I sat alone at a table in the staff lounge reading the employee handbook while Ms. Oliver went off to take care of something. She’d given me a tour and had HR take my picture for a badge and then brought me to the lounge.
“You don’t need to remember it all now, but start going through it. I’m going to grab your badge and deal with an issue for Mr. Raven senior, then I’ll be back. You can get a snack if you want.” She nodded toward the vending machines in the room.
I wasn’t hungry, so I opened the large binder. There was a LOS to read, but my difficulty concentrating had nothing to do with the content. Instead, meeting Chase Raven had my brain in a tizzy.
Did he call his brothers fuckheads?
I knew that people in New York City had a reputation for being abrupt to the point of rude, and I’d run into people like that before, but I’d never worked for someone like that. I’d had to endure perverts and lechers, but not someone like Mr. Raven. He had a dark stare that could probably whither flowers.
My goal was to work hard and hopefully parlay this internship into a job, but now I wasn’t sure I wanted to work in such a hostile environment. It was bad enough that I rented a room from a man who could possibly be a serial killer. Well, maybe not a murderer, but still, I was uncomfortable. My discomfort could be from my sheltered background and the fear mongering my parents used to keep me in line. In the end, the statement that beggars can’t be choosers was true, and I took the cheapest place I could find that didn’t have cockroaches. It was basically a closet with a bathroom shared by four other people who also had closet-sized rooms.
Focus, Sara. I turned my attention back to the handbook and was pleased to see a policy of no fraternizing and a process for reporting people who engaged in sexual misbehavior at work. Good. Not that men wouldn’t look, but at least they wouldn’t touch or say lewd things. I hoped that the rule was strictly enforced.
“I’ve got your badge.” She studied it. “I bet you never take a bad picture.”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. I haven’t had my picture taken very often.” My parents had a few pictures, but they were mostly school photos.
“Really? You’re so pretty, I’d have thought there’d be plenty of pictures.”
I shook my head.
“You ready to go back to Mr. Raven’s office?” There was a tone in her voice that sounded disapproving and I wondered if maybe the no fraternizing rule didn’t extend to the owners.
“Yes.” I bit my lip wanting to ask her about him but not wanting to get in trouble. “Is he always so… grumpy?”
Alex laughed. “Yes, but Chase is all bark and no bite. He can be worse around his brothers, but you get used to it.”
“He and his brothers don’t get along?” I used to wish I had a sibling. Just one person I could feel connected to. I supposed that’s what I’d hoped for in Glenn and initially took his overbearing as a sign he cared for me. Now I knew differently. I was alone in the world and people couldn’t be trusted.
“I don’t know if you’ve been around children, but siblings often bicker and squabble. The problem with the Raven boys is that they never grew out of that. They fuss a lot, but deep down, they do care about each other. They’re all a little rough around the edges, but they’re not bad people.”
“Okay. Who is Hunter?”
Alex let out a breath. “He was around earlier although you may not have seen him. I can tell you that he saw you, and I’m sure that’s why Chase has asked you to work with him.”
I swallowed. “Is he a problem?”
Alex laughed. “No, he’s a horndog. He tends to obey the rules, but like I said, you’re a pretty woman, and Hunter isn’t as predictable as he was before.”
“Before he did a stint in the marines.” Alex patted my arm. “Don’t worry, Sara. You’re safe here. Even from Hunter. But if he asks you out, say no. Come on.”
I followed her back to Mr. Raven’s office. This time when she knocked, he told her to come in using a polite voice.
“Ms. Sheppard is ready,” she said.
Mr. Raven stood from behind his desk, his eyes raking over me. I felt a bit like a sheep going to slaughter. I knew that look and hoped Alex was right, that the Raven men were safe to be around.
“Good. I’ll have a desk brought in for you by tomorrow,” he said.
“There’s space right outside, Mr. Raven,” Alex said, clearly surprised by his statement.
“I have one word for you… Hunter.”
Alex looked at him and then me. She started to say something, but he cocked his head and his eyes held censure. She pursed her lips together and stayed quiet.
“Thank you, Ms. Oliver. That’s all for now.”
She nodded toward him, her eyes clearly irritated. “If you need anything, Sara, let me know.”
I swallowed, but nodded. When the door closed behind her, I looked to Mr. Raven. He was looking at me again, but this time I didn’t see the lust I’d seen before. Perhaps I misinterpreted him before.
“Please, sit,” he motioned to a chair in front of his desk, and he sat back down behind it.
“Thank you. I’m excited about this opportunity and honored to be working with you.”
The corner of his lips twitched upward. “I hope you’ll find the experience educational and rewarding. You’re studying marketing?”
“Yes sir. In Staten Island, although I’d like to transfer to a school in Manhattan.”
“You like the city?” he sat back, looking comfortable and less intimidating, which helped me relax.
“Yes, sir, I do.” Taking a chance, I asked. “Where did your other interns work if there’s no place for them here?”
He shrugged. “I’ve never had an intern before.”
“I’d like to think that makes me special, but I know that’s not the case.”
He leaned forward, his brows furrowed as if he was trying to figure something out about me. “You must have been treated special before.”
I bit my lip. “There’s special treatment and then there’s being treated special because it’s been earned. I haven’t earned anything.”
He jerked slightly and sat back, as if I reprimanded him. I suppose in some ways I had. I knew I often got special treatment from men who hoped I’d give them special treatment in return.
“You earned an internship at Raven Industries.”
Inwardly I scoffed. If he only knew.
“And I’ll expect you to live up to that, just as I expect all other employees and even my brothers to do.”
He studied me for another moment and then gave a short nod. “Good. Here’s some information on a resort I intend to buy. Go through this and then show me what you know about marketing by coming up with a plan for how to draw in visitors.” He handed me a file.
“Yes, sir.” I took it and looked around the room for where I could work. There was a couch with a coffee table. I stood and went to sit, opening the folder to read about a resort in Palm Beach. I looked up at him. “Would there be a computer for me to use if I needed it?”
“I’ll have a laptop brought up for you.” He lifted his phone receiver and ordered a computer to be brought to his office. I supposed everything in his life was like that. Whatever he wanted or needed, he could order. Probably even women.
He might have been surly, but he was spectacularly handsome. Glenn had a boyish, all-American attractiveness, Chase Raven was all man. His dark hair was cut short on the sides and longer on top. He had gray eyes that were cool now, but I’d seen flashes of heat when Alex said something he didn’t like.
More than just his dangerously handsome face was his physical presence. He was tall and broad, but there was something about his attitude that made him feel larger than life. He knew he had power and control and wore it like a badge. It made him even more attractive. I had no doubt that he could have any woman he wanted and probably did.
I was almost disappointed to think I’d misinterpreted his raking stare because unlike the other men whose stares made me feel dirty, Chase Raven made me feel something different all together. Was it attraction? Lust? I wasn’t sure. The only thing I knew was that it was different from anything I’d felt around a man before, including Glenn.
But even if he did stare at me with desire, it wouldn’t matter. The policy was no fraternizing and Alex gave me the impression that Chase was all about rules. Wasn’t that why I was there in his office? So he could keep his brother from breaking them?
A few minutes later, someone arrived and hurriedly got me set up with a login on a laptop. He kept looking over at Mr. Raven, as if he expected him to pounce any minute. But Mr. Raven kept working at his desk without a glance in our direction.
Once I was set up, I read through all the materials, and then accessed the computer to research Raven Industries’ other marketing campaigns. I figured the more I understood about the company, the better the chance I’d have to create a plan Mr. Raven liked and hopefully earn a job when the internship was done.
About an hour later, there was a quick knock and then a man entered without Mr. Raven’s okay.
Mr. Raven’s expression was annoyed as he looked at the man.
The man glanced at me, and bit his lip like he was trying not to smile as he turned his attention back to Mr. Raven. “Got yourself an intern, I see.”
“Ms. Sheppard, this is my brother Ash. Ash, this is Ms. Sheppard, my intern.”
“Hello,” I said, noting he had the same dark hair as his brother. But Ash’s eyes were hazel not the cool gray of Mr. Raven’s.
“Nice to meet you,” he said to me. He looked back at Mr. Raven. “Dad will be so proud.”
Mr. Raven’s jaw tensed. “Yes. We won’t be sued because of Hunter.”
Ash laughed. “Yeah, right. Looks to me like you’re working on your inheritance.”
Mr. Raven stood. “Do you have any actual business, Ash or did you come for an ass-whooping?”
My eyes widened.
Ash smiled good naturedly and held his hands up in surrender. “I’m heading to 58 th to see how the updates are coming.”
“Good,” Mr. Raven growled. “That project is behind. As it is, we won’t be opening during the summer.”
Ash’s jovial demeanor dropped. “Always the asshole.” He turned to me. “Good to meet you Ms. Sheppard.”
“You too,” I said.
When he left, I turned my attention back to my work.
“I’m sorry about that.”
I waved his comment away. “It’s none of my business.”
“Do you have siblings, Ms. Sheppard?”
I shook my head. “I have no one.”
His eyes widened and only then did I realize what I said and wished I hadn’t revealed so much. Women who had no support were the most vulnerable, at least that’s what I’d read.
“No one?” he asked.
“I have parents.”
His shrewd eyes studied me. “But you’re not close?”
“Sounds like my family. I’d die for my brothers, but most of the time I want to kill them.”
I smiled. “Sounds like most families.”
“I guess you’re right.” He went back to his work, and I did mine.
At five he stood from his desk. “You can head home now, Ms. Sheppard.”
I was in the middle of working on the competitive analysis. “May I bring this home to work on it?”
“I don’t expect you to work beyond the hours specified in your internship contract.”
“But I’d like to.” It’s not like I had anything else to do. Or more accurately, I didn’t have money to do anything but sit at home.
“You won’t get overtime.” He said putting on his coat.
“That’s okay.” I started gathering the papers and powered down the computer. “Do you end your day at five?”
He shook his head. “At five I go have a drink with my father in his office. And then I’m back here.”
“I guess you have to work a lot to maintain an empire.”
He laughed. “Yes.”
“Your wife doesn’t mind?” I hadn’t noticed a ring, but many married men didn’t wear them.
He cocked his head to the side as if he wanted to assess what I was asking.
Realizing he probably thought I was probing his marital status to see if I had a chance with him, I said, “It’s none of my business. It’s just that we talked about family earlier.”
He seemed to accept that. “I have no family and no plans to have any, which is why my drink with my father tonight will be interesting.”
I had no idea what that meant and didn’t feel it was my place to ask. “Well, I hope it goes well.” I stood and collected my things. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He walked across the room and opened the door for me. “Have a good evening, Ms. Sheppard.”
“Thank you, sir.” As I headed down the elevator and out onto the city street, I realized that while Mr. Raven had scared me initially, he was really just a serious man. The truth was, this situation couldn’t get any better. Even if Mr. Raven didn’t offer me a job when my internship was over, having him as a reference would open all sorts of doors for me.
For the first time since I got my scholarship for college, I felt excited and hopeful about my future.
Yes. Mr. Raven was the answer to my prayers.