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Mr. Rochester: British Bad Boy
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I’ve never been attracted to bad boys.
They’re just too cocky and shallow for my taste, and I despise the way they act like being wickedly gorgeous and sexy makes them God’s gift to women.
That may work on others but not me. I’m too smart for that.
But then I start working for Mr. Rochester, and everything changes.
I’ve never met someone more horribly rude and self-centered, and even worse is the way he’s so damn moody. Just being in his presence makes me feel dizzy. One moment he’s viciously cruel, another moment he’s exquisitely charming. One moment he seems invincible and out of my league, another moment he’s broodingly vulnerable and mysteriously tormented.
But the worst is when we’re alone – when he gazes at me like he wants to eat me, it makes me feel so shamefully wet.
I hate it. I hate HIM, Mr. Rochester, and if he thinks I’m going to let him get away with acting like my lord and master just because he’s my boss and I find him a little bit too sexy for my own good—
You don’t own me, Mr. Rochester, I hiss at him.
But the words only make him smirk, and he whispers into my ear, ‘Not yet’.
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I take my seat in front of the H.R. manager and place my hands primly on my lap. Every time I’m called to Maria Fairfax’s office, I feel like a schoolgirl being sent to detention…and I’m not quite sure what I did wrong.
The silence in Maria’s office is hard to read. I feel like she’s not mad at me (for a change), but I also feel like she’s about to make this dire announcement I’m guaranteed to hate.
I try to rack my brains for what possible misdemeanor I’m guilty of that warrants HR’s attention. Is it because I had exchanged words with old Sarah from accounting, who’s not just miserly and nasty but also a bit of a klepto?
Or maybe it’s because of last week’s team building in Orlando, and certain skeletons about my past had suddenly resurfaced? So I once suffered from domestic abuse. It’s not like I’m the only such victim in the world. Everyone had made such a huge fuss over it, but the thing is, I’ve long gotten over the everyday beatings my step-aunt used to subject me to.
I’m a fairly resilient person, not to mention practical. Even without the help of a therapist, I had long figured out there were two kinds of people in this world: those who were just plain nice…and those who weren’t.
Obviously, my step-aunt and stepbrother fell in the latter category, and as soon as I turned eighteen I had left my uncle’s home and never looked back.
It’s been a closed book since then, but apparently people at my workplace didn’t believe I could get over my past. Remembering the pity party that followed last week’s anonymously orchestrated exposé makes me shudder even now. Most of them thought I’d appreciate them treating me like I’m fragile, but honestly it just made me feel I’m a freak.
All those poor-little-you looks—
It had pissed me off so much, I might have, umm, thrown out a fuck-you-asshole or two, along with a couple of middle fingers, to, umm, supposedly well-meaning individuals?
I steal a look at Maria. Could that be it?
Maria looks back at me, her poker face made picture-perfect after two decades of managing labor relations has made her poker face.
The silence in the room becomes increasingly unbearable, and I start to fidget.
Maria clears her throat.
I straighten. Shit. That sounds bad.
She opens her mouth to speak—
But I beat her to it. “Whatever it is that was said about me,” I blurt out defensively, “it’s probably because of a misunderstanding.”
Maria lets out a huge sigh.
“I mean it,” I stress earnestly. “You know how I am. I’m like, all bark and no bite. So if someone lodged a complaint against me, it’s probably just a misunderstanding—”
“It is,” the H.R. manager says dryly, “but the misunderstanding is all on your side.”
“I called you here because executive management asked for a recommendation for our CEO’s personal assistant—”
I sit up at the words. Is this what I think it is?
“And I chose you.”
Oh my God, it is what I think it is.
I shake my head, amazed and incredulous. “No shit?” Maria winces at the words, and I apologize right away. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to. I’m just shocked.”
“In a good way, I hope.”
“Oh yes. I’m happy as fuck—”
Maria scowls. “Language!”
Oops. “Sorry,” I say again, more meekly this time, but inside of me I’m doing somersaults and cartwheels.
Clearing her throat, Maria goes on, “Should you choose to accept it—”
I almost snicker, thinking how she makes it sound like babysitting the CEO is some kind of mission impossible.
“—then the promotion will come with a salary upgrade and a more lucrative compensation package overall. You will also be working from the penthouse, with your own work area—”
“I accept,” I say eagerly.
Maria frowns. “Don’t be so hasty.”
“But salary upgrade, Ms. Fairfax!” I grin. “It’s everything to me.”
“Oh, Ms. Reed.” The older woman sighs. “Money isn’t everything.”
“Only rich people say that,” I mutter under my breath.
Maria ignores this, which of course is something also only rich people can do. “I know you don’t believe me, but there will come a time when you’ll realize that money truly isn’t everything.”
“I already know that,” I say patiently. “I know it very well, and I know you know that, too, Ms. Fairfax. In my job interview six years ago, you used your psycho mumbo-jumbo to hypnotize me into telling you my life story—”
Maria rolls her eyes. “For the last time, Ms. Reed, no hypnosis was involved. I’m simply paid to prevent the unwanted from working here, and that’s why I needed to ferret out your past. Moreover, I am not worried – as you have mistakenly assumed – that money will make you greedy. What I am worried about is the way you seem to be using money as an excuse to keep other people away.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” I say automatically.