Irresistible(Buchanans, Book 2)(44) by Susan Mallery
He glanced around at the red leather and dark wood. The paneling was old, but well kept. The old-fashioned light fixtures had passed from outdated back to trendy.
He noted the folded piles of white tablecloths and other linens. Clean dishes were stacked on a long sideboard, ready to be put in place. By four that afternoon, the store would be vibrating with activity, but now there was only the low rumble of voices and the sounds of trucks in the street.
One side of the double swinging door opened and Ron Alcorn walked into the main dining room. Buchanan’s general manager stopped when he saw Walker, then smiled and hurried toward him.
“I thought you’d come in the back door,” he said as they shook hands.
“I wanted to look around first,” Walker said. “The old place still looks good.”
“We think so. Business has been excellent.” His smile faded. “We’re all very sorry to hear about your grandmother and wish her a speedy recovery.”
Based on what Walker had seen at the main office, he doubted that. Gloria was obviously hell to work for. She made some drill sergeants he’d known look like choirboys.
“Thanks for your concern,” he said. “She’ll be out for several months. In the meantime, I’m going to be making a few changes.”
Ron’s tension was subtle but visible. Walker had an idea about the other man’s concerns, but he decided to deal with them later. First he wanted to talk to the kitchen staff.
“Everyone in back?” Walker asked.
“Yes. You said not to bring in the waitstaff, so I didn’t make this a mandatory meeting. A few of them came in on their own time.”
“That’s fine. You can pass on the message to the others when they show up for their shifts.”
He led the way into the kitchen.
The restaurant had been built when real estate was cheap and labor practically free. There was room for nearly two dozen to work in the open space.
The grill dominated one wall, butting up to an old oven. The steaks would be seared on the grill, doused in butter, then finished in the oven so they didn’t dry out.
Today there were fewer than ten cooks, including a recent culinary graduate who made the salads.
“Afternoon,” Walker said. “Thanks for taking the time to see me.”
The men exchanged glances, obviously wondering why he thought there’d been a choice.
“Most of you know my grandmother recently suffered a heart attack. When she collapsed, she broke her hip. While she’s laid up, I’ll be running the company, including Buchanan’s. I’ve been over the numbers and everyone here is doing a damn good job. Sales are up, customers are happy and that makes my job easier.” He turned to Ron. “You have a good staff. You pick good people. They work hard. I was a little concerned about the sick leave policy. It’s not what anyone could describe as generous, so I’m increasing it by two days. You’re still required to give notice, but otherwise, the change is effective immediately.”
There was a moment of silence, followed by stunned applause.
Walker went over a few more minor points, then ended the meeting. After speaking with each person individually, he took Ron aside.
“Anything else?” he asked the manager.
Ron shifted uneasily. “Nothing I can’t handle.”
Walker had wondered if the other man would come clean or if he, Walker, would have to mention it first. He would bet Ron’s reluctance was more about his fear of Gloria than his character.
“Someone’s stealing liquor,” Walker said flatly. “I went over how much you’re buying versus how much you’re selling and the numbers don’t add up. Even spilling a bottle a day, you’re still coming up short.”
Ron swallowed. “I know,” he admitted. “I’m trying to figure out who’s doing it. I have a good idea, but I’m waiting to catch him. I didn’t mention it before because…” He shrugged. “I wanted to present the problem and the solution.”
He wanted to save his job, Walker thought, not really able to blame him. Hearing the news of liquor theft, Gloria would have fired Ron immediately.
“I’ll give you a week,” Walker told him. “If you haven’t fixed things by then, I’ll come in and fix them for you.” He was willing to give Ron a little more time, but not to be taken advantage of.
“That’s fair,” Ron said. “So, how long have you been in the restaurant business?”
“About ten days.”
Ron looked surprised. “You’re good at it.”
“I was in the Marines before that. I led men into fights I knew we might lose, in which a lot of them were going to end up dead. Compared to that, this is easy.”
“JUST A LITTLE LOWER,” Penny said with a moan as she lay back, eyes closed, body supported by several sofa cushions. “Oh, yes. Just like that.”
Reid dug his thumbs into the ball of her foot and wondered what it was about women and foot rubs.
“Shouldn’t Cal be doing this?” he asked.
“He should and he will when he gets home. In the meantime, you’re here and I’m taking shameless advantage of you.” She opened one eye. “Does this make you uncomfortable? Is it too intimate?”
“We’re talking about your feet, Penny,” he said.
“But it’s something guys do to get women into bed.” She opened the other eye. “You do realize I’ve never had a sexual thought about you? Even once. And now I can’t imagine having sex ever again. I’m so huge and swollen. It’s disgusting.”
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