Author's Note: Oddly enough, this idea began with a conversation about underwear... and then it just built up from there. XD However, I've put a lot of thought into how this story is going to work, so I'm really excited!

Now, first off I should tell you that this is an office 'parody' set in an Alternate Universe, and although there are Harvest Moon characters, not all of them will be making an appearance.

A big thanks goes out to essential apricot who not only told me to go for it, but she also helped with nearly all of the development.

Disclaimer: I don't own the Harvest Moon characters or even the scenario. I just wanted to have some fun. XP

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Chapter One

As a career woman, I can tell you a lot about life, and my first word of advice is... "If you're too damn scared to drive, get off the fucking road!"

Gritting my teeth, I gripped the wheel and turned hard to the left before jamming the gas pedal right to the floor. My engine roared as I tore around the outdated station wagon that had been dragging its ass at thirty-five for the past three miles on the icy freeway. Of course it would have to be some old bitch which I only realized after I'd flipped her off. Still, I figured she'd seen enough of the gesture in her lifetime to justify any offense she might've taken.

I sure as hell wasn't the first one to show it to her.

There's nothing special about being the head of a prestigious company. Sure, the pay is second to none, but the seemingly endless hours take their toll on a person. I was sure that I'd once had even been known to smile on occasion before I started my climb up the financial ladder. Of course, I also didn't have to deal with hopeless idiots back then, either. Maybe that's where the bitterness of being a middle-aged woman truly begins. That might also explain my irritability, despite being twenty-eight for the past three years, since there seemed to be plenty of stupidity these days. Hell, look at the past year...

The US economy plummets, not to mention the rest of the world's, taking all those who followed both the stock and housing markets blindly with it.

Call me cynical if you want, but I've been in the business world for over nine years which is more than enough time for me to learn to be skeptical of banks that hand out mortgages like free candy and stocks that keep rising with no explanation as to why. I guess that some people just deal with money as if it's all meant to be gambled away on impossible odds. Then again... I can be like that, too, since I can't ever seem to hold onto my own paycheck for long...

A venti, upside down, caramel macchiato with extra sauce from Starbucks, a private mani-pedi in my own pent-house apartment, a weekly massage by Antonio, and a bi-monthly tanning session take their toll on a woman's bank account when she knows there are better things she should be investing in. Come on now... I know those are important status symbols to being successful, but I can't help thinking that bills to pay and people to pay off are more vital to keeping yourself ahead of the status quo. Sure, I might splurge on a black, Pucci designer shoulder bag for over a grand, but that kind of spending is only once every three months.

Hey, I worked damn hard to get to the top, so I expect to be able to spend my money how I see fit from time to time.

Now, I strut around in the Italian designer suits and, yeah, I'm wearing a pair of Louis Vuitton pumps. None of that really matters, though, since I can afford 'em. Besides, why would you buy something on the lower end of fashion when the more expensive things in life last far longer than their cheaper alternatives? It's all about dressing yourself for success, and even as an ambitious young lady, I knew how to dress the part. My higher ups certainly thought well of me while I paraded around in my fitted blazers and snug skirts, and if I had to take some scrutiny from those beneath me, well...

Let's just say, I sure as hell didn't give a fuck about them once I got that promotion I'd been after.

Squealing into the parking lot on two tires, I cursed once again to find it was completely empty save for my own red Mercedes Benz. I guess I should've expected it since none of my employees were anything but deadbeats to begin with, but dammit, I expected at least one of them to care. Most of these son of a bitches that work for me are nothing more than people waiting for a handout, though, so I suppose it's simply in their nature to do their best to piss me off. Luckily for them, it doesn't take much to get me going.

"Why... good morning to you, Ms. Hart!" a bright and chipper voice greeted me as I stormed through the front door. I snapped my head to see Elli, my personal secretary, smiling up at me with all the innocence of the world in those wide, doe eyes of hers, and for only a moment, I felt my stress level plummet. However, soon enough my jagged self returned in full force with an edgy reply.

"Tell me what the hell's so damn 'good' about it?" I growled in disgust before heading straight for my office. She merely trailed after me, her delicate feet tapping out a little tune with those kitten heels of hers, and without even glancing behind me, I knew she already had her clipboard in hand at the ready to jot any notes down as they flew from my mouth. She was always such a darling thing the way she tottered after me like some lost puppy. Only God knows how she could put up with a bitch like me and still be able to smile...

"I suppose that traffic was terrible today," she offered, her light laughter rising above my sour mood. I glanced up from the paperwork on my desk, which was neat and orderly to my approval, and as I studied her, I just had to give her a rare smile. Conservative as always, I mused while eyeing her light blue, pencil skirt and white turtleneck. She was so damn sweet that it was almost sickening.

Almost... but not quite.

"You have no idea," I huffed, leaning back in my suede chair and rocking back and forth gently. She waited expectantly for me to continue, and I found myself giving it all up to her. Must have been that imploring, sympathetic gaze of hers that always seemed to break me down in situations like this. "You know how it is..." I began with a heavy sigh, lighting a cigarette which caused her to frown slightly. I caught her sneak a glance over towards a small sign that clearly read 'No Smoking,' but I didn't give a shit. This was my office, after all. "Some old bag decides to take a Sunday drive when for the rest of us it's just another workday," I continued to explain.

"Well, isn't it better for her to be out and about than wasting away at home?" Elli asked cheerfully. I just rolled my eyes which made her giggle. "Please excuse me, Ms. Hart," she apologized soon after she noticed I was staring, "but you're always so serious."

"Don't worry about it," I assured her as I brushed aside a stray lock of her light brown hair. She immediately blushed, but I simply smiled up at her. It seemed I was never able to smile unless she was here with me. I honestly didn't know what I'd do without her since she was the only one who could get through my jaded self...

"Are you excited to get started on our latest project?" an eager voice asked, suddenly manifesting in the entryway just outside my door. I couldn't help but groan to hear it, but my assistant merely continued to smile as she waved to the pair that were making their way inside from the winter's chill. "Oh!" the young woman squealed, returning the friendly gesture with gusto. "Good morning, Elli!" she cheered until catching sight of me glowering at her from my desk. "Ah... hello to you, too, M-Ms. Hart," she added quickly, twirling a strand of her long, blonde hair around her slender finger while she bit her lip nervously.

"Claire... Gray," I greeted them with a curt nod, noting the sullen man behind her as well. "I see you two finally decided to show up on time for once," I scoffed, glancing towards the clock that hung on the wall. She immediately blushed and tried to scurry past my office, but he remained in the open doorway, scowling at me. "Yes?" I purred venomously at him. Although he was dressed quite well in a green button-down and a pair of khaki slacks, I still frowned to see he was trouncing around the office in those god awful work boots of his...

"Just wanted to say that it's pretty damn hard to show up on time when you're overworked and underpaid as it is," he remarked bitterly. I heard his companion scolding him gently for speaking so harshly to me, and after he shot something equally nasty back at her, he finally dragged his sorry ass out of my sight.

"Oh dear..." Elli sighed, shaking her head with dismay. "It seems that Mr. Smith is in a rather irritable mood again today..."

"When isn't that ungrateful bastard complaining?" I challenged with a snort. However she didn't pay any mind to my scathing comment which was strange considering how she always clucked her tongue disapprovingly towards the others in this less than happy bunch we had around here. I certainly wasn't the only one with a bad attitude although I suppose I was the boss, and therefore, I was excluded from any of her negative opinions towards swearing and the like. Still, I wasn't exactly convinced that that was the case.

After all, none of my other employees offered me any respect.

Speaking of which... I couldn't help but notice our resident lone wolf slipping in, stealthy as always. His fairly long, silver hair masked his face, but it didn't take much to recognize him. This was especially true when one considered his slightly slouched posture was more than enough for anyone to tell who happened to be in our midst. I was also sure his completely black ensemble from his unusually sophisticated boots to his button-down would set him apart from the rest of our mangy pack. He didn't bother to acknowledge us as he silently made his way past my office, yet I can't say I expected anything less of him.

Vaughn was just not meant to be social which, quite frankly, might've been what I liked best about the man.

"Mornin'!" I winced in pain as two overly familiar, tanned faces showed themselves in my doorway. Dammit... why did have to be them... I thought sorrowfully while my already aching brain began to ram itself against my skull due to their mere presence. Elli simply gazed down at me pitifully before making soothing circles on my back, and I set my head on the desk in defeat. Of all the shit I alreadyhave to put up with... It has to be them.

"Not feelin' too well, Chief?" one of the two miscreants asked, raising an eyebrow at my distressed state. I glanced up and shot him a nasty glare for being so damn annoying first thing in the morning. Then, in a rather cruel and unnecessary gesture, I waved a small pink slip at him as a warning. He immediately paled and pulled his ridiculous bandanna over his eyes only to disappear down the hallway back to the mail room where he belonged.

"Hey now, Grace," the other chuckled, "you don't have to be so harsh on the ol' boy, you know." I just continued to glower at the man. This one, too, wore a bandanna in the same damn shade of purple, but somehow, I didn't find it nearly as nerve grating as his partner's...

"Kai," I sighed heavily, lifting my head and accepting a glass of water and a couple aspirin from the ever dutiful Elli, "you know you're supposed to address me as 'Ms. Hart...'" He just blinked a couple of times before he threw back his head and laughed. I inwardly groaned and threw myself back into my chair, praying that this idiot would just leave me the hell alone for one god damn-

"What do you say about joining me for dinner tonight then, Miss Grace?" he asked, clearly undeterred by my obvious annoyance with him. When I didn't reply, due to being too shocked that he'd have the audacity to ask me on a date now of all times, he sauntered straight into my office with that over-confident swagger of his. Really... although the man was about as obnoxious as you could get, I hated to admit that he was rather good-looking. 'Tall, dark, and handsome' immediately came to mind if a person caught a glance of him.

Regardless of his meager paycheck, he always seemed to have the best, tailor-made suits which fit him precisely where they should. He also had good taste in men's footwear, and they were usually buffed to perfection, too. If I didn't know him as well as I did, he'd appear to be the prime example of a well-kept businessman, but sadly, that bandanna of his continued to distract from any merit the rest of his attire might've offered him. For reasons unknown to me, he and his 'brother' had decided that they should both wear the forlorn things despite how unprofessional those unsightly rags were.

Even so, I'd given up on trying to convince the troublesome pair not to wear them to work... or even, at the very least, not in my presence.

"I don't believe that's an appropriate question during work hours," I replied in something akin to a snarl. He sat on my desk and planted his hand directly on top of my paperwork before leaning in uncomfortably close to my face. His cat-like grin was almost predatory as his usually warm, brown eyes dangerously glinted at me.

Unfortunately for him, I happened to have a guardian angel in a pencil skirt looking out for me today.

"Although I'm certain Ms. Hart would accept your invitation, Mr. Makani," Elli began nervously which brought his unnerving gaze towards her instead and caused the poor girl to shiver. "I-I've already invited her over to my place for dinner tonight," she explained quickly, hiding the blush that was creeping across her cheeks behind her clipboard. His eyes softened slightly, and I struggled to keep myself from sighing in relief.

"Oh, well," he chuckled, righting himself, "I suppose I'll have to wait for another night when she's free then." As an afterthought, he soon added playfully, "Or maybe I'll just take you out on a date, Miss Baker." Then he winked in my direction, like he was hoping I might be jealous of his flirtatious antics towards my flustered secretary. However, he didn't leave us in peace until he managed to put in one last word for his friend, "And please don't tease Denny like that, Grace... You lay him off enough as it is without threatening him with a pink slip just to scare the poor boy."

Without another word, he was, thankfully, gone.

"Finally..." I sighed as I flopped back into my chair. Dealing with him was nothing short of exhausting... Whenever that sly bastard waltzed into the room, I felt like my heart was going to either freeze up and die or beat so damn fast it burst, and for the life of me, I just couldn't explain why he had such a powerful effect on me in the first place. Apparently, Elli had been wondering this as well after she got a hold of herself again.

"If you don't mind me asking, Ms. Hart," she mused, nibbling on the end of her pen thoughtfully, "why haven't you fired him?" I just glanced up at her in shock and sighed once more.

"To be honest, Elli, I have no fucking clue," I muttered in frustration while burying my face in my hands. However, I knew damn well why I hadn't kicked his ass to the curb, and almost instinctively, my hand hovered over my bottom drawer before I managed to rein myself in. I didn't want to think about it. Now or ever.

"Just looks like it's going to be one of those damn days..."