Copyright 2016 Nicola C. Matthews
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the author.
A division of X-Isle United Press
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, or to any other written publication is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Cover art and interior graphics by
Bloody Feather Graphix Team
I don’t understand how this keeps happening. This makes four times this month invoices have been misplaced.
Ember stared at the email on her computer screen, trying not to grind her teeth together. She wasn’t sure which she wanted to do more, punch her fist through the monitor or tell her jackass of a boss she couldn’t be held responsible for what he did with his shit once she handed it over to him.
“Every motherfucking time,” she hissed under her breath, slamming down the small stack of invoices she had been holding in her hand. She slid her chair over to the filing cabinet, pulling out the duplicate copy of the invoice her boss had misplaced, once again, for the fourth or fifth time this month.
She walked out of her small corner cubicle and around to the back of the large, open room which housed the special projects and sales division of the company. She passed by several of her coworkers, busy chatting or staring at their cell phones, and she once again felt her blood boil as she remembered her boss telling her explicitly she was not allowed to have her cell phone out of her desk drawer at all during regular work hours. It appeared, however, as she rounded the corner of her boss’ cubicle to see him texting on his own phone, that the rule only applied to certain people in the company.
“Here’s a copy of the invoice,” she said in a flat monotone, forcing herself to smile as her boss looked up from his phone.
“Where was it?” he asked as he went back to texting, not even bothering to try to hide the fact he had been on the damn thing.
“This is a duplicate. I gave you the original two weeks ago. I have no idea what you did with it after that, Tanner.”
He nodded, reaching out his hand without looking up from his phone. She resisted the urge to smack him upside his befuddled head with the invoice and payment sheet. Instead, she slipped the small stack of papers into his outstretched hand, turning sharply on her heel to go back to her own cubicle.
“Have you moved Friday’s meetings to Thursday yet?” Tanner asked, causing her to pause.
“No, why would I reschedule the conference calls?”
“Aren’t you going to be coming in late on Friday?”
She bit her tongue, forcing herself to not hiss as she replied, “Yes.”
“Then you need to reschedule them. Part of project management is keeping up with what is going on with all the projects we currently have open on the books. That means these weekly meetings cannot be missed.”
Holy. Shit. Was he for real?
She dug her nails into her hand, reminding herself she had to have this job if she expected to be able to keep her mortgage payments current. The only good thing about being single was the fact she only had to cook and clean for one person. Paying the bills, however, was a weekly struggle, especially considering she was getting paid less than a fourth of what she was actually worth.
Last fucking time I checked, the word “manager” wasn’t anywhere in my damn job description, you fucking bastard, she thought to herself.
“Yes sir, I’ll get everything changed for Thursday.”
“Good, be sure to resend out the invites, copy me.”
Fucking prick, not my fault you are either too fucking lazy or stupid to know how to do my job, and you probably making three times what I do.
“Yes, sir,” she said instead as she turned back around, quickly walking to her own cubicle before she told the fucker off and ended up homeless by the end of the month.
“Un-fucking-believable,” Nicci said as Ember recounted that morning’s story. “I swear to all that is holy, I am so fucking fed up with this company and all the shit that goes on.”
Ember nodded, sipping her cup of coffee. She really needed a Margarita right about now, but she didn’t want to give them any reason to write her up or fire her. She knew her boss would lose his shit if something happened to her. Even though he didn’t like to admit it, he knew she knew she was pretty much running the entire department at this point.
His dementia was getting so bad he was literally forgetting to go to meetings and misplacing documents on a daily basis. She had gone from just heading up the special projects to being his stand-in assistant, constantly reminding him of things he needed to do. It had gotten so bad, in fact, that for the last four years everyone else in the department came to her with their work-related problems rather than him. She usually got the problem resolved within a day. With Tanner, it could be months later and him still not have a resolution for the simplest of problems.
“I don’t get it, Nicci,” she said as she took off her glasses and rubbed the bridge of her nose. “I’ve worked my ass off for years, I have everyone on both my AV and networking team asking our VP to promote me to special projects manager and hire me an assistant to take some of this other crap off my hands, and yet here I am, basically getting fucked over, and not in a good way.”
“What did they say?”
“About what?” she asked, momentarily confused.
“And you think Tanner’s memory is bad?” Nicci joked, tossing a French fry at her friend’s head.
Ember laughed. “Oh, you mean about the promotion?” She snorted. “Tanner’s answer is always, ‘Ember is already doing that, we don’t need to hire anyone else.’ So basically they won’t promote me and give me a fucking pay raise because I’ve already been doing this job, without complaint, for four years now.” She tossed her napkin onto the table and sat back in her chair, crossing her arms beneath her small breasts.
“Hmm, then I see where the problem is.”
“What’s that,” she asked, one perfectly plucked reddish-blonde eyebrow raised in question.
“You don’t have a dick.”
She snorted. “Yeah I do, his name is Tanner.”
They both started laughing, the other guests in the restaurant looking at them as they guffawed for five minutes straight.
“But seriously, Em, you know they walk all over you because you’re a woman.”
“Mmm hmm,” she murmured as she sipped her coffee, grimacing as the lukewarm brew hit her tongue. “Yeah, I know. I’d be getting paid six figures to do this shit if I were male. How is it we’ve come so far as women and yet still be so far down the damn proverbial totem pole?”
Nicci shrugged. “Hell if I know, girl. If I could figure that shit out I’d be rich by now, and then I wouldn’t have to worry about a man, or a job, or any damn thing else other than making sure I had plenty of cute asses to stare at all day.”
Ember giggled before groaning aloud as her phone let out a tiny chirp, alerting her to another email.
“Regretting that shit now?” Nicci asked as she watched Ember swipe her thumb across her smartphone.
“Hell yeah,” she said, relieved to see it was another alert coming through on her Snapagram account.
She loaded the app, surprised to see another message from Micah.
You still at work?
Just getting in from lunch actually. What’s up?
Oh, didn’t mean to bother you. Chat you later maybe?
Sure, she replied. Hit me up on Skipper?
Okay. Same screen name?
You know it J
Ember set her phone down, stopping as she saw the questioning look on Nicci’s face. “What?”
“Why are you suddenly smiling like the cat that ate the canary?”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Ember asked as she gathered up her purse and car keys, ready to get this day over with before she blew a gasket.
“That smile. Last time I saw you smile like that was when the mail guy asked you out.” She paused, gasping. “Oh my fucking gawd, you ho-bag you. You’re dating someone, aren’t you? And you didn’t bother to tell me? What the hell?”
Ember laughed as they walked back to her car. “I’m not dating anyone. If I were, you’d be the first to know.”
“Uh, huh, sure you’re not.”
“I’m not, Nicci. Really. I don’t have time to date anyone. And who the hell wants a washed-up cougar staring down the barrel of her fortieth birthday anyway? The only ‘action’ my thighs are getting these days is when they rub together as I chase down the garbage truck on trash day.”
Her friend let out a loud giggle as they climbed into her sedan. “Come on, I know your work emails didn’t cause you to have a smile like that on your face. So what gives? You finally get a paying client wanting headshots who happens to also be built like a brick shit-house?”
Ember almost choked on the swallow of soda she had gulped down as they exited on the intestate, causing her to swerve into on-coming traffic as horns blared. She coughed a few times before bursting into laughter.
“I wish, you horn-dog. No, nothing like that. I just had the drummer of one of my new favorite bands strike up a conversation with me on Snapagram this morning. He messaged me again is all.” She shrugged. “I guess it’s just nice to have someone to talk to about music from a non-fangirl point of view. No offense,” she added quickly.
Nicci grinned at her. “None taken. So is this guy cute?”
“What difference does that make?”
“Uh, huh, he’s a total hottie, isn’t he?”
“It doesn’t matter, Nicci. He’s nice and I really like the band’s sound and-” She shrugged again, at a loss for words.
“Oh yeah, definitely a hottie then.”
Ember started laughing again. “Okay, yes, if you must know, he’s cute as fuck. Happy now?”
Nicci snorted. “And you call me the horn-dog, you damn old perv.”
“Watch who you are calling a perve. Last time I checked, you had this whole elaborate plan planned to kidnap the singer of Profane Remains. And he’s like, what, twenty-five?”
“He’s in his thirties, thank you very much. You’re thinking of that time I had planned to kidnap Andy Savage. He was barely in his twenties when he was embraced.”
The two of them grinned at each other as her white car barreled down the interstate, whisking them both back to their respective jobs and all the headaches which came with them.