“Kendra, is that you?”

“Yes, Mom,” Kendra Key said when she shut the front door to the first-floor apartment her mother lived in. She was on the third floor, renters on the second.

To some it might not be ideal or the best location outside of downtown Charlotte, but owning the multiple-level home gave her some financial freedom and let her care for her mother.

“Don’t you look pretty,” her mother said. Kendra walked into the little room off the living room that her mother used as her office. It was more like a large closet than an actual room. She supposed someone could use it as a nursery, but with it facing the road, it wasn’t that quiet. It had some good light and that was what her mother needed.

“Like you can tell,” she said, letting out a laugh.

“I can sense your excitement and happiness,” her mother said. “And you aren’t boxy like normal so I think you’ve got a skirt on.”

She let out a sigh. Her mother couldn’t see details. She couldn’t recognize colors either other than lighter and darker shades, but she could piece together shapes more than anything if someone was close enough. 

“I do have a skirt on. I wanted to make a good impression on my third interview with Ella Fierce McKinley. Jolene Fierce was in this interview too along with a few other members of the family and office staff.” Six people total and she’d been sweating more than she did when she got her drivers’ license and had to start carting her mother everywhere.

Most kids would be excited to have that mobile freedom, but Kendra knew deep down it was the start of her world changing forever. Maybe that was why she dragged her feet taking the test. She saw the writing on the wall.

“I’m going to assume it went well,” her mother said. “Your energy is almost infectious. You are all but dancing in your spot.”

“They offered me the job. I didn’t even make it to the driveway when the call came in.”

“You answered it while you were driving?” her mother asked.

Kendra knew that tone. “Hands free, Mom. I’ve told you that before. It’s hitting a button on the steering wheel. I was almost home. I wasn’t distracted.”

Her mother smiled. She wished her mother could see her own reflection when she did that. 

Karen Key was an attractive woman at fifty years old. Kendra was an only child, her mother having her at the young age of twenty-one.

Back when things were better in her mother’s life. Just not for long.

“So you’ve got the job,” her mother said. “That’s wonderful. Is it what you want? You know how I feel about you changing jobs all the time. I’ve had mine for fifteen years.”

Her mother was fortunate that way. That she worked for a company that would create a job for her as her vision started to deteriorate so badly that she couldn’t read letters on a screen. She couldn’t drive anymore or do most daily functions as she had years ago. Or the same as she had years ago.

Kendra cared for her mother but not to the point she felt strapped to her.

Her mother was able to move around her apartment well. Feed herself, cook a few things without Kendra worrying about the house burning down. More like Kendra and her mother cooked meals together a few times a week and enough for her mother to warm up when Kendra wasn’t around.

It wasn’t as hard or bad as she’d thought it would be when she was sixteen and looking into the future with fearful eyes. And right now they had their own spaces.

“You’re lucky that way. But you know why I wanted to leave my current job.”

“You need to be happy with your career and not so much worrying about me.”

“I hate my job,” she said. “That is why I’m leaving it. There is no growth there.”

She was an executive assistant for a wealth management firm. She had a bachelor’s in business administration but no concentration in any area.

She didn’t like accounting enough to focus on that. She didn’t see herself doing sales or marketing. She didn’t find she was strong enough to be a manager.

She liked to keep to herself, do her job and organize. 

Give her a task and she’d finish it before it was due. She liked to manage projects not people. She liked to analyze data and assist. 

In her eyes she was a problem solver. She was a team player.

The only issue with that—there weren’t many jobs out there that fit her skill level.

She’d thought being the executive assistant for one of the vice presidents would give her more responsibility from her previous job. 

Nope. For three years she’d been here and they hadn’t given her much more to do than what she was hired for. 

No, that was wrong. She was making lunch orders and picking them up. Getting coffee for clients. 

Definitely not what she signed up for and wasn’t going to continue much longer.

Not only that, they were asking her to stay later and later for what she considered stupid shit. She had no problem working late when needed, but she had to plan at times too or let her mother know. Her mother didn’t complain, but she still felt bad.

Or maybe it was more an excuse because she was hating on her job so much lately.

Either way, she started to look and was shocked when she came across an ad for Fierce. She figured she wouldn’t have a shot at it and was stunned by the first interview and flabbergasted by how well the second one went. The third one today had her shaking in her boots, but she must have killed it to get the offer.

“I only want you to be happy here. So they offered and you accepted?” her mother asked. 

“I did. Ella is so nice but businesslike.” 

The first interview Kendra had shown up in brown pants and a button-down collared shirt with flats on her feet. The main office was above the bar and pub, the restaurant in the back. She hadn’t expected it to be formal but made sure she was dressed appropriately. A person from HR and Jolene Fierce had interviewed her and she’d felt she was presenting professionally for the environment.

The second interview was with Ella and a few office staff. She’d worn black pants and a light gray button-down shirt this time. A similar outfit as the first time.

She’d been shocked to see Ella in a navy pencil skirt, a printed silk top and nude pumps on her feet. She’d felt completely out of place and figured she’d blown it. 

When she got the call for the third interview she wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice.

“Is that what you’re looking for?” her mother asked. “I thought you wanted something not as stuffy.”

“It’s not stuffy. Trust me. Today Jolene and Cade Fierce were in the interview along with a few other office staff I’d be working with that I didn’t meet last time. They were all dressed more casually and Cade was a riot. So was Jolene.”

“That’s good to know. You normally keep to yourself anyway. Tell me what you’ll be doing.”

“Ella is returning to work full time after having her daughter six months ago. She needs someone to be a right-hand person to help her out. Ella pretty much runs the operations as a whole for all three businesses and the office staff.”

“That’s a lot of people and businesses,” her mother said. “The brewery and restaurants too?”

“Yes and no. Mason runs the brewery, Aiden the restaurant, Brody the pub and bar. Those three run the day-to-day operations. Ella is at a higher level behind the scenes. Overseeing finances is a big part of it. It’s funny. They are all married and their spouses work in those parts with them. Cade is the attorney and does the marketing and has an office by Ella. Anyway, I’ll be doing so much stuff. I’ll have my hands in all pies. Everything Ella does, I’ll have some tiny piece of it.”

“It all sounds great,” her mother said. “As long as you don’t end up as a gopher again.”

“I don’t see it happening,” she said. She wasn’t sure why, but in her gut, she knew this was where she had to be. Maybe it was the kindness of Jolene. The motherly voice when Jolene was stern with her kids during the interview but equally funny.

It reminded her of her mother and their relationship. Anyone like that couldn’t be a bad boss in her eyes. Or raise her kids to be that way.

At least she hoped. 

She’d had a lot of blind faith in life. Pun intended. And this was going to be one of those times too.

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