Stranded With The Boss

By: Elizabeth Lane

Seattle, Washington

Late September

“Are you telling me that lawsuit’s still going to trial?” Dragan Markovic glowered from behind his massive desk. “We’ve offered the blasted woman everything short of the moon. Why won’t she settle?”

The young lawyer, part of the Trans Pacific corporate team, was visibly nervous. He fiddled with his pen. A bead of sweat gleamed on his forehead. “According to her attorney, it’s not just about money. Miss Randall wants the public to know how unfairly she was treated. She’s determined to make sure no female employee is ever again fired because of pregnancy.”

Dragan’s scowl darkened. “She wasn’t fired because she was pregnant. I was given to understand that Miss Randall was fired because she couldn’t perform her job.”

“That’s what we’ll be telling the judge. Her work involved trips to the Far East. The pregnancy was too high-risk for that kind of travel.”

“So why wasn’t she given a desk job for the duration?”

The lawyer flinched. “That’s what her lawyer is going to argue. The firing was her supervisor’s call. It seems there was some friction between them.”

With a muttered curse Dragan rose from his massive leather chair and turned to gaze out the floor-to-ceiling window. His top-floor, corner office gave him a sweeping view of the Seattle waterfront, lined by acres of warehouses, piers and gigantic cranes. Two huge container ships, with the Trans Pacific logo on their bows, were moored along the company dock waiting to be loaded with cargo. Beyond them, the gray waters of Puget Sound lay shrouded in September fog.

Dammit, he had a company to run. He didn’t have time to deal with Miss Tessa Randall—a woman he’d never met, nor cared to—and the lawsuit that threatened to smear Trans Pacific’s reputation in the media. Why couldn’t she just take the money, sign the nondisclosure agreement and go away?

“As I remember hearing, she gave birth to twins,” he said.

“That’s right. Identical twin girls. Sixteen months ago.” The lawyer wiped his glasses and replaced them. “They were born seven weeks early. By then her insurance had been terminated. The medical expenses—”

“We’ve offered to cover those,” Dragan snapped.

“I know. But her lawyer’s talking about demanding punitive damages, claiming the stress of losing her job caused Miss Randall to go into premature labor a month later.”

“Can they prove that?”

“They’ll no doubt try. This could get nasty—and expensive.” The lawyer shuffled his papers. “If I could offer a suggestion, Mr. Markovic?”

“Go ahead.”

“I know you don’t like getting involved in these matters. But if you could meet with Miss Randall face-to-face, maybe even offer her an apology on behalf of the company, she might be willing to—”

“That’s out of the question.” Dragan swung back to face him. “I don’t have time and I don’t owe the woman a personal apology. When’s the court date?”

“A week from today. Since Miss Randall worked out of our Alaska office, the civil trial’s being held in Anchorage. There’s still time for you to—”

“I said no. Just handle it. That’s what you and your associates are paid for. If you can’t do your jobs...” Dragan let the implied threat hang on the air. “That will be all for now.”

“Yes, Mr. Markovic. We’ll do our best.” Clutching his paperwork, the lawyer actually backed out of the office.

As the door clicked shut, Dragan turned toward the window again. Muttering a few choice curses in his native Croatian, he gazed into the gathering fog. For two cents he’d fire the whole hot-shot legal team and hire one seasoned attorney who knew how to work the system. As it was...

The melancholy wail of a foghorn echoed through the glass. Reminding himself that he was wasting time, Dragan returned to his desk, switched on his computer and brought up Tessa Randall’s archived personnel file. He hadn’t bothered to read it earlier. But now that his legal team seemed to be stalled, maybe it was time he took a look.