One of my fel ow interns in particular, Sasha, had an immediate interest in Jared. She wasted no time with the saccharine-laced pleasantries; on the contrary, she was downright hateful to me on the subject.
“So…Jared….” she began as I walked into the office we shared. She eyed his Escalade from the window as she spoke.
“I have a lot to do, Sasha.”
“He protects you?” When I didn’t answer, she walked over to stand in front of my desk, tapping on it until I looked up. “From what?” she said, dubious.
I glared at her long nails clicking against the wood, and then up at her. “I’m busy.”
“But he’s your boyfriend, right?”
“No?” she said, her voice an octave higher.
“Isn’t that, you know, a conflict of interest?”
“Not real y,” I said, thumbing through a stack of papers.
“I just don’t get it. I mean,” she puffed an airy laugh, “I realize you’re the princess of Titan Mercantile, but don’t you feel a little ridiculous when you stand next to him? You’re such an odd couple.”
Recognizing what she meant, my head jerked up, and my eyes narrowed. “Excuse me?”
Sasha shrugged then, running her finger along the edge of my desk as she slithered around me. “Doesn’t it make you self-conscious? Women must be throwing themselves at him al the time.”
“Not real y, no,” I snapped as she walked toward the door.
Sasha smirked, backing away from my glare. “Hmm. Very interesting.” Her long, red ponytail flicked as she turned the corner, and I felt the heat radiate from my face.
On cue, my phone rang.
“Everything okay?” Jared asked on the other end of the line.
I covered my eyes with my hand, attempting to calm myself before I spoke. “Everything’s fine. It’s…Sasha was just here.”
“Oh. That explains it. Is she leaving her coffee mug on your papers, again?” Jared chuckled. For whatever reason, it amused him that the woman got under my skin in such a way that I couldn’t think straight.
I sighed. “No. She’s…I can’t say what I want to, so I just won’t.”
“You do own the company, you know. You don’t have to work with her.”
“Right now I’m an intern, Jared. And…,” I sighed again, watching her flirt with the human resources manager, “don’t tempt me.”
“Think you could slip away a bit early today?” Jared asked.
“It’s your first day back to Brown tomorrow. I thought we could get on the bike and head to the Oak tree, have some lunch.…”
“The Oak tree…?”
“The one I’ve wanted to take you to…where my father took my mother.”
I smiled. “That sounds fantastic, but I have a meeting, first.”
“Right,” Jared said, pretending he’d forgotten.
I straightened my skirt at the waist, and then pressed the button for the third floor. My entire last day of freedom could have been spent with Jared, but Mr. Patocka asked that the interns come in for one last meeting before school began. Some of them were leaving, and he needed to redistribute responsibilities. I had looked forward to this meeting al week, only because it was Sasha’s last day. That alone was cause to celebrate.
“Interns,” Mr. Patocka began, looking through the papers in his hand. He always said interns as if it left a bad taste in his mouth.
“Anna, Brad and Evan wil be leaving us, leaving Shannon, John, Nina and Sasha with new responsibilities. I would like to say…”
Mr. Patocka’s words blurred together after I realized he’d put Sasha in the wrong category.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Patocka?”
“Yes, Miss Grey?” he said, obviously irritated. I was wel aware that had any other intern interrupted him they would have been promptly asked to leave the meeting, but everyone knew, including Mr. Patocka, that I wasn’t just an intern.
“I think you’ve made a mistake. Sasha isn’t staying,” I said as professional y as I could manage.
“Stil not paying attention to your briefs,” Sasha snapped. “I’m staying on through the school year.”
“What?” I said, my tone more disgusted than I’d meant. I looked to Mr. Patocka, who nodded while looking incredibly bored with the turn the conversation had taken.
“I…she….” I stumbled over my words, trying to think of a way to save face after I’d made it so clear that I was shocked and dismayed at the news.
“It’s okay, Nina. We stil get to be office mates,” Sasha purred. Her smile was that of a cat being polite to the bird just before she ate it.
“Moving on,” Mr. Patocka continued. “Sasha, you’l be taking over Brad’s duties, Shannon, you’l be taking over Anna’s duties, and John wil be taking over Evan’s. I expect those departing to make sure those staying behind have exact instructions.”
“What about Nina?” Sasha said, glaring back at me over her shoulder.
Mr. Patocka sighed. “Nina wil be training with Grant during the school year, Sasha. Try not to make me feel as though I’m babysitting more than I already do, please.”
“With Grant?” Sasha groused.
Grant was second in command at Titan. When Jack died, he assumed the management responsibilities until I was ready to take over. Working with him was not something I looked forward to; I had spent my teenage years watching Grant suck up to my father and, to Jack’s amusement, shamelessly flirt with me.
Jack saw something in Grant that I couldn’t—or wouldn’t—see. Not only did he give Grant promotion after promotion, he tirelessly tried to persuade me to go out with his up and coming, incredibly intel igent, star employee.
While being within five feet of Grant usual y made me a bit nauseous, Sasha had been scheming to land a job as his assistant since her first day.
Mr. Patocka’s decision to place me in the very position she’d been working for al summer would no doubt push her beyond any irritation she’d had for me before.
I smiled at the thought. This would mean an al -out war.
“Is there a problem, Sasha?” I asked, trying to preserve a bit of respect from my future employees.