The Executive's Decision by Bernadette Marie, now you can read online.
Thunder rippled through the gray clouds that loomed overhead. Regan Keller raised her eyes to the sky. Please, please don’t rain. As she sent up the silent prayer, she felt the first drop hit her forehead.
The nervous flutter in her stomach quickened as she looked down at her watch. Surely her day couldn’t get any worse. But the sky opened up, and those around her crowded together in the bus stop shelter. Her hair, tied in a tail at the base of her neck, dripped rain down her back as she hunched in her coat. How could she have forgotten her umbrella? Had her car been running, she’d have the one tucked safely away in the glove compartment because spring in Tennessee often meant sudden storms. She should carry one in her bag but had suffered a lapse in memory, having opted for the sunny beaches of Hawaii for the past two years.
As the bus arrived, those under the shelter huddled onto it ahead of her, claiming every seat. Soaking wet, Regan wedged herself between two people and held onto the handrail above her head. She looked out the window at the commuters driving themselves to work in the pouring rain. That should have been her.
A bitter-faced old woman sat below her, her oversized bag occupying the next seat. Regan bent to ask her to move it, but the woman glared up at her and gave a grunt that sounded like a dog’s bark. Regan flinched and tried to look away. But she was compelled to keep an eye on the woman.
The man to the other side of the vacant seat snickered. Regan looked down at him in his long black overcoat and perfect hair. Hemmed in between the old lady’s bag and an overweight man in a jogging suit, he was as pinned in his seat as she was to the people around her. She would have given him a piece of her mind for laughing at her had the bus not jolted to a sudden stop. It lurched forward then back and tossed Regan onto the man’s lap.
“I would have offered you my seat,” he said with a bright grin as the bus lurched again.
“Why, you…” She struggled to free herself, but the crowd moved in tightly around them as the bus bounced down the street. The pace of her heart kicked into gear and she could feel the sweat bead on her brow.
She hadn’t been this close to a man in over a year, and the panic of having him actually hold her on his lap was making her more than uncomfortable. “I need to stand up.”
“You might as well sit.” He wrapped his arms around her. “Doesn’t look like you’ll be standing again anytime soon.”
Regan took a few deep and cleansing breaths. She forced down the panic that was filling her body and tried to push it away. There should be no danger in sitting on the lap of a nice-looking man. She should find it within her to enjoy the experience and focus on something else.
He didn’t have an accent native to Tennessee like hers. Perhaps the rain had caught him off guard as well. If she didn’t relax, she’d have a heart attack, and this nice gentleman who wasn’t from Nashville would probably be blamed for her death on the bus on his way to work.
Accepting her predicament at face value would be a prime opportunity to let go of bitter feelings for the opposite gender, though after what she’d been through, she wasn’t sure she could. The thought of ever loving another man or letting one touch her made her palms sweat and her stomach clench.
The man smiled at her, and a dimple formed in his cheek. “This is your first time on this bus, isn’t it?” He pushed back a wet wisp of hair from her forehead, and she flinched away. “It’s always crowded, but I know I would have seen you.”
“My car wouldn’t start this morning.” She pressed her hand to her jittery stomach and willed it to settle. “I start a new job today. Car trouble couldn’t have come at a worse time.”
“New job? Congratulations. So what is this new job?”
God, he was handsome, and wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy the ride? But she wasn’t. “Executive assistant.” The words shook as she spoke.
“You think it’s just some glorified secretary, don’t you?” She clenched her teeth and her fists. Why wouldn’t she be angry? The last man she’d worked for had interpreted the title executive assistant as a license to run her life and to ruin it.
“No. I was serious. It’s a very important position.” He looked sincere. “So where is this new job?”
“Benson, Benson and Hart.”
“Real estate development.”
“Yes.” Her breath was becoming harder to push through her lungs. “I should get off your lap.”
“You’d ruin my day.” He laughed easily, so she tried to relax. “So whose executive assistant will you be?”
“Zachary Benson’s.” She looked around for a space to stand.
“CEO? He must have been very impressed with you.”
“I’ve never met him. His current assistant is having a baby and leaving the company. He was out of town when she interviewed me.” She thought about Mary Ellen, his current assistant. The interview had had a motherly quality to it. She wasn’t sure whether it was because Mary Ellen was pregnant or that worried for her boss. “I think she takes good care of him. It’ll be a hard pair of shoes to fill.” And if that hadn’t had her stomach tied in knots, here she was having a conversation about it with a man she didn’t know while sitting on his lap. Had she completely forgotten the last man she’d gotten this close to tried to kill her?
“I’m sure he’ll be pleased with her choice.”
“Thank you.” She wanted to wiggle away from the hard muscles she could feel in his chest, from his arms that held her tight against him, and from the legs of a man who obviously kept in shape. She couldn’t, so she kept talking. “I hope he likes me. I can’t imagine him not wanting to meet me first.”
“Maybe he’s ugly.”