Born the year after my father was demobbed at the end of the Second World War I was extremely lucky in my childhood. Though material things were few and far between, both my parents reared their three sons with love and attention. Discipline was still quite strict but tempered with thought. Only once was I on the receiving end of the belt and even at the time had little doubt that it was fully deserved. I was to find out years later the tears it brought to my father, who had to administer the punishment, far outlived mine at the ignominy and passing pain.
I was also supported in the education I chose, allowed to go to Hanley High School, the city's finest grammar school, even though it put quite a financial strain on my parents. I was the middle of three brothers who, when young, tolerated each other as siblings tend to, though god help any outsider that picked on any one of us. As we grew older and the age difference mattered less we became closer, in fact today I would say that my brothers are also my closest friends.
I was always the tallest in my age group, with a weight that never managed to keep up with my height until I was well into my twenties. Lanky and gawky were two of the most common, and least offensive, terms used to describe me. Add this to attending an all boys' school and it will come as no surprise that I was shy and awkward around girls. Their obvious disdain of me didn't help me to appreciate the opposite sex. Like all boys my age I lusted after them but didn't know one that I actually liked. By the time I was nineteen and my weight was catching up with my six and a half foot frame a few girls started to notice me at last. It was only at that late stage, with only a few months left of my teens that I managed to lose my virginity. I can't even remember her name, just her disappointment at my inept efforts to please her.
The obvious way that girls had ignored me and the tragedy of the suicide of one of my younger brother's close friends when he was dumped by a girl, went a long way to set my attitude to the opposite sex. They would be used to satisfy my basic desires but no more. My mother had brought her lads up to respect girls so I could never physically hurt anyone, and was always completely open about what I wanted. You could count on one hand the number of women that I saw more than three times and none managed more than six. Looks were pretty much irrelevant, my only stipulation was that she must be slim. My initial failure was down to lack of experience but for whatever reason I found more and more opportunity to improve my performance. It appeared the less I cared the more they were interested. I didn't even attempt to figure it out. Given my attitude, I attracted a number of married women wanting to spice up their lives with no danger of involvement. I never once knowingly tried to bed a married woman but equally I never turned one down when they did the trying. It all boiled down to a shallow personal life but one that suited me.
I worked as a Deputy Manager for Thomas Engineering Limited, a medium sized company in the heart of my home town of Stoke-on-Trent. A large part of my job to put together quotes for all new business, then depending on it's value it is submitted to the Manager, Richard Greaves and possibly Mr. William Thomas, the owner of the company.
The tender that I was currently working on would be the biggest job we had ever undertaken, assuming, that is, that we won it and would secure the company's future for years to come. Naturally enough the bid also entailed the most work with a myriad of fine detail which needed to be gone through.
On hearing my office door opening I looked up from the tedious paperwork that cluttered my desk, partially annoyed at the interruption but guiltily, happier at the chance of a break from the monotony.
Any lingering irritation at the interruption vanished as a vision of loveliness stood tentatively in my doorway. Caught by surprise with my mind still in the minutiae of the contract I found myself staring at my guest for a lot longer than was polite, but, boy, was she worth looking at. I guessed her age to be about a decade younger than my twenty-eight. The foot gap between the top of her fabulous long red hair and the top of the door told me she was roughly 5'6" tall. Her slender figure was my ideal and facially her beauty was without question but it was her eyes that topped everything. Attractively framed by her hair and surrounded by the freckles that naturally accompanied it's colour, her eyes were a bright green invitation. To what exactly, I wasn't sure but whatever it was I was immediately happy to accept it. It was lust at first sight.
Finally realising I was staring and probably embarrassing my guest I managed to resort to being professional and enquired about her arrival.
"Hello!" She said in a sweet but nervous voice, "Mrs. Gifford sent me, I'm Amanda. I am your new assistant, or at least I am if you approve."
Until now, the Company Manager and myself, along with the actual owner had shared the services of one secretary, although that word failed to describe the work that the irreplaceable Mrs. Gifford did for each of us. Anne to Mr. Thomas, the owner, and Mrs. Gifford to everyone else she had been with the company since its inception thirty-two years earlier and without doubt one of the main reasons for its success. She had her finger on every pulse in the business as well as that of all our regular customers and suppliers. Little happened without her tacit approval.
When we were asked to put together the bid I was working on I had mentioned to Mr. Thomas that Mrs. Gifford was becoming too stretched and needed help in looking after all of us. I had meant that she should get an assistant but it seemed that the owner thought that I meant myself. Still, there was currently more than enough work to justify any help I could get.
Although I had heard her words, I hadn't really listened to them, so, now that I was acting a little more rationally, I swiftly played them back in my mind. My initial response was that she most certainly had my approval but, fortunately, my business mind finally returned. It would probably be a bad idea to have the distraction that her presence would undoubtedly cause me but would it be fair to refuse approval for such selfish reasons. I decided to do what I should have done in the first place, talk to her and find out if she was actually suitable for the position.
The informal interview that followed provided all the information that I required. She had a degree in Business Management from one of England's best universities and seemed to have a very good grasp of our company in general, if not my work in particular. She was pleasant and articulate once she was over her initial shyness. I was too once I was over my initial lustful thoughts. It was soon pretty obvious that she would make an excellent assistant, so after about an hour I told her that I was happy for her to be my assistant. I then went through exactly what I wanted her to do or at least where we would start. I also decided that a cuppa would go down well before we started.
Amanda got up and headed to the door. "I assume that is one of my jobs." She stated with a grin.
I grinned, "Sure is. Black, no sugar please." I said handing her my personal Stoke City FC mug. "There are plenty of spare cups in the kitchen but you might want to bring your own in."
"Thanks, I'll do that tomorrow, assuming I remember."
"You're no use to me if you forget the important things around here." I teased, still grinning to show her that I wasn't serious.
The amount of work and the pleasant company helped the rest of the day fly by. I was most impressed with her quick grasp of things but less so by my own inability to stop the lustful glances I kept making. My one dilemma was whether to try and bed her. I knew damn well that I wanted to but was worried about working together afterwards. I knew that professionally I shouldn't but the temptation was very high so I compromised by putting the decision on hold for a few days.
The remainder of the week passed in a similar manner and most unusual for me, I found myself drawn to the young woman's character every bit as much as I was to her looks. Maybe she was just being polite but it seemed that she too seemed happy with my company. Friday afternoon I decided to ask her to join me for a quick drink after work. I was not normally nervous around women mainly because I didn't really care what they thought about me. When I asked a girl out and she said yes then great, if not I'd lost nothing. Suddenly my stomach was full of butterflies and it wasn't even a date I was requesting. Two or three times I would hesitate and back down before I eventually built up the courage to ask. When I did I was delighted to see her magnificent eyes light up and to hear her instant acceptance. Over a couple of drinks I spent a delightful couple of hours having my masculine ego nicely massaged by my new assistant's desire to know all about me. The only down side of the evening was that she had to be at her parents around eight o'clock, which meant I couldn't tempt her back to my place.
That weekend I spent many hours deliberating about Amanda. I liked everything about her and whilst the lust was still there, a unique and genuine desire to get to know her better had been added. I wanted to ask her out on a proper date but still wasn't certain about how it would affect our working relationship, especially if it didn't work out. By Sunday I decided to try anyway and that I would ask her out first opportunity on Monday.
Monday my timing was great as I entered the building exactly the same time as Mr. Thomas who asked. "Good morning David. How is that bid coming along?"
"Fine sir, should have a first draft ready by the end of the week." I replied.
"Good. I suppose Mandy has helped." He stated rather than asked.
"Mandy?" I asked puzzled before realising that he meant Amanda. "You know Amanda then sir?" I enquired.
"Of course." He grinned at my puzzled expression. "I should do, she's my daughter!" He added before leaving me with this worrying news.
'Just what I need.' I thought. The boss's daughter working with me. All my weekend thoughts and plans were now the last thing on my mind. Top of the list, suddenly was a new job. About two years earlier Mr. Thomas' son, Mark, had joined the company as assistant to Philip Dane the Sales Director. Phil was in his early fifties and well fitted to his role. He knew and was respected by all the major customers and most of the minor ones too. It was no accident that he also knew the manufacturing side. Three months ago he had been made redundant, his role been taken on by the newly created Project Director, who just happened to be Mark Thomas.
Having the owner's daughter for my assistant didn't fill me with confidence about my own future, although thinking about it, it was more likely to be my immediate boss, Richard Greaves, whose job was under threat. Richard, too was in his fifties and had not enjoyed the best of recent health. I was ambitious to an extent, and had contemplated taking Richard's position when he retired, but not before as he had been very good to me, often going out of his way to help me learn my role. I would much rather he stayed a few years longer even if it did mean my postponing any promotion prospects. Now it seemed that it was academic. Suddenly her inquisition of what I did took on a more sinister feel.
A noise brought my attention to the door as I saw Amanda backing in holding two steaming mugs.
I put on my 'professional' face and prepared to start my successor's training.
By the end of her first day, Amanda had already proved her worth. I had swiftly discovered that I could leave much of the minor work in her capable hands. Now when I looked at her I could not forget who she actually was. If, as I'd previously thought, she was just an assistant I would now be extremely happy with my working life. However, as I had to constantly remind myself, she was most likely being groomed for the manager's position.