Ellie Goulding was the perfect way to start my day. My hips swayed, my steps bounced, blood pumping.
I was an event planner for a prestigious planning company in Pittsburgh. I’d even planned a few events in other countries. I loved it. I loved the way I could break down the events into tiny details and plan them, control every element. I loved the order, the procedure, turning chaos into something beautiful.
My song ended and turned into another song, the collection randomly generated by Spotify. I didn’t immediately recognize the opening bars of the tune, but as soon as the voice filled my ears, I ripped my headphones out and shoved them in my purse. I scowled at my phone, annoyed at it for disrupting my few moments of fun. My heel snagged in the cracked pavement. “Fuck,” I mumbled. I stumbled but was able to regain my balance before I fell flat on my ass.
I turned the music off, my Zen completely ruined. I got to the crosswalk and pressed the button, so I could cross the street. A bus stop shelter was a few feet away from me, and a poster caught my eye. HeartLess at the PPG Paints Arena. I glared at the poster. Not only had they graced my morning jam session, but now they were crashing my city? My good mood from earlier crumbled. I trained my eyes forward and waited for the walk sign to flash, then speed walked across the street as soon as I could.
I opened the door and inhaled a deep breath, centering myself. I had a huge client coming in today, and I needed to be ready. I had no clue who it was or what type of event I’d be planning. My boss, Nadine, had called me yesterday telling me she’d cleared my schedule to take on a last-minute client that needed the ultimate VIP treatment. In her usual fashion, she’d neglected to tell me who it was. It didn’t matter; I’d handle it.
On the fifteenth floor, I smiled at our receptionist who was on the phone. In huge, sweeping letters, As You Wish was etched behind her on a pane of glass. I was filled with pride every time I saw it, knowing I’d taken my passion and made it into a career. Not only had I made it into my livelihood, but I was good at it. Not just good, I was excellent. Clients requested me by name—even sports figures and celebrities.
I went straight to my boss’s office and knocked on her door. “Come in,” she called from behind the closed door.
“Hey, Nadine,” I said. Her brown eyes swept over my body, taking in my appearance. Nadine believed in perfection, and I had no doubt she’d send me back home to change if I didn’t meet her criteria for the day. Well, maybe not home, but definitely to Macy’s to pick up something that satisfied her. I fought the urge to smooth my gray pencil skirt or adjust my burgundy blazer. I didn’t want her to see me squirm. She gave a slight nod of her head, meaning I met her standards and motioned for me to take a seat.
“Are you prepared today, Bianca?” Nadine never beat around the bush. She’d built this company from the ground up and expected nothing less than the absolute best. That’s how I became her right hand; she demanded, and I rose to the occasion. Over the last five years, I’d proven that I delivered—every time. Perfection, professionalism, and punctuality. The three Ps that were Nadine’s mantra.
“Of course.” Really, there was no way for me to prepare. I had no idea who I was meeting with, what type of event it was, or how much time this would take, but I’d never tell Nadine that.
“Good. I want you to take special care of these clients. They’re important and need to be treated with the utmost care and discretion.” She tipped her glasses down her nose, gazing at me over them. “They’re our top priority as a company. Anything you need, you let me know. If they want you to paint the sky purple, you make damn sure you get it done, understood?”
Nerves tingled in my stomach. Whoever these clients were, they were big. “You know you can count on me.”
“That’s why I assigned them to you.” She handed me a manila folder from her desk. There wasn’t any writing on it or any indication of what I was getting myself into. She narrowed her eyes at me. “Everything else you’ve been working on has been handed off to other planners. You are to work on nothing else. If this goes well, we can expect a whole new level of clientele.”
I fought the urge to look in the folder. I was so anxious about who I was going to be working with, but I didn’t want Nadine to know. I portrayed my usual self-control. We’d planned galas, weddings, and birthday parties for some big clients already. A few movie stars, some musicians, and almost all the sports figures in the city came to us. We already had A-list clients. Who was making Nadine so twitchy? “I’ll do everything in my power to make sure they’re satisfied.
Nadine gave me a shrewd smile and pushed her glasses back up her nose. She turned her attention back to her computer screen, her interest no longer in this conversation. “You should head to your office. They’re waiting for you.”
A twinge of annoyance raced along my spine. If these clients were so important, why did Nadine keep me in here to chat? To intimidate me and make me feel like I couldn’t handle these clients? I was early to the office, as I always was. “I thought the appointment wasn’t for another fifteen minutes,” I said as I checked my watch.
“They got here early, Bianca. The bride-to-be is most eager to get started.” Nadine raised her hand from her keyboard and actually shooed me away. Sometimes, I wanted to smack her across her perfectly made-up face.
I didn’t bother saying anything before I slipped out the door. I rushed to my own office and noticed the wall of windows I had separating my space from the rest of the floor were blocked by my drawn blinds. Seeing that, it sunk in that this was no joke. The fact that I knew it was a wedding filled me with a slight amount of dread. I hoped to God she wasn’t going to be a bridezilla. I didn’t have the patience for them with normal clients, but a client that Nadine was so set on pleasing… This could end badly.
I paused briefly outside of my office, tugging down my blazer and smoothing my skirt. I ran my hands over my hair, making sure nothing was out of place. I straightened my posture and plastered my most endearing smile on my face. My planning persona washed over me, making me unflappable, pleasant, and orderly. I opened my door.
“I’m so sorry to have kept you waiting,” I said as I strode across my office. My eyes connected with the female sitting across from my desk and I steeled myself. This client wasn’t just a big name, she was the name. And then…
And then I was leveled by the freight train that was my past.