His to Keep (Beauty and the Brit)(2)

By: Terri Austin


He turned and glanced down. “Hey there, Brynn, you all right? Didn’t see you back there.”

“I’m fine.” She rubbed the spot between her eyes.

From the doorway, Cass spied her. “Brynn, I’ve been looking for you. Grab a cup of coffee and meet me in my office. Oh God, this day. You would not believe.” She turned and marched out of the conference room. That’s when Brynn noticed a run creeping up Cass’s pantyhose and a few baby-fine, ash-blond curls drooping from her lopsided bun. Cass looked less put together than usual. There was a story there, and Brynn would be forced to hear every harrowing detail.

“Hey,” Ted said, “I’ve been meaning to ask you something.”

All of Brynn’s conversations usually started this way. When people sought her out, it was because they needed a favor, not because they wanted to chitchat or invite her to lunch. She tried not to let it bother her. “Do you have time to put together a proposal for me? It’s for a statewide savings and loan. Could mean multiple contracts. You do such a great job of pitching it on paper.”

Brynn opened her mouth to say, “I don’t have time.” But then she gazed up into Ted’s round face—the hopeful half smile, the desperate eyes. She smiled back. “Sure, shoot me an email.”

“Thanks, Brynn. I owe you one. This could make my salary for the quarter.” He clapped her on the shoulder. “You’re the best.”

No, she wasn’t the best. She was just a pushover. But what was one more proposal? It would probably take ten minutes, and Ted was a good guy. If she could help him out, why not?

With a sigh, Brynn headed to the break room, grabbed a cup of coffee, and then wended her way through the office to knock on Cassandra’s door.

“Entrez.”

Refraining from a serious eye roll, Brynn walked in. As usual, Cass’s desk was a mound of folders, papers, and blue stress balls bearing the TDTC logo. There was no room for a mug, so Brynn waited while Cass kicked off her shoes and wriggled out of the ripped hose. She dropped them on her cluttered desk before accepting the cup from Brynn. “Thanks. I was up with Nef all night. She’s in misery, my poor angel.”

“That’s sad. Well, it looks like you’re swamped, so I’ll let you get back to it.” Brynn retreated to the doorway. It wasn’t that she didn’t have sympathy for the cat, but Brynn couldn’t stand one more tale of feline incontinence.

“No, sit.” Cass waved to the chair by her desk. “Just put all that stuff on the floor. I’ll get to it later.”

Not likely. There was months’ worth of paperwork filling the room. Brynn couldn’t see how anyone functioned in this kind of disorganization.

From the chair, Brynn hoisted an armful of binders, placed them neatly on the floor, then watched as they tumbled over like dominoes. Brynn ignored the impulse to stack them all over again and sat. “What’s up?”

Cass blew across the surface of the coffee. “Blue Moon Corp. contacted me last night. The company needs effective management training ASAP. All of my regular facilitators are busy.”

“All of them? How is that possible?” Facilitators—corporate speak for teacher. Educator or team leader—those worked, too.

“I called a few I keep in reserve,” Cass said with a shrug, “but everyone’s booked. Lots of conventions this week, I guess.”

Brynn settled more comfortably in her chair. She could be here awhile. Cassandra and her litany of complaints wasn’t a pleasant way to spend an hour, but it was all part of the job. Root canal or Cassandra griping about the lack of staff support? Listening to Cass was far less painful, but on the other hand, no nitrous. Choices, choices.

“Which is why I need you to do it.”

Brynn nodded, made eye contact, and gave every appearance that she’d been actively listening. She hadn’t been. “What now?”

“You’re going to have to facilitate.” Cass placed the mug on a precarious stack of papers and began searching. “Where’s my phone? Have you seen it?”

Wait. What?

“Cass, I don’t teach. That’s not one of my jobs.” Brynn was the ultimate team player. Whatever Cass threw her way, Brynn took on without a peep—well, not an outward peep. She peeped plenty on the inside. But this? No way. Even though Brynn had taken numerous seminars on the subject of public speaking, she hadn’t been able to put the principles into practice. Just the thought of standing in front of a group of people, being the center of attention, gave her a case of flop sweat.

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