SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME



Come and lay right on my bed, sit and drink some wine

I'll try not to make you cry

And if you'd get inside my head, then you'd understand

Then you'd understand me

Why I've felt so alone, why i kept myself from love

And you became my favorite drug

So let me take you right now and swallow you down,

I need you inside

If we had this night together

If we had a moment to ourselves

If we had this night together, then we'd be

Unstoppable

Do you think that this is right, or is it really wrong

I know that this is what we've been wanting

And all this is burning in my soul, it fills up to my throat

It fills up till my heart is breaking

Now, we can both learn

Somehow, you'll see it's all we have

Love, it keeps us together

and I need love

When I wake up without you, knowing you're not there

I'm only feeling half as good

Well I'm gonna find a way

To wrap you in my arms, you make me feel alive

Unstoppable – The Calling



Prologue



Sometimes you wonder how you got to where you are today.

You wake up one morning and ask "When did this all happen? Is it what I wanted? How did I get here?"

Luckily, I don't have to ask those questions. I know each and every step that brought me to where I am. I know what I've done, what I have to deal with, what I have to remember, what I am paying for each and every day when I wake up in the morning. I've known since I was a child where I would end up. I had the same dream over and over again since I could remember, forecasting my future though I never realized it. Showing to me vividly the prison in which I reside. A prison I myself made.

Many of us are taught through our lives that love is enough. I believed in that. Love was what got me here.

And now I know the truth…





Part One – Coming Home

Chapter One

Find, what you already are

Where it's not too close

But never too far

1 Star – Zoo Story



Smallville, Kansas

March 25, 2002



My father was a huge James Bond freak, so I grew up on those movies. I can name every gadget Q ever devised for him, tell you what movie they were used in, what damage they did and whether or not you ever saw the damned thing again. I knew the name of every Bond girl and exactly how many times she and James got it on. Most importantly, I knew every super villain and what it was, in the end, that became their downfall. Super villains to me weren't very bright. At least those in the Bond world. They always gave away their plans when they should have just kept their mouths shut. And they were always after stupid things, like taking over the world or a country, though I doubt they ever really knew why that was what they wanted. Taking over the world really doesn't fuel the motivation in someone the way something like revenge or some such does. That's probably why they never succeeded. They still fascinated me though and were always the main reason I put up with the dozens of times my father had me sit and watch each and every Bond film with him. I loved the villains. I wanted to know what made them tick. I wondered what it would be like to have so much money and power that people trembled when you walked by. I could easily understand how money and power could be like an aphrodisiac that you never wanted to end.

It always bothered me that you never saw the super evil woman villain though. You know, a woman could be as easily corrupted by money and power as any man. Hell, more so, in my opinion. Women are taught from birth that they have to rely on men, that it will eventually be a man who will have say so over their lives until death. First you're ruled by your father, then your husband. That's just the way it is. So imagine a woman who came out on top – who had all of the money and power that people trembled when she walked by. Imagine a woman playing all the games those super villains played, only being smarter at it. Because women are smarter, you know. It's a fact. Oh, no man will ever admit it, but they see it, and that's why they have worked so hard to keep women oppressed. We could easily rule the world if we wanted to but we've decided to leave that hard stuff to the men. It's much easier to rule from the shadows. At least, that's my take on it.

Not that I could ever be that woman. It was never in me. Not to say I didn't have drive – there were things I knew I was good at and strived to excel at them constantly, but I never really wanted to be noticed for it. Let's face it, I wasn't exactly what one would refer to as beautiful, nor had I ever been popular or known for doing great and wonderful things. In fact, in school I was more often bored than not, my mind always drifting off into daydreams about… you guessed it, the world of Bond. When you're sixteen and slightly overweight, have never had a boyfriend and know that you will never attend your own prom, you can't help but fantasize about being someone else. I was usually a Bond girl, or Bond's archenemy. You know, the one who finally wins. Only everyone's shocked by it because I was female. And I'd make my mark on the world and hide away with my money and buy myself all the playboys I wanted and be happy forever after. Of course, the problem with all of these fantasies was that I never really hurt anybody to achieve what was needed. Not even 007. I usually just sweet-talked him into letting me have my way. Pitiful, I know. But I was raised with certain values that not even Bond movies could drive from me.

Then I got into college -- by some miracle of fate, considering I daydreamed my way through high school – and I learned the hard way I was never going to really make my mark on the world so I might as well find something I enjoyed doing and resolve myself to the life I would lead. I found my identity as the small town girl removed to the suburbs, alone and a little lost in a big city that frankly scared the hell out of me. I had two great years of college where I excelled in my studies in Public Relations, made a few friends, became obsessed with Tae Bo, suffered through a bout with bulimia -- I already said I was lacking in confidence issues -- and learned very quickly that my world would only be what I made of it. I think that's what college is for – not academics but to learn about yourself and your place in the world. I figured mine would be in some cubicle on the 30th floor of some gray and drab office building until I saved enough to retire and move back to Smallville and live out my days on a porch with a bunch of cats.

In my second semester of my Sophomore year, I received a call from the police that my parents had been killed by a drunk driver on their way back from an evening in the city. I had received the news while at school and had no idea what to do. Automatically I had reached for the phone and dialed my mother's brother, uncle Jonathon. I had simply broken down on the phone, telling them how I was supposed to go out to the morgue and identify the bodies and I didn't know if I could do it. Aunt Martha and uncle Jonathon arrived mere hours later, taking over everything for me, standing beside me when I didn't think I could stand on my own anymore. And then it was during the preparations for the funeral that it had been discovered how badly in dept my parents had been. Every bit of insurance money was needed to cover their mortgage's and credit card dept. Apparently, my father had made some bad business investments in the past and they had been making up for it ever since. With no more money coming in, and the date to file for student loan applications past, I knew I could no longer continue with college and had no where to go. Naturally, my aunt and uncle Kent invited me to stay with them. I didn't want to be a burden on anyone but I also knew the Kent side of the family would never take no for an answer. So I left college and returned to Smallville. The prodigal daughter returns, or something like that.

I kicked at the hard dirt beneath my feet that had only begun the spring thaw, my gaze lifting toward the farmhouse where the Kent family had gathered after the funeral. There were about sixty or so of them present, many who never saw each other except in such dire "circumstances" as this. Those same ones who came to me and said how happy they were to see me, but they wished it could be under happier "circumstances". That was my hated word of the day. "Circumstances". Couldn't they just come out and say "Gee, Sinjun, its good to see you. Too bad your parents had to die for me to drag my ass out here and do my duty as a good relative." I closed my eyes, wincing. My parents were dead.

"Hey."

I glanced up from my reverie to see my cousin, Clark, walking toward me, concern evident in his hazel eyes. I tried to offer a friendly smile, couldn't find it, grimaced instead. "Hey."

"You okay?"

I shrugged. As okay as could be expected, I guess. Clark put his arm around my shoulders and pulled me against him. I gave in easily, knowing that comfort from Clark was better than being smothered in the bosom of one of my many aunts inside the house. Besides, Clark and I had always been as close as two cousins could be. More like brother and sister, really. I used to spend most of my summers on the farm with him and aunt Martha and uncle Jonathon. Sure, I was four years his senior, and he had spent most of his childhood following me around and being a complete pest, but I adored him. There was something about Clark that you couldn't help but love – I think everyone who met him felt that way, whether they wanted to or not. He was the most gentle person I knew.

"Got a little crowded in there, did it?" Clark asked, rubbing my back.

I nodded against his chest. I could remember a time when I towered over him, and then one summer he sprouted like a bean pole, which is what I began referring to him as. Now I felt petite next to him, and that was little weird for someone who was 5'9" in their stocking feet.

"If one more person tells me they're in a better place… " I sighed, fighting back the tears I had thought were all dried up.

Clark hugged me tighter, obviously able to hear the break in my voice. "I know. They'll be gone soon, and mom and dad will leave you alone."

I smiled. My situation could have been worse. I could have gone to live with aunt Miriam or the spinster aunts, Abigail and MaryBeth. My life could have been hell. Instead, I was with Martha and Jonathon and Clark and it would almost be like having my own parents around. Almost. Uncle Jonathon and his sister, my mom, had always been close and that had carried over to the rest of us. I even had old toys in the guest room that had been relegated as mine when I was a little girl. A small part of me, that I refused to acknowledge just yet, had always missed Smallville and was glad to be back. Maybe it was that secret part of me that still thought it needed to hide away from the world.

"Do you wanna talk about it?" Clark asked me quietly.

I tried to smile but I think it ended in more of a grimace. "I don't know… I… " I sighed and shook my head. "I don't know what I'm supposed to be feeling right now so it's kind of difficult to talk about."

Clark pulled away and looked down at me. "Maybe you shouldn't be worried about what you should be feeling and concentrate on what you are feeling."

"It would seem that easy, wouldn't it?" I glanced up at him, slightly disconcerted by the fact that he was no longer the little boy who used to follow me around on dates. Sighing, I looked back up at the night sky. "Everything just happened so quickly and then it just kept piling up and I feel like I've gone through hundreds of emotions since the accident. And the worst of it is the anger. Anger at them leaving me, anger at them leaving me in this position. I just… I want to scream at them and throw a tantrum. I feel selfish and petulant and I hate it."

"I think you have every right to feel that way, Sinjun," Clark replied quietly, reaching out to caress my back gently. "I don't think anyone expects you to just accept everything that has happened without question. It's a big change for you. But I hope you realize that you're not alone? Mom and dad and I are here for you."

I looked up at my cousin through the tears that threatened. "Thanks, Clark."

"Hey." Clark must have noticed my tears because he immediately pulled me into a hug. "No thanks necessary. That's what families are for, right?"

I smiled against his chest. "Yeah. That and ulcers."

My cousin laughed.



*****

The alarm went off the next morning long before what I was used to. I had been a college student for the past two years after all, so burying my head back under the pillow and ignoring the fact that breakfast would most likely be ready soon was completely acceptable. At least in my mind. And my body must have agreed because it quickly forgot about the alarm and went right back to sleep.

"Hey! Time to get up, bum!"

I blinked my eyes open at the sound of Clark's voice and peered out from under the pillow to see him leaning through my bedroom door, grinning like the cat who ate the canary. "What do you want?" I groaned.

"Do you plan on sleeping in all day?"

"Oh hell."

I yanked the covers back up over my head and ignored him. Two seconds later I was being severely tickled. I screamed, fighting against the covers in which I had somehow become tangled and the strong hands that held me down, continuing their merciless attack. I finally got one hand around my pillow and lashed out with it, blindly beating it against my attacker since I still could not get out from under the sheets that had effectively trapped me. The brat that was my cousin laughed and easily snatched my only defense from my fingers before returning to his purpose. I resorted to calling him every name in the book between the laughter and the tears, much to his amusement unfortunately.

"Do either of you plan on having breakfast?" I heard aunt Martha ask from somewhere near the door.

"If you'd get this overgrown bear cub you call a son off of me!" I cried out in exasperation. My aunt laughed at that and Clark pinched my side. "Ow!"

"Clark." Martha laughed again. "Leave your cousin alone and come have breakfast.

I felt his weight climb off of me and I quickly scrambled out from under the sheets, flashing him a wicked glare. "One would think you were raised in the barn instead of a farmhouse," she muttered.

"Bum!" Clark called out cheerily.

"Brute!" I snapped back.

Martha shook her head at both of us as her son passed her by into the hall. "Why do I feel like the both of you are ten and fourteen again?"

"He started it," I mumbled, crawling out of bed and into my slippers. Even though I was wearing a warm pair of flannel pajamas, I still wanted to climb back into bed and burrow under the covers. Instead I accepted my new fate, flashed a grin at my aunt and followed her downstairs to the kitchen.

I slipped into my seat as uncle Jonathon entered the kitchen while aunt Martha was setting the platter of pancakes onto the table. I think my uncle saw me slap Clark's hand away as he dove for the food, because I heard him chuckle while I quietly explained to my farm boy cousin that it was polite to let ladies go first. Of course, he replied that he would have done so, had there been any ladies present. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw aunt Martha roll her eyes heavenward at our antics.

After washing his hands, uncle Jonathon took his place at the table, attempting to pretend he didn't see me kick Clark under the table when he stuck his tongue out at me. Piling a stack of bacon on his plate, he asked, "So Sinjun, what are your plans for the day?"

"I'm thinking of looking for a job. I mean not only to help you guys out but hopefully I can put a little away and get back to college in a year or so."

"Don't you worry about us," he told me, his tone broking no disagreement. "You're family and we're not expecting anything so silly as room and board."

I sighed. I knew this was going to be a fight. "I'm no freeloader, uncle Jon."

"No. I just said that. You're family."

"Give it up, Sinj," Clark commented. "It's a losing battle."

"I happen to be half Kent, you know," I replied, flashing my uncle a quick look. "I can be just as stubborn."

"One problem though," uncle Jonathon told me, liberally dousing his pancakes with syrup.

"And what would that be?"

"I'm the head of this household."

He had a point. I glanced across the table at Clark who was grinning down at his plate, possibly attempting not to tell me I told you so. Obviously I was going to have to tread carefully with this matter. I would just get aunt Martha on my side, and then let her handle uncle Jonathon. There was no way that I was going to allow myself to become yet another burden on the Kent family. But first I had to get a job. And when it came to jobs in Smallville… Well, you either worked on a farm, in a boutique or for the Luthors. The farm idea was out. It didn't pay well, and I knew I would have my fair share of chores around my uncle's farm as it was. Boutiques meant customer service and I had learned as a teenager in part time jobs that I was just not meant for that kind of work.

That left one option. Was I destined to follow in my father's footsteps and end out my life working for LuthorCorp?

I finished my breakfast, giving Clark one last loving kick under the table before hurrying upstairs to shower and change. I decided on a simple black skirt and white blouse, attempting to look professional while still fitting into the small town image. My hair, which is somewhere in between brown and red and more wavy than straight but not curly much to my consternation, I pulled back in a simple knot. I had always hated my looks. I learned the lesson in high school that if you were a female born with blonde hair and blue eyes and a petite figure, you could have anything you wanted in the world simply by asking. Unfortunately, my hair had never decided what color to be and while I considered my eyes to be my greatest asset – pale green that a friend once referred to as translucent – they weren't quite enough. I was tall, never having the opportunity to find a boyfriend the size of my cousin in high school, and built more like Ursula Andress than Famke Janssen.

Having no car, aunt Martha let me borrow hers providing that I ran some errands for her in the process. I stopped in town to make a few drop offs, ran into some old friends that I was surprised to find remembered me, then drove my way out to the plant. It had been years since I had last seen the place, just before my father had been transferred from the Smallville plant to Plant Number One, but everything appeared familiar to me. Once I parked the car, I went up the stairs to the office, which I was disheartened to find was empty.

Tapping my foot impatiently, I decided to wait. Taking a seat in one of the waiting chairs, I perused the drabness of the office around me. There were a few black and white photos of Smallville on the walls, aerial views of the chemical plant and surrounding area, a framed article on the opening of the plant from the Daily PSinjunt. The desk before me was empty except for a phone, causing me to wonder if anyone actually worked here. I was just about to meander my way into the plant when the door opened and a man walked in. He looked over at me, his glance registering surprise for a brief moment, and I think we both recognized each other at the same time because we both sort of laughed.

"Sinjun St. Claire, correct?" He walked forward to shake my hand as I stood.

"Yes. Gabe Sullivan, if memory serves." I smiled.

"That it does." He tried smiling at me but it came out as more of a grimace, and I steeled myself for what was to come. "Sorry to hear about your parents. They were good people."

"Thanks." I wanted to get past all of that but just his mention of it made me all nervous and fidgety. I clasped my hands behind my back in an attempt not to bite my nails.

"I heard your living with the Kents."

I nodded, smiled. "Yeah. Aunt Martha and uncle Jon wouldn't take no for an answer."

Gabe nodded, moving away from me to open a nearby filing cabinet. "So what brings you to the plant?"

I gave a half-smile. "I was hoping that you might just possibly be hiring. I need a job."

"Hmmm." Gabe turned away from the files and watched me for a moment, then he nodded toward the desk. "You type?"

"If I have to."

"How're your phone skills?"

"I was a teenage girl only two years ago. How do you think they are?"

He chuckled. "Point well made. My daughter, Chloe, lives on the phone. Okay, you know you're way around a computer?"

"Enough to get myself into trouble."

Another laugh. At least I was making points for sense of humor. "Do you enjoy filing?"

"Hate it."

Gabe closed the door of the cabinet. "Position only starts at nine dollars an hour."

"That's more than I'm making standing here talking to you," I returned with a smile.

"Can you start tomorrow?"

I nodded. "Bright and early in the morning if my cousin has anything to say about it."

"Great." He walked over to shake my hand, pointing at a couple of boxes in the corner filled with files. "See those? We have been without a secretary for three weeks now. They need to be filed first thing."

I laughed, shaking my head. "Thanks. I appreciate it."

****

A week later, I leaned back in my chair, drumming my finger tips distractedly against the desk as I expelled a sigh. I was beyond bored. All the work that had been piling up while the plant was without an administrative assistant, including filing which I have always hated with a passion, I had completed the day before and with Gabe off work, I had nothing to do. The phone rang occasionally, so I spent most of my morning transferring calls and taking messages for Lex Luthor to return when he got back to the plant, but other than that there was little else to do. At least the office was spotless, since I had spent a good hour cleaning every nook and cranny. And there wasn't a paperclip or pen out of place. The last hour I had spent perusing the internet but finally gave that up when it occurred to me that LuthorCorp could easily be monitoring whatever activities I did on the computer and I really did not feel the need to be fired for playing instead of working. But then I was left with just sitting there, nothing to do. I considered asking Clark for some of his homework to do. Who knew? Maybe I could even turn it into a side job, doing high school student papers.

I was pulled from my reverie, and boredom, when the office door banged open and one of the plant employees ran inside. "We need to call an ambulance!" He shouted at me in a panic.

I jumped up from my chair. "What's wrong?"

"There's been an accident!"

"Where?" I headed for the plant while the employee skirted past me toward the phone.

"At the dock. Forklift."

Hurrying down the hall to the stairs, the sound of my heels clicking against the metal gangplank, I made my way towards the docking area. From the view above, I could already spy a group of employees gathered around the accident area. I felt myself grimace. Things like this were not good for employee morale, no matter what the situation was. My father always said that after an accident in the lab, it would be weeks before things ever got back to normal. Which usually resulted in a few firings around LuthorCorp. Instincts kicking in, I pushed through the group to get to the dock supervisor, Randy McAllister. He was kneeling over the inert form of an employee that was not yet familiar to me. He glanced up at me as I moved to his side.

"Who is it?" I asked.

"Frank Carver. He's dead," Randy whispered.

I felt sick, but forced myself to push the emotions aside. Looking over at the hovering employees, my mind working quickly, I asked, "Has anyone called Gabe?"

Randy shrugged. "Just happened. Mel went to call an ambulance."

"Okay. Look, get the rest of these employees back to work. It does them no good to see this. Who was driving the forklift?"

"Bill Tate. He's over there with Daniel. According to him he was just moving some of these crates here, everything was clear, next thing he knows Frank walks right out in front of the forklift, not even giving Bill time to stop."

I followed his gaze to the shaken employee who was talking quietly to Daniel, all the while gesticulating wildly with his hands toward the forklift and the area surrounding it. Chewing my lower lip for a moment in thought, I couldn't help but comment, "The local press will have a field day with this."

"What was that?" Randy asked, climbing to his feet to begin dispersing the employees.

I shook my head. "Teachings of my college professors. Nothing more." Sighing, I turned back to Randy. "I need the file on Mr. Carver. Also, call his family, try to get them out here ASAP."

Moving over to the body, I kneeled down beside it while behind me Randy began telling the employees to get back to work. One of the metal prongs on the forklift had driven right through the man's chest. The crates had smashed into his forehead, cracking his skull open. I had to fight to keep my stomach calm, finally forcing myself to get up and move away. There were too many things to do at the moment to be sick. If there was one thing I had learned during my two years of college, it was that damage control needed to kick in immediately. So I quickly put myself to work.

By the time Gabe arrived a half hour later, everything seemed to be back to business as usual except for the small gathering around the accident area where Frank Carver's family, those employees involved and the medics stood talking. The moment I saw him enter the dock, I moved over to him, files in hand.

"Gabe, glad you're here," I greeted quietly, stopping him before he reached the crowd.

"I called Lex," he informed me, his eyes scanning the area. "He's on his way."

I made a face. What a way to meet my boss, the infamous Lex Luthor, for the first time. "Bet he's thrilled."

Gabe nodded. "What happened?"

"Well, it all could have easily been construed as negligence regarding safety," I began.

The plant manager groaned. It was obvious he was thinking that was all we needed.

"But it isn't."

He looked over at me then, I think noticing for the first time the pile of files I was holding in my hands. "What's going on?"

"Sorry." I flashed him a chagrined expression. "The whole PR thing – I knew this could get out of hand easily, especially in a town like Smallville, especially when LuthorCorp is involved. So I kind of took matters in my own hands. I hope you don't mind?"

"Well, that all depends on what you've done with it?"

I smiled and quickly informed him of everything I had learned. By the time I finished, Gabe Sullivan breathed what sounded like a sigh of relief and was able to smile at me. We discussed my findings and the report I had compiled from Mr. Carver's co-workers as well as his family. Gabe made copies of everything for himself as well as Lex Luthor, grabbing my arm and pulling me with him when it was announced that the Luthor helicopter was in sight. I tried to hang back, telling him that I was more likely needed inside than rubbing elbows with the boss, but Gabe seemed to ignore my pleas. And that's exactly what they were. I was pleading with him not to make me face the spoilt son of a billionaire just at that moment. I had heard more than my share of stories about Lex Luthor while growing up in the suburbs and attending college in Metropolis. I had female acquaintances who made various claims as to the things they had seen and done involving him. I had not the slightest inclination to meet this man.

But as I said, Gabe ignored me. We stepped outside the plant, both of us glancing over at the crowd of reporters who had already gathered from the Inquisitor and Planet and a few local news stations. Leeches, that's what reporters were in my opinion. Feeding off the sorrow of others. I frowned, my attention pulled from the gathering of press as the helicopter landed. I took a deep breath, wondering if this would be the shortest job I would ever hold.

Lex Luthor emerged looking just as he did in every picture I had ever seen of him. Calm, collected, dressed impeccably in all black except for a dark purple shirt. Okay, even I had admitted long ago to myself that he fascinated me. I always found myself wondering how the Luthors would do against James Bond, who would come out the victor in that encounter? Not that I considered Lex Luthor a villain – I think his father fit that bill much more closely from the stories my father used to feed me. From what I could tell, Lex was simply a spoilt brat who had always had everything he wanted given to him on a silver platter and he cared for little more than having a good time and creating havoc in Metropolis.

Of course, I would soon learn that the man and the man in the media were too different people. Silly me for actually believing the picture that the papers painted.

"Gabe, what the hell happened?" Lex demanded as he jogged up the steps toward us, not even sparing me a glance.

Thank God, actually. I was in a bit of a stupor. I mean, I had never met Lex Luthor face to face, and I realized the moment he approached that in reality he was actually quite different from his pictures. His presence almost demanded attention, shouted for it even. And it was more than the expensive clothes or the bald head or the piercing ice blue eyes. It was even more than the distinctive air of confidence and arrogance that surrounded him. I couldn't put my finger on it at the time, and I certainly didn't realize it, but I was already caught within the invisible web he spun.

"Just an accident on the job, sir," Gabe replied, moving into step with Lex as he walked past. I almost had to hop forward to catch up.

"Just an accident?" Lex stopped, turning to face the man before him. "Nothing is just an accident when it involves my plant, Gabe." He sighed and glanced over at the pack of reporters. "I see the hounds have arrived."

"We've been holding them off until you got here," Gabe told him. "I don't think you have much to worry about with this matter, Lex. Miss St. Claire seems to have thought of everything."

I watched from behind the plant manager as Lex frowned. "Who?"

Gabe stepped aside, obviously knowing I was hiding behind him, leaving me unguarded, unprotected and wholly vulnerable to the man who was scowling at both of us. "This is the administrative assistant I hired last week. She – "

"What the hell does a secretary know about all of this?" Lex snapped, his ice blue eyes regarding me frankly.

I bit my lip, at a loss for what to say. Realizing I was just extending my idiocy by not speaking, I thrust my hand out at him and blurted, "It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Mr. Luthor."

Surprisingly, Lex took it, and his hand was as soft as I expected it to be. "Lex. My father is Mr. Luthor," he told me. "And you are?"

I glanced over at Gabe uncertainly for a brief moment before turning back to the blue gaze that continued to regard me intently. "Sinjun St. Claire. Mr. Sulliv – Gabe, hired me last week for the administrative assistant position."

"I got the email," he commented, not smiling, not frowning. Nothing. It was the first time I realized that he was an impossible person to read from his expressions. He could probably clean house at poker. "Sounds like Gabe here seems to think you have the situation within my plant completely in hand."

Okay, now I was starting to panic. Maybe I couldn't read his expression but his tone implied that he was not pleased in the least, and I was very likely the target for his displeasure. I had to get a grip. It wouldn't do to stand there with my hands shaking against the files they held – which they were – and look as if I didn't have a shred of confidence to save me – which I didn't. After all, if he did decide to tell me to take a walk, it wasn't as if I couldn't get a job at one of the many boutiques lining the streets of Smallville. Besides, I would just sick Clark on him, since my cousin had informed me when I told him of this job how Lex was his best friend.

I glanced over at Gabe for a moment, allowing the realization to sink in that I was actually being tested. Taking a deep breath, I turned back to the ice blue gaze that continued to leave me slightly more off-center than I had expected. Of all of the stories I had heard regarding Lex Luthor none of them had prepared me for the feeling of predator versus prey that swept over me from the moment he had looked at me. It was not a bad feeling, just not something I was used to. It was as if the man before me was immediately expecting me to be his enemy and had put up his defenses in response to that. I hated confrontation of any kind. This was no exception. But I got the feeling that there was something different going on here, something deeper that maybe I wasn't meant to understand. In the end, I could only rise to the challenge and see where that took me.

All of this crossed my mind in the matter of milliseconds. Taking a deep breath, and wondering which boutique I should apply to first, I replied, "I'm certain Gabe didn't mean it quite like that, Mr. Luth – Lex. As I was here when the accident occurred, I did what I could to make certain it didn't escalate into a media frenzy, putting the facts together as quickly as I could so that we could deter the focus from the plant onto the accident and the employee involved."

Lex raised a brow at that. "Is that so?'

I couldn't help but fidget under his stare. What I really wanted to do was run away screaming back to the farm. Instead, I nodded. "Yes. I know you are probably wondering what I could possibly know about any of this but I've been majoring in Public Relations in college, so I know a little of what I am talking about."

Nothing in response. I cast another quick look at Gabe who gave me a slight inclination of his head, encouraging me to go on.

"Anyway, after the accident occurred, I took the liberty of speaking with some of the other employees who worked with Mr. Carver as well as his family." I mentally reminded myself to stop fidgeting, focusing my gaze over the shoulder of the man before me in order to escape his unwavering gaze. "It appears that Mr. Carver has been having some personal problems the past few months which has led to a bout with alcoholism. Only a few weeks ago, in fact, his supervisor, Randy McAllister, offered to help him get professional assistance, saying that the plant would gladly pay for any treatment he needed. Mr. Carver refused. Just this week, one of his fellow employees encouraged the same thing. Again, it was refused. It appears that today he was drinking on the job when he basically threw himself in front of a forklift. So what could have been a potentially dangerous case of safety negligence is in fact more a case of suicide. LuthorCorp and its employees did everything in their power to help Mr. Carver, but it was not wanted."

Lex just continued to stare at me for the longest moment. I watched quietly as he cast a quick glance to Gabe, then back to me again, which made me fidget.

"Is there anything else?" He asked.

I blinked. "Umm… Well, I took the liberty of preparing this press release since I knew you wouldn't have much time to put anything together… " I trailed off, wondering if I had just completely over-stepped my bounds.

"I see."

Lex glanced between the two of us again, as if quietly analyzing the situation – maybe deciding which of us he would behead first -- before pushing past us to walk over to the media platform. I looked at Gabe, panicking once again, certain I was about to lose my job. He caught my look, shrugged, then took me by the elbow and led me over to within a few feet of Lex, who was preparing to address the reporters. They immediately started firing off questions in his direction.

"Mr. Luthor can you tell us what happened?"

"Does this have anything to do with the incident regarding Level 3?"

"Does the family of the employee wish to sue?"

"Will your father be coming out here to take care of this matter?"

Lex held up his hands, indicating a need for silence. He flashed a practiced smile. "Ladies and gentlemen, I appreciate your patience in this matter. As you likely know, I have been in Metropolis on business this past week and only recently returned the moment I heard about this very tragic accident. I can assure you that LuthorCorp will do everything in its power to make certain that Mr. Carver's family is well cared for. Now, as for the rest of your questions, I am going to give you over to the very capable hands of our plant director of public relations, Miss Sinjun St. Claire."

I swore I hadn't heard him correctly. I even looked around for a moment for someone else with my name, then over at Gabe who was smirking at me as if it were all a great joke. I turned my gaze back to Lex who was standing there on the platform, brow raised in challenge, his hand out to me, indicating that I join him. What was he, insane?

Not knowing how I did it, I finally found myself moving onto the platform, stumbling briefly from my shaking knees but Lex was there, holding my arm, looking down at me, waiting for me to regain my composure. God, he smelled good. If it took billions for a man to smell like that, then I was ready to lobby the government for a fund to make every man a billionaire. For a long moment we stared at one another, and I had no idea what he was thinking and was dying to ask him why he was doing this but then he dropped my arm and moved past me, leaving the platform, leaving me, standing there alone, the press waiting. Clenching the press release tightly in my hands, I turned and faced the crowd of eager reporters. Not knowing where the strength of voice was coming from, I began presenting my carefully prepared release in a surprisingly confident voice.

Half an hour later I found my way back into the plant, after a grueling examination under the microscopes of the press. It had been the most exhausting and nerve racking experience of my life, and I felt like doing nothing more at that moment than giving Mr. Lex Luthor my opinion on his pulling such a stunt like that. Certainly, I may have overstepped my boundaries a little bit but that was not the cause for such punishment as the humiliation he had just attempted to put me through. With this in mind, I stomped into the main office to find Gabe sitting behind my desk on the phone. I tried to slam the door behind me, but it had one of those catches on it to prevent it from doing so and it took a lot out of my little performance.

Gabe covered his hand over the phone and stage whispered to me, "Lex wants to see you. His office is through there." He nodded to the right.

Ah. The forbidden door. It had been locked for the week that I had been there. Believe me, I tried every possible way to get it open. After all, I was bored. Steeling my resolve to give Lex Luthor a stinging set down just before he fired me, I marched over to the door and let myself in. I probably should have knocked but at the moment I didn't care. I just faced a hungry pack of reporters. I could do anything.

Of course, any memory of my carefully planned speech flew out of my head the moment I entered the office. It was like walking into a different world, only this one was much more luxurious than the drab, gray one on the other side of the door. This one was carpeted wall to wall in a thick red pad that I virtually sank into. It was filled with mahogany leather chairs and couches and an enormous redwood desk behind which Lex was leaning back in his chair, watching me, gauging my reaction. I tried not to look impressed but probably failed miserably.

"Finished with your press release?" He asked, one leg draped casually over the other, a bottle of imported water in his hand.

"I… " What was it I had wanted to tell him? It would have been easier if he had stopped looking at me the way he was, his gaze too intense not to make me fidget. I tried to focus on my anger, or what was left of it anyway. "That was very rude of you, Mr. Luthor."

Yes, I purposely said Mr. Luthor just because I realized he didn't like it, didn't like to be equated with his father.

He raised an eyebrow at me but otherwise his expression didn't change. "Rude? What was rude? And it's Lex."

"Humiliating me like that in front of all of those reporters. Although I will admit that I probably did overstep my bounds a bit in this whole situation. Still, I think I would have preferred a good old fashioned lecture as opposed to that."

Lex continued to watch me for a long moment before standing and walking – no, scratch that, gliding, Lex didn't walk, he glided -- over to the wet bar that was set up at the opposite end of the room. "Drink?" He asked.

"No, thank you. I'm… not… twenty-one." Wow, that sounded lame, even to me.

He turned back to face me after pouring himself what appeared to be a brandy. Or maybe it was scotch. Or whiskey. I didn't know. I wasn't exactly an alcohol connoisseur. Leaning back against the bar, he swirled the liquid in his glass for a bit before looking back up at me, his gaze assessing.

"So you admit you overstepped your bounds?" He asked.

I nodded. Here it comes. My dismissal.

At that, he kind of half-smiled. My knees felt weak. Well hell, he really was good looking. Sexy, actually. I think he attended the James Bond school of charm.

"Whatever you may think about me, Miss St. Claire, I had no intention of humiliating you," he told me, one hand in his pants pocket, the other grasping the half-filled glass of dark liquor. "The offer was an honest one."

"Offer?" I repeated, my eyes focused on the fingers that were wrapped around the glass. He had long fingers, and surprisingly strong hands. He straightened and started toward me, causing me to look back up. "What offer?"

He stopped a few feet away from me, taking a sip of his drink. "To be the Director of PR for the plant. It's obviously a position that is sorely lacking."

I blinked, certain I hadn't heard him correctly or was misunderstanding him or something. "Just like that? You have no idea who I am, what my education is and you're just going to offer me the position of directing PR for your business?"

Lex seemed pleased that he had surprised me because he was smiling. That, or he was laughing at me. Maybe a little of both, probably more of the latter.

"You're name is Sinjun St. Claire," he began. "You're a niece to the Kent's. Your parents were recently killed and having no place to live and being forced to drop out of school, you came to live with them on their farm. You were pursuing a Public Relations degree during the past two years at Metropolis U maintaining a 4.0 grade point average throughout. You started work here as a secretary last week, have been bored throughout most of your time, resorting to cleaning and attempting to break into my office."

"Wow. That's… just… scary," I commented with a frown. How the hell did he know I was trying to open his office? Scary thought to think a camera may have been watching me the whole time.

"I make it a point to know about those who work for me," Lex replied. "And people like to talk. Especially in this town and in this building."

Gabe. Figured he was giving Lex an earful while I was out battling the leeches. I watched as Lex moved back over to the front of his desk, turning to lean against it, setting his glass beside him and folding his arms over his chest. "So, are you interested?"

"I'm still a little shocked. I mean, surely there are more qualified people out there. Certainly LuthorCorp has plenty of PR – "

"LuthorCorp has PR personnel out the ass," Lex interrupted. "But that's my father's company. The plant is mine. You would work for me, not him. As for qualifications, I think you just proved yourself under fire, Miss St. Claire."

"Sinjun," I corrected. "Miss St. Claire" always made me feel like a high- paid prostitute. I worried my lower lip for a long moment while we both watched one another. "I'm assuming the offer includes a raise?"

Lex smiled as if pleased with my question. "Of course. I figure you probably just saved the plant tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. It is only fair to share a bit of it with you." He watched me for a moment longer. "Take your time to think about it if you must."

"Okay." I nodded, turning to leave, my mind running through the offer and our conversation and the realization that this meant I could finish college sooner than I had expected. Reaching the door, I turned back. A good ten seconds had probably passed. "Very well, I accept your offer."

"Excellent." Lex pushed away from the desk and approached me once more, reaching out to shake my hand. "I'll have something written up, and you'll start first thing in the morning."

I nodded, turned to leave.

"Oh, and since I am rarely here, you're free to use my office."

I glanced back at him in surprise.

He flashed a quick grin. "That way you won't have to try breaking into it anymore."

Mortified, I made a small sound, more of a squeak than I would care to admit, and darted from the room.