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Bastard In A Suit – Chapter Twelve [Online Ebook]

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I arrive at work ten minutes early, my plaid skirt pressed, make-up carefully applied, hair pulled into a professional up-do. I adjust my glasses, square my shoulders, and exhale before walking through the glass door. Once inside the lobby, I freeze. Breathe it all in.
A giant Kingston Industries sign hangs over the reception desk, where a petite blonde woman smiles in welcome. Forrest and Jake are seated in the lobby, each in a suit and tie.
Jake’s trousers hang from his thin frame and he looks somehow even worse than he did yesterday. His dark circles under his eyes have bags now, and his skin is pale and clammy looking.
He’s shaven, but it’s patchy, like he wasn’t paying much attention when he used the razor. He even has what looks like a small scab over by his jawline.
“Bout time,” Jakes says, frowning.
The receptionist stands. “You must be Hailey.” Without waiting for a response, she hands me a key card and an envelope. “Mr. Kingston would like me to show you to your offices.”
Offices. Damn, I like the sound of that.
My excitement is tampered only slightly by the fact that Duke isn’t there to welcome us on board. Obviously he has better things to do. It’s just, after last night’s texts, I wondered if things might be different between us.
More personal. But no, this is still work, I remind myself firmly.
We follow the receptionist to the elevator, where we travel in silence to the third floor. Duke is more than a dozen floors above, in an office that makes me blush just to think about. We weave through a series of workstations, mostly cubicles, where a diverse collection of employees are hard at work. Phones ring, keyboards tap, soft music filters through the air. No one bothers to look up or acknowledge us. Huh.
Somehow I expected a warmer atmosphere.
We’re led to a small room at the back end of the third floor. At the door, we’re asked to sign in via thumbprint.
A hidden scanner whirs and clicks. Holy shit, the security in this place is state of the art.
Inside, three workstations have been set up to include a desk, phone, bookshelf, and file cabinet. Fancy, but not over the top like Duke’s office. A common seating area at the back of the room features a sofa, two chairs and a coffee station that is already set to brew. Two large windows overlook Lake Michigan and Navy Pier.
“You’ll want to pull the blinds midday,” the receptionist says. “It can get quite warm in here.”
She exits the room, leaving the three of us standing in the center, spinning around to take it all in. I slide into my chair and roll it up to my desk, running my hands over its smooth wooden surface. I find a Day-Timer, fancy pens, a calculator, and a new laptop.
I flip open the screen and follow the instructions on the Post-it note to log into to the company’s corporate computer network. It’s loaded with passwords and warnings and levels of access, most of which we won’t be able to reach. It doesn’t matter.
I. Am. Here.
At Kingston Industries.
And it’s my first day on the job.
I lift the phone receiver and listen for the dial tone. Punch in my mother’s cell. She answers on the first ring with a hesitant hello. “Mom?”
“Hailey?”
I’m her only daughter but I grant her a pass because the number’s probably blocked. “I’m at work,” I whisper.
“Work? Where?”
“At Kingston Industries.” Just saying the words makes me break out into a grin. Imagine what she would say if I told I’d already been intimate with the boss? “I make $100,000 a year, Mom.”
She half laughs, which tells me she doesn’t have a clue what Kingston Industries is, but she does appreciate the salary for someone so young. “Very impressive, dear. Shouldn’t you be getting to work?”
I say goodbye and hang up, still beaming. On my lunch break, I’ll call Dad. He’ll know of Kingston Industries, how impressive it is. I catch Jake and Forrest staring at me. “What?”
Forrest grins a little. “I didn’t know how much working here meant to you.”
Jake shrugs and mutters, pulling out his phone and looking at something. Perhaps a text from his ex? “Of course it means a lot,” I tell Forrest, only then realizing how much of an achievement this really is.
So I suppose I didn’t really get it either.
Not until I found myself sitting in this chair, a chair that has rollers and turns and fits my butt like it was hand-made for me. Through the window, the blue sky stretches into the endless horizon. The sun shines in, casting rays across the plush carpet. I want to take off my heels and bury my toes in it, but that doesn’t seem at all professional and if there’s anything I need to be today, it’s professional.
“So, now what?”
I tilt my head toward Forrest. “What do you mean?”
“Well, I’ve set up my computer, logged on to the internet, and organized my desk drawers. You’ve called your mom. What happens now?”
Jake slams down his phone. “Fuck it.”
“Marissa, again?” I ask hesitantly.
“She won’t even fucking talk to me,” he says, and the hurt in his voice is surprisingly intense.
I walk over to the coffee station and pour a fresh cup. The brew smells expensive, fresh. I could totally get used to this. “Maybe she just needs some time.” I lift the lid on a glass container and gasp. “Guys! There’s donuts over here.” Six different flavors, plus a basket of chips, cheezies, and wine gums. Now that’s what I call hospitality. I’m almost giddy.
Jake snags a bag of chips. “How much time can she need? She’s been ignoring me for days.”
Forrest takes a big bite out of a Boston Cream donut. I settle for something with sprinkles.
“Dude, you need to lay off Marissa. She told you she wanted space—“ Forrest starts.
Jake shoots him a look full of something close to hatred. “Forget I said anything about it,” he replies coldly.
I can’t figure out what Duke expects us to do. There are no instructions, and I’m way too chicken to call him for advice. I consider composing an email, or even a text.
“We need to do something,” I say, thinking aloud. “We can’t just sit here all day doing nothing.”
“Why not?” Forrest asks.
“Because some of us actually want to do work. We’re not all content to just pick up a paycheck and contribute nothing for the next three years.”
Suddenly, a salt and pepper potato chip flies past my ear and hits the wall nearby.
“What the—“ I say.
“Careful,” Forrest says, throwing a chunk of donut at me this time, laughing wildly.
The donut hits my raised hand, which I use to try and deflect the flying object.
“Don’t,” I say, laughing. And then I’m tossing a piece of my own donut at Forrest, and it hits his right cheek with a giant plopping sound.
“Oh, now it’s really on,” Forrest says. He stands and comes toward me, a cream-filled pieced of donut in his hand like he’s about to shove it in my face. I squeal and start running toward the door. Forest is hot on my heels. I fling open the door and WHAM!
Duke’s standing there, his brow furrowed like an angry parent.
I am inches from his chest and Forrest is Right. Behind. Me.
“Shit,” Forrest murmurs.
My sentiments exactly.
“What the hell is going on in here?” Duke asks, taking in the scene.
“Food fight?” I say, meekly. And that’s when I really understand that honesty is not always the best policy.
Duke storms past me and begins gathering the things at my desk into his arms. My purse dangles from his forearm, the company laptop is tucked to his chest. Even my coffee cup is swooped up in one swift, agitated motion.
Am I being fired already? On my first day of work?
I feel nauseous and angry at Forrest for starting that stupidity.
“What are you doing?” I ask, my voice trembling a little.
Duke scowls. “Clearly you need to be separated.”
I resist the urge to protest, to act like a kid and point… They started it. Somehow I doubt that’s an excuse Duke would accept. Still, I don’t appreciate being singled out. “Where am I going?”
Duke levels me with a hard stare. My throat goes dry. “From now on, you’ll be working from my office where I can keep an eye on you.”

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