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Billionaire Novelist 1 : Working for the Billionaire Novelist

By:Mimi Strong

1: One Hairy Beast and One Sexist Beast

The temp agency was tight-lipped about the typing assignment. Stranger yet, they sent me for a full medical before they booked the contract.

I'd never been to Vermont, and I'd never worked as a typist for someone writing a novel, so I was curious. Being new to the work force and just out of college, what did I know?

Most importantly, I needed the money for rent, and the job paid well. Suspiciously well.

It was a pretty day in July when the cab driver let me out at the edge of the woods. The Vermont trees smelled different from the city. Fresh. Suspiciously fresh.

I pulled on my backpack, heavy with two weeks' worth of clothes and toiletries, and stepped boldly into the woods. As per the instructions I'd been given, I followed the trail that led up the mountainside to the secluded cabin that was my destination. The lush forest on either side of the trail was fresh and magical, with ferns of all sizes on the ground, and tall coniferous trees mixed in with sugar maple and paper birch trees. Everything was emerald green in the summer sun, but I could imagine the spectacular warm colors that would appear in the fall. The air was cool and moist, like rain was on the menu but not a guarantee.

After an hour of hiking and a bunch of mosquito bites, the forest lost its magic. My legs quivered, and I was reevaluating the items I'd packed. Did I really need hairspray? The bottle did weigh half a pound. I stopped and sat on a stump, rifling through my things. Why were my blue jeans so heavy? Something rustled and snapped in the old-growth forest behind me. It was not the sound of a person sneaking up on me and stepping on a twig by accident. Rather, it was the sound of a large beast who didn't care if a puny human detected it.

I froze, my breath squeezing in and out of my lungs through a constricted throat. The forest-crunching sound was coming closer. My nostrils wide, I could smell the beast-a musky, rotten smell. Slowly, slowly, I turned my head, and found myself face to face with an enormous, hairy creature.

In retrospect, it was foolish of me to think that a moose, a chewer of grasses and leaves, would want to eat me. However, I looked into those black eyes, embedded in that shaggy, block of a head, and I promptly lost my mind.

My legs, no longer tired, sprung into action, and I took off at a full-on sprint, up the trail. I'd nearly made it to the cabin, so the run was only five minutes, tops, but for the previous few months, the only cardio exercise I'd had was strolling to and from the cafeteria between classes and study sessions. 

I flew up the three steps to the door of the cabin and banged on it like a madwoman. The door opened, and I nearly knocked over the man in my rush to get inside.

The cabin interior was dark, compared to the sunny outdoors, and I couldn't see his face.

The man spoke, his voice deep and calm, with a neutral American accent, possibly a West Coast transplant. He said, "I presume you're the one the agency sent? Tori, is it?"

"Moose!"

"Unusual name. But I like unusual. I'm just making some grilled cheese sandwiches. Would you like one, Moose?"

I caught my breath and with it, my thoughts. "I'm Tori, but I saw a moose out there. On the trail. Scared my pants off."

He took a long, appraising look down my body. "Nope."

We were in a mudroom, a vestibule with rubber boots and plenty of hooks for jackets. The man turned and walked through the interior door, toward the scent of grilling bread.

I followed, bumping into the door frame because my backpack was still slung over one shoulder. My backpack? I smacked myself on the forehead for having terrible survival instincts. If I'd actually been in danger, say if the moose had been a flesh-consuming zombie moose, those seconds I spent picking up my backpack and letting it slow me down could have cost me my life.

I kicked off my dirty sneakers and dropped the backpack, then got a good look at the place. The interior was larger and more sumptuous than I'd expected. An enormous chandelier made of antlers and a thousand tiny lights hung from a vaulted ceiling, lighting the spacious open-plan interior. To my left, a wood-burning fireplace that was large enough to walk into dominated one wall, with three good-sized sofas placed around the hearth, as well as chairs and wood side tables. To my right was a long dining table with a dozen tall-backed leather chairs, and beyond that was my dream kitchen.

My apartment kitchen, the one I'd had a hurried piece of toast at that morning, featured about six inches of working counter space, between the stove and refrigerator. This so-called "cabin" had a kitchen that could service a neighborhood restaurant.

The man buttering two slices of bread for a grilled cheese sandwich was not at all the type of boss I was expecting. I figured this mysterious novelist would be chubby, bald, and hunched-hobbit-like. Before I left home for the assignment, my mother and I had joked about me pushing a dresser in front of the door while I was sleeping at night, alone in the woods with some neckbeard goober.

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