Charles looked at the ceiling then back at his sons. George and Henry flocked his desk. Henry sat on one of the chairs in front of him with his legs crossed. His foot made tiny circular motions which Charles found quite distracting.
Then there was George. He had arrogantly sat on the corner of the desk, only moving and standing up straight when Elizabeth had entered the room. Now he paced, his finger tapped his forehead as if he was in deep thought.
Attempting to ignore his son’s movements, Charles said, “I guess I’ll just have to go and set you boys straight. However, first we have to talk about some other things. Like the Winterbottom account.”
Henry’s leg stopped moving. The air in the room felt thick with apprehension as he said, “What’s there to talk about?”
Charles leaned back in his chair, his fingers steepled in front of him. “Henry, I know you’ve been defending them, and you’ve done an excellent job, but they’re leaving the firm.”
Henry scooted forward in his seat. His voice rose as he spoke, “But how? I mean— Why? I know I’m not exactly in their specialty area, but I’ve saved them millions!”
“They’ve decided to go with another firm, because somehow, we took a case against them.”
Henry asked, “Now how could we do that?”
“I’m not sure. It appears one of our lawyers took a case that’s suing the company, and with your brother being engaged to old man Winterbottom’s daughter, they thought this was for the best.”
Henry plopped back against the chair. “George, you’ve been quiet. Don’t you have anything to say? We’ve just lost one of our biggest clients.”
Charles stared at his oldest son. The boy seemed to be deep in thought. A serious expression played across his face. George hadn’t been himself since he’d shared his engagement with Tina Winterbottom.
Janice and Charles had been genuinely surprised when their thirty‑five‑year‑old playboy son had decided to marry. Yet it was his choice for a bride that came as the real shocker. Why, Tina was still a child herself. If he remembered correctly, the girl couldn’t be more than twenty-‐‑two or twenty-‐‑three. She was five‑three with tiny ears and eyes that reminded Charles of an elf. Her blonde hair was cut close to her head, and from behind her gender was easily mistaken. Tina was opposite from the normal buxom girls George usually dated.
“George?” Charles said.
George stared at the closed office door and repeated, “Real fine.”
That was it? How could he still be thinking about Elizabeth at a time like this? Charles guessed he would just have to show the boys they were wrong or they would never let go of this fantasy about his secretary
. Charles eased himself up out of his office chair. He walked to the door and opened it, hoping that his boys would stay behind until he resolved this issue. That woman is probably lost, and Elizabeth is going to come in and think that I’ve replaced her.
Charles opened his door and stepped into his lobby. He looked at the woman behind Elizabeth’s desk. She looked very comfortable there. She was pecking away at the keyboard and kind of humming to herself in a pleasant way. “Excuse me, miss, I think you’re in my personal assistant’s seat.”
Elizabeth turned and smiled in his direction. “Mr. Hampton, it’s me, Elizabeth.”
Charles reached for his chest. A shock wave rippled through his body. His breath caught in his throat. Why had he never noticed how pleasant Elizabeth was to look upon? She’d always been nice and sweet, kind of like a daughter of his might have looked. Now she looked classy, professional, and way too attractive.
Sighing deeply with regret, he knew what he had to do. As much as he hated to, he knew she couldn’t stay as his personal secretary. His wife would feel threatened, even if there was no reason to. Not only would Janice be upset, but there was the issue with her safety.
When Janice first proposed the prospect of having a secretary who hid her identity, Charles thought the idea was preposterous. Yet as Elizabeth willingly accepted the role, and became an extraordinary and invaluable assistant, he’d almost forgotten that at one time she’d appeared differently. He should have known that it couldn’t last forever
. Why had she not consulted him? Perhaps they could’ve found a way to move her to another department? Or they could have tried setting up another office in another part of the city just for her. A plan began to formulate in his mind. Was there nothing else he could do?
Taking a deep breath he went ahead and plunged in. “Elizabeth, you look nice today.”
“Thank you, Mr. Hampton. Is there something else you needed to add to my list?”
“No, I have nothing else to add to the list. I’m sorry I have to do this.”
Elizabeth’s brow creased with concern. “Do what?”
“I have to let you go.”
“Let me go where?”
“Elizabeth, you can’t work here anymore.”
Elizabeth looked crestfallen, gazing downward he noted the agitated movement of her hands. Charles tried to explain.“Elizabeth, your new look is a wonderful thing. But Janice won’t think so. Go ahead and keep working for now, and I’ll find somewhere in this organization of mine where you can go. Okay?”
Elizabeth nodded. She appeared on the verge of tears. Placing her fingers to the keyboard, she resumed working while Charles walked back into his office.
Charles paced, running his hand over his balding head. This wasn’t right. There had to be a solution. “Boys, you were right. It is Elizabeth. She’s changed. Except I can’t fire the girl. She’s an excellent assistant.”
Henry said, “But Mother…”