My Big Fat Fake Engagement by Lauren Landish



Chapter 1





Courtney





“Looking good, Boss,” Jillian, my assistant, compliments me as I come into the office at ten minutes to eight on a gloriously sunny Monday morning. My office. From the subtle pastels in the wallpaper to the Janet Jackson poster, a reprint of her famous 1993 cover of Rolling Stone, it reflects me. “Glutes are on point.” She snaps her fingers with every word, making a Z shape in the air to add a little extra sauce to it.

I strut a little more for her, pretending the office is my runway and appreciating the compliment more than she knows.

I’ve known Jillian for a few years and hand selected her four months ago to move into my office after I got the promotion to Executive Vice President of Andrews Consolidated.

At the time, several other assistants who applied for the role were shocked by my choice, thinking I’d want someone young and hungry. Jillian is twenty years my senior and an outlier in the admin pool with an odd, kitschy style that she only slightly quashes for the office. Her outfits are always professional but funky pin-up versions like her favorite watermelon-print circle skirt, Mary Jane ankle strap heels, sweater set, and pearls. Each is complete with cat-eye, black-framed glasses and a bouffant hairdo she accents with knotted silk handkerchief headbands.

In passing, you might think she’s someone’s crazy aunt. In truth, she’s nothing short of amazing, and most important to me, her results are nothing short of superhuman.

Sure, she’s vivacious, a little wild, a little crazy, someone who likes to juggle a dozen balls in the air and then just for fun add a chainsaw to the mix as well. Plus, she’s got enough energy to power a small Midwestern city and still have enough to light up the office on dull days.

But that just makes her the perfect balance for me. I’m not talking myself down when I say that not only am I by the book, I’ve probably memorized it, notarized it, and sent grammar corrections to the book’s publisher. I’m straight as an arrow, a workaholic who needs someone like Jill to keep up with my B-shift tendencies. As in, be here before eight and be here after sunset if need be.

And with that weekly schedule, though she plays the dutiful assistant well in public, we’ve become the Odd Couple sort of friends behind closed doors, with her being the Oscar to my Felix.

“Thanks,” I tell Jillian, heading for my inner office. “How’re you doing?”

“Fine . . . and you could crack walnuts with that ass. Pow-pow.” From across the room, she air-squeezes each of my cheeks with one eye closed to help her aim.

That’s a new one. I spin, trying to look over my own shoulder, and she corrects me. “No, you gotta loosen up to throw it back. Like this.”

Without missing a beat, she demonstrates, strutting across the outer office in today’s floral-print pencil skirt and silk bow-tied blouse before popping her hip and dropping to pick up a paperclip on the floor in a back-arching, ass-swooping arc that’d have Nicki Minaj blush and Sir Mix-a-Lot dropping to his knees in worship.

“How in the world? Don’t throw out a hip, woman! It’s not covered by worker’s comp if you do it like that,” I sputter. I can’t help but laugh. I don’t think I’m even physically capable of moves like that. At least, not without a couple of years of tantric yoga and a scheduled hip replacement. Instead, I smooth my skirt over my hips, giving my ass a small pat of appreciation for its shapeliness, even if it can’t do gravity-defying moves like that. Yet.

“Thanks,” Jill says with a small curtsy, fawning over her imaginary fans who are apparently demanding an encore. A request she’s more than willing to oblige.

I head into my inner office, and I’m back to all-business as I stare out the window at the city view I wanted so badly and worked so hard to get. My hard work and hump busting are paying off and I finally have my chance.

Turning around, I call back out to Jillian, who of course has read my mind as usual and is waiting in the doorway, her tablet ready in case she needs to jot down something. And I do have some work for her to do. “About the AgroStar presentation. Everything prepared for the PowerPoint? I want to go over it a few more times today.”

“A few more dozen times, you mean,” she corrects me. “You could recite that thing in your sleep by this point. Even the Jean-Luc Picard quotes I snuck in on ya.”

She’s right, and most of the quotes were actually pretty good. I have most of the main body of the presentation down by heart. Now it’s all about strategizing and anticipating any questions the owner of AgroStar, Jane Crabtree, might try and hit me with. She’s known for having a mind like a katana and the ability to throw out curveballs that’d make a Major League pitcher jealous.