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  • Alexis Winter

**SNEAK PEEK** A Very Bossy Christmas




PROLOGUE - KATE

“Come on.” I hold back tears as I turn the key for the fourth time, praying the engine turns over this time. The car whines loudly over and over again as panic builds in my chest.

“Of all fucking days.” I can’t hold back the tears that prick my eyes any longer as I pound the steering wheel. I stare at the blurry clock as big tears tumble down my cheeks. I wipe at them desperately as I realize that not only am I going to be crazy late for work and face a sharp tongue-lashing from my asshole boss, but now I have to figure out how I’m going to get my car fixed in time to drive home for Christmas. I look over at my passenger seat to the large pastry platter and two coffee cartons that should have already been on the conference table ten minutes ago. I feel bile build up in my throat as I picture the giant vein on my boss’s forehead about to burst.

My thoughts are interrupted by the shrill ringing of my phone and I glance down to see his name plastered on the screen—Damon Wells. “Speak of the fucking devil,” I mumble as I swipe the screen to answer.

“Mr. We—” I start with my most chipper voice but I’m quickly interrupted by his enraged bark through the phone.

“Where the hell are you, Miss Flowers?” he hisses. “The partners are all here, sitting around the table waiting for you with the goddamn breakfast food and reports. Surely you can’t be so incompetent that you can’t handle picking up some pastries. Hmm?” He’s whisper shouting at me and I can picture him pacing, running his hands through his hair in exasperation as he pinches his nose dramatically. It’s his classic temper tantrum demeanor, something I’m very used to at this point in our professional relationship.

“Mr. Wells, I can explain. I have the coffee and pastries and I’m on the way. I ju—”

“Get here in ten minutes or you can pack your shit!”

“I—hello? Mr. Wells?” I pull the phone away from my face and see that the prick hung up on me.

“Ahhhh!” I scream in my car, wanting nothing more than to punch Damon Wells in his perfect white teeth. I’m sure it’s deranged but the thought of seeing his bloody mouth and watching him flip backward over his desk gives me more glee than I care to admit. I should probably get back into therapy. I would if I could fucking afford it working for Mr. Tight Wad.

I look at my phone; there’s no way in hell I can make it in ten minutes but I have to try. I grab the tray of pastries and two cartons of coffee while trying to hold my purse and hail a cab. I trudge through the dirty slush of melted snow that has now filled my high heels as I step to the curb and raise my hand. I manage to get a cab quickly and pile into the back seat as I rattle off the address to the office.

“If you could hurry, please, that would be great.” I offer the most genuine smile I can muster but the driver just ignores me. I reach into my wallet and look at the cash I have; I’ll be lucky if I have enough to cover the fare and maybe give him a few dollars for a tip. I don’t even have enough to bribe him with an extra five dollars to step on it.

I stare at my phone the entire way. We’re less than half a mile away when I get a taunting text from my boss along with a picture. I open it, confused at first to see the image.

“What the—?”

Damon: Two minutes, Miss Flowers. Look, I was even nice enough to grab a box for you.

The image shows a large box on my desk. “What a fucking sicko!” I say loudly, causing the driver to look up at me in the rearview mirror. “Oh, sorry, sir. Not you. Just my… never mind.” I pull the wad of cash out of my wallet this time and stare at the meter. Looks like I have just enough to cover it. He slows the cab down in front of my building and before he’s even stopped, I throw open the door.

“Whoa, lady. Hold your damn horses!” he shouts.

“I don’t have time!” I yell as I scramble out of the cab with my bag slung over one shoulder, the pastries in the other, a coffee jug in one hand and one under my arm. I go to hand him the cash that I’ve tucked under my chin when I drop one of the coffee jugs. “Shit!”

“Crazy woman,” he mutters as he takes the cash and speeds away.

I pick up the jug and inspect it briefly; it’s one of those cardboard containers so it appears undamaged. I tuck it back under my arm, holding it tightly against me as I scramble to the front doors.

“Hold it!” I yell as I sprint through the lobby toward the open elevator doors. I’m breathing heavy, doubled over, and laughing that I made it. I glance at the watch on the guy next to me and see I have thirty seconds to spare.

“Hey, you’re, uh—leaking something?” the man says as he takes a step away from me. I glance down to see what he’s looking at and see that coffee is running down my leg and pooling onto the elevator floor. In my rush, I didn’t even feel the warm liquid soaking through my blouse.

“No, no, no!”

“Good luck.” The doors open and the man steps out without even offering to help me.

“What the fuuuuuck?” I yell as the doors close and reopen a moment later on my floor. I scramble through, running down the hall and flinging open the conference room door. All twelve shareholders turn their heads to stare at me. I can feel Damon’s eyes attempting to burn a hole through me, but I don’t give him the satisfaction of making eye contact. I feel like I’m in a fucking Drew Barrymore movie. I’m sweating; my hair has half fallen out of the clip that’s holding it up, and I’m now soaked in coffee and still dripping it down my leg. I don’t even care; I’m at my actual wit’s end.

Without a word I toss the pastries on the table along with the still full coffee jug before spinning on my heel and marching back to my desk.

“Miss Flowers!” I can hear the stomping of his Salvatore Ferragamo shoes as he marches toward me. “What in the actual fu—”

“Not a fucking word.” I spin around and shove my finger in his face. I can feel my body shaking as I ball my other hand into a tight fist. I’m praying he goes off so I have an excuse to finally pull back and sucker punch him.

Instead, he puts his hands up and takes a step back, noticing that my white blouse and pale-pink skirt are now stuck to my body with coffee. “Whoa, what happened to you?”

“Seriously?” I snap. “My car died this morning outside of the bakery while I was picking up your precious fucking pastries. Then you called and bitched me out and didn’t even give me a chance to explain what happened and that I needed help. Instead, you threatened me and so I used the last of my cash on hand to hail a cab with my already full arms and then dropped one of the coffee containers because I sprinted to get up here so that I didn’t lose my job.” I can feel my eyes bulging out of my skull as I work to keep my voice steady. “So now I’m soaked in coffee and I have no way to go home and change.”

He takes another step back before straightening his tie. “That sounds like a helluva morning, Miss Flowers, but you’ll just have to clean up as best you can and then bring those reports into this meeting that is now”—he looks at his watch disapprovingly, like it somehow has offended him too—“thirteen minutes behind schedule. I can stall for another five minutes, but that’s all you get.”

I’m about to lunge over my desk now and rip him apart like a defenseless gazelle on the Serengeti in the clutches of a merciless lion when he turns and starts to walk back toward the conference room but then stops abruptly.

“One more thing. If you could maybe ask one of the other ladies in the office if they have a spare set of clothes, that would be great. Can’t have my secretary looking like she got hit by a bus and dragged for a few blocks, now can I?” He laughs.

Yup, I’m going away for homicide.

I manage to get myself cleaned up as much as I can before walking back into the conference room with the stack of reports. The rest of the morning speeds by in a blur and I’m counting down the minutes till I can go check on my car and retrieve my coat that I realize I left in there this morning.

“Hey, Marge, I have to run an errand so I might be a few minutes late getting back from lunch.”

“Mr. Wells okay that?” she mutters, not bothering to pull her face away from her computer screen.

“I’ll hurry,” I say which is neither a yes nor a no, but Marge is a snitch and I don’t have time to ask dickweed for permission. I rush outside, clutching my purse tightly against me as the cold Chicago wind whips around me and goes straight to my bones. I have to take the train to the station closest to the bakery I was at since I don’t have the cash for another cab ride. I get off on my stop and briskly walk the three blocks to Crumbs and Caffeine.

“Where’s my car?” I glance around the street, double-checking I didn’t just walk past my own car, but no, my car is nowhere to be found. I feel my throat tighten but I choke back the immediate response to burst into tears. “There has to be an explanation,” I say as I glance around frantically. I’m about to step into the bakery to see if they know anything when I glance up at the signs on the pole in front of me.

Something people might not know if they aren’t from Chicago is that street parking is like a sick game the city likes to play on us residents. Not only are there multiple signs on the pole outlining when you can and can’t park, but there’s also exemptions like if it’s a holiday, a weekend, your mom’s thirty-third birthday if it lands on a Tuesday and there’s more than a ten percent chance of rain.

“Oh my God, this literally cannot get any worse.” I pull at my hair, laughing hysterically to keep from sobbing. I draw a few stares from weirded-out onlookers who probably assume I’m in the midst of a complete mental breakdown—they’re not wrong. I take a few deep breaths and read the signs again, noting the name and number of the towing company. I punch the number in my phone and wait for an answer.

“H&R Towing, this is Jake,” a guy’s voice booms through my speaker, his over-the-top Chicago accent making him sound like a character from a movie.

“Yes, I parked outside of Crumbs and Caffeine by Halstead and West Jackson and I think you guys towed my car.”

“Yeah, ma’am. You can’t park there. It’s fifteen-minute parking.” I bite my fist, reminding myself not to snap at him; he didn’t do anything wrong.

“Mm-hmm, yup, found that out. So do you have a 2009 Kia Optima at your lot? Silver, plates are KITN 78.” I hold my breath as he clicks around on his computer.

“Yup, looks like she’s here. It’s a fee of one seventy if you pick it up today. We’re open till five.”

I rub my forehead. “One hundred and seventy dollars? But you guys just took it a few hours ago.” I can hear myself getting to that whiny place and I take a few deep calming breaths.

“Sorry, ma’am. Policy. It’s one fifty the moment we hook it to our rig and then twenty a day lot fee for the first five days. Goes up to thirty-five a day thereafter.”

“I, uh—” I scramble trying to figure out how I’m going to make this work today when I can’t leave work till five thirty at the earliest. I took tomorrow and Friday off to drive home and be with my family since Christmas is next week. “Did the car start, do you know?”

“We don’t have the keys, ma’am.” I look down at my purse and realize I’m an idiot for asking that question.

“Okay,” I say, my voice shaking. “Thanks, I’ll figure it out and try to get there today.” I slide my phone back into my bag before raising both hands toward the sky. “Why me?” I yell just as a cab comes screeching into the open spot in front me, spraying me with slush from head to toe.

I don’t move. I’m literally frozen from my lack of coat, the now-melted snow all over me, and the utter shock of what this dumpster fire of a day has turned into.

“Hey, lady, you getting in or not?” the driver yells at me. I just stare at him, or stare at my own reflection in the rear passenger window of his car. You can see through my blouse that is now a lovely shade of brown from the coffee and dirty snow; my mascara is running down my cheeks, and my hair looks like roadkill on my head.

The driver flips me the bird before driving off, leaving me to drag my ass back to the train station.



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