Saddled – Once a Week at Woody’s, Book 1 – Chapter 2

The countdown is on!

Only five more days until Saddled is released!

In the days leading up to it, I’ll post Chapters 1 through 4 here, every other day.
April 21 – Chapter 1 – click here!
April 23 – Chapter 2 – today!
April 25 – Chapter 3
April 27 – Chapter 4
April 28 – Release day!!

Be sure to pre-order Saddled for 99 cents. The price goes up to $2.99 on April 28, 2020.

Enjoy the second chapter below!

Will an office no-dating policy stand in the way of love?

Since her breakup with her cheating ex, Sandra Weber has been just going through the motions as Sales Manager at Studletter Condom Company. But when Michael Thorne is hired as an assistant, sparks in the office begin to fly.

Though Michael, aka Saddle McFleshbomb, loves dancing at Woody O’Flanagan’s Pub, he’s looking to move up in the world. His schooling almost finished, he lands a plum job as the only man in an office filled with women: four so exasperatingly humorless that it’s funny, and one stunning beauty with a laugh that warms the cockles of his heart.

When Sandra shows up at Woody’s on a rare night that he’s dancing for men, she assumes he’s gay, and therefore the no-dating policy doesn’t apply. But he’s not. He’s intensely interested in her. And he’s afraid to tell her he’s straight.

If you like light romantic comedy, hot office flirtations, and a long slow burn, you’ll love Saddled, the first book in Linda G. Hill’s “Once a Week at Woody’s” series.

Score a seat at Woody O’Flanagan’s Pub today!

Chapter 2

Michael Thorne was no stranger to being objectified. It had gotten so bad at his last office placement, he’d had to leave. So when he discovered on Friday that his new job starting Monday would be in the marketing department at the local condom manufacturing company, he’d prayed all weekend that the offices would be staffed by a majority of men, at least in the management positions. And straight ones, at that—he was also no stranger to being objectified by gay men.

No such luck.

And yet at eleven in the morning, all seemed well. Aside from the woman in HR who had eyed him up and down like she’d won the lottery, despite her wedding ring, the ladies in the office seemed to barely notice him. None of them spoke to him, not even to say hello. His new boss, Cynthia, was the matriarchal type with a photo of a family on her desk that included the husband who had, he assumed, given her the numerous diamond rings on her fingers. His co-workers held the same air of professionalism inside the privacy of the office as the one he assumed they projected to the public. Knowing they were human beings, he expected at least a little light humor concerning the products they sold, but there was nothing but a sober, nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic. And so, he was surprised, just before lunch, to hear a laugh come from the corner office, from the occupant he hadn’t yet seen. She sounded young, but then so were at least some of his more serious co-workers.

It was an easy morning—Cynthia had him transcribing a lengthy marketing proposal, so all he’d had to do was type with headphones on. He got lost in his work, as often happened. There was something soothing about having a monotonous, time-consuming but mindless job to do. He wouldn’t have known it was lunchtime if one of his co-workers hadn’t tapped him on the shoulder.

“Hi,” she said, holding out one pudgy-fingered, moisture-less hand to be shaken. Her tight dark curls that were plastered to her head, combined with her dark floral dress with brocade at the buttoned-up neck, made her look like she’d stepped out of a 50s TV show. “I’m Myrtle. I sit over there.” She pointed at a desk at the back corner of the office like she was trying to poke it from afar. “A few of us are going out to lunch. Would you like to join us?”

Michael looked around and saw three more expectant faces studying him. He felt rather like a zoo animal.

“Sure,” he said with a smile, hoping friendliness might beget friendliness. It got a few tight smiles in return.

“What’s your name?” Myrtle asked.

“I’m Michael,” he said.

“Michael,” the three other ladies chorused, as if they’d never heard the name before.

He stood up and reached for his jacket, and all of them looked up at him.

“Do you like sandwiches?” one of the ladies—the oldest of the bunch, judging by the abundance of gray hair—asked him.

“I do,” he replied, wondering if they were just going to stand there all day. “Shall we go?” he asked after a long pause during which they all continued to stare.

“Yes,” said Myrtle. She started for the elevator and he followed her, the other three trailing behind him in single file.

Once they reached the reception area, the four women rushed for the door like they were all eager to be the one to open it for him. It was the older lady who had asked him if he liked sandwiches who made it there first.

Surprisingly, they all seemed to relax as soon as they were out in the bright, sunny early-May day. They led him down the sidewalk-less road to a small café with a pink sign above the door. Sandwiches Smandwiches wasn’t the sort of place he might take a date, but he made note of it since it was close enough to come to every day without having to take his car. He dreamed one day of getting an executive parking spot at a downtown marketing firm—which would be the day he wouldn’t have to consider a second mortgage on his condo just to pay city parking fees. For a small mid-eastern city, Bevershire acted in some ways like it was populated with tens of millions rather than tens of thousands. Still, the city was expanding. When he was a child, all this land had been a forest. He’d played here with his best friend, Cal, catching crayfish in a stream that no longer existed, at least not above ground.

He followed the ladies, as one, to a round table in the corner of the quaint, pink-walled restaurant, and each of them pulled out a chair and looked at him expectantly.

“Please, sit,” he said, and they did. He perched himself upon the remaining chair, ready to run if they decided to slice him up and put him in their sandwiches, for the feeling of being dissected like a new species of animal hadn’t abated.

“We should explain,” Myrtle said, her white handbag clutched in her lap. “We can’t talk in there in case ‘Sandra,’” she lifted her hands and crooked her pudgy fingers as though it was a label she wished she didn’t have to pronounce, “hears us and thinks we’re talking about her.”

Sandwich Lady spoke up. “I guess we should introduce ourselves. I’m Karen,” she said, holding out her hand for the shaking, “and this is Karen.” She pointed to a tall, dark-skinned woman with a blank expression who blinked and nodded but said nothing. “She’s our full-time receptionist. You can call me Quiet Karen, and her Phone Karen.”

Michael looked at Phone Karen and she nodded again.

“She’s saving her voice for answering the phone this afternoon,” Quiet Karen confided. Michael thought he’d always think of her as Sandwich Karen, which made him shudder to think about being sandwiched between the two Karens. They were far too serious for his tastes.

He tried not to recoil as he smiled and said, “Nice to meet you,” to them both.

He turned then to the other woman, who sat on the opposite side of the table. She blushed heavily and stared, grinning, at the paper placemat in front of her. Her forearms moved like she was wringing her hands on her lap.

“I’m Grace,” she muttered. “I’m actually under you …”

If she was blushing before, Michael thought she might start glowing neon, now.

“I—I mean I’m your data entry clerk,” she squeaked. “I’m sorry.”

“No. No need to be sorry. I look forward to working with you,” he said, holding his hand out over the table. She put three limp digits in his hand and lightly squeezed his forefinger with her thumb, then let go quickly and stuck her hand back under the table.

“So, who is this Sandra you’re all avoiding?” he asked to get the conversation moving.

“Oh, we’re not avoiding her,” Sandwich Karen said. “We just don’t like her. Because of what she did to Norma.”

“We can talk about Norma now, because she’s not here,” Myrtle interjected. “It was her turn to work at reception through lunch while Phone Karen has hers. You’ll be trained at reception too, so you can take your turn.”

“I’m not hungry,” Phone Karen said in a voice louder than any he’d ever heard come out of a woman’s mouth before. Quiet Karen it was. Phone Karen continued. “I was just curious about the new guy. Michael.” She stared at him as if he was a peculiar new breed of bug, and so did everyone else in the café, having been alerted to his presence by the woman’s booming sound box. A few of the restaurant’s patrons gawped at him: he’d been told numerous times that he should have been a model. His part-time job had a lot to do with that urging.

“Norma doesn’t like it when we talk about what Sandra the Commander did to her,” said Myrtle.

This Sandra woman must be some piece of work, Michael thought. “What did she do?” Obviously, she hadn’t fired the woman.

Quiet Karen leaned forward on the table. “Norma was dating one of the men out in the warehouse. It was true love, right from the get-go.”

Grace fanned herself with the menu and the other three rolled their eyes.

“It doesn’t matter what we thought about it,” Quiet Karen continued, “but The Commander decided to stick her nose in it and urged upper management to institute a policy that office romances were verboten—forbidden, if you don’t know the meaning of the word.”

Michael just nodded.

Grace fanned herself faster and sighed. “Forbidden love. So romantic.”

“Our opinions of their shenanigans don’t matter,” Myrtle reiterated, and Grace put her menu on the table.

“So, what happened?” Michael asked. “Did they break up? Stop dating?”

“Due to The Commandant’s idea, they were given a choice. Do that, or one of them quit,” Quiet Karen said.

Michael jumped when the other Karen’s voice boomed in his right ear. “Gerry gave up his job.”

Grace shook her head, put her hand on her menu, thought better of picking it up, and sighed again. “And then they lived happily ever after.”

“They’re not married,” Myrtle said with a frown, indicating to Michael that she thought they should be. Whatever they were doing in their off-work time demanded it. This was going to be a fun work environment, he thought wryly.

But if he wanted to get along and not get caught up in office politics, he’d have to play along.

“It sounds like this Sandra the Commander is someone I should stay away from, then,” he said.

They all seemed pleased by that.

“How tall are you?” Grace asked, completely out of the blue.

“I’m 6’4”.”

“That’s tall.” Grace blushed and held her menu up so he couldn’t see her.

A waiter came over with a tray full of water glasses and asked, “The usual?” The four ladies didn’t seem to mind the lack of small talk. They all muttered some sort of assent. “And you, sir?” the waiter asked.

Michael hadn’t had a chance to look at the menu what with all the office intrigue. He took a quick glance and saw a burger that looked enticing. Though he wasn’t one to be pushed around, he didn’t want to get on Quiet Karen’s bad side. “A club, please. And a coffee.”

“Coming right up,” the waiter said. He headed back to the long, pink lunch counter, taking the menus with him, leaving Grace with nothing to hide behind or fan herself with.

“You’re not going to be able to stay away from her.”

Michael looked at Quiet Karen and asked, “Who?”

“Miss Weber,” Myrtle answered. “Sandra.”

“Oh. Right. Because she works in the office. But will I have to interact with her much? I mean, it’s Cynthia I work for …”

“You’re bound to come into contact with her eventually,” said Myrtle. “The marketing manager and the sales manager have to work together sometimes.”

“But we’ve got your back,” Quiet Karen said with an assured pucker of the lips. “We’ll be watching.”

He made to say thank you, but Grace cut in. “Sooo … what do you do in your spare time?”

I take my clothes off in front of hundreds of women every other weekend as Saddle McFleshbomb, cowboy stripper. But that’s not what came out of his mouth. What did, was, “I read a lot.”

“Oh! Do you read non-fiction? Or …”

“Romance novels. I read romance novels.”

That got a new round of eye-rolling from the three that weren’t Grace. The one that was Grace picked up her paper placemat and fanned herself with it. She knew how to adapt. She’d be a good one to work with.

“I didn’t know men read romance novels,” said Phone Karen, and everyone in the café knew his reading preferences.

“My ex-girlfriend got me hooked on them. Now I can’t stop reading them. Love me a good romance.”

Grace and a few of the other patrons sighed audibly. It seemed Michael and the waiter were the only two males in the restaurant.

This male was starting to itch to get back to work. He’d had enough of his creepier-than-usual co-workers. And he’d had a lot of those since he’d started at the agency.

“So … You’re single now?” Grace asked. She blushed and crossed her legs under the table, kneeing it and almost upending all five glasses of water.

“Yeah,” Michael said. He picked up his glass and had a sip he didn’t really want, hoping the waiter would come back soon with his coffee and his lunch so he could get the hell out of there. “I’m guessing you don’t get many men working in the offices at Studletter.” Michael returned his glass to the table.

Quiet Karen answered. “It’s been four years. I’ve been there the longest.”

“Really. So you must know all the ins and outs of the bus … iness.” He let the sentence kind of trail off as he realized that innuendos—even accidental ones—were frowned upon. Literally. “I mean, you have to know by now all the inner workings … I mean … how all the departments work together.”

“Yes, I do. Cynthia is all business, and Betsy did a good job before she went on maternity leave.”

“Well, I’m a hard—Oh look! Here’s lunch,” he said to the waiter just as he was about to say he was a hard worker. That would have to wait until the weekends.

It was getting late, so they ate in a hurry. On the way back to the office, Grace positioned herself beside him. The two Karens walked behind, mumbling to each other; Michael assumed that Phone Karen only cranked up the volume button on her voice when she was inside a building. Myrtle walked on Grace’s other side.

Behind the reception desk in the enormous outer office sat a plump woman of medium height with red hair and dark green eyes. She gave up her seat behind the reception desk to Phone Karen.

“Hi,” the woman whispered to Michael on the way to the elevator. She introduced herself as Norma. “Are you really going to be here for six months?” she asked, still whispering.

“That’s the plan,” he answered.

“I don’t know if we’ll all survive that long,” she said, and with that cryptic message, she scurried to the back corner of the elevator.

Michael returned to his mirthless desk, wondering if she was on to something.

 

~*~*~*~

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See you on Saturday for Chapter 3.

5 thoughts on “Saddled – Once a Week at Woody’s, Book 1 – Chapter 2

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