“Fuck me!” I screech into the empty stairwell, huffing my way up to the eighth floor of Burnz & Earnz Fitness Corporate headquarters. The amount of favors Dalia owes me for taking this last minute temp job is going to cover my pizza cravings for the foreseeable future.
Why isn’t there a working elevator in this multimillion dollar fitness juggernaut?! I want to scream again. My chest is tight. My lungs are ready to explode. Thighs are on fire and anger is bubbling to the surface when I pull out my phone to text my devious best friend.
However, before the scathing text threatening her life leaves my drafts, a notification alert pings. An email flashes across the top of the screen with a message telling me my point of contact for this job.
Declan Daniels, CEO.
Strong name. After a quick internet search, his picture pops onto my phone showing one of the most strikingly handsome men I’ve ever seen. Piercing blue eyes jump off the site, sending shivers to my core. His hair is slicked back, and the stoic grin on his face tells me he’s confident, like ‘he knows he’s good-looking and brilliant’ kind of confident.
While he looks important, I have no idea who he is and I don’t much care outside of showing up, completing the tasks, and going back to my amazing life as a freelance accountant. Well, bookkeeper for now. I’m being ambitious, according to my student advisor, chasing a dual degree, which upon completion will grant me my accountant title.
That’s what I’m focusing on instead of the millions of stairs trailing behind me as I reach the handle to open the door to the eighth floor and step onto the Executive level. A woman with a stern face, like she sucks on lemons professionally, is sitting behind a light-colored wooden desk with chrome features.
“Please have a seat. Mr. Daniels will be with you shortly,” the woman states before I get a chance to say anything. My eyes scan the area, but there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to sit. The droplets of sweat beading down my body make me happy for that too.
“Pardon me.” I force a smile. “Is there a restroom where I can freshen up? Walking up 16 flights of stairs doesn’t have me feeling quite ready to make the best impression with Mr. Daniels.”
The icy glare almost makes me regret saying anything, but if I don’t get a handle on my body overheating, this is going to be a disastrous day. Seriously, who wants to work with sweaty pit stains? Or a splotch of perspiration from where it pooled along my lower back? Or the beast of all beasts, under boob dampness? She points it out to me, and I head inside immediately with joy to see a few amenities that will dry my shirt out.
I wrap my blouse around the end of a small blow dryer and crank it up. While that’s going, I make quick work of the items in my purse and decide to tighten up the blonde ponytail sitting high, fanning its layers to make it fuller and retouch my makeup to ensure my hazel eyes don’t show their desperate need for a nap.
About five minutes later, I’m reconsidering my lack of daily exercise. I’m grateful I don’t look like how I feel as I hurry outside of the bathroom and head back to the reception area.
Declan Daniels is standing in front of the pucker-faced woman wearing a curt expression. The picture from the company’s website doesn’t do him justice. He’s brooding, handsome, and with broad shoulders in an impeccable suit that screams wealth without being too flashy. Sharp lines shape his beard and mustache that stretch up into sideburns where I can see the graying of his hair. A head full of dark brown strands that appear soft to the touch, flowing and gently moving as he turns to face me.
Our eyes lock. The same blue eyes that held me in a trance when I searched his name online. There’s a flutter of excitement mixing with angst as I approach with my hand extending toward him.
“Good morning. I’m Denise Meyers.”
He eyes my hand for a second before taking it, shaking it firmly while he studies me from head to toe. “I have Dalia Woodrow as the temp being sent over.”
I sigh and offer him a smile. “I’m covering for her since she’s out of town and didn’t want you to have to wait for the agency to locate another replacement on short notice.”
He grunts, looks around, glances at the receptionist who rolls her eyes, and relents. “Fine. I guess you’ll do. Please follow me.”
Declan leads the way through a row of empty cubicles where the silence is daunting. I can’t help but take mental note of the amount of desks that are being boxed up as if everyone here has quit, or let go.
“Quiet day today?” I manage to squeak out.
“Hm?” He stops walking with a slight look over his shoulder, and I motion to the empty area around us. “Oh, yeah. We’re moving to a different location at the end of the month so a lot’s changing. I really just need you to manage my calls and emails for the next few days.”
“Lunch?” I ask as I get into executive assistant mode. It’s not the first time I’m temping for some corporate bigwig.
“Are you asking me to lunch?” His voice glimmers with curiosity.
I blush, realizing my informal question doesn’t exactly let him know what I’m asking. My cheeks flush, heat rising to my face, and I wonder if he notices the effect he’s having on me.
“I’m sorry. I meant to ask if you would like me to manage your lunch, too.”
“I don’t take lunch unless I happen to have a meeting scheduled in the afternoon, which you’ll see once we get you all set up,” he tells me as he shows me to the desk in front of his office.
There’s a black door behind me with notes of cinnamon and leather wafting out of the room. It makes me want to peek inside, but Declan nudges the door closed slightly before returning to me a few minutes later with a phone in his hand.
He hands it to me with instructions. “I’ll contact you on this line. Keep this on between the hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. You can use it for personal calls, texts, and emails, but I strongly suggest you don’t as there’s an app recording the activity from the device. We take corporate espionage rather seriously. It’s one of the reasons we’re changing locations.”