Excerpt: The Gift
August fidgeted in the hard plastic chair and checked the clock for what had to be the hundredth time. They’d all been there for more than an hour and not a single one of them had moved yet. As if they had all the time in the world to just hang around and wait.
He took a second to let his attentions wander over the rest of the room. Also for the hundredth time. Also in duress of what he found there. So many beautiful people, so many cool ones, while he sat there looking like an overdressed high school kid waiting for his prom date.
But whoever heard of going to a job interview in jeans, for heaven’s sake? It would be laughable if the truth wasn’t so obvious—he was the one who looked out of place. Not Ms. Snake-skin-tights or Mr. Jeans-so-snug-you-must-have-painted-them-on. Not even Mr. Green-hair. Amidst the funky clothing and extra-cool t-shirts that probably cost more than his last week’s pay altogether, it was the conservative navy-blue pinstripe suit that looked foolish.
He sighed and let his head fall back on the wall behind him. What was he even doing there? He wasn’t in these people’s league. He wasn’t even done his program yet at college. And if he didn’t have serious doubts in his ability to obtain a high enough grade to keep him there, he wouldn’t have even bothered applying for the job in the first place.
August knew the value of a buck. And the job promised to offer a good one. Not that it would take much to outshine the nine bucks an hour he got at the record store. Nor was the concept of merely asking for money from his parents that big of an issue—to them. To him it was a mortification of unfathomable proportions, an admission that he couldn’t make it on his own. Perhaps even a suggestion that getting into the music industry was as much of a joke as they’d told him it was when he’d said that was what he wanted to do. After all, if one couldn’t make it through college while pursuing the dream, perhaps that was an indication of how hard it would be to find a job once one was done? August could hear the words as if his father was speaking them right into his ear.
He’d been surprised, but not floored, when he’d seen the posting on the billboard. A lot of companies posted their part-time and low-man-on-the-totem jobs at the school. The students were perfect pansies. They would work like dogs trying to make a good impression, they weren’t good enough to expect a lot in return, and they were more about “making contacts” then making money. So they got the jobs nobody else wanted and they were paid like sweatshop kids.
The posting had seemed a little different though: a bit more put together, a touch more promising. A real job.
Wanted — Personal Assistant
P.A. needed to provide trustworthy, efficient assistance for serious musical professional. Must be flexible with hours, willing to travel, and have the ability to assume a variety of responsibilities. Make some contacts, learn the ropes, and share a valuable experience working right in the heart of the industry.
It was simple, to the point, and the number was local. He’d stolen the card right off the board, a huge protocol no-no what with it not being fair to everybody else and blah, blah, blah. The school even provided wee pencils and scrap paper for one to write information on just for that very purpose. But he did it anyway. And all the way back to the apartment on the bus he’d read it over and over again.
The woman August had spoken to on the phone had been polite, intelligent, and the most cryptic person August had ever held a conversation with in his life. Diana, August repeated mentally as she gave him the details of the interview process and reiterated the information that had been in the posting. And with his eyes closed, processing the word so as not to forget it, she’d changed her tone and lowered her voice. “Just follow the signs when you get here. You can do that, right, August?”
He hadn’t answered immediately—just listened to the extended pause after the question. In all truth August hadn’t really been sure what the woman was asking. “You can follow the signs, right?”
August had done what he’d been told. He’d followed the signs through the tall, well-decorated building. He’d gazed through plate glass windows at shiny desks and album-bedecked walls, nervous but hoping. Hoping and wishing. Wishing and praying. Yet for the last hour all August had been asking himself was why he’d bothered. He should be out looking for a real job—one that he actually had a chance of landing. He should be finishing his paper that, even if aced, would still not be enough to pull his grade up to passing. He should be trying to find a way to tell his parents he’d be coming back in December instead of May.
He almost said to hell with it. He even put down the magazine he’d been pretending to read and lowered the foot he’d had resting on his knee. He’d settled both shoes flat on polished hardwood, took a breath, lifted his head … and there he was. August hadn’t even seen him come in; it didn’t appear that anyone in the room had. But as the newcomer stood there, stopped, looking up at the ceiling, people began to notice.
With fingers that suddenly seemed too shaky to be functional, August located the magazine he’d just dropped and picked it back up, flipping quickly through the pages to confirm. Then he nodded to himself. Damn and hell and God and the Virgin, there the man was. Right there—in big, bright glossy Hollywood style and shine, on page thirty-eight. Doren. And damn but if he wasn’t just as beautiful in person as he was on paper.
Dark, thick hair cut wild and styled even more so, blue eyes that seemed bright enough to be reaching supersonic, and the casual disinterest that should have an “I’m sexy and I know it” song playing as background. He was that perfect combination of old-school white knight and dangerous bad-boy, with a body that was tight and lean and long—as if he’d been born for the sole purpose of fanning the hormones of schoolgirl and matron alike.