Home > My Big Fat Fake Engagement

My Big Fat Fake Engagement
Author: Lauren Landish

Chapter 1






“Looking good, Boss,” Jillian, my assistant, compliments me as I come into the office at ten minutes to eight on a gloriously sunny Monday morning. My office. From the subtle pastels in the wallpaper to the Janet Jackson poster, a reprint of her famous 1993 cover of Rolling Stone, it reflects me. “Glutes are on point.” She snaps her fingers with every word, making a Z shape in the air to add a little extra sauce to it.

I strut a little more for her, pretending the office is my runway and appreciating the compliment more than she knows.

I’ve known Jillian for a few years and hand selected her four months ago to move into my office after I got the promotion to Executive Vice President of Andrews Consolidated.

At the time, several other assistants who applied for the role were shocked by my choice, thinking I’d want someone young and hungry. Jillian is twenty years my senior and an outlier in the admin pool with an odd, kitschy style that she only slightly quashes for the office. Her outfits are always professional but funky pin-up versions like her favorite watermelon-print circle skirt, Mary Jane ankle strap heels, sweater set, and pearls. Each is complete with cat-eye, black-framed glasses and a bouffant hairdo she accents with knotted silk handkerchief headbands.

In passing, you might think she’s someone’s crazy aunt. In truth, she’s nothing short of amazing, and most important to me, her results are nothing short of superhuman.

Sure, she’s vivacious, a little wild, a little crazy, someone who likes to juggle a dozen balls in the air and then just for fun add a chainsaw to the mix as well. Plus, she’s got enough energy to power a small Midwestern city and still have enough to light up the office on dull days.

But that just makes her the perfect balance for me. I’m not talking myself down when I say that not only am I by the book, I’ve probably memorized it, notarized it, and sent grammar corrections to the book’s publisher. I’m straight as an arrow, a workaholic who needs someone like Jill to keep up with my B-shift tendencies. As in, be here before eight and be here after sunset if need be.

And with that weekly schedule, though she plays the dutiful assistant well in public, we’ve become the Odd Couple sort of friends behind closed doors, with her being the Oscar to my Felix.

“Thanks,” I tell Jillian, heading for my inner office. “How’re you doing?”

“Fine . . . and you could crack walnuts with that ass. Pow-pow.” From across the room, she air-squeezes each of my cheeks with one eye closed to help her aim.

That’s a new one. I spin, trying to look over my own shoulder, and she corrects me. “No, you gotta loosen up to throw it back. Like this.”

Without missing a beat, she demonstrates, strutting across the outer office in today’s floral-print pencil skirt and silk bow-tied blouse before popping her hip and dropping to pick up a paperclip on the floor in a back-arching, ass-swooping arc that’d have Nicki Minaj blush and Sir Mix-a-Lot dropping to his knees in worship.

“How in the world? Don’t throw out a hip, woman! It’s not covered by worker’s comp if you do it like that,” I sputter. I can’t help but laugh. I don’t think I’m even physically capable of moves like that. At least, not without a couple of years of tantric yoga and a scheduled hip replacement. Instead, I smooth my skirt over my hips, giving my ass a small pat of appreciation for its shapeliness, even if it can’t do gravity-defying moves like that. Yet.

“Thanks,” Jill says with a small curtsy, fawning over her imaginary fans who are apparently demanding an encore. A request she’s more than willing to oblige.

I head into my inner office, and I’m back to all-business as I stare out the window at the city view I wanted so badly and worked so hard to get. My hard work and hump busting are paying off and I finally have my chance.

Turning around, I call back out to Jillian, who of course has read my mind as usual and is waiting in the doorway, her tablet ready in case she needs to jot down something. And I do have some work for her to do. “About the AgroStar presentation. Everything prepared for the PowerPoint? I want to go over it a few more times today.”

“A few more dozen times, you mean,” she corrects me. “You could recite that thing in your sleep by this point. Even the Jean-Luc Picard quotes I snuck in on ya.”

She’s right, and most of the quotes were actually pretty good. I have most of the main body of the presentation down by heart. Now it’s all about strategizing and anticipating any questions the owner of AgroStar, Jane Crabtree, might try and hit me with. She’s known for having a mind like a katana and the ability to throw out curveballs that’d make a Major League pitcher jealous.

But if she’s the business equivalent of Clayton Kershaw, then I’m going to be Barry Bonds. I’ve practiced, I’ve honed my craft, and when she offers something up, I will smash it somewhere into outer space. Hence, the Jean-Luc Picard quotes.

It’s who I am. Stubborn and persistent? Absolutely. I once put together a one-thousand-piece puzzle in all white simply because I wouldn’t give up.

Calculating and analytical? Of course. I didn’t get my bachelor’s degree in mathematics for nothing.

Strategic and able to see the big picture from all angles? One of my best traits. In addition to my major in math, I minored in international business because I found the challenge exhilarating.

All of which is why I deserve this office and that title on the door, regardless of my last name. Yes, four months ago, this office belonged to my big brother, Ross. I was my father’s executive assistant. But now it’s mine, down to the interior decoration.

I love my big brother and wasn’t jealous of his success at all. But to be honest, I thought he was a bit of a mental case over this job. He kept whining about nepotism and how it made his life hard.

It made my bullshit meter go off, ad nauseum, because he was, and is, the shining Chosen One of our family. Both firstborn and male, he had all the skids greased for him. Luckily for him, he’s got the goods to back it up. Good looking, competitive, and with more business smarts in his pinky finger than most MBA grads will ever have, he blazed a trail in the company that outshone a lot of C-suite-level execs.

And I’ll give this to my brother—he’s not the kind to be born on third base and claim he hit a triple. He just chafed because he wanted to hit grand slams.

I knew that taking his job when he left the company was going to come with a lot of challenges. And now, I’ll admit that maybe he wasn’t being a big brat about the whole thing. There are issues, and then there’s the mountain I’m still just figuring out how to climb.

But the fact is, I paid my dues, and paid and paid again. Now, I’m right on course for everything I’ve planned and dreamed. One day, when Dad’s ready to retire, it’ll be my name on the CEO door. And I will have earned that responsibility and privilege.

Not that anyone cares. They see my last name, my youth, and that I’m a woman and instantly discount me. So the next goal is to prove to Dad, the board, and everyone from the top floor to the basement that I deserve this title and the next one because of my vision, not my last name.

“Jillian, go ahead and call for lunch delivery,” I call out as I sip at my second coffee of the day while reviewing the figures for the presentation just to make sure nothing’s changed in the past twenty-four hours. “Something light for me, maybe a turkey salad. It’s going to be a late night, and I don’t want to have office chair ass.”

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