His eyes were a pure, almost crystalline green. When he’d been in Massachusetts, spending hours on the beach with me, his skin had deepened to that warm, golden glow and it had made his eyes practically gleam.
They still had that powerful impact now, but his gaze didn’t linger on me— not even for a second— and I sat there, curling my fingers into fists under the table as he spoke to each of us individually, then addressed the group as a whole.
Vaguely, through the buzzing in my ears, I heard his words, understood them.
A group interview, as I’d expected. Lovely.
The rest of my mind was elsewhere.
I nodded and smiled and made the appropriate noises as the interview started, but in reality, my mind spun in circles as I tried to figure out what to do, how to handle this.
He hadn’t recognized me. At all.
My belly was a sick, twisting little mess of despair and I thought about rising, walking away. Just walking away. I didn’t need to do this, didn’t need to be here. I could find another job, and even if it took a while, it wouldn’t matter.
But then his eyes came back to mine, and for a moment, just a moment, his gaze lingered. Memories— of the way it had felt to have those eyes burning into me, his weight pressing against me as our hearts raced— rose inside me.
He’d once made me feel like I was everything.
Then he cut me down to nothing.
Now, he looked at me like I was just…anybody. That look, lingering for just a second, was all I had to hold on to. Not much of a thing. Not much of a hope.
But that connection, faint as it was, while our gazes locked, made my heart race and my palms went damp.
Had I really come this far just to walk away because he didn’t know me?
Resolved, I straightened in the chair and forced my brain to focus.
Group interviews were all about competition, standing out from the crowd.
They also made the candidates nervous as hell.
It didn’t really help that I was already nervous, already on edge, my skin tight and prickly under the sleek cut of my grey suit. But I could handle the nerves, could handle the pressure just fine. Group interviews weren’t unknown to me and I knew why they did them. They saved time, let the employer find out who worked well under fire.
I couldn’t help but feel sorry for some of the women there. It was pretty obvious several of them hadn’t ever had to handle a situation like this; when they were asked, in front of the others, questions like, Why do you think we should hire you over any other candidate in this room…it was clear they didn’t know how to handle it.
My foot throbbed as the woman who’d smashed it stood up to introduce herself. Maybe I should thank her. The minor pain was something else to focus on as I forced my tense muscles to relax.
Her name was Anna Simone. Lovely. She did a bang-up job and managed to convey her skills well, and when she looked at Drake, her eyes warmed. She leaned forward as she spoke, explaining her skills, just why she should get this job…and she managed to convey, without really saying it, just how much she’d be willing to do. Her gaze never left his.
I saw the chill settle in his eyes, watched as a subtle shift took place on his current admin’s face. The admin’s name was Mai Nhu and her brow rose ever so slightly before she looked down at her iPad to make a note.
Oh, honey. You just lost your chance. Anna didn’t even seem to realize the atmosphere had just changed, though, and she continued on, listing her experience, her past jobs, before going to explain why she was the best candidate for this job.
Anna paused briefly to give Drake or Mai a chance to ask questions and while he was silent, Mai gave her a polite smile. “Thank you, Ms. Simone.”
The interviews droned on. I had my chance near the end. I barely remembered how I did. I can remember looking Drake in the eyes. I can remember looking Mai in the eyes. And I can remember the feel of the wind on my face, the way tears had mingled with saltwater on a day ten years ago. I looked into his eyes as I finished answering yet another spate of questions. You don’t remember me at all, do you?
There was nothing in his eyes.
“We would like to speak a bit longer with Ms. Crosby and Ms. Gibbens.”
The interview ended with that simple statement.
Beth and I looked at each other.
Everybody else looked at us.
Then they rose, filed to the door, save for Anna.
“Can I expect a return interview?”
She directed the question to Drake.
Mai responded with a polite, “It’s unlikely, Ms. Simone, but thank you for your time.”
“Please make sure to turn in the visitor badge.” Mai’s voice was polite, but so very firm. I could like her. A lot.
A moment later, the doors shut again. Beth and I waited.
“Ms. Gibbens, your resume is impressive, but I don’t think this is the right job for you. However, I do have an opening that I think will suit you.” Drake flipped through the resume.
I studied him from under my lashes. It was odd, I thought, the head of the company handling this. I could see him hiring his own admin. He had to work with that person, day in and day out.
He glanced up, smiled. “My local head of HR needs a new assistant. Her administrative assistant is retiring shortly. We didn’t get much notice and we don’t have much time to get somebody hired, either. Normally, we’d look within to promote, but…well, I have reasons to think you would do the job best. I prefer to have the best, especially within HR. You have extensive experience within that field.”
Beth nodded. “Yes, Mr. Gallagher.”
He nodded, glanced at Mai. “See if Hannah has any time to speak with Ms. Gibbens.” He looked back at Beth. “We’ll have to set up the interview, see how it goes. I’m sorry this didn’t work out but I believe in having people in the right position.”
“I completely understand.” She smiled.
If I wasn’t mistaken, she looked a little relieved.
I couldn’t blame her. Working with Drake would be a pain in the ass.
A few minutes later, I realized that pain in the ass was about to be a pain in my ass. Unless I decided this was enough.
He sat across from me, the brilliant rays of sun coming in through the window behind him, gilding that beautiful hair of his, casting too much of his face into shadow, while he leaned back in his chair.
Mai had left, briefly.
I had no doubt the ever-efficient woman would be back.
But for now, I was alone. Step into my parlor…
“You’re from Massachusetts,” he said, his eyes resting on my face. My resume was in front of him, but he didn’t look at it.
I inclined my head.
“After you graduated, it doesn’t look like you went back there.”
“There was no need.” No reason. Everything that made it home was gone.
“Not even for a visit?”
Something in his voice…what was that? I tried to catch something of what he might be thinking, feeling, but with the sun at his back it was almost impossible to even see him, much less gauge what might be in his mind. I’d almost think he remembered, but if he did, why was he going on like this? Crossing my legs, I smoothed down my skirt, a momentary ploy for time before I answered. “No, Mr. Gallagher.”
It was a small lie, but he didn’t need to know that. I did go back. Every year. For one day only.
He nodded and then leaned forward, studying my resume again before flicking me another look.
“This position is going to require long hours. If I’m here at seven, I expect you to be here as well.”
Arching a brow, I said, “That isn’t an issue.”
“Very often, I am here at seven, and I’ll work past eight. That’s five days a week. And it’s not unusual for me to be here for five or six hours on Saturday, either. If I’m working, you’re working.”
“Again, not an issue.” My heart slammed against my ribs. He was considering giving me the job. He hadn’t recognized me.
A memory swam up from the depths of my mind. Those cool green eyes, flicking my way, my mouth still buzzing from that last, burning kiss, my skin hot while my breasts throbbed. I don’t fuck naïve little virgins, Shan.