Chapter One
Take This Job and Shove It


I love my job. There is no other career that could bring me such infinite joy and fulfillment. Honestly, I don't think there's anything I love more in this world than serving as the office bitch for four overpaid, oversexed, obnoxious insurance agents. There's nothing that could make me feel more important than filing mountains of useless paper into their drawers that never get opened or stapling cheap, generic birthday cards to monthly statements in an effort to "reach out" to their clients. If you couldn't already tell, let me make it clear – my job is one of the few pleasures I have in life. At twenty-three, I believe I may have reached my peak.

At least, that's what I try to convince myself of as I trudge into the office of Charlie Morris, the most successful insurance agent in this place. He doesn't know my name and often calls me Jessica, even though my name is Elizabeth. I don't even bother correcting him anymore. If the man can't learn my name after two years, he doesn't deserve to call me by it. It's become a sort of running joke among my friends – they call me Jessica when they're feeling particularly hilarious. It's no surprise that I'll answer to the name, is it?

"Jess," Morris says, grinning that mega-watt, over-whitened smile at me from behind his huge mahogany desk. "Nice to see you. How's it going today?"

I stare back at him without blinking. I find it incredibly hard to take this man seriously when he can't even learn a – let's admit, fairly common – first name. "Great," I say unconvincingly, well aware that the dull expression on my face contradicts my statement. Because Morris is such an unobservant asshole, though, he doesn't notice.

"Wonderful!" His grin widens even more, if it's possible. I wonder if he takes classes for this kind of thing. It sort of resembles a grimace more than anything else, and judging by the way his cheeks are pushed up into his eyes like that, it's probably a grimace of pain. He opens his desk drawer and digs for something as I sit with my hands in my lap, wondering what the hell he wants. "I need you to do me a favor," he says, looking up at me and waving a piece of paper in the air. "My nephew is coming in from out of state for a few weeks. He's from New York," he says, raising a brow as if I'm supposed to be impressed.

I'm not. "Wonderful!" I mimic him. My sarcasm is overlooked, though, because he rarely actually listens to a word I say. That's how it goes with the other three agents in the office, too. Chris, Ryan and Ben live in a dream world man cave where secretaries are to be seen and not heard – unless they're dressed in short skirts and low cut tops, of course. Then they can speak. Obviously I'm wearing neither and am therefore pretty damn unimportant. I have to admit that I sort of like it that way. I don't want to work a thankless job and be ogled by a bunch of creeps, even if my semi-okay looks probably got me the job in the first place. Hey, I'm not stupid. I saw the way Ben was staring at my cleavage during my interview. He didn't even have the decency to look me in the eye when he hired me. My boobs were pretty ecstatic that they got the job.

Morris nods absentmindedly and shoves the paper in my direction. "Here's his flight information. He gets in at six. I need you to pick him up at the airport and take him to the Hilton."

I stare dumbly at the paper in my hands. Since when did I become a gofer? Didn't they invent cabs for this very purpose? "Mr. Morris, I…"

"He's about your age," Morris continues, oblivious to the fact that I've even opened my mouth. "Name's Andrew. I've already spoken to him and I've told him that you're going to meet him at baggage claim. Here," he says, reaching into another desk drawer and pulling out a lime green t-shirt. He tosses it to me as I try to hide my disgust. "I got you a company shirt. Bright green so no one could miss it! You're going to wear it when you pick Andrew up so he can find you easily. You know how crowded those airports get. Besides, who doesn't love a little free advertising?"

I am completely dumbfounded. The shirt has a hideously large company logo directly across the chest. Not only does this man want me to drive some spoiled rotten nephew of his around the city, but he also wants me to dress as Kermit the frog while I do it. "Mr. Morris, I get off at five and I don't think…"

He nods, cutting me off. "I know. That's why I'm going to pay you. Time and a half." He says this while wiggling his eyebrows as if eighteen dollars an hour for two hours is some ridiculously huge sum of money. "Anyway, like I said, he's expecting you so it only makes sense. I'm sure you don't mind."

The dumb stare is back, the one where my eyes go glassy and I don't blink for minutes at a time. "Actually, I…"

"Great!" Morris slaps a hand on the desk and grins at me. "Thanks so much, Jessica. You're a real lifesaver. I have a business meeting tonight or otherwise I'd pick him up myself." He straightens his tie and then scrubs at his teeth with his finger as he looks into his silver stapler while he speaks.

I scoff. A business meeting, meaning an appointment with Lucy, the massage therapist he's been seeing behind his wife's back. Hey, you work with a bunch of men, you figure out their habits pretty quickly. It's not like they're difficult to decipher and besides, it's not my fault that I've seen Lucy come in for "lunch" and leave with sex hair. I can't say any of this to Morris, though, because as shitty as my job is, I sort of need it. As much as I want to be an asshole about it, I can't. I know I'm not going to get out of this, so I sigh and tuck the shirt under my arm. "Okay then. Anything else?"

He shakes his head before flashing me one more grin. "I knew I could count on you." He winks at me before twirling around in his chair to face his computer so his back is to me, obviously signaling the end of our conversation. I stick my tongue out at him because I know he's not looking and then exit his office, feeling quite mature.

Once I make it back to my desk, I shake the shirt out and stare at it. I know what you're thinking, and no, I have no freakin' clue how I've survived two years in this God forsaken place.


I hate airports. All of those bodies crammed into lines around almost every corner, impatient glares and crying babies and sour moods. Not only am I extremely uncomfortable standing outside of baggage claim in my Day-Glo green shirt, I'm also extremely pissed off because according to the information Morris gave me and the screen in front of me, Nephew Morris should have arrived to said baggage claim thirty minutes ago.

I crumple the paper in between my fingers and head over to the desk where a bored airport employee is doodling stars on a yellow legal pad. "Excuse me," I say tilting my head down in an attempt to make eye contact with her. "Could you tell me if flight 201-"

"Check the board," she says without looking up, snapping her gum between her lips when she's finished speaking.

"I did and it says –"

"Check the board," she repeats, only this time she's much more impatient. She glares up at me from under thick eyelashes and points to the screen I've been staring at for the last thirty minutes. "It's right there."

I roll my eyes. "Thanks so much," I say, practicing my sarcasm. I'm sure it'll come in handy with Morris tomorrow when I tell him what a punctual bundle of joy his nephew was.

I look around the room one last time for a young guy about my age, don't see anyone that looks remotely like that, and flop down in the middle of a bank of uncomfortable plastic chairs. I would complain right now that this is unfair, and that I deserve better – which is all true, by the way – but really, it's my fault. I dropped out of college last year when I realized I had absolutely no idea what I was doing there and haven't been back. It's weird how it's possible to feel trapped and yet have a million different options staring you in the face. College just seems so out of reach to me now. I'm twenty-three, single and paying rent, and I really need a full-time job. I'm well aware that I could take online classes or something on the weekends, but for some reason I don't. I just don't feel like I fit into any one career path. I can't settle on a major and I sure as hell can't decide what I want to do with the rest of my life. Shit, I can barely settle on which skirt to wear in the morning. I know it's my indecisiveness and lack of confidence that leaves me trailing, but I can't shake it.

Someday, I will. At least that's what I tell myself, despite the self-doubt.

I sigh and close my eyes, wallowing in my self-pity for what seems like a split second but is actually closer to ten minutes when someone clears their throat from behind me.

"Nice shirt," the male voice says, a hint of laughter hidden behind the words. I crack my eye open and am face to face with what is no doubt Andrew Morris, who currently has a ridiculously annoying smirk plastered to his ridiculously annoying face. "You Jessica?"

I close my eyes again and pray for patience while exhaling a frustrated breath through my nose. When I'm done, I look at him with the dullest expression I can manage and shrug my shoulders. I don't even bother to correct him. "That's me." As I get a better look at him, I notice that his eyes are slightly glazed over and bloodshot and his shirt is untucked and wrinkled. And said eyes are currently traveling from the top of my head to the tips of my toes in an excruciatingly slow and skeevy manner and making me extremely uncomfortable.

"Uncle Charlie said you were cute," he says, raising a brow. "He forgot to mention that you were stacked, though."

I stare at him, feeling dirty and used and maybe even slightly abused all at the same time. Stacked? Is he serious? "Are you drunk?" I blurt out before I can stop myself.

His smirk grows into a smile and he shrugs his shoulders nonchalantly. "I wouldn't say that, no. Flying first class does have its perks, though," he says, winking at me. "Free alcohol and a pillow. What more could I ask for?"

I roll my eyes. I should have known. He's probably been wandering around the airport for the last forty minutes trying to remember what the hell he was doing here in the first place. A drunk, full-of-himself nephew and an asshole of an uncle belong together, don't they? Of course Charlie Morris wouldn't be related to someone normal or even likeable because that would just be so uncharacteristic of him. I pinch the bridge of my nose in an attempt to rid myself of the migraine that has just hit me to no avail. "Look, just…get your bag and let me take you to the hotel, alright?"

He looks me up and down again before nudging my shoulder. "To the hotel already? Damn, you secretary types sure know how to get things done efficiently, don't you?"

I cringe and shift to the left so that he can no longer touch me. I shake the feeling of his arm against mine and turn to face him. "Andrew?" I say in my sweetest voice, batting my famous puppy dog eyes at him.

He leans forward and his smile grows. "Yes, Jennifer?"

My puppy dog eyes disappear and fade into a stare that could only be produced by a woman with rage like mine. "Get. Your. Bag."

He opens his mouth to speak but with one more glare from me, slams it shut and trudges over to the baggage claim, where his luggage is one of the last remaining pieces on the belt. He slings the bag over his shoulder and follows me to the parking lot, not speaking. Good, I think to myself. Maybe he's figured out what a frosty bitch I can be.

I slide into the car and pop the trunk, glancing in the rearview mirror as he stuffs his bag into my trunk. He really is attractive, in a sloppy drunk kind of way. The muscles in his forearms strain as he lifts his bag into the trunk and I can tell he's got a nice body, even if he is a little on the tall and thin side. His dark hair is long, but not too long, a slight wave swooping the front pieces upward in a careless, got-out-of-bed-looking-this-good kind of way. He has blue eyes, just like Morris, but Andrew's are darker, a few shades from navy. The rest of his face molds into a classic pretty-boy look, angular jaw and five o'clock shadow to boot. Yeah, he's attractive. I mean, if I were looking. Either way, it annoys the snot out of me that he's not hideous.

He slips into the passenger seat and shoots me another smirk. "So, thanks for the ride," he says.

I try to think of some way to reply to this statement without strangling him or turning it into something he can slip some sleaze into, so I just nod and peel out of the parking lot.

"Jesus!" He says, gripping the bar – I call it the "oh shit" handle – above him as he stares over at me incredulously. "Do you always drive like this?"

I can barely hear him over the squeal of the tires. Honestly, I blame that on the parking garage. Everyone knows that the pavement and the echo make it sound like you're peeling out in the Indy 500. I mean, shit, Dane Cook even did a skit about it. And maybe I'm driving a little fast because I'm a little annoyed, but whatever. As long as pretty boy doesn't toss his cookies in my front seat, everything will be fine. I shrug in response to his question and grin to myself as he reaches down and buckles his seatbelt. Guess he's not that drunk, after all.

The hotel is only a few blocks away, probably a five-minute drive from the airport, but there's a traffic jam and God help me, he's fidgeting and pressing buttons on the radio and the door, rolling the window up and down over and over again. "Would you stop that?" I ask after the third round of up and down he's been playing.

He looks sideways at me. "You're not very much fun at all," he says as if it's the most obvious thing to say in this moment. He reminds me of a twelve-year-old boy.

It's all I can do to stop myself from pushing him out of my car and into oncoming traffic. "I'm sorry. I wasn't sent here to entertain you, though, believe it or not."

He sighs and sits back in the seat, then reaches into his shirt pocket for a pack of cigarettes. I continue to stare at him incredulously as he brings one to his lips, thinking to myself that if he actually does light that cigarette in my car, I really am going to push him into oncoming traffic. He turns to me. "Want one?" He asks, holding the pack out to me.

I scowl down at them. "I don't smoke," I say, sending him a pointed look and leaving out the part that says I did for three years. "And neither do you, while you're in my car."

He scrunches up his face like a kid that's just been told he has to eat all of his green beans and stuffs the cigarettes back into his pocket. He's quiet for a moment before glancing sideways at me. "I only smoke when I drink," he says quietly, as if he's searching for some kind of approval.

I shrug. "I don't care when or how you smoke, as long as you don't do it in my car."

"So, Jessica," he says nonchalantly, as if I weren't just about to murder him five seconds ago. "Are you always this friendly to people you don't even know?"

I grip the steering wheel of my Ford and my knuckles are as white as a sheet as I turn to look at him. Traffic has started to pick up and I can see the Hilton, shining like a glorious beacon of hope in the distance. I grind my teeth and inhale through my nose before I finally speak. "First of all," I say, "My name is Elizabeth. Second of all…"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," he says, looking confused. "I thought your name was Jessica! Uncle Charlie's always talking about you, Jessica this, Jessica that, Jessica's picking you up from the airport, Jessica's going to be wearing this hideous green shirt…"

I sigh, feeling my anger rising up against my will and before I know it I'm cutting him off, word vomit flowing freely from my lips. "It's Elizabeth. Not Jessica, or Jennifer, or Judy, or anything but Elizabeth for that matter. By the way, I don't know if you know this or not – I'm guessing not - but your uncle is sort of an idiot. I mean, the man doesn't even write his own e-mails. How dumb do you have to be to write everything on paper first and then pass it along to your secretary – who, by the way, you've been calling the wrong name for two years - to god damn spell check and send out for you? I mean, how does this guy run a business? And don't even get me started on his grammar because good God, my two-year-old nephew is better at it than he is..." I say all of this before I realize what I'm doing and slap a hand over my mouth as the words trail out. Well, shit. My mom always did say I had a tendency to put my foot and my mouth and here's further proof. She'd absolutely love this if she were here right now.

He stares at me for just a minute as if he's offended before bursting out into loud, raucous laughter. He continues on as I pull up into the Hilton's drive and park in front of the door, doubling into himself and giggling like a slaphappy kid.

I cringe. "Look, if we can just pretend that I never said that…"

He shakes his head as his laughter dies into a grin. "Oh, no way. I'm not going to forget that one." He continues to smile at me and opens the car door, stopping to turn back and look at me. "He really makes you type his e-mails?"

I scowl. "Andrew, listen…"

He holds up a hand. "Don't worry, Elizabeth," he says, stressing the syllables of my name as they roll off of his tongue. I don't know if he's sober enough to remember this in the morning, but something tells me he is. "I won't say anything to Charlie." He gets out and goes back to retrieve his bag from the popped trunk, walks around the car, and stops at my open window. "Unless you do something to piss me off, that is." He winks at me before tossing his bag over his shoulder. "Sorry about that shirt, by the way. It's god-awful. See you tomorrow!" Before I can respond, he's sauntering into the hotel, leaving me staring after him with a gaping mouth and a guilty conscience.

"See you tomorrow?" I mutter to myself, watching him disappear through the sliding glass doors. "What the hell does that mean?"


AN: So, I've never written anything like this but I figured what the hell? It'll be a romance, of course, shorter than usual. Hopefully around 10 or so chapters but watch, it'll end up being more just because I said that it'll be short. I'd love to hear what you think. Especially about the present tense thing because lately that's all that wants to come out of me when I write and I don't know about it. btw if you read CSTW the epilogue will be up shortly. :) Thanks for reading!

p.s. - I used to work for an insurance agency and was secretary to four d-bag agents who spent all day holed up in their offices watching porn. Elizabeth, I feel your pain.

*Story Title = Elvis Presley. THE KING! *Chapter title = Johnny Paycheck. It's also my life's theme song. LOL. No, really.