LANDRY WATCHED the security cameras as the car rolled through the open gate and stopped in front of his house. The Benz was more familiar than his own Jag, but the person who emerged from the driver’s seat bore little resemblance to Elaine. He was male, for one thing, not especially tall, but taller and thinner than Elaine. And instead of her practical bob of straight black hair, he had light hair—the actual color unclear on the black-and-white monitor—held back in a loose ponytail. He wore a suit, but even with the screen’s poor resolution, Landry could tell it didn’t sit well on him, and not just because it was inexpensive. Landry suspected this was a man who rarely dressed up. The person—who had to be Jordan Stryker—meandered away from the house toward the edge of the property. He stood for a long moment taking in the view, then straightened his back, turned around, and marched to the front door. Landry shuffled away from the monitor, obscurely embarrassed to have been spying. Jordan rang the bell, and he looked startled when Landry opened the door. “Oh! Mr. Bishop.”
Landry raised an eyebrow. “Were you expecting someone else?”
“No, I just didn’t realize….” Jordan blinked rapidly and then seemed to get himself under control. A wide smile appeared, complete with deep dimples and attractive lines at the outer corners of his blue eyes. He held out a hand. “Sorry. I’m Jordan Stryker. Obviously. And I’m really glad to meet you. Thank you so much for agreeing to interview me. I really, really appreciate it ’cause I know you’re super busy and everything and Elaine says you have a lot of stuff going on all the time which is pretty cool actually but probably means you don’t have much time for interviews and stuff.”
They shook hands briefly at the beginning of Jordan’s monologue, and then Landry stood with head cocked, trying to decide whether to be annoyed or amused. More the latter, perhaps. Although Jordan had to be close to Landry’s age, he had the air of an eager puppy. The kind who slobbered and shed everywhere and probably chewed up your shoes and peed on the carpet but was too cute to be angry at. And he was cute: dark blond hair, slightly triangular face, and those goddamn dimples.
When Jordan paused to breathe, Landry stepped back from the doorway. “Follow me, please.”
He’d given considerable thought as to where to conduct the interview. The study would have been the obvious choice, but that somehow felt too intimate. Landry had sat with the previous applicants in his living room, but he’d felt the urge to act as host rather than prospective employer, and that wasn’t right. So today he led Jordan through the house and out to the backyard.
“Wow, that’s cool how you can open the whole living room up to the outdoors,” Jordan commented, patting a sliding glass door as he passed it. “Makes a lot of sense here where the weather’s always perfect. Back in Seattle we’d probably only get to open stuff up a few days a year.”
Landry answered with a noncommittal hum and took them to one of the patio tables currently shaded by the house. “Please, sit.” He gestured before taking his own seat.
It was interesting to watch Jordan arrange himself. He began with a straight back and knees directly in front of him, forearms resting lightly on the table’s edge. But he almost immediately began to slump and sprawl. Then he seemed to catch himself and sat upright again with a jerk. “I brought my résumé.” He reached for his inner jacket pocket.
“You emailed it to me,” Landry reminded him. “I’ve looked it over quite thoroughly, and I don’t need a hard copy.” In any case it contained little information pertinent to the position.
Jordan relaxed again. “Right. Well, if you change your mind, let me know. Um, wow. Your house is so beautiful. I mean, of course it is, right? Not like you’d be living in a shack or anything. But this place is special. I bet you put a ton of time into making it so nice.”
Jordan’s opinion shouldn’t have mattered, and as an applicant, of course he might try to ingratiate himself. But his words pleased Landry, who had put considerable time and effort into his home.
“You don’t have experience as a personal assistant.” He injected a bit of sternness into the statement, as if it were an accusation.
“No. I mostly worked in stores and restaurants and stuff when I was younger. More recently I’ve been an in-home caregiver for the sick and elderly. Which you know from my résumé already. Duh. Sorry.”
“So what qualifies you for this position?”
“I like to help people—I really do. Like, make their lives easier. That’s what I did with my other jobs. Even when I was a store clerk, I tried to figure out what customers needed and wanted, and I did my best to make them happy. And of course when I care for people, it’s my job to make them as comfortable as possible, to do all those little things for them so they can enjoy life as much as possible. Plus I pretty much have no life of my own, which means I can devote myself to my boss 24/7. I might not know all the details of how to do this job, but I’ll learn them—fast. The most important thing, Mr. Bishop, is that I know how to take care of people. It’s my superpower. And it’s what I love.” He patted his heart as if to demonstrate his sincerity.
This response surprised Landry, who’d expected something closer to I’m a hard worker who learns quickly. Jordan’s words felt more sincere than the standard generic assertions. Something about Jordan intrigued Landry, and it wasn’t just his handsome face.
Landry sighed and allowed himself to lean back. He didn’t want to be influenced by his loyalty to Elaine or the allure of Jordan’s good looks. He needed to be a businessman, dammit, rational and perceptive. Ruled by his head, not his heart or his dick. He had no use for his heart and his dick—beyond the biological necessities, of course.
Jordan was taking advantage of Landry’s quiet to look around more carefully. Landry watched as his gaze skimmed over the pool, rested for a moment on the view, and then moved to the pool house, where the collection of paintings was visible through the glass wall.
“What’s that?” Jordan blurted, pointing at the pool house. He grimaced and dropped his hand. “Sorry. You’re the one who’s supposed to be asking questions, not me.”
“Why don’t you tell me what you expect this job to entail?” Hey, that was a clever one. Score a point for the rational brain.
Jordan scratched his upper lip while he considered. “Elaine told me some of what she does. Driving you places, setting appointments, doing errands… things like that. But maybe I could just summarize?”
“I think your personal assistant makes sure your life runs smoothly. They concentrate on the details so you can give your energy to your work and the other things you want to do instead of sweating the small stuff. If an assistant is really good, they figure out what you need before you do.”
That was an accurate précis. Maybe Elaine had coached him.
Landry laced his hands and set them on the tabletop. “You haven’t remained at your previous positions very long.”
“I think the longest was, um… two years? Around that. But yeah.”
“In a few cases, I quit because the place wasn’t run well. Sometimes the management just sucks, right? Like this one restaurant, they used to be great, but they started cutting corners. They were treating the whole staff like crap, which was bad enough, but they also found sneaky ways to screw over the customers.” He shrugged. “I got tired of being shortchanged and having to make excuses to people who’d laid out a lot of money for a meal.”
Landry knew enough about the food-service and retail industries to find Jordan’s story credible, but he raised his eyebrow again. “Were all your employers unscrupulous?”
“No, no, some of them were fantastic. But…. Okay. I’m gonna be honest. When I was younger, I used to be flaky. I got fired sometimes for fooling around during slow times at work or being late. And I got bored easily, so I’d want to try something else. I promise I’m more settled now. I’ve loved my caregiver placements. I’m good at taking care of people, I really am.” Jordan sighed. “I don’t think I’m very good at job interviews, though. People tell me I don’t have a good filter. But I think I could become a truly great PA—I wish I could show you that.”
He looked… distressed wasn’t the right word. Tired. Yes, that was it. As if he’d been making enormous efforts for a long time and was almost too fatigued to go on.
“Why don’t you tell me why you want this particular position.”
“Well, I want to try something new. I want a fresh challenge that builds on what I already love. I think I’d be good at this. But also… okay, this is gonna sound weird, but I can’t think of a better way to put it. I want to make a difference to someone. Long-term.” He leaned forward, his eyes sparkling with emotion. Pretty eyes. “It’s great to take care of people who, you know, are too sick to do it all themselves. But that doesn’t last. They get better or… or they don’t. I want something more. I want to make a real difference in someone’s life. Help ease his way so he can fly.”
“I’m not a project.” Landry’s tone was sharp.
“I know. You’re a person. And you’re super successful and super busy. But I can help smooth over all the bumps. I’d love it if now and then you could realize how well your life is flowing, and you could spend a second or two thinking, Hey, that Jordan’s really worth the bucks I’m paying him.”
Damn it. Well, at least Jordan hadn’t said hella even once, and he didn’t want to be an actor. And there was something so bright about him. A vitality that called to something deep inside Landry’s soul.
Landry leaned forward. “Let’s discuss the details, shall we?”