A Career Girl Ch. 02bytotallyatease©
**Author's note: I just wanted to say thanks so much for all your support over the first chapter you really did blow me away! **
The silence stretched out between them, as they each stared at the other in shock and recognition; until he seemed to pull himself together abruptly to indicate that she should sit in the chair on the other side of his desk.
"You are Mrs Mandy Jones; I take it?"
Mandy nodded mutely as she walked across the little room towards him, and sat down opposite him with a shaky little sigh.
"And you are Luke Preston 'Managing Director' I assume." Mandy responded with a little disbelieving lift of her eyebrows.
"You're married, with kids?" he couldn't help asking. "You're supposed to be middle aged?" he couldn't help accusing.
"No. To all of the above."
"But your form stated 'Mrs.'?"
"I'm divorced; the form didn't ask me that. It didn't ask my age either, and I never pretended to be anything other than what I am."
"But your interests?"
Mandy shrugged uncomfortably. "I like reading; I WOULD rather sit at home and do a bit of knitting, than go out for a night on the town. My family IS the most important thing in my life. I'm dull; sorry!"
He knew that he was making her feel defensive, but he just couldn't help himself; just could not forget that first time he'd laid eyes, on her and the gut reaction he'd had to her then...
He had spotted her the moment she had come into the little church, she was huddled in the little entry way next to Ben's sister Lucy, both of them holding on to a long sparkling leash that was attached to the collar of the cutest little dog.
The bridesmaids were both of similar height, both looking very pretty in those silly cream coloured dresses, but it was the redhead that held his gaze.
Even from this distance he could see the green glitter of her eyes, and that slight curve of her lips.
She was stunning, beautiful, bright and vivacious, and everyone around her paled into insignificance.
The bride made her entrance, and Ben – the groom sucked in a breath next to him.
Luke glanced at his friend and felt a jolt of envy. He could see the love that Ben felt for his bride, and he could also see that he knew that love was returned.
Ben could feel confident, as he married his love, could enjoy this day, knowing that what they were doing was RIGHT!
"You HAVE got the rings, haven't you?" the groom suddenly whispered nervously.
Luke bit back a grin. How many times had the groom asked that question at this point, he wondered silently and how many of those 'best men' were tempted to lie and panic his best friend?
"They are right here; look." He reassured quietly as he held his hand open to show the two plain gold bands lying in his palm.
"Well don't just hold them like that! Put them away safely!" Ben demanded anxiously.
Luke chuckled softly as he slipped the two rings into his jacket pocket, and patted it reassuringly.
The music started up then and the little wedding party started their way down the aisle.
For once Penny the little dog was on her best behaviour, as she trotted proudly down the aisle ahead of the two bridesmaids, so that the sparkling leash straightened out to glitter and sparkle as the sunlight cut through the church windows, and bounced prettily off it.
There were a few "Ah's" as the congregation appreciated the little trio; then the bride came into view, and a ripple ran through the little church, followed by an expectant hush.
As the woman in white began her walk down the aisle the whispers of approval could be heard.
The murmurs of the crowd were all about the bride; which was as it should be, but for Luke, his gaze was locked on to that one bridesmaid.
What was her name? He remembered that she was the sister of Melinda, what was it - Amanda? 'Manda for short?
She was simply incredible....
She was sitting across from him now and looking at him as though he'd just crawled out from under a rock!
"Tell me, is your hair naturally that colour?" he couldn't quite believe he'd said that out loud.
Mandy's expression changed to one of deep offence, and her green eyes glittered ominously.
"Yes it is." She bit out quietly.
He sat back in his chair to study her, and his eyes narrowed thoughtfully.
"I had intended for my assistant to work in here at that desk over there." He indicated a smaller desk set in the corner. "But now I'm not so sure that that will work so well."
Mandy glanced over her shoulder to the little desk with the laptop and telephone sitting on it.
"I can work there." She kept her voice even and in control, despite the flutter of her heartbeat and the buzzing of her nerves at the idea of working in such close proximity to him, day in and day out.
"I think that this office is perhaps a little too small for two people; we'd keep on disturbing each other."
Mandy tried to smile in a reassuring manner. "It takes a lot to disturb me." She told him firmly, "And I promise that you won't even know that I'm here."
"I seriously doubt that!" he muttered under his breath as he looked down at the schedule lying on his desk.
It was a snapshot of his month ahead, and his gaze fell on the weekend at the end of the month, which had been highlighted.
He was supposed to be going down to London from the Thursday until the following Tuesday, and he'd been hoping to take his new assistant with him.
He glanced up at his new assistant as she sat waiting patiently for him to remember her presence. She was just way too disturbing; he'd never be able to get any serious work done with her around.
"Being my assistant will require you to come away with me on occasion." He fixed his beady brown eye on her. "Will that be a problem for you?"
Mandy shook her head. "No, that won't be a problem at all."
Her voice was calm, efficient, and impersonal; and he figured that it was just him who was so rattled by her.
Mandy couldn't quite believe how cool and collected she sounded. Later she promised herself silently. Later when she was safely in her own home, she would yell and shout and get all this pent up adrenalin out of her system, once and for all.
Now she smiled sweetly at the man sitting across from her. "Why don't I go and get us some coffee and then we can sit and discuss what it is you will expect from me?"
She stood up and calmly headed for the door, all the time aware of his gaze burning through her.
The minute that door closed on her back, she let out a loud sigh of relief. This was going to be one of the most challenging jobs of her life. As she headed to reception to ask Maria where the kitchen was, her green eyes were sparkling with excitement, and anticipation.
Luke sat staring at that closed door. 'So she wanted to be professional and cool?' he glanced down at her form again.
He just knew that there was nothing cold, cool, or even remotely tepid about Mrs Mandy Jones.
"Come on Luke!" he growled softly. "It's not the first time you've been around a beautiful desirable woman; you can handle it, you can handle her!"
He ran a hand through his hair a couple of times; before turning towards his computer screen and beginning to thump aggressively on his keyboard, and softly cursing his sister in law and her 'I know people' confidence.
"Can I get one for you as well?" Mandy called out to Maria as she heard her hang up the telephone.
Maria stuck her pretty head around the door. "What? Oh yes please!"
Mandy took another mug down from the rack over her head. "It's all go around here isn't it?" she observed lightly.
Maria laughed carelessly. "It's always been a successful little factory, but once Luke gets to grips with it, it's going to be something really special!"
"I thought it was the one conducting the interviews who would be running things; doesn't he have ANY interest in the family business?"
"Not our Peter, not like Luke has."
"But Luke IS the younger brother?" Mandy pressed, trying to catch the dynamics of this family run firm.
"Yes, Peter is the eldest and for a time we all assumed that HE would be the one to step into dad's shoes...." she gave another little laugh. "But by the time dad came to retire five years ago, Peter had gone his own way and Luke was pretty much running the show already."
The telephone rang again, and with a little roll of her eyes; Maria went off to answer it.
Mandy left Maria's mug on the desk next to her, and carried the little tray with hers and Luke's on it, over to his - their office.
She balanced the tray capably on the palm of her hand and pushed open the door having knocked once.
Luke was busy thumping away on his computer keyboard, and so Mandy placed the mug in front of him and sat down across from him to await his attentions once more.
Mandy was nothing if not patient, and in the end, Luke was forced to stop working and look across at this disturbing vivacious creature.
"First of all, what would you like me to call you?" Mandy asked seriously.
For one terrible moment he thought he'd voiced his thoughts out loud again; but Mandy didn't leap to her feet and start shouting "Sexual harassment!"
She merely sat waiting for his answer.
"Luke, I suppose, it is after all my name."
"You wouldn't rather I call you Mr. Preston?"
He looked at her in absolute horror. "That's my dad!"
Mandy shrugged her shoulders impatiently. "So what does everyone else around here call you?"
He sat and thought about it for a moment. "Either Luke or 'boss'." He shrugged.
Mandy sighed. "Luke it is then."
"And I shall call you, Mandy?"
Mandy nodded in agreement. "There now!" she said with satisfaction. "That's one thing settled any way."
She reached forward to pick up her mug and sat sipping the hot beverage.
Luke sat there watching her for a moment; she had the most perfect, little and delicate hands he'd ever seen. The nails were neatly filed down to an acceptable length; and the nail polish that she wore was a pale pink; that shone under the office lights.
He reached for his own cup and took a little sip, as he tried to keep his thoughts away from her hands.
"So as your personal assistant, what exactly will you expect of me?"
Her voice, calm and detached grounded him nicely, and he almost looked across at her gratefully.
"Well, I have quite a lot of on-going appointments, and such. I would expect you to take over the running of those, make sure that I'm where I'm supposed to be. If I'm – or we are expecting to be away overnight, I'd like for you to see to accommodation, travel arrangements, that sort of thing...."
He glanced down at his schedule, and then handed it to her.
"Get a photocopy of that one, and you'll want to start a new one for next month; you'll find the photocopier in Mark's office just across from reception, Maria will point it out to you."
"Mark is our accountant, he's been with the firm for years, he comes in after ten most mornings, so you'll meet him later."
Mandy nodded her head and stood up with the sheet.
"I'll be right back." She said over her shoulder as she marched out of his office again.
Mandy was determined and efficient, and as the morning progressed she managed to worm from her employer, almost everything she felt she needed to know, well at least for the moment any way.
She had met Mark, the accountant, a middle aged easy going fellow, who she'd liked on sight.
"I'll take Mandy around the factory for you if you like?" Mark offered lightly.
Luke glanced across at Mandy as she sat at her little desk, trying to be invisible.
"That's probably a good idea...." Luke murmured thoughtfully. "But I'll show her around myself thanks Mark, we'll do that after lunch."
The tour around Preston's Pharmaceuticals took quite a while, and it was nice for Mandy to see the respect and friendliness the staff had for 'the boss' as they mostly seemed to refer to him. It boded well for her that her boss was so well liked.
"Now we don't actually make any drugs on this site." Luke told her as they walked through the loading bay. "But we do pack them here ready for dispatching all over the country. We do make some of the peripherals though on this site."
"Oh like what?" Mandy asked curiously as she looked around her.
"We make dressings for wounds, bandages, first aid packs; disposable syringes in their individual packs are all made here." He took her through a pair of double doors where there were overalls and hair masks and other protective clothing, hanging on pegs and lying in packs.
He picked up an overall and held it out for her as she slipped it on, he then handed her a little pack, and then turned to grab an overall for himself.
Mandy tore open the plastic packet and pulled out a hair net.
With a resigned little sigh she scooped up her masses of red hair and held it on top of her head as she pulled the net across her scalp.
When it was securely on she moved around the edge with her fingers, tucking in all the little tendrils of her hair that were trying to escape.
"This room is a clean room," he stated as he held open a second lot of double plastic doors.
The room they entered was a large open room with lights glaring down in an almost dazzling fashion.
Mandy blinked as she looked around the room at the long plain white tables, with dozens of people sat around each.
A pile of little tubes was heaped in the middle of each of the tables, and the people were quickly taking a tube sticking a label to it and then dropping it into a box next to them.
Mandy thought to herself that this must be one of the most boring jobs she had ever seen, but the people doing the work were all chatting to each other in a happy fashion, and as they all looked at the couple who had just walked in; there was a cheerful chorus of "Hey there," and "It's the boss!" and "Visitors!"
The happy laughter brought a smile to Luke's face, and Mandy realised that that was the first time she'd seen him smile like that. It curved up causing his eyes to crinkle at the corners in a most disturbing way.
He was so handsome. She felt a hot rush of desire and had to do some fast, silent talking to her racing heart, to get it to calm down again.
"Ladies and gentleman!" Luke said in a light casual tone. "I'd like to introduce you to my new assistant; you'll probably be seeing her from time to time, wandering around the place. Her name is Mandy and I hope that you'll all be welcoming and helpful where you can."
Luke stepped back to allow Mandy to say hello to his other employees.
This room was so bright and colourless, with those lights glaring down on everything; it just sucked the colour away.
He found his gaze drawn again to Mandy with her vibrant hair hidden away under that netting, and her skin bleached white by the lights. Her eyes though, those green gems that dazzled brighter than ever in this colourless environment.
Her skin was clear even under the cruelty of those unforgiving lights, it was clear and healthy looking; he wondered though, if she had problems though with such fair skin.
With that colouring she probably had to be very careful in the bright sunlight, he suspected that she would burn very easily.
She had finished saying hello to his employees, and was looking back at him again, waiting for him to decide where he should take her next.
He escorted her out again and they took off the overalls, then Mandy leaned forward a little so that she could peel off the hair net, and her hair fell around her shoulders in a rippling cascade of colour.
Luke found himself captured and captivated, enthralled and entranced.
So vibrant and alive, she was...simply sensational!
"I think that's all there is to see." He told her huskily.
He put his hand on her arm so that he could lead her out, and felt the shiver run through her.
'So she wasn't so indifferent to him.'
He had this sudden juvenile urge to leap up with a punch to the air and shout out; "YES!" in a triumphant voice.
Mandy sat back down at her desk, with a little sigh of satisfaction.
She had a really good feeling about this job. It seemed to be a happy place to work, with good people around it.
She logged on to her computer; using the log on name and password that Luke at set up for her earlier that day.
He had also filled out a parking permit for her car, and walked outside with her to watch her sit it on her dash board, while he then jotted down her car's make, colour, and license number, so that he could give the information to the sites security firm.
Mandy cast a quick, surreptitious glance at her employer.
HE was the only potential cause for concern. If she could keep her self control and not jump on the guy, then maybe they could work well together?
She didn't choose to dwell too much on her periodic desire to literally jump on the poor man, after all he didn't do anything to deserve or encourage these little flights of fancy; Although she had looked up to find him watching her on occasion and the look in his eyes...!
They had only been back in the office for five minutes when there was a rap on the door and Mark strode in.
"I've just had a phone call from the VAT office." He said flatly. "They want to pay us a visit, the week after next; to take a look at the 2008-2009 accounts and paperwork."
Mandy took a quick look at Mark's face; she couldn't detect any worry in his expression, he seemed more annoyed at the inconvenience.
Luke also looked searchingly at his accountant's expression.
"Is there anything that could be questioned, or misjudged? Anything I should be concerned about?"
Mark looked offended by the question, even though he was happy enough to answer it.
"I've been doing this for too long; with you and Pete, and your dad before the both of you. I wouldn't do anything to jeopardise this company."
"So there's nothing really to worry about. Do you want me to be around for the meeting?" Luke asked casually.
"Well;" Mark shrugged. "Ordinarily I would say; don't worry about it, this is my domain, it's what you pay me to do, and I'll deal with it."
Mark sighed. "Well, with you not being here at the time that they are questioning;" He hesitated as he cast a quick speculative glance in Mandy's direction. "And with Mandy being new to the firm..." He gave another little shrug. "It just seems to make sense that I familiarise you BOTH with that time and have you both in for the meet. It'll be a good opportunity for you both to see the guts of the company, as it were."
Mark gave a little chuckle, as he raised a questioning eyebrow at his boss.
"That does make a lot of sense." Mandy said quietly from where she was sitting.
Luke and Mark both looked across at her.
Mandy was full of curiosity over why Luke had been out of the company, for a year or more by the sounds of it; but she kept her expression blank as she waited for Luke to make a decision.
"Very well;" Luke nodded. "You get all the stuff together in your office and we'll spend a couple of hours going over it; say tomorrow afternoon?"
Mark laughed shortly. "It'll take more than a couple of hours, but I can have the books folders and everything sorted for then. I'll have to get it all out for the VAT man any way."
"Excellent!" Luke looked at his watch. "Now I think that we can all call it a day for today."
Mandy glanced at her watch in surprise. Five thirty already.
The day had gone by fast indeed, and Mandy still wasn't sure how much work was required of her. She wasn't certain that this position could justify being paid a full time wage.
She shut down her computer and took her handbag out off her bottom drawer.
Mark left them with a quiet. "Goodnight, see you in the morning folks!"
"Well, I guess I'll say goodnight as well." Mandy said uncertainly as she stood up.