He never stood a chance.
It wasn’t his fault, though. Well, okay, it was his fault. It just wasn’t completely his fault. She was already in a foul mood before he even entered her office, so it didn’t matter what he’d said; she was still just as likely to skewer him.
Not that Karri knew that ahead of time. All she knew was that the text message on her phone had ensured her day was going to be just full of fun and joy and happiness. She glanced at it once more, rolling her eyes and trying not to feel hurt. It was easier than it should have been, but only because of practice, not because she was so strong mentally and emotionally that she could just shrug it off.
After all, a father has a special place in a girl’s heart. Even if he sent her text messages like that on the regular. To her, that was “just how Dad was.” She knew it was wrong. But it didn’t really matter. Not that it stopped her from locking the screen of her cell and tossing it down on the desk harder than she would normally treat it. Not hard enough to mark the wood though. That would just bring on another round of messages…or more likely in that case, shouting at her about how much his precious imported hardwood desk had cost him.
Seriously Dad, we live in Cloud Lake. Population: fifteen thousand. Maximum. Why the hell are you spending so much money on a fancy desk?
She idly spun the long, slender phone around in circles a few times with her index finger, only stopping when she went so fast it fell over the edge and she had to sit and quickly snatch it before it hit the ground.
“Still got it,” she crowed to herself, admiring her own reflexes. Back in the day she’d been a soccer goalkeeper with a modicum of talent. She’d pushed it aside to go into the family business, but she prided herself on still having excellent reflexes.
Putting the phone down on the desk and making a mental note to herself to stop doing that, she leaned forward and punched a button on the decidedly not fancy phone.
“Send him in please, Georgina,” she said.
She contemplated mispronouncing her father’s secretary’s name, using the more annoying “eye-na” at the end instead of “jean-a,” but demurred at the last possible second, producing only the slightest possible hesitation.
“Of course. I’ll send him right in to the president’s office,” the other woman said with the barest hint of a disdainful sniff. That and her emphasis on whose office it was told Karri she’d heard the hesitation.
Oh well. It’s my office for today.
She’d been on her way in to work that morning when her father had sent her the text message, indicating that he wasn’t going to be making it in, having come down sick with something. Considering her father was a workaholic, she knew it had to be particularly bad if it kept him from coming in to the office. She’d almost begun to feel sorry for him. Until he’d sent his second message.
As she waited for the door to open, she picked up her phone and read it once more, hearing it said in her father’s voice. She couldn’t mimic his angry bellow, and no longer bothered to try. But in her mind, she heard him roaring at her perfectly.
Karri. I’m ill today. I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice to say, it’s going to keep me down for the day.
That was where the first message stopped. As she’d read it, she’d started to feel sorry for him. But before she’d finished, the second one had popped up.
So get my work done. There are some meetings; GG (Georgina) has the details. You’ll meet with Mr. Sawne first thing. Don’t fuck that deal up, K. We need it. Just be nice to him, and make sure you get it within the figure range needed. I don’t want you doing this, but we have no choice. Try to succeed.
“Asshole,” she muttered, throwing the phone down.
Her head jerked up and she slipped her feet off the table swiftly. Apparently while she’d been lost in her father’s unyielding disappointment in his oldest child, Mr. Sawne had entered the room.
“Nothing,” she said, waving him away, gesturing to a seat.
He nodded graciously, shaking her hand before settling down in front of the huge desk. Karri tried not to snort at the difference in chairs. The one she occupied, her father’s normal seat, was huge, with a tall back to it and sitting several noticeable inches higher than the smaller one on the far side now occupied by Mr. Sawne.
Cheap intimidation tactics. She wondered if it actually worked. It was unlikely it would with her sitting there though. While her father was a big bear of a man, she was a tiny slip of a thing. Perhaps an inch or two over five feet, and with next to no curves on her anywhere, she looked more like a child than the thirty-year-old she was.
It had its disadvantages, such as being asked for ID anytime she went out to drink. But it also had its advantages, one of which she intended to exploit with ruthless enthusiasm that morning. While she and Georgina did not get along all that well, both of them found that they enjoyed messing with the many sexist old men they worked with, in ways that made them acutely aware of their sexism.
Which is exactly why Mr. Sawne had never met Karri before, and had no idea that her father was home sick for the day.
Like she said. It wasn’t entirely his fault. But if he hadn’t been a dick, she probably would have told him straight up what was going on, instead of letting him smile at her like she was a child.
“Testing the ol’ office on for size?” he asked conspiratorially, leaning forward and giving her a wink.
Dear God, do I really look like I’m fifteen still?
Never mind, she thought. Karri didn’t want to know the answer to that. Her outfit should at least be a giveaway. She was wearing a full button-up blouse and suit vest. Not that Sawne could see it, but she also had a knee-length pencil skirt on as well. The clothes were normal workplace attire. Not that of some child dressing up and pretending to sit in their father’s chair.
“Yeah,” she said, trying to keep her voice light and airy. “One day I hope it’ll all be mine.” She smiled at him.
He nodded, giving her a look that was supposed to show that he wouldn’t reveal her “secret.”
“So, you’re here to sell some stuff?” she asked.
“Yep,” he replied, lifting a briefcase and tapping it almost secretively. “Us grownups are going to talk about all kinds of business numbers and stuff like that.”
Oh brother. You did not just say that, did you? Oh dear. I need to stop this. I feel bad for you.
“Really? Sounds boring,” she said, trying her best to affect a bored teenager attitude.
Sawne nodded. “It is.” Then he craned his head around.
How is he buying this terrible charade?
“Is your father around?”
She shook her head, still trying to seem bored. “No, he’s home sick today.”
Karri kept speaking before Sawne could say any more. “The vice president is here, though. I think they’re going to handle the deal,” she said helpfully.
Sawne smiled, not bothering to hide his annoyance. “I see. Where is he then?”
At that moment she let the act drop. Her face settled into a cool neutral mask and she sat up straight—still not impressive given her diminutive stature—and looked at Sawne with eyes that were suddenly as hard as ice, glittering with anger.
“She is right here,” she said, her voice harsh and unforgiving.
Sawne needed this deal with them, not the other way around. True, it would profit both sides, but he was sitting in the office to pitch his company’s products to her. So there was no hesitation on her side about being as ruthless as possible.
“Ah. Oh. Um, Mrs. ummm,” he stammered, still clearly not knowing who she was.
Did you not do any research on the company you came to sell to?
“Miss Blaine,” she supplied, once again being forced to correct him on his sexist assumptions.
I am going to get this deal so cheap.
“Yes. Miss Blaine. My apologies,” he said. “I didn’t realize…”
She waved him aside as he began to rise.
“Sit down, Mr. Sawne,” she said, her voice dropping a few degrees. Karri was rapidly losing patience with him. “Just because you’re a sexist pig doesn’t necessarily mean that our companies won’t do business together.” She leaned forward like a predator, her teeth gleaming as she smiled at him. “Providing the price is right.”
The blood drained from his face as he realized Karri was going to use his behavior and rudeness as leverage to get a much better price out of him than he’d ever intended to give them. Still, she had to give him a bit of credit. A sale was still a sale, and he sat up a little straighter as he realized he could still salvage things.
Now that the table was set, Karri took a mental breather and set aside her personal feelings on the matter. She had to, after all. It wasn’t her company yet; it was still her father’s, and he wanted this deal done. So that meant she had to get it done. Plus, it would be a good test for the day when she did eventually take the company over. Even if she was the president, that wouldn’t stop her from dealing with rude old men on a regular basis.
There would be perks, though. Like the office she was currently sitting in would be hers. Even now as she leaned forward, looking slightly down on Sawne despite the probably eight or ten inches in height difference between them, Karri decided she would probably keep the chair. The desk too. It was made of nice hardwood, and the dark brown patina was just beautiful.
Her father had spared no expense, including the bookshelves full of leather-bound classics, among other things. It was expensive and designed to impress clients, but she had to admit, her father was an asshole, but he had decent taste in executive officer décor. Most of it she would keep when the day finally arrived that she took over for him.
Realizing that Mr. Sawne had begun to speak again, Karri focused her attention on him and getting the deal done for as cheap as possible.
The end of the day came upon her with a suddenness that surprised her. Karri hadn’t realized she’d been working that hard, but time flew by. She was just slinging her bag over her shoulder when the double-buzz of her phone indicated another text message. Then it went off again.
It was her father, checking in to ensure she hadn’t somehow managed to burn the office to the ground while also squandering every penny they had….as if she was that incompetent.
“Seriously, Father? I’ve been working here starting part-time when I was fourteen. I’ve been here full-time for eight years, ever since I got back from college. How do you still believe I’m that much of a failure?” she snarled at the phone.
She stopped as the sender’s name appeared on the screen.
Her mood instantly changed. The phone buzzed again in her hand.
“What the hell?”
Karri flicked the messages open with her thumb.
“Oh,” she said as her eyes were bombarded with a huge picture of a ring full of stunning diamonds.
So Kenzie was engaged it would seem, as the follow-up texts seemed to make clear. She was happy for her friend. Kenzie and Dell had been together for some time now. He seemed like a decent guy, and Karri hoped one of her few friends had found a love that would last.
Kenzie: Girl. Drinks at The Place to celebrate. Let’s go! I know you’re done with work.
Karri smiled. Kenzie knew her too well. There was no way the timing of the message had been random. She’d planned it, to catch Karri before she left the office, so that she wouldn’t have the excuse of already having gone home. Smiling, her fingers flew across the screen as she sent her reply.
Karri: Done and done. See you in ten.
After the day she’d just had, Karri felt she could use a glass or five of wine.
Her phone buzzed.
Kenzie: Oh, and bring your dancing feet!
The smile on her face grew even wider. The day may have started out terrible, but she had a feeling it was going to end well.