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About the author:
The bestselling author of the Jane Parkett, Dawn & Tom, and Harris Thorn series.
For more information, visit my website: www.rgwinterauthor.com
What inspired you to write your book?
My Family experiences.
Here is a short sample from the book:
Seven people sat in a large conference room. The far wall was glass, and a steady stream of not-too-bright sun was shining through the filtered windows. The chairs were a soft, comfortable leather, embellished with gold molding. A huge table with a shining top kept the seven people well apart from one another.
Before them was a spread of food more opulent than one or two had ever seen in their lives. Jane Parkett knew that it was more impressive than some meals she’d seen on TV. There were plates of smoked salmon, crackers, sliced spirals of ham, fruit trays, exquisite-looking roasted vegetables. Jane mentally calculated how much of each item she’d be able to sneak away in her purse once the orientation was over.
It was the best day of her life: Her first day as an analyst at one of the largest financial firms in Chicago.
“You are the cream of the crop,” said a balding man in a many-thousand-dollar suit. He stood straight-backed, proud, looking over the pool of young twenty-somethings as if he were a general surveying his troops. His hands gripped the back of a chair, the material groaning as his fingers bit in.
Jane winced; she’d shook that hand once before, and still had the soreness to prove it.
“Bradford and Schwick only hires the best of the best. We hire people we know can live up to our high expectations.” Finally releasing his hold on the chair, Hamlin bent slightly to retrieve a small book from the seat. “We strive to create an environment that it more than just a workplace. We create a family dynamic. Over seventy percent of our employees stay on until retirement, and in our executive branch, we have a program that will put three people every year on the track to partner.”
Jane breathed in a heavy sigh of disbelief as she listened. She was driven, dedicated, strong, motivated — a warrior of hard work and determination. She’d fought hard to sit at that table, with those men and their suits. Fought harder than all the other women who had been slowly whittled down by the work environment. The boys didn’t play nice. They didn’t censor themselves just because there was a lady in the room. It took the right kind of woman to understand that the world they wanted to be part of was cutthroat and unforgiving. Jane knew that. She’d lived it when she worked a full-time job to pay for college. Four years of her life had been dedicated to nothing but study.
“Sign the book: all employees do. It’s tradition here,” Mr. Hamlin said. “Your journey starts here. You’re no longer interns, no longer applicants. Now, you are part of this family.” He smiled, lips curling up in an amused twist. “Let’s hope you enjoy your time here. Eat, drink, and relax. Real work begins tomorrow, after orientation.”
He was gone, leaving the room without so much as a goodbye. His assistant, a mousey woman in an impeccable sheath dress, scurried after him, already relaying information about meetings and plans.
“Well, how about that?” a blond man asked, moving from his chair to look down at the book. “Associates at Bradford and Schwick.” His long fingers removed a pen from inside his jacket. Jane saw that it was inlaid with marble. “To be honest, I didn’t think most of you would make it.” He signed his name quickly, then threw a look at the other six people in the room.
“You made it, McKinnon,” Jane said as she stood, nearly elbowing the tall man out of the way to get to the book. “Some of us actually had to work to get here.”
“Come off it, Parkett. I have the same job you do now.” McKinnon smiled at her, and Jane resisted the urge to punch his teeth in. HR probably wouldn’t have looked too kindly on all the extra work.
“Oh, but we didn’t get here the same way.” Jane signed her name in the book with shaking hands, right under the sprawling signature of Franklin McKinnon. She made sure to loop her letters a little bit over his. As she smiled down at her work, Jane capped her pen, placing it back inside her purse with a contented sigh.
Everything was in place. She had the degrees, the job, and in two short months she’d have the Main Street apartment that had caught her eye nearly a year ago. Working at the firm would be the catalyst Jane needed to achieve greatness.
“What floor is everyone on?” asked the only other woman in the room. Rebecca was a tall and leggy brunette. Where Jane was strong and dedicated, Rebecca was fierce and frightening. She’d nearly been hired on the spot because of her no-nonsense, utterly fearless attitude. Rebecca didn’t take anything from anyone and hit back harder than the boys did when it came to workplace banter. During their internship, she’d made plenty of the others limp away with their tails tucked between their legs.
Rebecca and Jane were sort of friends. But Jane wasn’t entirely sure if their friendship was real, or just an attempt to not get on her bad side.
“I’m on twelve,” Jane said, looking down at the orientation packet. “You?”
“The same. Oh, we should do lunch after we mop the floor with these boys.” Rebecca smiled brightly.
“That’s some big talk,” McKinnon said, a small smirk on his lips. “Don’t want you two overexerting yourselves. I know how…delicate some people can be.”
“The only thing delicate here is your ego, McKinnon. You should have that checked out. I don’t think this office is big enough for it,” Jane snapped. Her stomach growled, reminding her that it had been nearly a day since she’d eaten. Her breakfast had been neglected due to nerves, same with dinner last night. Finally unable to resist, Jane reached over and picked up a plate. The food smelled so good. In a matter of seconds, she’d loaded it up with everything she could reach.
“Aw, the little kitten has claws,” McKinnon drawled, stretching back in his seat as he pulled the orientation packet into his lap. Jane took hers, too, looking over the huge stack of paperwork for a moment. There was a copy of her contract, which she’d signed messily only an hour before. Secured to the top of the page was her employee card, which gave her access to the building and its numerous facilities.
Bradford and Schwick was known worldwide as one of the best places to work. Their employees were kept happy and healthy with perks like a free gym membership, spa services, and even child care for people with families. While working at the firm was often stressful, the higher-ups made sure that everything was done to keep employee dysfunction to a minimum.
“Come on, Jane,” Rebecca said cheerfully. “Once you’re done eating, we can go scope out the place. Go see parts we weren’t allowed in as interns.”
“Will do,” Jane said as she popped another piece of succulent salmon in her mouth. “Let's go drop this stuff at our cubes. I don’t have my group meeting until 1:30.”
Once Jane had finished eating, she and Rebecca left the board room. All the other new recruits had slowly milled out to go exploring. As interns, they’d all been rather limited in how much of the building they’d been able to see. Most of the best parts were kept from them as secrets to be earned.
Walking through the halls was like walking through a dream for Jane. There were banks of cubicles and large spaces of desk area. Some people were working diligently, others chatting with their co-workers. The office space itself was elegant. Smooth colorful leather and dark wood, accented by hints of silver or chrome. The scent of paper and ink hung in the air; it was a smell that Jane loved.
The pair found their cubicles were right next to one another, already stocked with a work desk, lamp and a computer. Rebecca started taking things from her large Chloe bag, little trinkets, a planner, and setting them just so on the surface.
“So, Rebecca, what do you do outside of work?” Jane asked, wanting to get to know the woman she’d be sitting next to for god-knows how long.
“I teach a Pilates class on weekends.” Suddenly she perked up, chocolate colored hair flying as she stood to meet Jane's eyes. “You should come by this Saturday. It’s a great workout, and that’s my beginner class, so you can jump right in.” She smiled, nudging Jane with her elbow. “I’ll even give you a great rate.”
“Pilates…” Jane echoed. “I’ll go, but you have to promise not to hurt me too badly.”
Rebecca laughed lightly, a devious look springing up on her face. “Oh, Jane, what kind of trainer would I be if I made that promise?”
“A nice one?” Jane tried.
“You know damn well that I’m not nice.”
At exactly 1:25, Jane made her way to a small meeting room, where she would gather with other analyst on the team she’d be working with. Admittedly, Jane was nearly bubbling over with excitement. She couldn’t wait to start doing real work. As an intern, her job was mostly just to shut up and do as she was told, which often involved making copies or getting coffee and snacks for grumpy senior analysts. Now that she was officially a junior analyst, Jane was hoping to put to use some of what she’d learned and help aid her company in its goal for greatness.
Inside the room sat a small group of people, most of them hunched over steaming mugs of coffee or chatting while taking a quick lunch. Jane sat quietly at the end of the table, surveying her new work group with an impassive gaze. It was a good mix of doe-eyed junior analysts and steely-faced senior employees.
“Okay, it’s 1:30. Let’s get some introductions over with before we begin,” Derek Burke said from the head of the table. He had graying black hair, and murky-colored eyes. “As you see, we have two new recruits joining us today. Jane Parkett and Franklin McKinnon.” He waved toward Jane, who did her best to meet the eyes of everyone who welcomed her.
“Is Mr. McKinnon not joining us today?” Mr. Burke asked.
I hope not. Jane hadn’t realized that she may actually have to work with that man on a daily basis.
“I saw him at orientation earlier…” Jane began, but was interrupted by the board room door banging open. All chatter stopped at that point, as Mr. Schwick and McKinnon walked in. This Mr. Schwick was the son of the founding Mr. Schwick, not yet partner, but not at the bottom of the totem poll by any means. Jane had heard McKinnon talking about how he knew the Schwicks, but she’d assumed it was a lie. Who actually had billionaires as friends? Of course, if anyone did, Franklin McKinnon would. How else would such an arrogant and demanding man get anywhere in the world?
“Sorry, Derek,” James Schwick said, patting a smiling McKinnon on the back. “I was just showing Frank around. He’s not late, is he?”
“No. Not at all, Mr. Schwick. Have a seat, Mr. McKinnon. You’re right on time. Would you like to join us for our meeting, Mr. Schwick?” Mr. Burke replied.
The young man shrugged, glancing down at the ruby-embossed watch on his wrist. “I have a few minutes before my next meeting, I’d love to sit in.”
Mr. Burke looked elated. More than elated actually. He stood up from his chair, offering it to Mr. Schwick like it was a throne. McKinnon took the empty space next to Jane, who had to school her face into a neutral mask to hide her distaste.
Men like Franklin didn’t know what it meant to work for a living. They were groomed for success at birth and knew nothing of struggling. Everything they could ever want was handed to them on a platter without so much as a fight.
“Ms. Parkett, we will have you and Mr. McKinnon working with one of our best analysts on an ongoing project. I’ll have Sam fill you both in later. He’ll also be working as your mentor, Ms. Parkett.” Mr. Burke paused. “As for you, Mr. McKinnon. it looks like you have your mentor already in place?”
“Yes,” McKinnon said lightly, “I’ve been working with Mr. Sanders since I was in college. I’m sure he will be more than happy to put me in my place from time to time.”
A chortle of laughter went around the room. Jane rolled her eyes. The joke hadn’t even been funny. But of course, everyone was excited to try and get on the good side of the man who had an in with the Schwicks.
“I’m sure that will work,” Mr. Burke agreed. “Now, shall we continue, everyone?” Burke then went on to present some of the other projects to the rest of the group. He gave the goals for the week, making sure everyone was clear what their roles were going to be. “Ms. Parkett, Mr. McKinnon, Sam Belmore will come and get you when he’d ready to brief you on your work. I suggest you two get acquainted if you haven’t already. You’ll be working in tandem with one another.”
Don’t scowl. Jane fiercely tried to keep the frown she felt forming at bay. The room emptied out in a mass of bodies, leaving Jane and McKinnon utterly alone in a matter of minutes. He leaned casually back in his chair, that annoying smirk plastered on his lips. Sunlight played against his blond hair, allowing the soft hints of brown in it to shine through. Why did a man like him have the nerve to be good-looking too? The handsome ones were always the worst. Jane had learned that lesson early on.
“How’s your first day going, Parkett?” McKinnon asked easily, after a pause.
“It’s good. Probably not as fun as yours was.”
“James is a good friend,” he said. “Known him since I was little.”
“You’ve known the Schwicks that long?” Jane asked, her brow furrowing in confusion. “Why’d you even bother with the internship then?”
“They haven’t built the business they have by hiring just anyone. I had to prove I wasn’t just book smarts and a nice face.” Something in his words made his smile grow all the wider. “I wanted to prove myself to Mr. Schwick. I grew up around this company.” For once, his words didn’t sound mocking or teasing, and Jane found herself hanging on them. “My father retired from the tech department three years ago. Everything I’ve ever known came from Bradford and Schwick. I’d like to give something back.”
“Wow, I didn’t expect that from you.” The words came begrudgingly from Jane’s mouth. “I figured you were just another trust fund son looking for some entertainment until summer.”
“Nah.” He pushed back in the chair until he had enough space to stand. McKinnon already towered over most people, but from her vantage point sitting down, Jane thought he looked like a giant. “I know what it takes to survive in this company, Parkett. Everyone doesn’t have it. You should quit while you’re ahead.”
A flash of anger ran through her, and Jane found herself on her feet. “I’m sorry? Didn’t we get the same internship, hell, the same fucking job?”
“Yeah, we did. But you and I, Parkett, we aren’t the same.” In her anger, she’d moved close to him. And then he glared down at her, eyes serious. “I’m a shark here. You, and your dedication to this company will only get so far. Rebecca, at least, has some balls. She’s sharp and is willing to use it to her advantage. You…Parkett, are afraid, I saw it the first day. You’re a good worker, but this is all just part of your plan for life. You don’t want to be great; you want to be better than the rest of your family.” Then the serious look was gone, replaced by a joking stare. “We’ll see in a few weeks, won’t we? If you don’t fit in, you won’t be here, right?”
“Same goes for you, McKinnon,” Jane said. “You may be able to talk big, but let's see if you can deliver.”
“If you two are done with the foreplay…” An agitated voice made them both turn toward the door. ‘I have some real work you can be doing.” Sam Belmore was a monolith at Bradford and Schwick. An analytical genius with the client base and delivering power to match. He was a known hard ass, and looking at him, Jane could see why. He was a man of medium height, but his piercing eyes made Jane feel like she was an ant. He was dressed impeccably, in a suit with his signature bright red tie, and his face was more than stern, it was almost fiercely handsome. Aged perfectly, and undoubtedly touched up by a master plastic surgeon.
McKinnon rushed out of boardroom, followed closely by Jane. As she passed Belmore, she looked up at him. “Trust me,” she said. “It wasn’t foreplay.”
Belmore’s face was skeptical. “That's what they always say, Ms. Parkett. Now out. There’s a lot I need to catch you two up on.”