She entered the elevator, turning quickly on her heel, pushing the button to close the doors before anyone could slip in. The desire for solitude had been consuming her since she had stepped out of the car. The reporters waiting outside of the Segal office building had made it very clear that they were not willing to simply stand aside without a statement from the new executive. She had made numerous hand gestures to get the point of 'no' means 'no' across but to no prevail. Pushing and shoving didn't even seem to phase them. Her only escape was the welcoming open doors of the elevator and she'd be damned if they'd take that away from her.
"Ms. Braden, you have to talk to us!"
"No, I don't."
After the doors shut, Dana Braden hit the button for the 41st floor and breathed a sigh of relief as she welcomed the silence. She couldn't believe what people would do for a story! The brunette glanced down at her watch and realized she was once again late for work. God, just one thing right after another. Ever since she'd started working here she'd been late every day—the traffic in Rio was terrible, even cab drivers had a hard time getting around. Even if she left an hour early she'd still come running into the office at a quarter after, gasping for breathe and hoping no one noticed. Oh well, it's good to be the boss.
She smiled at the thought. Never had she dreamed Adele would actually give her the position; Dana knew it had surprised her best friend greatly when she asked for it. Naturally, Adele had laughed at her but knew at a glance that it wasn't a joke. The blonde instantly put up a fight, saying she needed the marine biologist at the station for all the hands-on research that still needed to be done. Dana's solemn face made her stop and realize the isolation of the remote station was getting to her friend. Seeing nothing but ocean 24/7 can do that to a person. They talked it out like only two life long companions could and came to the solution that Dana would take over the land aspect of the operation and Del would keep the station in order. Of course there would be routine visits to Rio for paperwork with the rest of the crew, but the 41st floor belonged to Dana. Well, when Del was gone anyway. After all, the entire project was her baby. This allowed Dana to still be part of the it but with the ability to roam, and it kept Del's best friend from moving back to Miami.
Dana snapped back to reality and noticed herself in the reflection of the mirrored doors. She tilted her head to one side looking herself up and down, turning to one side and then the other. He shiny, loose curls cascaded over her shoulders as she measured herself through her sable eyes. Not bad…could be better. At 5'9", her slim athletic figure was the embodiment of her 'push hard for everything because nothing is good enough' mentality. But for once in her life she seemed content in where she was. She couldn't name another twenty-seven year old who was a top CEO, in Rio or back home. Her credentials made her the premier marine biologist in the field, causing her to be quite the wanted girl. She adjusted her sleek black Gucci suit in the mirror running her hands down her sides eliminating every crease. She picked up her briefcase and starred straight into the eyes of the reflection. I'm content…for now.
The doors opened and Dana stepped out gazing around with absolute pride. This was her floor, her home away from home. She looked from office to office, seeing every desk occupied and people working diligently. They've probably been working hard since they got here…which was most likely on time. With that realization she bolted for the desk adjacent to her office and grabbed the pile of new mail, hoping not to have been seen.
"No one noticed."
Dana spun around in surprise, dropping everything, to see her most dependable employee. "God Ginger, you scared me to death!" she said with a smile and a sigh of relief. "Jesus, don't do that!" She picked up the mess of envelopes along with her briefcase and flipped through the stack as she walked into her office. The plump, rosy-cheeked assistant followed her into the lavish corner office with a picturesque view of downtown Rio and closed the double doors. "What's new today? Nothing too much, I hope," Dana asked as she slid into her desk chair.
"A Mr. Dugas called about setting up an interview for the Rio O Globo but I told him you were extremely busy with saving the many, many helpless endangered animals that Utopia Planitia deals with," the woman said as she waved her hands nonchalantly, gazing at her notes.
"Naturally," agreed Dana without looking up.
"Also, Sofia from accounting needed you to go over some numbers with her just to double check before she sends them out," she said while filing her nails. "Besides the usual calls from Greenpeace and PETA complaining about God knows what, things are normal."
"Yeah normal, when is that ever the case?" she said as she rolled her eyes. "Anyway, thank you Ginger. What would I do without you?"
The middle aged woman grinned with delight. "Probably end up with a second-rate secretary named Honey who could only smile and blow bubbles with the enormously large chunk of gum in her mouth, annoying you to death with her slow typing and ill wit." She giggled at her own humor as she began to fluff her short blonde curls.
"I'm picking up on some bitter feelings. Are we talking about one of your beauty pageant advisories from back in the day?"
"Of course! That dumb whore thought she had it all. But I'll tell you, she only had one way of making money and that was standing on a corner!" Dana had to bite her lip to stop from bursting out loud with laughter. God, Ginger might be up in years but she still has some fire in her. All she could do was shake her head in disbelief at the woman in front of her. "What? Hey, it's one thing to be beautiful but to have the gift of brains too is quite another. You should know a lot about that." She perked up her eyebrows and gave the brunette a look saying 'you know what I'm talking about, so why aren't you using them'. "Look," she started as she leaned across the desk and placed her hands on Dana's. "Sugar, when was the last time you went on a date? Because I know this great guy from…"
Waving her hands in protest, Dana interrupted before things went too far. "Nope, I don't want to talk about this. Bad subject, Ginger." Her fingers moved to her temples as she tried to massage the growing migraine away. Sighing, she changed the subject. "You flatter me too much, you know that? Honestly, what if it goes to my head?"
"Honey, us pretty people have to stick together," she giggled as she stood up ready to return to her desk in defeat when she stopped. "There is one more thing I completely forgot about. Forgive my dying memory but Ms. Benez wanted to see you as soon as you got in. It seemed urgent."
"Adele's here? I thought she was coming in this afternoon? What time did she arrive?" Dana's confusion quickly changed to worry.
"At nine o'clock…just like you," Ginger recited with a smile saying 'play along'. "I told her about the important calls you just had to make and that you would be with her as soon as possible."
"But I didn't have any important calls to make." The older woman simply starred at her until finally the executive came to her senses. "Oh…God, I'm dense. Thanks for covering for me, again…and again and again. You know what, I'm thinking there's going to be a bonus for you in this week's paycheck to actually show my appreciation."
"Now, now, that's not…" Dana silenced her by rising from her leather chair.
"Listen, you're like my mother, always taking care of me." She came face to face with Ginger and took her hands. "At my age you would think I wouldn't need it but look at me…I'd be lost without you." She smiled as she kissed her assistant on the cheek as a loving daughter would. "Besides, you know Hector would love a home-cooked meal." She grinned as she hurried out of the office.
"Oh, you are terrible. You know I'm trying to learn how to cook," Ginger yelled after her. When she realized Dana wasn't going to respond she gave her permed hair one last fluff before returning to her desk to finish painting her nails.
"Okay, what is so urgent that I had to take time away from my own shit?" Dana walked through the open door to an office slightly bigger than hers, but with the same breathtaking view of Rio de Janeiro. The furniture was also different. While she had opted for the casual white leather, Adele had gone for a splash of color. Dark blue was the tone of the leather couches and chairs that filled her office, which were complimented nicely by the light turquoise color of the walls. She had wanted the feel of the ocean in her office to ease the torture of being on land. Artifacts kept as souvenirs from trips, were scattered among the room creating a contrast in color, a suggestion made by Dana, the true interior designer. The space was truly a vibrant piece of work just like the woman who inhabited it.
Dana looked at her friend who was still reading through the files on her desk, unfazed by her boisterous entrance. Her blonde hair was in a loose bun with stray tendrils caressing her neck and cheeks. Her burgundy cardigan clashed with the walls, making Dana's eye dart right to her. She continued into the office and placed herself into one of the comfy leather chairs across from the blonde with a loud sigh. "Hello? Is anyone home?"
Adele stopped reading and met Dana's sable eyes with her own lavender ones. "You sound like a third-grader sweetie, you really shouldn't say that." Adele laughed as she saw Dana's visage change from confusion to annoyance. "Just kidding, God, calm down!" She leaned back in her chair as she waited for the glare in her friend's eyes to disappear. "Okay, now that you've finished pouting, the reason I wanted to talk to you is because I hired two new employees." With that she slid the files she had previously been reading across the platinum desk. As Dana snatched them up and began skimming, she continued, "They're both computer guru's, one from MIT and the other from a college here in Brazil. Anyway, I figured that Easy can't handle everything—he's a good man, but not that good—so they'll take care of what needs done to the systems and programs here in Rio when we become fully operational within the next week." She tilted her head as her gaze switched from the outside view to her colleague. "Any thoughts?"
"No, not really," Dana said shortly as she closed the files and tossed them on the desk. "I just want to know why you went over my head on this? I mean, I was under the impression we were partners?"
"Yeah that's true, but who's the boss?" Adele tone was anything but condescending. They were friends and partners but as the head of the company she had to make certain decisions on her own.
"Yeah, yeah, I know you are, but I have to work with these people everyday, Del, and I realize sometimes that I'm not that easy to work with and I just don't want problems," Dana whined.
"Sometimes? Dana, be honest. All we'd have to do is ask Carter how easy it is to work with you." The brunette instantly rose from her seat in protest. "But, now of course you two are buddies, chums, chaps, whatever. You just had a rough start that's all. It's not something that happens everyday," she said as her eyes followed Dana as she paced the room.
"You know I still feel terrible for that misunderstanding. I should have listened to him and believed him when he said he didn't do it. But you know me, heinous bitch to the core," she recited with a frown. As she fell into one of the far couches she continued, "Look, I just don't want things to get ugly."
"Don't worry, you won't be overbearing like usual, everyone will be doing his or her own thing. It'll be fine, I swear. Besides that heinous bitch you're referring to isn't all that bad. It's entertaining actually." The blonde left her chair to join her friend on the couch. "Look, I love you because of those rare qualities you have and that's why we're best friends. We're not pushovers, we're strong sexy women," she said with a reassuring nod. "They're supposed to be the best, not to mention the guy is hot. The picture in the file doesn't lie…and I'm sure he's your type." Dana's raised eyebrows were an obvious no. "Fine, be that way. Anyway, if things do go haywire, just fire them, you have my blessing. Just give it a try, okay?"
"Fine." The surrender was obvious in Dana's voice.
"Good, I'm glad you see it my way. Now, get out of my office, I have work to do and as Ginger put it, so do you."
He slammed the stuffed briefcase on the desk with a loud thud. Luis Fitzgerald quickly looked around to make sure the noise hadn't disturbed anyone, loosened his tie for comfort, and slipped into his nice new leather chair for a test run. He leaned back, put his feet up and placed his hands behind his head.
"This is the life," he said smiling as he closed his eyes.
"Sure is." An attractive redhead extended her hand to the surprised Brazilian. He came out of shock just enough to make a decent shake out of his position. "Hi, I'm Charlotte Kohl."
"Luis Fitzgerald, nice to meet you."
"Yeah, you too," she said as she slipped off her overcoat revealing a lithe form underneath, covered in a white sleeveless dress. Charlotte slid into her own desk chair and relaxed. "So, are you the other computer geek?"
"You could say that," the dark haired man said with a grin. God, she's hot. I wonder what she looks like without the dress? Before he could picture the redhead minus her clothing he noticed a familiar blonde approaching.
"So how are you guys settling in? Good I hope." Adele had given them enough time for introductions and to look around before she would give them the official tour of the place.
"Oh yeah, this is great."
"Couldn't be better."
"Well, I'm glad you like it here. I just thought I'd come by and give you both a quick tour of the office and then update you on the situation with the computers. Sound good?" With the answer of two identical nods she continued. "Okay then, let's get to it."
The next hour was dedicated to familiarizing the two with the surroundings and the people. Del showed them the kitchen, lounge, and other offices of important executives. The trio stopped at every desk for introductions and a brief chat before moving on. When every corner of the floor had been covered except one Adele stopped and turned to her two followers. Amused, she cleared her throat in an attempt to draw the Brazilian's attention to her face instead of her ass.
"Okay, there are two people you have yet to meet. One will be welcoming and warm and you'll just love her. Hell, she'll probably hit on you Luis," she said with a laugh, "but the other might…well, be a little colder. It all depends really, so just smile and be natural. Oh and don't try to flatter her, it'll just piss her off." She gave them a reassuring smile. "Here goes."
As she rounded the corner, Del spotted the assistant sitting at her desk typing. "Ginger, you look marvelous today, did I tell you that earlier? Well, you do! Anyway I just wanted you and Dana to meet our two newest employees who are going to be taking over the computers." Her left hand helped make the introductions as she continued, "This is Charlotte Kohl, she's from the states. And this is Luis Fitzgerald, obviously a local." Luis greeted the wide-eyed assistant with a smile but Charlotte stopped after hello when she realized Ginger wasn't even paying attention; she was far too busy taking in every bit of the muscular Brazilian.
Between her giggles, Ginger gushed, "What's a nice boy like you working in a boring old office like this for? I'm sure you'd have much more fun out on the beach or something with a little more air." Her hand began to climb his arm measuring the bulge of his biceps when Adele cut in.
"Ginger are you trying to lose me my best finds?" she said as she slapped away the assistant's roaming hand. "Now, you still have to meet the boss you'll be dealing with much more frequently than me. Dana's in her office, right?" Ginger gave a disappointing nod as the handsome man moved out of her reach. "Good, let's go." Adele knocked on the door and when she heard Dana yell to come in she proceeded to guide Charlotte and Luis into the lion's den.