Logan Corbett hadn't imagined his first project brief at the new office would turn out this disastrous, but showing up to his first briefing late and sharing an elevator with the CEO of the company, Callum Dawson, on the way to said briefing, absolutely catastrophic.
In hindsight, Logan underestimated the Los Angeles traffic, and going back to his apartment over a power cord that his office most definitely had spares was a foolish mistake on his part.
But when the sleek black Mercedes-Benz whipped around too close for comfort to Logan's rental car and halted in front of the elevators, Logan took the extra time to see who could be driving this recklessly to get to the office. Fumbling with the keys and triple-checking that he had everything, including the damn power cord, Logan glanced as the driver stepped out and opened the passenger side door. The rider stepped out, and Logan nearly dropped his keys, looking at the CEO himself.
Logan had only seen him once in person before, at a safe distance from across his floor as Callum did his rounds to check on the marketing team's work. But seeing Callum this close, even from a couple of cars down, Logan found it hard to quell that anxiety and fear that had built up inside him. Not only was it the residual nerves of being late, but the collection of rumors and research that had occurred even before he transferred to this office a couple of months ago. Callum Dawson was easily one of the most intimidating, unapproachable, and terrifying bosses Logan had ever had to deal with.
Even at the New York office, rumors of Callum had spread like wildfire when Logan had first started working. His notorious flings, scandalous divorce, expensive taste, and pretentious attitude to work had been a well-known fact that only solidified once Logan researched his name. And the way he carried himself as he stepped out of the car in a crisp business suit only reinforced the accusations of Callum being as cold and heartless as everyone made him out to be.
As terrifying as riding an elevator with the CEO was, pretending to be nonchalant and even later than he already was by taking the next elevator was not something he wanted to leave as a first impression. If it meant getting written up for being a little tardy over being fired for being even later than the CEO himself, Logan figured he could stomach the awkward few moments it would take to reach his floor.
Although he saw how heated his conversation on the phone was, Logan wasn't sure how to subtly approach the elevators without overstepping the invisible barrier and eavesdropping on the call.
Logan took a couple of timid steps away from his rental car, walking at a slower pace than he would have liked, only to overhear, "Charlotte, I know I'm late. No, I was not at some random person's place; I just happened to wake up late. I'm always late, alright? Just keep the marketing team busy for me, okay?"
Callum fiddled with his tie, grabbing a coffee mug from his driver as he adjusted the phone in his hand.
"And that's what you are for, miss secretary. Keep them occupied. Keeping up with my appearance and reputation is not a priority. It's already gone down the drain, remember?" He smirked before removing the phone from his ear. "Ah, got to go, losing reception. Heading into the elevators, bye, Ms. Ching."
Logan had been so lost in thought and eavesdropping that he had forgotten where and what he was doing. He stumbled forward, dropping his keys again embarrassingly before watching the boss take significant strides towards the elevator, already pressing the up button. "Wait! Hold the elevator, please!"
Of course, Callum didn't seem to care about courtesy, stepping into the elevator as Logan pleaded with him from a few stalls down. All the CEO could catch was the black shoes of the worker as the old metal doors groaned before slowly closing. Callum sighed a breath of relief, believing he'd get the long elevator ride alone to the marketing team's floor, except the elevator shuddered in protest.
The elevator doors pried open, Logan, just managing to slide his hand between the doors in time to halt Callum's peaceful ride up.
Logan breathed heavily as he clutched his belongings to his chest tightly, his heart hammering against his chest from the sprint and the sudden lurch of the elevator.
Thanks, asshole, Logan thought, reaching over to press the 28th-floor button, only to realize that Callum had already pressed the button. Great, why's he heading there too? His office is on the 37th floor.
"Somebody's in a rush." Logan tensed at the CEO's side comment, afraid to even breathe in the small enclosure. When he didn't respond, he could almost feel the tension get denser as Callum clucked his tongue. "Mr. Corbett, I presume. Charlotte's told me you were running late as well."
"Ah, yes, sir."
Callum scoffed. "Nobody calls me sir around here."
Pressing himself further against the corner of the elevator, Logan stammered, "sorry, Mr. Dawson."
Callum shook his head, and for a moment, Logan wanted to disappear into the corner, wondering if he should have just risked taking the next elevator up after all. "Doesn't matter what you call me; most call me boss or Callum. Not that it matters, you'll probably want to transfer back to your other office or quit altogether after a couple of months. What was it, the Philadelphia office? Or maybe Chicago?"
"New York," Logan offered but bit his lip from saying anything further, sure that this small talk was something the CEO only felt obligated to conduct. However, it didn't stop Logan from wondering what that comment had meant. He hadn't seen the turnover rate for this location, nor did he know any staffing shortages discussed in the articles and spread around at the New York office.
"Ah, the Big Apple," Callum remarked, just as the sign displayed the number twenty above the doors. "I'm sure you'll get homesick. The office there is far nicer; lots more amenities nearby, better opportunities."
The memories of the regular coffee shops and bistros Logan had often frequented flashed back into his mind; even the hot dog stands across the street had become its landmark in a way. But with the pleasant memories of life in the big city and years of working with his coworkers and company dinners came with not-so-pleasant memories too. From the tiny and overpriced apartment to the rowdy and sex-crazed neighbors or the creeps on the subway, Logan wasn't sure he could compare Los Angeles to the Big Apple quite yet. And then, of course, Logan found himself replaying the last few months he spent in New York, fighting with his boyfriend at the time, Chris.
"I wouldn't want to go back," Logan found himself saying, remembering the reason he had chosen to leave everything behind and move across the country. But as the elevator steadily went past floors, he realized Callum hadn't said anything yet. That, and he was certain he shouldn't have mentioned such personal matters to the CEO at all.
Logan slowly turned towards him, hoping maybe he hadn't even heard the comment, and if he did, that Callum wouldn't have cared over such a thing, given the crazy stories people had told about him. Not being homesick surely wouldn't be such a crazy concept. However, when he looked at his boss, there was a strange, curious look in those piercing eyes. "And why is that?"
Logan was confident his lips opened and gaped like a fish as those cold as ice orbs stared down at him. Logan froze in place, not knowing what to say, whether it had been the interrogating eyes or the question itself. He hadn't meant to say it aloud, and there was no way he was going to tell his new boss that the whole reason, and only reason he left his life in New York behind to transfer to the Los Angeles office, was over his ex-boyfriend.
"Is there—" The elevator slowed just as it chimed, indicating they had reached the 28th floor. Before Callum could even glance up at the number and back at him, Logan was already pressing the open button, slipping past the metal doors before they even fully opened.
"Late for the meeting," Logan had managed to get out, pointing his thumb aimlessly. "Got to go."
Callum, still processing the entire conversation, barely had time to remind the new employee that they were heading to the same conference room. After all, the project Logan was being briefed on was, in fact, Callum's idea that he was going to pitch to the marketing team.