“Donna, go get me a sandwich.” She looked up from the files she’d been reading—and editing—and pressed her lips together to keep herself from correcting her boss, who never seemed able to get her name right, no matter how many times he tried.
“Yes, Mr. Benson,” she said instead, accepting his credit card and the lime green post-it with his order scribbled on it. “Right away, sir.”
Benson just nodded at her before retreating back into his office and Dana fought the urge to roll her eyes as she grabbed her coat and headed towards the elevator. She already knew where he wanted her to buy the sandwich from—and what he wanted on it, down to the number of pickles—but she glanced down at the post-it anyway. For the CFO of a major corporation, his handwriting left much to be desired. She had no idea how he’d even been appointed his post with penmanship like this.
She had no idea how she got to her post, either. A year ago, she had been on the climb to her own high-power position in the corporation, but her superiors had thought she would work best under Benson, sure that he would be like a mentor for her, readying her for an implied promotion. Dana had thought that she would hold that position by now, but she was stuck with a man who saw her as no more than a secretary who just happened to carry half of his workload for him.
So many times, she had wanted to complain to his superiors and attempt to get him to treat her more seriously, but she’d heard far too many horror stories about intelligent women whose careers were ended because they dared to speak up about unfair posts. Men thought that women were too emotional as it was and there weren’t enough women working around her in this corporation that would be on her side.
So she stayed silent, praying for a promotion that probably wasn’t going to come anytime soon.
The wind whipped through Dana’s curls as she stepped out of the building and made her way down the street. It was early spring, but there was still a winter chill in the air that soaked through Dana’s fleece jacket and sensible gray slacks and froze her toes through her professional heeled boots. Her hands were buried in her pockets while her nose buried itself in the red checkered scarf wrapped around her neck.
When she reached the deli, a surge of warmth met her as soon as she opened the door, fogging up the glasses she kept perched at the end of her nose. The small restaurant was bustling at midday and she took a number at the door, before taking a seat at a table near the deli display, her eyes absently perusing the numerous deli meats. She was already familiar with their order: ham, roast beef, white meat chicken, dark meat chicken, turkey, corn beef…same as always.
“Mind if I sit here?”
Dana looked up at the sound of the gruff voice and felt her cheeks heat up at the sight of a young man, with curly black hair, stubble on his chin, and a tattoo that ran down his neck. He looked like the kind of ‘bad boy’ one might see some buxom blonde clinging to on the cover of a Harlequin. Somehow, he was giving her a meek smile, his shoulders hunched beneath the leather jacket he wore.
“Every other table is full and I’m at number…645.”
Dana spared a glance at the flat screen behind the counter. It was at 630. She looked at her own number: 642.
She offered the man a smile and nodded, motioning to the seat across from her. “Thanks,” he said, taking off his jacket. Dana’s eyes widened at the sight of his tattoo-sleeved arms. She must have stared for too long, because then she heard him chuckle. “Yeah, I know,” he said. “It’s a lot. I’m a tattoo artist; I’ve got my own place down the street, so I get a pretty big discount, ya know?”
Dana snapped her gaze away and looked up into a pair of big brown eyes. “Sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to stare.”
“Nah, it’s okay,” he assured her. “It’s like free advertising you know. Besides, you’re supposed to stare at it; it’s art, isn’t it?”
Dana nodded. “I’ve always thought so,” she said.
“Do you have any tattoos?”
“None,” she sighed. “But I’ve been thinking about getting one.”
“You should come down to my shop,” he said, reaching into his pocket. He pulled out a card and slid it across the table to her. “First one is half off.”
“It would have to be somewhere that could be easily hidden by clothing,” Dana said, picking up the card. There was a cut off picture of a woman’s back, which was covered in intricate tattoos. The largest was of a watercolor tiger, which seemed to look straight at her. “Did you do this one?” she asked.
“The tigress? Nah. My buddy, Jake, did that one. He’s great with the animals and watercolors. My specialty is more floral. I think I could get you a good rose or maybe a marigold.”
“Do they have some kind of significance? Marigolds?”
“They mean a lot of different things. Symbolically, the rising sun because of the colors. Or, metaphorically, they could mean ambitious, which based on your professional attire, I’m going to assume is one of your character traits.” He gave her a lopsided, charming grin, and Dana bit her lip.
She nodded. “It is,” she said. “But I…I’ll have to see. I don’t have a lot of time and I—”
“342!” the deli clerk called out and Dana jumped, raising her hand.
“Here,” she said, then turned back to the man. “I have to go, but I’ll…I’ll see if I can come by.”
“I’ll be waiting,” he said, and she fought the flutter in her chest as she approached the counter to order her lunch.