A/N: Okay so I had this crazy idea about doing a Swan Queen version of Fifty Shades of Grey but was unsure if I wanted to do however after yesterday's Swan Queen overload and the release of certain pictures my overflowing cup of inspiration has gotten the better of me. So sit back and enjoy…
Fifty Shades of Mills
It has not been my damn week. First Abigail falling ill and damning me to this ordeal and now my damned hair will not behave no matter how much I try and get it under control with my brush. I roll my eyes as I catch a glimpse at the pale, blonde haired girl with blue-green eyes staring at me trying, and failing, to control my hair, my only option is tie my hair up in a ponytail in hope that it makes me look semi-presentable and professional.
Abigail Nolan is my roommate and she has chosen, today of all days, to surrender to the flu that she had been fighting over all week. Therefore she could not attend the interview that she had arranged to so do with some big bucks industrialist that I have never heard of, for the student newspaper. So I have been volunteered or should that be forced into taking the interview for her when I should be cramming for my finals, attempting to finish an essay and working for a living but no- today I have to drive hundred seventy one miles to downtown Boston in order to meet the mysterious CEO of Mills Enterprises Holdings Inc. As an outstanding entrepreneur and major benefactor of our university, her time is extraordinarily precious- much more precious than mine- but she has granted Abigail an interview. A real coup according to her; damn her extracurricular activities.
Abigail is huddled on the living room couch in amongst her numerous blankets.
"Em, I'm sorry. It took me nine months to get this interview. It'll take another six to reschedule and we'll have both graduated by then. As editor I can't blow this off. Please" Abigail is exceptionally good at begging when she's ill, I swear she has it down to a fine art. Even ill she looks sexually appealing and drop dead gorgeous, her blonde hair in place and blue-green eyes bright, although now red and runny. I choose to ignore my pang of unwelcome sympathy.
"Of course I'll go Abs however you should be in bed; would you like me to bring some Nyquil or Tylenol?"
"Nyquil please. Here are the questions and my mini-disc recorder. Just press record here and make sure you make notes that I can transcribe it"
"I know nothing about her" I mutter trying and failing to suppress my rising panic
"The questions will see you through. Go it's a long drive and I don't want you to be late"
"Okay I'm going. Get back to bed and just so you know I made some soup for you to heat up later" I stare at my friend fondly. Only for you, Abigail, would I do this
"I will and good luck. Thanks Em- as usual, you're my lifesaver" Gathering my satchel, I smile wryly at her then head out the door to my car. I cannot believe I let Abigail talk me in to this. But then Abigail can talk anyone into anything; she'll make an exceptional journalist. She's articulate, strong, persuasive, argumentative, beautiful- and my dearest, dearest friend.
The roads are clear as I set off from Albany, NY toward Boston on the I-90 E, it's early and I don't have to be in Boston until this afternoon. Fortunately Abigail's lent me her sport Mercedes CLK. I'm not sure Wanda, my old VW Beetle, would make the journey in time and the Merc is a fun drive as the miles slip away as I floor the pedal to the metal.
My destination is the headquarters of Ms Mill's global enterprise; it's a huge twenty story office building, all curved glass and steel, an architect's utilitarian fantasy, with Mills House written tactfully in steel over the glass front doors. It's quarter to two when I arrive, greatly relieved that I'm not late as I walk through the enormous- and frankly intimidating- glass, steel and white sandstone lobby.
Behind the solid sandstone desk, a very attractive, groomed, blonde young woman smiles agreeably at me. She's wearing the sharpest charcoal suit jacket and white shirt I have ever seen. She looks immaculate.
"I'm here to see Ms Mills. Emma Swan for Abigail Nolan"
"Excuse me one moment, Miss Swan" She arches her eyebrow slightly as I stand self-consciously before her. I am beginning to wish I'd borrowed one of Abigail's formal blazers rather than my navy blue jacket. I have made an effort and worn my one and only skirt, my sensible brown knee-length and a blue sweater. For me this is smart. I tuck one of the escaped tendrils of my hair behind my ear pretending she doesn't intimidate me
"Miss Nolan is expected. Please sign in here Miss Swan. You'll want the last elevator on the right, press for the twentieth floor" She smiles at me kindly, amused no doubt, as I sign in.
She hands me a security pass that has VISITOR very firmly stamped on the front. I can't help my smirk, surely it's obvious that I'm just visiting I don't fit in here at all. Nothing changes, I sigh inwardly. Thanking her I walk over to the bank of elevators past two security men who are both far more smartly dressed than I am in their well-cut black suits.
The elevator whisks me with terminal velocity to the twentieth floor. The doors slide open, and I'm in another large lobby – again all glass, steel, and white sandstone. I'm confronted by another desk of sandstone and another young blonde woman dressed impec cably in black and white who rises to greet me.
"Miss Swan, could you wait here please?" She points to a seated area of black leather chairs.
Behind the leather chairs is a spacious glass-walled meeting room with an equally spa cious dark wood table and at least twenty matching chairs around it. Beyond that, there is a floor-to-ceiling window with a view of the Boston skyline that looks out through the city toward the Sound. It's a stunning vista, and I'm momentarily paralyzed by the view. Wow.
I sit down, fish the questions from my satchel, and go through them, inwardly curs ing Abigail for not providing me with a brief biography. I know nothing about this woman I'm about to interview. She could be ninety or she could be thirty. The uncertainty is galling, and my nerves resurface, making me fidget. I've never been comfortable with one-on-one interviews, preferring the anonymity of a group discussion where I can sit inconspicuously at the back of the room. To be honest, I prefer my own company, reading a good old crime novel curled up in a chair in the campus library. Not sitting twitching nervously in a colos sal glass and stone edifice.
I roll my eyes Get a grip, Swan. Judging from the building, which is too clinical and modern, I guess Mills is in her forties: fit, tanned, and fair haired to match the rest of the personnel.
Another elegant, flawlessly dressed blonde comes out of a large door to the right. What is it with all the immaculate blondes? I know I'm blonde myself but it's like Stepford here. Taking a deep breath, I stand up.
"Miss Swan?" the latest blonde asks
"Yes" I croak before clearing my throat "Yes" There, that sounded more confident
"Miss Mills will see you in a moment. May I take your jacket?"
"Oh please" I struggle out of the jacket
"Have you been offered any refreshment?"
"Um- no" Oh no, was blonde number one in trouble?
Blonde number two frowns and eyes the young woman at the desk
"Would you like some tea, coffee, water?" she asks turning her attention back to me
"A glass of water. Thank you" I murmur
"Rose please fetch Miss Swan a glass of water" Her voice is stern. Rose scoots up immediately and scurries to a door on the other side of the foyer.
"My apologies, Miss Swan, Rose is our new intern. Please be seated. Miss Mills will be another five minutes."
Rose returns with a glass of iced water.
"Here you go, Miss Swan."
Blonde Number Two marches over to the large desk, her heels clicking and echoing on the sandstone floor. She sits down, and they both continue their work.
Perhaps Miss Mills insists on all her employees being blonde. I'm wondering idly if that's legal, when the office door opens and a tall, elegantly dressed, attractive African-American man with short dreads exits. I have definitely worn the wrong clothes.
He turns and says through the door "Golf, this week, Mills"
I don't hear a reply. He turns, sees me and smiles, his dark eyes crinkling at the corners. Rose has jumped up and called the elevator. She seems to excel at jumping from her seat. She's more nervous than I am!
"Good afternoon ladies" he says departing through the sliding door
"Miss Mills will see you now, Miss Swan. Do go through" Blonde number two says.
I stand rather shakily trying to suppress my nerves. Gathering up my satchel, I abandon my glass of water and make my way to the partially open door
"You don't need to knock- just go in" She smiles kindly
I push open the door and stumble through, tripping over my own feet, and falling head first through into the office.
Double crap- me and my two left feet! I am on my hands and knees in the doorway to Miss Mills' office, and gentle hands are around me helping me to stand. I am so em barrassed, damn my clumsiness. I have to steel myself to glance up. Holy cow – she's so young.
"Miss Nolan" She extends a long-fingered hand to me once I'm upright "I'm Regina Mills. Are you all right? Would you like to sit?"
So young and attractive- very attractive, she's around the same height as me, dressed in a tight-fitting black dress with 5 inch black heels with short, jet black hair and the most intense brown eyes that regard me shrewdly. It takes me a moment to find my voice.
"Um. Actually" I mutter. If this woman was over thirty I'm a monkey's uncle. In a daze I place my in hers and we shake. As our fingers touch I feel an odd exhilarating shiver run through me. I withdraw my hand hastily, embarrassed. Must be static. I blink rapidly, my eyelids matching my heart rate
"Miss Nolan is indisposed so she sent me. I hope you don't mind Miss Mills"
"And you are?" Her voice warm, possibly amused but it's difficult to tell from his impassive expression. He looks mildly interested, but above all, polite
"Emma Swan. I'm studying Criminal Justice with Abby, um… Abigail… um… Miss Nolan, who is studying Journalism, at Albany"
"I see" She says simply. I think I see the ghost of a smile on her face, but I'm not sure "Would you like to sit" She waves me toward a black leather buttoned L shaped couch. Her office is way too big for just one woman. In front of the floor-to-ceiling windows, there's a huge modern dark-wood desk that six people could comfortably eat around. It matches the coffee table by the couch. Everything else is black or white – ceiling, floors, and walls except, on the wall by the door, where a mosaic of small paintings hang, thirty-six of them arranged in a square. They are exquisite – a series of mundane, forgotten objects painted in such precise detail they look like photographs. Displayed together, they are breathtaking.
"A local artist. Trouton."says Mills when she catches my gaze
"They're lovely. Raising the ordinary to extraordinary" I murmur, distracted both by her and the paintings. She cocks her head to one side and regards me intently
"I couldn't agree more Miss Swan" she replies, her voice soft and for some inexplicable reason I find myself blushing.
Apart from the paintings, the rest of the office is cold, clean, and clinical. I wonder if it reflects the personality of the Aphrodite who sinks gracefully into one of the white leather chairs opposite me. I shake my head, disturbed at the direction of my thoughts, and retrieve Abigail's questions from my satchel. Next, I set up the mini-disc recorder and am all fingers and thumbs, dropping it twice on the coffee table in front of me. Miss Mills says nothing, waiting patiently – I hope – as I become increasingly embarrassed and flustered. When I pluck up the courage to look at her, she's watching me, one hand relaxed in her lap and the other cupping her chin and trailing her long index finger across her lips. I think she's trying to suppress a smile.
"Sorry" I stutter trying to regain my bearings "I'm not used to this"
"Take all the time you need Miss Swan" She says
"Do you mind if I record your answers?"
"After you've taken so much trouble setting up the recorder- you ask me now?"
I flush. She's teasing me? I hope. I blink at her, unsure of what to say, and I think she's takes pity on me because she relents "No I don't mind"
"Did Abby, I mean Miss Nolan, explain what this interview was for?"
"Yes, to appear in the graduation issue of the student newspaper as I will be conferring the degrees at this year's graduation ceremony"
Oh!This is news to me, and I'm temporarily pre-occupied by the thought that some one not much older than me – okay, maybe six years or so, and okay, mega successful, but still – is going to present me with my degree. I frown, dragging my wayward attention back to the task at hand.
"Good" I swallow the nervous lump that had been lodged in the back of my throat for some time and prepare to ask the questions that were set out before me "I have some questions Miss Mills" I smooth the stray lock of hair behind my ear
"I thought you might" her reply was deadpan. She's laughing at me. My cheeks heat at the realisation, and I sit up and square my shoulders in an attempt to look taller and more intimidating. Pressing the start button on the recorder, I try and look professional
"You're very young to have amassed such an empire; to what do you owe your success" I glance up at her, her smile is sheepish but she looks vaguely disappointed
"Business is all about people, Miss Swan, and I'm very good at judging people. I know how they tick, what makes them flourish, what doesn't, what inspires them, and how to incentivize them. I employ an exceptional team, and I reward them well." She pauses and fixes me with her brown stare. "My belief is to achieve success in any scheme one has to make oneself master of that scheme, know it inside and out, know every detail. I work hard, very hard to do that. I make decisions based on logic and facts. I have a natural gut instinct that can spot and nurture a good solid idea and good people. The bottom line is, it's always down to good people."
"Maybe you're just lucky" This isn't on Abby's list- but she's so arrogant. Her eyes flare momentarily in surprise
"I don't subscribe to luck or chance, Miss Swan. The harder I work the more luck I seem to have. It really is all about having the right people on your team and directing their energies accordingly. I think it was Harvey Firestone who said 'the growth and develop ment of people is the highest calling of leadership."
"You sound like a control freak." The words are out of my mouth before I can stop them.
"Oh, I exercise control in all things, Miss Swan," she says without a trace of humor in her smile. I look at her, and she holds my gaze steadily, impassive. My heartbeat quickens, and my face flushes again.
Why does she have such an unnerving effect on me? Her overwhelming good-looks maybe? The way her eyes blaze at me? The way she strokes her index finger against her lower lip? I wish she'd stop doing that.
"Besides, immense power is acquired by assuring yourself in your secret reveries that you were born to control things," she continues, her voice soft.
"Do you feel that you have immense power?" Control Freak.
"I employ over forty thousand people, Miss Swan. That gives me a certain sense of responsibility – power, if you will. If I were to decide I was no longer interested in the telecommunications business and sell up, twenty thousand people would struggle to make their mortgage payments after a month or so."
My mouth drops open. I am staggered by her lack of humility.
"Don't you have a board to answer to?" I ask, disgusted.
"I own my company. I don't have to answer to a board." She raises an eyebrow at me. I flush. Of course, I would know this if I had done some research. But holy crap, she's so arrogant. I change tack.
"And do you have any interests outside your work?"
"I have varied interests, Miss Swan" A ghost of a smile touches her lips. "Very var ied." And for some reason, I'm confounded and heated by her steady gaze. Her eyes are alight with some wicked thought.
"But if you work so hard, what do you do to chill out?"
"Chill out?"She smiles, revealing perfect white teeth. I stop breathing. She really is beautiful. No one should be this good-looking.
"Well, to 'chill out' as you put it – I sail, I fly, I indulge in various physical pursuits." She shifts in her chair. "I'm a very wealthy woman, Miss Swan, and I have expensive and absorbing hobbies."
I glance quickly at Abigail's questions, wanting to get off this subject.
"You invest in manufacturing. Why, specifically?" I ask. Why does she make me so uncomfortable?
"I like to build things. I like to know how things work: what makes things tick, how to construct and deconstruct. And I have a love of ships. What can I say?"
"That sounds like your heart talking rather than logic and facts."
Her mouth quirks up, and she stares appraisingly at me.
"Possibly. Though there are people who'd say I don't have a heart."
"Why would they say that?"
"Because they know me well." Her lip curls in a wry smile.
"Would your friends say you're easy to get to know?" And I regret the question as soon as I say it. It's not on Abigail's list.
"I'm a very private person, Miss Swan. I go a long way to protect my privacy. I don't often give interviews," she trails off.
"Why did you agree to do this one?"
"Because I'm a benefactor of the University, and for all intents and purposes, I couldn't get Miss Nolan off my back. She badgered and badgered my PR people, and I admire that kind of tenacity."
I know how tenacious Abigail can be. That's why I'm sitting here squirming uncomfort ably under her penetrating gaze, when I should be studying for my exams.
"You also invest in farming technologies. Why are you interested in this area?"
"We can't eat money, Miss Swan, and there are too many people on this planet who don't have enough to eat."
"That sounds very philanthropic. Is it something you feel passionately about? Feeding the world's poor?"
She shrugs, very non-committal
"It's shrewd business," she murmurs, though I think she's being disingenuous. It doesn't make sense – feeding the world's poor? I can't see the financial benefits of this, only the virtue of the ideal. I glance at the next question, confused by her attitude.
"Do you have a philosophy? If so, what is it?"
"I don't have a philosophy as such. Maybe a guiding principle – Carnegie's: 'A man who acquires the ability to take full possession of his own mind may take possession of anything else to which he is justly entitled.' I'm very singular, driven. I like control – of myself and those around me."
"So you want to possess things?" You are a control freak.
"I want to deserve to possess them, but yes, bottom line, I do."
"You sound like the ultimate consumer."
"I am." she smiles, but the smile doesn't touch her eyes. Again this is at odds with someone who wants to feed the world, so I can't help thinking that we're talking about something else, but I'm absolutely mystified as to what it is. I swallow hard. The tempera ture in the room is rising or maybe it's just me. I just want this interview to be over. Surely Abigail has enough material now? I glance at the next question.
"You were adopted. How far do you think that's shaped the way you are?" Oh, this is personal. I stare at her, hoping she's not offended. Her brow furrows.
"I have no way of knowing."
My interest is piqued.
"How old were you when you were adopted?"
"That's a matter of public record, Miss Swan." Her tone is stern. I flush, again. Crap. Yes of course – if I'd known I was doing this interview, I would have done some research. I move on quickly.
"You've had to sacrifice a family life for your work."
"That's not a question." She's terse.
"Sorry." I squirm, and she's made me feel like an errant child. I try again. "Have you had to sacrifice a family life for your work?"
"I have a family. I have a brother and a sister and two loving parents. I'm not inter ested in extending my family beyond that."
"Are you gay, Miss Mills?"
She inhales sharply, and I cringe, mortified. Crap. Why didn't I employ some kind of filter before I read this straight out? How can I tell her I'm just reading the questions? Damn Abigail and her curiosity!
"I'm a private person I have already stated Emma and I refuse for my private life to becomethe subject of gossip" She raises her eyebrows, a cool gleam in her eyes. She does not look pleased.
"I apologize. It's um… written here." It's the first time she's said my name. My heart beat has accelerated, and my cheeks are heating up again. Nervously, I tuck my loosened hair behind my ear.
She cocks her head to one side.
"These aren't your own questions?"
The blood drains from my head. Oh no.
"Err… no. Abigail – Miss Nolan – she compiled the questions."
"Are you colleagues on the student paper?" Oh crap.I have nothing to do with the student paper. It's her extra-curricular activity, not mine. My face is aflame.
"No. She's my roommate."
She rubs her chin in quiet deliberation, her brown eyes appraising me.
"Did you volunteer to do this interview?" she asks, her voice deadly quiet.
Hang on, who's supposed to be interviewing whom? Her eyes burn into me, and I'm compelled to answer with the truth.
"I was drafted. She's not well." My voice is weak and apologetic.
"That explains a great deal."
There's a knock at the door, and Blonde Number Two enters.
"Miss Mills, forgive me for interrupting, but your next meeting is in two minutes."
"We're not finished here, Faye. Please cancel my next meeting."
Faye hesitates, gaping at her. She's appears lost. She turns her head slowly to face her and raises her eyebrows. She flushes bright pink. Oh good. It's not just me.
"Very well, Miss Mills," she mutters, then exits. She frowns, and turns her attention back to me.
"Where were we, Miss Swan?"
Oh, we're back to 'Miss Swan' now.
"Please don't let me keep you from anything."
"I want to know about you. I think that's only fair." Her brown eyes are alight with cu riosity. Double crap. Where's she going with this? She places her elbows on the arms of the chair and steeples her fingers in front of her mouth. Her mouth is very… distracting. I swallow.
"There's not much to know," I say, flushing again.
"What are your plans after you graduate?"
I shrug, thrown by her interest. Come to Boston with Abigail, find a place, find a job.I haven't really thought beyond my finals.
"I haven't made any plans, Miss. Mills. I just need to get through my final exams." Which I should be studying for now rather than sitting in your palatial, swanky, sterile of fice, feeling uncomfortable under your penetrating gaze.
"We run an excellent internship program here," she says quietly. I raise my eyebrows in surprise. Is she offering me a job?
"Oh. I'll bear that in mind," I murmur, completely confounded. "Though I'm not sure I'd fit in here." Oh no. I'm musing out loud again.
"Why do you say that?" She cocks her head to one side, intrigued, a hint of a smile playing on her lips.
"It's obvious, isn't it?" I'm uncoordinated, scruffy, but on the plus side I'm blonde.
"Not to me," she murmurs. Her gaze is intense, all humor gone, and strange muscles deep in my belly clench suddenly. I tear my eyes away from her scrutiny and stare blindly down at my knotted fingers. What's going on?I have to go – now. I lean forward to re trieve the recorder.
"Would you like me to show you around?" she asks.
"I'm sure you're far too busy, Miss Mills, and I do have a long drive."
"You're driving back to UA in Albany?" She sounds surprised, anxious even. She glances out of the window. It's begun to rain just my rotten luck. "Well, you'd better drive carefully." Her tone is stern, authoritative. Why should she care? "Did you get everything you need?" she adds.
"Yes Ma'am" I reply, packing the recorder into my satchel. Her eyes narrow, speculatively.
"Thank you for the interview, Miss Mills."
"The pleasure's been all mine," she says, polite as ever.
As I rise, he stands and holds out his hand.
"Until we meet again, Miss Swan." And it sounds like a challenge, or a threat, I'm not sure which. I frown. When will we ever meet again? I shake her hand once more, astounded that that odd current between us is still there. It must be my nerves.
"Miss Mills" I nod at her. Moving with lithe athletic grace to the door, she opens it wide
"Just ensuring you make it through the door, Miss Swan." She gives me a small smile. Obviously, she's referring to my earlier less-than-elegant entry into her office. I flush.
"That's very considerate, Miss Mills" I snap, and her smile widens. I'm glad you find me entertaining, I glower inwardly, walking into the foyer. I'm surprised when she follows me out. Faye and Rose both look up, equally surprised.
"Did you have a coat?" Mills asks.
"Yes." Rose leaps up and retrieves my jacket, which Mills takes from her before she can hand it to me. She holds it up and, feeling ridiculously self-conscious, I shrug it on. Mills places her hands for a moment on my shoulders. I gasp at the contact. If she notices my reaction, she gives nothing away. Her long index finger presses the button summoning the elevator, and we stand waiting – awkwardly on my part, coolly self-possessed on hers. The doors open, and I hurry in desperate to escape. I really need to get out of here.When I turn to look at her, she's leaning against the doorway beside the elevator with one hand on the wall. She really is very, very good-looking. It's distracting. Her burning brown eyes gaze at me.
"Emma" she says as a farewell.
"Regina" I reply. And mercifully, the doors close.