Chapter Two: Office Politics and Red Wine
Smooth Genevieve, very smooth. Unable to come up with any plausible reason – amnesia, schizophrenia, and an identical twin had all crossed her mind – Genevieve simply stood there, mouth gaping, cheeks flushed, and wishing the floor really would gape open and swallow her whole. Lucas kept smiling his infuriating smirk.
'At least you managed not to smear your make-up today,' he drawled. 'After all, my assistant is a reflection of me.'
'You had absolutely NO right to take a photo of me with your phone without asking. That's a complete breach of privacy! What are you, some kind of pervert?' Genevieve's cheeks were still a rosy shade of pink, but this time, from anger, as she recalled the incident. Forgetting her previous embarrassment, Genevieve marched up to Lucas with unusual tenacity, and tried to yank the cell phone from his hands.
Lucas was too quick. Expecting to press the 'delete' button, Genevieve instead found herself standing in uncomfortably close proximity to him, her fingers held captive in his hands. They were surprisingly warm, Genevieve observed. For a fleeting instant, she felt protected, comforted, wanted. Averting his gaze, she fled the room.
Genevieve replayed the above scene in her head and cringed. Now safe in the confines of her office, she flopped onto her chair and breathed a deep sigh. From her window, she could see the familiar skyscraper horizon, and the sun streamed through the cloudy grey haze, casting a shadow on the throngs of businessmen, shoppers and tourists below. Genevieve thought of the hawker stalls, the vendors promoting their cheap, oily but oh-so-delicious food wares and decided she needed some comfort food to lift her spirits. What just occurred was not the impression she wanted to make on the potential future boss and she was intent on making amends.
On the contrary, Lucas had found the exchange all too quaint, and amusement lingered on his perfect lips. He was exceedingly handsome; his sculpted face framed with a head of dark hair arranged in carefully casual disarray. His shirt moulded to his torso, accentuating the lean muscle beneath the layer of fabric. Indeed, it was a tribute to his face that one could keep their eyes away from his well-toned body. Most captivating were his eyes. They were impenetrable, mysterious, and simmered with unspoken meaning. It was little wonder that the office interns and administrative assistants had been tripping over themselves to bring him cups of coffee all afternoon.
'Don't forget the Messinger meeting tonight,' Daphne reminded Genevieve as she walked back into her office. Genevieve's heartbeat accelerated just slightly. This was the make-or-break deal of the month, and she had been luckily enough to have been assigned to it from the beginning. Although, if truth be told, she had played a major part in the background research and speculation behind the proposed merger between the two pharmaceutical companies – Messinger Pty Ltd and Novital Drugs Ltd. If it had not been for her acute intuition and diligent research, Messinger would never have discovered that Novital was close to insolvency and were eager to sell out. Knowledge certainly equated to power in this line of work. It meant Messinger had more leverage, more bargaining power, and could thus bully Novital into accepting a lower bid than their reserve. It also helped that Mr. Messinger had personally requested Genevieve to be part of the financial task-force since she was 'such a healthy lookin' piece of ass'.
The cocktail function was being held at the Shangri-La, and the office was abuzz with the pending euphoria of another done deal. It was almost a good thing that ALP Dyson expected employees to live for their work. There was no need for Genevieve to go home first. The ladies' powder room was well-stocked with Crabtree & Evelyn products, and was equipped with showers and change rooms. Not to mention the 'rest station' which had all the essentials: an espresso machine, an everlasting cookie jar and even some bunks tucked discreetly in the corner for those 20min power naps to keep one pumped for all-nighters. Genevieve opened her makeshift 'wardrobe', a renovated cupboard equipped with its own mirror and fold-out ironing board and pulled out a simple black dress kept for such occasions. Closing the blinds of her office windows, she deftly slipped out of her suit and into cocktail attire, complete with some understated Hugo Boss heels. She gave her hair a quick brush, applied some red lipstick and grabbed her Messinger client file before hailing a cab.
By the time she arrived, the adrenaline rush was starting to hit her. She was partly nervous, and could not eat any of the sushi or mini quiches being paraded around by the wait staff. Instead, she downed a flute of champagne. There was nothing like a quick shot of alcohol to the system to calm trembling hands and ease her into small talk.
'Hey, easy there tiger,' Lucas placed his hand over Genevieve's to prevent her from reaching for another drink.
'I need my assistant relatively sober if we're going to clinch this contract tonight,' he smiled at her, eyes twinkling as if he had some great secret to tell her.
'What makes you think I can't handle it? I've got this. I've been researching this deal for weeks and it's under control thank you very much,' she replied, more snappily that she would have liked. So much for cool, calm and collected. She gasped suddenly as she recognised a face in the crowd.
'What is Mr. Neilson doing here? And w-why is he talking to the CEO of Novital?' she blurted out.
'That's exactly what I wanted to speak to you about. I think there's a rival bidder for Novital that might screw up our merger plans. Now here is my suggestion. Since you are such an adept actress, why don't you hang around the Neilson party tonight and see what you can find out. So…' he paused for dramatic effect, 'there's no reason why you can't just pretend you don't understand English. Unless of course you want to use some of your other powers of persuasion…' She inhaled angrily upon realising his connotation.
'Why can't you implement your brilliant plan yourself?' she asked coolly.
'Well, for one thing, Mr. Andrew Neilson and I are acquainted so I don't think I would have much success figuring out his game plan since I am supposedly the enemy. And for another, I do believe you still owe me for that little car accident the other night,' Lucas replied, and even had the audacity to wink at her.
At the mention of this, Genevieve felt an inkling of guilt. It was a rather nice car. And, she had kind of tried to weasel her way out of an insurance claim using what she had thought was sheer cleverness, but in the harsh clarity of hindsight, now seemed more to be an idiotic lapse of judgment. She was a professional after all. Glaring at Lucas who was now chatting animatedly to some long-legged members of his fan club, she reached out for a glass of red wine and meandered towards Neilson and his buddies.
Before she could overhear anything of relevance, the unthinkable happened. Genevieve was horrified. Her hand still held the glass. But the wine was all over Mr. Neilson's now not-so-crisp white shirt.
'Oh my goodness, I am so sorry!' Genevieve yelped, an octave too high. It did nothing for her embarrassment that Lucas looked over with an excruciatingly self-righteous smirk. Apart from the murmurs of disapproval circling the room, it didn't seem Mr. Neilson was too much affected. In fact, Genevieve recognised the gleam in his eyes.
'Honey, if you wanted me to take off this shirt, all you had to do was ask nicely,' he slurred suggestively.
There goes Plan A and the no-English gag. So, Genevieve improvised. She gave her best girly giggle and twirled the dark tendrils of her hair around her fingers enticingly. It was going to be a painful night.
After what felt like the twentieth round of drinks, Genevieve stumbled back over to what she hoped was Lucas' back and tapped his shoulder.
'Offer: 20.8 million,' she whispered, before collapsing in his arms.
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