My heels slip and slide on the polished marble floors of the Jeffries’ sky-rise entrance. Stupidly, I’m wearing heels that are more appropriate for a cocktail party than running late to work. The halls are empty despite the fact it’s ten past eight in the morning, so I nod at security and make my way toward the lift at a brisk pace. My heels click like high-pitched whispers as I mumble about the stupid traffic jam that made me late.
I fumble to get my ID card from my purse to swipe for the lift, but coffee sloshes out of the paper cup. I lick the spill from my hand. Despite the lack of sugar, I’m tempted to drink my boss’s coffee after three hours of sleep. I’ve had two cups already, but the caffeine isn’t working.
I resist as I need the sucking-up ammunition to compensate for the twenty minutes of lateness. Dalton has been super supportive of my needing time off to care for Rex, but now that I’ve used up all my sick leave, I can’t take another day off to recover from an emergency trip to the hospital.
I punch a button for the top floor, willing the lift to rocket me to Dalton’s office.
When the doors slide open, I tiptoe down the short hallway decorated with extravagant art, practicing my lines, “Sorry, I’m late. Traffic was awful this morning.”
Through an open door, Dalton’s voice is low and calm, interspersed by his mother’s sharp tones. A chill runs down my spine as Mrs. Jeffries’s words leak from the room. “You should fire her for chronic lateness.”
“Her boy has been sick. Have some compassion, Mother.”
“Oh, you and your charities. You can’t run a successful business by throwing money away. If your father were alive–”
“Dad always treated his employees well, and that’s the key that unlocked the Dalton empire.”
I gulp the lump in my throat–if I miss one more day of work, there is no telling what Mrs. Jeffries will convince Dalton to do. I must enter the room and interrupt them, or I’ll be even later.
As I’m about to push open the office door, a flurry of movement catches my eye. His mother, dressed in a pearl-encrusted three-piece suit and matching hat, flies through the doorway with a huff. As I jump out of the way, a rush of coffee spills over Mrs. Jeffries’s expensive outfit. The woman spins around, her mouth agape and eyes blazing.
I slap a hand to my mouth. “Oh my gosh. I’m so sorry—” I grab napkins from my purse. I learned to keep a stash once Rex was old enough that I didn’t have to lug around a diaper bag. Napkins. Never leave home without them. I almost snort a laugh. I could be a napkin commercial.
Dalton appears from behind the desk and chuckles, “No need to worry, Mother. You won’t be late to the country club and have time to choose another outfit from the thousands that haven’t seen the light of day. I’ll take care of the dry-cleaning bill for this one.”
His mother gives him her classic eyeball roll before turning on her heel and striding down the hall.
I offer Dalton a grateful smile. “You are a good boss.”
He shrugs the compliment away. “It’s not just out of the goodness of my heart,” he grumbles. “I need a favor from you. But we’ll talk about it later. First, we have a list of tasks to get through. Mother is in a foul mood because we lost three million in stocks overnight. Heck, I’m in a bad mood too.”
My mind spins at the amount of money the Jeffries Family Trust owns. I can barely pay the medical bills, let alone imagine having even half a million to my name—not as a single mom.
He gestures to the couches. “Sit and take notes.” His mouth twists in a dark frown as he sits and unbuttons his suit jacket.
“A f-favor?” I stutter over the words. What could he want from me?
Dalton waves a hand toward the leather couch. Genuine leather. Nothing is too expensive for his office. “Later. Let’s get this over with.”
The gruffness in his voice startles me into action.
I collect my tablet and stylus from his desk and settle on a loveseat, folding one leg over the other. My foot bounces. The two cups of coffee I had before leaving the house are finally kicking in.
Dalton raises a brow in my direction, tilts his head, and squints. “You don’t look so good, Pam. Is that yesterday’s mascara smudged under your eyes? What’s going on for you?”
I blink at his question. The man has no tact sometimes when it comes to blurting out what’s on his mind. I swipe under my eye. “Yes, I didn’t have a good night. Rex’s levels were all over the place. I panicked and took him to the hospital. This diabetes business is all new to me and—”
I glance at the floor-to-ceiling windows as the clouds float by in the distance. I would love to be on a plane, going on vacation. I need a break from life.
“It’s better to be safe than sorry. I’m sure it’s normal to stress about these things.” Dalton’s deep voice breaks my daydreaming.
I turn and give him a small smile. “Yes, but I can’t afford any more hospital trips. I need to understand the ins and outs of type one diabetes. Last night cost me a pretty penny.” I shake my head and tap the stylus on my screen. Why am I bothering Dalton with my domestic drama? He’s a wealthy businessman. A bachelor who doesn’t need to hear my single parenting woes. “Let’s make this list, shall we?
Dalton holds up a hand. “Wait up. Do you need me to pay the hospital bill? You know I’m good for the money, right?” His chuckle is genuine.
“No way.” I clear my throat. “Sorry. I appreciate your offer, but I don’t want any handouts. I can earn my way, and I’ll manage just fine.” I will not owe a man anything. His mention of a favor is proof enough that we might be crossing into dangerous territory.
Dalton folds his arms across his chest. “Pam. You’re the best PA I’ve had. I want to look after you, and if that means helping you with some personal matters so you can focus better on your day job, then it’s in my best interest. It’s not a handout. See it as a performance bonus.”
I scoff. “Dalton, call it what you like. If I hadn’t blurted out my sorry story, you wouldn’t be paying me an extra bonus, would you?”
He points his finger and grins. “This is true.” He crosses his feet at the ankles. “Okay. I’ll fast-forward to the favor I need. You can earn the bonus instead. I need a date for a charity ball over on Nantucket Island. It’s next weekend, and the female vultures will be swooping in, trying to get their hands on my wallet. You can pose as my girlfriend to fend them off. All expenses paid plus five thousand a day. If you’re interested.”
My head dips, and my jaw hangs open. Fifteen thousand dollars? I could do with that kind of bonus. And a vacation? To Nantucket? I love that place.
I chew on my lip as I consider his offer. Dalton studies me, but I still don’t answer.
He lifts a palm. “Why don’t we have dinner at my house tonight? Bring your son. Rex can watch a movie in the theater while we go over the logistics.”