It’s amazing how much can change in a year.
A year ago from today, I was interviewing for a job I was incredibly underqualified for. I mean, really, I shouldn’t have even been there. It was my first interview out of college, and I thought I could do anything, even apply to be the vice president of accounting for a construction firm that did things about which I knew absolutely nothing. I mean, really, does the average person really care about all the things that go into building green office or apartment buildings? Do I really care about renewable materials and plant-based insulating foam? I mean, I’d never even thought about those sorts of thing, let alone knew what they were and how they were used as building materials. Now, of course, I do. But not because it was something I wanted to know about. It’s just because it was the only thing my husband ever talked about.
So I go for an interview. I don’t get the job, but end up married to the CEO of the company. Sounds romantic, right? It wasn’t.
I needed the job. I needed the money. My aunts—I love them to death, but they don’t always make the smartest decisions—needed my help. When I couldn’t get a scholarship for college, they mortgaged their house—a house that had never had a mortgage because they inherited it from their father—and quickly began missing the payments. The bank was threatening to foreclose, all because they had wanted me to have an education. They took me in when I was five, just after my parents were killed in a car accident that spared my life for some unknown reason. They were already older, two women completely content to live a spinster’s life. But then I came along, turned their lives upside down, and caused them to go into debt that they wouldn’t have had if not for their kind hearts and sense of obligation.
I had to save their house. And this job…but, of course, even a top-notch education cannot fake knowledge I simply didn’t have. So, when Miles made his proposition…how could I turn down that much money? It was more than enough to save the house and allow my aunts to live the rest of their lives without financial worries. The plan seemed so simple.
But it didn’t stay simple. It turned into a mess that I’m still reeling from.
And now, here I am, about to cross the gangplank of a cruise ship. My aunts were standing behind me, giggling and waving. They thought this was the perfect birthday gift, a two-week stint on a singles cruise. Like I said, they didn’t always make the best decisions. I’d rather be at home, lying on my bed and watching some bad reality television. But how could I look at my kind, gentle aunts and say no? It was nearly impossible.
If I hadn’t gone on that damn interview in the first place…
“Miss Giles? You can go in now.”
I stood slowly, a strange smile pasted to my face. I was so nervous my palms were sweating. I wiped them on the front of my skirt and then worried that I had left marks on the dark material. I walked down the narrow hallway, staring down at my skirt, pulling at it like it was giving me a wedgy or something, probably looking like a complete fool to the strangely bitter receptionist. Well, at least I was offering her a little comic relief, right?
As I turned the corner into the marked office—checking the nameplate on the door three times to make sure I was in the right place—a tall woman with such a severe ponytail that my scalp crawled at the sight, stood and held out her hand to me.
“I’m Joan Tarek, Mr. Thorn’s personal assistant.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” I muttered, all while wondering if my palm was still too moist. She didn’t seem to react to it, so it must have been okay.
She gestured for me to take a seat in one of the chairs carefully placed in front of a heavy oak desk. She took the other, pulling a file folder into her lap and thumbing through it briefly.
“I see that you recently graduated from Baylor,” she said.
I nodded. “I did. With a double major in communications and business.”
Ms. Tarek nodded back, her eyes thoughtful as she looked at me. “Do you know a lot about environmental construction?”
I didn’t know anything about construction except what I saw on the DIY network. That odd smile came out again, as I tried to figure out what to say.
“I know that the company does some really great things for the city. I drive by the new Franklin Insurance building almost every day. It’s quite impressive.”
“It is,” Ms. Tarek agreed. “Have you ever been on a construction site?”
I shook my head. “No. But I’m a quick learner, and I am willing to do just about anything to advance the company.”