Up today in the ‘guest posts while I’m in Cuba series‘ is the amazing aspiring romance novelist (and romance novel guru, and dear friend of mine) Cristina with the first chapter of a book she’s working on. Are there wedding bells in Will and Mae’s future? Tune in tomorrow for chapter 2!
The last thing Mae needed was for him to walk through that door.
She had been perched at her desk in front of several piles of papers that had been all thoroughly tabbed and marked. From the agendas and pre-reads to the initial proposals and tentative timelines, she was checking off everything she could possibly need before meeting her clients for the first time.
The cup of coffee in her hand—-her third one for the day—-was hardly making a difference. She massaged her temple. The long hours she had been putting into this account were catching up with her. She had already gone over everything twice already, but her boss trusted her not to be caught off guard by anything unexpected, especially for an account as big as this one. She couldn’t control everything, but she tried to make sure she anticipated mostly everything.
Which is why her heart dropped when she saw her former high school boyfriend walk through the elevator doors of her office floor. She hadn’t thought of him in over a decade, so he definitely fell under the category of the unexpected.
Mae would have continued gaping if she hadn’t completely forgotten about the cup of coffee in her hand. It dropped onto the plush carpet beneath her desk, causing the hot liquid to splatter. A small amount hit her leg and as she instinctively moved to grab it, her elbow knocked off pile of papers that had been precariously balanced on the edge of her desk. The papers fluttered down, right into the coffee puddle.
As she looked at the wet mess, she cursed at her clumsiness.
“Jittery, much?” A voice said over her shoulder. “Looks like I’m going to have to have a coffee intervention.
Mae looked up and saw that the source of the voice was her coworker, Sandra. The petite brunette sat at a desk directly behind Mae’s. Both of them had started at Latter Media at around the same time and during orientation the two had clicked, despite their differences. Whereas Mae preferred to keep to herself, Sandra was outgoing to a point of aggressive. Mae often joked that Sandra practically railroaded her into this friendship.
“Yeah, that must be it.” Mae said. She grabbed some paper towels to clean up the coffee in the hopes of restoring some semblance of order to her station.
Sandra moved to help Mae clean up. “Like I’ve mentioned before, caffeine dependence is an epidemic in this office.” She pointed at Mae’s hands. “Look, even your hands are shaking.”
“Well, this month hasn’t exactly been the ideal time for quitting the stuff,” she said defensively. She absent-mindedly allowed Sandra to lecture her on her overdependence on caffeine as she snuck a glance in Will’s direction. He was accompanied by two other people. The trio was being led by one of the company’s designated greeters, Delia. Delia’s job was to greet potential clients and cater to their every need. Given the coy and flirty looks she was throwing in Will’s direction, it didn’t look like she was complaining about her job at the moment.
But Mae couldn’t blame her. Time had treated Will well. He looked even better than she had remembered in high school. His blonde hair was more closely cropped now and he was a bit taller, but she recognized the face that made so many girls fall in love with him. When he was in high school, he had the innocent all-American look about him, but the soft lines had given away to sharper features. He was wearing a crisp gray suit that fit his tall frame well.
No wonder Delia was pulling out all the stops for him, Mae thought bitterly. She mentally cursed fate. Was it too much to ask that he gain fifty pounds and maybe go bald?
“Are you listening to me?” Sandra said exasperatedly.
Mae forced her eyes away from Will look at her friend. “Sorry, I’m just a little distracted.”
“Checking out your clients? The high and mighty representatives of Gulliver?”
Mae was momentarily confused as she glanced at the clock. She shook her head. “No, I thought I saw someone I knew.” She waved her hand dismissively. “Anyways, the Gulliver clients aren’t due for another 45 minutes.” There was early and then there was ridiculously early.
“Nope, they’re here. Delia was complaining about the clients coming early to take another tour around Lattimer. Turns out that there’s been a change on the team and the new guy wanted some time to see our operations.” Sandra used air quotation marks around the word ‘operations’ as she rolled her eyes. “Whatever that means. It’s not like we’re a factory.”
It took a second for Mae to register that piece of information. “Wait, what? What new guy?”
Sandra continued as if Mae hadn’t spoken. “Although Jeanine from the front desk said that Delia changed her tune as soon as she saw the new guy. Let’s just say he isn’t lacking in the looks department.”
“Wait a second, what new guy? And how do you know this?”
“Only because I happened to buzz Jeanine at the reception desk ten minutes ago. And you know how much of a gossip she is.” She winked at Mae. Everyone knew that Sandra could get information out of anyone.
Mae just stared at Sandra blankly as a sense of dread came over her.
“Oh look, there he is now.” Sandra said.
Mae whirled around and followed the path of her friend’s stare. Sure enough, Delia was directing Will and the two other people he was with into the conference room reserved for her big meeting. She stifled a groan. If she had been a more paranoid person, she would’ve thought that someone up there had it in for her. Her ex boyfriend was now her client. She doubted that he would be ecstatic to learn that he would have to work with her closely, especially since the last time they saw each other he pretty much accused her of being a liar and a thief. Mae wanted curl up under a rock.
“Hey, you ok?” Sandra said worriedly. “You look like someone just told you your dog died.”
Shaking her head, Mae forced a smile on her face. “I’m fine,” she reassured her friend. “Just a little nervous, I guess.”
“You ready?” a gravelly voice interrupted. Mae jumped a little at the sound of her boss’s voice.
At 5’10, Ron Crawford didn’t have the height to be terribly intimidating. But the perpetual scowl on his face, along with his sharp eyes that missed nothing and his impatience with just about everything made him made him one terrifying man. It took Mae about six months working under him to find out that while he was demanding, he was a great boss. Mae considered him a big teddy bear with a very crabby exterior. Looking at him also reminded her of why this account was so important. His job was also dependent on this campaign’s success.
“Got buzzed by downstairs. Heard our big client got here early. Good for me, because I wanted to get out of here early.”
Mae smiled. “You never leave the office early.” Dedicated to his job, he always came to work early and left late.
“If you’re done powdering your nose or whatever,” He gave a questioning look at the mile of paper towels on the floor.
“Can we go and get this over with? Miles and Samantha are headed to the conference room, too.”
Mae tried to gather her composure.
“It’s going to be fine.” Ron said reassuringly.
If that was true, why couldn’t she shake the sinking feeling that she had?
***Tune in tomorrow for Chapter 2***
photo credits: wedding reception chair, menu, blackberry drink, boutonnieres, ribbons with rings, purple ombre cake, purple bridal bouquet, gold calligraphy, fabric rose, heart cookie, Jenny Packman bridal gown.