I never meant to lie to my parents about my job—I only wanted to make them proud. So when Dad asks me to return to New York to manage the renovation of a townhouse he owns, I can’t say no, even though I’m in way over my head.
But the real challenge comes in the form of Kyle, the gruff and ruggedly-handsome foreman, eighteen years my senior and my father's best friend. We clash on everything, except for the chemistry that sizzles between us—chemistry he stubbornly denies.
Returning to New York wasn't in my plans, until my oldest friend entrusted me with leading a restoration project and keeping an eye on his headstrong daughter.
Keeping an eye on her is easy; resisting her not so much. She's beautiful, hard-working, and infuriating as hell. The more she challenges me, the more I want to throw her across my knee and teach her a lesson. No matter how much I fight it, Violet’s determined we should be together. And she’s right.
She might be my best friend’s daughter, but she was made for me.
Sparks fly as a reclusive carpenter and a workaholic project manager fight their forbidden attraction in this steamy romance about finding that all-important work/life balance.
She Was Made for Me - Excerpt
If I have one piece of advice for anyone trying to impress their boss, it’s not to fall asleep face-down on the floor of their office.
I don’t even realize where I am until I hear the click of her office door closing, the sound of her setting a grande Americano on her desk. An Americano I was supposed to have ordered.
“Oh, Violet,” she says as I rouse myself from my slumber on her carpet. “Not again.”
“Sorry, Deb.” I groggily pull myself up, rubbing my eyes. This is not the first time I’ve spent the night at the office, and probably won’t be the last. I glance at the posterboard and Post-Its strewn around me and wince. After Deb went home last night, I stayed on to create a Gantt chart in an attempt to increase productivity for our latest project. I find it easier to work on the floor, where I can spread out.
And, evidently, pass out.
Deb peeks into the trash can. “Did you order dinner, at least?”
“I…” Crap. Dinner. I knew I’d forgotten something. “Um, no.”
She sets her purse on her desk with a sigh, her ebony curls perfect as always, her mahogany skin glowing from her early morning workout. I’ve never seen Deb look disheveled, which only serves to highlight my own state of chaos right now.
I push to my feet, hastily trying to gather the Post-Its into a pile. There’s a pink one in the middle of the board with a big question mark on it, indicating exactly where I ran out of steam and dozed off.
“I was working on an idea for next quarter.” I pull the question-mark Post-It from the board, frustrated. “I know we use an Agile approach, but I was thinking—”
“That’s not your job,” Deb says gently. “You’re my assistant, Vi.”
“I know.” And I really do; four years of fetching coffee, booking conference rooms, and taking meeting notes has made that abundantly clear. She’s the project manager for our team at DigiSwap, I’m the assistant.
Despite having spent several years at college training in project management.
But I know how this works. I’m paying my dues, working my way up, proving myself and biding my time until it’s my turn. And Deb is an awesome boss—she’s always respectful and kind, never barks orders at me, and yeah, tends to get a little concerned when she finds me asleep on her office floor after pulling an all-nighter.
I give her a sheepish smile as I smooth my hair, my natural blonde waves a little matted on one side. At this point, Deb usually gives me a good-natured lecture about working too much, and I nod along, half listening, half thinking about the project I’d labored over the night before.
But today, she slides into her chair and clasps her hands tightly on her glossy white desk, a line of worry along her forehead as she watches me gather my things from the floor.
“You’re the most dedicated person on our team,” she murmurs. “You work your ass off.”
I can’t help but beam as pride warms me from the inside out. See? This is what it’s all about. Sure, I don’t have much of a social life outside the office, and yeah, I only sleep about five hours a night—but this is what makes it worth it. Getting this recognition. Advancing my career.
I hold my breath, clutching the posterboard and Post-Its to my chest, waiting expectantly. I have a feeling Deb is about to make a big announcement, and I know what it is. It’s something I’ve been waiting to hear for months now, and it’s about time. My stomach swirls with anticipation as Deb opens her mouth to speak.
“Violet, sit down. I need to tell you something.”
Her cautious tone sends a chill across my skin, making my confidence waver. “Just tell me,” I say, tacking on a lighthearted laugh that doesn’t quite ring true.
She gazes at me for a long moment before taking a deep breath. “I don’t know how else to say this, but…” Her breath comes out in a long gust. “I have to let you go.”
The posterboard slips from my hands, hitting the floor with a thud, followed by the Post-Its scattering in a colorful pile at my feet like giant pieces of confetti. I drop into the chair opposite Deb with lead in my stomach.
“I’m so sorry. I promise you, this is the last thing I want to do, but it’s out of my hands.”
My jaw sags as I stare at my boss, speechless. I’ve never seen her look so solemn.
“But… why? What have I done wrong?”
“Nothing,” Deb says quickly. “You’re an amazing assistant, and I don’t want to lose you at all, but last week the board announced huge budget cuts to all departments, which means no more unnecessary spending.”
A disbelieving huff escapes me at her words. I’ve worked at this company for four years, giving them everything, only to be described as ‘unnecessary.’
“I can’t believe this,” I retort. “So all the assistants are just… gone?”
Deb grimaces again, this time not meeting my eyes. “Not exactly. Departments have to share assistants, going forward.”
I watch her awkwardly twist her coffee cup back and forth on her desk, shame washing over me as the meaning behind her words becomes clear.
“Right,” I mutter. “And I didn’t make the cut.”
Deb forces her gaze to mine. “Please don’t think of it like that. I fought hard for you, Vi. You deserve this job more than anyone. Hell, they should have promoted you to assistant project manager years ago, but…” She shakes her head. “You know what this industry is like. It’s a boy’s club, and Scott has more pull with the board than I do, so—”
“I get it,” I say, rubbing my face. I really wish I wasn’t having this conversation with the imprint of Deb’s office carpet on my cheek. I must look so unprofessional.
“I’m sorry. If it were up to me, you wouldn’t be going anywhere.”
I nod stiffly, untouched by her words. I get that she doesn’t want to let me go—she’s always been good to me—but it just goes to show how fickle this industry is, that this company doesn’t value me at all.
I swallow back the acidic taste in my mouth, woodenly rising to collect my stuff from the floor again, then stalk to my tiny desk in the corner of Deb’s office, trying to ignore the burning sensation behind my eyes as I gather my things with shaking hands.
Don’t cry. Don’t give them the satisfaction.
It’s not only the humiliation of not being chosen to stay; it’s the fear gnawing in the pit of my stomach at knowing I have to go home, in the middle of the day, to an empty apartment. My job is—well, was—my life. It was my sense of purpose, my guiding star, my reason for getting out of bed in the morning. Without that, I don’t know who I am.
Despite being at the company for years, it only takes me five minutes to pack up my desk. Deb tries to give me a lengthy goodbye, telling me how much she’s valued me, how much she’ll miss me, but I make my excuses to leave. Each word from her mouth only twists the knife.
I don’t say goodbye to anyone else as I flee the building, the sting of humiliation threatening to send tears spilling at the slightest nudge. The air is cool as the elevator lets me out into the parking garage, my arms cradling a box of items from my desk. It’s not much; notebooks, pens, stapler, photo frame with a picture of me and my parents at my graduation, and a sad little succulent that has been on the brink of death for six months.
It’ll most definitely die now. I’m sure of it.
I dump the box into the trunk of my car and slink around to the driver’s side. As soon as the door is closed, I drop my forehead onto the steering wheel and let out a low “ughhhhhhh.”
I’m twenty-five and unemployed. What the hell am I supposed to do now?
* * *
By the time I arrive home, I’m fuming. How dare this company just dispose of me as unnecessary spending, like I haven’t given them some of the best years of my life?
I storm into my apartment, throwing the box of desk supplies onto the kitchen counter and slamming the door closed behind me. The sun is a bright glare streaking in through the open blinds, and as I reach for the cord to close them, I have to shield my eyes. I’m not used to being home at this time of day—I’m usually up to my elbows in emails or fetching coffee from the in-house barista in the lobby of our building. I lose track of time when I’m at work, buzzing from the energy of a busy office, high on the constant stream of incoming tasks that keep me on my toes all day. By the time I leave the building, most nights the sky is a bruised purple. On a really productive day, it’s pitch black.
But this morning it was a brilliant blue, and I hated every minute of the drive home. I hated seeing my neighbors trimming their roses, the power-walkers returning from their daily route to do God knows what all day. Why aren’t these people at work?
I live in this Silicon Valley neighborhood only because it’s close to the office, not because I love it. I feel a familiar pang of longing for home, one I’ve gotten used to tuning out in the years I’ve been away from New York. If I was at work, I think bitterly, I’d be too busy to think about this.
I gaze around my apartment—a place I’ve seen so many times before, but never stopped to really notice. The walls are painted an unassuming beige, and the sofa is a charcoal three-seater that came with the place. All the furniture did. I’ve never given it a lot of thought, because I don’t spend much time here. But now…
Unease snakes through me at the knowledge that I have nothing planned for the rest of… well, however long it takes me to find another job. I can’t remember the last time I had an expanse of free time, stretching out before me like a vast horizon. Some people might be delighted at the prospect, but not me.
In fact, I feel vaguely ill.
I drop onto the sofa and reach for my laptop, desperate to do something. I’ll start by getting my resume out there. As an assistant I made plenty of contacts, so I have no shortage of people to reach out to. The sooner I get started, the better. I should have done this months ago. No—Deb was right—years ago.
My role as Deb’s assistant was only supposed to be for six months, maybe a year at a stretch. I’d taken the job on the assumption that they’d promote me as soon as I’d proven myself, and Deb told me at every available opportunity how valuable she thought I was, that she wanted to promote me as soon as she could. It’s not her fault I’ve ended up here. It’s mine. When the one-year mark rolled around, I should have actively started looking for new roles. I should have realized that, despite Deb’s best intentions, a promotion wasn’t going to fall into my lap, no matter how much initiative I showed, no matter how many late nights I worked.
My fingers hover over the keys as I consider my options. I don’t want to apply for another assistant job. I’m a qualified project manager, and it’s time I get the job I deserve. It won’t be as easy as getting into another assistant role, but I need to fight for this. I’m sick of not utilizing my talents.
In fact, being let go might actually be a good thing. A blessing in disguise and all that.
I’ve almost managed to convince myself when my phone rings. Dad’s name flashes on my screen and despair rushes up inside me.
Shit. Who am I kidding? This isn’t a fucking blessing.
I set my laptop aside and reach for my phone, swallowing against the sudden lump in my throat. “Hi, Dad.”
I sniffle at the sound of his comforting voice. It’s almost as if he knows, somehow.
“I tried your office line, but someone else answered and said you don’t work there anymore.”
Okay, so he does know.
“What’s going on?”
I clear my throat. “I, um… yeah.” Of all the people I have to tell about this, my father would be absolutely last on my list. I was kind of hoping I might be able to get another job quickly enough that I wouldn’t even have to tell him. Then I could casually mention it after the fact, like yeah, I’d been given an exciting opportunity at a new company, and how cool is that?
Instead, I have to tell him that his only child, his pride and joy, is now unemployed. I hate letting him down like this.
My face heats with shame as I mutter, “I was let go this morning. They had budget cuts, and…”
“What?” Dad’s voice rises in disbelief. “How could they lose one of their most promising project managers?”
I press my eyes shut, my stomach knotting into a tight ball. God, I am the worst daughter on the planet, because not only was I not in a project management position, my parents were under the impression that I was.
It’s not my fault. I mean, it is my fault, but really it’s a misunderstanding I haven’t been able to bring myself to rectify. I’d told my folks I’d gotten a job as an assistant to a project manager, but Dad misheard me and thought I’d said I was an assistant project manager. I took a breath to correct him, almost amused at how it was as if I was reading a script from an episode of The Office, but when he went on to say how proud he was of me, and how the money he’d spent on college had been worth it—gulp—I couldn’t bear to tell him that no, I wasn’t managing exciting projects, I was fetching coffee for the people who were. Besides, I’d reasoned, they’d promote me soon enough, so it didn’t make sense to disappoint him.
And then, you know, four years somehow passed and here we are.
Anyway, it was all for nothing. I don’t have a job or any prospects lined up. I have a handful of contacts, which will probably amount to nothing, and I’ve wasted years of my life. I might not quite be there yet, but I’ve got a pretty good view of rock bottom from here.
“Um, about that,” I begin, taking a deep breath. Ugh, this isn’t easy. My father’s a successful attorney who raised me to work hard and make things happen for myself. To tell him that the wonderful things he’s been thinking about me since I graduated were based on a lie… I’d rather perform naked gymnastics to a packed crowd at Madison Square Garden.
“Hang on a second.” I hear the door to his office close, the familiar creak of his leather chair as he settles in front of his expansive oak desk. I only visited Dad’s office once, years ago, but the feeling of it sticks vividly in my mind. The law firm had an air of importance about it—like the work they did mattered. It made me realize how much I wanted to do work that mattered, too.
I sigh, needing to get this out. If I don’t tell him now, I never will. And I’ve lived with this untruth long enough.
“You know what I think, Violet? Screw them. If they can’t see what they’re missing out on, that’s their loss.”
“Thanks, Dad. But—”
“What are your plans moving forward?”
I falter. Sometimes conversing with my father makes me feel more like I’m a witness being cross-examined on the stand than his daughter.
“I’m already sending my resume out and getting in touch with contacts I have.”
“Excellent. Do you have anything lined up?”
Lined up? I only left the office an hour ago!
“Not yet, but it won’t be long until I do.” I pick at a nail, hoping my voice conveys more confidence than I feel.
Dad is quiet for a beat, and a slow churn begins in my gut. He’s not buying this. Why would he? And I still haven’t told him the worst part yet.
But he surprises me when he breaks the silence. “Why don’t you come stay with us for a while?”
“Stay with you?”
“Sure,” Dad says easily. “You can keep up the job search from New York. Who knows, you might even find something closer to home.”
I sigh, thinking about New York. The truth is, I’ve missed it ever since I left. The bustle of the city streets, the convenience of having everything on your doorstep, and the beautiful row houses that remind you of the city’s history. There’s nothing like that here.
The problem is, most of the good project management jobs in tech are on the West Coast.
“Maybe,” I murmur.
“I might have something to keep you busy in the meantime,” Dad adds.
This piques my interest. I hadn’t thought past my plan of sending out resumes all day, but who knows how I’ll fill my time after that. I need something to do. I need a plan.
“What is it?”
“Ah.” He chuckles. “Wouldn’t you rather it was a surprise?”
I twist my lips to the side, frowning. As someone who likes to stay on top of every aspect of my life, surprises are not something I enjoy.
Take this morning, for example.
“Come on, Sweetpea.” Dad’s voice softens. “Your mom and I miss you. This is a great opportunity for you to come home for a few months.”
I lean back on the sofa, turning the idea over. It wouldn’t hurt to get a change of scenery, and besides, I’ll have a little money from my severance to live off for a while.
One look around my stale shell of an apartment confirms it. The thought of spinning my wheels here indefinitely while I wait for something to happen on the job front makes me positively nauseated.
“Okay,” I agree, but there’s no way I’m moving back in with my folks. That definitely would be hitting rock bottom. “I’ll stay at Sadie’s, though. I haven’t seen her in ages.”
Sadie, my best friend from high school, has always been okay in the past with me crashing on her sofa. Usually we spend the time painting our nails and binge-watching reruns of The Office while talking about guys.
Okay, we did that once, six years ago, but I’m sure it will be fine.
“Great!” Dad says. I hear him tapping at his keyboard in the background. “I’ll book your flight now.”
In spite of everything that’s happened this morning, I find myself smiling. Maybe going back to the city is just what I need.
© 2023 Jen Morris