Slipperless #2

By: Sloan Storm

With respect to Amanda and Melissa’s intentions to sabotage me, I found myself with two options. The first of these, of course, was I could do something about it myself or, take the less desirable option of running to Gabe and insist he intervene for the good of the project. In reality, I didn’t have a choice. I would have to deal with them sooner or later. Even so, I really had no interest getting down and dirty. I much preferred to keep my hands clean and my work record untainted.

What I did care about was the respect and trust of the lab team members remaining under my supervision. For now, a confrontation with them would only create a toxic working environment for the whole group and do nothing to advance the work of the Link Protocol. Even without it, it wasn’t hard to detect that Amanda and Melissa’s jealousy, combined with increased demands I’d placed on everyone since taking over, had infected the rest of the team in a negative way, at least to some degree.

Even so, I took solace in the fact Gabe wasn’t the type of man who focused on anything but results. If we got them, that would be good enough for him.

The downside of course, was I’d more or less been isolated from the team in the days since I assumed my new position. But it didn’t bother me in the least. I was quite accustomed to living my life without friends and I certainly hadn’t come to Hawkins Biotech to make them.

Unlike most other aspects of my life, I was in my element in the lab. Being successful there really comes down to being disciplined about the work. I was the hardest-working person I knew. No one in the lab did more, in less time, than I did. And so, I had every intention of making sure the team stayed ahead of deadlines by adhering to my philosophy whether they liked it or not. After all, it was my career on the line and no one else’s.

In any case, Gabe arrived at the lab that afternoon, and after a bit of chit-chat with some of the team members, he made his way over to my workstation.

I studied him with caution as he approached. I’d steeled myself to resist any attempts he might make to charm me. And now the time was at hand to see how well I would do. The soles of his shoes, covered in lab booties, made a soft swishing sound as he approached.

“Fiona,” he said with an emotionless tone as he drew close.

I glanced up to his face and noticed it carried the beginnings of a frown.

“Hello,” I replied, looking away.

Holding my pen, I continued to scribble updates in my log book as he hovered close by.

“Put the pen down.”

“Okay,” I muttered. “One second, let me finish this and I’ll…”

As I spoke, he remained motionless for a moment or two before reaching across my workstation and snatching the pen from my hand. I snapped my head up and glared at him. With a casual flick, he tossed the pen on the table.

I swallowed and thinned my lips. I happened to look away from him for an instant and noticed several pairs of eyes trained on us. I blinked in frustration and turned my gaze back in Gabe’s direction, only to see his expression had changed once more. The bright blue of his eyes darkened as his face clouded with concern.

“When I tell you do something, you do it,” he growled. Placing both palms flat on my workstation, he leaned in towards me, nodding his head for emphasis. “Understand?”

Heat flushed to my chest. I drew my hands together in front of me as I looked up into his unflinching stare, entangling my fingers inside my sleeves as I did. Just then, I caught a hint of Gabe’s cologne. The woodsy citrus scent conveyed strength and commanded attention, just like the man who scowled down at me.

“I’m sorry,” I replied with a hard swallow. “I didn’t mean to be rude.”

Gabe nodded and slowly returned to a standing position a few seconds later. The frustration drained from his face.

“Forget about it,” he said, with a dismissive tone. “We need to talk. Now.”

I didn’t like the sound of that one bit. It was strange. I couldn’t understand why he would be upset with me. We were well ahead of schedule. Everything had gone as well, if not much better, than could be expected. All of a sudden my desire to keep my distance from him slipped from my list of things I had to do. It was in that moment I realized he might be the only ally I had left.

“Um, okay,” I began. “Is everything all right?”

“Well, that depends on you, Fiona.”

“What do you mean?”

Over the next several minutes he explained that while he was pleased with progress we’d made, he was equally unhappy with the way I’d managed to get the team to produce. It was confusing to say the least. When he finished, I felt the need to question him about it.

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