Colleen Houck

“I took hold of that scourge -filled ship and crushed it between my limbs, hurtling it into the second sun, the red one that gave me strength. But I was too late." Terraformer

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  • A New Boss

    January 15, 2014

    A New Boss


    Pipes. She tapped the eraser of her pencil on her notepad as she stared at the small trophy perched on the corner of her desk. She’d received it the night before at the Ali Exports yearly awards night. Formed to look like one of the company’s double jointed pipes, the award had an attached plaque which said, “Nilima Mehta—In appreciation for outstanding service in Human Resources.” Attached had been a short note signed by the President. Since she’d been commissioned to write all the notes, she had the message memorized.


    “Employees are the joint that binds our corporation. Congratulations!”

    Dev Kumar Ali

    Sighing, she shifted in her chair and hoped the twinge in her back would go away. Sitting behind a desk all day and working for a company that specialized in the manufacture of state-of-the-art pipes was not her dream job. She raised her eyes to the window. At least I have a good view, she thought.  She worked in an office on the tenth floor that overlooked the Godavari River, but in the five years she’d been with the company she’d been overlooked for promotion three times.

    Her supervisor said she was passed over because she was simply too good at her job. He claimed that moving her into upper management would mean too big of a loss for the HR team. Being penalized for efficiency was almost worse than getting demerits. Inwardly, she despaired of ever achieving the career she wished for.

    Cracking open the file on new hires, she skimmed through their experience and education mentally comparing her own, as she angrily punched computer keys. She’d graduated second in her class at the Institute of Management in Bhubaneswar getting a Post Graduate Diploma in Management, and then a Ph.D. in Management Science.

    She’d originally applied for a job as a junior manager with the company but they selected another applicant. As a consolation prize they offered her a job in Human Resources promising that the moment a management position opened, it was hers. She’d accepted, hoping she’d move up quickly.

    Her mother fussed about her attending school so far from home and now that she was working in a distant city and living in an apartment by herself, she refused to live with a distant aunt who lived nearby; she had to put up with nagging weekly phone calls. No phone call this week though, instead she was going home for the weekend. Her mother had set her up again.

    She wasn’t opposed to marriage but none of the men she met interested her. It seemed that once a man decided to marry he didn’t care who he ended up with as long as she had the proper education, career, and political views.

    That was not the type of man she dreamed of. She wanted someone…charming—a man comfortable with himself and others, who wasn’t ruled by his mother, and was genuinely interested in her and not her wifely qualifications.  Settling down and staying in one place for the rest of her life held little interest for her.  She wanted to travel, to see the world, to have great adventures. Doing that with a cultured, handsome, exciting man was her definition of perfect.

    Her thoughts were interrupted by a knock.  “Come in,” she called.

    A man she’d never met entered. “Would you be Miss Mehta?”

    “I am. Won’t you sit down?”

    While he made himself comfortable she pulled out the new hire file. He crossed one leg over the other and clasped his hands over his knee.

    “Your name?” she asked.

    “Kadam. Anik Kadam.”

    “Right, I don’t see your name on the list. When were you hired?” She glanced up and studied his short white beard and hair. Retiree returned to the work force, she wondered?

    He laughed softly. “I am not an employee of this organization.”

    “No?” she replied, puzzled. “Then what can I do for you?”

    “I would like to invite you to come and work for me.”

    Shocked, she sat back in her chair. “Do you make it a habit to enter places of work and nick their employees?”

    “Not at all. You are a very rare exception. I’ve spoken to the company president and he was willing to allow me to make a proposal.”

    “You spoke to the…who are you?”

    “As I said, Anik Kadam.”

    “Yes, but who do you work for?”

    “I work for myself. My company is called Rajaram Industries.  Perhaps you’ve heard of it?”

    Nilima wet her suddenly dry lips.  Rajaram Industries was the largest conglomerate of companies based out of India.  They were notoriously selective about hiring new employees and often only took on new people based on the highest of internal company recommendations.

    “What…what is the position?” she asked.

    “My personal assistant.”

    “And you said you’re the owner of the company?”


    “The elusive CEO of the fortune 500 business? The man time magazine featured with a giant question mark on the cover? The person no one has ever been able to interview?”


    “And you want me to be your personal assistant?”

    “That is correct, Miss Mehta.”

    “Nilima,” she murmured.

    He leaned forward. “Nilima. This job involves extensive travel, constant training, and requires the delicate handling of corporate secrets. Daily contact with your family would be difficult, but I will pay you whatever wage you require. You would be expected to remain in residence where I am, but your every comfort would be provided for.” He smiled and there was something there for a moment—a hint of fatigue, or perhaps loneliness.

    He continued, “I have sought for someone competent and trustworthy to care for the day to day business of managing Rajaram Industries, a person to serve as my proxy in certain situations, for some time. Here is my card. Perhaps you will consider my offer and call when you’ve made your decision?”

    She took his card. It was blank except for his name and number. As he turned to leave, she blurted out, “Why me?”

    He paused, hand on the open door. “Because, Nilima, you’re perfect for the job.” He inclined his head slightly, said, “Until we meet again,” and closed the door softly behind him.

    She sat, stunned for a time, then a slow grin spread across her face. She’d been wishing to have great adventures with a cultured, handsome man and though Mr. Kadam was much older than the man she’d been thinking of, he was still a dream come true.

    This entry was posted in Bonus Material, Tiger's Curse.

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    Author Bio
    Colleen Houck

    New York Times Bestselling author Colleen Houck is a lifelong reader whose literary interests include action, adventure, paranormal, science fiction, and romance. When she's not busy writing, she likes to spend time chatting on the phone with one of her six siblings, watching plays, and shopping online. Colleen has lived in Arizona, Idaho, Utah, California, and North Carolina and is now permanently settled in Salem, Oregon with her husband and a huge assortment of plush tigers.