“Melissa.” The sound of his rumbling voice made her clamp her teeth together and squeeze her hands into fists
“Yes, Mr. Constantine.” It was hard, but she forced out a sugary tone. Her boss had warned her to be extra solicitous. Mr. Constantine had been requested for this project. He was a ghostwriter of some repute, and it was her job to keep him happy. In other words, she had to serve the old windbag.
She stood and walked into the office that served as his temporary home. He sat like a fat spider in the middle of a pile of notebooks, computer glowing, and lighting his round, florid face. He looked like a disheveled Santa with crooked yellow teeth and a permanent brown stain around his mouth .
“Melissa, dear, would you bring another cup of coffee?”
“Certainly, Mr. Constantine.” She picked up his oversized mug. The room stank of coffee and old cigar smoke, though she had never caught him lighting up. Just standing there for too long made her feel nauseous.
“Did you know that coffee cultivation dates back to Arabia in the 15th Century? Remnants of coffee were discovered in the Sufi Shrines of Yemen. Today it’s one of the top agricultural exports in the world.” He gave her satisfied smile.
“Indeed. Coffee comes from the roasted beans of an evergreen shrub called Coffea Arabeca. Quite exotic sounding.”
“Hmm.” Melissa started to back out of the room.
“Don’t forget to use the coffee from my special carafe. I admit to being something of a coffee snob.” He chuckled a little.
“Absolutely. Your special coffee and the heavy cream, plus three sugars.”
“You have a good memory, dear. You should try doing research. You might find it interesting, or are you waiting for your Prince Charming? You’re a cute one. You should wear skirts more often.”
He winked, and Melissa gripped the cup. Old Jackass. What the hell did he think she did all day? She did research then rewrote the awful pamphlets her company produced in English not argot. Of course for the big projects, her boss always brought in ghostwriters. Half the time she ended up re-writing their work for a third of the pay.
“I’ll keep it in mind,” Melissa said and left before he launched into something else. She wasn’t waiting for Prince Charming. She didn’t drink coffee, and never would now, not after watching him slurp down mug after mug. She shivered at the thought of his brown hole of a mouth that wouldn’t stop talking.
Melissa went to the break room and rinsed out the dregs then grabbed his carafe of coffee, added the cream and sugar, and stirred it. Looking around the break room, she realized she was alone, so she spit into the mug, stirred the contents again and returned to its owner.
“Is there anything else, Mr. Constantine?”
“No, dear. I must say, you’re very efficient. You remind me of my daughter.”
“Thank you.” She handed him the mug.
“My daughter would have been just around your age.”
“Would have been?” A tight little knot formed in her chest.
“Car accident,” he said, his voice dropping to a near whisper. He cleared his throat. “It was a long time ago.”
The weight of his words hit her, and she wanted to grab the cup from him.
She waited for him to call her and tell her he detected a foreign substance in the brew, but he didn’t. He slipped at his coffee and flipped through his notebooks, a contented smile on his face. Melissa tried to concentrate on her laptop.
Mr. Constantine worked quietly for the rest of the afternoon.