Natalia let out a frustrated sigh as she barreled down the street, steaming cup of coffee in hand and a scowl on her face that matched the gloominess of the sky above her. She’d been living in New York for almost a month now, bunking with her college friend, Mindy, and her family, but she was still getting used to the subway routes in this city, which meant that sometimes she got to the office a little later than she’d like.
Today she’d made it to the doors of the health center with about ten minutes to spare, unfortunately, she had overestimated the quickness of New York city baristas and underestimated the city’s long coffee lines, and so her quick no-one-would-even-notice coffee run ended up taking about twenty-five minutes of her time. So far, her work environment seemed really good and she genuinely liked and got along with her co-workers, it was a huge step up from the last place she’d worked at and so the last thing she needed was to ruin their impression of her by having them think she cared more about overpriced coffee than her clients
She took a quick sip of her burning hot latte as she walked through the center’s entrance doors and couldn’t help but glower at her cup. Of course, the coffee that she risked getting reprimanded for tasted like the bad morning she was having. She let out a few quiet curse words when she saw that the elevator was occupied and rushed over to the stairs, taking them two at a time, which must have looked incredibly comical considering the heeled boots she wore.
The therapist rushed over to her assistant, Alice’s desk, out of breath, frantic, and a little sweaty, and asked about her appointments, quietly praying to whatever divine being paying attention that she didn’t have a pissed-off client waiting for her in her office.
“Good morning, Nat. How’d you sleep?” Her southern accent peeked out a bit at the question and Natalia couldn’t help the little smile on her face. Alice’s warm demeanor and helpfulness had been a godsend for the past three weeks and she really couldn’t have asked for a better assistant.
“Good morning, um good, thank you. Do I have anyone waiting for me? In my office?” The words rushed out of her, flustered and worried.
Alice offered her a calming smile, “No, you don’t have any appointments until 11, but there is a meeting scheduled for 9:30, which is about twelve minutes from now. I sent you an email about it.” Natalia fought the urge to facepalm herself as she remembered seeing the email in her inbox before getting distracted by some random article and never going back to read it.
She let out a huge sigh of relief as she let her shoulders sag, “Alice, you are such a lifesaver, I do not know what I would do without you.” Alice let out a giggle in her boss’s relief and handed her her key card.
Natalia tucked the key card in her pocket before taking another sip of her coffee, seemingly forgetting its horrible taste, and almost gagged as the hot, bitter liquid made its way down her throat.
“Oh, I see you stopped at that coffee shop across the street, Java something or other,” Alice waved her hand in the general vicinity of Natalia’s cup, “Yeah, their stuff tastes like motor oil, wouldn’t drink it even if it was free.”
She eyed the cup with disdain, “Well, now I know where not to get my coffee from.”
“You should check out Bean Good, it’s this place a few buildings down from the center. They make the best matcha lattes,” Alice gestured over to the cup that sat on her desk with the Bean Good logo.
“Maybe I’ll swing by in the afternoon. I should probably head to that meeting now, don’t want to be late. I’ll see you later.”
Alice nodded at her before getting back to whatever she had been doing and Natalia made her way to the unused office her boss typically used as a makeshift conference room.
“I just don’t get why I have to do this, you know it wasn’t anything too serious this time,” Jillian huffed and folded her arms over her chest as she sank back into the car seat.
Declan thought she resembled a petulant child at the moment, but he wouldn’t tell her that, “Because your behavior is concerning and they’re worried about you,” he continued, referring to their parents. This time Jillian and her friends had jetted off to Tulum for a couple of days of partying and underage drinking without saying a word to her parents or Declan.
He supposed she was right, in a way, this wasn’t “anything too serious” by Jill’s standards.
“They are not actually worried about me, all they care about is public appearances, and having a daughter that doesn’t obey their every whim must be a bad look, I guess,” she stated before turning to stare out of the car window.
He gripped the steering wheel of the parked car “It also doesn’t help that you hang around those assholes all the time.”
“They’re not assholes, they’re my friends and if I want to go out with them, then I should be able to, it’s my life.”
“They don’t treat you like you’re their friend,” Declan thought back to all the times her so-called friends had left her behind at clubs and made less than favorable comments, that she constantly brushed off as banter, about her on social media.
“What would you know about friendship, you old grouch,” a small smile played on her lips and he felt his own mouth quirk up a bit.
“Look, I don’t think you need to be here either, but this is a better option than them sending you off to some camp for delinquent teens,” he checked the time on his phone before taking a look at his calendar, he had a meeting in 30 minutes.
“I need to think, I’ll take the stairs. The office is on the second floor, I’ll see you up there,” she didn’t wait for his response before stepping out of the car and making her way into the center.
He sighed before stepping out as well, he’d like to at least speak to the person who he’d be handing his sister off to for the foreseeable future.
The interior of the building was underwhelming but he didn’t expect much from the place anyway, his parents had decided to send Jillian somewhere a lot less known to avoid being spotted by the press as much as possible.
The elevator let out a slight groan as he stepped inside and for a second, he considered joining Jillian on the stairs but decided to just go with it.
He pushed the button for the second floor before leaning on the back of the elevator and checking his work emails. He was deep in reading through all the important messages his assistant had forwarded to him when he heard a strange sound coming from the other end of the elevator.
Did someone just moan?
Natalia knew that her cheeks must have been tomato red as the handsome man in the elevator turned to look at her, “Oh, I’m s-sorry, it’s just that this is the best coffee I’ve ever had,” she stumbled over her words as she stared at his eyes, they were a stark gray mixed with a little bit of blue, the perfect shade of gunmetal. He was quite possibly the most handsome and interesting-looking man she had ever seen.
After the meeting and seeing two of her clients, she decided to take Alice’s word for it and head over to Bean Good for a mocha before her next client. She never expected it to taste this good or to completely embarrass herself in front of a stranger.
He waved her off with what wasn’t exactly a smile, just a minuscule lift of his lips, “Don’t worry about it.”
He looked vaguely familiar, but she couldn’t be sure if he worked here or not. If he did then that designer suit was definitely a weird choice of attire but who was she to judge?
“Are you new here?” She asked as she assessed him, he seemed so familiar for whatever reason.
She watched as he let out a loud scoff before responding, “Do you really think I spend my days listening to other people’s problems?”
Natalia felt anger bubble in her chest, she had absolutely no patience for people who looked down on her profession, “Is that all you think therapists do?”
A harsh frown settled over his face but before he could reply the elevator shook a bit before fully coming to a stop with the light inside switching off as well, when the doors didn’t open after a while, it became clear that they were stuck.
He let out a groan as he pinched the bridge of his nose, “Of course, something like this happens.”
“Relax, it’ll start back up in a second. Now, you didn’t answer my question.” She had been briefed by Alice on the elevator’s behavioral issues her first week here and so she knew that the poor thing just needed a couple of minutes to get itself together.
He looked at her like he wasn’t sure why she was still talking to him and like he wasn’t sure he should answer.
“Oh, don’t be shy now,” Natalia couldn’t keep the mocking tone out of her voice. She took a step toward him.
“I just don’t think that talking about feelings can solve actual life problems,” he said dismissively before turning back to his phone.
“Therapy isn’t just about talking, a lot of work goes into what we do,” she explained taking another step toward him.
“I’m sure that’s what you all tell yourselves,” he also took a step toward her.
Just her luck that she had to run into a rich, out-of-touch asshole and that they both get stuck in an elevator at the same time, she thought as she took an angry sip of her coffee. Not even the warm heavenly tasting drink could sweeten her sour mood.
“Why are you even here if you’re so against therapists?”
“I’m not here for me,” she noticed how the scowl on his face did nothing to assuage his attractiveness and mentally scolded herself for paying attention to his face right now.
“Of course, you’re not, narcissists rarely ever recognize a need for others,” they were both standing way too close to each other now, and she could feel his breath on her forehead.
“You think I’m a narcissist?” His voice was full of contempt. With a jerky start, the elevator started moving again but neither of them broke eye contact.
She gave him another once-over before responding in a mock sweet voice, “If the designer shoe fits.” Just then the elevator came to a stop and the doors opened.
Natalia made her way out and down the hall, walking faster than normal and silently chastising herself for engaging that infuriating man.
Alice took in her flustered expression but decided against commenting before letting her know that her client was waiting in her office for her.
She muttered a thank you before making her way to the office. She opened the door as she spoke, “I’m so sorry, I’m a bit late, the eleva—” her words cut off as she took in the sight before her, what looked to be a 17-year-old girl twirling around in her desk chair while holding the photo of her and her sister that she typically kept on her small bookshelf.
The girl turned as she heard her voice, “What took you so long?” Her tone of voice was accusatory.
Natalia was about to start explaining herself again before she felt a presence looming behind her and realized that the girl’s question was not meant for her.
Both Natalia and the man from the elevator stared at each other in disbelief, both connecting the dots as to who the other person was.
For the second time today, she felt like facepalming herself, of course, the man she’d just told off in the elevator was somehow related to her new client.
Natalia’s mind raced as she stood in the kitchen of Mindy’s apartment, steadily stirring the mac and cheese in the pan. She thought of her client, Jillian, the session they’d had today, and everything that happened before that.
The man from the elevator had promptly said his goodbyes to his sister before rushing off. She originally thought that Jillian was his daughter due to their striking resemblance, but Jillian assured her that was not the case with a disgusted look on her face.
Her interaction with him disturbed her thoughts, she didn’t regret what she said but she did regret how unprofessional she’d been.
She plated some of the food for her and Mindy before heading to the couch where Mindy sat watching some pop culture channel with a disturbing amount of concentration. She had already put her kids to bed and so she was free to indulge in her unhealthy obsession of knowing everything about people she’d never meet.
Mindy worked as an editor for a popular New York magazine, and so she liked to brush off her fixation with influential people as “work.”
“I put a little bit of bacon in there, I know that’s how you like it,” Natalia said, handing her a plate.
“I genuinely love you so much, Natty,” she grabbed the plate and took several bites even though it was incredibly hot.
Natalia laughed a little at her friend before lifting her fork to her mouth but paused in place as she stared at the tv.
There, on the screen, was the man from the elevator, it was a video of him walking into a restaurant with a beautiful woman and the headline wrote: “Billionaire bachelor, Declan Reid, spotted with a Polish supermodel.”
It was then she realized where she had seen him before, the article that had distracted her from Alice’s email had been a piece on his supposed new girlfriend.
Of course, the man she chided in a broken elevator turned out to be a New York City billionaire.