How to Sleep with the Boss

By: Janice Maynard
One

“I want you to push me to my limits. So I can prove to you that I can handle it.”

Patrick stared across his paper-cluttered desk at the woman seated opposite him. Libby Parkhurst was not someone you would pick out of a crowd. Mousy brown hair, ordinary features and clothes at least one size too big for her slender frame added up to an unfortunate adjective. Forgettable.

Except for those eyes. Green. Moss, maybe. Not emerald. Emerald was too brilliant, too sharp. Libby’s green eyes were the quiet, soothing shade of a summer forest.

Patrick cleared his throat, absolutely sure his companion hadn’t intended her remark to sound provocative. Why would she? Patrick was nothing more to her than a family friend and a prospective employer. After all, Libby’s mother had been his mother’s best friend for decades.

“I appreciate your willingness to step outside your comfort zone, Libby,” he said. “But I think we both know this job is not for you. You don’t understand what it involves.” Patrick’s second in command, Charlise, was about to commence six months of maternity leave. Patrick needed a replacement ASAP. Because he had dawdled in filling the spot, his mother, Maeve Kavanagh, had rushed in to supply an interviewee.

Libby sat up straighter, her hands clenched in her lap, her expression earnest and maybe a tad desperate. “I do,” she said firmly. “Maeve described the position in detail. All I’m asking is that you run me through the paces before I have to welcome the first group.”

Patrick’s business, Silver Reflections, provided a quiet, soothing setting for professionals experiencing burnout, but also offered team-building activities for high-level management executives. Ropes courses, hiking, overnight survival treks. The experience was sometimes grueling and always demanding.

The fill-in assistant would be involved in every aspect of running Silver Reflections. While Patrick applauded Libby’s determination, he had serious doubts about her ability to handle the physical aspects of the job.

“Libby...” He sighed, caught between his instincts about filling the position and his obligation to play nice.

His unwanted guest leaned forward, gripping the edge of his desk with both hands, her knuckles white. “I need this job, Patrick. You know I do.”

Libby had him there. He’d witnessed in painful detail what the past year had been like for her—as had most of the country, thanks to the tabloids. First, Libby’s father had been sent to prison for tax fraud to the tune of several million. Then eight weeks ago, after months of being hounded by the press and forced to adopt a lifestyle far below her usual standards, Libby’s emotionally fragile mother had committed suicide.

Quite simply, in the blink of an eye, Libby Parkhurst had gone from being a sheltered heiress to a woman with virtually no resources. Her debutante education had qualified her to host her father’s dinner parties when her mother was unable or unwilling to do so. But twenty-three-year-old Libby had no practical experience, no résumé and no money.

“You won’t like it.” He was running out of socially acceptable ways to say he didn’t want her for the job.

Libby’s chin lifted. She sat back in her chair, her spine straight. The disappointment in her gaze told him she anticipated his rejection. “I know your mother made you interview me,” she said.

“I’m far past the age where my mother calls the shots in my life.” It was only partly a lie. Maeve Kavanagh wielded maternal guilt like a sharp-edged sword.

“I don’t have anything left to lose,” Libby said quietly. “No home. No family. No trust fund. It’s all gone. For the first time in my life, I’m going to have to stand on my own two feet. I’m willing and able to do that. But I need someone to give me a chance.”

Damn it. Her dignified bravery tugged at heartstrings he hadn’t tuned in ages. Why was Libby Parkhurst his problem? What was his mother thinking?

Outside his window, the late-January trees were barren and gray. Winter still had a firm hold on this corner of western North Carolina. It would be at least eight weeks before the first high-adventure group arrived. In the meantime, Libby would surely be able to handle the hotel aspects of the job. Taking reservations. Checking in guests. Making sure that all reasonable requests were accommodated.

But even if he split Charlise’s job and gave Libby the less onerous part, he’d still be stuck looking for someone who could handle the outdoor stuff. Where was he going to find a candidate with the right qualifications willing to work temporarily and part-time?

If this had been an emotional standoff, Libby would have won. She never blinked as she looked at him with all the entreaty of a puppy begging to be fed. He decided to try a different tack. “Our clients are high-end,” he said. “I need someone who can dress the part.”

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