“I have some great news, Jack.”
Jack Walker’s every muscle tensed. Uh oh. The
last time Gavin Laine, his boss and CEO of Java Heaven, had uttered those words
a months ago, they’d been followed by the decidedly ungreat news that Gavin had
hired a consultant to make sure Jack and his accounting department employees all
bonded with each other. Jack had been Chief Financial Officer of the popular
southeast coffee house franchise for only a month at that point, and he’d
thought the transition was going smoothly. Certainly as smoothly as one could
expect for a department that had imploded just weeks before Jack was hired when
the former CFO and controller had been arrested for fraud and embezzlement.
Good thing Jack loved nothing more than a
challenge because the department was in a shambles, morale was low, and
personalities were clashing. But after a rocky first few weeks, he’d hired a
new controller and things were looking much improved.
Patience, however, wasn’t Gavin’s long suit. He
wanted everything done yesterday and had hired Madeline Price, consultant, to
move things along and insure that the department bonded and resolved their
issues. That was the day Jack’s Java Heaven job turned hellish.
Like so many consultants Jack had been forced to
deal with over the years, all Madeline Price did while racking up billable hours
was talk, talk, talk, blah, blah, blah, and take endless notes. No doubt an
x-ray would reveal a pie chart where her heart should be. It wasn’t his style
to sit around and blah, blah, blah. He much preferred to roll up his sleeves
and take action.
Jack knew Madeline--or Mad Dog as he
mentally referred to her--was also there to make certain good internal controls
were being put into place, thus insuring that the sort of illegal activities
that caused the last accounting debacle didn’t happen again--something which
Jack frankly resented. He didn’t like having someone from outside the company
constantly looking over his shoulder, second guessing and questioning all his
decisions. Sure there were going to be some bumps along the way while everyone
settled into their positions and became acclimated to the new CFO and
controller, but nothing he couldn’t handle.
As far as he was concerned,
consultants could be summed up with the old joke about if you ask a consultant
what time it is, he’ll steal your watch then charge you fifty thousand bucks to
tell you it’s ten past eight. He supposed consultants could be useful in some
instances, but in this case, it was nothing but interference he didn’t want and
a financial expenditure the company didn’t need.
He’d pointed that out to Gavin, but his boss was
adamant. So adamant, Jack suspected part of the reason Gavin had hired Mad Dog
was that he planned to downsize the accounting department, something Jack was
absolutely opposed to as he’d then be understaffed. And understaffed meant
overworked employees which meant for cranky, disheartened employees, and after
what they’d all just suffered, they were cranky and disheartened enough. He
didn’t doubt that Mad Dog was making a list and checking it twice, all to
determine who the weakest links in the department might be. Who wasn’t going to
be a team player.
Which just pissed off Jack. They all just
needed time to adjust and regroup. What they didn’t need was a consultant, aka
Spy Who Could Cost Any One Of them Their Job, peeking at them over the rim of
Unfortunately Gavin had steamrolled over all his
objections, so Jack had sucked it up. But damn, it was a hard sell. Especially
with a dragon lady like Madeline Price to deal with. Jack could only guess that
Gavin had found the woman because he’d Googled Uptight, Frigid, Unsmiling,
Humorless, Pain in the Ass Consultants for Hire and her name had popped up as
the number one choice.
Bad enough that he had to put up with her
interference, but Madeline Price was just the sort of person he didn’t like.
The sort of person who saw everything in shades of black or white. Everything
was either totally right or totally wrong. Her way or the highway. Organized
to within an inch of her life. No chances, no surprises. He’d actually
possessed a few of those qualities himself not much more than a year ago, but
he’d learned that life changing events changed...your life. And your outlook.
“So what’s this great news, Gavin?” he asked,
because based on the silence that had followed Gavin’s announcement, Jack knew
the question was expected from him.
Gavin smiled at him across the wide expanse of
glass desk separating them. A smile that was more of a showing of teeth that
did nothing to allay Jack’s dread. “You’re signed up for a weekend away at Casa
di Lago. This weekend.”
Jack forced his expression to remain blank but
his suspicions doubled at the mention of the well known resort situated on the
shores of Lake Lanier, about an hour and a half north of Atlanta. He knew damn
well Gavin wasn’t sending him to the resort for a tasting at their winery, or a
massage at the spa, a round of golf, or a meal at one of the resort’s gourmet
restaurants. Wait for it...wait for it...
Gavin didn’t make him wait long.
“Of course the weekend isn’t just for you.”
Uh huh. He’d figured as much. Here
“The entire accounting department is
going. For a fun-filled weekend of team building. By the time you all return
to work on Monday you’ll be rested, relaxed, and fully bonded with each other.”
Jack’s brows rose in surprise.
Pleasant surprise. God knows he’d expected much worse. Even though he’d have
to do some rearranging of his personal schedule to get away for the weekend,
this wasn’t nearly as bad as he’d anticipated.
“Sounds good,” he said, relaxing for
the first time since Gavin had made his great news announcement. “Although I’m
wondering about the expense.”
“It’ll pay off in the long run. Remember, Jack,
people who have bonded work better together. And people who work better
together are more efficient.”
That little pronouncement sent
Jack’s radar whirring and knotted his stomach. He knew those words. All too
well. God knows he’d heard them enough ever since Mad Dog was hired. They were
her personal mantra.
“Madeline arranged the whole team building
weekend,” Gavin said.
Figures. More consultant-related money going
down the tubes. But based on Gavin’s determined expression and tone, his mind
was set. Well, at least Mad Dog wouldn’t be coming along. Thank God.
“She’ll be joining the group for the weekend,”
Jack barely suppressed a groan. And there it
was. For about three seconds he’d been lulled into a false sense of security,
stupidly thinking that the great news might actually not be bad. Reality had
just smacked him upside the head with the force of hammer to his skull.
“Why is she tagging along?”
Gavin’s expression turned inscrutable, which
gave Jack’s radar another jolt. He considered himself pretty adept at reading
people and in the past two months he’d picked up on a lot of nuances of Gavin’s
expressions. This carefully blank look practically shouted that there was more
going on than he was willing to say, which only furthered Jack’s suspicions of a
Gavin shrugged. “I want an outsider’s unbiased
opinion on how the group interacts. An objective rundown of the personalities.
That sort of thing.”
Seeing as how Mad Dog didn’t even have a
personality, Jack seriously doubted her ability to objectively judge anyone
“Yeah, she’s a frosty one,” Gavin said with a
chuckle, as if reading his mind.
Definitely frosty. No doubt if she were cut
little ice cubes would fall from her veins instead of blood.
“But that’s what makes her good at her job,”
Gavin continued. “She doesn’t get personally involved. It’s all strictly
business.” He rose and walked to the door, indicating their meeting was over.
“Carla will have the memo and itinerary ready shortly,” he said nodding toward
his secretary’s desk. “Plan to meet with me Monday to give me your impression
of the weekend.”
“Great. Can’t wait.”
Jack headed back toward his office, smiling on
the outside at his staff whose desks he passed, grumbling on the inside. Damn
it, he had nothing against team building, in fact he’d participated in it before
and had been impressed with the results. But while it was one thing to have to
reschedule his plans, having to do so in order to spend the weekend with her,
after suffering her company all week long...he could sum that up in one word.
Damn blech since he’d had big plans this
weekend. Seriously big plans. He just hoped Claire would understand. He
heaved a regretful sigh. And Sophie, too.