even boxed up every CD when I “changed my mind” and had them delivered back home, spotless and in order. Not a word passed her lips. Send flowers and a brush off message to whomever I had dumped that month or week? Yep.

She was at the office every day without fail—never late. She rarely left the office unless it was to do an errand for me or scuttle to the break room to eat one of her ridiculous brought-from-home sandwiches since I forbade her to eat at her desk. She kept my calendar and contacts in precise order, my files done in the exact color-coding I liked, and screened my calls, making sure my many exes didn’t bother me. Through the grapevine, I knew everyone liked her, she never forgot anyone’s birthday, and made the most delicious cookies, which she shared on occasion. She was fucking perfection.

I couldn’t stand her.

She was everything I despised in a woman. Small and delicate, with dark hair and blue eyes, she dressed in simple suits and skirts—neat, tidy, and completely dowdy. Her hair was always twisted into a knot, she wore no jewelry, and from what I observed, no makeup. She had zero appeal and not enough self-respect to do anything about it. Meek and timid, she was easy to roll over. She never stuck up for herself, took whatever I dished out at her, and never responded negatively. I liked my women strong and vibrant—not a doormat like Miss Elliott.

However, I was stuck with her.

“Fine. Don’t make it a habit, Miss Elliott.”

For a second, I thought I saw her eyes flare, but she simply nodded. “I’ll pick up your jacket and leave it in your closet. Your two o’clock teleconference is set and you have a three-thirty in the boardroom.” She indicated the files on the corner of my desk. “Your notes are all there.”

“My expenses?”

“I’ll finish them and leave for your signature.”

“All right. You can go.”

She paused at the door. “Have a good evening, Mr. VanRyan.”

I didn’t bother to reply.





RICHARD

BRIAN SIPPED HIS RYE, REGARDING me over the edge of the glass. “I agree that must burn, Richard. But what do you want me to do about it?”

“I want another job. That’s what you do. Find me one.”

He laughed dryly, setting down his glass. “We’ve had this discussion already. With your credentials, I can get you any job you want—except here. There’re two major players in Victoria, and you work for one of them. If you’re finally ready to move, give me the word. I’ll have offers for you in any major city you want to consider. Toronto is booming.”

I huffed in annoyance. “I don’t want to move. I like Victoria.”

“Is there something holding you here?”

I drummed my fingers on the table as I pondered his question. I had no idea why I refused to move. I liked the city. I liked its proximity to the water, the restaurants and theatres, the bustle of a big town in a small city and especially the climate. There was something else—something I couldn’t put my finger on that held me here. I knew I could relocate; in fact, it was undoubtedly the best thing to do, but that wasn’t what I wanted.

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