I have an excerpt for you from the second standalone in L.H. Cosway’s Running on Air series. I am currently reading this über-angsty tale of unrequited love and I can’t put it down!
I was sweaty and nervous as I stepped onto the lift that would take me up to my second interview of the day. The first had been for a trainee legal secretary position, while this one was for a personal assistant. To be honest, the legal secretary thing appealed to me more. It seemed like a good solid role and the interview had gone really well, whereas the PA job description was a little thin on details. That normally meant the employer was trying to hide something, like a zero-hour contract, low wages, or duties that lay outside of the typical PA role.
Ever since I’d graduated from university last summer, I’d been going from temp job to temp job, so I knew all about being asked to complete unpleasant tasks.
I didn’t really pay attention to the man standing on the other side of the lift until it jolted to a stop midway between floors. My nerves kicked in as I met the gaze of my sole companion. He wore jeans and an expensive-looking wool jumper that draped perfectly across his solid frame. He was also tall and muscular and incredibly handsome, but what I noticed most were his eyes. They were beautiful in a way that went beyond appearance. They weren’t just brown, no, there was a light behind them that elevated them from pleasant to stunning. The sort of eyes that looked right into your soul and held it captive.
How had I not noticed him until this moment? I must be really anxious about this interview. An interview I might not even make, now that I was stuck on a malfunctioning lift.
“We’ve stopped moving,” I said stupidly. Good job stating the obvious.
“Seems so,” the man agreed, stepping forward and pressing the emergency button on the wall panel.
“Just my luck.” I sighed as we waited for someone to come through on the speaker. A minute passed and nothing. I shuffled from foot to foot, starting to feel awkward sharing this small space with a stranger, even if he was one of the most attractive strangers I’d encountered in quite some time.
Eventually the man pulled his phone from his pocket and dialled a number. Now why didn’t I think of that? Then again, who exactly was I going to call?
“Leanne, hey,” the man said, the phone at his ear. “Bit of a problem. I’m on the lift and it’s stopped moving. Can you find one of the caretakers and let them know it’s stuck? See if they can get it going again.” A pause. “Yes, it’s lift number three. Thanks. You’re the best.” He hung up and slid the phone back in his pocket before glancing at me. “My friend is going to try and sort this out.”
“Oh, good,” I said, mustering a smile as I checked the time. Fifteen minutes until my interview. Maybe I should call them and let them know I might be delayed. But then, I wasn’t so keen on this whole mystery PA position anyway. Perhaps getting stuck in this lift was a blessing in disguise.
We fell into silence. I pulled out my phone. No messages. My companion was on his phone, too, and I noticed over his shoulder that he was looking at that new app that told you which golden-era Hollywood star you most resembled.
“Who did you get?” I asked, hoping to make conversation and pass the time.
He glanced at me, a hint of a smile gracing his lips.
“Sorry,” I apologised, shifting back. “I’m being nosy.”
“No, it’s fine. We’re stuck in a lift. What else are you going to do?” A pause as he glanced back at his screen. “I got Sydney Poitier.”
“What? You look nothing like him,” I said with a tut. “That app is bogus.”
A soft chuckle from him. “I know, right?”
I leaned back against the wall of the lift, some of my previous awkwardness dissolving. “You’re better off not using those apps anyway. My friend Afric says they’re just a way for big corporations to steal your information.”
“She’s probably right,” my stranger replied.
“Then again,” I went on. “She also says the online ancestry kits are so cheap because scientists want to use our DNA to figure out the secret to immortality. So I tend to take her opinion with a dose of salt.”
“Stranger things have happened,” he said, just as the lift came back to life.
I exhaled in relief, and we shared a smile. “Thank goodness for that,” I said as we finally reached the floor where my interview was being held.
The doors slid open and a petite, dark-haired woman stood waiting with her arms folded.
“Leanne, you’re a lifesaver,” said the stranger as he stepped off the lift.
I murmured my thanks and stepped off too, then headed down the corridor. The two of them walked behind me in the same direction before passing me by and disappearing inside what appeared to be the interview room.
Wait, were they the ones conducting the interviews? I felt weirdly self-conscious that I’d been stuck in a lift with my potential future employer. The thought of working for someone like him made me both excited and nervous. Who was he? What did he do?
I joined the other waiting applicants and noticed some of them whispering excitedly to one another.
“Can you believe it?” one said.
“I had no idea this job was for Running on Air,” another exclaimed.
“I know,” the first one replied excitedly. “I’ve always wanted to work in television.”
I frowned to myself. Television? Running on Air? The name sounded vaguely familiar. I pulled out my phone to do a quick search and discovered all I needed to know. It was a reality TV show about parkour. I had just enough time to scan the IMDb page before my name was called. The last thing I managed to see was a picture of my guy from the lift. He appeared to be jumping from a first-floor balcony with some other red-haired guy. The caption read: James (left) and Paul (right).
So, his name was Paul.
“Michaela Olsson,” called a guy with glasses. He wore a crisp white shirt and held a clipboard, which made me guess he was an assistant. If I got the job, was this who I’d be working with?
I rose and followed him into the room, feeling even more nervous all of a sudden.
Sure enough, inside the interview room sat a panel of three people, including the stranger from the lift, whose name I now knew was Paul, the woman who rescued us (Leanne), and the red-haired guy from the photo (James).
“We meet again,” said Paul, standing from his seat. I wasn’t sure why I felt so shy all of a sudden. It wasn’t like I’d done anything weird. Well, except for being nosy and looking at his phone over his shoulder.
“Right,” I said, awkwardly shaking his hand. “Hello again.”
“I guess there’s no point making introductions,” said the guy who’d brought me in. “It appears news of who’s doing the interviews has travelled fast among the applicants outside.” He cast Paul a scolding look.
“I had an errand to run, Neil. I didn’t think I’d get recognised.”
“Of course you’d be recognised. You’re on one of the most popular shows in the country,” the glasses guy, Neil, replied.
Now I stiffened, because I didn’t watch a lot of TV these days and I literally just found out about the show two minutes ago. I was obviously going to have to pretend I knew who these people were. I struggled to recall even a few details of what I’d read before coming in here.
“Well, it’s great to officially meet you, Michaela,” said Paul, and there was something really nice about the way he said my name. Also, his eyes. It was unfair the effect they had on me.
“It’s great to officially meet you, too, Paul,” I replied.
His lips formed a funny sort of smirk as he shared a look with one of the others.
A silence fell and I frowned. “Did I say something wrong?”
The red-haired guy chuckled as he glanced at my lift stranger. “I didn’t realise we looked alike.”
“Me neither,” Paul replied, sounding amused when he brought his attention back to me. “My name is James.” He pointed to the red-haired guy. “That’s Paul.”
“Oh,” I breathed. My stomach dropped and I winced, feeling like an idiot for mixing up their names. “I’m so sorry. I should probably confess that I’ve never seen your show. I was sitting outside when people started whispering about it, so I just had enough time to take a quick look at your IMDb page.”
“I’ve been trying to get them to fix the caption under that photo for months,” Neil grumbled.
“No need to apologise,” Leanne said, shooting me a grin. “You not seeing the show is a good thing. That’s actually why we included so few details in the job description. We wanted to avoid having lots of fans apply. We’re looking for someone who wants to work hard, not someone who wants to be around famous people.”
“Right,” I said as it all fell into place. “Well then, you’ll be pleased to hear that being around famous people has zero draw for me. I’ve been temping for almost a year, so a full-time permanent job is my main goal.”
She smiled in a way that made me feel like I’d said the right thing. I chanced a peek at the man whose name I now knew was James, and he shot me a warm look that gave me an equally warm feeling in my chest.
The group continued to ask me questions about my interests and my work history. Then, before I knew it, the interview was over. I knew I was in there for the better part of a half an hour, but it felt like it whizzed by in a matter of seconds. All of a sudden, the legal secretary position wasn’t as appealing as it was before. After meeting who I’d be working for, a bunch of interesting, cool, exciting, and funny young people, I really wanted the PA job. It’d definitely beat working in a stuffy old solicitor’s office.
James stood to escort me from the room, leaning down to whisper reassuringly in my ear. “You did great. Everyone really liked you.”
“That’s such a relief to hear,” I said, surprised when he decided to walk me back to the lift. He pressed the button and waited with me while the numbers on the screen rose. “I thought I’d really messed things up at the beginning there.”
He smiled at me now, and again my chest warmed.
“Don’t fret it. You were wonderful,” he said, just as the doors slid open.
“Thanks.” I stepped on and, feeling bashful, turned back around to face him. “Say a prayer this thing doesn’t break down again.”
He held up his hand. “I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.” And then the doors closed and he was gone.
All the way down, my heart wouldn’t stop thumping, a thrilling combination of anxiety and hope. I really, really wanted this job but probably not for the right reasons.
I suspected I was quickly developing a crush on a man called James, who might soon become my boss.