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The One and Only

By:Mia Madison

1


Mallory





It was my personal belief that nothing would ever be as embarrassing as remaining a virgin throughout high school. It wasn't until I went to college that I realized just how wrong I had been.

I suppose some of the blame was on me for expecting my peers to be more mature after hitting the age of adulthood. Being a virgin in high school might have been slightly humiliating, but being a virgin in college turned out to be almost unbearable.

Even with all the jokes and pranks I endured over the years, nothing had ever been enough to break my resolve. Worse than anything else I'd been faced with was the infamous rumor mill. Not because I couldn't handle the whispers and teasing, but because some of the rumors that swept through the campus during those four years had ultimately cost me any kind of social life.

Not many people wanted to hang out with the girl who was in some kind of cult or the weirdly religious girl who was desperate to get married right away and have seven kids. I was grateful that not everyone bought into those rumors, but I couldn't say I was close to any of the few friends I managed to make.

Dating was even harder than making friends. The majority of attention I got seemed to be from guys who thought they were smooth enough to pop the notorious virgin's cherry. Trying to figure out who was genuine and who just wanted to get into my pants was the challenge that made me give up on dating altogether.

"But those days are over," I said with a smile as I stole a glance at my reflection.

My college days were behind me and as soon as I was able, I started applying for jobs and looking for apartments far away from the small town I spent the first twenty-two years of my life in. In the span of three months, I scored a place in the city I could afford and shortly after that, a job offer.

I finally had the fresh start I always wanted. One where I wouldn't be judged or labeled for my personal life, or lack thereof. I could date like a normal person and hopefully would be able to find a man who understood and respected my reasons for wanting to wait.

Despite popular opinion, I wasn't saving myself for marriage. I understood those who wanted that, but I wasn't looking for a happily ever after romance.

The only thing I wanted was love.

Deep in my heart, I knew those feelings would never change. Even if I had already lost my virginity, the thought of sleeping with someone I didn't love held no appeal for me. I didn't need that love to be everlasting, I just needed something real. I couldn't fathom the thought of giving myself to someone in that way without knowing it meant more than satisfying a physical urge.

My cell phone ringing snapped me out of my thoughts and I could feel my cheeks heating up when I saw my mom's name on the caller id. Shoving the thought of sex completely to the side, I swiped to answer the call.

"Hi, sweetheart!" she chirped, not even giving me a chance to respond before she added, "I know you're probably on your way out, but I just had to call and wish you good luck on your first day! Your father and I are so proud of you."

"Thank you," I responded with a smile that spread at her enthusiasm. Still, even though I was excited, there was a more dominant feeling taking over. "Is it normal to be this nervous?"

"Always. No matter how old you get, every first day will feel like this. Embrace it, Mallory. I know it might not seem like it now, but that feeling won't last forever and once the monotony kicks in-"

"I'll be bored to tears," I finished for her with a chuckle. As a woman who bounced from job to job just for the variety of learning new things, I could see it coming a mile away. "Thanks again, Mom. I better go or I'll miss the bus."

"Call me at the end of the day and let me know how it goes! Love you, cupcake!"

"I will. Love you, too."

I dropped my phone into my bag and took one more moment to straighten my clothes and flatten my hair with my palms before dashing out the door to make the bus.



The ride to my new job was painfully slow and just as boring. I was looking forward to a steady paycheck-one that hopefully would be enough to afford cab fare every now and then.

I finally arrived at the building and felt the same sense of wonder looking up at it that I did when I first came for my job interview. It was easy to forget just how large of a building Wolfe Publishing was in. I definitely wasn't in Arizona anymore.

"Going in?"

I jerked my head to the side and gave a nervous smile to the doorman. His eyebrow raised as he held it open and I muttered a quiet thanks before stepping inside.

A group of people packed into the elevator like sardines and I forced myself not to let out frustrated sighs every time the car stopped to let someone off. I was already running behind thanks to the bus being slightly off schedule. The last thing I wanted to do on my first day was to be late.         

     



 

According to my watch, I was dead on the money when I finally stepped onto the twenty-fourth floor. The secretary remembered my face and waved me back and I hastily rushed deeper into the office where Janice was waiting for me.

"Hi! I'm so sorry I'm late, I-"

She held her hand up and shook her head. "You're right on time, Mallory. Good to see you again."

I smiled and nodded in agreement, remembering the way her friendly demeanor had put me so at ease during the interview. Had I been speaking to anyone else, I doubted I would've landed the job. I was so nervous my palms were sweating.

"Ready to dive in?" she asked with a cocked eyebrow.

"Ready as I'll ever be," I confirmed, glancing nervously at the frantic people who were shuffling around the office. "Is it always like this?"

Janice shook her head. "No. Today's a crazy day for all of us, so just try to keep up and pay attention. I'm going to give you a brief walk-through before sending you out on your own."

"On my own?" I asked, swallowing nervously at the sight of her curt nod. "Isn't there some kind of training?"

"Nothing formal. It really isn't required."

It didn't seem like I had much of a choice other than to take her word for it, so I changed my direction of questioning while I jogged to keep up with her.

"Will I be meeting the boss today?"

"He's booked solid with meetings today. I'm sure you'll see him at some point this week."

I frowned and asked, "This week? Aren't I supposed to be his assistant?"

"Officially? Yes. But that's really just an umbrella term. In fact, I have to give this same spiel to the three other new assistants today."

"He has four assistants?"

"No. Like I said, it's an official title. Those of us who've been here for a while like to refer to you lot as swings. You'll be working wherever you're needed doing primarily menial tasks. You'll report directly to me for your daily assignments, or Mr. Wolfe, assuming he's available."

Janice was still breezing through the office past employees who looked like they were a breath away from fainting. I caught myself swallowing nervously again, wondering if I'd be able to keep up with the fast-paced environment.

It was a small consolation that I wouldn't be learning the ropes alone if what Janice said about three other new assistants was true. Though it did make me wonder what happened to the last four assistants if they were all being replaced at once.

"So where should I start?"

"Just learn the office and help anyone who needs it. The coffee maker is in the break room and the copier is just through here."

She led me into a small room and gave me a quick rundown on how to use the copier before pointing to other things I might be asked to fetch.

"Everyone here knows the swings are new, so you shouldn't need to know more than this for today. I'll be around if you need anything."

"I'll do my best."

She must have sensed my self-doubt because she gave me another warm smile and gently patted my shoulder before whispering, "You'll be fine. Just roll with the punches and you'll feel at home in no time."

I nodded more to myself than to her and whispered, "Thank you."

Someone shouted her name from down the hallway and Janice rolled her eyes. I frowned as we stepped back into the hall and waited as the man behind the voice stepped into view.

"My next appointment for the day," Janice murmured. "He'll be working with you. Fair warning-watch what you say around him. He's Mr. Wolfe's nephew."

I could only hope that the relation didn't mean the guy wasn't willing to work. From the sound of it, all of the assistants would be continuously busy and I had no intention of pulling a slacker's weight.

When the man came into sight, my blood ran cold.

He froze to the spot, his grin widening with disbelief as he shouted, "Mallory?!"

"You know each other?" Janice asked in surprise.

Jeremy laughed and nodded as he approached.

"Hell yeah. We graduated together," he explained, his eyes gliding up and down my body. My skin crawled as a lazy smile tugged at his lips. "And we used to date."

I'd hardly call his attempts to get into my pants dating, but I didn't have it in me to point that out.

All I could do was watch in horror as my fresh start went up in flames.





2





Brian





Some might think that a man who built his own empire from the ground up would be happy with his life. Or his job, at the very least.         

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