Look The Part(3)

By: Jewel E. Ann



My gaze snaps to hers after it dawns on me that I’m staring at the stain, which happens to be over her breast. “Did you get the contract from Amanda the other day when she showed you the space?”

“Yes. Thank you.” Ellen drapes her coat over the back of the chair and takes a seat.

“Do you have any questions about it?”

“Nope. Looks pretty standard. I love this location, but it’s impossible to find available spaces. So I was really excited when I found your ad the same day you posted it.”

I scan her application even though I’ve read it over a dozen times. “You’re a music therapist?”

“Yes.”

“Music is considered therapy?”

Ellen chuckles. It’s childlike. Her face is childlike too. Must be the freckles and light blue eyes.

“Yes. Think of it as an alternative therapy. But it’s a legit job. I have a degree for my speciality like any other healthcare professional.” She points at my hands folded on my desk. “Nice cufflinks, by the way.”

I glance down and adjust each one. “Thank you.”

Her teeth trap her glossed lips as if she wants to grin, but something inside vetoes the idea. “Sorry. That was sort of left field of me. I’m a little nervous.”

“Why is that?” I ask while opening an email from a client.

She’s humming. Why is she humming?

“Because I want the space.”

“References?”

“Uh, yes. I sent them to your secretary.”

I press the intercom button. “Amanda, I need those references.”

“On the shelf next to the research you requested,” she calls from her desk. Then the intercom buzzes. “You’re welcome, Mr. Hopkins.”

Ellen stifles a laugh as I draw in a slow breath of control.

“Well, then. I’ll check your reference—”

“I checked them,” Amanda says sans intercom.

“You’re fired.”

Amanda stands and slings her purse over her shoulder. “I’ll file for unemployment in the morning.”

“Have a good evening,” I mumble, giving her a look—maybe the look.

“Night, Flint.” She winks.

When the lock clicks, I return my attention to big, blue, unblinking eyes. Even her cheeks, which had been a bit rosy when she arrived, are now void of all color except her freckles.

“I fire her on a daily basis. She has no respect for authority.”

Ellen’s body remains statuesque, eyes shifting in tiny increments searching mine.

I turn and grab the references off the shelf behind me. On the papers in my hands there are a fair amount of good references. There’s really no reason not to rent her the space other than my obsession with crossing more t’s and dotting more i’s than exist on the proverbial paper. Absolute control is my life.

A cautious smile rides up her face. “You’re a hard man to read, Mr. Hopkins.”

A dark read.

“And you’re my newest tenant. Welcome. I’ll need two months’ rent and your signature on these papers.” I slide the rental agreement that Amanda clipped to Ellen’s references across my desk along with a pen.

There’s a certain amount of envy I feel toward her. I can’t remember the last time I smiled like that over anything. And she’s lit up like a night in July over something as insignificant as a second-story space outside of downtown Minneapolis.

“Thank you. You’ve made my day. Heck, you’ve made my week.” She scribbles her name and initials by all the sticky arrows Amanda attached to the agreement, and she writes out a check with music notes on it.

“You’re welcome.” I unlock my side desk drawer and retrieve the keys. “Here are two sets of keys. One is to the building and the other is to your office space. Everything is secured with an alarm system, so I’ll show you how to set your own code for that. From six at night to seven in the morning, the main doors to the building are locked. If you see clients during those hours, you will need to escort them in and out of the building. If you have issues with anything, you first try Amanda and then you call me if she is unavailable.”

“Amanda? The woman you just fired?”

I stand and slip on my suit jacket, buttoning it and adjusting my tie. Ellen holds her smile like she’s waiting for my reaction to her comment. “Yes.” To the point. That’s all she will get from me.

It took Amanda five years to worm her way into my existence to the point where I need her—but only professionally. She could piss in my coffee and I still wouldn’t fire her because she’s the woman behind one of the best attorneys in Minneapolis—me. And the only thing that makes me happier than her anticipating my every move twenty-four hours before I make it is her husband and three children. I am her job. Period.

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