Your first day at work is always a nerve-racking experience. Your first day at work in New York City, to which I moved a few weeks ago and hardly know anyone yet, is taking that term to a whole new level. Throw in the fact that my new workplace is one of the most successful advertising agencies in the area, saying that I’m nervous is the understatement of the year.
“Okay, you can do this,” I tell myself once more as I take a deep breath and look at the large, elegant glass doors of the said advertising agency, Wilson & Partner, where I’ll be working as personal assistant to one of the two junior managers.
When I left my hometown on the west coast, I didn’t expect to find a new job so quickly, but being unemployed was something I would have willingly accepted, at least for a while. After last year’s events, my priority was to leave my old life behind, and with that, my parents and friends and everything that was so familiar to me. Fortunately, this job opportunity opened up for me, and I could appease my overbearing parents, who weren’t particularly happy about my decision to move to the other side of the country—and above all, to a big city. Growing up in a small fishing village, where I spent almost all of the twenty-seven years of my life, didn’t prepare me for what awaited me here.
My parents let me know more than once that they thought I was taking the easy way out, but coming here alone was anything but. Doubts and a strong sense of uncertainty have been my constant companions since moving. But I need to leave my past behind and start over to finally be happy again; something I will never accomplish if I stay in the place where I fell apart.
With one last deep breath, I walk through the glass doors and take a look around. The spacious lobby is buzzing with activity; men in expensive suits and women wearing blouses, pencil skirts, and heels come and go, phones ring, and soft chatter fills the air. My gaze falls on the reception desk, where two women greet the visitors. I walk up to the younger blonde one, who seems to be around my age, and say with a smile, “Hi! I’m Amy Franklin, and I’m here to see Mr. Smith.”
She smiles back at me. “Ah, yes, he’s expecting you. Come on. I’ll take you up.” She tells her colleague where she’s going before we walk towards the elevator. “I’m Lauren, by the way,” she says, still smiling. “If you need anything, don’t hesitate to contact me at the reception desk.”
To my great relief, my nervousness subsides a little. It must be a good sign that the first person I meet is this nice. “Thank you,” I say when we step into the elevator and Lauren presses the button for the tenth floor.
We both watch the numbers go up before Lauren turns to me. “Are you from New York?” she asks.
I shake my head. “No, I’ve only moved here a few weeks ago from the west coast.”
“Wow, that’s a long way,” she says with a surprised look on her face.
“Yes,” I sigh. “I needed a change of scenery. I spent all my life in my hometown, except for the time I went to college. So a new start far away from home sounded appealing.”
Lauren looks at me, but she doesn’t say anything, just nods briefly. For a second, I think I can see understanding in her eyes.
The elevator doors open on the tenth floor before either of us can say anything else. Lauren steps forward and points to the right. “Over there is the break room for your department. And the offices of the two junior managers are this way.”
She waves me behind her. As we enter a large room, I’m so distracted by the sight that I almost collide with someone. “Oh, I’m sorry,” I stammer.
A woman about my age stands in front of me and looks me up and down. I remember seeing her briefly before my interview. She looks elegant in her tight dress. Her makeup emphasizes her full lips, and her straight dark hair falls loosely over her shoulders. But what strikes the eye is her ample cleavage, which makes me a bit envious. But only a bit.
Lauren turns to her. “Jenna, this is Amy, our new colleague.”
She still doesn’t say anything, only gives me a funny look, which is slowly making me feel uncomfortable. I want to stretch out my hand just to do something to ease the tension that takes hold of me, but then she speaks. “Ah, yes, Ms. Franklin. You’re Luke’s... Mr. Smith’s new assistant.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Lauren roll her eyes. “Jenna, play nice. It’s her first day.”
Jenna raises a single eyebrow at Lauren before she looks at me again. “Okay, Ms. Franklin. Good luck then.” With that, she continues on her way to the elevator.
I look after her, confusion and astonishment probably written all over my face. What was that? Okay, no, I’m not going to read it as a bad sign that the second person I meet is, well, not nice.
Lauren puts her hand on my arm when she sees my worried look. “Ignore Jenna. She’s Greg’s PA. He’s the other Junior Manager here. And everybody knows that Jenna wanted your job. Plus, she watches all the new ones narrowly. Especially when they’re pretty.” She winks at me.
I give Lauren a surprised look. Pretty? A woman like Jenna would hardly describe me as pretty. Compared to her, I look anything but pretty in my ordinary skirt and blouse and my dull brown hair in a ponytail.
Lauren chuckles when she sees the look on my face. “Stop thinking about it so hard. Come on. Luke’s probably waiting already.”
On our way to my new boss’s office, we walk past lots of desks where people are busy doing their work. As I already know, this department is mostly in charge of graphic design. We’ve almost reached a big door with a nameplate next to it which indicates that this is Mr. Smith’s office when Lauren says, “Hey, Ben!”
I follow her gaze over to the desk we’re passing where a guy who was engrossed in his work lifts his head and smiles when he recognizes her. “Hey, Lauren!” he says.
Then our eyes meet.
I never believed when people said time seemed to stand still for a moment, but this is exactly how I feel right now. My heart rate picks up, and I’m not aware anymore of anything that’s going on around me. The world could come to an end, for all I care, as long as I can look into those dark brown eyes. The charm they radiate sucks me right in. A hot blush suffuses my cheeks, and a gentle tingling spreads through my whole body. This look—this guy—is doing weird things to my belly.
Before I can make sense of what this is all about, Lauren’s voice brings me back to reality. “There we are.” She knocks on the door and shoves me into the office in front of her. “Luke, Amy Franklin is here.”
Mr. Smith sits behind a large desk and looks up from his work. When he recognizes me, he beams at me and gets up. “Thank you, Lauren. I’ll take it from here.”
She nods and smiles at me before she leaves and closes the door behind her. I still feel a little stunned after what just happened, but I snap out of my daydream when Mr. Smith stands in front of me and stretches out his hand.
“Welcome to my department,” he says enthusiastically. “I’m sure you’ll like it here, Amy.” He gives me a charming smile. “Can I call you Amy?”
I stare back at him and nod. You don’t deny this man anything; I already got that impression during my interview.
“Okay, Amy, do you have any questions?”
I shake my head. “Uh, no, not yet, Mr. Smith.”
He laughs. “Please, Amy, call me Luke.”
Again, I nod. “Okay, Luke.”
“Good. I’ll take you to your desk.”
I’m a little taken by surprise by the swiftness of it all, but we talked about my tasks in great detail during my interview; I know what to expect. Luke opens the door and puts his hand on my shoulder to usher me out.
Slowly but surely, my heart beats faster with excitement. Being Luke’s PA also involves coordinating some of the work the graphic designers do, so I’m hoping I’ll get along well with my new colleagues.
Right outside his office, we stop at a large desk. I involuntarily hold my breath when I realize that this is going to be my workspace because sitting at the desk opposite to mine is the guy responsible for my flustered state.
Luke clears his throat. “Ben, may I introduce you to your new colleague?”
My heart races when he gets up and hesitantly stretches out his hand. “Uh, yes, hi. I’m Ben,” he mumbles.
When his large, warm hand envelops mine in a firm grip, the soft tingling in my belly gets stronger. I stare into those beautiful brown eyes again, and heat rises within me. Taking a closer look at him now does nothing to calm my stupid hormones. I’m already itching to run my fingers through his messy brown hair. His chiseled face with the high cheekbones and the full lips along with his muscular physique stir feelings inside me that aren’t suitable for the workplace.
Damn, I need to snap out of it! I’ve seen my fair share of good-looking guys, but never have I felt an instant attraction like this.
I clear my throat, close my eyes, and shake my head. Finally, I find my voice again. “Yes, hi! I’m Amy.”
Ben smiles at me. “Welcome, Amy.”
I probably look like a total nutcase when all I am capable of doing is giving him a small nod and a shy smile. What is this guy doing to me?
Luke turns to Ben. “Will you show Amy around?”
Ben nods. “Sure.”
Then Luke addresses me, “Ben will be your go-to guy for everything concerning the graphic design parts of our ad campaigns. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask him.” Luke smiles at me again. “Okay then, I’ll leave you to it,” he adds as he turns around and walks back into his office.
Once we’re alone, a strange tension lingers in the air. We look everywhere but at each other, and no one says a single word. But then Ben clears his throat and directs his gaze at me. “Okay, Amy, sit down and feel at home.”
I put my bag down, sit on my chair, and stroke over my desk with my palms. “So much space,” I say with a small sigh. “My last desk was half this size.” I look at Ben’s desk and inevitably smile. “And when I see yours, that also means more room for chaos.”
Ben looks at his mess and laughs. “Oh, uhm, yes, right. But I’ve got it all under control. I can find everything I need.”
“So genius controls chaos?”
He grins at me. “Exactly. Now I’m just hoping you’re not a neat freak.” He looks at me expectantly.
I grimace. “I wouldn’t put it like that, but I do need my desk to be neat in order to do my work properly.”
Ben chuckles. “Wow, I’ve made a great first impression then.”
I have to try hard to stifle a loud laugh. Oh, he did indeed.
I boot up my computer to finally give my brain something else to think about other than how great that first impression was. And while Ben continues with his work, I start to work my way into my tasks.
Over the next few hours, I get a pretty good overview of things, and Ben engages me in some work-related small talk, telling me the most important facts about what it’s like to work at Wilson & Partner.
Luckily, I soon manage to ban the thoughts about how good-looking and charming Ben is from my head and act a little more like the adult I supposedly am.
Around noon, Lauren shows up next to our desks. I give her a happy smile. “Hey, Lauren!”
“Hey, you two!” She gives me a compassionate look as she points to Ben. “So, Amy, what’s it like to work with this good-for-nothing?”
Ben scowls at her. “Charming as usual.”
“You know me, love.” Lauren grins at him before she turns back to me. “I’m telling you, this guy is trouble. Don’t be blinded by his charms. He’s a true heartbreaker; no woman can resist his pretty eyes. They’re slipping him their phone number one after the other—only to be hugely disappointed.”
I look back and forth between the two. Ben’s grim expression gives way to a broad smile. “Aw, Lauren, did I break your ice-cold heart? You’re just bitter because I turned you down.”
Lauren laughs out loud. “Oh Ben, you’re just too cute. I know you love me.” She dishevels his already wild hair, which makes him back away and laugh. Despite their bickering, I wonder if something is going on between Ben and Lauren; they seem very comfortable with each other.
“Anyhow. Do you have plans for lunch?” Lauren asks.
Ben nods. “I’m going to that new Chinese place with Isaac.”
Lauren grimaces. “Ugh, Chinese. Amy, what about you?”
I shrug. “I haven’t thought about that yet.”
“Then you can come with me to my favorite restaurant just around the corner. That’s where I can tell you everything you need to know about your new colleague.”
I internally roll my eyes at myself, as if getting the low-down on Ben is all the motivation I need to accept Lauren’s invitation. Since when am I acting like a hormonal teenager? Well, I guess since now.