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Extortion
Author: Amelia Wilde

 


1

 

 

BRISTOL

 

 

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

I bet Tolstoy never dreamed that his famous words about happy families would also apply to temp jobs. The work is the same no matter where you go. Print. Collate. Staple. Smile.

Make coffee. Serve coffee. Ignore the sleazy boss. Smile.

Sort by order date and client name.

Forward voicemails to the appropriate department.

Oh, and miss Will Leblanc so much it hurts to breathe. Smile.

Though the last one’s new. I didn’t used to miss Will Leblanc, my former boss, at any of my previous temp jobs. I didn’t know he existed.

And then I got assigned to his company and immediately screwed it up by embezzling fifty-thousand dollars. It sounds ridiculous, and it was. Of course he caught me. The part I didn’t expect was to love the consequences quite so much.

Now that it’s all over, I’m in the horrible position of trying to forget the blue-green of his eyes and the way he threw the most gorgeous left hook at a man who’d hurt me.

And the way he dropped me like a hot potato afterward.

He sold his company, packed up his office, and left me behind. Technically, I think that’s worse than a hot potato. He dropped me like a temp.

Which I was. Which I am. Temporary.

Now I’m at a new job, in a new company, in a different Manhattan office building. The work, though? That’s the same.

The copy machine spits out the last of my warm, fresh print job. See? The machine’s in working order. And there’s a clean countertop nearby where I can check the order of the pages, staple the corners, and slip the packets into folders. The folders go on top of my legal pad.

A quick check over my shoulder—clear. No boss coming staring at my ass or accidentally brushing against my breasts. Then it’s back out to the main office.

Jennifer, the head of Public Relations, has her phone wedged between her chin and her shoulder so she can type with both hands while she talks. I lay the folder on the corner of her desk.

“The release goes out on Tuesday.” Thank you, she mouths to me, fingers tapping faster. “No, I don’t see any point in moving it up. If you have anything concrete—”

A smile, a little wave, and I’m out.

Could a broken-hearted person do that? No. My heart isn’t broken.

My next stop is at my boss’s corner office. I pass my desk on the way. My trusty palm tree figurine watches me go. I left the Jolly Ranchers in my purse on the first day and didn’t bring them back. I’d rather not associate the sweet, vacation flavor with this particular job.

Which is fine.

I’m making decent money. I’m taking care of the twins. I’m not depending on anyone but myself. This is good. It’s good. It’s really good.

Plus, this job is closer to home. I have a shorter bus ride. I get home from work at the same time the twins get home from their new after-school program. This job is everything I need.

I could almost believe it by the time I step through his door.

Not Will, the small voice in my mind comments.

That’s for sure. Will Leblanc would never have allowed his office to be decorated in wood paneling that’s meant to look like cherry. He’d knock his knuckles against it and feel particle board, and his eyes would narrow. The corners of his mouth would turn down. His lips would part, and then—

Then nothing.

I don’t break my stride on the way to the executive’s desk. I’m not in any position to judge this man’s choice of furniture, but it’s about as real as the paneling on the walls.

If Will decided to fuck me on it, it would collapse.

Which is not the kind of thing I’ll be thinking about today or ever again.

My new boss glances up as the folder I’ve prepared lands on his desk. “All set, Mr. Malcolm.”

Smile.

He flips the top open. The man has one special talent—he’s even able to leer at paper. “These are wrong, wrong, wrong. The profit and loss statement is supposed to be organized by dollar amount. I told you that. Do you have cotton in your ears?”

He didn’t say that. That’s why I carry the legal pad everywhere with me.

It acts as a shield in more ways than one.

“Sir, I have it here in my notes.” Two pages back. Yellow sheets slip against cardboard while I find the note—in a big, bold box, highlighted with arrows. “On Tuesday, you wanted them sorted alphabetically. We had a conversation about it at two-fifteen.”

“There’s only one good thing about you,” he says, his eyes locked on my breasts.

Usually I keep the legal pad in front of them.

I take a step back, disgust sour on my tongue. I knew Malcolm was like this the moment I stepped into his office. I’ve been a temp long enough to know how to read the men who have corner offices.

Except with Will.

Maybe I should be ashamed of how much I wanted him. I’ve been harassed at work plenty of times, but never blackmailed. Everything about Will Leblanc was new and dangerous. It was good in a fierce, painful way, because he was a fighter. In business. In bed. With me.

You deserve somebody better, sweetheart. I’m not that guy. I’m a monster. You don’t want me. I promise.

But damn it, I did. I do.

The mousy-haired man in front of me is nothing compared to Will, who was lots of things, but he wasn’t a monster.

I’m pissed that it hurts so much. That I only had my toe in the door of Will’s life before he shut me out. That I’m in this room, with this man, instead of wherever Will is.

I could deal with the leering. I could even deal with the little pinches Mr. Malcom tried on my second day.

But this? When my chest aches and my eyes burn and I hate everything about being away from Will?

I’m done.

“Your behavior is completely inappropriate.” He finally manages to look me in the eye. “If you speak to me like that again, I’m going to have to report you to HR.”

Malcolm rolls his eyes. “So what? The agency will send a new temp. Nobody cares about your little complaints. You’re supposed to look good, Bristol. You’re supposed to…relieve my stress.”

I draw myself up to my full height. “No, sir. I’m here to collate and file your profit and loss statements alphabetically. The way you asked me to do it.”

He sneers down at the folder. Then he’s on his feet, shaking the papers out of it. Malcolm snatches them up from his desk and tears them in half. In quarters. The ragged pieces hit the carpet at my feet.

My heart pounds. This feeling is the worst of all worlds. Hot rage. Cold indecision. A man in a room with a temp could do anything. Next to Will, Malcolm is pathetic.

But he could still hurt me.

I don’t glance down at the papers. “If you don’t like my work, fire me.”

Malcom’s grin might as well be a grope. “It’s easy to get rid of a temp, but you could change my mind.”

I turn my back on him and flounce out of the room. I haven’t actually quit. He’ll have to fire me himself. At the very least, he’ll have to pick up the torn papers.

Screw him. I’m leaving early.

Desk. Purse. Elevator.

On the subway, I stare out the window and try to shake off my despair.

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