Irresistible(Buchanans, Book 2)(39) by Susan Mallery
“What happens if you make a mistake?”
Her expression of panic made him feel as if he’d kicked her. “Never mind,” he said. “For what it’s worth, you don’t have to get it right the first time.”
She nodded, but he doubted she believed him.
Was the entire staff like this? No wonder the company had run through three presidents a year for the past decade.
How much cleanup would he have to deal with? People working while afraid wasn’t efficient. As he’d learned in his previous line of work, some fear allowed a soldier to keep the edge, but too much got him dead.
He thought about how his grandmother had tried to control her grandchildren. When that had failed, had she turned to her employees?
“Things are going to be different while I’m here,” he told Vicki. “Feel free to spread the word.”
ELISSA DID HER BEST to concentrate on the dozen or so blue topaz stones sitting on her kitchen table. Her budget didn’t usually allow for anything this nice, but one of her regulars at the diner knew someone in the jewelry business, so she’d been able to get the cut stones at a great price. In return Elissa was going to transform a bolt of fabric into bedroom drapes. All in all, a great trade.
She had an idea for six pairs of earrings, assuming she could match up the stones. If not, she would use the leftovers in a coordinating necklace, or maybe a pendant-pin combination. So many ideas.
Normally she would have been lost in her work for hours, but this particular Saturday there was the added distraction of Walker sitting not two feet away on the other side of her kitchen table.
She still wasn’t sure how he’d come to be there. One minute she’d been getting out of her car after dropping Zoe off on a play date and the next, they’d been talking and she’d invited him inside.
“Your grandmother has two assistants?” she said, as Walker talked about his first couple of days running the company. “Who needs two?”
“Apparently she does. I won’t meet Kit until next week, but Vicki spends her day trembling in fear. She seems convinced if she doesn’t do whatever I say perfectly the first time, I’ll have her shot at dawn.”
“That would almost be funny if it weren’t so sad.”
“Everyone is like that,” he said. “I walked into a few offices yesterday to introduce myself and the people were all terrified. I couldn’t get anyone to say anything but how much they love my grandmother and their jobs and how thrilled they are to be working there.”
Elissa wrinkled her nose. “No offense, but I find it really hard to believe they’re that fond of your grandmother.”
“I keep expecting to find a closet full of bamboo canes, or a medieval torture rack behind a closed door. She had meetings scheduled all day. Every department reported to her daily. The restaurant personnel were expected to come to her.”
“You’ll get it sorted out,” she told him, confident it was true. The man had handled troops while under fire—how hard could it be to whip an office staff into shape?
“There’s so much to learn,” he said. “I never paid attention to the restaurant business before. They don’t even call it a restaurant. It’s a store.”
She grinned. “I know.”
He shook his head. “Sorry—you work in a restaurant. Then you know what I’m talking about. Cal, one of my brothers, is giving me a crash course in restaurant management. There are fixed costs, like the building. Food costs and labor costs are broken down by the meal. Penny, Cal’s wife, is a chef. I’m meeting with her next week to learn about the back of the store. I don’t know anything about how a kitchen works.”
“Not even in real life,” she murmured.
He narrowed his gaze. “Is that a crack about my cooking?”
“To the best of my knowledge, you don’t cook.”
“What’s your point?”
“That it’s all information you can learn. If you have good people in place, then the restaurants will take care of themselves.”
“They’d better.” He leaned back in his chair and grabbed the iced tea she’d made. “I never much thought about the family business as anything real. It was just something I wanted to avoid. Now I feel like I’m rescuing people from the bowels of hell.”
“You are. I know she’s your grandmother and you probably love her very much—”
She didn’t believe that. Family was impossible to ignore forever. Look how long she’d tried, and there were still days she thought about her parents and wondered if she ever crossed their minds.
“I’m just saying,” she continued, “she couldn’t have been someone easy to work for. You’re doing a good thing.”
He shrugged uncomfortably.
“Speaking of being foolish…” she said.
“Sort of. I talked to my boss. He knows your grandmother, but they’re not close and there’s no way she could have convinced him to fire me. I can’t believe I let her intimidate me that way. I just collapsed like a wet tissue. I should have been stronger than that.”
“Elissa, I have grown men with MBAs cowering behind their desks. It’s not you. Gloria would terrify anyone.”
“She doesn’t scare you.”
“I know her. Don’t take it personally. You’re plenty tough.”
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