Work with Me - Book cover

Work with Me

R S Burton

2: Chapter Two

Ruby

“Mr. Clarke understands. He knows you want only the very best,” I explained to a potential client named Mrs. Casey over the phone.

“That’s why it is imperative you meet with us. I promise you, our company has years of experience behind it. You won’t regret it.”

“That may have been true when his father Jonas was in the lead chair, but I’ve heard the rumors,” the woman on the other end of the line commented. “His son is in charge now…and he isn’t a nice man.”

She was right about that—he wasn’t the warmest in terms of personality—but over the past couple of days, I’d made it my mission to look over his past work.

Fact was, Tobias had been in the lead chair for quite some time before his father’s eventual death. Only, now, it was official. His personality aside, he was great at his job.

“I insist that you give Mr. Clarke a chance to show you what he has planned for you. You won’t regret it. Should I schedule you in for a week Friday? Two o’clock?”

The woman let out a chuckle. “Well, if he has the faith of someone as strong-willed as you sound to be, I guess I can give him a chance. Pencil it in, dear.”

“Thank you,” I replied. “I look forward to meeting you then.”

I ended the call and noted the new meeting down in the shared calendar. I’d been here three days and had already picked up the systems quite quickly. I was well on my way to proving Mr. Clarke wrong.

I opened up my emails and glanced over them. There was nothing new to pick up, so I went to make a coffee in the small break room behind my office.

Before I could get very far, my screen beeped. In the taskbar, there was a small blue flashing box. I clicked on it.

Tobias ClarkeMs. Moritz, could you please come into my office?

Even in text, his words froze me in fear. He held my job in the palm of his hands; he could fire me if he pleased, and then I would be screwed.

I stood up and walked toward the doors of his office. The frosted glass reminded me of ice, which was apt considering his cold persona.

I knocked once and waited for his grunt before opening the doors and stepping inside.

“Do you know what you’ve done?” he muttered. He looked up at me, staring through me with his frozen eyes.

“I am running a business here, Ms. Moritz. I don’t have time for mistakes, and, frankly, they make me look incompetent when I’m not the one with the problem.”

I frowned. I wasn’t sure what I had done, which I knew wouldn’t bode well with Tobias. He wanted me to admit fault.

“Sir, please, what did I do?” I asked with genuine concern.

Tobias rolled his eyes and clenched his jaw.

“I have a meeting next Friday with Mr. Harris from Harris Hills at half past one. It’s a lunch meeting—you set it up yesterday. I won’t be back in the office until quarter past two.”

I gulped, instantly realizing my mistake. The meeting I had just booked with Mrs. Casey was too early. I bit my lip and nodded.

“I am sorry, sir. I will fix it,” I assured him, for what good it was worth.

“Fix it?” He scoffed. “What makes you think you’ll get the chance to? Remember, I don’t take chances, Ms. Moritz.”

My stomach swirled with nerves, and I forced myself to nod. “It was my mistake either way, sir. I will fix it, whether or not you fire me.”

Tobias leaned back in his chair, regarding me with the same cold stare he had given me since I started working for him directly.

“Fine,” he replied, his tone as cold as his icy persona. “Fix it and get out of my office.”

I nodded and walked out into the safety of my office. I called Mrs. Casey and pushed back her appointment to 2:30 p.m.

After I hung up the call, I took an early lunch to avoid any more confrontations with the king of ice.

Once I had returned, I spent the remainder of the day with my eye the clock. Five o’clock couldn’t come soon enough.

After my mistake, the atmosphere in the already icy office seemed to take a dive even though we were separated by a wall.

Soon, I could leave and go home to my dodgy apartment, two buses and one train ride away.

My computer beeped. The flashing blue box was back. I gulped and opened the message box.

Tobias ClarkeHave you collated that report I asked for?
Ruby MoritzYes, I believe the mail department will be delivering it momentarily.
Tobias ClarkeBring it to me when it arrives.

Tobias Clarke has closed the window.

Just before five, Jimmy the mail boy walked down the hallway holding a small black satchel. He placed it on my desk.

I smiled up at him. In the past three days, I’d seen him at least twice a day. It was nice to see another smiling face.

He was young, with brown hair, blue eyes, and the kind of cheeky grin that made you feel like you could relax. It was a nice change from my icy surroundings.

“I believe I am holding one highly confidential report.”

“That you are,” I replied. “Thanks, Jimmy.”

Jimmy nodded. “It’s my job.”

Jimmy tapped the desk twice and then turned around to leave. I opened the satchel and pulled out the collated report.

I stood and walked over to Ice Man’s office and knocked quietly.

He didn’t answer, but I knew he was waiting for the file, so I pushed the door open anyway.

“I really don’t think that is necessary!” Tobias exclaimed. He didn’t sound like his usual angry self—in fact, he sounded almost sad.

“Yes, I know I called you Gert, but I don’t think an appointment is required.”

Tobias was hunched over his desk, one hand holding the phone to his ear, and the other raking his fingers through his hair. For a moment, he didn’t look so tall anymore.

I was surprised to find myself concerned about him. I went to back out of the room. Clearly, I was imposing on a private moment—one not meant for my eyes.

It didn’t matter if it gave me more of an understanding of my highly strung boss; I was stealing that fact from him.

I looked away as I moved backward to the door. Before I could leave, though, I banged into a small side table, causing a small wooden ornament to fall to the floor.

I looked back up at Tobias. He was sitting up straight now, his eyes were on me, and his mouth was agape.

“I’ll call you back,” he said softly before placing the phone down on the desk.

“I…I…I knocked,” I stuttered, frozen on the spot.

“Is that my report?” he exclaimed, ignoring the fact I had seen him even slightly vulnerable.

I nodded and forced myself to move. I placed one foot in front of the other until I stood in front of his desk. I placed it down.

I should have just left. I should have turned and walked out of the office and notched it up to experience. But I didn’t.

I looked back up at my boss, searching his icy eyes for something I couldn’t even begin to explain.

He picked up the report but kept his eyes locked with mine.

“Thank you, Ms. Moritz,” he said, finally breaking eye contact to look down at the file.

“You’re welcome. Is there anything else I can do for you, sir?” I asked softly.

I wasn’t sure what the offer meant. I wasn’t sure why I even said it. Tobias Clarke was not the kind of man who would hold back if there was something he needed me to do. Still, I asked anyway.

He looked back up at me and pursed his lips. He was about to say something, but then he shook his head, looked down, and waved me off.

“No, you can go home now, Ms. Moritz. See you in the morning.”

I nodded, turning around. I made myself move again, one foot in front of the other, until I was outside his office. I let out a breath I wasn’t aware I was holding.

Tobias Clarke was not one hundred percent cold all the way through. He was hiding something.

I left the office and caught the two buses and a train home. It was almost 7 p.m. before I stood outside my almost derelict apartment building.

It was far from pretty with its cracked concrete fencing and the fact at least five of the apartments had plywood for windows.

But it was home, and it had been home since I ran away from everything that happened before I moved here.

Mom’s death had shaken me, and I’d made some bad decisions.

Mom had tried her best to leave me something, but my father’s death only two years before had bled the bank dry, to the point I needed to take out a small loan just to have a funeral.

Still, money had never been important to me—at least, not in the sense I needed all of the best things. I just wanted to survive.

I walked inside the building and up the dark, cold steps until I reached my room on the fourth floor. I pushed the door open and walked inside.

I’d done my best to make the apartment feel like home. It was amazing what a fresh coat of paint could do.

Still, it was cold and drafty, with three broken windows and furniture I was too ashamed to show anyone—not that I had anyone to show.

One day, I’d make it out of here and live the life my parents had wanted for me, but until then, I had to make the best of what I had.

I heated up dinner in the microwave—a frozen lasagna—then sat down under my blankets and watched movies.

It was forever my monotonous life, but there was a certain peace in familiarity.

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