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Authors: Samantha Chase

In the Eye of the Storm

BOOK: In the Eye of the Storm
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Chapter One

 

“Damn rain,” Holly mumbled under her breath as she ran from the front door of her home to her little Toyota SUV in the driveway.  “Two o’clock in the morning and he feels the need to call
me
for help.”

“I mean, who calls someone in the middle of the night – their assistant, no less – to come and pick them up with no explanation?  It’s unreasonable!  It’s selfish, it’s obnoxious, and it is so going to stop tonight!”  Feeling better with her little pep talk, Holly drove off in to the stormy night to pick up the man who was persona-non-grata at the moment.

Stephen Ballinger.  Just thinking his name made Holly grind her teeth in agitation.  Having worked for the man for three years, she thought she had seen and done everything humanly possible that should be expected of a personal assistant.  She wouldn’t mind it all so much if it all didn’t have to be done on
top
of the twelve hour day that she normally put in with Stephen at the office. 

Checking her GPS and trying to get a grip on where exactly she was, she continued to stay the course down the highway for another twelve miles until her exit.  The sky was illuminated with a steady stream of lightning strikes and Holly shivered with the fierceness of it. 

“I have money in savings,” she began.  “It’s not like I’d starve to death or anything.  Most companies would love someone like me.”  Thinking that she sounded a little smug didn’t stop her from continuing, “I mean, I am a hard worker, I don’t take frivolous amounts of time off, I’m never sick, I’m available almost 24/7 because I have no social life
and
…”

The problem was tonight.  Why it suddenly all felt as if it were coming to a head, she wasn’t sure.  All she did know was this phone call…this stupid two a.m phone call, was the proverbial straw that broke the camels back.  The man had friends, why not call one of them? He had a personal driver!  Why not call him?  Why, oh why, had he insisted on dragging Holly out of bed at this ungodly hour - in the pouring rain, no less! – and make her come and get him?  It made no sense, whatsoever. 

A strong wind shook the silver SUV and Holly held the steering wheel a little tighter.  The rain seemed to be coming down harder.  What had the weather man said on the news tonight? She wondered.  Wasn’t this the outer bands of some tropical storm?  Great, just what she needed, to be out in the middle of the night in a tropical storm, looking for a place that she was unfamiliar with.

Pulling into the parking lot as directed, she pulled out her cell phone and texted Stephen to alert him to her arrival.  Hitting the send button, she sat back and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  With each second that passed, her ire grew.  “What in the world?” she yelled to no one, slamming the steering wheel.  Picking up her phone once again, she dialed his number and waited to hear his voice.  The phone went directly to voice mail.  Turning the car off, Holly threw the door open with a huff of frustration, pulled up the hood of her jacket and hopped out of the car, cursing like a sailor the entire time.  A strong wind nearly blew her in to the bushes and she screeched at the closeness of a lightning strike.

Stalking to the heavy, wooden door of the bar, she yanked it open and stepped inside.  She spotted Stephen practically slumped over the bar.  Not really caring what kind of shape he was in, she stomped over to him and said his name.  Loudly.  The place was fairly deserted but the eighties big-hair metal music coming from the sound system was a bit loud. 

“Stephen!”

He stirred a little and lifted his head.  It took a minute for things to come in to focus.  With a grunt of thanks towards the bartender, Stephen stood, threw a twenty down on the bar before walking out the door, straight to Holly’s car and climbing in on the passenger side.  For a minute, Holly was too dumbfounded to move.  She glanced at the bartender with raised eyebrows and questions written all over her face.

“He drank.  He fought,” the man shrugged.  “He lost.  Thanks for getting him out of here.  Now I can close up.”  With those few short words, he turned his back on her and went about his business. 

“Thank you,” Holly mumbled and walked out the door.  Climbing in to the car, she fought off a chill from the rain.  While her first instinct was to sit there and yell and rant and rave and demand to know what in the world had gone on tonight, her main need was to get the heat going in the car once again. 

Stephen’s head was turned away from her and for a moment, Holly thought he was asleep.  “Hell, no,” she murmured and summoned up all of her courage to confront this man who had ruined her night. 

“Stephen,” she snapped and waited for him to face her.  He finally did on the third try.  “What went on here tonight?”

“Nothing.”

“Really?  So I had to come out in a monsoon in the middle of the night to a place that I don’t know over nothing, is that what you’re telling me?”

He sighed wearily.  “Look, if I had any other option, I would have called someone else…”

“There are cabs,” Holly interrupted, “then there’s your driver, George, who I thought his sole purpose in life was to drive you where you needed to go!  Then there’s Will and Derek who probably would have…”

“They were here earlier and they are the reason I had no ride.”  His tone was quiet, serious and just slightly sleepy.

“You fought with Will and Derek and so they just
left
you here?  You are grown men!  Why would they do that?”  Her voice was raised on the last and she noticed Stephen wince at the volume.  Clearly her brain was still not fully awake because none of this made any sense; and Stephen
always
made sense. 

“I don’t want to talk about it, okay?  I just need to go home and get some sleep.”

The man had a nerve!  “Oh, you want sleep?” Holly asked sarcastically.  “Well, you know what?  So did I.  As a matter of fact, I wanted it so badly that I already
was
asleep, as are most of the people of the normal population at two o’clock in the morning!”  Taking a moment to count to ten and calm down before she continued, she pulled the car out of the bar’s parking lot, unsure of where they were going.  If she could have, Holly would have avoided any more conversation, but she had no other option.

“Um, Stephen, I know this is an odd question, but I really have no idea where we’re going.”  He punched the information in to the GPS and then heavily leaned back against the seat, looking away from her again.

“My house,” he said.

“Well I figured that much, genius.  It’s just that you moved last month and since I was handling all of the stuff at the old place, I haven’t been to the new one yet.  Geez.”  A slight chuckle had Holly turning her head ever-so-slightly to look at him.  “Something funny to you?”

“You’re not normally this snippy at the office,” he observed.

“That’s because it’s never two-thirty in the morning while we’re at work and I’ve normally had a full night’s sleep.  A full night’s
uninterrupted
sleep.”

“Cute.  Sarcasm.  That’s never been an issue in the office either.  This is a side of you I’ve never seen before.”  He yawned and settled more comfortably into the passenger seat, clearly not having a problem with all of the frustration that Holly was feeling.

“Wake me up in the middle of the night again and you won’t have to worry about what is and what isn’t an issue in the office because I won’t be there,” Holly snapped.

“What?”
  That got his attention.

“You heard me, Stephen.  You may be my boss Monday through Friday but you know what?  You have no respect for my personal time!  Do you have any idea how inconvenient this was for me?”  Before he had the chance to answer, Holly went on.  “No, of course you don’t because you don’t care who is inconvenienced just as long as it’s not
you
.  I mean, I would
never
call up someone in the middle of the night unless it was a dire emergency and…”

“It was…” Stephen tried to argue.

Holly silenced him with a hard glare.  “No, it wasn’t.  You could have called a cab.  You
chose
not to.  Why?  Because you didn’t think it was any big deal to wake me up in the middle of the night to jump through fiery hoops for you!”

“Holly, it’s a drive in the car…”

“It’s
two in the morning
, Stephen!  And have you noticed the weather?  Do
not
try to make me seem like I am wrong to have a problem with this.”

“Fine, I’ll pay you for the time.”

If there could possibly be coined the number one wrong thing to say in this situation, that was it.  Holly jerked the car over to the side of the road, threw the car in to park and turned to face Stephen full on, full of fury.  “How dare you!”  For a moment, it was a toss up as to who was more surprised by what she said.  “You think that it is okay to do something like this that is so beyond inconsiderate and then just throw money at me?  What is
wrong
with you?”

Rubbing his temples and finally snapping out of the stupor of the last few hours, Stephen turned to equally face her.  “Look, had I known this was going to turn in to such a damn fiasco, believe me, I would have
walked
home!” he growled, full of frustration.  “I didn’t think that calling a friend was going to cause all of this, for crying out loud, Holly!  Stop being such a drama queen.”

Drama queen? 
She saw red.  Literally.  Everything around her was tinged in a bright, fiery red.  “How dare you?  And friends? 
Friends
?” she shrieked.  “Since when are you and I friends?”

“We’re not?” His voice was instantly calm and he seemed to be truly perplexed by this knowledge. 


No
, we are
not
!  I work for you.  I work hard for you.  Five days a week, fourteen hours a day at times, and that’s not including the weekends when you wake me up!  We don’t pal around, we don’t socialize, and we don’t hang out outside of the office.”  Holly realized she had some major bitch-factor going on and decided to take a moment to calm down.  After a few seconds, she looked up and met his eyes and said quietly, “We work together.  You are my boss and I am your assistant.  I don’t know how to be friends with you, Stephen.”

“Why?  What’s so hard about being friends with me?”  He had friends; plenty of friends.  None of them every complained about him being difficult to be around.  Had they?

“Well, for starters, everything that we have together at work is all about you.  It’s
your
company. 
You
are in charge.  Everything that we do is focused around you and your needs or the company’s needs.  While we’re working, we’re talking about work.  When we stay late and even while we eat dinner, we still
only
talk about work and your plans about
more
work.  You know nothing about me that wasn’t on my resume, you never ask about me or my life and you are rather inconsiderate of my personal time.  That’s not friendship, Stephen, that’s just being a boss.  And an inconsiderate one at that!  Do you know where I’m from?  Do you know how many siblings I have?  What did I want to be when I grew up?  Why I chose the college that I did?  What’s my favorite color?  Or my favorite flower?  Did you know that have a fear of the water due to a boating accident I was in while in high school? 
No
!  Because you do not
care
about my life; all you care about is Ballinger’s. ”

He stared at Holly for a long moment, barely blinking.  When her green eyes had met his just minutes ago, something weird happened.  It was as if he was seeing Holly for the first time.  His brows furrowed as he continued to stare at her.  That was the most she had probably ever said to him at any given time and other than the fact that he would have preferred a nicer tone, Stephen realized that he actually
liked
this interaction with her.  People didn’t usually interact with him, they played to him, and they catered to him, even Holly.  Until now.  This was fascinating. 

“What?” she finally asked uncomfortably.

“Nothing, it’s just that you not only sound different, but…look different.”  He continued to steadily stare at her as if her were seeing her or meeting Holly for the very first time.

Self consciously, Holly ran a hand over her hair.  “Well, it is two-thirty in the morning.  I don’t sleep in a suit with my hair pulled back, you know.   I threw on sweats and ran out the door when you called.  I didn’t realize I was expected to be in ‘personal assistant’ mode all the live-    long day!” 

Holly knew that she wasn’t beautiful; men didn’t normally give her a second look, but the way that Stephen was looking at her right now made her wish that they weren’t in
this
particular moment, fighting.  Why couldn’t he look at her like that while they were at work?  Or at one of those blasted charity events he was always dragging her to!  Goodness, on those occasions Holly went crazy trying to dress in a way that would make Stephen see her as a woman and apparently there wasn’t enough make up and sequins on the planet to do that.  But sure, bring her out in the middle of the night in sweats with no make up and the man can’t take his eyes off of her!  Clearly he’d had too much to drink. 

BOOK: In the Eye of the Storm
11.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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