Chapter 1 – Esme
“Yes, Mr. Jones, right away. I’m coming. I’m just…” Oh God, why won’t he let me get a word in edge ways?
He’s always like this, always stressed, always yelling, and as his personal assistant, I get the brunt of it all. My job is simply to manage his diary and to filter out calls that he doesn’t want to take. I can’t be responsible when clients aren’t happy, when the production team don’t get things out on time, or when he loses money… yet it’s always me.
No wonder my eyes are always consumed with bags and there’s a permanent ball of stress on my shoulders. I would love nothing more than to tell Mr. Jones where to stick his job, but I don’t know where else I would go. I don’t know what else I can do but be the PA to the awful Mr. Jones. It’s all that I have done since high school and now I am twenty-four-years-old. I think I might have pigeon holed myself in to this job. No way out.
I can’t afford the transition period in between jobs anyway. I live pay check to pay check and transition time is always when there’s no money coming in. I can’t make that happen. I just can’t.
So, I stand by my front door and slide my eyes closed. I let the man take his latest rant about money out on me, trying to block out the intense pain that it causes. This isn’t personal, even if it feels it sometimes. The last thing that I need to do is cry. But even if I can feel hot tears burning and blurring behind my retinas, I can’t let them fall…
And then he’s gone. He’s hung up the phone, cutting me off before I can respond. Of course he has. Why would he stick around to listen to me? Nothing that I can say is worthwhile. Wonderful, what a great start to my Monday morning. I should have known the moment that I slept through my alarm, it wouldn’t go well.
I step outside in to the beaming, bright sun slight, allowing it to wash over me for the few seconds before I step in to my car. Once I drive to work and head in the office, there will be no more day light for me. Not a chance of getting warm because no matter what time of year it is, it’s always dark before I’m home again. I have to take a moment.
Oh! But a sound distracts me from my moment of solitude. A noise by the house next door which has been empty for a very long time. I don’t even know what happened to the last person living there, he just sort of vanished. Not that I make it a habit to get to know the people living near me. A cursory hello is okay, but that’s it. I much prefer to keep to myself because my work is so all consuming. I don’t have time for friendly coffee with the neighbors.
“Ah, hello.” A muscle man smiles at me, showing me gorgeous looking dimples as he smiles. His green eyes sparkle and his black hair shines in the sun. But it isn’t that which captivates me the most. It’s the fire fighter uniform in his hands, a genuine one, not a stripper type. He’s a man in uniform which makes me feel weak at the knees. I didn’t even know it was a fantasy of mine until this very minute when it’s staring me in the face. “My name is Theo Landon. I’m just moving in the house next door. You must be my neighbor. The woman who I will be running to in a crisis when I have run out of sugar and milk, that sort of thing. Nice to meet you.”
He smiles and extends out his hand to me in a warm welcome, but all I can think about is the pounding of my heart and the sheer ice cold terror that now I will always have to be in form. Dressed and with nice make up on, hair always brushed, just in case this hunk does turn up for something. No more sweat pants days for me…
“E… Esme Smith,” I stammer like an idiot as I take his hand. His warm giant lifesaving hand which sends a shiver of excitement racing down my spine. “My name is Esme and erm, yes, nice to meet you as well.”
Well, as first impressions go, that sure as shit was a crappy one. I can see him staring at me curiously as my cheeks heat up. I don’t know what shade of red I must be by now, but it’s utterly humiliating to the core. Still, our eyes seem to be locked in together. I can’t stop looking at him, however hard I try. I really want to drag my eyes away, to shatter the magic of this moment before it swallows me up whole and I find myself a puddle at his feet, but I can’t.