The Non-Disclosure Agreement
She stepped over to the security desk and dropped her license and proof of employment in front of the guard. Her hands were sweaty and she kept glancing nervously around the busy lobby. Everyone seemed to be in such a hurry. “Excuse me, sir, but I believe you have a badge for me? My name is Holly McIntyre and I just moved here from Michigan to work for Mr. Cantrell. I’ve never been to New York City and—”
Holly nodded and meekly slid the ID off the counter before turning toward the elevators. She felt her cheeks burn with embarrassment and internally abashed herself for rambling to a perfect stranger. She was used to chatting with everyone back in Michigan and now she’d just made herself look like a fool to the first person she met in the building. What a great way to start to her first day.
The elevators were packed, going up, and Holly had to squeeze herself between two very large men carrying briefcases to make her way up to the top floor. As people left the lift to exit to their levels, Holly gave herself a short, meaningful pep talk to fill the time during the long ride up.
When she stepped onto the top floor, she was the last person aboard the elevator and entirely sure she should never be a motivational speaker.
The seventieth floor was as white and bright as the lobby below, but primarily empty. A receptionist tapped away on a keyboard. Across from her desk was a bright red couch for visitors, and three heavy oak doors against the far wall. Holly quietly walked up to the receptionist, her ID card clutched in her hand. The woman was a statuesque brunette wearing a chic sweater dress and a pair of fifties-inspired glasses. She stopped typing and looked up at Holly from behind her vintage eyewear.
“H-hi, I’m Holly McIntyre, the new assistant.“ She cleared her throat and held up her ID for proof, hoping the receptionist wouldn’t notice the wild shaking of her hand.
“Lovely.” The receptionist purred in a way that made Holly think of a cat that’d just spotted a defenseless mouse. “Go on in to Mr. Cantrell’s office. Begin filing the papers on top of the filing cabinet in alphabetical order. He’ll be in shortly to give you further instruction.”
Holly waited to be dismissed, but took the woman’s return to typing as her release. She walked back to the far wall to the three doors. One was labeled Meeting Room 1, the second Meeting Room 2, and the third read Cantrell in bold golden letters next to the door. Slowly, she grasped the handle and pushed the door open to let herself inside.
The room was large and richly furnished with a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows behind a stately desk. It was almost sterile-looking with no personal items to be seen between the imposing grandfather clock and leather armchairs. Holly looked around for a picture of her future boss, but the only art on the wall was a modern painting a man might’ve chosen—bright squares of red, blue, and black thrown onto a canvas. She thought a child could’ve put it together. It was nothing like the fine Italian frescos she’d seen online, nor like the famous reproductions of Monet paintings her parents had hanging in their restaurant back home. But what did she know about modern art? Holly had no doubt, however, that the simple piece had cost him thousands.
She placed her secondhand purse on one of the two guest chairs facing the desk and made her way to a very tall, large filing cabinet tucked into the corner of the room. Her hands began to sweat as she saw how monumental the cabinet was. While she was around five feet tall, the cabinet must have been seven feet high. Wondering if she could actually do her duties with this monstrous piece of office furniture, she tried reaching the stack of papers and manila envelopes, but her hands barely grazed the top of the cabinet. She glanced around for a stepladder, or a stool, but only saw the expensive chairs meant for guests. Not finding any other option, she pulled the empty chair toward the cabinet and hopped on, balancing on the plush cushion.
She had just grabbed the heavy stack when the office door burst open, causing her arms to fly up in surprise and the papers to scatter all over the floor, mimicking the worst kind of snowstorm. Holly immediately jumped off the chair with her hand covering her mouth to stifle a small shriek of surprise that escaped as a pained squeak. She had not been in the office more than five minutes and she’d already made a mess. What made it worse was that the only person to witness her shame was her boss, Jackson Cantrell.
Jackson raised a brow as he inspected his new assistant. She seemed as flighty as a bird, and almost as delicate.
“Oh, goodness! I’m so sorry, Mr. Cantrell…sir…I can’t believe I…” Holly dropped back to the floor and began sweeping the papers into a pile with her quivering hands. “I’m sorry…I didn’t…I couldn’t reach…”
Jackson bent down to her level and began sorting the papers into small piles, slightly uncomfortable with the anxious woman fidgeting on his office floor. “I take it you must be my new assistant?”
“Y-yes. I’m Holly McIntyre.” She looked up at him, green eyes glassy with fear. “I promise, I’m not always so clumsy.”
He was taken aback upon seeing her fully. She was a pleasant-looking woman with a heart shaped face and full lips. As she lifted her emerald eyes to his, peeking at him from beneath her thick lashes, Jackson had to clear his throat. “Good to meet you, Holly.”
“I’m really not like this. I’m very well organized and—”
Jackson held up a hand. “Please, it’s really not a big deal. Why don’t you just go get settled at your desk for now, and I’ll fix this.”
“My desk?” Her face was still pink from embarrassment; a feature Jackson found oddly endearing.
“Yes. Your office connects with mine so that I’ll be able to reach you easily during business hours.” He scooped the rest of the files up and stood, holding a hand out to her.
Holly smiled uneasily, showing off a row of perfectly white teeth. Her hand was delicate in his, and when she rose to standing, he was surprised to see she had rather shapely legs beneath the unflattering sack she wore. “Of course, Mr. Cantrell. Is there anything I can get for you? Latte? Coffee? Tea?”
He shot her a small smile, amused by her nervousness. “No, thank you. Go get settled.”
Holly snatched her purse and tucked it under her arm, disappearing into her adjacent office. Jackson watched her leave, noting how that dowdy suit, and ugly shoes, did little to show her apparent charms. His other assistants were always well-groomed and expertly dressed, looking at ease in their designer clothes. Holly McIntyre almost seemed like a little girl playing dress-up in her mother’s closet. He thought she would do better if she embraced her girl-next-door beauty instead of hiding it.
As he arranged the last of the files on his desk, he wondered if Holly had what it took to survive life in the big city.