I T WAS A breezy fall morning when I entered the mirrored glass skyscraper in midtown Manhattan, leaving the cacophony of blaring horns and pedestrian chatter behind to step into cool quiet. My heels clicked across the dark marble of the massive lobby with a tempo that echoed my racing heart. With damp palms, I slid my ID across the security desk. My nervousness only increased after I accepted my visitors badge and headed to the elevator.
Have you ever wanted something so bad, you couldn’t imagine not having it?
There were two things in my life I’d felt that way about: the man I’d stupidly fallen in love with and the administrative assistant position I was about to interview for.
The man had turned out to be really bad for me; the job could change my life in an amazing way. I couldn’t even think about walking away from the interview without nailing it. I just had this feeling, deep inside me, that working as Lei Yeung’s assistant was what I needed to spread my wings and fly.
Still, despite my inner pep talk, my breath caught when I stepped out onto the tenth floor and saw the smoked-glass entrance to Savor, Inc. The company’s name was emblazoned in a metallic feminine font across the double doors, challenging me to dream big and relish every moment.
Waiting to enter, I studied the number of well-dressed young women sitting around the reception area. Unlike me, they weren’t wearing last season’s styles secondhand. I doubted any of them had held three jobs to help pay for college, either. I was at a disadvantage in nearly every way, but I’d known that and I wasn’t intimidated...much.
I was buzzed through the security doors and took in the café-au-lait walls covered with photos of celebrity chefs and trendy restaurants. There was a faint aroma of sugar cookies in the air, a comforting scent from my childhood. Even that didn’t relax me.
Taking a deep breath, I checked in with the receptionist, a pretty African-American girl with an easy smile, then I stepped away to find a bare place against the wall to stand. Was my scheduled appointment time—for which I was nearly half an hour early—a joke? I soon realized that everyone was set for a brisk five-minute audience, and they were marched in and out precisely on time.
My skin flushed with a light mist of nervous perspiration.
When my name was called, I pushed away from the wall so quickly that I wobbled on my heels, my clumsiness mirroring my shaky confidence. I followed a young, attractive guy down the hall to a corner office with an open, unmanned reception area and another set of double doors that led into Lei Yeung’s seat of power.
He showed me in with a smile. “Good luck.”
As I passed through those doors, I was struck first by the cool modern vibe of the decor, then by the woman who sat behind a walnut desk that dwarfed her. She might’ve been lost in the vast space, with its stunning views of the Manhattan skyline, if not for the striking crimson of her reading glasses, which perfectly matched the stain on her full lips.
I took a moment to really get a good look at her, admiring how the strip of silver hair at her right temple had been artfully arranged into her elaborate updo. She was slender, with a graceful neck and long arms. And when she looked up from my application to consider me, I felt exposed and vulnerable.
She slid her glasses off and sat back. “Have a seat, Gianna.”
I moved across the cream-colored carpet and took one of the two chrome-and-leather chairs in front of her desk.
“Good morning,” I said, belatedly hearing a trace of my Brooklyn accent, which I’d practiced hard to suppress. She didn’t seem to pick up on it.
“Tell me about yourself.”
I cleared my throat. “Well, this spring I graduated magna cum laude from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas—”
“I just read that on your résumé.” She softened her words with a slight smile. “Tell me something I don’t already know about you. Why the restaurant industry? Sixty percent of new establishments fail within the first five years. I’m sure you know that.”
“Not ours. My family has run a restaurant in Little Italy for three generations,” I said proudly.
“So why not work there?”
“We don’t have you.” I swallowed. That was way too personal. Lei Yeung didn’t seem rattled by the gaffe, but I was. “I mean, we don’t have your magic,” I added quickly.
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