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Chapter One

 I saw her coming toward my desk ten minutes before it was time to leave for the day, an evil smile on her face, and I knew that I was not going to like whatever it was that she had to say. Ever since Astrid got a promotion that made her my boss, she enjoyed taking every opportunity to rub it in my face that she was the one given the pay raise, the private office with her name on the door, and the perks that came with being the office manager in a large law firm such as ours.

“I’m so sorry, Jodi,” she said, looking at me with an expression that said she was anything but sorry.  “Mr. Chantry Three has a client coming in and requested that you sit in and take notes, and prepare whatever documents he requires.  I hope you didn’t have anything planned for this evening…?” The glint in her eyes said she hoped she was canceling a date that I’d been looking forward to for a long, long time.

I wasn’t about to tell her that I did have plans; she would gloat too much, so I lied!  “No, I am free this evening.  Please tell Mr. Chantry that I will be pleased to sit in on his meeting.”  I forced a smile to my lips and Astrid frowned.  Score one for me!  Not for the first time I swore I was going to get even with the snotty witch.  Of course, it is illegal to run over someone when they walk in front of your car in the parking lot!  But, I would find a way, and soon!

As the offices of Chantry, Chantry, and Chantry cleared out for the weekend, I remained at my desk amid stares from the others.  I knew exactly what they were thinking, and they were right. Astrid Butterfield was being vengeful yet again, and there was nothing I could do about it that wouldn’t get me shown to the door.  I’d worked too hard to earn my position of respect among the legal secretaries, so, I put on my fake smile and waited until Astrid left to relax.  I moved to the reception desk to greet Mr. Chantry Three’s client and escort him to the youngest Chantry’s office. 

If I had to work late I was glad it was for this particular Chantry.  He was handsome to a fault, and he filled out a suit nicely in all the right places. If I daydreamed about an office romance, which I would never act upon, Chantry Three was the object of my fantasy. When I brought the client into his office, Chantry Three stood and walked around the desk to shake the man’s hand.  He made a bit of small talk, but rather quickly brought up the subject for the meeting.  The client was nearly positive he was going to be arrested at any time, and he wanted Chantry Three’s opinion on what he should do if the inevitable happened.  When Chantry Three asked if he was guilty of the charges, the man crossed his arms over his chest and admitted he was guilty.  Chantry Three nodded, and told him to refuse to answer any questions without his attorney present.  They talked longer, and Chantry seemed to think that mitigating circumstances would make the Judge more lenient if it came to a trial.  With the trend leaning toward plea bargaining, he didn’t think the client would actually do time.  Did I mention that my job is very interesting?

After showing the client to the door, I returned to my desk to type up the notes of the meeting and put them into a paper file as well as in Chantry Three’s client files on the computer.  Our files are properly protected with firewalls and passwords, which are changed on a weekly basis.  It doesn’t mean that we cannot be hacked, but that we take precautions to keep that from happening.

Chantry Three came to my desk a few minutes later and I nearly drooled when I saw that he’d taken his suit coat and tie off and unbuttoned his collar and rolled his shirt sleeves up to his elbows.  “Thank you for working late, Jodi.  It was good of you to volunteer this morning when I told Astrid to see if anyone was free, although I can’t understand why a young woman who is as beautiful as you are didn’t have plans for the evening!”  Astrid again!  The lying witch!  She planned this all day long! 

I smiled and said, “I am pleased to be of service, sir.”

“My name is Joseph,” Chantry Three said, correcting me, much to my surprise.  “It’s after working hours; how much longer will you be typing up those notes, Jodi?” he asked.

“I’m almost finished; is there something else I can do for you?”  I almost added the “sir” out of habit, but caught myself just in time.

“Would you have dinner with me, Jodi?”  He saw my startled expression and quickly added, “No pressure now.  It’s just my way of saying thank you for working late, and it’s a chance to get to know you better.  But, if you aren’t interested, just say so and no hard feelings.”

“I would love to have dinner with you, sir,” I answered.

“Joseph.” He corrected me again, smiling as he did so.

“Joseph,” I repeated, smiling shyly.  Was I dreaming or what?  When he turned his back to me after telling me he would be ready to leave in about twenty minutes, I pinched myself… hard!  It hurt, so I knew I was truly awake and the gorgeous hunk of an attorney had really asked me to go to dinner with him!  It sure beat fast food and a movie with the girls, and Astrid was going to be livid.  That was the best part of all.

I was ready to leave by the time Chantry Three… Joseph… came to my desk to escort me out of the law offices and to his car in the parking lot. My poor car was in the shop again, and I was forced to rely on public transportation.  “Where is your car, Jodi?” Joseph asked curiously.

“In the shop,” I answered glumly.

“Again?  You just got it back last week!”

I was surprised that he knew about that!  “Yes, I know.  I wish I could afford to trade it in on a new one.”

Joseph looked at me but didn’t say anything.  I didn’t feel like explaining why I couldn’t afford a new car on the nice salary I was paid.  “I like your car,” I said, pretty darn sure I’d picked a subject that Joseph would be happy to talk about if he was like most men.

“It gets me where I need to go.  Dad is the one who picked this out and gave it to me to celebrate my passing the bar and joining him and Granddad in the firm,” he explained as he opened the car door for me.  Once I was inside he walked around the car and got inside and immediately put on his seatbelt.  I abhor seatbelts because they are not comfortable for someone as short as I am, and I never wore one.  Joseph looked at me, waiting, and it took me a few moments to realize that he was waiting for me to buckle up!

“Ohhh,” I said as I fathomed the why of his look.  “I don’t like seatbelts, Joseph, and I never wear one, so just go ahead.”

“Absolutely not.  No one rides in my car without buckling up.”

“So this will be a first!” I said lightly, hoping he would simply laugh it off and not make a big scene.  No such luck!

He looked at me until I was nearly squirming and then he said in a low, threatening voice, “If you don’t put that seatbelt on right now, Jodi Vanscoy, I will put it on you, and then, when I take you home tonight, I will turn you over my knee for being such a stubborn little fool.”

Now, my eyes flew wide open at that!  I quickly looked into his dark eyes to see if he was joking, but there was no sign of humor in his expression.  If anything, he appeared ready to carry out his threat here and now!  I also didn’t like being called a stubborn fool, but before I could argue the point, he reached across me, pulled down the seatbelt and fastened it.  I gasped, and immediately reached down to unfasten the offending strap that was already chafing my neck, but Joseph grabbed my hand and asked me if I was so anxious to find myself over his knee.  I could only shake my head no.  He nodded, started the car, and we were on the busy street before I could demand he let me out of the car!

Surprisingly, Joseph seemed to flip a switch within him, turning off the temper I never expected him to have.  He brought up the coming Halloween holiday and wondered if I had special plans to dress up in a costume and go to any spooky parties.  “I love Halloween, and I would have a costume party, but my apartment isn’t large enough to accommodate very many people at one time,” I explained.  “I’ve thought of renting a place, but there again, I can’t afford to do that.”

“I think that we should prevail upon Astrid to have a party.  She’s moving into that big old house she just bought, and she could have a Halloween masquerade/housewarming party.”  Astrid’s moving into a new and larger home was news to me. She rarely shared anything with any of the secretaries since she’d been promoted.  She was too busy finding ways to torment all of us.

“I think that is a great idea, Joseph,” I immediately agreed with him.  “What kind of costume would you wear?” I asked.

“Oh, I want to be a Sheriff in the Old West,” he answered immediately, and then grinned and added, “I think you should go as the naughty saloon girl.”

“Really?”  I didn’t know what to think of that, but before I could ask him what he meant, we arrived at one of the most exclusive new restaurants in town.  I could hardly believe that I was actually going to get to see the inside of the place, much less get to sample their food!  My budget didn’t allow for much in the way of entertainments and meals out.

Joseph parked the car, unfastened his seat belt, then got out and rounded the car to open my car door.  I tried to get out, but the fastened seat belt tightened across me and prevented me from moving!  I was embarrassed when Joseph shook his head, and then reached inside the car to unfasten the infuriating thing.  I truly hate seat belts and I casually reached up and rubbed the tender spot on my neck where it had rubbed during the short drive.

Joseph took my hand and walked me inside the well-decorated restaurant, and even the lobby looked lovely.  I was startled when a man came right up to us.  “Joseph, it’s good to see you!”

“Thanks, Devon.  I’ve been anxious to come and see what you’ve done with this place.  Looks like you’re busy…?”

“Better than I’d dared to hope we would be for no longer than we’ve been open, Joe.  Who is this lovely lady?”

“This is Ms. Jodi Vanscoy.  Jodi, this is Devon Jacobs, my college roommate.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Devon,” I said politely.  The man’s smile was contagious.

“It’s good to see Joe out with someone like you, Jodi.  He works much too hard.”  He looked over at the hostess and said, “Do you have Mr. Chantry’s table ready, Darla?”

“Yes, Mr. Jacobs.  Right this way, please.” Darla smiled at Joseph, but the look she gave me was full of jealousy.  I could see that she thought I was more than a legal secretary in a large law office, but I smiled with confidence even though I was far from feeling self-assured.  Our table was in a quiet corner, and I felt like Cinderella at the ball.  I almost giggled when I thought of Joseph as the handsome Prince. He could certainly pass the part since he was tall, dark, and handsome, but I was as far from Cinderella as I could be.  Cinderella was a blonde, but I have red hair, and my eyes are green instead of blue.  I’m also very short; that doesn’t lend itself to being graceful as a swan.

“Jodi..?” I suddenly realized that Joseph was speaking to me, and I blushed with embarrassment. “Would you like some wine?” he asked.

“Yes, thank you,” I agreed, deciding I needed to enjoy the experience. And I did.  Joseph and I talked and laughed, and I found it difficult to believe I’d worked with this man for a little over a year now and didn’t know what a great sense of humor he had.

“I’ve had a great time tonight, Jodi,” Joseph said as we walked outside in the crisp, cool fall air.

“So have I, Joseph.  Thank you so much for asking me to join you.”

“It was my pleasure, and I hope we can do it again soon.”

“That would be nice, but aren’t you concerned what others at work would have to say?”  I knew I was being bold, but a healthy dose of reality was needed here, lest either of us forget the true circumstances in our lives.  I was positive that Chantries One and Two would not approve of the heir apparent dating the hired help.

“Why would I worry about that, Jodi?  I have waited a long time to ask you out, and we got along just like I knew we would.  If I have to fire you just so I can date you, then I will!”

“Please don’t do that!” I couldn’t help begging.  Joseph had no idea how terrified his words made me.  The threat of being jobless was what kept me from dealing with Astrid as she deserved.  I didn’t dare make waves with her having the power to fire me, and the witch knew it, too.  I couldn’t even complain about her with others who worked in the law firm for the simple reason I couldn’t trust that one of them wouldn’t go to Astrid and tell her what I’d said.

“Don’t be silly, Jodi,” Joseph said, his soft voice taking away my fear.  “I would never do that, but please don’t tell me that you aren’t interested in going out with me again.  It hurts my feelings.”  When I looked at him in disbelief, he said, “Yes, I am serious.  I do have feelings.”

“Of course you do!  But, won’t your father and grandfather be upset with us?  I don’t want one of them to fire me, either!”

“I’ve already spoke to them of my feelings.  They both think you a wonderful asset to the firm, and said I could do a lot worse.  Granddad said that if he was younger and single he would give me a run for my money.”

“He did?”  I knew I was dreaming now, and did the pinch test again, only to yelp when it hurt.

“What?” Joseph asked in concern.

“I pinched myself to see if I was dreaming.”  Joseph just laughed and opened my car door for me.  This time I got into the car and put the damned seat belt on without being told.  I wasn’t about to do one thing that would cause Joseph to remember what he promised to do earlier.  The spanking threat had been in the back of my mind all evening, and to tell the truth, I knew my panties were damp because of that threat, and because imagining myself lying across his lap with my bottom all bare while he spanked me with his bare hand appealed to me in some strange, inexplicable way. Still, fantasy was one thing, reality another… and it was much too soon for an actual spanking.

Joseph got into the car, took one look at me and smirked, then said, “That’s not going to work, young lady.”

“What?” I asked, hoping I sounded confused and innocent.  He dared to laugh!  When Joseph started driving, I asked, “Don’t you wish to know where I want to be dropped off?”

“I am taking you home, Jodi.  It’s too late for you to take the bus, and then walk the rest of the way to your apartment from the bus stop closest to your place.”

“You know where I live?”

“I looked it up before we left the office,” he told me, obviously pleased with himself.

Now what did I do?  I couldn’t ask him in.  He lived in a mansion, and I lived in a one bedroom apartment with a sleeper sofa in the living room for when my brother stayed over, which was nearly every weekend.

“You look upset…?  Am I coming across as a stalker, Jodi?  Do you fear that you need to say ‘yes’ to me just because you work for the firm?  I’m not like that, I promise.  I will never pressure you to sleep with me.  I just want the same chance you would give any other man that you met and took a liking to.  Okay?”

“I trust you, Joseph.  I really do.”  I was telling the complete truth.  I lost my parents when I was barely eighteen, and I’d quickly learned who to trust, and which type of man not to let near me. I learned to be very careful of allowing any man to take me home.  I knew Joseph was a good, solid man.  “The problem is that I really do like you, and I don’t want you to think the worst of me.”

“Why would I do that?”

“Because you know what I make, and compared to Astrid, who has her own house now, I have a tiny apartment that isn’t well furnished.”  There, it was in the open.

“I don’t care about any of that, Jodi.  It’s you I want to see, and I’d hate to see what a mess I would make of my own place if I had one.  I still live at home,” he confessed, making a comical face.

“I’m so pleased we’ve taken the time to get to know each other, Joseph.” 


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