THE BOSS PROJECT, an all-new enemies-to-lovers workplace romance from #1 New York Times Bestselling Author, Vi Keeland, releases July 11th! Scroll down for a sneak peek!
You know what they say about choices: Some we regret, some we are proud of…
The first time I met Merrick Crawford was during my job interview.
Well, technically, I’d met him twenty minutes earlier when he’d barged into a fitting room a few doors down from my appointment.
I yelled. He yelled. After an argument while standing in my bra, I proceeded to smash the door into the gorgeous jerk, trying to yank it shut.
As you might imagine, I was freaked out when I discovered that the rude guy was my potential new boss.
Yet he didn’t seem to recognize me. Or so I thought… Until we wound up bickering again during my interview and he told me to go sniff my armpit.
Okay, so maybe I hadn’t exactly been changing when he walked in on me. In my defense, I’d been stuck on a hot train for two hours and wanted to make sure I didn’t smell.
I obviously didn’t expect to get the job. But somehow an invitation to a second interview arrived in my inbox.
Before I left, I asked to see Merrick. I needed to know why I was even in consideration after our disastrous start.
Turned out, Merrick only wanted to hire me because I was the least competent candidate. It seemed his board was making him fill the position, against his wishes.
I didn’t really want to work in a place where my boss expected me to fail. But I figured maybe I’d enjoy proving him wrong. It was a little thing I dubbed the boss project.
What I wasn’t prepared for was that there would be other things I’d enjoy doing to Merrick Crawford.
Getting involved with the boss wasn’t the smartest choice.
But you know what they say about choices: Some we regret, some we are proud of. I just had no idea where this one was going to land.
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“Mr. Crawford?” My assistant, Andrea, poked her head into my office while I was eating lunch with Will. “Sorry to interrupt, but HR asked me to find out if you might have time to talk with one of the candidates for the in-house therapist position?”
I shook my head. “I don’t need to talk to the applicants. I already gave my input to Joan. HR is holding second-round interviews and will let me know what they think when they’re done.”
“Apparently one of the candidates asked if she could have a minute with you after her appointment with HR. But her meeting is starting now, and I know you don’t like anything on your schedule during trading hours.”
I leaned back in my chair with a chuckle. “Sure. Why not?”
She nodded. “I’ll let her know.”
Will lifted his chin after Andrea shut the door. “What was that little grin about?”
“One of the candidates for the stress therapist job is interesting, to say the least.”
“In what way?”
“Her first-interview appointment wasn’t until five one day last week, so when the market closed, I ran downstairs to Paloma to pick up a suit I’d bought and had tailored. After I left the store, I thought I’d forgotten my cell phone in the fitting room, so I went back to check. When I opened the door, I walked in on a woman.”
“I hate those places that have one fitting room for both men and women.”
“Actually, this place has separate ones. The woman was just in the men’s room. But that’s not the best part. When I walked in, she was half undressed…and smelling her armpit.”
Will’s brows shot up. “Come again?”
“You heard me right. Anyway, a few minutes later, my five o’clock appointment walks in, and it’s her. The woman from the fitting room.”
“The pit sniffer? Get the hell out of here. What did you do?”
“Nothing. I played it off like I didn’t recognize her, though she definitely recognized me. I could see her squirming.”
“Shit like this only happens to you, my friend. So what went down? How did the interview go?”
“She was the least-qualified candidate. I don’t even know how her resumé made it into the group that got called for interviews.”
“Yet she’s back here today for a second interview?”
“She is, indeed.”
Will shook his head. “What am I missing?”
“When I got home that night, I started thinking about how the board is shoving this position down my throat. They mandated that I hire someone, not that the person be competent.”
Will smiled. “Genius.”
I shook my head. “I need my people to be focused and ruthless while they’re here—not getting in touch with their emotions.”
“I hear you.”
As we finished lunch, Andrea returned and knocked. Evie Vaughn stood right behind her. Her wavy blond hair was up today, and she wore a simple black skirt and jacket with a red blouse underneath, giving her the sexy-librarian look every male fantasizes about at least once in his life. I tried to ignore the stir seeing her caused in me and forced my gaze down.
Andrea peeked her head in the door. “Do you need more time?”
I looked at Will. “We need to discuss anything else?”
He shook his head. “Not that I can think of. I’ll get the Endicott buy order placed as soon as it hits forty a share.”
“Good.” I turned my attention to Andrea. “Please show Ms. Vaughn in.”
Will left, tossing me a smirk over his shoulder as he passed Evie.
When the door shut, she took a few steps forward, then hesitated. “Thank you for seeing me.”
I nodded and gestured to the guest chairs on the other side of my desk. “Have a seat.”
“Your assistant mentioned you don’t usually take appointments while the market is open.”
“I don’t.” Leaning back, I tented my fingers. “What can I do for you, Ms. Vaughn?”
“It’s Evie, please. And…well, I was hoping you could clear something up for me.”
“What would that be?”
“Why am I here? For a second interview, I mean. You made it pretty clear during the first one that you didn’t think I had the right experience for the position, and I didn’t exactly make a winning first impression in that fitting room. So…why am I here again?”
I folded my arms across my chest and deliberated how to answer. The politically correct and professional response would’ve been to say I’d reconsidered based on how she’d handled herself during the interview. But I’d never been accused of being politically correct or professional.
“Are you sure you want the real answer? Sometimes it’s better not to know and just accept the outcome.”
She folded her arms across her chest, mimicking my posture. “Maybe, but I’d like to know anyway.”
I liked her spunk. It was a challenge to keep myself from smiling. “You were invited back because you are the least qualified of all of the people we interviewed.”
Her face fell, and I felt a tinge of guilt, even though she’d said she wanted the truth.
“Why would you do that?”
“Because hiring an in-house stress coach wasn’t my idea. My board of directors is forcing my hand.”
“Is it a problem because it wasn’t your idea?”
“I employ a hundred-and-twenty-five people whose jobs are to give me ideas.” I shook my head. “No, I don’t have an authority issue, Ms. Vaughn.”
She pursed her lips. “Doctor—it’s Doctor Vaughn. I prefer to be called Evie, but if you insist on using formal etiquette, you might as well use my proper title. I hold a PhD in clinical psychology.”
I couldn’t hold back the smile that time. I nodded. “Fine. No, I don’t have authority issues, Doctor Vaughn.”
“So you’re against the position, in general, and you wanted to hire the worst person to prove a point?”
I nodded once. “You could say that.”
“Are you against therapy?”
“I believe some people can benefit from therapy.”
“Some people? But not your employees? Do you believe your employees don’t have any stress in the workplace?”
“This is Wall Street, Ms.—Doctor Vaughn. If it weren’t a stressful job, my average trader wouldn’t earn seven figures. I just prefer my people to be focused while they’re here in the office.”
“Did you ever consider that you might be looking at things backward? Taking an hour out of the day to speak to someone isn’t what’s interrupting a stressed-out person’s focus. They’re already not focused because of their stress level. Therapy could help center someone so they can concentrate better.”
“Noted that there’s more than one way to look at things.” I studied her for a moment. “Is there anything else you wanted to ask? Or have we reached the point in the discussion where you tell me you hope we never see each other again?”
She smiled shyly. “I’m sorry about that. It wasn’t an appropriate thing to say.”
I shrugged. “It’s fine. Believe it or not, I’ve been accused of being inappropriate a time or two myself.”
She laughed as she stood. “Gee, I never would have guessed that from the man who sniffed me during my interview.” Evie held out her hand. “Thank you for your time. And your honesty.”
About Vi Keeland:
Vi Keeland is a #1 New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author. With millions of books sold, her titles have appeared in over a hundred Bestseller lists and are currently translated in twenty-five languages. She resides in New York with her husband and their three children where she is living out her own happily ever after with the boy she met at age six.
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