The Dream Job - Kiersten Modglin

Chapter One

Tick, tock.

The audiobook narrator droned on through the lone earbud in my ear, but I couldn’t follow a single word as my heart pounded in my chest. I checked the ticking clock on the wall again, anxious for what was to come, and caught the unimpressed stare of the blonde sitting across from me. The ticket in my hand was wet from my sweaty palms, and I kept glancing down at it, lest I should forget the number I’d repeated in my head a minimum of twenty thousand times since my arrival. They would call my number when it was my turn, they’d told me, but that was all I knew.

I had no idea where I was, no idea why I was qualified to come there. The others waiting seemed much less nervous and much more qualified than I was. The room where we sat was gray and white with windows that ran from floor to ceiling, giving an impressive view of the Manhattan skyline. The people there were impressive, too. The woman who sat directly across from me was long-legged and beautiful, her hair cut short so it rested below her chin, the ends flipped under just enough that it seemed natural. She had looked at me a few times, her startling gray eyes drilling into me as if she, too, knew I didn’t belong. She was one of the many—much prettier, much more qualified than I was. She watched me as if I were a puzzle piece that was shoved too tightly in a place it would never fit.

“Number sixteen?” I jerked my head at the sound of my number being called, half-convinced I’d imagined it, then looked toward the door of one of the offices as it opened and an African American woman popped her head out. Each time the door had opened so far, eight times that I’d seen, it had been someone different greeting us. I wondered how many people they had crammed into the tiny office.

I stood and shoved the ticket in my pocket as the candidate I was replacing in the interview room walked past me. She was likely a few years older than me, with wispy copper hair and light freckles. Despite the crazed worry I felt, her face appeared calm. Confident. I wished I had an ounce of her peace.

Turning my attention to my next task, I smiled at the woman waiting for me. She was around my height, her black hair pulled back in a bun. She was beautiful, like the rest of the room of candidates, but her beauty was more intimidating than theirs. She’d already gotten the job. She wasn’t my competition. She was my judge.

“Hi there,” she said politely, ushering me into the room. Her smile grew as I held out my hand to shake hers in an awkward exchange as I walked through the door. “I’m Tanya.” She gestured toward the room behind me. When I turned around, I realized the office was much larger than I’d expected. In the center of the room, surrounded by white light from the large windows on every exterior wall, was a silver-edged glass table. It was long, taking up half the room, and behind it sat five other people. Each of them held a piece of paper—my resume, I assumed.

“Hi. I’m Autumn Sanderson,” I announced, making my way down the table as I shook their hands.

“Nice to meet you, Autumn. I’m Denise,” the first woman at the table said, her curly black hair a stark contrast to her green eyes.

“I’m Paul,” the man next to her said. He was