She stood there for a few seconds staring at the door pondering the name. There was no reason not to; she was early anyway. Why would anyone name their son such a thing? Richard Richardson? After all, it isn’t as if he was a female and married into such an unfortunate name. His parents knew exactly what they were doing when they stuck him with that moniker. The really bad part? He was a third, which meant his father, William Richard Richardson, Jr., had not only lived with that name, but actually bestowed it upon his son.
Rich people were funny.
She tilted her head and wondered if anyone ever called either of them Willie Dick?
Her resulting laugh startled an older gentleman who was walking down the hallway, and he looked toward her, making sure to give her a wide berth as he passed. She discreetly peeked from the corner of her eye as he did so and noted how he looked back at her over his shoulder. For a second, she imagined she could hear his thoughts.
Wonder if that’s her? The one from the newspaper? Looks a bit like her. Hair’s a little off, though.
She dipped her head, not wanting anyone to discover that she was, in fact, the girl from the newspaper. Her head remained down until the man hurried into an office a few doors away from where she was standing. His actions took less than a minute, but that was all she needed to sober up, lose the laughter, and remember where she was.
She happened to be outside a prospective employer’s office door — a prospective employer who also happened to be her very last chance at obtaining gainful employment as a nurse. If she messed this meeting up, tomorrow she’d be filing for unemployment in an undoubtedly dingy office somewhere downtown and looking for employment as a checkout girl at the local Stop and Shop. Not that there was anything wrong with either option, but she hadn’t worked two jobs while putting herself through nursing school to wind up doing either. Plus, no matter what his parents were thinking when they named him, job experience with William Richard Richardson, III was nothing to sneeze at and could be exactly what she needed to revive her career.
She straightened her shoulders and opened the door.
The office she found inside surprised her. William owned and ran a international IT outsourcing business, and as such, she expected his office to be sleek and modern. Instead, she was met by a more traditional office space filled with dark, rich wood. She walked across a thick red rug to stand before the administrative assistant.
“Yes, ma’am?” the perky assistant asked with a flash of perfectly white, perfectly straight teeth, and Emma wondered if William burned his way through administrative assistants the same way she’d heard he does nurses.
“Emma Olson to see Mr. Richardson.”
The smile disappeared once she gave her name. A neatly manicured fingernail worked its way down an appointment calendar visible on the sleek computer monitor.
“Here you are. I’ll let Mr. Richardson know you’re here,” she said with a wave of her hand toward a plush leather couch.
Emma took a seat. She knew by the feel of leather under her hands and the way the couch gave slightly as she sat down that William wasn’t one to cut corners on expense. Besides, she recognized the painting gracing the far wall as a Degas, and not a print. It could have been hanging in an art gallery. Probably should have been. It’d be more at home there than it was in a computer geek’s office.
Her eyes roamed around the rest of the room. What appeared to be a silk rug covered the floor, and she was almost certain she recognized the vase in one corner of the room. Yet her eyes were drawn to the rest of the artwork: Horace Day and Edouard Manet. Someone had impressive taste in art. She wondered if it was William or his decorator.
She snapped her eyes to Miss Pretend Perky.
“You can go on in.”
Emma stood and took a moment to smooth the lines of her skirt, thankful her hands weren’t noticeably shaking. She ignored Miss Pretend Perky, walked past the desk, and knocked on the closed door leading to the inner office where William waited.
“Come in,” a stern masculine voice said from the other side of the door. The voice didn’t match up with how she’d supposed a computer geek would sound. Computer geeks should have high squeaky voices and faces covered with zits. And if you thought about it, Emma decided, a man named William Richard Richardson, III should most definitely have a squeaky voice and a plethora of zits.
She opened the door.
William sat at his desk furiously typing away on his laptop.
“I’ll be right with you,” he said, without bothering to look up. “Have a seat.”
She supposed he meant on one of the leather couches that matched the one she’d just been seated on while outside with Perky. She wanted to tell him it was rude to treat her in such a manner. That certainly his mother had taught him better than to completely ignore anyone who had an appointment with him. That even though she was a prospective employee, she was still a person, damn it, and still deserved some respect.
Instead of saying anything, however, she sat down, crossed her legs, took a deep breath, and cursed the fates that had her sitting and waiting for Mr. I’m-So-Busy-With-Really-Important-Things-I-Can’t-Be-Bothered-With-The-Likes-Of-You-Right-Now to look up and acknowledge her existence.
For a few minutes, she stared at the top of his head. It was a very nice head if you liked thick, brownish hair with a whisper of curl right at the crown. She decided she didn’t. Blond was a much nicer choice. Long blond. And messy. William’s was too perfect, too styled.
No, she decided, she didn’t like his hair at all.
After she finished critiquing his hair, she moved on to his fingers. You could tell a lot about someone from those. The fingers in question were currently typing furiously about something, probably some horribly complex computer programming thing. She could tell just by looking at William’s hands that the man had never experienced a bit of manual labor; his fingers were long and delicate looking, appearing for all the world as if they should be doing something artsy. She wondered if he painted.
He stopped typing, ran a hand through his hair, and sighed.
Ah, the life of the fabulously wealthy. Rough stuff. A curse, really, she thought.
She startled, not prepared to be dragged from her inner snarking about his thoughts, and looked up. And gasped.
William Richard Richardson, III did not have an acne problem.
And his eyes? His eyes were a pale blue made all the more distinctive by the brown of his hair. Computer genius, successful businessman, and deliciously good-looking? Sometimes life was so unfair.
Still, he was also known as a hardass who went through nurses like they were lined up outside his door.
She thought about standing and walking over to shake his hand, but since he stayed seated, she did the same. “Mr. Richardson.”
He took the stack of papers on top of his desk and flipped through them. “You have an impressive resume. Your experience and education are top-notch.” He waited, as if wanting her to respond, and when she didn’t, he continued. “Except for that unfortunate incident at the hospital.”
If she hadn’t been so shocked that he’d addressed it so early in the interview, she might have responded with a dismissive wave of her hand and a breezy, “Oh that.” As it was, she simply nodded.
“Why don’t you tell me about it?” he asked, when the silence continued.
She shook her head. “I can’t. I’ve been told by my attorney, the hospital’s attorneys, and opposing counsel not to speak to anyone while the case is ongoing.”
“Hmmm.” His eyes drifted back to her resume. “What interests you most in the position you applied for?”
The live-in part, she thought. Thanks to the lawsuit and her termination from the hospital, she no longer had money for rent. And her lease was up in a few days and she’d be homeless.
The salary he offered would help pay off her school loans and allow her to set aside some money for a rainy day.
There was also the fact that a recommendation from him would open up doors all over the city. After working for him, she could work anywhere.
Instead of telling him any of those things, though, she went for something more standard and less desperate sounding. “I’m looking to expand my horizons after the hospital. I enjoy spending time with my patients and feel that one-on-one home healthcare will allow me the opportunity to care for my patient, your grandmother, with a more holistic, whole body approach.”
She felt her face flush. “What?”
He leaned back in his chair with an easy confidence. “That was a lovely speech, Ms. Olson. Complete horse shit, but a lovely speech all the same. It tells me, one, that you’ve never met my grandmother. If you had, you’d never use her and ‘holistic’ in the same sentence. And two, that you’re full of bullshit. Now,” he shifted forward, keeping his eyes on her, “tell me what interests you most.”
He thought he had her cornered, she knew. He thought he could command her with that gruff, no-nonsense voice, and she’d just roll over and play dead. Of course he’d be used to that. However, if that’s what he thought of her...
“Mr. Richardson,” she said, standing and walking to his desk. “Let’s lay all our cards out, shall we? I need an income, a place to live, and work that appeals to me. I could apply for unemployment or work at a grocery store ringing up produce and meat, but I’m a nurse. I love to care for those who are unwell.” She placed her hands on his desk and leaned closer to him. “You, on other hand, need a nurse for your grandmother. Your current record for keeping a nurse is ten calendar days. Word has it one lasted that long only because she was an illegal alien and feared deportation. No, you don’t have to hire me, but the truth is, I’m your last hope.”
“And I’m yours?”
“Something like that.” She smirked. “Do we have ourselves a deal?”
He frowned. “I don’t know about a deal, but we’ll see if you can last a weekend. You come to the house this Friday, and we’ll assess things on Sunday.”
He opened the top drawer to his desk and took out a manila envelope. “Everything you need to know is here. Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll see you on Friday at six o’clock.”
She took the envelope, tucked it under her arm, and stuck out her hand. “See you at six.”
His hand, though soft as she expected, held a strength she hadn’t anticipated. As she walked to the door, his voice stopped her.
“Just so you know, Rosa didn’t last ten days because she feared deportation.”
She slowly turned. “Just so you know, I didn’t do anything wrong at the hospital, and I’m going to win my lawsuit.”
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