At Her Boss's Bidding

By: Miranda Lee

Justin had confided to her during her first interview that this suite of rooms had previously been occupied by an AWI superannuation-fund manager who’d redecorated as if he owned the company, and been subsequently sacked. No expense had been spared, from the plush sable carpet to the sleekly modern beech office furniture, the Italian cream leather sofas and the impressionistic art originals on the walls.

Clearly, Justin being allotted this five-star suite of rooms showed how much his skills were valued by his temporary employers.

Rachel valued him as her boss, too. She admired his strong work ethics and his lack of personal arrogance. Most men with his looks and intelligence possessed egos to match. Justin didn’t. Not that he was perfect, by any means. He did have his difficult and demanding moments. And some days his mood left a lot to be desired.

Still, Rachel already knew she’d like nothing better than to go with him when he left to set up his own company. He’d already implied she could, if she wanted to. He seemed as pleased with her as she was with him.

A shaft of sunshine lit up Rachel’s red hair again as she pushed her way into the building’s foyer through the revolving glass doors. The top of her head fairly glowed in the glass and she groaned again. She would definitely be going out at lunch time and buying that brown dye. Meanwhile, she would explain to Justin the reason behind her change of hair colour, and that it was as good as gone. Then he couldn’t jump to any wrong conclusions.

No one gave Rachel a second glance during the lift ride up to the fifteenth floor, which was because none of the smartly dressed men and women in the lift even knew her. Few people who worked in the building knew her. Justin worked alone, with only the occasional fund manager actually dropping in for advice, face to face. Mostly they contacted Justin by phone or email, and vice versa.

So far, he hadn’t held a single meeting around the boardroom-like table in his meeting room, and only once to her knowledge had he entertained an AWI executive in the other room. Sometimes, he had a nap in there on one of the two sofas after he’d been working all night. He did attend monthly meetings upstairs with all the fund managers, but he never attended the company’s social functions, and he resolutely refused to become involved in AWI’s internal politics.

The truth was her boss was a loner.

Which suited Rachel just fine.

She’d found that since her lengthy stay-at-home absence from the workforce—and the outside world in general—she’d become a bit agoraphobic. She liked the insular security of her present office situation, plus the little contact with strangers which her working day held. She no longer seemed to have the confidence she’d once had to make small talk with lots of people. She’d actually become quite shy, except with her very close friends, like Isabel and Rafe, which wasn’t like her at all. She’d once had a very outgoing personality.

Isabel kept saying she’d get back to her old self eventually.

But Rachel was beginning to doubt it. Her experiences over the last few years had definitely changed her. She’d become introverted. And serious. And, yes, plain.

That was one of the biggest changes in her, of course. She’d lost her looks. And dying her hair red wasn’t going to get them back. All it made her feel was foolish.

The lift doors opened and Rachel bolted down the corridor, hopeful of still arriving before Justin. He worked out in the company gym every day before work, and occasionally lost track of time. Hence his tardy arrival at the office on the odd morning.

The door from the corridor was still locked, heralding that this was one of those mornings. Rachel sighed with relief as she found her key, already planning in her mind to be sitting at her desk, looking coolly composed and beavering away on her computer when Justin finally came in.

She was doing just that when the door burst open fifteen minutes later. Her heart did jump, but not for any sexually charged reason, as Isabel had fantasised the other night, just instant agitation. What would her boss say when he saw her hair?

Justin strode in, looking his usual attractive but conservative self in a navy pinstriped suit, white shirt and bland blue tie. His damp dark hair was slicked back at the sides, indicating that he’d not long showered. He had the morning papers tucked under one arm and was carrying his black briefcase in the other. He was frowning, though not at her, his deeply set blue eyes quite distracted, his thick dark brows drawn together over his strong, straight nose in an attitude of worried concentration.

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