The Boss Vol. 2

By: Cari Quinn & Taryn Elliott

She turned the bag, and the small grease stain in the corner mocked me with a glimpse of the blueberry pastry inside. My stomach roared again, and I was sure she could hear it. That had to be why she relented enough to drop the tea bag and the scone, to leave them there without another word.

I fell into my chair as the door closed behind her and swallowed hard. The lump in my throat made no sense. None of this did.

But I reached for the bag and drew on the frosted scone, setting it on the tiny square of napkin within. I withdrew the Carson Covenant mug from my drawer, and set it on the warmer some employee had bought me for Christmas one year. I picked up the tea bag and set it inside before going in search of hot water.

It should be plentiful, since I was submerged in it.

The tea didn’t taste as bad as I’d expected. I’d been drinking coffee since long before I’d actually enjoyed the taste, and this required a bit of sugar to be palatable—from the hidden stash of packets in a secret compartment in my desk—but it wasn’t awful. I was sure that Grace had bought it with me in mind didn’t improve the taste. That wasn’t possible.

The mail had been sorted and tagged in the organized system she had already devised. She had colored little flag things she slapped on everything, but it was easy to see at a glance what needed to be dealt with when.

Almost against my will, she was making my life easier. Even if she had forced me to drink tea.

I’d just finished a glad-handing phone call with a client that involved promises of playing golf—I hated golf—when Violet and Jack stepped off the elevator, bags of food in hand. It was already time for my meeting with my security head, but she must’ve figured it was appropriate to break bread with Jack first.

The two of them barged into my office, breaking the comfortable stillness and bringing with them the scent of peanut chicken and fried rice. Peanut chicken, not nutty.

“Hey there, captain of industry, thought we could all eat together but Violet says you two have some business. Private business,” Jack added, waggling his eyebrows in the way only he could.

I ignored him and focused on Violet. “Lunch can wait. I trust you’d like to speak first?”

“I would,” she said slowly as Grace strode into the room, tablet in hand. She hadn’t had one yesterday. Where she’d gotten it, I didn’t know. Probably from her good buddy Jack.

“I’m here to take notes,” Grace said as everyone looked her way. “I’m Blake’s assistant. That’s what I should be doing, right?”

“Not this time,” I began.

“No. You’ve done quite enough,” Violet replied, her tone as icy as her expression. The change from moments ago when she’d stepped off the elevator with Jack was startling.

I didn’t like it one bit, especially since I had an idea what was behind Violet’s temperature change.

“We’ll be fine on our own,” I said gently to Grace, who glanced between me and Violet as if she couldn’t figure out where to look next. Then she nodded and left the office, shutting the door quietly behind her.

“You too,” Vi said, nudging Jack toward the door. “Go eat your lunch. We’ll be along in a few.”

“Yeah, yeah, you two and your private time.” He backed out the door. “I’ll just have some private time with Ms. Grace. How’s that suit you, Gracie?” he asked, strolling toward her desk and offering her one of the bags of food.

I set my teeth and schooled my expression as Violet closed the door and turned to face me. The sooner we dealt with this situation, the faster we could get back to work.

Work was the only thing I understood.

“I’m not going to beat around the bush.” She gripped the back of one of the chairs in front of my desk. “Romtex called me this morning to inform me of some…irregularities in the security feed from this morning. That feed is monitored at Romtex as well as displayed via cam in the security room inside this building. A cam that will be monitored twenty-four/seven, starting tomorrow once the new hires have finished training on the equipment. Which I thought you damn well knew.”

I said nothing. Because I had damn well known, once. And I’d lapsed. I’d forgotten this morning with Grace, and then I’d done a shoddy job of covering my tracks.

Sounded like I’d been lucky to even cover that well, however. Twenty-four security cam monitoring had been something I’d pushed for. We’d had it before this new system had been installed, but this was supposed to be an upgrade. Before, only vital sectors of the company had been under surveillance. Now, thanks to Romtex’s cutting edge equipment, the entire company was under watch at all times.

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