They work together at an advertising agency, and even the Christmas spirit can’t get the two of them to agree on anything.
Their competition turns to something deeper as they’re forced to spend some more time together and focus on a big win for the company.
The snow melts, as does their icy hearts, leaving both of them headed toward, ‘One Hot Winter.’
I can’t deny my excitement to go back to work for Jacob and Sons Advertising. They paid well, and the work was exciting. As an advertising copywriter working as a freelancer, it wasn’t easy to find steady work, which was good and bad. I liked the change up of working for different clients. Unlike a lot of people, I liked first days. The first day at a new job was invigorating, and I always found I worked harder because I wanted to impress whoever it was I was working for.
I would get bored doing the same thing day in and day out. Unfortunately, freelancing could be tough to pay the bills if the work dried up. It had taken a few years, but I had managed to create a solid reputation for myself, and the work had been fairly steady as of late.
Jacob and Sons had called early this morning, asking me to come in today. It was short notice, but they were in a pinch and needed to get the campaign wrapped up by the end of the year. I had the time and could use some extra cash, so I accepted right away.
I took a quick look in the mirror. Professional but not matronly. It was a fine line I walked when I had to actually meet clients and work in their offices. I tended to work from home on most jobs, but there were some that required me to be on-site. I wiped off a little bit of the eyeliner I had on, not wanting to overdo it. I didn’t like people to look at me and think, “Oh, there’s that has-been model.”
The modeling had paid for my education so I could do what I do now. It was never meant to be a permanent job. I was obviously thankful for my good looks, but people—especially other women—tended to be real bitches when they saw a beautiful woman. They made a lot of assumptions about me without me ever saying a word. I had lost more than one job because a woman in charge didn’t like the fact I was prettier than they were.
There were a lot of insinuations about excessive dieting and other nasty rumors. Despite their assumptions, I did eat, as my mother would attest. She always complained I ate more than a proper lady should.
My black skirt, white button-up shirt, and blazer paired with plain black pumps made me look a bit like an FBI agent, but it was the perfect outfit. It was professional and attractive without being overtly sexy. Declaring my appearance good enough, I headed out the door.
When I arrived at the office, Donna Gray met me with a big smile.
“Hi, are you ready for this? The office is in a panic, but I know you’ll make sure this all gets done on time,” she said, walking quickly with me following behind.
“Sooo,” I said, dragging out the word, “what’s new around here?”
I didn’t get the thrill of regular office gossip since I never worked in one place very long. Donna was my go-to girl and kept me filled in on the latest happenings around here. I did really enjoy working for this company, and the people who worked here were kind and always welcomed me with open arms, even though I wasn’t one of their own.
Donna laughed. “Oh, boy. It has been eventful. The company hired a new advertising manager. He’s really shaken things up around here.”
“In a bad way?”
She laughed. “Maybe for some people. He’s nice to look at,” she said, winking at me. “Like really nice. Unfortunately, he’s a bit of a hardass,” she whispered.
I laughed with her. “That’s always important,” I said, heavy on the sarcasm. “The good-looking part and quite frankly, I kind of like hardasses. People work when someone is there to crack the whip.”
She moaned. “You Type A’s tend to stick together.”
I laughed. “As long as his whip stays away from me, we’ll get along fine.”
“You’re single, right?” she asked, grinning as she did.
“Yes, but I don’t mix business with pleasure, and from what you’ve said, it doesn’t sound like I would want to.”
“Oh honey, when you see Mr. Frasier, you may change your mind.”
“That hot, huh?”
She fanned her face. “If I wasn’t happily married going on twenty years, I would certainly take a run at him.”
I put my hand over my mouth to hide my shock. “Donna!”
“You haven’t seen him. Trust me, when you do, you are going to lose your mind.” She winked.
“I doubt that,” I mumbled.
I waved as we passed cubicles filled with familiar faces. The office was humming. I loved the rush of a deadline. It energized me. I had my game face on, and I was ready to help the team meet their goal.
“Here you go, hon. I know it’s a little cramped, and it’s very disorganized, which I know is going to drive you crazy, but this is all very last minute. The last copywriter was fired, rather abruptly I might add, and this is what we were left with. The documents you need for the project are printed as well as on file.”
“Oh,” I said, surveying the workspace I was to occupy.
I tried not to cringe at the papers scattered about and the mess in general. I couldn’t get started until I had the desk organized. I could never bring myself to work in clutter.
Donna put her hand on my forearm. “It’s okay to relax. No one is going to hold you accountable for this area. We all tend to have a bit of a mess at our desks. Completely normal. Don’t let it get you all worked up.”
I took a deep breath. “I’m hired because I pay attention to detail. Because I am a stickler for the little things. I do tend to be a perfectionist, but that is what gets me work.”
“I know, dear. You’re right. Just don’t let this get you flustered. We all know you’re excellent at your job. I’ll leave you to it. Holler if you need me,” she said, heading back toward her own desk across the room.
I stood there, staring at the papers with various notes scribbled on them. It wasn’t going to help me. I grabbed the garbage can and started tossing everything but the writing utensils and stapler. Nothing the person before left behind was going to help me. It took me about an hour, but once I had everything tidy and the clutter gone, I dove in and got to work.
My phone rang. I had been steadily working and didn’t even realize it was past noon.
“Hello, Mom,” I said, not exactly thrilled to talk with my mom. I know, I know. One day I would regret not having a closer relationship with my mom, but for now, it was what it was.
“Yes, Mom. You called me. What’s up?”
“Don’t get cranky. I wanted to find out if you were coming for Christmas Eve or will it only be Christmas Day?” she asked, even though we’d had the same conversation about ten times already.
“Mom, I said I would be there for dinner on Christmas.”
“Oh, well, I thought you may have changed your mind. You know, wanted to spend the holidays with your family,” she added the last bit with a heavy dose of guilt.
I sighed. “Mom, I have plans. I told you that.”
“Fine. What are you doing today?”
“Oh, really? Another temp job?” she asked with a hint of disdain.
“It’s not a temp job, Mom. I am a freelancer. I work for a number of different people when they need me,” I explained, again.
She hated my line of work and didn’t feel it was a real job.
“Well, I doubt you get benefits. A real job would offer you benefits, a retirement plan, and things like that. Arianna, you are better than a temp worker. I really hope you find your way by the time you’re thirty.”
“I have four years. I guess we better hope some magical map falls into my lap before then. I have to go, Mom. Despite what you may think, I actually have work to do. Work that pays the bills and allows me to live my very comfortable lifestyle,” I threw in for good measure.
“Fine. I guess we’ll see you on Christmas.”
“Bye,” I said and ended the call.
Conversations with her always left me feeling spent. People thought I was an uptight perfectionist, but they should meet my mother. Growing up with her breathing down my neck to be better, prettier, and more successful had made me a little uptight. That, I could admit.
I stared at the screen, all concentration lost. She had a funny way of doing that to me. I stood, stretched, and decided to run down to one of those food trucks outside and grab something to eat. A walk would help clear my head and shake off my mother.
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