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My name is Tina Strong. I’m the CEO of GlobeCorp. You’ve probably heard of it. It’s one of the world’s fastest-growing corporations. I oversee operations that employ half a million people. I’ve been featured in Time and profiled in every business magazine in the world. My contacts book includes world leaders, billionaires, religious leaders, Hollywood producers, UN officials; I’m one of the most well-connected women in international business.
As you can imagine, I’m used to getting my own way. It’s always been like that. I guess I was quite a spoilt girl. My daddy was an oil executive and he used to give me everything I wanted. The other kids were jealous. They would call me Lady Strong. But it didn’t bother me. Yes I had advantages, but I worked damn hard, at school, at college and in business and I’ve reached the top faster than all of my peers. Want to know how I did it?
I have high expectations of myself and I apply those standards to others. I can’t stand inefficiency, incompetence or idleness. If you want to work for Tina Strong, you’ve got to be the best. I learned early on in business that you’ve got to be tough; you’ve got to dominate every meeting, every conversation. And that’s what I do. I know people call me a bitch behind my back. I don’t care. I know that I’m in charge and I am dominant in every situation, with everyone I meet.
Well, almost everyone. As with any rule there is always an exception. Let me tell you about mine.
It started about a year ago when I broke in a new personal assistant. I go through a lot of PAs. What can I say? I have high standards. A new PA doesn’t shape up, I cut them loose very quickly, and I make no apologies for that. GlobeCorp can’t afford to carry passengers. Of course, the downside of the high PA turnover is that I’ve built up a reputation among the agencies and none of them will take my calls. Fortunately, a business friend of mine, Tom, was able to recommend a PA, Maria, who had worked for him before. When I asked him on the phone what she was like, he hesitated, and then he said just one word. “Ruthless.”
I didn’t understand what Tom meant. Ruthlessness isn’t a quality that you need in a PA. He had also suggested that Maria was attractive. This didn’t bother me. I’m not jealous when it comes to other women, in fact having a stunning PA can be an asset. Most of the people I had to deal with were men, and men are always knocked off balance by hot women.
Two hours later, Maria was standing in my office. Tom had not done her justice. She was more than attractive, she was gorgeous. Shorter than me, with long, dark, silky hair, a perfect petite body, pouting lips, high cheekbones and she was wearing the shortest skirt I’ve seen in an office environment. There was also something strange about her. Every PA I’ve interviewed has been nervous in my presence, but Maria wasn’t at all nervous. She smiled throughout. In fact, it was more of a smirk than a smile. But I was busy, so I overlooked it.
It turned out that Maria’s effectiveness as a PA was in inverse proportion to her looks. I could see through my office window that there was a steady stream of men finding pretexts to come up to my floor and gawp at her. I didn’t particularly appreciate that, because rather than putting them in their place, she seemed actively to encourage it. I heard her giggling and flirting more than once but I let it go for the first day or two. That wasn’t the only thing I let go.
Maria’s phone manner was awful. The emails she sent on my behalf were poorly written and rudely addressed. She didn’t seem to know where any of the files were, and often I would have to buzz her three times before she bothered to reply. When she double-booked me for a meeting on her third day, and didn’t even apologize when I pointed out her error, I decided I would have to let her go. That evening, after I’d taken my last appointment, I buzzed her to come through into my office. There was no reply. I buzzed again, twice more. Still nothing.
Irritated, I marched through into her office, but she was nowhere to be seen. I called through to Lisa, one of the other secretaries to find out what had happened to Maria. Lisa told me that my new PA was drinking coffee with Michael, one of the sales directors. By this time I was fuming, so I marched into Michael’s office. To say he was surprised to see me was an understatement. He was sitting at his desk, but seemed slightly disheveled and had also turned a bright shade of pink.
“Oh, hi Miss Strong, I…er…can I help you?”
“Have you seen Maria?”
“That’s not really true is it,” said a voice from underneath his desk. Moments later, Maria emerged, refastening the top button of her blouse and straightening her hair. Mortified, Michael began fumbling with his pants as Maria calmly walked around the desk to stand in front of me.
“My office! Now!”
“Yes boss,” said Maria, smirking and doing a little bow.
* * * *
“What the hell was that?”
Maria stood at my desk. I had made her stand in front of me instead of sitting but neither that nor my tone had managed to wipe the smirk off her face.
“What was what?”
“Do you think that is acceptable behavior for a PA?”
“It was fun.”
I shook my head. What the hell had Tom been thinking? Actually, as soon as I thought about it, it was obvious that Tom hadn’t been thinking at all, at least not with his brain.
”I’m going to fire you, Maria, but before I do that, I’m going to set you straight on a few things.”
“No you’re not,” she said, and tilted her head, smiling at me.
“You’re not going to fire me.”
“Who do you think you are girl?”
She smirked again.
“Someone who knows. About George.”
“George? I don’t know any George?”
George Markham. My God! How did she know about George Markham. I don’t have many regrets in my life, but that was one.
I should explain. George is, was, one of my father’s business associates, a very wealthy man, who made his money from shrewd investments and buyouts. I was in college and struggling. My father always said that when it came to college, I had to learn how to budget and survive on my own. It was an essential component to being successful in business. Of course, I didn’t take it seriously. I spent all my money on parties, on maintaining my pre-college lifestyle and when I went back to him for a loan, he refused to help.
That’s where George came in. I guess it was a sort of business relationship, though I didn’t like to think of it like that. He would pick me up outside the college, we’d go to a hotel or sometimes to one of his apartments and he would fuck me. He was a kind man, but he had a few kinks, a few fetishes. He liked me to dress up as a schoolgirl or a maid. Sometimes he tied me up and spanked me with a paddle. Fortunately our sessions never lasted long, because he could never hold himself back. I guess I can see that. The hot eighteen year old daughter he had been lusting after for months was suddenly lying on his bed dressed as a slutty schoolgirl.
It only lasted for the first year in college. I cut him off after that, sorted myself out and never looked back. I had assumed I would never hear that name again, particularly after he passed away through a heart attack at the age of 72. But now he was back. How the hell did she know?
“Let’s not waste any time,” she said. “Check your email.”
“You are going to want to check it, believe me.”
Irritated, I flicked up my email on my phone. There was a new message, from Maria. It had a video attachment. With a nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach, I opened the video. The footage was grainy at first, then the light improved and I gasped. It was me. I was lying, naked on the bed, then George, also naked, came into shot. He climbed up on the bed and began to kiss me. I snapped my phone shut.
“How the hell did you get that?”
Maria smiled, stepped closer and perched on the edge of the desk.
“Never mind how I got it. I’ve got photos too.”
“What do you want?”
Maria leaned across the desk. Her glistening lips were close to mine and her perfume was a mixture of expensive flowers and a musty lingering scent that I took to be Michael. I thought for one moment that she was going to kiss me. Instead she smiled again.
“You will come to my apartment tonight at ten.”
“No I won’t.”
Maria shook her head and slipped off my desk.
“Oh yes you will,” she said and wandered out of my office. I watched her slink away, her hips swaying, temporarily paralyzed with fear and anger. What was this sensation? For the first time in my life, I was not in control. And it was terrifying.
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