The only thing worse than being late for your first day of work is when your first day of work is at the Parliament Buildings and your new boss is the prime minister.
Who you have a secret crush on, except it doesn’t need to be a secret, because he’s single and hot and every other woman in the country also has a crush on him.
You could wear a placard that says I want to bang the PM and nobody would even notice, because they would all be wearing variations on the same theme.
Of course, it should be a secret because I’m going to be working for him.
Stop it, Ellie.
It’s only a three month internship, and technically there’s a deputy director of communications and a chief of staff between us in the chain of command. But my nipples don’t understand that and they’re super excited about working so closely with Gavin.
Like every other straight woman, gay man, or anyone in the middle of the Kinsey scale, I’ve got a crush on the man. Which is why I should have been early for work, and is also why I’m running late.
I should have been focused on making a good impression.
Instead, I’d changed my outfit three times and chose heels that made it impossible to hustle when I realized just how late I was.
I squeak in the front doors at 7:59 by the clock on my cell phone. But of course there’s a security line to get through and—
I’d recognize that voice anywhere. Thick with humour, warm and rough enough at the edges to appeal to steel workers and farmers—that was the panty-melting voice of our nation’s brand new prime minister.
I know that voice.
Until this moment, I had no clue he might know me.
So I stare at him dumbly.
This is not my finest hour.
“Sir,” I finally stammer out.
The women behind me in line giggle.
That’s the effect this man has on people. I’m now officially blocking the security line into the building and nobody cares because Gavin Strong, The Honourable Prime Minister of Canada, is flashing his baby blue eyes at everyone in a thirty foot radius. He’s done this before—stop and talk to his staff on the way in, but I’m still flustered. I don’t think I ever expected to talk to him, and definitely not before my first day has even begun.
“Shall we head inside?”
“Yes, of course.” I yank out my wallet. “I’ll see you in there.”
He holds my gaze for a moment, probably a second or two, but it’s the kind of second that stretches. Long enough to be meaningful for me but nothing for him.
And then he’s turning, shaking hands with the people in front of me. Welcoming them all to work today.
Who does that?
Gavin Strong. Union lawyer, community activist, Habitat for Humanity volunteer. The most personable man in the entire country, possibly the smartest, too, although he likes to play that bit down.
Surround himself with experts, he says.
That’s where I come in.
I’m hardly an expert, but I’m getting there. Bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies and Sociology. Master’s in Women’s Studies. One year into my doctorate, which is loosely a business degree but specifically a communications specialty.
And I’ve scored one of ten brand-new internships with the federal government. Cultural Change Officers, we’re called. I’ve taken a three-month leave of absence from my studies to do this job.
To work under the prime minister.
And I didn’t make it three minutes into the role without my panties getting wet.
It takes five hours for my crush to die a miserable death.
Gavin might be hot, and smart, but he’s also a perfectionist, and he expects that of his staff. Which is fine for me, because I haven’t pissed him off yet, but by lunch I’ve witnessed enough to know that if I don’t lock down my libido and bring my A-game, I’m going to get called on the carpet.
The showdown he had midmorning with his Chief of Staff—Stew Rochard, my boss—over fundraising and lobbyists has the entire office in a panic, because we’ve got a private event in five weeks that might need to be cancelled if the PM decides to take a hard line on influencers.
That’s how I’ve decided I need to think about Gavin. The PM. The Prime Minister.
I’m not going to notice how good he looks in a suit or how his powerful thighs are outlined every time he sits down. The suit represents the position. It demands my respect, nothing else.
Instead of taking me out to lunch for my first day, Stew gives me half of the ham and Swiss on rye that his wife made him, digs two cans of Diet Coke out of a box he keeps under his desk, and tasks me with figuring out how we can spin the $5,000 a plate dinner into something that won’t offend our boss quite so much.
Because I’m a freak for these kinds of problems, this makes me happy. A nice lunch would probably be nothing but small talk, and I’m kind of awkward when it comes to that. Like I should have asked Stew about his wife and kids when he gave me the sandwich, but I was already poring over the file on the fundraiser—the history of it, the host, the criticism on the other events that led to the PM’s edict two hours earlier that we would not be in the pockets of the wealthy.
“One problem with him saying that over and over again is that he’s rich, too,” I point out as I lick mustard off my fingers. “And everyone knows it. Don’t get me wrong—most people like that about him. But he’s hardly one of us with the sandwiches from home.”
Stew snorts. “Don’t let him hear you say that.”
“He’s a man of the people in many other ways. He knows how much a loaf of bread costs, that’s all that matters. But he’s also comfortable with these donors, right? What if it wasn’t a fundraiser for the party? What if it was…like a kick-off for a community challenge?”
“Keep talking.” He roots around in his lunch bag. “Chocolate chip cookie?”
I shake my head. “But I’ll take another pop if you’ve got one.”
“He shouldn’t shut himself off from business leaders. He needs to stay connected to them, and show them who’s boss. Canadians just want to know that he’s not in their pockets. They’ll be thrilled if he can turn it around, make them bend to his will.”
“Shit.” He rocks back in his chair and shoves the rest of his cookie in his mouth. “That’s good.”
The truth is, it’s not a new idea. It was a critique I wrote six months earlier for a class, as a response to a hypothetical case study that was eerily similar. I got lucky on my first day, but I’m smart enough to pretend that my luck is actually talent. “Thanks.”
“It’ll need some work. You’ll need to present it with the repercussions forecasted out in all directions.”
“Of course.” I’ve done that at school before, too. If I’ve got time, I’ll tap a couple of my profs and get their—
“I want you to pitch it tomorrow in the morning briefing.”
Oh, crap. So no time, then. “Tomorrow. Right.”
“That a problem?”
Stew opens his mouth, maybe to warn me about what the PM expects, or maybe to question how sure I am, I don’t know, because before he can say anything, in whirls a six-foot-three-inch hurricane wearing a suit and righteous indignation.
“This report from the Ministry of the Environment is fucking bullshit, Stewart,” the PM growls as he storms in from the hallway.
Stew doesn’t miss a beat. “I’m in a meeting, Gavin.”
The PM’s gaze swings around to where I’m sitting. “Ms. Montague. Would you step outside?”
My immediate reaction is yes, of course. But that’s the wrong answer.
That’s the woman inside me doing what a man has asked of her, because he doesn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable.
Seriously? Fuck that noise. “I’d rather stay.”
He gives me a hard, unreadable look.
“Sir,” I add, swallowing hard. “I’d rather stay, sir.”
His eyes flash in surprise and anger, and my palms go all sweaty.
“Because…I’m the barometer, right? Without me, you’re talking in an echo chamber. That’s what you said in your announcement about these internships.” I turn to my boss. “I don’t think your office is an echo chamber, of course, Stew.”
Gavin chuckles, an unexpected sound after a day that’s felt beyond tense. “No, Stew has no problem telling me when I’m wrong.”
I take a deep breath. “Neither will I. Sir.”
He gives me another long look, this one more complicated, but just as hard to read.
Finally he nods. “But stop calling me sir. That’s my father’s name.”
His father’s name is Vince, but I get the point. “Okay. So what part of the report is fucking bullshit?”
He laughs and turns back to Stew. “This one can stay.”
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