The Other C-Word(7)

By: MK Schiller

“It’s definitely not an emergency,” I replied emphatically, then added, “My mom calls me like ten times a day.” Just great! Why did I say that? Now he was going to think I talked to my mom all day instead of working. Realistically, she hardly ever called me.

He left my statement alone. I hoped he’d completely forget it.

“So, you’re a consultant?” I asked lamely, trying to steer the topic away from my personal calls.

“Yes, I suppose you could call me that.”

“So, you just swoop in like a superhero, fix broken companies and pull out?”

He grinned mischievously. “Pulling out is difficult for me, but essentially that’s what I do.”

Holy crap…was that…sexual? I shifted, uncomfortably aware of just how close I was to him. For once, I actually wished I had a bigger car. I was so focused on my frustration that I almost forgot how hot he was…almost. His eyes were this crazy hue of green that I’d never seen before. They were intense, endearing and mischievous all at the same time.

“What can you tell me about your company, Marley?”

I allowed myself to steal a glance at him then turned away quickly. He stared right at me, piercing me with those deep emerald-coloured eyes. It was a little unnerving. As was his scent, spicy and fragrant, but not overpowering. He smelt delicious. Hell, he looked delicious if that was possible.

“Um, well. It’s a great company, but our profits are down, and it’s a tough time in the economy to manufacture clothing. We need to broaden our vendor base and create a demand for our products.”

He looked disappointed by my answer. “No, Marley, that information is obvious. I gleaned that from the reports I’ve read. I want you to tell me, as an employee, what you think about the company.”

“I think it’s a great company. Mr Henley built it from the ground up, and we have a stand-up product,” I replied, wondering what else he wanted.

“Marley, you’re really not answering my question. Surely you have some deeper insights than that. If all the employees are as uninspiring as you, I’d say I have my work cut out for me.”

Okay, that’s it. His name was Richard right? Well, I hereby nicknamed him ‘Dick’. I inhaled deeply. “Look, Rick”—Dick—“I don’t know what you want me to tell you, but I’ll say this much. I love the company. Despite our economic woes, I believe there is a strong market for our product. We are a small company, family owned and completely independent. We’re not like those huge companies with flashy catalogues with smiling models that pretend to be a family. Most of our line is American made too, not like those other places that traipse the American Flag in their stores and even have the word, ‘American’ in their name but all their tags say, ‘made in China’. We’re about quality not quantity. We’re about value for the money. Our stuff costs more, but it lasts years, not months. I understand you’re here to turn around our bottom line, but before you concentrate on the bottom, you should understand what make us unique in the first place. If you think the answer is to turn us into a Stepford replica of our competitors, then you’re missing a primal opportunity to capitalise on what we already have.”

“What’s that, Marley?”

“Character, resilience and individuality,” I replied, staring at the open road, waiting for him to scream, ‘you’re fired’. That was a silly thought. Surely he would wait until I dropped him off to fire me, wouldn’t he?

I stole a peripheral glance at him. His approving grin surprised me. “That’s what I needed to hear. It makes me feel much better about this assignment. I can always tell when the challenge is worth it, or rather, when the company is worth it.”

“Why is that?”

“You describe it like a person with character traits. That’s how you know the employees really care, and I can tell you love it. It’s worth fighting for.”

I nodded to let him know I understood, but I wasn’t exactly sure what had happened. Had my haughty disobedience worked in my favour for once? His pleased expression made me uncomfortable. “Another thing, if you’re going to be working there, you can dress more casually. Usually Dockers and a polo shirt will do. Every Friday is jean day. It’s a relaxed atmosphere.” I said this more for my benefit than his. His suit was driving me a little crazy, and I couldn’t imagine watching him strut in a suit every day. Then again, what was I thinking—I probably wouldn’t be anywhere in his general vicinity and pretty soon I would no longer be in the building, either.

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