Work Wife (Two IN Tucson Book 1)
Coming august 30!
Iris Faldon is at Norgate & Carr to work. Period. Despite knowing almost nothing about architecture, she landed a job with one of the top firms in the country. Iris is still recovering from a divorce and wants to stay away from relationships for a while. Too bad her new boss is so attractive, intriguing, and seems to notice her, not just for her design talents.
Emmanuel Carr wishes he could forget the last work romance he had, the one that left the office criminally damaged. But he’s connecting with the new office assistant so well that he’s starting to re-think the no-dating policy he helped put in place at the firm. The staff is beginning to wonder what’s going on between him and Iris. To be honest, he’s wondering, too.
- Clean workplace rom com
- Flirty, witty banter with the boss
- Punk music
- Criminal use of a stapler
Read a sneak peek of Chapter 1 below, then pre-order on Amazon!
Sneak Peek of work wife Chapter 1
“YOU DON’T KNOW HOW HAPPY we are to have you, hon,” my new coworker Belinda says as she loads up my desk drawer with paperclips, pens, and other assorted office supplies. She’s been giving me the grand tour of Norgate & Carr, the small architecture firm that’s now my place of work. Not that I know the first thing about architecture, but they were as desperate to hire someone as I was desperate to take a job, so here I am.
“I’m happy to be here, too,” I say, smiling. I’m determined to smile my way through my whole first day at the office. Make them think I was being truthful in the interview when I said I’m a cheerful, optimistic person who’s thrilled to be taking a job in Tucson, Arizona. I’ll try not to let any of my dark, gooey center leak out just yet.
“Okay, I think that should do it,” Belinda says, more to my desk than to me. She steps back to survey all the stuff she’s loaded into the workstation. She pats her big messy bun, checking to make sure it hasn’t come undone. She’s got dark auburn hair that I’m certain is not her natural color. Her nails are dark red, nearly a perfect match to the shade of her hair. In contrast to her hair and nails, she’s wearing a bright turquoise shirt that’s covered in black and gray cheetah print. She’s short, round, and full of peppy energy, like those hi-bounce balls you got out of vending machines as a kid.
Belinda is the receptionist here at Norgate & Carr. Her modern gray desk is behind a tall front counter under a gleaming silver logo for the architecture firm in the front lobby. Lush potted plants flank the sides of her desk. Completing the impressive, polished look are two sets of black and silver guest chairs and small tables, one set on each side of the lobby. On one wall is abstract artwork that’s a swish of neutrals and blues. Hanging over the other set of chairs are framed accolades like “Best of Tucson” and “#1 Architecture Firm – Southwest Region.”
It all looks chic and shiny, with Belinda’s happy energy radiating out from where she sits. I want to absorb all that good energy and let it seep down into all my cranky parts like WD-40 getting into the nooks and crannies of a rusty door hinge.
I’ve been hired as the new office assistant for the firm. Unlike Belinda’s desk, my desk is behind a partition off the lobby with no plants and no gleaming anything. I could practially hear the sad womp-womp horns as we walked from the polished front lobby into my dark dungeon of a cubicle. I get to share space with a dingy file cabinet, an old printer, and a flavorless wall calendar from an accounting firm.
Shoulders back, stand up straight, look confident, I tell myself. Don’t slouch like a downtrodden soul who’s still licking her wounds after an unexpected divorce.
Unexpected for me, at least. My ex-husband Russ didn’t seem bothered that we were ending our decade of marriage. He views our divorce as one of those “some people grow apart” kind of things. Whereas I view it as “some people decide to throw away their marriage by cheating on their wife with a dumb blond” kind of things. One of our many differences of opinion, I suppose.
“Thanks, Belinda. I really appreciate your help,” I say, reminding my lips to smile.
Honestly, I shouldn’t have to force myself to smile. I would’ve been happy with any job at all. Having a warm welcome at such a beautiful office is a big bonus. That gives me plenty to smile about.
“Don’t mention it, Iris! I’m sorry you didn’t get to meet everybody today but at least you’ve met Stella,” Belinda says, referring to Stella Norgate, the founder of the firm. Stella’s the one who interviewed me and hired me.
Like the office, Stella is chic and shiny. She’s probably in her early 60s but she’s one of those sixty-year-old women who could do ads for skincare creams or luxury cruises. She was dressed so smartly at my interview that it made me second guess my basic navy interview suit. But Stella immediately put me at ease as soon as the interview started. She gave me the sense that even though Norgate & Carr is one of the top architecture firms in the country, it’s also a warm, friendly place to work. It was better than I’d hoped for when I started my job search. So I accepted the job the same day Stella offered it to me.
So far, Belinda’s cheerful demeanor has confirmed that this was the right place for me. I plan to work hard for them, focus on my job, and get my spirits lifted in the process.
Belinda scoots my pen cup to one side of my desk, then back towards the computer to see which arrangement looks better. I find it motherly and sweet that she’s trying to get my things set up for me. I’ll probably rearrange everything as soon as she leaves, but for now, I stand back and let her fuss over my desk.
“Come to think of it, the only person you haven’t met yet is Emmanuel. He’ll be back tomorrow. But it’s good you met Stella first. Emmanuel can be kind of…” Belinda stops herself abruptly and glances at me quickly like she hopes I didn’t hear that part.
That gets my attention. Emmanuel Carr is the other partner of Norgate & Carr. He wasn’t at my interview. Stella explained that he was off getting some kind of award. I get the feeling that awards are a frequent thing for both Emmanuel and Stella. I assumed Emmanuel would be as affable as Stella, but Belinda’s comment has me wondering otherwise.
“Kind of…?” I prompt, hoping Belinda will finish her thought.
Belinda laughs awkwardly. “Oh, well, what I mean is, I still can’t believe Stella hired you without Emmanuel interviewing you. That’s a first! They don’t do anything without the other’s consent. She must really like you,” Belinda says in an upbeat voice while she nudges my trash can closer to the desk with her tiny foot.
Since I don’t know Belinda well and because it’s my first day of work, I let the Emmanuel comment drop. But now my curiosity is piqued.
“Well, I can only hope to live up to Stella’s impression of me,” I say. “I want to a do a really good job here.”
Belinda laughs. “Yeah, I can see why she likes you! You’re so professional. Just like her. Alright, I’d better stop with your desk while I’m ahead. Are you sure you’re okay getting set up with email and all that? I’m no good with technology so don’t feel bad if you need help like I always do. Just go ask Trent,” Belinda says with a dismissive wave towards my computer, like it’s a necessary evil for office work.
“I’m sure I’ll be fine. But just in case, remind me where Trent’s office is?”
“He was the one all the way in the back. Tall, blond, looks like he got plucked out of a boy band?”
“Ah, right,” I say, sitting down in the gray fabric office chair. It immediately sinks to its lowest level.
Belinda frowns at the dull, grey chair. I reach below the seat to find the lever. I get it back up to a normal height with a mechanical whoosh. She smiles, glad that she doesn’t have to figure out how the chair works.
“Well, go ahead and get settled and I’ll be back in a bit to check on you. Okay?”
“Sounds good. Thanks, Belinda.”
“You’re very welcome. I’m seriously so happy to have you here. I think you’re going to be a great fit at Norgate & Carr,” Belinda says. There’s a split second where I think she might try to hug me out of happiness. I probably would’ve hugged right back. But she bounces away to the front and I’m left in my dull cubicle alone.
Alone, but not as alone as I was a few weeks ago, crying into a pillow in Phoenix, wondering how I’d ever be happy again after my husband—make that ex-husband—Russ dumped me for his secretary.
It was the most overused stereotype ever, like Russ was following a hackneyed script for how to have an affair: Wife is oblivious, thinks the marriage is humming along just fine. They’re closing in on their ten-year anniversary. Husband starts philandering with the cute secretary at work. Husband decides he loves the secretary more than he loves the wife. Dumps wife. Wife cries. End scene.
There was more to it, of course, but the end result was me, for the first time in my life, wanting to get out of Phoenix. I decided to run away, as much as a grown woman can run away. I considered escaping to a big city like New York or San Francisco. Then I let my imagination run wild and started googling crazy places like Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, and Dayton, Ohio.
Eventually, I got realistic and settled on Tucson. Far enough away from Phoenix that I wouldn’t be reminded of Russ every five minutes, but familiar enough to be comforting.
I grew up in Glendale, one of the many cities that make up the sprawling Phoenix metropolitan area. Glendale had a comfortable middle class mix of family houses and community churches, sports fields and pizza parlors. My mom taught at the same elementary school I went to. She stayed at that school as I moved up to middle school, then high school.
I was just the two of us. My dad was a musician. He’d drifted out of the picture early on. There were still sporadic cards from him with ever-changing return addresses, following wherever the drumming gigs led him. There were sometimes phone calls on my birthday or Christmas, but that was about it. Mom had various family members that she sometimes mentioned, but none were close enough geographically or relationally for us to interact with.
For college, I moved across town to attend Arizona State University in Tempe. Mom and I would meet up each weekend for shopping or lunch. We’d alternate between me driving back to Glendale or her driving down to Tempe. Every once in a while, we’d meet up somewhere else like downtown Phoenix, but we mostly kept to our routine. I graduated with a degree in business administration and found a job and apartment in Phoenix proper, just across the dividing line from Tempe.
Then I met Russ. He was from Scottsdale, the swanky part of the giant Phoenix patchwork. Russ pursued me with his winning smile, blush-worthy flirting, and a little bit of a wild streak hiding under his boy-next-door surface.
I couldn’t resist.
We got married and bought a house down in Chandler, where housing developments were swallowing up farm fields left and right.
I thought I’d continue living my life forever in the safe orbit of Phoenix, the Valley of the Sun. The bounds of Loop 101 and Loop 202 were a comfort to me.
Until they weren’t.
Russ leaving me was like a kid kicking over my happy little Lego life. It burst into a million sharp pieces. When I went to pick them all up and reassemble things, I discovered I didn’t actually want to put it back together the same way it had been. I decided I needed to try something new, even though I had very little idea what the new thing would look like.
I chose Tucson and starting applying for every job possible. Mercifully, Norgate & Carr was one of the first companies to contact me, saving me from a depressingly long job hunt.
If I come to work every day and get buoyed by the warmth of people like Stella and Belinda, I think I’ll be okay. I’ll work hard, focus on my job, and forget about love and all its messiness. I can start over.
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