Authors: Hannah Ford
Nicole suddenly didn’t want to leave. Her feet felt rooted to the floor. But she forced herself to move and then she was in the hallway and the elevator doors had closed behind her.
The top floor felt like a different world entirely from the rest of the building. More like a penthouse apartment. The walls were dark and there was lush red carpeting. The hallway hooked abruptly to the left and then she came to a set of heavy wooden doors.
Next to the doors was a rolling table with a tray of food on top of it. The food was just some fruit and a half eaten sandwich. Somehow the sight of wilted lettuce calmed her. It was only food after all. This was just a hallway in a building. Yes, he was rich beyond her wildest dreams, but he was also just a man who ate fruit and sandwiches with old lettuce sometimes. He hadn’t even finished his meal.
She knocked on the wooden doors.
“Come in,” he said from the other side. His voice was slightly muffled but distinctly his. She’d watched hours of interviews and footage of him on YouTube, after all.
She opened the doors and strode into his office as confidently as possible.
When she entered, she was still shocked by the enormity of the room. It was bigger than three of her apartments put together. There was a full-length pool table on one side, a fully stocked bar near that. On the other side of the room was a set of leather furniture facing a television screen that took up an entire wall.
Red was sitting at his desk. It was a monstrosity; old, ornate, it must have weighed a ton. Behind him was a floor to ceiling picture window that overlooked the entire city. However, he’d lowered one of the curtains, which blocked most of the light. She could still see the city filtering through the semi-opaque material.
“Don’t be intimidated,” he said, standing and walking around his desk. He was wearing one of his typical gray suits. It was almost reflective. His tie was purple and thin. In person he was larger than she expected, and his magnetism was stunning. She found herself star struck and nearly speechless.
“Hello,” she murmured.
He continued to close in on her. His presence was so intense that she didn’t know what to do. Literally. She was frozen in place and he just kept moving until he was no more than six inches from her. He was like a movie star stepping off the big screen and smiling at her. His eyes were so confident, his manner was so strong and powerful. No boy or man she’d ever met could come close to projecting his sex appeal or his intelligence.
“I’m Red Jameson, founder and CEO of Jameson International.” He held out his large hand to her.
She shook it. “I’m aware of who you are,” she said, sounding more abrupt than she’d intended.
He grinned and held her hand for longer than was comfortable. “What else are you aware of?”
She pulled her hand back. “I’ve read a lot about the company.”
“Have a seat, Miss—“
“Miss Masters. What a wonderful name.” He smiled briefly. “Would you like something to drink?”
“Please.” She was grateful for him asking. Her mouth tasted like chalk.
He moved toward the bar, which was so far away it might as well been in a different state. “What would you like?” he called back.
He grabbed a bottle and came back, his movements graceful and sleek.
She sat down in the chair opposite his desk and crossed her legs, suddenly aware of the way her skirt rode up her thighs. She felt, in his presence, a vulnerability and nakedness that surprised her.
“Here,” he said, handing her a cold bottle of Evian. “Let me know if you need anything else. To use the bathroom perhaps?”
“No, thank you.” She opened the water and took a few long gulps.
Red sat on the edge of his desk. His leg was only a small distance to hers, he could have practically touched her if he’d just extended his black leather shoe a little bit.
“So,” he said, “I’ve heard very positive things about you so far.”
“What did you think of everyone you met?”
She pondered. “Everyone seems really nice.”
His eyes focused on hers with an intensity that was disconcerting. She dropped her gaze to the floor.
Red didn’t say anything until she looked at him again. “Everyone seems nice?” he repeated. “That’s a bit trite. I don’t like canned answers, Miss Masters.”
A small buzz of fear ran through her stomach. She’d made it this far. How humiliating would it be to lose the job because Red Jameson himself hated her?
“Sorry,” she said. “I’m very nervous.”
“No need to be. We’re just talking.”
“You’re a pretty big deal,” she said, gripping the bottle more tightly.
That made him laugh. He threw his head back. His dark curly hair bounced a little as he did so. When he looked at her again, he seemed looser somehow. “I like that,” he told her. “I’m a pretty big deal. I need to have you get on the phone and remind my parents of that.”
“They don’t know it?”
He shook his head. “Unfortunately not. The big offices and jets don’t fool the people who raised you.”
“Well, I didn’t raise you so…I’m kind of scared right now.”
He laughed again. “You’re honest, Nicole. I like that.”
She hadn’t told him her first name, but someone else must have. Obviously. He’d probably seen her resume too. But still, she liked the way he said her name. She re-crossed her legs and his eyes strayed to them before returning to her face.
“I’d work very hard if I get this internship,” she said, nervously twisting and untwisting the cap on her water bottle.
“I believe you would.” He got up from the desk and walked behind her chair, circling. “But then again, so would the hundreds of other applicants.”
“I know I can do this job.”
“What can you do? Tell me.”
“Anything and everything the creative department needs from me,” she said. “Making copies, getting coffee, faxes, emails, research, making phone calls.”
“Yes, yes, yes, to all of those things. But there’s more to it then that.” He stopped in front of her, sat on the desk again and folded his arms. “I need people who are fearless. Absolutely fearless. People who will go to the very edge of their capabilities and then beyond them. I want to hire people who will do whatever it takes to be here.”
“I’ll do whatever it takes,” she replied.
“I want to work with men and women that will follow me into battle, that will fight by my side. Because this business is very, very serious, and sometimes even dangerous.”
He nodded. “I’ve had death threats. Once, a few years back in Abu Dhabi, I was nearly kidnapped.”
She wasn’t sure if she believed him. “You never said that in any of the interviews I read.”
He shrugged. “Some things aren’t meant for public consumption, Nicole.”
She nodded slowly.
“You don’t believe me?” he said.
She thought about it for a moment. “No,” she said. “I don’t.”
He stared at her a long time, so long that the spit in her mouth dried up. She knew in that instant, she’d blown it.
Suddenly he grinned again. “Good girl. You’re right, Nicole. I was lying about the kidnapping in Abu Dhabi. In actuality, I’ve had nothing but wonderful times there. The hotels are incredible, some of the best in the world.”
“I’m confused. So you weren’t kidnapped then?”
“It was a near kidnapping. And no, it never happened.” He stared at her.
She was aware again of her legs as he looked down at her. The skirt was really short, too short. Her legs were bare and smooth and soft.
Imagine if he put his hands on your bare legs right now. Pushed your skirt up…
“..do you?” he said.
“Excuse me?” she asked, flustered. Somehow she’d gone into a fantasy in the middle of the most important interview of her life.
Red scratched his chin. “It wasn’t important.”
“No, please.” She took a deep breath. “Please ask me again.”
“It’s not important. Really.” He locked his dark eyes on her once more.
She looked back at him, trying to hold his gaze. “Am I blowing this interview?” she asked, surprised that she’d just said it out loud.
“Blowing your interview?” He took a moment to consider it. “No, I don’t think you’ve done any such thing, Nicole. In fact, I’m very, very pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“Me too. It’s been nice meeting you, I mean.”
His eyes moved up and down her body as if evaluating a painting, and he rocked back against his desk, shook his head and laughed wildly. “I’m sorry, Nicole, but I really…I really can’t continue this.” He laughed again.
“Did I offend you?” she asked.
“Look,” he said. “I really need to go. I have a call to attend to. It was very nice meeting you.” He couldn’t even look at her now.
“But…but…I don’t understand…”
He sat down behind his desk, picked up the phone. A few seconds later he said, “Mary Anne, please come and meet Ms. Masters in my office. We’re done here.”
on the train ride home. She didn’t care that people were watching her, thinking she was crazy.
She kept thinking about the look on his face as he’d ended the interview. He’d shown her to the door and that bitchy receptionist had been there, and next thing Nicole knew she was out on the street. Not a word about her being hired for the internship position.
It was clear she’d lost the job because Red didn’t like her.
She didn’t stop sobbing even when she got home and fell onto her bed, tears still pouring down her face.
Nicole replayed the interview with Red Jameson over and over in her mind, dissected every verbal exchange and tried to make sense of it. What had changed his mind so quickly? Was it her saying she didn’t believe his story about the kidnapping? Or was it when he looked her over and found her wanting?
She stripped off her expensive Prada clothing, angrily tossing it all on the floor of her room.
Luckily, Danielle wasn’t home yet, so she didn’t have to deal with the questions that would surely come from her nosey roommate.
Nicole stood in her bra and panties, mascara running down her cheeks, hair a mess. She looked at herself in the mirror. No wonder he doesn’t want me, she thought. I’m disgusting. My body isn’t like that blonde receptionist’s body. I don’t have the face of a Vogue model.
She’d been rejected by the most charismatic, powerful man she’d ever met. A man who she considered to be an idol, a celebrity. And what made it worse was the feeling that she’d been so close. Everyone there had liked her. She’d made it through the thousands of resumes, and then the phone interview, and even the three department members she’d met with.
They’d all approved of her, until him. Until Red Jameson himself had shot her down. As if he could smell her shame and failure and unimportance. He’d laughed her out of the office, if you wanted to get right down to it.
For the first time in her life, Nicole was so angry, so full of rage and despair that she literally didn’t know what to do. She was frozen in place. Eventually, she picked up her cell phone and checked to see if she’d gotten an email, voicemail, anything.
When she hadn’t, for a brief moment she considered smashing her cell phone against the wall. Why not? Who would she want to speak with after this horrible failure? It would make a good excuse to avoid everyone.
Sorry, mom, I couldn’t call you and tell you how things went at the interview. My phone’s broken.
It was crazy, but it might just be worth it, she thought, hefting the cell phone in her hand and considering the implications of its demise. Se34 And that’s when it started to buzz.
She turned it over and stared at it, mesmerized. It was buzzing just in time, as if it had known it was about to be launched and destroyed in mere seconds.
The number just said private, but she answered anyhow. “Hello?”
“I’m looking for Nicole Masters,” the male voice said.
“This is.” She held her breath.
“Red Jameson here.”
She literally could not speak. Why on earth would Red Jameson be calling her on her cell phone? There were a million people who made more sense. The HR rep, even Glen Goldman made more sense that the CEO of the company.
“Are you still there?” he asked.
“Yes…Yes…I’m just surprised.”
“We’ve decided to hire you for the internship position.”
“Oh.” She was so stunned that this was literally the only word that came out of her mouth. Oh. She sounded like she couldn’t possibly care less.
“Are you still interested?” he asked, sounding slightly amused now.
“Of course,” she rushed. “Oh my god, I’m…you have no idea how excited I am.”
“As are we. I think you’re going to do big things in this industry.”
She could feel her face growing hotter as the seconds passed. And then she realized that she was still naked. On the phone with the billionaire mogul, Red Jameson, stark naked!
“I can’t thank you enough, sir.”
“Can you start tomorrow?”
He sighed deeply. “Good, Nicole.” There was a long pause. “Oh, and by the way…”
“Those Prada shoes. You don’t need to go broke buying fancy outfits to come to work for me. Just wear something tasteful, but affordable. The expensive stuff will come in due time.”
“Yes sir.” She fell backwards on the bed, hiding her face in her hands.
“Report to Glen in the morning,” he said softly. “Goodbye Nicole.”
And then he was gone. She squealed to herself and began writhing in excitement. “Yes!” Nicole stood up and held her fists in the air, shook them at the heavens. “I did it!”
She lay back in bed pondering the phone call. When you thought about it, Red Jameson calling her was about the strangest thing that had ever happened to her. There was absolutely no reason for him to do it. His time was so valuable. Why did he make the call himself? Did he do that with all the new interns and employees?