Unnatural Affinity (4)
A Paranormal Romance
The alarm on my phone went off at six-thirty. I showered in fifteen minutes and made it to my closet with forty-five minutes to spare. I decided I would go for a simple gray pantsuit. If I were being honest with myself, I liked the way my butt looked in the pants. They were form fitting without looking too casual and were work appropriate. I figured on my first day I could highlight a part of myself I’m pretty confident in without overdoing it.
I threw a clip in my hair leaving some of it down. I pinched my cheeks several times in an attempt to get that rosy cheek look my sister doesn’t have to try for and dabbed a little makeup around my eyes. I grabbed my purse and keys and darted out the front door.
The ride to my new job was silent for the most part. I kept the radio off to let my thoughts flow without any distractions, this time keeping my mental plane within the confines of my car. With all this traffic, it was easy to get distracted by the disgruntled rush hour thoughts, but at the moment I needed tranquility not hostility. I arrived at the building fifteen minutes before I was due. I stood outside the building a few feet away from the revolving doors. Everyone around me was clothed in their designer suits with their chins pointed at the sky. Around me, I could hear horns mixing in with the rhythm of stilettos marking the sidewalk.
I released any more pent-up anxiety I had and trekked to the reception area. The security guard remembered me from a week and a half prior when I came to get my ID card and other work materials. He nodded to me once with a slight smile and I returned it. I continued to the elevators where a group of us stood, waiting for our turn.
I walked into the elevator surrounded by more people in business suits and my nervousness returned before it could ever quite leave. This time it settled into my anatomy, pumping through my bloodstream. It wasn’t until we were all crunched inside did I grow jittery. With my hands behind my back, I constantly flicked my fingers to ignite a tiny flame and quickly snatch it out. The ride to the thirty-fifth floor grew increasingly daunting the higher up we moved and fewer people accompanied me. By the time I made it to the top, I was the only one left and it made me wonder if the people working for Webster Enterprises had their own key cards for complete access.
I balled my hands to my side to stop the flame-flicking as if that would help anything. I was coming to grips with the dance party of butterflies forming in my stomach when I passed through the glass set of doors and the security desk I saw yesterday from Dad’s Internet search.
I approached the desk with as much courage and poise as I could muster. A young man with an earpiece sat behind the desk with his attention on the computer screen. Upon my arrival, his chocolate brown eyes looked at me with innocent curiosity.
“Can I help you?” he asked politely.
She has almost hypnotic and very striking eyes. Weird.
“Yes, I’m here as the new PR assistant,” I said in the strongest voice I could project. “Donald McCormick is the one who’s supposed to be teaching me the ropes.”
The man smiled. “Oh, yeah! We’ve been waiting to see you. You and Donald are going to have your hands full with our new CEO. He tends to run a tight ship and he’s a little intimidating.”
I’d nearly forgotten Webster Enterprises, technically was no longer called by that name anymore as it was bought out and under new management. At the time of my interview a few months prior, this topic was still up for debate and there hadn’t been word on it since.
“When will I meet him?” I asked, a blend of apprehension and determination seeping in. I was anxious to meet this guy and prove I was worth hiring.
“Probably after Donald briefs you,” the man said. “There is a meeting regarding his new management position and vision for the company.”
I smiled inwardly. “What’s so different from the way the company was run before that he wants to change?”
The man shrugged, grinning. “Beats me. I just answer phone calls and monitor who can see the boss man.”
Grinning, I held out my hand. “I’m Max.”
“I’m Connor—Connor Braverman.”
We shook hands and the ping of the elevator signaled someone arriving. Donald was quick to say his hellos to Connor and me, and the next thing I knew I was being swept away to a room overlooking the city below with wide windows taking up the circumference of the office. I was sitting in front of Donald’s desk slightly out of breath when he handed me a medium-sized manila folder containing a small packet. I scanned over the first stack, trying to grasp what I was looking at without appearing lost.
“Those are some of the events and press releases Mr. Erickson will be attending over the next four months,” Donald started with a plop into his chair. “If you can handle today’s meeting I have true faith you can handle this job.”
She looks tough, but can she really handle the job? Hell, can she handle me?
“What exactly do you need me to know prior to going into this?” I asked, now feeling provocation to tackle this job.
Donald’s familiar fiery hair and pale blue eyes reminded me why I was here and the tenacity I felt during my interview was instantly headstrong.
“This time I just need you to sit back and take notes. We’re not exactly sure where this is going and we’ve been sitting on pins and needles for his arrival.”
I raised a brow. “He’s not here yet?”
Donald sighed. “He’s here but he hasn’t called us in yet and it’s driving us all mad. It’s literally been a shitstorm since he was appointed the position, so get used to it.”
I leaned back in my seat, rummaging through the papers. I didn’t know Mr. Erickson but he already seemed like the kind of guy who liked to keep people guessing. I imagine he’s in his office right now twiddling his thumbs to keep us in suspense. It was a good tactic if he wanted everyone alert and ready at all times.
This guy is a real asshole keeping us waiting here like this, Donald thought with much chagrin. My patience is wearing real thin.
I could hear Connor’s worried thoughts on the other side of the wall. I hope Mr. McCormick remembers to breathe and relax. All that stress can’t possibly be good for him.
Five minutes after I jumped out of their heads, Donald’s phone rang and he spoke briefly in hushed words. I could just hear what he was saying. “Will he be ready this time? Because I have my new girl with me today and I don’t have time to deal with his antics.”
I pretended to be heavily engrossed in the information in the packet, but my ears were pricked at the conversation. When a long period of silence on Donald’s end passed, I glanced up to see him roll his eyes and pinch the bridge of his nose.
“The man is an enigma,” he replied eloquently with a tone resembling pure exasperation. “What can I say? Knowing how he got the position is above my pay grade…all right I’ll be up there soon.”
I kept my eyes down and waited for Donald to address me first. With little patience, he shot to his feet and asked me to follow. He was nearly out the door before I could get out of my chair. I mentally thanked myself for the excellent decision to wear a pantsuit because Donald’s stress levels made him power walk, which had me at a slight jog. We stopped in front of another set of elevators separate from the ones I used to get up here. These must go strictly between floors within the company employees and Mr. Erickson.
After Donald used his keycard to access the elevator, we stepped inside not saying a word to one another. The ride to the next five floors was too short and I had just caught my breath before Donald was briskly maneuvering through people and giving a slight wave to the security by the glass double doors and receptionist on this floor. I mentally noted how much security this building had simply on each floor and pondered on the security I couldn’t see. It was a bit mind-boggling and assuring at the same time.
The closer we approached our destination, a flood of thoughts entered my head all at once and I winced from the intensity of it. I heard Donald speaking to me, but it was difficult to pinpoint his voice out of the sea of them in my mind. I had to hope he wasn’t asking me a question and if he was telling me something it wasn’t too important. I slightly slowed my walking to grip the thoughts in a corner of my mind where they would need to remain until the meeting was over. I didn’t have time to be distracted.
He stood outside of the conference room and I halted behind him, taking in my surroundings. I was sure to get lost a few times and I knew Donald was already expecting me to know every nook and cranny of my workspace already including this. He fixed imaginary snags on my jacket and made me give him a once-over.
“Showtime,” he muttered.
He opened the door to reveal several other men and women seated in black high-back padded chairs. The closer we walked to the group of people, the louder their thoughts, and the mental dam I’d created broke. I knew it was a result of my current emotional state and considering the meeting still hadn’t started, I let it ride. The glossy oblong cherrywood table was huge and meant just for the right amount of people in the room. It smelled of fancy perfumes and colognes mixed with high egos. I felt out of place despite knowing some of their thoughts were not maliciously directed at me. It was one of those situations where I was the new kid in school and the overall curiosity was steaming up the place. Had I been in a different setting, I might have scowled at some of them to make them look away.
As Donald and I were making our way to our seats near the middle of the table not too far from the head of the table where Mr. Erickson would sit, the Cambridge brothers strolled in with their billion-dollar playboy faces as if they smelled a challenge. Jonathan and Jeremiah greeted everyone and took a seat on the direct opposite side, making the three of us eye contact buddies. I wasn’t as impressed with them as I thought I’d be after looking at them online. They were ordinary up close, nothing making them stand out other than their appearance since it was drenched in old money. In that case, they weren’t the only ones in Los Angeles with that because it was an old city where all dreams came true for those who prospered and someone was always going to be hotter than another.
The twins’ crass thoughts were easily recognizable among the rest of the high-strung employees. I had to remember the way their thoughts resonated in my head like too much alcohol and drugs with the scent of crisp bills, so I could avoid them when necessary. They began to gesture between one another with whispers, not trying to hide their admiration for me.
Fresh meat is hot.
Nothing better than a girl who knows nothing about us.
Switching away from their annoying heads, I let the rest of the room invade me. I was bombarded with the smells of the city like food stands, the fresh smell of paper shopping bags from grocery stores. I noticed there was a difference in smells from the shopping bags off Rodeo drive to the ones from the Beverly Center Shopping Mall. It was like there was a distinct smell between the rich and the super rich. Some people’s thoughts were like the traffic that never left no matter the time of day, compact and slow while others were exciting and fast-paced almost like an adventure at the beach on a Friday night where nothing could break the wild entertainment.
Another meeting, another paycheck. I have to remind myself of that or I’d be one miserable son of a bitch.
I can’t stop fidgeting. I hope no one calls on me to speak.
Jesus Christ, where the hell is this guy?!
If this is his idea of suspense, he’s already made his point.
I winched again, putting my hand against my head. Donald asked me if I was all right and I waved it off as a headache. This time I built my mental walls higher and sturdier as I pushed the thoughts away from my own. It was getting to a point where the thoughts were so consuming I couldn’t hear my foot tapping on the hardwood floor. Once it was complete, I was able to breathe a bit better and concentrate.
Donald anxiously chewed one of his nails, his eyes trained on the door where Mr. Erickson would eventually walk through. It was as if he stared long enough he would magically appear. I peered down at my pants, smoothing out the wrinkles in them to give my busy hands something to do without starting a fire even if it was a tiny one. The tips of my fingers tingled for a flame-flick, but I couldn’t risk it with this many people in one space smelling the flame, and assuming I have a lighter on me even if I kept it under the table.
I chose to play with the ends of my hair instead, fearing I’d overdo anything else to point of pure destruction when my head snapped to attention at the sound of static.
Then Mr. Erickson walked in.
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