I agreed with a curt nod.

“Good. Now that I’ve distracted you even more from your work today, get out there and make me proud.”

Politely dismissing myself from his office, a large grin crossed my lips. I had started the week off afraid that my little ruse could be discovered at any point…and now, so many opportunities had crossed my path.

I guess maybe I wasn’t just good at faking it. I could do this for real… I couldn’t wait to see what the future would bring.



And for a few hours at least, everything was right in the world.

* * *

The Quarterly Party was at a swanky venue downtown. Cole Andrews had spared no expense in renting the entire upper floor of an in-demand restaurant, complete with half a dozen servers to handle our needs.

Even with a billionaire footing the bill, inevitably a third of the company didn’t show or couldn’t make it to the event, but it was their loss. The servers, however, were visibly relieved that they were serving fewer than fifty guests, as opposed to around seven hundred. Complete with maroon chef’s shirts and long, flowing, ankle-length aprons, they whizzed expertly around and refilled our drinks, took dinner orders, dropped off libations, and remained on call for our every whim.

The party was a little more formal than last time – no karaoke machine or margarita in everyone’s hand. At the same time, the music was kept low from the loft speakers, and we were able to get a little rowdy with our celebrations.

Most of the board members weren’t there, leaving Coppersmith mostly alone as he scowled from the round table near the stage. The older woman from the conference room was at his side, although she looked relatively disinterested in anything he had to say.

Larry, on the other hand, was a lot more popular. He passed between the tables, shaking hands and welcoming people to the celebration – even those well outside his department. I never got to see him interact outside of the Marketing group, so it was pleasing to see how friendly he really was, and how well-liked he was by the entire staff.

He’d make an excellent Director of Marketing, I thought to myself as I glanced over at Coppersmith again. The older man had his eyes angrily on Larry, before turning to gaze furiously at me.

I didn’t have time to consider how much he really knew before Cole Andrews took the stage. We hadn’t made any eye contact, as he’d been preoccupied with the restaurant manager, taking private phone calls, and doing whatever else he did to keep himself out of the spotlight.

“Good evening, everyone,” Cole called out over the crowd, as everyone began to calm down and return to their seats. “I’m happy to have all of you here, and delighted that you would join me in celebrating another four months with Andrews Enterprises…”

He continued on, trying to force an extroverted, friendly grin. It didn’t really work, at least not for me, but the staff was hanging on his every word and eating it all up. He explained some of the changes made since the previous Quarterly Party, how positively the revenue percentages were looking, and called direct attention to a few of his employees for above-and-beyond contributions beyond the scope of their roles. Timothy got a nod for his late hours producing brilliant graphic design, and so did someone in accounting, the international sales rep, and the private chef.

“However, there is also someone else I must call attention to,” he changed direction. “A young woman who has proven herself highly capable in the last few months…”

Oh, for Gods’ sake, please don’t call me up there.

“Kiona Walker, join me for a moment.”

Goddammit.

Nervously, I slipped out of my chair and did my own, private walk of shame between the tables. There was some scattered applause, and I spotted Larry grinning up at me as I passed by. Within a moment, I was standing conspicuously next to Cole Andrews on stage, facing out over the people I worked with on a daily basis.

“Kiona Walker has demonstrated remarkable skill in her role, and the tenacity to stand up to my executive staff when the time is proper,” he continued.

I gritted my teeth uncomfortably; why is everyone still making a big deal out of that?

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