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Heating Up the Holidays 3-Story Bundle

By:Lisa Renee Jones

Heating Up the Holidays 3-Story Bundle (Play with , Snowfall, and After Midnight) - Lisa Renee Jones

Part One

The first meeting…

“Ms. Miller.”

At the sound of my name, I hop to my feet in the center of the Las Vegas temp service. Rushing forward, I stop in front of my interviewer, a forty-something woman in a navy suit not so unlike my own.

“Hi,” I say, sounding as awkward and nervous as I feel about being unemployed for the first time in my life.

My greeting earns me a quick up-and-down inspection that has my already rattled nerves swan-diving off an invisible cliff. She levels a stare at me and asks, “Can I help you?” And her prickly tone says I’ve failed her sixty-second assessment.

“I’m Ms. Miller,” I reply, and try to win her over. “But, please, you can call me Kali.”

Her lips twist and tell me she is clearly not charmed, as I had intended. Instead, she looks down her nose, which is as straight as the long brunette hair neatly tied at her nape, and repeats with formality, “Ms. Miller. I’m Ms. Williams, your job-placement counselor. Come with me.”

“Ms. Williams” charges down a narrow hallway and I chase after her, just as I did for the reporting job at the Vegas Heat that fell through before I ever started to work. She disappears into an office and I follow, swiping at a strand of my long blond hair, which suddenly feels as disheveled as the new life I’ve gambled on.

Ms. Williams settles behind a basic wooden desk and motions me to the burgundy cloth-covered visitor’s chair. Claiming the seat that might as well be labeled FOR DESPERATE, UNEMPLOYED FOLKS, I adjust my skirt to rest primly at my knees and watch Ms. Williams study my paperwork for what feels like an excruciatingly long amount of time.

She glances up at me, and the skeptical glint in her eyes—real or created by my insecurity—makes me wish she hadn’t. “Let me get right to the point,” she declares. “You were working as a reporter in college.”

“And for a year at the Texas Sun,” I quickly add, afraid she’s missed that line on my application. “I only left for a better offer, which was eliminated while I was en route.”

“I was getting there, Ms. Miller,” she reprimands sharply. “My point is that I do not have any reporting jobs. They’re hard to come by. In other words, no one has any reporting jobs. If you can return to Texas and get your job back, you should.”

The whiplash effect of her words has me slumping and then straightening in rebellion. Even though my savings are gone, I will not go back to covering watermelon festivals and, well, other … stuff I’d rather not think about now. Or ever. I’d rather not think about it ever. “I took your administrative tests,” I point out, “and, as you should be able to tell, I have excellent clerical skills. Additionally, I’m highly organized and I’m dedicated to whatever I do. I need work—therefore, I will be timely and productive while on the job.”

“I saw your testing. The question is, will you be reliable if I send you to a job that isn’t a reporting position?” It doesn’t come out as the question it claims to be but more as an accusation.

“My experience in journalism should assure an employer that I’m articulate and know how to censor when necessary. And I want to be an asset. I need a stable career.” Not a dream that can’t pay the bills, no matter how hard it is to let it go.

She purses her lips and stands up. “Give me a moment to look at our job board.”

Yes. Yes. Yes. She’s going to the job board, whatever that is. I track her departure, twisting in the chair and watching her from over my shoulder, then sinking down when she disappears from sight. Thrumming my nails on the arms of the chair, I anxiously feel every second Ms. Williams is gone. I used my savings to come here and start a new life. I couldn’t leave if I wanted to, which I don’t.

“Okay,” Ms. Williams announces, walking back into the office. “I have a secretarial job opening, but you have to start today.”

I sit up on the edge of the chair. “Now? It’s already two in the afternoon.”

“Now means now. The pay is exceptional and the opportunity amazing. You just happen to be at the right place at the right time. If you do well, I have no doubt you could go full-time. The CEO of the Vantage Hotel and Casino group has fired his assistant. Because he is in a high-profile position and fields a great deal of press, I think you hit the nail on the head in your earlier assessment of your journalism background as being useful. He oversees a three-property operation and is extremely powerful. That will make you extremely powerful if you do well. He’s leaving town in an hour. He needs you there for a briefing immediately. In or out, Ms. Miller?”