Come Away With Me(2)

By: Ruth Cardello

He reentered his secretary’s office, then swore when he realized he had closed the door to his office, effectively locking his cell phone, keys, and everything else inside.

What the hell?

He picked up Rena’s phone and called down to the security desk, but it rang repeatedly without being answered. Heads would roll the next morning.

Looking down at his secretary’s desk, he noted the calendar. September 1. Labor Day. No wonder the offices are empty. It didn’t explain the absent security, but it did reinstate his opinion of his usually dedicated secretary.

Angry for allowing himself to become distracted enough to lose track of the day, he impatiently searched the top of her desk. Rena must have a key to my office.

He tried the drawers of her desk but they were locked. Which made sense, he supposed. He wouldn’t have appreciated if the key proved easily accessible. Still, her competence wasn’t helpful at the moment.

Losing patience, he tugged at the top drawer more aggressively.

Seated at a security console in a small room on the Cogent Building’s first floor, Julia Bennett neglected watching the monitors in favor of checking her makeup in her compact mirror. She hoped her brown hair held a sophisticated amount of curl. She still had the top of her security uniform on, but there wasn’t much she could do about that for—her eyes flew to the clock on the wall—thirty more minutes.

She let out a nervous breath and smoothed her hands down the tight black skirt that ended a few inches above her knees. She glanced down at her Marc Jacobs four-inch heels, shoes that would not pass dress code, but would have to for one night. In twenty minutes, she would replace her tan blouse with a much bolder red silk one.

Red was a power color.

And she needed all the mojo she could muster.

The door to her security cave opened and Paul, one of the front-desk security men, shuffled in. He was a couple of years older than Julia and, due to the number of hours he put in at the gym each day, nearly twice her size. “Julia, can you cover the front desk for me for a few minutes? I have to run across the street to the pharmacy. I won’t be long.”


“Paul, I don’t even know how to sign someone in.”

“You won’t have to. It’s a holiday. No one is here. No one is coming. Listen, normally I would never ask you to do this, but you know that I’m on by myself tonight. Tom has a stomach bug.” The six-foot-six giant of a man looked more like a sad little boy when he added, “I think he gave it to me. I probably have a fever. Feel my head. Do I?”

Dutifully, Julia stood, walked over, and touched his forehead, noting that he did feel overly warm. She glanced at the clock. Twelve past. Shoot. “You might. Tell me what you need. I can run over and get it.”

He shook his head. “No. I have symptoms I don’t want to discuss.” He gave her a sheepish smile. “I’ve been in the bathroom half the night.”

Although Julia had only worked at Cogent for a little more than a month, Paul and Tom felt like old friends. Working overnight shifts had given them many opportunities to bond over the coffee breaks Julia still needed to keep awake. Normally her job consisted of nothing more than watching a panel of monitors and reporting anything unusual to Paul or Tom. Not the most exciting job, but one that paid the bills.

Everyone had been so nice to her that she felt guilty about not instantly agreeing to Paul’s request. “Okay, go. But hurry back. I put in to leave early. I feel awful, but I’m meeting that buyer tonight. This could be it—what I came to New York for.”

“Is this the same guy you told me about the other day?”

“Yes. He works for Platinum and Onyx. It has stores all over the world. An order from him could change everything for me. Now, go. I’ll watch the desk.”

When she walked by him, Paul said, “That skirt is short for a business meeting.”

She frowned over her shoulder at him. “I’m not going to sell to anyone if I keep dressing like a small-town bumpkin. Trust me, I’ve researched power outfits. This one says, ‘I’m a strong and vital woman. Buy my jewelry.’ ”

Paul looked unconvinced. “If you’re meeting a guy, that skirt says, ‘I’m hot, buy me.’ ”

Julia stomped one of her high heels in frustration. “To win in business, you have to take advantage of all of your assets. If he gets a little distracted by my skirt . . . well, that’s the way of the jungle.”

Shaking his head, Paul said, “Call me if he turns out to be a creep. One of my buddies will meet you.” Having met some of his beefed-up friends, Julia had no doubt they would. They were brawn looking for a brawl.

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