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The Last Option

The Last Option

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He was their last option for the job, but she was the best hope to save them all.

Join them on a journey of self-discovery and unlikely love in this captivating enemies-to-lovers tale set in the heart of Butler.

Main Tropes

  • Grumpy Hero
  • Fish Out of Water
  • Enemies to Lovers
  • Love Conquers All
  • Workplace Romance
  • Fake Relationship
  • Runaway Bride
  • She Finds Herself

Synopsis

He was their last option for the job, but she was the best hope to save them all.

In the small town of Butler, Brian Cholan becomes the unexpected savior for the struggling Butler hotels. With the CFO out of commission, Brian, a laid-back accountant with a disdain for corporate types, is reluctantly thrust into the role of acting CFO. He's given two weeks to gather the financials, a task that seems impossible given the circumstances.

Jessica Tingles, the CFO's admin, begrudgingly offers her assistance to Brian. But there's a history between them—Brian had once denied Jessica's dream of working in the Accounting department. Now, they must put aside their differences and work together to save the company. As they spend more time together, they discover that love can blossom in the unlikeliest of situations.

Amidst the chaos of deadlines and unexpected romance, Brian and Jessica learn valuable lessons about life and love. They realize that success goes beyond numbers and assumptions, and that true happiness can be found when they let go of their preconceived notions. Join them on a journey of self-discovery and unlikely love in this captivating enemies-to-lovers tale set in the heart of Butler.

Intro into Chapter One

Chapter one

She
just needed to accept it. Fate had it in for her. After working with Mr. Middleton
for the last three years and on the eve of her promotion, he had a midlife
crisis and took off with a woman named Lei Lei to Hawaii.

What
was she doing with her life? Jessica Tingles looked at her pristine white shirt
tucked into her dark black pants. The sleeves were feminine and long with pearl-esque
buttons. Her hair was pulled up into a bun. Not a hair had dared to come out.
Although, when she thought about all that mousse she’d put into it, a meteor
would probably bounce off her head.

Leaning
into the women’s bathroom mirror, Jessica pulled an errant hair that had shown
up under her chin. That hair probably thought she was fair game because she
hadn’t gotten around to shaving her legs yet. Her lipstick was a nice, muted
color that said no kissing happened here. Her makeup was light to give just
enough professionalism, so that she looked one step from spinster but still
efficient and promotable.

Looking
in the women’s bathroom mirror, she couldn’t see a thing that said, ‘please
pass me over for every good job opportunity’, yet that was precisely what was
happening to her at the Butler company. Jessica plastered on a smile and left
the bathroom. If she had stayed in there any longer, by the time she came out,
the whole office would come up with something tying Mr. Middleton’s life crisis
and her together.

 With a smile so wide it could rival the Cheshire
cat; Jessica did her best strut out of the lady’s room. She was saying her
mantra to herself. She was a warrior, and her confidence was her armor.
She believed in faking it until you could make it.

Jessica
went into the office corridor in her trusty flats, her nose wrinkled in disgust
as she gazed down at the hideous multi-colored carpet. It looked like something
a blind clown with terrible taste had picked out. The carpet had blue hues that
she could see were supposed to resemble the dignity of corporate.

Finally,
Jessica was in the room standing behind the VP of accounting, Denise Prince.
The woman who thought she had a plan for us all. Although, she made it clear
she thought she was going to save all of the important people. It’s weird to
think Ms. Prince was a part of the reason Jessica originally came to Butler
Corp.

Ms.
Prince was tall and statuesque. Her blonde hair was always done, and she had a
figure that said she went to the gym every morning. When Jessica first joined, Denise
spoke to her more often. As the company grew and Denise moved to the VP role,
she no longer asked Jessica anything. Now Ms. Prince trusted other people to
provide verifications and numbers to her. Although Jessica was pretty sure
those numbers weren’t always accurate. Whenever Jessica thought something was
wrong and wanted to tell Ms. Prince, she would go to her office. Ms. Prince
listened with that fake smile and then said thank you as she walked Jessica out
of the door. Then a notice would come out about the new improvement Ms. Prince
had discovered that needed to be done, with no kudos to Jessica.

It
was Jessica’s efficient no-nonsense demeanor that had made her seem so
competent before and now it seemed like she was just part of the hidden
machine. She was needed but she would never be recognized.

Jessica
remembered when she first met Ms. Prince and she had told her she had ideas and
she wanted to be a contributing member. Ms. Prince had told her the company
needed more women like her. Those were all the words Jessica needed to be
pulled in hook, line and sinker. The clapping hands brought her out of her trip
down memory lane.

“I’m
sure you’ve all heard of Mr. Middleton’s departure. We do have a person to fill
the position and he will be arriving in two weeks. Until then we will have to
get the financials done, we just need to collate them into a full book.”

Everyone
laughed and then milled away from her.

“Um…
excuse me… Ms. Prince. When did you want me to collate the documents?” Jessica
asked in a low voice.

“Oh
dear, I couldn’t ask that of you. It’s not your responsibility.”

“It’s
no problem. I’ve been doing it with him for the last three years,” Jessica
replied.

Ms.
Prince held her hand up to an oncoming employee. The woman knew she had to wait
to be beckoned closer. Ms. Prince turned to Jessica with her smile in place.
Everyone was in the boardroom. Jessica knew they were all here because she had
arranged for food. Nothing brought people out of their cubicles like free food.

“You
can’t be serious, Jenny dear.”

Jessica’s
smile was going to crack any minute. She started to tap her left foot to
distract herself from the insult that Ms. Prince couldn’t even remember her
name. She wasn’t sure why she was surprised. Straighten your back and don’t
let them see the hurt.
This wasn’t the first time Ms. Prince had forgotten
her name. Jessica looked around the room and noticed how everyone in there
seemed to have benefited from a recent promotion in the company, everyone that
is except her.

At
thirty-two, Jessica wasn’t a spinster. However, she was the oldest woman in the
room with a title less than Manager. Last year a trend started where the
Executive Assistants were being rebranded as Operations Managers. Mr. Middleton
thought it was a silly practice. Since the job duties hadn’t changed, he didn’t
see why the titles needed to. He said he was going to change Jessica’s, but he
never did.

“Jenny
dear? Hello?” Ms. Prince whispered. Jessica realized she must have wandered off
even more than she thought she had. Jessica felt the burn behind her eyes. She
had been waiting for a chance and it was clear that chance wasn’t going to
happen.

“I’m
sorry Ms. Prince, you were saying?”

“I
was saying that you don’t have a background for this.”

“Actually,
I do. I have a masters in accounting.”

“Well,
the books are complex and —”

“The
other division managers have already done the work. Every year Mr. Middleton
gives me the file and I check the numbers and put the file together.”

“My
dear, let me say this plainly. Putting this together is a bit over your head.
Now, I'm not clear what Mr. Middleton did before, but I assure you I have
already taken care of this matter, and we have someone coming in to address this
situation.”

“I
see.”

“Let
me say that you do good work, Jenny, and I’m sure that something will come up
for you, but for right now, I need to go with someone who I know can do the
job. How about we talk later?”

What
Jessica wanted to do was one of the really cool leg swipes and watch Ms. Prince
fall on her perfectly round and perky bottom. Ugh! Who was Jessica kidding? If
Ms. Prince fell, she’d help her up.

“Yes,
we can talk later.”

Later
was never going to come. It was time to leave this party and find a gym. She
blinked back the tears until she got to the company elevator. When the doors
closed, she slumped against the wall, breathing hard in the luxurious box. It
wasn’t the front of the hotel, but the employee elevators were still posh. Jessica
realized she had made it out just in time. By now someone would have asked Ms.
Prince who is going to fill the position and by now they would have figured out
it wasn’t her. The sympathy looks would have started, ‘passed over again’.

Jessica
stepped out of the elevator and stood in the empty lobby at the back of the
hotel. She pulled out her phone and dialed Beth.

“Welcome,
we are always open for you,” Beth said in sultry voice.

“I
didn’t get it,” Jessica whispered.

“It’s
not often that I offer this, but I can get to the office and make her fall in
love with me and then dump her.”

Jessica
snorted at the optics.

“No,
but thank you for offering,” she sniffed.

“You
know I would have offered to knock her out but the whole modeling thing, not
wanting to damage my body, you know?”

“Yeah,
I know it’s hard being gorgeous,” Jessica joked, with her bestie who was a
model.

“You
coming over so we can watch tearjerker romances and contemplate what ever
happened to the Errol Flynn’s of the world?”

Jessica
thought about it and then decided not to.

“I’m
going to go to the Boathouse,” Jessica said.

“The
karaoke place by your job?”

“Yes,
I’m not ready to go home yet and everyone is in the board room. The food is
still arriving, so they’ll be occupied for a bit.”

“I
can get dressed and —”

“No,
but thanks bestie. I’ll talk to you later.”

Jessica
gave it some thought, and she knew she was right. She would take a little time
and regroup and then make some decisions. Maybe then she wouldn’t hear Ms.
Prince’s words in her head about finding someone qualified.

She
was qualified. She was spontaneous and she was not stuck in a rut.

 She called an uber and when it arrived, she
told the driver where to go.

“To
the Boathouse please.” Jessica sat back and thought about the Boathouse. She’d
be able to sing and lose herself in a crowd of strangers. Maybe at the end
she’d find enough courage to give her walking papers to Ms. Princess, I mean
Ms. Prince!

* * *

Being
around happy people didn’t make you a happy person.

Brian
Cholan was sitting at a table in the middle of a karaoke bar wondering when did
his life go off the rails. All around him people were laughing and singing
songs from the 80s and all he could think about was he didn’t even own a suit
to go into a corporate office. Nothing good came from wearing a suit. You had to
wear one to your funeral. You had to wear one to a wedding, which in Brian’s
point of view was a different kind of death. Originally, he had promised he
wouldn’t be wearing any suits in this lifetime. In fact, Brian had gone into accounting,
so he’d be left alone.

Well,
all of that changed today. It was the butterfly effect in the worst way.
Somewhere out there, in the big wide world, a man followed his heart and got on
a plane to Hawaii. Then, from Hawaii a wind pushed a woman closer to him and
they both decided to rediscover life and on that wind, the story was told to a
woman in a very big house on Long Island, NY. When she heard of what had
happened, she had donned her great V.P. initials and all the others scurried
away on the winds of fear until the shadow of her authority fell upon him,
Brian Cholan. He would comply or lose his job and part of the job was to put on
a dreaded suit.  Brian shook his head at
his situation. He was about to leave when he heard someone tap the mike to do a
song.

“No,
no I’m alone and I already loaded up the song I want to sing,” the woman said.
Then in the most screeching voice he had ever heard, Brian heard a woman sing the
sun will come out tomorrow. It was heartfelt, sincere and the worst singing he
had ever heard. Brian was sure fighting cats sounded more harmonious and on
key.

She
was a nice plain girl, the kind his mother would have told him to marry. He
didn’t know what had happened but whatever it was the girl was singing her
heart out and reaching for her confidence and independence again. Brian
realized he needed to see the underdog win at something. When the caterwauling
was done, he got up to shake the young woman’s hand and tell her it was going
to be alright. When he got to the stage the woman looked down at him and gasped.

“Oh,
my goodness, not you! You don’t belong here!”

Brian
let his hand fall by his side. Okay, maybe it wasn’t going to be alright. He
wasn’t used to people having such a strong negative reaction to him. Beautiful
lips were pulled back in horror and the young woman was shaking her head so
much, tendrils of hair slipped out. Around him others were starting to look at
him as if he had done something.

“Um,
Miss, do we know each other?” Brian asked. Then it was like a light switch went
off in the woman.

“Do
we know each other? Please tell me you didn’t really ask that question?”

Brian
was really confused, and the crowd was looking at him as if they all knew how
he knew the attractive woman.

“Really,
I’m sorry for whatever I did but —”

“Oh,
are you really, Mr. Cholan?” she asked through clenched teeth. Okay it was
getting worse. It was obvious she knew him and to make things worse, a majority
of the place was female. So, him not knowing her just looked so bad.

“Please,
you have me at a disadvantage.” The young woman stepped off of the stage and
then looked him in the eye.

“I
bet you being at a disadvantage is a new thing for you. I bet you’re used to
making split decisions and changing other’s lives. I bet—”

“Have
we met?” he asked, feeling a little frantic as the women started to nod with
her.

“Met?
No!” With that answer, the room started to calm down. He went from being
Frankenstein the monster who had to be exterminated, to the poor guy this woman
was picking on.

“Then
why are you so angry?”

“Because
we never even met, and you ruined my life.”

With
those words, the woman sat down on the floor and started to silently cry. Brian
got down on the floor with her and grabbed her hands in his.

“I’m
not sure what you think I did but I’m here now, what can I do for you?”

The
woman sniffed and then looked up at him.

“Really?”

“Really,
hit me and let’s work this out,” he said with a smile. She really was quite
attractive. She probably needed some work done on a car or in her home. Brian
thought most issues that women had could be solved with money. He was trying to
place her in his neighborhood, maybe? After all she knew him, and he still
couldn’t place her. He heard her when she said they had never met but surely
they had met once for her to have this strong of a reaction.

“Okay,
well I want to put the financials together for Butler,” she said.

“Who
are you?” Brian asked in a frigid voice.

She
stood up and brushed herself off, then extended her hand.

“I’m
Jessica Tingles and you and I work together, or we will if Ms. Prince has
anything to say about it.”

“Oh,
oh I do know you!” He saw the young lady start to smile and knew right then and
there nothing would ever be the same again. “I saw your application to my
department. I’m not as good with names as I am figures, excuse me. Your
application was very impressive.”

Jessica
cocked her head to the side in what seemed like surprise. “You remember my
application?”

She
was looking at him as if he had just saved the world and Brian had to admit it
was a pretty amazing feeling. It’s true, her emotional state could definitely
be questioned right now but as long as things were going his way, he was
onboard.

“I
turned it down because you were overqualified. I didn’t want you to be bored.”

Jessica
seemed like she lost some of her fire and came to sit next to him at the table.
When she plopped down, he didn’t say a word.

“I
started as a secretary in Butler. I worked up to the top of the pool and went
to school at night to finish my degree in accounting. I got a second job
thinking, as soon as I get this degree, it would make it all better. Then when
I got my degree, I was promoted to work with the CFO. I knew I was going to be
moving up.”

Brian
didn’t say a word. He had heard stories like this before but knowing it had
happened to Jessica made it sadder.

“I
was ready when Mr. Middleton started to give me projects to do. I was thinking
I was on my way up. He would recognize my potential and give me a spot. A
position opened up. I know because I posted it, and I went to him and —”

“And
he didn’t give it to you,” Brian finished the sad tale for her.

“That’s
right, he didn’t. Mr. Middleton said he couldn’t give away his right arm. I was
good enough to do the reports he gave. I was good enough to review the items,
but I wasn’t polished, fancy and whatever it is they are all looking for to be
put in a position that recognized me.”

Brian
exhaled, knowing he had heard this story more times than he could count. Each
time he had felt so helpless but then an idea started to roll around in his
head. “I take it you went to the party tonight and that is what brought you
here?”

Jessica
nodded.

“I’m
the one who’s supposed to write up the papers,” he confessed.

She
nodded. “I know. I’m the one who is supposed to assist you.”

“Assist
me?” Brian asked, feeling like the world was about to change again. When he saw
Jessica’s eyebrow raised and a small smile part her bow shaped lips, he knew
his gut was right.

“I
take it no one has explained how the year end reports are done?”

“I
assume there is some software and that’s what you’ll help me with. I’m good
with numbers,” Brian said, trying to lighten what was becoming an ominous mood.

“Well,
I hope you’re good with people. You see, the VPs have a special arrangement
with Butler. They were allowed to relocate to a small town. They come into the
office sometimes but most of the time they live in Peace.”

“You
mean they are quiet?” Brian asked.

Jessica
laughed.  “No, I mean they live in a town
called Peace. They agreed to do their work and come in for meetings, but this
was their concession, the town of Peace. Every year we go to the town to get
their parts of the financials for their division. Mr. Middleton talks with them
and does the strategy for next year. He used to say it was his work vacation.”

Brian’s
mouth fell open.

“Don’t
do that, it’s not attractive, even on you,” Jessica said matter of factly.

“Does
Ms. Prince know this?”

“Yes
she does, as it’s all expensed to her account.”

“How
long does this take?”

“Oh,
that depends on the VPs and Mr. Middleton. If it’s any consolation, the longest
it’s been is two weeks.”

“Two
weeks, to pick up paper? And where is Peace, anyway?”

“It’s
on the coast in a small fishing kind of place. It’s like time passed it by. The
locals fish and crab for a living.”

“Okay,
let’s make a deal. I’ll let you lead on getting the documents. We both put our
name on the final work, deal?” Brian asked holding his hand out.

“You’d
do that?”

“You
deserve it and besides, I’m going to need all the help I can get. I’m a
carnivore. Fish is for seals and birds,” Brian said.

Grabbing
his hand, Jessica gave him a long look.

“I
could go and do the work and come back if you really don’t like fish,” Jessica suggested.

Brian
shook his head.

“No doll, it’s going
to be just the two of us,” he said.

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