Entry-Level Mistress - By Sabrina Darby Page 0,1

of all the employees of the company into an Excel file in preparation for everyone’s new business cards. I was the cliché of office worker, counting down the hours until the end of my first week of work. Not that the office was a chore by any means. It was merely tedious, and all I really wanted to be doing was working on the sketches for the marble faux-Grecian bust I’d been planning to finish just after graduation.

Except my curiosity about Daniel Hartmann was apparently stronger than my artistic desires. Otherwise, I wouldn’t now be in his employ, wasting away my summer.

“Happy hour at the Belmont after work, Emily?”

I tilted my head slightly and looked up over the metal rim of my cubicle at James Craig, the second newest marketing department employee. I could just picture the glam version of this scenario, my sweater set/skirt combo doing a day-to-evening quick change with the help of accessories, high heels, and my long black hair, freed from its French twist, swinging about my shoulders. I should have prepared for this. It was classic office work life, if movies were anything to go by.

“I don’t really know anyone,” I hedged, not wanting to think too deeply about that other clichéd element of life: office politics and culture. Who I would have lunch with was a more pressing concern than drinks after work. Each day I left the office like I had somewhere important to be for those brief sixty minutes. It was like high school again, worrying about what the other eleven people in the department thought of me. Or my stupid sweater set.

James leaned on the metal and I watched it move a little under his weight. “Just the other assistants. Claudia from payroll, Frank and Suzie from R&D, Allison from Hartmann’s floor, a couple of others.”

Allison was exactly why I was going to suck it up and drink down the cosmos like I was Melanie Griffith in Working Girl. If this tangent from my normal life wasn’t going to be completely pointless, short of storming his office and introducing myself, I wanted to find out everything I could about Daniel Hartmann and his company.

“I’m in,” I said, giving James the bright “actress” smile I’d perfected freshman year of college; the one I used every time I was about to jump into something I probably shouldn’t.

He smiled back and his was another expression I recognized from college: young man smitten. I turned back to my computer screen with an inward wince. Not only was James not my type, but also I had no intention of creating any attachment at Hartmann Enterprises. I was here for one thing only, to find a way to bring Daniel Hartmann down.

I blinked. Okay. That was a bit overdramatic and this was life, not acting class. But nonetheless, I didn’t need a boyfriend to tie me to this world.

From my peripheral vision, I could tell that James lingered there a moment longer. Then he left and I relaxed. Typed in another name. At least this was one way to get to know the company roster—of all seven Hartmann offices across the country. How on earth would that help me?

The room seemed to hush, pressure shifting, whooshing air through my ears. The sudden silence, the absence of keys clacking and office mates chattering, unnerved me. Something was going on. The usual background noise started up again but more orderly, carefully. I looked over my shoulder toward the elevators. Then I understood.

The presence of my new boss, Lance, wouldn’t have been enough to quiet the group. No, it was clearly the man standing next to him, the six-foot-three-ish, John Varvatos-clad Men’s Vogue escapee. Literally, since I’d seen Daniel Hartmann grace the cover of that and other magazines countless times. He was more handsome in person. Everything about him was familiar, the way a celebrity is when you see one in the security line at the airport. As if maybe you know him or her from high school, or from camp.

Of course, I sort of knew Daniel but he was thirteen years older than when I’d last seen him. As if he sensed I was staring, his gaze found mine. Then, even from across the room I could see the slight narrowing of his eyes. No, I felt it. Down my spine, my skin, settling into a sharp nausea in the center of my body. I sucked in my breath. In all of the years that I had hated this