The Christmas Boss
Copyright 2021 Elizabeth Kelly
“The Ice Dragon is spewing fire today. I repeat, she is spewing fire.”
I finished pouring milk into my coffee as the tall blonde joined me in the lunchroom. “She’s not even at work yet, Donna.”
“And yet she’s already made two people cry.” Donna opened the fridge and shoved her lunch bag into it. She grabbed a mug and poured herself a cup of coffee. “She called into the office, and five minutes later, Fiona is sobbing at reception, and Morris is in his cubicle with very red eyes that he says is from seasonal allergies.”
She grabbed the milk carton from my hand and splashed some into her mug. “Seasonal allergies, my ass. It’s winter, Elliot. Winter. No one has allergies when it’s two degrees outside.”
I took the milk carton back from Donna, returning it to the fridge before sipping at my coffee. “One, Fiona is so sensitive, she cries if you tell her she has something in her teeth, and two - Morris deserves to be yelled at. He fucked up yesterday.”
I usually wasn’t much for gossip, but, like always, it was almost impossible for me not to defend her when it came to my boss. I guess that’s what love did to a person.
Donna grabbed an apple from the communal fruit bowl on the counter. “Yeah, Morris screwed up the payroll. But still… her reaction was over the top. When are you going to stop defending Rachel? Out of everyone in the office, she’s the meanest to you.”
“Meanest? We’re not in high school,” I said.
She waved the apple impatiently in the air. “You know what I mean. You’re her PA and the main reason she keeps her job as Controller. She should be kissing your ass every single day.”
“She’s the Controller because she’s damn good at her job,” I said. “Not because of me or anything I do.”
“Bullshit,” Donna said. “Stop selling yourself short, Elliot.”
“I’m not. But I won’t pretend like Rachel’s success at her job has anything to do with me. It doesn’t.”
“Before you, they couldn’t find anyone to put up with her. In her first year as Controller, she went through four PAs. Four, Elliot. Every single one of them quit within three months. She’s such a control freak that they couldn’t take it. Hell, I don’t know how you do.”
I shrugged. “If Rachel were a man, no one would think twice about her demanding perfection or being particular about what she wants from her employees.”
“But she’s not a man. She’s a woman,” Donna said. “So, she should be…”
“Should be what?” I asked. “Softer? Friendlier? Why? She’s assertive, and she knows what she wants. A man is admired for that. Why isn’t a woman?”
“Because she’s not,” Donna paused, chewing at her lip, “nice.”
“Being nice doesn’t get a woman anywhere in the business world,” I said. “Rachel knows what she wants, and she goes after it. I admire her for it.”
“You’re the only one in the office who does.”
“Not true,” I said. “Besides, she’s had a tough year. Cut her some slack.”
“I would if she hadn’t been like this before her fiancé dumped her,” Donna said. She bit into her apple and chewed noisily. “All I know is if I were Rachel and had the nickname of Ice Dragon, I’d feel terrible about it. It’s not flattering at all.”
“It would be if she were a man,” I said.
She rolled her eyes, gave me a look that screamed ‘you’re impossible,’ and headed for the door. “Whatever, Elliot. She’s a bitch, and everyone in the office hates her.”
“Not everyone,” I muttered and followed her out of the lunchroom. I paused in front of the marketing director’s office door. Sam wasn’t just the marketing director for Valley River Outfitters. He was also my best friend and the one who got me the job as Rachel’s PA four years ago.
I knocked on the open door, and Sam looked up from his desk. “Elliot, hey, how was your night?”
“Fine.” I sank into the leather chair across from his desk. “I have ten minutes before my workday officially starts. You have time to chat?”
“I do.” Sam sat back in his chair. “What’s up?”
I arched my eyebrow at him. “What’s up? Did you get the damn thing last night or not? You were supposed to text me, and you didn’t.”
Sam laughed and reached into his desk drawer, withdrawing a black ring box. “I did. Sorry, Oscar was in a mood last night, so I spent most of the evening cheering him up. I swear, there is nothing worse than a seven-year-old in a bad mood.”
“Let me see the ring,” I said.
Sam opened the box, and I stared at the ring before whistling under my breath. “Damn, man. Look at the size of that rock. Must have set you back some quid.”
Sam just shrugged. “Tess deserves the very best.”
“She does. So, why she’s stuck around with you for an entire year… I have no clue.”
Sam flipped me the bird before putting the ring back in his desk drawer. “Tess is the best thing that ever happened to Oscar and me. She loves me, and she loves my kid like he’s her own.”
“She does,” I said. “You still planning on asking her to marry you on Christmas Day?”
“That’s the plan. If I can keep Oscar from spilling the beans before then. I might have to ask before Christmas so that Oscar doesn’t lose his mind.”
I laughed and took a sip of my coffee. “I’m happy for you, Sam. Truly.”
“Thanks, buddy. Did you fill in the application last night?”
I shook my head. “No, not yet.”
He frowned. “If you want to start in the spring, you need to get it sent in by the end of December.”
“That’s two and a half weeks away. Plenty of time,” I said.
“You told me the program can fill up fast.”
“More the fall program. Besides, I haven’t one hundred percent decided this is what I want to do.”
“Since when?” Sam said. “Last weekend, you were positive.”
“It costs money, and I won’t be working while I’m in school. If I can’t pay rent, it’s your couch I’ll be crashing on, buddy.”
“Bullshit. You’ve been saving money for four years to go back to school. I know you have enough saved up to cover tuition and living expenses for the full two years of schooling,” Sam said.
When I didn’t reply, he leaned forward, the look on his face one of love and concern. “Elliot, why are you putting this off? You’ve wanted to work on cars since we were teenagers. Hell, how many times did you take apart that old corvette and put it back together just for fun? Wearing a suit and staring at a computer all day isn’t what makes you happy. So, apply for the automotive technician program before it’s too late.”
“Being a mechanic isn’t exactly…”
“What?” Sam said.
“Highbrow,” I said.
Sam’s scowl deepened. “Since when do you give a fuck what other people think of your life choices?”
“I don’t. It’s just…”
“You care what she thinks,” Sam said.
I could feel my cheeks turning red, but I didn’t bother to deny it. Sam knew me too well. I was in love with my boss and had been for three damn years.
“You have a thing for her. I get that. Hell, you’ve even convinced yourself it’s love,” Sam said. “Which makes it even weirder that you won’t apply for school and quit this job. The two of you are never gonna happen if you don’t. The ‘no relationships between coworkers’ rule here is ironclad. And even if it wasn’t, Rachel doesn’t seem the type to date a subordinate.”
“Even if I wasn’t her assistant, she’d never date me. I’m not her type,” I said.
“I have no idea if you’re her type or not,” Sam said. “I know you’re not an uptight asshole like her ex-fiancé, but whether that’s her actual type or she just made a bad decision with her ex, it’s irrelevant if you don’t quit your damn job and ask her out on a date.”
“She’d never date a mechanic,” I said. “Her ex-fiancé is a doctor, remember? Rachel is,” I struggled to find the right word, “high class through and through. She lives in a loft downtown, Sam. A very expensive and trendy loft that I could never afford to buy on a PA or mechanic’s salary.”
“Christ, man, we’re just talking about going out on a couple of dates,” Sam said. “Shit, I keep harping on this, but you don’t really know her, do you? I know you think you’re in love with her, but what do you know about her outside of work?”
“I know enough,” I said.
“Do you, though?” Sam said.
“As I said, it doesn’t matter. She’d never date a mechanic,” I said.
Sam’s frustration was evident. “Don’t give up on your dreams for a woman who has no idea you have a crush on her, Elliot.”
“I’m not,” I said. “It’s just a lot to think about. It’s a big change and, yeah, I’ve got savings, but it’s still a massive step to quit your job when you’re the only one paying the rent.”
Sam’s face clearly said he didn’t believe me. Before he could say anything else, I stood and said, “I need to get to my desk before Rachel gets in. I’ll see you at lunch.”
* * *
Holding my laptop, my phone, and my bag in one hand, I barely spared a glance at my coworkers as I hurried down the hall to my office. Morris’s screw-up with payroll had guaranteed my day would be a shitshow. It was the third time he’d made the same mistake despite assuring me he knew what to do, and I was making damn sure a written warning was going in his personnel file.
No doubt he would tell everyone what a bitch I was, but I didn’t care. Morris sucked at his job, and if he made one more error, I would fire him. Contrary to what my coworkers believed, I didn’t demand perfection, but I wouldn’t accept repeated mistakes, especially from someone too stubborn to admit they didn’t know their job and ask for help.
My phone buzzed, and I shifted it to my free hand, my stomach churning when I saw my cousin’s name. I read her text, the headache lurking behind my eyes edging into a stabbing pain in my eye territory. I needed Advil and caffeine in the worst way.
“Good morning, Elliot,” I said as I passed by his desk without looking up from my phone.
There was no reply, and I stopped, staring in surprise at his empty desk. Elliot was always at his desk when I arrived. Shit, I hope he wasn’t sick. I had a bunch of work for him to do, and without him here, I’d have to ask Richard’s PA. She was competent enough, but she wasn’t Elliot competent.
And she isn’t nearly as pretty to look at as Elliot.
I huffed in annoyance as I walked into my office and dumped my bag and laptop on my desk. My inner voice had been making a lot of noise about my PA and his looks as of late, and it was annoying as hell.
Don’t forget how good he smells.
“Shut up,” I muttered, collapsing in my chair and plugging in my laptop. “I don’t care how Elliot looks or smells.”
Bullshit. You think about it a lot. Especially when you’re in bed with your vibrator in your hand. It’s a lot easier to masturbate to fantasies about Elliot now that Joseph isn’t in your bed, am I right?
My cheeks went hot. My sex fantasies about my PA were my biggest secret, one I could barely admit to myself. Part of it was the sheer inappropriateness of lusting after a subordinate. Part of it was the shame of cheating on my fiancé.
Cheating? Take it down a notch, drama queen. A few harmless fantasies about another guy is not cheating. You know better than anyone what actual cheating is.
I swallowed hard. Yeah, I did.
My phone rang, and the heat in my cheeks turned to ice. Fuck, now my cousin was calling. Which meant if I didn’t answer, she’d repeatedly call until I did. She probably had something new to gloat about, and she wouldn’t give in until she’d gotten her chance.
I declined the call and shoved my phone into my drawer. Let her wait.
Before I’d even logged into my computer, my office phone buzzed, and Fiona’s voice came over the speaker. “Ms. Martin? Lori is on line three. She says it’s an emergency.”
Fuck. She was really determined this morning.
“Thank you, Fiona.” I rubbed at the spot over my left eyebrow where the pain pulsed and throbbed and pushed the line three button. “Hello, Lori.”
“Oh my God, Rachel, did you forget your phone or something? I’ve been texting and calling all morning.”
“It’s a busy morning,” I said. “What’s the emergency?”
Elliot knocked on my open door and walked into the office with - oh, thank you sweet merciful gods - a cup of coffee. I scooped up the receiver, holding it to my ear and mouthing ‘thank you’ to Elliot when he set it on my desk.
I rubbed at the spot on my forehead again as Lori said, “I have the best news about the wedding!”
“How is this an emergency?” I sipped at the hot coffee, trying not to moan with happiness. It was hot and loaded with a truly appalling amount of sugar, precisely the way I liked it. Elliot disappeared out the door, but I didn’t put Lori back on speaker. His desk was right outside my office, and even just the thought of him or anyone at the office knowing my private business made me shudder.
“Don’t be mean, Rachel,” Lori said. “This is important to me, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask for your support, even with your silly drama with Joseph.”
The fake hurt in her voice set my teeth on edge. I released my breath and hopefully some of my frustration in a low, slow exhale. “I’m being supportive, but I have a lot on my plate this morning. So, if it isn’t a real emergency, then I need to go.”
“Oh, honey.” Now the false sympathy from her practically dripped out of my phone. “I know how important your little job is to you, I do, but have you ever stopped to think that maybe this is why it didn’t work out with you and Joseph?”
“It didn’t work out because I caught him dick deep in a nurse,” I said in a low voice.
“Don’t be crude,” Lori said sharply. “God, it’s so unladylike. Yes, it was wrong of Joseph to cheat, okay? We all know that, but, honey, sometimes a woman has to take responsibility for her own actions.”
“Victim blaming is not cool, Lori,” I said as my head ached and throbbed.
“Oh, for goodness sake, I am not victim blaming.” The impatience in her voice was the first real emotion I’d heard from her. “All I’m saying is that a man has needs and when a woman puts her job first over those needs, there are bound to be consequences. You’re a smart girl. You can’t tell me you didn’t know this might happen when you were working late all the time and barely being a wife to him.”
“I wasn’t his wife,” I said.
“No, but you were his fiancée, which is basically a wife in training. If you don’t show a man during this crucial period that you can satisfy all of his needs, it’s not surprising when their gaze starts to wander.”
“And his dick,” I said, still keeping my voice barely above a whisper. “Don’t forget his dick wandered too.”
She sighed. “Honey, I am trying to help you, all right?”
That was complete bullshit, and we both knew it. Hell, I’m surprised that she could say the words without bursting into laughter. My cousin and I had been competing since we were kids, and that would never change. No matter how old we were.
Elliot walked back into my office. He opened the small fridge I had in my office and snagged a bottle of water. He set it on my desk with four Advil, and I gave him a grateful look. As he headed back toward his desk, I covered the mouthpiece with my hand and said, “You’re a lifesaver, Elliot.”
I ignored the immediate tingling in my pussy when he grinned and said, “The red flavour, right?”
“Definitely. Can you shut the door on your way out?”
He nodded, and I studied his perfect ass as it walked out of my office. The door clicked shut, and I said, “Sorry, Lori, what was that?”
She sighed impatiently. “I said, you would have much better luck finding another man if you weren’t so focused on your work and -”
My annoyance at her belief that I was a loser in life hit its limit, and a type of madness overtook me. “I have a boyfriend.”
Lori’s silence was thick with disbelief. After nearly ten seconds, she said, “No, you don’t.”
“Yes, I do,” I said
“What does that matter? We’ve been dating for a while now, and it’s quite serious.”
“He’ll probably ask me to marry him, serious,” I said.
Houston, we have a problem.
“What’s his name?” Lori said.
Houston, we have a serious problem.
“Nana and Grandpa haven’t mentioned a word about your new boyfriend,” Lori said. “I was just at their house last night.”
“I haven’t told them,” I said.
“You haven’t told them,” she repeated with enough skepticism in her tone to flood the Grand Canyon.
“He works with me, and we prefer our coworkers don’t know about the relationship,” I said. “It’s against company policy to date.”
“Sure,” Lori said. “But that doesn’t explain why you haven’t told your family. It’s not like we would rat you out to your boss or something.”
I didn’t reply, and Lori said, “You didn’t mark off a plus one on the wedding invite.”
“We weren’t dating when I filled out the RSVP,” I said.
“Well, obviously, you’ll be bringing him now,” she said.
Houston, we are asking for permission to abort.
“No,” I said, “I wouldn’t ask you to scramble to fit in another person at the reception last minute.”
“Oh, I don’t mind at all,” she said with a sugar wouldn’t melt in my mouth tone. “I can’t wait to meet this Elliot.”
“He’s going out of town for Christmas,” I said, hating the desperation I could hear in my voice.
“Honey,” Lori said, “are you making up this new man because you know Joseph will be at the wedding with Christine?”
“No,” I said through gritted teeth.
“I know it’ll be difficult to be there with Joseph, but I could hardly un-invite him now, could I? He’s Paul’s brother and the best man.”
“I know,” I said. “I don’t have a problem with Joseph being there.”
“Don’t you? Because you’re lying about a boyfriend.”
“I’m not lying,” I said. “Elliot really is out of town at Christmas.”
“Of course he is. Well, I do hope we get to meet this new boyfriend someday.” Lori’s snarky giggle set my brain on fire, and I completely lost my mind.
“You know what? I’m sure Elliot would be happy to change his plans. We’ll both be there,” I said.
“Excellent. I can’t wait to meet him.” The triumph in Lori’s voice, the obvious gotcha, made me want to punch something.
“I have to go, Lori. I have a busy day.”
“Right. Talk soon. Love you!” Lori made a kissing sound and ended the call.
I stared at the phone in my hand as regret and panic washed over me.
What the fuck did I just do?