Home > The New Boss

The New Boss
Author: Penny Wylder








I close my eyes and try to remember the lines. I’ve never been someone who can recite lines in my head, so I have to whisper them under my breath—something that’s easier said than done on a bus in the middle of L.A.

People surround me on every side. I think I’m touching three or four different people right now, but instead of dwelling on that, I close my eyes and breathe and pretend I’m on a stage surrounded by darkness. I channel the feeling of the south and imagine sweltering humidity and the sound of cicadas.

“Three young gals in a little bitty ol’ town in Louisiana…Harry swore to me the names alone made this Pulitzer Prize material.”

The words flow smoothly from my lips, the monologue cemented in my mind now. That’s how I know I’m truly in love with a character—her words just stick in my mind. And Kate from The Cover of Life is someone that I want to play with my whole entire being.

The audition isn’t until the end of the week, so I have some time, but I’m preparing night and day because I want to nail it. Theater roles like this don’t come along very often, especially when it seems like everyone in L.A. is aiming for movies and TV.

I had my fair share of those auditions, but I’m just not what they’re looking for. I’m a little too curvy for camera work, and I’m too young to be cast in maternal roles where the extra curves are okay.

So, I look for theater auditions that fit my type and go for them with gusto. Not that it’s worked so far.

This one would be different. I promised myself that when I saw the audition listing and read the play and fell in love with it. This one would be different. I would show up and be so perfect for the role that they couldn’t help but cast me.

After all, I’m from the south, so I’ve got that lilt down perfectly.

Breathing out, I recite the monologue again. And then I say it a third time. I keep my eyes closed. People sometimes stare like they think I’m crazy, but they know I’m not. I’m hardly the first person to practice lines on a city bus.

This is Los Angeles. You can’t throw a rock here without hitting an actor.

Opening my eyes, I glance out the window. Oh…oh no. I missed my stop. I’m at least three stops past the tall, shiny building where I’m starting my new survival job today. Shit. Shit.

I signal to stop, and force myself to standing before fighting my way through the crowd of people to the bus exit. As soon as it stops, I’m sprinting into the free air, and it feels like surfacing from underwater after being in such close quarters with so many people.

The view in front of me stops me in my tracks. Tall buildings that nearly block out the sky. People on people on people walking. I don’t think that I’ll ever get used to this. Georgia was just…so different.

I haven’t been here that long compared to some people—like my roommate—but I love the vibe of the city. I like that it’s bustling with life, and no matter where you go, there are people doing what they love. The change of pace is massive, and it’s something that I’ve always wanted.

But I force down the thoughts of awe and happiness because I’m going to be late for this job. Not exactly a great look on my first day. And of course, I’m trying to make a good impression, so I’m wearing a skirt and heels.

Terrible clothes for when you have to rush down L.A. sidewalks and hope that you can make it without falling into traffic.

Why is it when you’re in a hurry it feels like you’re moving through an obstacle course in molasses? I miss every light and have to wait at every corner. Plus, the city feels like it’s full of wide-eyed tourists who are walking in slow motion. Honestly, people. It’s not that hard to move to the side so you can look at your map or take your picture without making people go around you.

It should be fine, right? I’m just a secretary. I’ll be running a calendar and getting coffee, probably. So low on the totem pole that they might not even notice that I’m a few minutes late on my first day. Besides, these high-powered people never get to the office before the peons like me. They’re probably still relaxing in bed in their gorgeous penthouses, drinking Italian espresso and imagining all the money that they’re going to make today. And then they’ll breeze into the office around lunch and do a few things before sweeping off to a glamorous party in the evening.

There. I see the giant glass monstrosity that is my new workplace a couple of blocks away. When I answered the ad for the secretary and came in to interview with HR, I’d been so intimidated that I could barely breathe. If I’m being honest, I barely remember the interview.

It made me more nervous than any audition that I’ve ever been on. Pretending to be someone else? Easy. Selling myself? Hell no.

I’m breathing hard by the time I stumble into the plaza. My feet are already aching in these heels, and I know that I’m going to regret wearing them by the end of the day.

It’s still early enough that there’s a ton of people streaming into the building, but I am officially late. I need to get my badge from security and meet my HR contact at the office so I can get oriented. Then I actually have to meet my new boss. Malcolm Meyer. It’s such a Hollywood name. Like an old-time movie star.

I just hope he’ll be okay with me being late. Maybe I can explain.

“Look out!” A voice calls from my right, and a younger guy in a suit comes barreling toward me from the front doors. He’s carrying way too much coffee and looks like he’s in a state of panic, and in the two seconds that it takes me to think that, he’s almost running into me.

I dive out of the way—and directly into someone else. Instead of falling with me, it feels like I slam into a brick wall. And in these heels, there’s absolutely no chance that I stay upright.

It’s the kind of fall where you’re on the ground before you even realize that you’re falling, and you don’t entirely remember how you got there. All I know is that I’m now on my back staring up at the vaulted ceiling of this lobby, and that there are people looking at me.

Coffee guy is long gone.

That’s definitely not him looking down at me.

The man that’s looking down at me right now is…a god.

I blink. No. That can’t be possible. But that’s the only word that my brain is supplying right now. Because he’s the hottest fucking man that I’ve ever seen in my life.

Even from the way he’s crouching down over me, I can see that his suit is expensive and tailored within an inch of its life. That tailoring shows me a powerful body that’s barely contained by those clothes. He’d look more at home in out-door gear. Or a Roman legionnaire costume.

But it’s his eyes that strike me. An icy, pale blue that sends a shock through me. The good kind of shock. Followed by the shock of a jaw that could cut diamonds and a head of dark hair that I instantly want to run my fingers through.

This man looks like he could be the lead in a film. And I know, I’ve seen enough of them.

“Are you okay?”

I blink. I’ve been staring at him without moving, and now there’s a little crowd gathering around us. “I think so,” I say. “That was just a little unexpected.”

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