Getting caught reading Fifty Shades of Grey in the parking lot at work wasn't the best way to meet her boss. A boss she didn't know she had. A boss who now had the job she had been waiting to apply for (and win) for the past year.
So Lydia Charles was having a very bad day. And it was only 7:32 a.m.Tap tap tap. She looked up, startled, to find a pair of bright green eyes, shaded by his hand, peering in her the window of her little red Honda Fit. He caught the book cover and smirked. Oh, screw off, she thought, shoving her car key in the ignition and turning it on so she could roll down the window. As if it weren't bad enough being caught reading Mommy Porn (and she wasn't even a mom), her last fifteen minutes of freedom before enslavement as a corporate drone were being bothered by some anonymous guy.Dark brown hair with a nice wave to it and those crazy-green eyes. Roman nose. Broad shoulders set off by one hand on his forehead, one on his hip, making his forearms pop a bit, the muscles from neck to shoulder joint stretching like an athlete's. It was like looking at one of those guys on television, an actor in a television show who you watch not for the plot, but for the eye candy with a spark of smarts and wit. If he told her he was a firefighter or a detective, she'd believe him. He had the look of a man who takes care of himself because he has to in order to function well at his hands-on job.He works out, she surmised as the window scrolled down. Boring business casual uniform of Dockers and a button down shirt. Couldn't see his shoes but she guessed something from Lands' End.Middle management.Which was one step above her. Gritting her teeth, she wondered what this was about.“Hi. Could you please move your car?” A deep baritone voice was way too much authority gripped her gut, an internal reaction out of proportion to his request. That voice. He sounded like a ship's captain, or a commander in combat. Or the shift leader at Denny's from college, the asshole who thought that he was competing in the restaurant Olympics for every shift and expected the moon for $2.31 plus tips.And yet she couldn't help but begin to react, the breathless “Yes” nearly popping out involuntarily. Holding back, she wasn't even breathing for fear she would comply like some sort of skittish puppy, acting in deference to the incredibly unfounded request. Command, Demand? Who orders someone out of their parking spot? He smiled, the tight look of a man evaluating what to say next as seconds ticked by and she did nothing but stare at him.Say something, Lydia. Say something. Anything. Don't let him undermine your confidence. Why does he need your parking spot?“Why?” she asked, carefully cultivating a neutral tone, one of reasonableness without too much inquiry, as if she didn't give a fuck what he wanted but would be polite about it. She invoked a midwestern tone, casually acquired from watching plenty of national shows, the voice of newscasters and documentary voice overs for sexual harassment and government contract reporting requirements videos. Perfect.“Because it's mine.” He threw a thumb toward the top of the skyscraper. “Head office assigned it to me.”Not the reaction she expected. She could guess his next move, predictable among these middle-management types, like a real-life version of Gary Cole's character in Office Space. Next, he would lean on the car and do that douchey “Yeah, well, I really need you to...” spiel.Lydia was having none of it. She might be just an administrative assistant, the corporate equivalent of a dishwasher or a toll taker, but two years of this was enough. A master's degree in Gender Studies might be useless in the workplace, but here in the parking lot it meant everything. Backing down wasn't happening. He had no right to order her around and, by God, she wasn't going to let some stranger waltz into the parking lot before she'd seen had her morning coffee and kick her out of her damn place.“Why would the head office give you my parking spot? They're numbered.” She pointed to the sign defiantly. His face remained neutral.Instead of leaning on the car, he reached one golden arm in and aimed for her right hand. Of course he was perfectly, evenly tanned. Of course. “I'm Matt Jones. The new Director of Social Media. And this is my numbered spot.”Director of Social Media? “But, but, what? There is no Director of Social Media job here. Not yet, at least. They're announcing it soon, and – ”He cut her off with that same commanding tone. “It's been filled. By me. And parking,” he shook his head and looked around with an expression of exasperation, “is a ridiculous problem here, so while I respect your need to stay and, uh, read, I need this spot.” Leaning forward, his eyes twinkled as he smiled, trying to charm her, his voice shifting from commanding to smooth.It was working. The scent of his aftershave filled the car's interior. Musk and man and something with spice, an expensive scent that was far too sophisticated for a guy who was one parking spot ahead of her in the food chain at Stohlman Industries. He held her gaze for too long, letting silence hang between them.He was what her friend Krista called a “playah.”And oh, how Lydia wanted to be played. She hated herself for it, but right now Mr. Director of Social Media, a guy who had, apparently, just gotten the job she had spent the better part of two years trying to prepare for, was stealing her parking spot, too.All he needed to do next was piss on her skirt and he could achieve the trifecta of humiliation.And a part of her liked it.“You are telling me that HR gave you the Director's job and handed off my parking spot?” she squeaked. The voice that came out of her sounded foreign. Tame. Rattled. She brushed a stray lock of her dark brown hair and wished she'd spent more time on her appearance this morning. After a quick yoga session she just showered, threw her hair in a quick up-do, brushed on blush and a little mascara and tossed on her version of administrative business casual: a loose, flowing J. Jill outfit she got off the clearance rack and her ancient Danskins. She looked like a preschool teacher at a posh tot place instead of an ambitious, up-and-coming corporate do-bee vying for the Director of –Ah, hell.He pulled back and smiled, a look of triumph and mischief on his face. “Now you get it. And I didn't even have to buy you a coffee.”“Why would you do that?”“Because you seemed to be a bit slow there, and I figured it might be caffeine deprivation. It is 7:30 a.m., after all.” Half his mouth turned up in a grin as his brow furrowed. “Then again, maybe I interrupted you at the wrong time during your reading.” Biting his upper lip, Mr. Asshole Matt Jones had the balls to hide a laugh. As if she were supposed to be embarrassed reading Fifty Shades. As if she cared what he thought. As if she were Anastasia Steele. As if –“Let me clear a few things up for you, Matt,” she announced. Finally. There she was. The real Lydia, the one who didn't take shit like this. Attagirl. “First of all, I don't care what HR did with the parking situation. I won't take your word for it, because for all I know you're some creepy guy pulling a scam on me and if I get out of my car you'll take me to your dug out hole and lower lotion to me in a bucket, and three months from now you'll mail dehydrated parts of my body to my mother.”She took a deep breath and continued. “Second, if you really are the Director of Social Media, kicking your direct report out of her parking spot when you haven't even started your first day of work shows such extraordinarily terrible business instinct that I suspect you won't be around long enough to qualify for the matching 401k funding through your precious head office.”Eyebrows arched, now he did lean away. And cross his arms. Staring her down? She stared right back, working too hard to control her breath, trying not to let him see how rattled she was. He looked like a young Anderson Cooper. But straight.Oh please let him be straight, she thought, then mentally slapped herself. Where did that come from?He leaned in the window and reached for a strand of her hair. “Sorry, babe. Chianti and fava beans aren't on the menu. And if I were going to turn you into something edible, I wouldn't choose a dehydrator as my electronic item of choice.” His eyes surveyed her body, not with wanton lust or the gaudy need of a complete jerk, but with a practiced eye, taking his time as if he were the king of the world. As if he owned her.
As if he owned his time. And boy did he take it, seeming to document her full breasts, her nipped waist, the soft swells over the waistband of the tight skirt that stretched across her knees in her seat, shoes kicked off and hose covering her pedicured toes.She could feel him note the seam of her panties, like a collector of fine wines, or of horses, as if she were a specimen. The V between her breasts pinkened, her lungs filled with the scent of his skin, as if eager to inhaled his dust, the lines between his eyes, the light freckles on his cheeks, the intelligence in his irises.He was cataloging her. Taking inventory.Until her own, defiant gaze caught his and she realized he wasn't objectifying her. She was letting herself think that, but what this guy, this Matt Jones, this interloper and usurper of jobs, was really doing was appreciating her.And that was way, way more threatening than being demeaned.“See you at the office and don't forget to wash your hands when you're done with that.” He let go of her lock and pointed at the book. Turning on one heel, he sauntered off, his tight ass evoking rage and a swoon in her that nearly made her growl with impotent rage and lust.The day was not going well at all as she stewed in her Red Car of Pain.