Violet dashed across the street in an effort to clock in just in time to save herself from the lecture that would ensue from her somewhat stern and bossy and rather impolite superior. She had been working three jobs at a feverish pace for months now, saving for an adventurous vacation somewhere tropical, hoping to escape this monotonous hell hole here in this small town. But, she had somehow overslept and barely had time to make herself presentable before dashing out the door and running the few short blocks to VNK Financial, where her teller position awaited.
She dashed up the ornate stone stairs, threw herself through the doors and smashed head first into the the most delectable, ice cream cone with a cherry on top type of man she had ever seen. She had been appreciating his form ever since her start here at VNK Financial, and he always looked so good she wanted to eat him up.
Then he would open his mouth and say something and she would want to throw that cone on the ground and stomp on it. He was such a complicated man, her superior, and he complicated her feelings without a care time and after time. Damn that Vance. Vance Norman Klindell, the man with a mouth as steely as his body.
“In a hurry, are we?” he asked in his usual arrogant and superior tone.
“Yes, sir, sorry. I’ll be more careful,” she said apologetically, hoping his intense gaze would either fizzle her into a million pieces that would simply blow away in the wind and leave her completely satisfied, or look away and save her from the heat. She wasn’t sure which she preferred.
He took a poignant look at his watch, and she knew she was busted. Either stay and listen to the lecture, or move on with her day. She chose to move on and dashed out of his presence before he had the good mind to remind her of her flaws. Her weaknesses, of which she had many, she was well aware of. It was correcting those flaws that seemed to be the difficulty.
She made it to her teller position in record time, her body acting from memory and not any conscious thought as her mind kept drifting back to the solid, muscular figure she crashed into. She felt his heat through his shirt for the first time, and she wanted to wrap herself in it. If he just would say things as fine as he looked, he’d be a dream come true.
She prepared her area, opened her teller for service, and was relieved when the customers flowed quickly. She liked being busy. Getting through two full shifts each day and then working all weekend easily drained her body, and standing at an empty teller, being unproductive while simultaneously being bored out of her mind were two things she absolutely hated. Having a steady flow of customers helped keep the hours flowing, cash coming in, and brought her one step closer to her dream of somewhere tropical with a sweet drink in her hand and sun on her back.
She must have started to daydream during a break in customers, as the next voice she heard clearly was not a customer. It clearly was the muse of her naughty dreams, the voice she heard in her fantasies telling her sweet nothings while seducing her. The voice made her jump and she had to refocus on his form. Vance had placed himself in front of her station, but directly behind him was the light from the glass paned front doors, and it took her eyes a moment to focus from the bright light to his black suit and tie.
“Yes, sir?” she asked, hoping he would repeat whatever he had just said.
“Excellent,” he went on, “I’ll see you at noon.”
“Noon, fine, yes” she sputtered out, wondering what she had just accidentally agreed to.
The next couple of hours dragged on. She realized with increasing anxiety that she had no idea how to prepare for the meeting. She was unsure what it was about, where it would even be, or if these were her last few hours on the clock ever at VNK Financial. Maybe that had been her final mistake, and she won’t have to worry about screwing up here ever again.
The clock at her station read 11:58am, so she started her walk towards his office. She can do this, she encouraged herself. She can face whatever he had to say. She felt her brassy attitude come back, the one that had gotten her through business school, the one that had weathered just about every storm known to man, and the one that will get her through the berating she was no doubt about to ensue.
She arrived at exactly 12:00 just to have his secretary inform her that he was expecting her, but at the bistro next door, not here at his office. Shit. How had she missed that vital piece of information? He would no doubt be on time, waiting for her at this exact moment. Violet excused herself and rushed down the hall, out the door, down the stairs and next door to the Bistro. She paused at the front door, drawing air back into her lungs and wished she had worn more sensible shoes that day, before letting herself inside.
The smells were wonderful. This was definitely her favorite little place in town, and she was blessed to have a firing here, somewhere pleasant instead of the ice cold, sterile environment in which she pictured his office would be. Her eyes skirted across the room and landed on his. He was definitely expecting her, sitting back in his chair, one ankle crossed around the other, but instead of the debasement she was prepared for, he had an air of pleasure and joy emanating in his eyes.
She made her way over, apologized profusely, and he asked her to sit. OK, lady. Pull out the brassy side, enough of this demure subservience crap. She straightened her back, faced him head on and asked him what was on her mind in the most sophisticated way she could conjure up while looking at his bold features, “What’s this meeting about?” she asked. OK, not her best line, and definitely not sophisticated, but it was time to cut the crap.
“You,” he said simply.
“I don’t understand. I apologized for my tardiness, I’m not sure what else I can do to right that wrong,” she said, the sass coming out louder with each word.
A smile played across his face, signifying the humor he found in this situation. He took a long drink of his beverage, what she assumed to be coffee based on the mug and amount of steam drifting out the top, and he set it back down. “That transgression was easily forgotten early this morning, but you were not. I find you intriguing, as do our customers, and I wanted to learn more about you.”
“Oh,” she said, a blush creeping up her neck. What was his angle? There was no way his millionaire pocket books could be interested in her penny hoarding coin purse. He clearly was unimpressed with her ability to carry out simply tasks, such as arriving to work on time, and he was her boss. He had to be strictly business, but she wasn’t sure what else to say. “What more do you want to know?”
Vance watched her body, each movement communicating her thoughts. The blush up her neck, the dilation of her pupils, the way she tightly held herself upright, and the depth of her breath all told him that she was so incredibly feminine under her bold, brassy exterior. He wanted to better understand both, what made her tick, what drove her to be one of his best employees in such a short while, and what it would take to make her his own.
“After your fourth tardiness this quarter, I was supposed to release you from your duties.” He noticed her shoulders sag and her eyes widen momentarily before she brought herself back together and sat straight back up. “However, it would be counterproductive to fire my best employee. Your customer satisfaction ratings are the best of any of the tellers, and the ease in which you regularly produce accurate reports and genius suggestions for higher efficiency have not gone unnoticed.”
She looked up, her eyes finally meeting his again, the gold flecks in her coffee colored eyes beaming in the light. “I don’t understand. Are you letting me go or not?” she asked inquisitively.
“It’s up to you, really,” he replied. “In your file it says you graduated cum laude from the toughest business school in the state, and your improvements to our efficiency in the short amount of time suggest that you really are the best at what you do. So I was hoping you could explain the tardiness for me. It doesn’t line up.”
Despite the blush deepening on her cheeks, she went on confidently. “I really have no excuse, sir. I set the alarm with the intention of waking, but some days I sleep harder than others and the alarm goes unnoticed.”
“Why do you sleep harder some days than others?” he asked, knowing there had to be more to the story than she was letting on, but also wishing he could be the reason she slept well, the reason her satiated body would drift off happy and blissful, unaware of societal pressures pushing her to rise.
“Well, more reasons for you to fire me, I guess” she went on, distractedly. “I have two other jobs which I have not yet disclosed such as described in the hiring contract. After I clock out of here, I cruise over to Xander Accounting Services where I catch up on any accounts left over from the day. I study the books each evening, looking for errors, suggesting corrections, and I really enjoy doing the business studies. Studying someone’s business plan to carry out their passion in life is something few are privy to,” she said with pride beaming in her voice. She shrugged her shoulder nonchalantly as she went on, “I spend my evenings doing what I’m good at, and I spend my days doing mindless work to keep the money flowing in and brain cells ready for the puzzle of the evening.”
He took this information in. That would make sense if she was tired during the week, but today was Monday. She had all weekend to recuperate. Something told him she didn’t just sit still on the weekends, either, and she still hadn’t disclosed the third job. “And how do you spend your weekends? If you don’t mind me asking.”
She took a deep breath and rolled her eyes as if she wasn’t nearly as passionate about that job as the others. “The weekends are exhausting. My friend opened an event center in Milwaukee. I try to get there before dawn Saturday mornings so that we can start prepping all the food for the events. It’s something I know zero about, but she teaches me everything I need for the day. We run around the kitchen prepping what we can, then we run out to the banquet hall and prep all the tables and chairs and decorations and whatever details fussy brides can’t live without and make all their dreams come true.”
She sighed, and continued as if she were simply speaking her thoughts out loud, not in the predictably professional tone in which he was constantly surrounded. “She definitely needs to invest in lighter tables. The ones she has are sturdy but heavy as all get out. Once we set up the hall then we return to the food, preparing it for the guests. Her hired help arrives about an hour before the event to take over, so then I pass out on the couch in her office until it’s over. Then we do everything in reverse, we tidy up bills with the guests, clean up the hall, and scrub the kitchen, leaving the place better than we found it in the morning, only to repeat it all a few hours later with the Sunday crowd.” She sighed dramatically. “Sometimes she doesn’t have a Sunday crowd, so then I can rest. But this time of year it’s packed with a million different things, from bat mizfahs to family reunions to Sunday weddings, which I didn’t even know were a thing until a few months ago. Crazy, really.”
And then, as if she realized she was rambling, the stories ended. She cleared her throat. “So, in summary, I work at the Accounting Office in the evenings and the catering business on the weekends.”
He wondered why she was incapable of rest. Why didn’t she slow things down from time to time? What was she running from? Or, what goal was she running to? “What motivates you to work?” he found himself asking, truly wanting to know this woman on a deeper level, finding her more intriguing with each breath she took.
Violet thought this over. She already found herself rambling, but she noticed he never once interrupted, either. For such a stern man, he was being incredibly patient with her today.
What motivates her to work? That answer was simple. One, she wanted to be on a beach in Fiji without a care in the world, a delightful cocktail mix blurring her worries and fears away. She was two paychecks from booking the flight, so that part would be simple to explain. But the other part. That was the one she didn’t like so much. “Sleep” she found herself saying out loud, despite the millions of filters against such a truthful admittance.
“Sleep?” he asked, uncrossing his legs and sitting closer to the table, definitely interested in this odd development.
“Well, that and a trip to Fiji,” she backpedaled, hoping to sidestep her earlier mistake. There was no way she was going to sit here and admit to her boss that she was still traumatized by her abusive childhood and let the monsters back into her head each night when she slept. So she just skipped the sleeping part in her real life until she collapsed. She kept herself busy enough during the day that she didn’t have time to replay scenes that horrified her still, seemingly on repeat. It was an unhealthy coping mechanism, another flaw she was clearly aware of yet unsure of how to correct. It wasn’t like a number that just needed readjusting or decimal placement, it was the grey reality of her life.
She shook her head, attempting to refocused on Vance, but he wasn’t letting either answer slip past him. She couldn’t bluff her way through this conversation, and she keenly felt his laser gaze studying her. He was a perceptive man, he wouldn’t have gotten to his position any other way, and she knew he wasn’t going to be deceived. He could see right through the walls she erected around herself, protecting herself from this very conversation. It made her feel vulnerable, but it also made her feel like she had to be her real self, a self she wasn’t very connected with anymore.
“Why Fiji?” he asked.
Delighted he asked about the easier answer, she jumped on it with enthusiasm. “Fiji, who doesn’t want to experience the glories of Fiji first hand? The sun on your back, the ice cold drink in your hand, the sand at your feet, the birds singing. It seems like the perfect place to wash your worries away if you ask me.”
He was still looking at her. That’s what people do in conversations, she reminded herself, but she felt his x-ray vision to her core. It made her feel soft and want to share her worries with him, but he was the last person on this planet she should be considering doing such a thing to. He was her boss, the owner of a giant financial company, with more money in his bank account than she would see in her life time, and the one with any pick of the ladies he wanted, whenever, wherever. He could not see anything more in her, a scrawny girl raised on the wrong side of town with more sass than common sense most days. She needed to remember that and get her answers closer to professional.
His eyebrows came together at her answer, “That it seems. We all have worries we wish would wash away” was all he replied. She hoped he would change the subject soon, anything from naming her worries to him, or anyone for that matter.
“And sleep?” he asked. Crap. Not any easier to talk about. How was she going to get herself out of this one?
“Yes, the lack thereof keeps me motivated to working longer and harder. Except on days like today, when my lack of sleep turns my entire brain off and I forget to do normal human things, like wake for alarms, in which I have already apologized for.”
“In which you’ve already been forgiven for” he interrupted for the first time. She wasn’t sure if this irritated her or helped ease her discomfort, so she went off the deep end a little further, her brain not functioning as clearly as normal, quite possibly due to getting less than five hours of sleep every night for the past month. But what was the alternative? Lying around at home, calming herself from her last nightmare, alone at home while not making money? No, not gonna happen.
“So,” she found herself erring towards irritation, “what are we here for? Are you going to fire me? Lecture me? Write me up? Take me across your knee every time I screw up? Cuz if so I’ll be there a lot.” She looked up at him, and again his arrogant face held nothing but amusement.
“I was leaning towards a promotion. I don’t want to lose your vital skills and presence in this company, but I can’t have you showing up late four Mondays each quarter either. It sets a bad example for the rest who don’t work nearly the way you do.”
Not what she was expecting, but much more pleasant.
“What if we came to a compromise” he went on. “You resign from the weekend position and I promote you to head of your department and offer a payment increase that would make up for anything lost from the weekend catering job in addition to compensating you for the heavier workload.”
She felt her jaw drop. This is not what she had been expecting, but so much better.
“I keep you and your skills, you keep your paycheck, and we’re both happy. How does that sound?” he asked, confidence resounding in every word. She wanted to hate him, but he intrigued her too much to hate him. I could kiss you I’m so grateful, she found herself mentally answering in reply.
“I wish you would,” he answered, his smile spreading across his face, “But then we’d need to sign another form.”
Had she really said that out loud? “I’m sorry, another form for what?” she asked, needing clarity before she went on.
“For the kissing part. It’s not a required part of the agreement so there’s a form you’d need to sign saying you recognize that fact” he said with a wink.
Oh gosh, she had really said it. But now she was glad she had. Apparently he felt the attraction as much as she. He was the only one she knew that could handle her brassy sass with a grain of salt, and with any luck he’d be handling more than her sass, and soon.
Vance was glad he had bumped into her this morning. He had always noticed her sassy sway of the hips in the office and sweet ways with her coworkers, but this conversation had opened his eyes to the depth of the beautiful woman. She was smart, hardworking, and witty, and she didn’t let him steam roll her.
But, much like him, she had worries, too. Worries that she wanted to wash away as much as he did. His less than ideal childhood had left him with more baggage than he liked to carry, and he wished he could toss them out to sea and never worry about them again. But they always showed back up, whispering in his ear how he much he would fail. He had gone about shoving those pesky reminders right off his shoulder and smashing them to the ground, but this coping mechanism sometimes carried itself into real life, and he was unnecessarily stern or demanding of those around him. He was working on it, but it came much easier with Violet. She softened him in a way that made him feel good about himself, and he liked how he felt in her presence.
Those insecurities, however, had driven him to try harder than those around him to succeed, and it had worked well. He saw so much of himself in Violet’s eyes; the work ethic, the independence and the desire to succeed all captivated him. But he knew that it could also be paralyzing. Maybe they could find a way to work through this crap, together. And if she took the lead, apparently she would be kissing him soon, too. And that was the the brassy side of Violet that he liked best.