Undercover Billionaire Boss: A BWWM Contemporary Romance, page 2
“That may be very well for you, but what about me? I’d have to work with him every day.”
“That’s the only down side.”
“What’s the upside?”
“Money. Lots and lots of money.”
“Oh. Yeah. That.”
The phone rang just then and Kelly picked it up. When she finished, she turned to Raina.
“The handyman guy is in the lobby waiting for you. You have an interview?”
“Oh, right.” She looked at her watch. “I lost track of time.” Raina said. “Well, I hope this applicant is finally the right one. See you later.”
He stood out like a sore thumb from the rest of the people in the lobby.
He wore a tattered baseball cap on his head and a shabby but clean jacket, and he had a stubbly beard, which was unusual for people in hospitality, even if they were just handymen.
That wasn’t what made him stick out though. What made him stick out is that he stood there like he belonged there. He had a quiet confidence that demanded attention, and the looks to back it up.
He was on the younger side of the other applicants she had seen. Most of them had been older men, in their sixties, former contractors who were looking to slow down a bit before retirement. This guy was—well, for lack of a better word—he was virile. He was broad shouldered and slim hipped, wearing jeans that looked like they had been cut just for him and showed off his height. He was tall, but that wasn’t what made him imposing—that was due to the manner in which he carried himself. He had an easy manner that most working-class people didn’t have when they entered the Del Mar.
Raina took it all in while she walked across the intricate mosaic-tiled floor of the expansive lobby. When he saw her walking towards him, he stood up. He was a tall man, with penetrating grey eyes and dark brown hair peeking out from under the cap. She noted, unfavorably, that he didn’t remove it when he reached out to shake her hand.
“Hi, my name is Raina; I’m the manager of the hotel,” Raina said and stuck out her hand. “You’re here about the handyman job?”
“Yes, that’s right. Hi, I’m Christopher Smith. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Well, come this way,” Raina said and led the way to her office.
She pushed the door open and held it while Christopher entered. He towered over her by almost a foot and Raina was not a short woman.
She invited him to sit down, and when he bent his long frame, she noticed the label of his jeans. They were from Wal-Mart and they looked brand new. He’d missed taking off one of the tags which was hanging on the side of the waistband. She felt a twinge of pity surge through her as she imagined him spending his last pennies on new clothes to try and make a good impression.
The rest of him indicated he had seen hard times recently. His flannel shirt was neat, but well-worn, with the red color fading at the collar. Raina felt a jolt of sympathy for him when she realized that he was probably a man who had done well for himself at one point, and then seen his circumstances change. A lot of people had lot their jobs during the recession and never quite recovered. She wondered if he was one of them.
She took an interview form from the top drawer of her desk, looked up at Christopher, and smiled. She wanted him to be as at ease with her as possible.
“Tell me about yourself, Christopher,” she invited.
“Well, I have a bit of experience in maintenance although I haven’t done it in a while now,” he said in a pleasing, deep voice. He gave her a half-smile which seemed a bit apologetic.
“You’ve been out of work for a long time?”
He hesitated. “Something like that. I used to be in a different line of work.”
It confirmed what Raina suspected. This was a man who needed a job.
Judging from the quiet, confident way he spoke, Raina guessed he might have had experience in management. She glanced at his resume. It was pretty impressive, a lot of jobs with large construction companies, and she would have thought that with his qualifications, he would have looked for a job out in the field as a supervisor or something. Still, Raina respected people who were willing to start at the bottom.
She grew sympathetic as he told her his story of how the construction jobs had fallen off when the banks stopped lending mortgages for new builds. Not wanting to dwell on that, she quickly moved on.
“Tell me, what do you know about the Del Mar group of hotels?” Raina said.
She listened with growing respect as Christopher trailed off the facts of the group, from its inception and ending with the name of the owner.
“I’m impressed; you’ve done your homework,” she said.
“Thank you,” Christopher said with a ghost of a smile.
Raina honed in on his experience.
“Most of this job is general maintenance—one minute you may be called to change a light bulb and the next to fix a leaking tap. Is that all right with you?”
“Well, take me though how you would fix a leaking toilet?” Raina said. She didn’t bother to mention that she would have no idea if he was giving her the correct info or not as she herself would have no clue as to how to fix a toilet.
But as she listened to Christopher explain the process, she noticed he spoke haltingly and hesitantly—a contrast from his earlier demeanor.
He knew the basics, but he seemed to be reciting from a textbook rather than from acquired knowledge. Something about Christopher, though, would not let her dismiss him. Besides, maintenance wasn’t exactly rocket science, Raina told herself. She was definitely not—no way, no how—giving him the benefit of the doubt because of his charming smile and handsome looks. Nope, she told herself, she was definitely above that type of thing.…
She looked at his worn shirt and jacket and made the snap decision to hire him anyway on a trial basis. If it didn’t work out, she could always let him go. They were short on maintenance staff and the repairs were piling up.
“Well Christopher, you have the job,” she said. “However, it will be on a three-month trial basis, how’s that?”
“I’m very grateful ma’am. Thank you.” His smile reached his eyes and she would have sworn they … twinkled.
He was the charmer, Raina thought. Her pulse jumped slightly, and she recalled her earlier conversation with Kelly. It had clearly been way too long since she’d been on a date and gotten a little action. She couldn’t be a good manager if she was going to be swooning over the handyman—how would it look?
She cleared her throat. “Call me Raina; we’re not very formal around here.”
“OK, Raina, I will. Can I ask what the owner is like?”
“You mean the owner of the Del Mar?” She waved her hand. “Don’t worry about him. You’ll never see him. Even I’ve never met him. He owns so many buildings and properties all over the world I doubt he even realizes the Del Mar is one of his.”
“Some boss, huh?” he replied.
“I guess. The person from the company that we see on a more regular basis is the district manager,” Raina said. “But I doubt Pervy Rog will be bothering you.…” she muttered under her breath.
Raina waved a hand. “Never mind. Forget I said that. But yes, from what I understand, the owner’s a pretty decent person, gives a lot to charity and so on, very private, but I suppose that goes with the territory when you’re one of the richest people in the world.” She gave a small laugh.
“Yeah, I guess so.” Then he asked a question she wasn’t expecting. “Do you like working here?”
It was an unusual question to ask in a job interview, but she liked him all the better for it. “Well,” she spread her hands on the desk between them, “I’ve been working here since I got out of high school. And I worked my way up from being a room attendant, to now managing this entire hotel.” She turned her hands, palm upward and gestured at the grandeur that surrounded them. “I’m very grateful to this company.
She felt him watching her carefully, and she put a hand to her cheek as she felt the heat rising to her face. Pull it together, Raina, she chided herself silently.
“No,” he said slowly, carefully, his voice a deep timbre, “No, I guess there aren’t.”
Their eyes met for a brief moment and he held her gaze a little longer than was strictly necessary. Raina surprised herself by being the one to look away first.
He broke the tension by making a benign comment about the weather, and they chatted a little longer before Raina directed him to the Human Resources department to formalize his employment.
As the day wore on though, Raina found her thoughts drifting often to the enigmatic handyman. There was something about him that she was drawn to apart from his good looks. He spoke with charm and grace. Whatever his circumstances were, Christopher carried himself with dignity, and like someone who was used to getting what he wanted.
Then there was that smile—easy—as though everything in the world would fall in place before him as it should.
Raina shook her head. “Idiot,” she whispered to the air and to herself. Realizing how much thought she was giving a new employee—one who had likely already forgotten her name— Raina laughed at her ridiculousness and turned back to her work.
Christian Del Mar couldn’t keep his eyes away from the hotel manager’s lips.
They were large, and wide, and he wondered what they would taste like. And when she smiled, her whole face lit up and her serious demeanor faded away.
Her mouth begged to be kissed and he longed to be the one to do it.
Christian pulled hard on his jeans, willing his cock not to betray the direction of his thoughts. He swallowed hard and scolded himself. That wasn’t the reason he was here. He had far more pressing matters, and getting the maintenance man job was the first step to accomplishing his goal. He hoped the quick study he had done in the last couple of days would help him pass the interview.
He watched Raina with admiration as she deliberately set about making him feel at ease. Her outfit was neat and tidy, one that didn’t make her stand out but also made her look very professional. Her dark skin contrasted beautifully against her cream colored blouse, and when she leaned over he could just barely catch a glimpse of the shadow between her cleavage that tantalized him with hints of what lay beneath the delicate fabric.
Christian had seen her picture in the brochure he had been sent to proof a few years ago. He had noticed how remarkably pretty she was then, but a picture was nothing compared to the woman in real life.
He tried to keep his train of thought on the interview and responded to her questions, taking care not to show off his knowledge on the Del Mar group so much it raised her suspicions. He saw her eyes move to his torn collar, and the shadow of sympathy that followed.
Christian knew he had answered the questions adequately, but the last one about fixing a leaking toilet had thrown him off. Most of the knowledge he had on maintenance work was from his own experience back in the days when he was scraping by and working towards his dream of owning his own hotels. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d fixed anything at all, let alone a leaky toilet.
Fortunately, one of the skills that had helped him get where he was in life was a photographic memory. His mind flew to the page in the text book and a passage came to him. He recited the process of identifying the leak and fixing it but he saw the look of curiosity on Raina’s face. She was a little perplexed by the way he had answered the question, he could tell, but Christian hoped it wouldn’t prevent him from getting the job.
In the end, it hadn’t. She gave him the job on a trial basis and he congratulated himself on getting hired on his own merit. He chuckled to himself as he caught his reflection in the glass walls as he made his way to Human Resources. With the cap and jacket, he looked nothing like himself. His hair, normally jet black, was dyed in an unbecoming shade of brown and his blue eyes were hidden behind dark contact lenses. His Board of Directors would faint if they saw him now.
This was his grand strategy to rescue his hotel from several months of dwindling profits.
Christian mused over the circumstances that had gotten him to this point.
A year ago, feeling burned out, and feeling the need to give back, he had decided to take an extended leave from the company he had founded. It had been a wonderful interlude, though he had missed the hurried pace of his work.
Lazy mornings were not for him and during those six months, Christian never once woke up later than six o’clock in the morning. His schedule was tight, with at least four lectures per week. He hated idleness and so even while on a sabbatical he had traveled across the country in an effort to motivate young men and women to think of entrepreneurship as a possible career by sharing with them his own rags-to-riches story.
Growing up in a poor neighborhood and attending a questionable school district had been hard, but Christian had been a brilliant student. His guidance counselor had seen his potential and encouraged him to apply to schools he would have thought far out of his reach. He had gotten scholarship offers from three Ivy League schools and in the end he had decided on Harvard.
From the beginning, his focus was on starting his own business. He had seen his father lose his livelihood when he was deemed expendable after the company he worked for decided to downsize.
His father had trudged from office to office, looking for a job, even those well below his previous income levels. Even though he was a qualified mechanical engineer, his father had been forced to settle for a poorly-paying job as a machine operator in a steel factory.
At age thirteen, Christian had seen what being unable to earn an income did to a man’s self-esteem, and he had vowed to never find himself in that position. The family of five had survived on his mother’s paltry income as a teacher. Broken by the inability to take care of his family, his father had turned to drinking. He had died twenty years later, broke and alone, after Christian’s mother had divorced him due to his alcoholism.
Every time Christian thought of his father, he shuddered. He had kept his eye on the most lucrative businesses and had settled on real estate as a solid investment strategy. Working throughout his time in college and saving and scrounging, he had managed to pinch enough pennies to purchase a run-down motel, convincing an investor to back him up.
That had been the beginning of his rise, and fifteen years later, he owned one of the largest hotel chains in the country, and it was quickly expanding to become one of the premier resort brands throughout the world.
His only regret was that his father had not lived on to see Christian become a success.
Perhaps based on that guilt, Christian had given his Uncle Roger the job of regional manager, though after the poor performance of the Del Mar and other hotels in his uncle’s district in the last few months, it had made Christian question his uncle’s capabilities.
To Christian’s dismay, profits had dropped considerably in the South-East region where his Uncle Roger was the regional manager. His Uncle Roger should have caught and rectified the problem before it became a major issue, but instead, it had spiraled out of control, and thanks to poor budgeting, out-of-control hiring, and terrible marketing, the Del Mar hotels in the South-East were suffering.
Christian had jumped back into work after that, scheduling extensive meetings with Roger to try and focus on one problem at a time. But nothing concrete came out of it and as far as Christian was concerned, what Roger gave him were excuses. He spoke of high staff turnovers and theft, both of which were unproven, and made Christian wonder what was going on at the hotels themselves. It was time for him to get his hands dirty and actually see what was happening on the ground.
One conundrum he faced was knowing that if “The Boss” came to town, employees were immediately going to be on their best behavior, doorknobs would be shined to perfection, and the food would b
To get a better idea of what was going on, Christian realized he had to go undercover and see for himself what the atmosphere was like, and he’d chosen the Del Mar as his first stop. So far so good, he thought, his mind straying to Raina. She appeared to love her work and he could see the passion she conducted it with. He hoped the rest of the staff were as motivated as Raina was. He would then be able to rule out the problem of demoralized staff.
So, he changed his name from Christian Del Mar to Christopher Smith, got a couple fake I.D.’s made up, falsified his resume, and started applying for entry level jobs at the hotel. Maintenance work couldn’t be that hard, could it? He would figure it out, and as he did he would also figure out exactly what was going on in his hotel.
After falsely filling out the necessary forms in the human resources department and feeling a twinge of guilt for the deception, Christian returned to Raina’s office as she had instructed him to. He knocked lightly on her door, surprised that she did not have a secretary.
“Come on in,” she called out.
Her head was bowed low as she read over some documents.
“Have a seat; I’ll be with you in a moment,” she said, distractedly.
He took the opportunity to observe her. She wore a black suit, the jacket of which was flung over a chair, and a simple cream colored shirt, but the quality of the clothes was clear from their elegant cut. Her curly black hair fell over her cheeks and Christian fought the urge to brush it away.
He found his strong reaction to Raina odd considering he had dated the most beautiful women in the world.
It was not that Raina wasn’t beautiful—far from it. She was stunning in a way that wasn’t obvious to the casual observer. The more he looked at her the more he saw to appreciate—from her wide brown eyes framed with delicate lashes to her curvy backside that he wanted to fit perfectly in his hands.
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