Authors: Holly Rayner
“I’m sure you’ll be able to enjoy them at your leisure. Don’t worry about it. Now, I’m just finishing up this document but I have some things I need you to take care of…” With that, Bahir gestured absently at another in a never-ending series of unkempt piles of tasks for Nicole to accomplish.
She closed the box on the season tickets and placed it in her bag before taking the pile and rising to leave.
“Nicole?” Bahir said, and she turned to see him smiling at her.
“Yes?” she asked, trying not to think about how handsome he was and focus on her indignation. How could anyone expect their assistant to do this much work, seriously?
“I just want you to know how much I appreciate everything that you do. You’re an amazing asset to this company, and a great person to have at my side. I hope you know that,” he said.
Against her better instincts, Nicole’s insides went all warm and fuzzy. It was because of moments like these that she had stayed on working with Bahir for as long as she had, despite his irrational requests. At heart, Nicole believed he was a good person with an intense passion for business and an unending supply of energy; the fact that he expected everyone else to feel the same way wasn’t entirely his fault.
“Thanks, Bahir. It’s nice to hear that from time to time.”
“You got it. Now let me see those reports in a few hours, OK?” he said before turning back to his document and swiping at it with a pen.
Nicole knew she would be the one fixing whatever carnage he was wreaking on that poor paper soon enough. She just wasn’t sure if she felt sorrier for herself or the document.
As she sat down in her office chair and flicked on her computer, Nicole opened a side drawer and reached for a caffeine pill before getting to work.
It was going to be a long day.
The sun was starting to set when Nicole pinched her arm to wake herself up for the hundredth time that day. She’d been working since she arrived, not having time to take a break to eat. She leaned back in her chair and ran a hand along her neck, massaging weary shoulder muscles. Her bed now seemed like a far-off dream.
“Hey, I’m going to head out,” Bahir’s face popped into her doorway, startling her, as he often did. He had a way of just appearing out of nowhere. Or maybe he moved normally and her constant jetlag just made her slow to react. Tough to tell.
As the fog in her brain cleared, she was able to process his words, and frowned—Bahir never left the office before the sun went down.
“Heading out? Where?”
“I’ve got something I need to address in Seattle, so I’ve got to head back.”
Nicole’s frown deepened. “Are you serious? I just got here,” she said, trying not to sound annoyed and failing.
Bahir put up his hands, placating her. “I know, I know, and you’re doing a great job, but this is something I have to handle, Nicole. Look, you don’t have to come back right away. Why don’t you work from here for a couple of days and then we can meet up again in Seattle? Sound good?”
Nicole stared at him. She desperately needed to sleep. There wasn’t room in her brain to process any of this, never mind argue. With a weary shake of her head, she answered him.
“All right. Have a safe flight, Bahir.”
Bahir grinned, and moved to disappear back out of the office, but then he stopped. He looked at Nicole, and a little frown appeared above his eyebrows. He turned and walked back into the room, sitting across from her.
“You look exhausted,” he said.
“Did you miss the part where I haven’t slept in two days?” she said, not caring how rude she sounded. She was tired and overworked, and now had to get on yet another flight back to Seattle.
“I’ve overworked you. I’m sorry. I forget sometimes that not everyone has the passion for this business that I do.”
“I’ve got plenty of passion. I just need to be allowed to sleep everyone once in a while.”
Bahir glanced at her computer. He reached over Nicole and clicked Save on the document she was working on, before shutting the system down. She couldn’t help but notice how good he smelled, his face inches from hers.
“Go to bed, Nicole. I’m going to be unreachable anyway, on a plane. Get recharged and we can get back to it in the morning, OK?”
“Sounds like a dream,” she said, standing and stretching her tired arms.
Bahir lifted her briefcase and handed it to her, placing a gentle hand on her elbow as he escorted her out the door. Together they made their way down the elevator and through the lobby. Bahir’s car was already waiting at the curb.
“Do you want a lift?” he asked, and Nicole laughed.
“It’s a two-minute walk. I think I can make it, even in my state.”
“Then get home safe, and get some rest. I need you at your best, Nicole. There are some big deals coming up, and I need my right-hand woman on this.”
“Mmhmm,” she said, unable to come up with any more words. Her brain was officially fried.
She waved farewell as he slid into his car, and before she knew it she was face to face with her beautiful, glorious, comfortable bed. Kicking off her shoes, she didn’t bother to change, but plopped face first onto her pillows. Within seconds, she was blissfully unconscious.
When she woke up, the apartment was dark. She could still easily see, however, as muted city light poured through her large windows.
Glancing at the clock, she saw it was close to midnight. She hadn’t slept for nearly long enough to recover, but after several attempts to go back to sleep, Nicole huffed resignedly and lifted herself from her bed, turning on a light. She found a microwave dinner in the freezer and cooked herself a halfhearted meal, eating in silence at her lonely little table.
Sometimes Nicole realized why she didn’t mind working as much as she did for Bahir. She couldn’t stand the silence that existed outside of his presence.
Her eyes darted to her briefcase as she tried to ignore the urge to just get a few more projects done before going back to bed. Finally, the silence won out, and she slid into a pair of comfortable flats before grabbing her bag and heading back to the office in the hope of getting some work done and tiring herself back out.
In spite of the lateness of the hour, the streets were still full of people heading to clubs and parties, or working late like she was. The night air had turned chilly, as it did in the desert, and she found herself wishing she’d brought something to cover up with.
With a shiver, she entered the office building, which was even colder than it was outside. Nicole rubbed her hands along her arms in an attempt to warm up, increasing her pace to get her blood flowing again.
She entered her office and turned on her computer, checking her email before getting to work. There was a message there from her brother, Ryan, and she clicked on it.
Hope all’s well in the rat race. I’m feeling a little down tonight. Got another rejection from another job. You’d think they’d tell you that an Ivy League education doesn’t mean anything if you’re legally blind, huh? And here I stupidly thought that having Stanford on my resume would help employers see past all that (no pun intended). Anyway, that’s now six employers turning me down post-interview, after saying that I was a perfect fit for them before seeing my walking stick. I hate people. I just wish someone would give me a chance.
Anyway, don’t let the boss man work you too hard, OK? You deserve a life, too.
Nicole felt her stomach sink after she finished reading. Her brother had been born blind, but that hadn’t stopped him from succeeding at everything he’d wanted to do in life. When he’d gotten into Stanford, the family had been beyond proud. They’d assumed that his success would continue, but months after graduating he had had to move back in with their parents because he couldn’t find a job.
Moving home had been hard on Ryan, and Nicole took some blame for that. Wasn’t her original intention to get him a job with Bahir’s company? Two birds, one stone, she had said to herself. Yet every time she was in Bahir’s presence he found a way to take over all her thoughts with unending lists of things to do and his maddeningly disarming gazes. She made a mental note to ask him about Ryan the next time they were together, no matter what.
Hitting the Reply key, she was about to answer her brother’s email when Bahir stormed into the office, his gaze colliding with hers as he turned towards her.
“Bahir? What are you—?”
She wasn’t able to finish her question as he stormed about the room, pacing like a mad man.
idea what I’ve just been through! I’ve been at the airport for
fighting with airport security because apparently my work visa was canceled! I cannot comprehend the level of idiocy of these people who work in international governance. Don’t they see that I have a company to run? If I can’t do my job, how am I going to continue to employ hundreds of people?”
Nicole watched in bewilderment as he continued to rant.
“I have a contract signing with another startup in just a few hours that now I have to miss, because of their incompetence. It’s maddening! And there’s nothing I can do!”
Bahir was breathing hard as he continued his frenzied pacing across Nicole’s office. She realized, then, that Bahir was very much not accustomed to not getting his own way. The son of a sheikh got whatever he wanted, and a billionaire businessman got the same. Bahir was used to living above the rules so that he could continue to do what he did best: conduct business. Nicole had never seen him in such a state, like a penned up bull ready to charge.
Silently, she stood and moved to his side, placing a gentle hand on his arm to stop him. He froze, staring at her hand, then looking up into her eyes. She hoped her expression was comforting.
“It’s all right, Bahir. Sometimes these things happen. They’re just hiccups, and we find ways around them by making calls and putting in some extra leg work.”
“I don’t have time to go around fixing their mistakes!” Bahir said, not moving his arm from beneath her hand.
But I certainly will,
Nicole thought with a sigh, realizing that she would be the one doing the leg work to get things sorted out.
“Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem like there is a choice in the matter,” she said, removing her hand when he seemed to calm down a little.
Was she imagining it, or did he just look a little disappointed when she removed her touch? He was probably just upset about the situation. Yes, that was all.
Nicole glanced at her computer, thinking of her brother. Why was there never a good time to ask Bahir if he had a job for him?
Bahir plopped into one of the chairs, defeated. He stared off into space for a moment, a glare etched into his handsome features.
Nicole found that she wanted to eliminate that glare somehow, but she didn’t know how to do it. Surely the US Embassy was closed at this time of night, and the mountains of paperwork between Bahir and the American border was enough to keep him away indefinitely. Visa issues were no small annoyance.
Bahir’s face cleared as he glanced at her desk, then up at Nicole. “What are you doing here, anyway? I thought I told you to go get some rest.”
Nicole shrugged, moving towards her seat and turning to face him. “I did. Then I woke up and couldn’t take the silence, so I came here.”
Bahir’s grin was rueful. “I’ve rubbed off on you,” he said, and she grinned back at him.
“Not true. I was a worker bee long before I spilled coffee on you that day. A good lawyer knows how to put in the time.”
“But not the amount I make you do. Every person who came before you sat in that chair across from me and cursed my name to the high heavens, but you’re still here. Don’t you think there’s a part of you that thrives on the thrill of business, just like I do?”
“There’s a part of me that likes the way my bank account has gone up,” she replied, but Bahir didn’t back down.
“It’s more than that. No one is crazy enough to put up with me, but you do. And here you are working into the night, even when I’m not here to ask for anything. You’re doing it on your own.”
Nicole didn’t have the heart to tell him that in that moment she was really just emailing her brother. After all, she had come to the office with the intention of working, hadn’t she?
“What are you doing tomorrow?” Bahir asked, his eyes suddenly bright.
“Whatever you tell me I’m doing, as usual,” Nicole replied, and Bahir laughed.
“Well, what if I invited you to come with me to a little fishing village, outside of the city?”
Nicole continued to look at him, unsure what he was asking.
“Is there some kind of deal you want to make out there?” she asked hesitantly, certain that this excursion must have to do with business.
Bahir laughed. “In a way, yes. You see, I have a deal with myself to give you a well-deserved break so that you can enjoy this country for a little while. What do you think?”
“You’re asking me if I want my first break in six months? But what about your visa?”
Bahir only shrugged. “They told me I have to wait at least two days to hear back, if not more. There is nothing to be done, and I’ve already rescheduled the contract signing.”
“You rescheduled it?” she asked, incredulous.
Bahir raised one haughty eyebrow. He could be so imperial when he wanted to be.
“What, you think I’m incapable of managing my own schedule? You’re forgetting that there were several gaps between my assistants before you came along. I had to fend for myself many times.”
“You poor thing, however did you survive?” she asked, her voice laced with sarcasm.
Bahir smirked. “Just say you’ll come with me, please?”
“Is that an order?” she asked, challenging him.
He leaned in ever so slightly, and Nicole fought the urge to lean back. He was too enticing sometimes, and the last thing she needed was to ruin this opportunity for herself and, possibly, her brother.
“Consider it a request,” he said, his gaze an open invitation.
Not sure what he was playing at, Nicole decided to jump in. After all, when was the last time she had taken a break, besides sleeping?
“I’d be delighted,” she said.
Bahir grinned from ear to ear. “Great. Let’s take this terrible turn of circumstances and make it into something wonderful. I’ll come grab you in the car tomorrow morning. Be ready by eight sharp.”
“I will,” she said, her stomach fluttering at the chance to do something fun. What an unexpected surprise!
Rising, she leaned down and clicked out of her email, telling herself she would write to her brother another time, before turning off the computer.
Bahir escorted her back out of the building, and, to her surprise, walked her to her apartment. They strolled in amiable silence, which was strange, because they both hated silence.
When they reached the door, the doorman bowed to them both and held the heavy glass open, waiting for Nicole to step inside. She shivered again. Bahir reached out for a moment, then seemed to think better of it, and placed his hands back at his sides.
“You should go inside. It’s chilly, and you’ll need rest for our adventure tomorrow,” he said.
“You should, too. That is, if you even sleep?” she asked, her tone playful.
Bahir’s grin was sheepish. “Sometimes, though not terribly often. As they say, I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”
Nicole thought about that for a moment. She wondered if Bahir would regret a life spent inside an office, rather than out experiencing the world and all its beauty. Maybe that was enough for him, but was it for her?
“Goodnight, Bahir,” she said, giving him one last wave before turning towards the door and stepping inside.
“Goodnight,” he replied, watching her as she disappeared from sight at the elevator before walking back to his own apartment, not five blocks away.