Hot Boss, Boardroom Mistress(8)

By: Natalie Anderson

‘Hey, Bron.’ Her manager was lovely and talented and Amanda wanted to help keep her small company afloat.

There were four of them and Amanda was the most junior, but she’d been the one to come up with the concept that they’d run with for this pitch and Bronwyn had insisted she lead the presentation. Amanda figured her boss was too fair for her own good.

‘Are you sure you want me to be the one to do this?’ she asked.

‘Of course—it’s your idea, your freshness, your conciseness, and you have a fantastic presentation style. I wish I could bottle it and sell it. I’d be a squillionaire overnight.’ Bronwyn looked at her. ‘Are you feeling nervous?’

‘A little.’ More like a lot. There was too much resting on it and they all knew it.

‘I’ll be there. Just give me the look and I can help you out.’

‘I’ll be OK.’ Amanda put her bag down. While it was wonderful to have been given the opportunity to really prove herself, she needed to do more than that. She needed to win. Grandfather was depending on her. She’d put all her hope on the new medication—but it cost the earth.

At nine-thirty she and Bronwyn got into the taxi. Sean and Danielle stood and waved them off as a gesture of solidarity. Amanda checked her reflection in the car window. But in the two minutes that had elapsed since she’d exited the bathroom her tight, precise French plait was still tight and precise. Not a hair out of place, no lipstick on the teeth, no creases in her skirt. She was—outwardly—as ready as she could be.

Fresh was a medium-sized local beverage company that specialised in fresh-made juices and smoothies. Headed by the gregarious iconic Kiwi actor Barry Stuart, it already had high brand recognition and good market share. But now the brief had changed—Barry wanted his face off the product. They wanted a new campaign that would get results, and an ad agency that would drop everything and come running. Demands would be high, but the results would be worth it—generating enough business to keep the company afloat.

It was a fifteen-minute drive to the factory on the edge of the CBD. They waited in the spacious foyer for several minutes. Amanda avoided her nerves by studying the paintings showcased on the bright white walls—a small but solid selection of emerging New Zealand talent. Someone had a good eye.

The funkily clad receptionist took a call in quiet tones and then came over to them.

‘If you’ll follow me.’ She guided them to the lift and pressed the button for the third floor. Once there she led them to a large meeting room with wide windows looking across the city.

‘If you’d like to set up in here. Barry and the CEO will be in shortly.’

Amanda glanced at Bronwyn—she’d thought Barry was the CEO. Bronwyn shrugged and got the mock-ups from the portfolio she was carrying. Amanda pulled her laptop from her bag, scoping for power sockets.

‘Hello!’ The loud tone heralded the unmistakable arrival of Barry. The smile that he pulled from everyone flashed onto Amanda’s face. He had the kind of presence that made everyone relax even when you’d never met him. So familiar—like the friendly uncle who spent his Sundays turning the sausages at the family barbecues. Then she saw who had come into the room behind him and her heart arrested.

Jared? What was he doing here? She looked behind him to see if someone else was coming in. But with a glint in his eye he closed the door.

There was a painful thumping in her chest as her heart remembered to work and made up for the gap by going triple-time.

She’d never known what it was Jared had done after leaving town. It wasn’t as if she could ask Grandfather. She’d have been mad to mention his name to him—not after what had happened. She swallowed back the memories. Not now.

But she suddenly knew he must have done OK because he was standing here with Barry as if he owned the place.

Oh, no. No, no, no.

Maybe he was the financial guy? Please?

She couldn’t help staring. Couldn’t stop either. He looked incredible. The Jared she’d known nine years ago would never have worn a suit. Certainly not one made to measure. For one thing he wouldn’t have had the money, for another he wouldn’t have cared to. But today he looked as if he were born in it—so neatly and naturally it skimmed his broad frame. It was dark, the shirt navy, the tie dark too.

And those eyes—they drew you into their darkness. Like velvety night in the most remote countryside, they held the promise of a million stars once you got to the heart of it.

Bronwyn was talking, introducing herself and Amanda to Barry and Jared. But Amanda was standing still and silent like a French mime artist with stage fright.

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