Clair greeted her as she entered the office, closing the door behind her. “Good afternoon, Jessica. I trust you all had a splendid lunch?” She didn’t wait for an answer before plunging on. “Have you met Phillip Stewart?”
Jessica turned and glanced at a tall, handsome man standing beside Clair’s desk. She eyed him warily. “No, we haven’t met before. However, I am aware of Mr. Stewart’s reputation,” she replied bluntly.
She met him halfway across the room and shook his hand in a reluctant greeting. She was not really being complimentary when she made this statement. Phillip Stewart had a reputation for being a womanizer. Worse than that, he would let no man stand in his way when it came to getting what he wanted. He had once driven a man to suicide by taking away first his wife, and then his business. Once he had control over the business, he viciously cast the wife aside, leaving her penniless. Later, rumors went around that the woman had taken a contract out on his life. The killer was unsuccessful, and she and the man ended up going to prison for conspiracy to commit murder.
Jessica shivered as he held her hand a little longer than necessary.
“Then I’m sure you’re aware that Mr. Stewart is the president of Chic Fashions!”
She punctuated this statement with a bit of impatience, startling Jessica back to attention. Clair continued, “Mr. Stewart’s company is just about to release their new line of summer clothing called Outrageously You.” Jessica flinched at the name. It would suit him perfectly to come up with a name like that. “Mr. Stewart has invited us to do the layout for them. I have informed him you are my top photographer and would look forward to personally overseeing this project.”
Jessica glanced sharply at Clair. “Oh, but Clair,” she started to protest, “I can’t possibly. I have other projects going right now.”
Clair held up her hand in warning. “They have all been taken care of'.”
Color burned Jessica’s cheeks. “What do you mean by ‘taken care of’?” she asked.
“I mean just that, taken care of. I have reassigned all your projects. As of this minute, you are officially in charge of Outrageously You. You will be working solely with Mr. Stewart on this project.”
Jessica was astonished. An opportunity like this was golden, but—she glanced over at Phillip—with this man? She was struck dumb with terror. Tragedy had befallen anyone who had ever had anything to do with him. She loathed the amused glint dancing across his eyes. Her stomach turned. She was sweating profusely. She stumbled backward, toward Clair’s desk.
Trying unsuccessfully to suppress his laughter, Phillip Stewart took a step toward her, offering assistance. She declined and reached behind her for a tissue.
“Actually,” he said pausing, “I’m afraid I will not have the pleasure of working alongside Ms. Crawford.”
Jessica released the breath she had been holding. She blushed when she realized it had been noticed. Phillip chuckled, delighted that Jessica was genuinely frightened of him. For a moment, he considered changing his mind about taking on this assignment himself, but decided against it.
“I-I-I’m sorry,” she stammered, trying to regain some of her composure. “I have been most ungracious. It would have been my honor to work alongside you,” she lied.
He grinned knowingly. “Yes, I can see you’re disappointed. I am equally disappointed. However, as you might guess, I’m a very busy man. I just wanted to make sure that things get started on a sure footing. My staff will be overseeing the project once it’s underway.”
“I understand,” Jessica assured him, relief evident on her face. There was no way of hiding it. An unpleasant look passed between the two of them. Clair didn’t seem to notice as she rambled on.
“What we need to get started on this project is your best models. You and Amy can handle this. Also, we will need a good location to do the layout.” Clair rubbed her chin thoughtfully. “This will take some time and thoughtful planning. I suggest you start on your search, immediately.”
Jessica knew Clair was dying to remind her to watch her budget, as she always did, but would not dare to in front of Mr. Stewart. She couldn’t help but smile at this. Clair scowled at her.
Jessica excused herself and slid quietly out the door. She leaned against it in relief as soon as she was on the other side. She broke out in another cold sweat, and wiped her brow with the tissue she still held in her hand.
She was overwhelmed with relief that she would not have to work with Phillip Stewart after all. She nearly bubbled with excitement. Taking a deep breath, she ran to inform the others of the big news, shaking off the unpleasant feeling Phillip Stewart’s groping eyes had left.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish