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Kara couldn’t believe her ears. Her boss, Max Richards, just told the board the company had a great new business opportunity in South America. He had plans on flying down in a day or two. In the nine months Kara had worked at the company, where Max went, she went, which was usually fine.
But Kara had a birthday cruise planned. She was leaving in two days. Did the man blatantly forget she asked for a week off? Her hands balled into fists under the table.
Glancing away from Max at the head of the conference room table, her eyes met Meghan’s. Her best friend gave a slight shrug and half a frown. She should be upset, also, since Kara was taking her along for a girls’ only cruise.
With the overhead projection shooting graphs and charts on the wall behind him, Max continued like nothing had happened, which in his mind, nothing had. “The South American company has several divisions and their technology branch is excellent. As good as anything we’d find in the states.”
Frank Thomas waved a hand in the air. “Max, how do their books look? How much debt do they have?”
Frank would be the one to ask that. Kara found the man to be stifling and dry. At times, she wanted to grab his shoulders and shake the shit out him saying, “For god’s sake, man, lighten up! You’ll have a coronary.”
His father, Paul, was the same way. Tight ass with no sense of humor. He always wore a frown, making him look constipated. A laugh jerked out of Kara and she covered it with a cough and drink of coffee from her mug on the mahogany wood table.
Max glanced at her, quickly turning his attention back to Frank to answer his question. As CEO of the corporation, Max knew everything there was to know about the new company. Even stuff not available to the public. How he accomplished that, she didn’t want to know. Then again, he could’ve just asked their CEO at some fancy soiree. Like his father before him, Max rubbed elite elbows, dignitary elbows included.
Fortunately, there hadn’t been any events in the short time she’d been there, so she hadn’t had to turn down Max’s order to go with him. She’d have to buy a fancy dress and heels and all that crap. That wasn’t who she was. She was a T-shirt and tennies gal who would rather go camping than to a grand ball.
She could blame her dad for that. He was a survivalist who could thrive on a deserted island for months. She’d always teased him about doing one of those reality TV shows were people lived in the woods. He denied it, but she knew he would give his right arm to be on one. Just to prove to himself he could do it.
At that second, the room became quiet and everyone stared at her. She felt her eyes widen. Oh shit. What did she miss?
“Ms. Masters,” Max said, “if you would rather tell the board about your new project later, that would fine.”
Her project! “Yes,” she blurted. “I mean, no. I’m ready right now.” God, she looked like an idiot. And in front of the board members, of all places. She stood, yanking down her pantsuit coat. Dressing impeccably was one thing she prided herself on. Every business outfit she owned was a power suit. She refused to let others, men especially, look down on her as being unprofessional or second class.
She was damn smart, and she looked it. No deep cut tops showing cleavage, no short skirts revealing thigh. Stretchy elastic pants and coat were her specialty. Especially those made with Lycra material. Comfort was important due to how many hours she worked this job. And because she was a curvy lady.
Kara cleared her throat. “Since it’s my responsibility to assist in negotiations for acquisitions and mergers, I am auditing all the current contracts we have in effect with suppliers and vendors.”
Paul, Frank’s father, sat back in his chair, his frown evident. “What could you possibly hope to gain from that?” Was it just her or did she sense a bit of hostility coming from the older man? She shifted her eyes to Max and saw his lips pressed into a white, thin line. Good. Not just her.
“Mr. Tomas,” Kara started, “a few of the contracts date back ten plus years. The economy has changed so much in that time, we need to make sure we are still doing what is best for the company when it comes to pricing and costs. Gas was $4.00 at one time. Now, we’re just over $2.00.”
Max tossed his thoughts into the ring. “I agree with Ms. Masters. In fact, she’s already begun the process starting with the oldest.” With silence answering his statement, she took that as approval. She sat and straightened the stack of papers in front of her.
“Thank you, Kara,” Max replied, giving her a sexy half grin. Well, what the other women in the office thought would be sexy, but not her. She wouldn’t be sucked in by his charm, or deep eyes, or wide chest, or the best ass she’d ever seen. She pinched her leg to stop thinking those bad thoughts. Bad Kara.
Max picked up the stapled packet of papers on the table. “If everyone would turn to the second page of the document, we have new business to bring up.”
At the top of the page was the company’s mission statement. She read it not too long ago in her employee handbook with her hiring on. Below it sat the words “Changing Our Direction.”
Grumbles came across the table. “What the hell is this?” one of the older members hollered.
Kara hadn’t noticed until now how the group was divided in the room. The long-timers were on the other side of the table while the younger movers and shakers sat on her side. Was that on purpose? She remembered everyone coming in and choosing a seat. She had a feeling this segregation would resemble the vote about changing the company’s path.
“Edgar,” Max said, glaring at the other side, “it is a proposal to make sure the company keeps its place among the top businesses in the world. The world is changing, and we must adapt or die.”
“Die!” Paul sputtered. “This company is too ingrained to die.” The elders turned to Dan Richards, former owner and CEO. “Dan, you can’t let this happen.”
The man in the wheelchair leaned forward. “You all voted him in as CEO.”
“Yeah, but...but...” Edgar’s face flooded dark red. She pushed away from the table the same time Meghan did. Her coworker was up and at the water station before Kara rose. Meghan slid the paper cup of water to the man’s hands flattened on the table. He grabbed it and tossed it back like a $200 shot of Crown Royal XR.
“Relax, Edgar, Paul,” Max soothed. “This isn’t an overnight change. We have many executives reaching retirement age, and those following in their steps have different and innovative ideas. We need to be ready for new things.” That pretty much shut up the nay-sayers. No one could deny that the world was advancing quickly, and those left behind ate dust.
Max continued. “I’m asking everyone to take home the packet and read through it. Make notes of what you like and don’t. Then at our next meeting, we’ll discuss it.” Mumbles sounded, but there were no angry outbursts. Max stood at the head of the table. “All right. We’ll see everyone in a month.”
He headed for door, Kara falling in step beside him. She said, “Can we talk in your office?”
His one brow rose as he turned to her. “Absolutely. I’d like that very much.” There was that sexy grin again. Dammit. Kara frowned and averted her eyes to the striped carpet. She needed her anger to be sharp if she wanted to make her point.
Max opened his office door for her and stepped aside to let her enter. She glanced over her shoulder to see his eyes on her back side, and it wasn’t shoulder height. She rolled her eyes. But deep inside, she was giggly over his attention. Her number one rule was no office romances, unless she changed her mind, of course.
Max passed her on the way to his desk. She couldn’t wait any longer. “Were you born an ass or did you grow into it?”