Astonishingly the enterprise just took off and after a couple weeks he had to start spending all his time at the new office meeting with customers. He'd tried doing work at home and he always got distracted. He wanted his home to still be a relaxing place and not get work and home mixed up any more. He'd also managed to forget other personal appointments he had and was feeling somewhat overwhelmed. An assistant was what he needed. Suddenly a vision came to him of a curvy blond secretary sitting on his knee, laughing, and feeding him green grapes. She'd wear very short skirts and very low necklines, he decided, and she would have an agreeable and lighthearted nature. But she had to be the soul of discretion. For it was already happening that some of his nefarious associates were coming there to see him as well as legitimate clients. And those criminal types just hated to make appointments.
When Penelope Monaghan showed up to apply for the job Prince took one look at her and thought,
"Oh, man, she looks like Miss Cramer, my 4th grade teacher. Old Crabby Cramer hated me and we formed a mutual aggravation society. This is not good."
From head to toe Penelope looked prim and prudish. Coppery red hair was the only vibrant thing about her but it was scraped back into a tight knot. She wore old-fashioned round glasses and a dowdy green plaid suit fashioned out of a scratchy woven material that looked like a horse blanket. The skirt was baggy and way too long. The woman wore no makeup that he could discern. There was a silly little purple string tie at her throat which was evidently meant to soften her austere look. It wasn't working.
She handed Prince her resume and when she came closer he realized she was actually quite young yet she dressed like a woman of fifty; a really unfashionable woman. How she got so buttoned down and repressed in only a couple years Prince couldn't imagine unless she'd spent her formative years in a convent school.
Prince actually did know how to speak properly but had fallen away from the habit at college. Once he'd started consulting he'd had to re-acquire the habit if he wanted to be taken seriously. Of course, how he spoke in his down time was his own business he thought. But now he tried to sound professional again.
"I'm sorry to disappoint you, miss," he said, hoping she wouldn't burst into tears, "But really I don't think you're right for this position,"
She didn't cry at all as she insisted,
"But you haven't even read my resume, Mr. Everhart. I promise you I can do any job you require of me as your administrative assistant. I'm well trained and I'm eager to work." her voice was actually quite soft, but her manner was plucky. Prince was chagrined to realize she was right he had not even perused her resume; he felt foolish.
"Oh, yes, well, let me check that out," he sat back down gritting his teeth and read through the document. She was perfect really, much more than the job required, in fact, but she was a sexless frump. Not his type at all.
"Yes, this is quite impressive, Miss Monaghan," he handed it back to her, "In fact, you're over qualified for the job."
Her face finally became a tad anxious, only indicated by a crease forming between her eyebrows,
"Please give me a chance, Mr. Everhart. Truthfully, I really need the work and you won't find anyone who is a more loyal or hardworking employee."
Prince considered her words. Frankly no Marilyn Monroe types had applied for the job so far. Well, what the heck, it wouldn't hurt to give her a chance. Maybe he could ask that she wear shorter skirts. Ha! What was he thinking? That could really get him in trouble nowadays. Well, if some gorgeous blonde showed up he might have to fire Miss Monaghan, but until then...
"Do you...ah...always dress so severely?" he ventured.
She permitted a quick tightening of her lips that made the corners of her mouth go up slightly. She seemed to be taking his question as a compliment somehow. Straightening her small shoulders she said,
"Yes, I try to always look professional and modest. 'Dress right, feel right; act right' as my high school principal used to say. I was class valedictorian," her cheeks flamed pink a little.
"I see. I don't suppose you went to a parochial school, Miss Monaghan?"
As she answered, she practically snapped to attention and for a moment Prince thought she was going to salute him,
"Yes, sir, I did. Sacred Heart all twelve years and then I went on to Madonna Girls' College. Mother Mary Charlotte was the one in charge at Sacred Heart. We were held to very high standards."
"Er, um, yes. I'm sure you were," Prince said coming around his desk to shake her hand, "Well, I guess the job is yours, Miss Monaghan. What do you prefer to be called, Penelope or Miss Monaghan or would that be Ms. Monaghan?"
She relaxed a little and gave him the first genuine smile he'd seen from her. Crap, she was just a kid.
"Thank you so much, Mr. Everhart! You won't be sorry. And you can call me Penelope if you wish, but really everyone calls me Pepper."
Prince blinked. He didn't think she looked much like a "Pepper", but whatever.
"Well, you can arrange things on you desk and in the room as you wish. Just keep in mind that it also serves as the waiting room, and as such it's the first impression clients get when they walk in the door."
She stood in the center of the office looking around, just thinking.
"Well, I'll leave you to it, then," Prince said and then went into his own office and shut the door. He must be crazy.
Pepper sat down at her desk and began to organize things immediately.
Prince had put in a pinball machine in the beginning since he figured the business would just be a front and he'd have nothing to do. He never guessed that it would be successful and that he'd be so busy. Now that Pepper was handling his calls, his invoicing, and even purchasing any supplies needed he actually did have time on his hands now and then.She was soon making sense of his gnarly calendar and making an address book from the slips of paper he carried around or shoved in a drawer. Appointments with clients were now scheduled properly and things were running smoothly even down to the excellent coffee she made every day.
It wasn't long until Prince had become dependent on his plain little assistant. He was not tempted in the least to flirt with her and he realized that was for the best anyway so he no longer worried about her appearance. After a time he didn't even notice. It was the first platonic relationship he'd ever had with a woman in his life and it amazed him.
Ever since he'd screwed up one time and made two dates on the same night with two different women, Pepper now kept track of his personal appointments as well as business. For instance, getting his hair cut, or taking his car for maintenance, she even helped with his romantic liaisons, ordering flowers and making reservations whenever required. Reminders in the form of neatly written post-it notes on his desk or, when he was out of the office; texts to his phone would catch his attention.
"Mrs Trenchant, Le Magnifique, reservations at 8 pm. Don't forget the flowers in the little fridge."
"Birthday card must be signed for Mrs. Styers (see your in-box). Her gift is wrapped and in your file cabinet, third drawer down."
"Don't forget you have an appointment at The Health Zone for a massage at 4:30"
"You have a consult scheduled with Kevin Candeloro tomorrow at 11 am."
All of this information was already available on Prince's calendar that she'd redone, but he tended to forget to check it. He was very visually oriented and unless Pepper shoved his face in front of the computer and lashed his hand to the mouse he would never know when anything was or where he should be. The computer he used for his business only, checking the stock market, planning analysis and delivering plans. He never used any of the personal stuff except occasionally the games. So Pepper found it helped to give him notes and texts.
She seemed to be non-judgmental and was even a bit protective of him. That was most useful when he ended a romantic involvement and was dodging the woman. On the office phone, the internet or in person they never got past Pepper if Prince didn't want to see them. Of course, they could still try his cell, but Prince had long ago developed the habit of getting a new throwaway cell phone with each woman and then discarding it when things ended. He never gave his real cell number to any women. In truth, he never had to deal with Katharine Burb again and was so grateful for Pepper's intervention that he gave her a large bonus.
Soon Prince was closer to Pepper--and she easily knew more of his secrets--than his brothers or, frankly, his analyst.
Next blog update: The Brothers Everhart Ch. 10 Blinders Off