Authors: Tamie Dearen
Her Best Match
The Best Girls Series
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author. To the extent any real names of individuals, locations, businesses or organizations are included in the book, they are used fictitiously and not intended to be taken otherwise.
Her Best Match
by Tamie Dearen
Copyright © 2013
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means now known or hereafter invented, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the author.
To Ann Vassallo, my third grade teacher, who taught me to love writing.
Undying thanks to all my early readers: Nancy, Heidi, Alyssa, Emily, Wesley, Kay, Mom, Courtney, Sarah, and Carol. Your encouragement kept me going, and some of you even took the time to mark mistakes for me. I’m also indebted to Avery, who edited and formatted and worked to put this book online for her computer-challenged mother. And most of all, I need to thank my sweet husband, Bruce, who calls himself a writer’s widow. He inspired me with romance, acted as primary reader and consultant, and battled jealousy as I spent endless hours, late into the night, in an intimate affair… with my computer.
God gives us unexpected gifts that keep on giving. My pot-luck (heavy on the luck) college roommate, Katherine Dinsdale is one of those gifts. She's talented and funny, and she’s an amazing author. When I started writing, Katherine not only encouraged me, but also did some point-by-point editing, with corrections and suggestions for improvement. I've learned so much from Katherine, and not just about writing. She's one of the kindest, most giving people I know. She's a shining example of the fact that Jesus wasn't a Republican. Thanks, Katherine! You're the best!
Table of Contents
Anne tried vainly to stop her knees from trembling, pushing on her legs with her hands. But her hands were shaking, too. Was it because the reception area was too cold? Or was it because her rivals were too intimidating? She shivered in her short-sleeved beige cotton blouse and straight brown linen skirt as she glanced around, sizing up the competition. What was she thinking when she agreed to this interview? She didn’t really stand a chance of landing this job. The room was filled with twenty-somethings. Nine other women and two men were vying for the same executive assistant position. Without exception, the other applicants were impeccably dressed in smart business attire and carrying leather attachés that stored their MacBooks, iPads, and iPhones. Somehow each one looked beautiful and confident, as if stepping out of the pages of some style magazine.
She attempted to smooth her skirt, hopelessly creased from the long cab ride across Manhattan. Why had she chosen to wear linen, knowing how badly it wrinkled? But she knew the answer. When the recruiter called about an interview in two days’ time, she’d packed hurriedly, throwing in every skirt she owned—a total of three. Only after arriving at the hotel in New York, two hours before her appointment did she realize that only one skirt still fit her. And that one only barely.
For the fifteen years since her husband died in an accident with a drunk driver, Anne Best had thrown herself into raising her two daughters. But once both daughters were out of the house and independent, she discovered she’d lost interest in ordinary activities. Activities like eating and shopping. So she had no alternative but to wear the linen skirt, which hung loosely on her hips and fell to an unflattering length just below her knees.
She tried to look nonchalant while grabbing the yellow legal pad that was slipping from her lap. But when the pencil slipped from the pages of the pad and rolled across the floor, she cringed at the disdainful glances directed her way. Why didn’t she have some sort of briefcase like the others? To one particularly haughty glare, She returned a scalding look like she would give a misbehaving child in public. The girl gasped and quickly averted her eyes.
At two o’clock on the dot, a pair of large carved wooden double-doors swung open and a secretary invited the first candidate to enter the inner sanctum. The beautiful blonde’s three-inch heels clicked on the marble as she strode confidently into the interview. From her manicured nails to her elegantly stylish coif and vogue skirt suit, she looked flawless, and Anne hated her. Well, maybe she didn’t exactly hate her, but she hated how old and frumpy she felt in comparison. Children! They were all just children! Of course they looked beautiful and perfect and firm everywhere. It wasn’t fair—they didn’t even have to try. Just wait until they’d been through real life for another twenty years. It was disheartening to realize her age, forty-five, made her old enough to have parented all the other candidates.
Anne pushed a stray hair behind her ear. She knew there were a few grays peeking through, but she’d never been bothered enough to start coloring the brown unruly masses that fell just past her shoulders when not confined to their usual barrette. She’d always thought her hair was one of her best features, but she felt outclassed as she compared her ten-dollar Supercut to the fashionable hairstyles that graced her challengers.
Yet again, she inwardly berated herself for even applying for this job. She had a home and a job in the small Texas town where she and Tom had settled after graduating from college. Granted, her job of fifteen years at the small travel agency provided little challenge. But she’d been happy enough working part-time while raising two daughters. Though now Tom was gone and both daughters had moved away from home permanently, there was little to hold her in Weatherford.
Since the girls left, she’d gone through the motions of life like a robot, not caring much about anything. Then recently, her old college roommate started bugging her to try something new, change jobs, make a move. Anne realized she could do something different with her life. And different sounded really good to her. So when the recruiter called at the last minute about this job interview in New York City, she decided she had nothing to lose. In the face of her competitors, however, she determined she’d lost something after all—her courage.
She startled as the wooden doors opened and Miss Clickety-Stilettos exited the room with her still self-assured smile. Another applicant was called into the office, leaving Anne in nervous contemplation. What was her potential boss like? Was he younger than she was? Would he scoff at the idea of hiring someone her age? What kind of questions would he ask? She wished fervently she’d studied the information in the email links she’d received from the recruiter. She’d assumed she didn’t have a real chance of being hired, only coming on the interview as a lark. A chance to visit New York City! Now she regretted putting so little effort into preparation. She stared at her ragged fingernails to avoid the sight of the other too-perfect interviewees sitting across the reception area. Time dragged as one Barbie or Ken after another marched in to their meetings.
Finally, she was alone in the room. The previous interview had been over for a full ten minutes. Had they forgotten about her? Maybe her name wasn’t even on their list. Maybe they didn’t even realize she was out here. Had they already given the job to one of the others? Should she go and knock on the door? Or should she simply leave quietly? She considered herself a confident person, but this whole New York City interview experience was way out of her comfort zone. She’d even practiced speaking without a Texas accent, but her determined efforts had only produced snickers from her older neighbor, Minnie. That hadn’t stopped her from encouraging Anne to go to New York City.
“Oh honey,” she’d said. “This could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You’ve got to go!”
Suddenly the doors opened, and a deep stern voice spoke her name.
The voice resounded in her head. She stood up quickly and gathered her mettle. She maintained her composure despite a racing heart as she quietly entered through the foreboding doors. Ah, at least she wouldn’t be alone for the interview. She noted a petite young woman pouring coffee for the man bending over the contents of the file on his desk in intense concentration. She could only see the top of his head since he didn’t bother to look up when she entered. She waited quietly, studying his thick dark hair, peppered with grey. Anne threw a questioning look to the woman when the man continued to ignore her presence.
She offered a kind smile and indicated a chair opposite the desk.
“May I offer you some refreshments, Ms. Best? Coffee? Tea? Water?”
Anne was about to politely refuse and meekly take her seat, when the gentleman behind the desk spoke sternly.
“That won’t be necessary, Ms. Carson. Please, leave us alone.”
“Yes, Mr. Gherring,” she murmured, heading for the door.
Anne felt the blood pounding in her head. She might not have any chance of being hired for this job in the face of her young, sleek competitors, but she would be treated with respect. She turned to stop the woman who was leaving the room.
“Wait! Uhmm… Ms. Carson? Please wait.
, thank you, I would
Anne stared fixedly at the startled woman, who froze in place, and glanced hesitantly from her boss to Anne and back to her boss again. Silence hung like ice in the room. She felt his eyes boring into the back of her head.
“Well, Ms. Carson, what are you waiting for?” asked the man in a sarcastic voice. “Please retrieve some water at once for our honored patron, Ms. Pest.”
Anne swirled around to face the man behind the desk, who now gave her his full attention.
“My name is Anne
, and I can see this interview is a waste of my time and a waste of your resources. Sorry to have inconvenienced you!”
Anne shook with fury as she glared at Gherring, but it wasn’t rage that took her breath away. The man was striking! He wasn’t cute or handsome like a young, smooth-faced jock. His face seemed chiseled, and his jaw was strong. He had dimples that appeared as he flexed his jaw, without a hint of a smile on his face. He was the kind of guy whose looks only improved with age, and he’d obviously started off really well. How old was he? Maybe late forties or early fifties? He regarded her quietly with his intensely blue eyes. She kicked herself inwardly. How could she be attracted to this boorish, obnoxious man? He obviously felt his position of power gave him the right to treat others any way he pleased. Yet she felt tingly all over as he slowly perused her from head to toe.
Suddenly acutely aware of her rumpled, sub-standard appearance, her strange combination of vehemence and attraction was quickly replaced with acute embarrassment. She dropped her eyes and fumbled with her purse and legal pad as she began to slink out of the room, blinking back tears.
“I’m sorry, sir,” she mumbled. “It was a mistake to come—”
“Wait!” demanded Gherring as she attempted to push past the assistant who was still frozen in shock. “I said,
!” commanded the voice.
Anne hesitated a moment and glanced over her shoulder.
“Please!” he said, somehow having arrived right behind her. “I meant to say…
.” He lowered his voice and spoke soothingly. “Please, Ms. Best, would you come back and sit down? I’ve obviously started off on the wrong foot with you. I’ve given you a bad impression.”
He gently guided her to the interview chair, and motioned for the assistant to bring the water. He wore a satisfied smile as he sat back down, noticeably more comfortable as he gained control of the situation. “And you’ve given me an
impression as well.”
Anne felt anything but in control. Abruptly dry-eyed, she noticed a tingle where he’d touched her elbow. Experiencing a bit of light-headedness, she smiled gratefully as Ms. Carson handed her a glass of water. She took a sip and tried to control her shaking hands.
“Shall we begin again?” he inquired in a polite voice, clearly a bit bemused at the situation. “Do you know who I am, Ms. Best? Let me introduce myself. I’m Steven Gherring. I’ll be interviewing you today for the position of my personal executive assistant.”
He was staring at her, waiting. What did he expect? How was she supposed to react to his revelation? She forced a grim smile and stuck out her hand.
“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Gherring. My name is Anne Best.”
He seemed disappointed in her response.
“Perhaps you’ve heard my name before.”
She shook her head. It sounded familiar. Where had she heard the name before?
“Well, I’m sure you know of my company, Gherring Inc.?”
“Do y’all make car parts?” she asked hopefully.
He sighed. “No, I’m afraid not. We’re an international trade company with holdings… You mean you really have no idea who I am? No idea at all?”
“Well, no. I’m sorry. The recruiter just said y’all were in the Town Center Economic Tower, on the top floor.”
“Yes,” he said, shaking his head with obvious exasperation. “That’s because we, or I,
the tower. I’m the chairman of Gherring Inc.” He sat back as if waiting for the information to sink in.
She wondered how she should respond. He was obviously waiting for her to fawn on him. He must be accustomed to the attention and adulation that came with his position. Strangely, she felt more in control when she realized he wanted something she could choose to give or withhold.
“Nice to meet you, again, Mr. Gherring.” She gave him her best sarcastic smile. “You’ve probably heard of me as well. Anne Best? Sole owner of a twenty-five hundred square foot home in Weatherford, Texas?”
Gherring’s eyes opened wide as he considered her.
“You’re not what I expected, Ms. Best.”
“Neither are you, Mr. Gherring!” She clapped her hand over her mouth. What was wrong with her today? She’d lost control twice. Something about this man rubbed her the wrong way.
She remembered the advice she’d gotten about speaking when you’re nervous—imagine your audience in their underwear. She gave it a try. Ohmygosh! Bad idea! This man would look amazing clad solely in underwear. The image filled her mind and refused to go away. Immediately, Anne felt flushed. She grabbed the water glass and gulped rapidly, causing a coughing fit.
Gherring’s stern expression changed to concern. “Are you alright, Ms. Best?”
She nodded furiously, regaining her composure. She tried to think of Steven Gherring in an Eskimo suit, so the underwear image wouldn’t sneak back into her head.
“Let’s talk about your qualifications for this job. You have a B.A. in Chemistry, and you worked part time as a travel agent. Hmmm….” He stared at her resume. Then he flipped the single page over to see the blank backside. “You don’t seem to have any actual experience as a personal executive assistant. Am I missing something, Ms. Best?”
Again, her temper flared, and she glared at Gherring.
“Well, if a personal executive assistant is someone who organizes someone’s life and work, acquires all the needed tools and supplies, keeps the person’s schedule, finds calm in the midst of chaos, and works countless hours in a thankless job… What you really need is a mother, and I have twenty-three years of experience!”