The Denim Dom

By: Tymber Dalton


Chapter One




Sunglasses…check. Coffee…check. Laptop—

Shayla Pierce glanced over her shoulder at the backseat. Check.

She’d been damn lucky to fall into this job. Last thing she needed was to mess up her first day by forgetting something important.

She put her Civic into reverse, then hit the brakes.

Crud.

Shifting back into park, she shut the car off and pulled the keys from the ignition. Might help to have my purse today. She jogged back to her apartment and found her purse sitting on the kitchen counter where she’d left it. She grabbed it and returned to the car.

One more try.

This time she made it out of her apartment complex and down the street. She turned onto Clark Road and headed west toward US 41. She’d timed her drive already. She should make it to her new office in downtown Sarasota in under forty minutes.

Tropical Sarasota was a far cry from her snowy Minneapolis childhood, college days spent in Athens, Ohio, at the Scripps School of Journalism, and a year on the copy desk at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland before being promoted to reporter, when she got to write her own copy.

Now, at thirty-three, she was starting her life over again. Or at least that was what it felt like.

No more snow. No more ice. No more turtlenecks.

Her fingers tightened around the steering wheel. No more backstabbing, lying sack-of-monkey-shit bastard ex-fiancés named James I wasted eight years of my life on.

The publisher and editor in chief of Sunshine Attitude Magazine, Bill Melling, waved her into his office when she arrived ten minutes before eight.

He stood and offered his hand. “Glad to see you didn’t back out on us, Ms. Pierce.”

“You can call me Shayla, or Shay, Mr. Melling.”

He smiled. “Bill’s fine. We’re casual around here. We’ve got a morning editorial meeting at nine. We have them Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.” He glanced at his watch. “That’s in an hour. When Suzanne gets here, I’ll have her show you to your desk and get you up to speed.” A woman appeared in the office doorway. “Oh, there she is.”

Twenty minutes later, Shayla was seated at her new desk in a large cubicle with a window overlooking Ringling Boulevard. Not too bad. Not an office, but the only one with an office in this organization was Bill Melling, so that was fair. At least she had tall divider walls and more floor space than some of her coworkers.

She took a few minutes to quiet her nervous stomach. This has really happened. I did it.

The day after the discovery three weeks ago, she’d been drowning her sorrows at a hotel bar with Allison, an old high school buddy. Finding out her fiancé had robbed her of over fifteen thousand dollars to pay for Internet porn tended to upset a girl.

Allison had been supportive, sympathetic, and more importantly, had called Shayla two days later with a proposal.

Fortunately, Shayla’s killer hangover had gone away by then.

“I was talking to my brother about what happened,” Allison said. “His best friend’s uncle has a magazine down in Florida, dead-tree and web editions. Pretty popular. It’s been around a long time. They’re looking for someone to replace one of their staff who’s leaving. A writer. You interested? I’ve got the info. He called him already and asked if he could refer you.”

Was she interested? Hell yes.

She’d called Bill Melling, talked with him over the phone, flew down three days later to meet with him in person, and got herself hired.

While in Sarasota she arranged to rent an apartment, and her whirlwind move began.

Shayla fought the urge to fidget while waiting for the editorial meeting to start. Instead, she rearranged her desk several times.

New job, new apartment, new life.

She smiled to herself as she looked out at the beautiful, sunny spring day. Palm trees swayed in the gentle breeze washing over the town from the Gulf of Mexico. This was, literally, a tropical paradise.

It’s a whole new start. A whole new life.

A whole new me.



* * * *



Fifteen people, including Shayla, gathered around the long conference table. As Bill introduced her to the rest of the staff, she nervously smiled and nodded to everyone. It didn’t take her long to feel like part of the team even though she mostly sat back and listened.

The print magazine went out once a month, but they updated web content every week with exclusive Internet-only stories to help draw more readers and advertisers. They covered everything from local to national stories, from politics to entertainment, never shying away from controversial topics.

Toward the end of the meeting, Bill stood and walked over to a whiteboard on the wall. “Brainstorm time. Let’s get some good ideas cooking.”

People tossed out ideas for stories and Bill listed them without question, regardless of how outlandish they sounded. He looked at Shayla. “This is just something to help us keep the creative juices flowing. Feel free to shout out anything. Whatever comes to mind, no matter how off the wall.”

She nervously smiled, a little embarrassed to be the center of attention again. “Kinky sex practices?” She wished she could call the words back as soon as she said them, horrified she’d even uttered the phrase. She’d been thinking about how to pay off one of the credit cards James had maxed out on porn charges.

He’d taken the cards out in her name without her knowledge or permission.

Everyone laughed at her suggestion, but Bill wrote it on the board, nodding as he did. “Actually, that’s pretty good. The county commission is doing battle with a strip club right now. Zoning ordinance lawsuit pending. Anyone else?”

Some more ideas were floated, including a few X-rated ones along the lines of Shayla’s idea. When the meeting broke up fifteen minutes later, Suzanne was busy tapping on a laptop.

Bill offered Shayla a smile. “Don’t be embarrassed. That was tame compared to some of the stuff we’ve tossed around in here before.” He nodded toward Suzanne. “She copies down the list every week and sends it out through e-mail for staff. We’ve come up with some of our best stories this way. Probably a little different than you’re used to doing it at the newspaper, huh?”

Shayla shrugged. “Different’s good.”

Bill nodded. “We think so. It’s what’s kept us competitive and in business for so long.”



* * * *



It turned out Suzanne wasn’t just an administrative assistant, although that was her title. She was the glue that held the organization together. Assistant editor, nerve-soother, proofreader, den mother, referee, research—she did it all.

She spent the morning with Shayla familiarizing her with their server system and workflow process, getting their IT crew to install needed software on her new work laptop they assigned her, and taking her around to introduce her to staff in the other departments like advertising and production.

The business didn’t rely solely on the magazine for income. They also did production work, printing, and graphic arts preparation for hire, which helped support the entire enterprise. The magazine made money, but the largest profit margin came from the side work.

At lunch, Shayla walked with Suzanne and a couple of other editorial employees to The Tropical Tavern, a local restaurant a block away. They served a huge lunch buffet for a reasonable price, and Shayla soon found herself warming to her new coworkers as they chatted.

One woman, Kimberly, had close-cropped, bright orange hair and large brown eyes. “That was a wicked suggestion at the meeting. I’m glad you said it. I’ve been too chicken to say anything like that.”

Michael, the man sitting on her right, snorted. “You? Chicken? Since when? Weren’t you named Queen of the Pervs or something?” Michael was handsome, with blue eyes and black hair.

Kimberly slapped his shoulder. “That’s the last time I take you to Gasparilla with me, jerk.”

Suzanne leaned in and in a stage whisper said, “We’re still wondering when to plan their wedding.”

Shayla laughed.

By late that afternoon, Shayla had helped edit three articles and taken on an assignment to write a piece for the website about movies filmed or set in the local area. Bill insisted he wanted her eased into the job and not overwhelmed her first day there.

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