Taking a Chance on Love, страница 1часть #2 серии Youngers
Taking a Chance on Love
The Youngers Book 2
Blue Violet Press LLC
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Also by Iris Morland
About the Author
Copyright © 2018 by Iris Morland
All rights reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be constructed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Cover art by Resplendent Media.
Forest and gavel vector art by Freepik from Flaticon.
Thea Younger looked over her shoulder to make sure her boss wasn’t around and opened a new tab on her Internet browser. She’d already gotten in trouble once before for looking at this website, but she just couldn’t help herself.
The photos were mesmerizing; they made her mouth water and her heart pound faster. Her body heated with anticipation as she paged through the photos, one after another, already knowing what she’d see but needing to take them in just one more time.
Who knew that looking at trees could be such a turn-on?
“Whatcha doing?” Nicole, Thea’s fellow administrative assistant at the law office where they both worked, asked. She chuckled when she spotted what Thea was doing. “Are you looking at that cabin again?”
Thea sighed happily. “Isn’t it gorgeous? I’ll be there in three days, Nicole. Only. Three. Days.”
She paged to the photo that showed the inside of the cabin, which featured an expansive fireplace and high ceilings made entirely of gorgeous oak. Thea had wanted to stay at one of the Mighty Pine cabins for over two years now. She’d finally been able to reserve one of the cabins a month ago, and she would be staying up in the Cascades all by her lonesome for two weeks.
Nicole sighed. “Honey, we need to get you a date if you’re drooling over pine trees for the thousandth time this week. What’s so great about this place, anyway? It’s not like Washington doesn’t have trees all over the place.”
“But it’s the scenery. The open air. You can see the stars! Getting away from the city—”
“We hardly live in a city—”
Well, Thea couldn’t argue with that. They lived in Fair Haven, Washington, which was more aptly described as a small town.
“Doesn’t matter, because I leave everything behind me for two weeks.” Thea sighed happily.
Right then, Thea heard footsteps. She promptly closed the webpage just as her boss rounded the corner to her desk.
In his late fifties, Thea’s boss Ferguson Taylor had worked as a lawyer longer than Thea had been alive. A no-nonsense yet old-fashioned kind of man, he’d only just recently allowed the office to stop sending faxes, although he still preferred paper copies for most documents. He also preferred to talk to people in his office for the smallest of tasks instead of emailing. He was kind, but stodgy. He’d only hired a female lawyer, Rhonda, to his team two years ago, when HR was concerned about discrimination lawsuits. Ferguson still tended to give poor Rhonda the easiest cases despite her having graduated from Yale with honors.
“Thea, I need you to make coffee for the meeting at three o’clock. Be sure that the creamer is full. Last time we ran out, and everyone was very unhappy,” said Ferguson as he passed by Thea’s cubicle. He made it sound like the lack of creamer had started the third world war, when Thea knew that the only reason they’d run out of the stupid stuff was because people tended to spill half of it onto the table instead of into their coffee cups. Despite Thea attempting to explain this to Ferguson two weeks prior, he’d told her that she needed to stop making excuses for her work and simply do as he asked.
Thea might have gone home in a very bad mood afterward, and she might have popped open a bottle of wine, too.
“Creamer’s serious business,” said Nicole with a giggle in Thea’s ear. “Good luck!”
As she made coffee, watching the dark liquid drip into the pot, she wondered how she’d gotten stuck at a dead-end job where her greatest asset was the ability to make coffee for lawyers. Nicole always burned the coffee, although Thea was pretty sure she did that on purpose so she could avoid being asked to do it.
Three more days, Thea chanted in her mind as she filled a carafe with the coffee. Three more days and I’m free for two weeks.
She went to refill the creamer bottle when she realized they were completely out. Shit! She’d thought they’d had one more container. Why hadn’t she checked earlier that week when she’d run errands for the office? She glanced at the clock, but it was five minutes until three. She didn’t have time to run to the store to get some.
Thea placed the coffee and its accouterments in the meeting room and hoped that today of all days, Ferguson decided he didn’t want to drink coffee with creamer this late in the afternoon.
Thea held her breath as the meeting started, but when no one came out to complain about the lack of creamer, she breathed a sigh of relief. The things I have to worry about…
Who thought as a kid that they would have to worry about making coffee for overly caffeinated lawyers? To be honest, Thea had wanted to be a unicorn when she’d been little. Then, when she’d realized that she couldn’t exactly get a job as a unicorn, she’d decided to become an artist. At least that way, she could draw unicorns to her heart’s content.
Even now, she still wanted to become an artist who actually got paid for her art (although she no longer drew unicorns), but that would also mean showing her work to other people. That was something she still couldn’t do.
“Oooooh, he is so hot. Thea, come look at this.” Nicole popped her head over the wall of her cubicle like a groundhog. “Your favorite guy is talking again.”
Thea shouldn’t give in to temptation. She had work to do. Receipts to log, schedules to create… just the thought of both of those things made her get out of her chair to hang with Nicole in her cubicle instead. She’d never claimed to be the greatest worker in the world. Besides, the day was almost over.
Thea’s lip curled when she saw who was on Nicole’s screen: none other than Anthony Bertram, CEO of Bertram, Sons, and Co., the worst company in the history of forever. Not
Thea hated Anthony and everything he stood for.
“Look at his stupid, smug face,” she hissed.
“Shh!” Nicole turned up the volume on the livestream, obviously not caring if they got caught. Such was the lure of the handsome and rich Anthony Bertram.
Thea could admit that he was handsome, in a rich, smug, stupid, arrogant, selfish kind of way. His hair was dark, his jaw strong; he had one of those smiles that made a woman all weak-kneed. He clearly worked out, his suits fitting him perfectly, emphasizing his muscular shoulders and wide chest. He wasn’t bulky, though, but tall and fit. At the moment, he wore a dark gray suit with a blue tie; his cufflinks winked in the light of the news studio. They probably cost more than Thea’s annual salary.
“How has the company dealt with the social media controversy?” the news anchor asked Anthony. Thea barely restrained a snort when the perky and busty anchor licked her bottom lip as she asked Anthony the question.
“These things come and go,” said Anthony without any change of expression. “There were a lot of misrepresentations and outright lies in that campaign, and unfortunately, these kinds of things tend to spread like wildfire on the Internet. It’s best to wait for it to blow over than to address it directly.”
“Can you comment on the controversy itself? Will Bertram, Sons, and Co. continue to do animal testing?”
Anthony’s lips turned upward, but it wasn’t a smile. Not really. It looked like a predator spotting its prey. Thea shivered at that look in his eyes.
“I can’t comment on that,” he said, “but as we have said in our statement earlier this week, we pride ourselves on the products we sell, none of which contain parabens or toxins and all of which are one hundred percent organic. We were one of the first in the industry to do so.”
“Yes, but the allegations against you—”
“Are ludicrous,” interrupted Anthony. “It’s nothing except unfounded rumors and salacious gossip. I applaud activists who want to make the world a better place, but when doing so hurts other people, who are they saving? Or what are they saving? Nothing. They’re only patting themselves on the back for doing what they think is right.”
Thea turned red with anger at that comment. She wished she could strangle Anthony Bertram through the computer screen. What an arrogant asshole! That viral campaign had been about exposing the truth and showing consumers where their money was going.
Thea would know: she’d been one of the primary people behind the campaign.
It had been her best friend Mittens’s idea. Milton Haverford III, more commonly known as Mittens, was always the instigator in their circle, while Thea would take on ideas and make them into reality. This time, though, Thea had come up with original idea of a viral social media campaign against Anthony’s company.
Other members of their activist group had soon joined in. The social media campaign against Bertram, Sons, and Co. had grown slowly, and then a huge celebrity had shared the photos of suffering animals—rabbits and rats, primarily—and it had exploded.
Within the last two weeks, Bertram, Sons, and Co. had had to address the allegations, and apparently their stock had plummeted. People were boycotting their products. When Thea had gone to the grocery store just yesterday, she’d seen the company’s cleaning products sitting on the clearance shelves, collecting dust.
Seeing that had filled Thea with pride. She’d done that. She’d made a difference. If they kept pushing, Bertram, Sons, and Co. and other companies like it would have to make changes if they wanted to stay in business. Simple as that.
The news anchor began asking other questions unrelated to the controversy, and Anthony looked bored. He checked his watch at one point. You’d think after everything that happened, he’d at least attempt to be apologetic, thought Thea.
“God, he’s hot,” Nicole repeated. She sighed dreamily.
“He’s a terrible person,” countered Thea.
“We’re all terrible people at the end of the day.” Nicole rolled her eyes. “Besides, he’s rich. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t ride that train to Pound Town if given half a chance.”
Thea scoffed, although to her annoyance, she felt her cheeks redden. She hadn’t ridden anyone to Pound Town in way too long.
“I prefer my men to have morals. Ethics. A conscience,” said Thea.
“You mean you prefer men who are boring and you can dump without getting attached? I’ve known you long enough to know what makes you tick, Miss Thea, dear. And I’ve seen the dudes you’ve dated. They’re like warm tapioca: pointless and bland.”
Thea shoved Nicole lightly, not willing to admit how right her coworker and friend was. So what if she preferred her men to be a little unexciting? At least they weren’t evil.
“Do you have anything else you’d like to say about all of this?” the news anchor asked.
Anthony straightened his cuffs. “I’d like to address the people who instigated this.” He gazed straight at the camera now. “Your actions have consequences and will hurt real people.” He didn’t say anything else, but those words settled in Thea’s stomach like a rock.
They’d done this to help animals and people. How could they be hurting anyone? He was the one at fault here. But was Anthony just posturing, or was there truth in his words?
When the livestream ended, Thea told herself that she had nothing to worry about. She’d done something good, something impactful. How many people could say that about themselves? Thea returned to her desk, mulling over what she’d just watched.
“Thea, can I see you in my office?” said Ferguson an hour later.
Nicole popped her head over her cubicle and sent Thea a look that said, Good luck. They both knew what it meant when Ferguson wanted to see you in his office right before the day ended.
“Please shut the door.” Ferguson gestured for Thea to sit before he sat down across from her. He steepled his fingers. “Do you know why I wanted to see you today?”
Thea racked her mind. It couldn’t be the creamer—could it? “I’m sorry, I don’t,” she admitted.
He sighed. “I asked you to make sure there was creamer in the meeting. And to my surprise, there wasn’t. I’d like to ask why.”
“I didn’t know we’d run out. I can run to the store now if you’d like.”
“No, that won’t be necessary.” He frowned, his forehead crinkling. “How long have you worked here, Thea? Two and a half years?”
“Three,” she whispered. She wished she could melt into the floor right then.
“And you’ve been a good, reliable employee. But lately you seem unfocused. You’re often on non-work-related websites. You watch videos at your desk. You gossip with Nicole. When I need you, you’re out to lunch. And I’ve noticed that your lunches keep stretching longer than sixty minutes.
“If you don’t improve your performance,” he continued, “we’ll need to have another discussion, most likely with HR. I’m sure you can understand what I mean.”
She did. Involving HR usually meant some kind of disciplinary action, if not outright probation. Thea didn’t think she would be fired, but then again, she never would’ve thought she’d be disciplined over creamer.
Anxiety pooled in Thea’s stomach. She hated this job, but she also needed it. Fair Haven was small enough that there weren’t tons of jobs to go around. Living paycheck to paycheck meant that she had to keep her head down and her mouth shut. She wanted to tell Ferguson to go to hell, but she bit her tongue.
“I’m sorry,” she repeated. “I’ll do better. I’ve had a lot on my mind.”
“I know you’ll be gone for the next two weeks on vacation. I would advise that you take the time to think about your goals here and where you see yourself in five, if not ten, y
Thea nodded. Seeing that it was five o’clock, she grabbed her things and hurried from the office before Nicole could ask her what had happened. Anger burned in her gut until she saw red.
How could she do better when no one thought she could do anything but make coffee and answer emails? When people acted like a lack of creamer was worth getting an employee in trouble? She felt stuck and without options.
She couldn’t move up the ladder to a better position, and despite her best efforts, there were few jobs in Fair Haven that would be a step above her current position. She didn’t have a college degree, either, which hurt her chances.
Just two more days, Thea thought. Just two more days until my vacation.
Anthony Bertram, billionaire CEO of Bertram, Sons, and Co., was having a very bad day.
First, his assistant had been late because her son had been throwing up the night before. This wouldn’t have been a huge deal, except that his assistant wasn’t there to hand him his morning espresso. Anthony didn’t have time to buy his own coffee, which was why he paid someone else to get it.
Coffee-less, he’d sat down in his office chair to so many emails and missed voicemails that his head had started pounding immediately.
By ten a.m., Anthony could have kicked a bunch of puppies.