Ms. Tarek’s eyes continued to stare through me, a slow nod doing nothing to dislodge her concentration. “I’m sure you are,” she said softly, almost under her breath. “Your work experience is pretty vague. It says here that you worked for the Starbuck’s Corporation?”
I was a barista for five years. In fact, I was still a barista. I had a shift in twenty minutes. However, I hadn’t written that in my resume, hoping she would assume I worked at the corporate offices in some sort of executive-type role. I hadn’t expected her to ask about it.
“Yes, ma’am,” I said, hoping she wouldn’t push for details. But, of course, I couldn’t be that lucky.
“And your role there was?”
She looked up again, her eyes slightly wider. “Excuse me?”
“I work the drive-thru at the Starbuck’s on Fifth Street.”
She just nodded. “Have you ever supervised a team of any sort?”
“Not officially, no.”
“And your other work experience? There doesn’t seem to be anything else here other than some volunteer work.”
“Starbuck’s is my only work experience. My aunts—they didn’t want me to work while I was in high school because they were worried my grades would suffer.”
Ms. Tarek smiled. I wasn’t sure that was a good thing, however. She didn’t seem to be the kind of person who would find doting aunts amusing.
“Do you know anything about aerated concrete slabs? Or bamboo flooring? Do you know how to take an inventory or how to order supplies on a large scale? Do you know how to interact with subordinates and how to diffuse difficult situations?”
“I took a class on conflict resolution,” I said, aware how lame that sounded even to my ears.
Ms. Tarek stood. “It was nice to meet you, Ms. Giles. Someone will call you next week and let you know what was decided.”
I stood slowly, well aware of what that meant. I didn’t need to be experienced at job interviews to know a brush off when I saw it.
“Thank you for your time,” I said softly, as I took her hand. We shook, and then she gestured for me to lead the way to the door. I wasn’t really looking where I was going, too lost in my own thoughts to see the tall, solid man—who was standing just outside the door. I walked right into him, pressing more of body to his side than I had any other man in longer than I cared to remember. He turned, grabbing my upper arm to keep me from bouncing off his solidity and falling to the ground, further humiliating myself.
“I’m sorry,” I mumbled without looking up.
“No problem,” he said, his voice so deep that it seemed to reverberate through me. And it was filled with so much humor that I had to look up just to make sure he wasn’t laughing at me.
Damn, he was tall.
There were very few guys who made me really look up. At five eight, I’m pretty much on eye level with most guys my own age. Now. In high school, I towered over most of the guys in my class, including the one boy I loved from the moment I set eyes on him. I always felt like a freak standing next to him, which is probably why nothing ever happened between us—even when he asked me to the prom my junior year. But this guy…I had to step back a little to look him in the eye without having to tilt my head back.
And handsome. He had dark hair that was a little on the long side, big, wavy curls just touching the back of his collar. He had gray eyes that brought to mind the word steel, but they were so filled with kindness that I couldn’t quite assign that designation to them. He had a solid jaw that could be called square, but it soften as it moved into his chin. There was a dimple in one cheek. I’d always loved dimples on guys. It made them so approachable. And solid. He was wearing a pair of old jeans that were splattered with mud and a t-shirt that looked like it had seen better days. It was tight, hugging his chest and arms in a way that defined his muscles with an I-have-to-touch-that sort of emphasis.
“Sorry about that,” he said, squeezing my arm before letting go.
“It was my fault. I wasn’t looking where I was going.”
“Well, no harm done.” He smiled, that dimple growing deeper, wider.
“Let me show you to the elevator,” Ms. Tarek said, coming up alongside this handsome stranger. She didn’t seem too inclined to introduce me, and I couldn’t really blame her. I think she was so disgusted by my qualifications that she just wanted to get rid of me. I nodded politely to Mr. Handsome and followed her down the hall.
She stabbed the button for the elevator. When it opened, she looked at me but didn’t seem interested in a long goodbye. I just nodded and climbed into the elevator. The last thing I remembered—and I should have seen it as a warning of what was to come—was her stern expression and Mr. Handsome smiling thoughtfully as the elevator doors closed.