Excerpt: Hard-Ass is Here

“What the hell is this?” I asked, scowling as Randy dumped a huge, sloppy pile of files and data sheets onto my desk.SCW_HardassIsHere_coversm

“He wants us to go through all of these, ASAP,” Randy said.

Who wants us to go through all of these?”

“The new hard-ass is here.” Randy’s voice had the usual respect he afforded the higher-ups. None.

I swiveled my chair and peeked out of my office to see a man standing with the bigwigs in front of the shimmering Christmas tree in the lobby. The new guy was about forty, black hair, at least six feet tall, with broad shoulders impeccably encased in what was probably a two-thousand-dollar designer jacket. His jaw was tense, belying the air of relaxed confidence he was doing his best to sell.

The guy allowed a polite smile as Sally, the receptionist, pulled a piece of shiny silver tinsel from his shoulder. Knowing Sally, she’d be positioning him under the mistletoe first chance she got.

“Where did he come from?” I asked.

“Your dreams?”

“Why didn’t anyone tell me he was already here?” I asked, ignoring Randy’s taunt.

“I am telling you.”

“I mean sooner. Why didn’t you tell me sooner? Did you explain to him we’ve compiled this already?”

“I tried. He’s good-looking, but he might be lacking in smarts.”

“It makes no sense to go through these. We have it all in digital files already.” I grumbled, flipping through the sheets. “What is this, 1984?”

“You can take it up with Pretty Boy yourself. Looks like he’s making the rounds, and he’s coming this way.”

Great. This was who they sent? We’d been hemorrhaging buckets of money, though those losses were largely due to theft. Reviewing data printouts of losses we’d already reviewed a hundred times was a waste of energy and cash. Peterton Financial was a large, well-oiled machine, which meant it took a lot of money to pay for all that square footage. I guess I’d have to shut up and let the new boss take a stab at fixing our branch’s problems. And when he left, like the last two, I could get some actual work done.

“Ten bucks says he doesn’t last the week,” Randy whispered, waving a bill in front of my nose.

I eyed the new guy’s perfect haircut and aquiline nose. Maybe he was tougher than he looked? Probably not, but it was only ten bucks.

“You’re on.”

“Like taking candy from a baby,” Randy said, tucking the money back in his pocket.

Lucinda Mercy, the office manager, stopped at my office with Mr. Haircut.

“Taylor Williams, I’d like to introduce our new regional manager, Phillip Daniels.” She smiled at me, lipstick on her teeth. “Taylor is the senior financial analyst for the New York project.”

“Nice to meet you, Taylor.” Daniels took the lead. His shake was firm, the skin of his manicured hand smooth. I got a whiff of grapefruit, lavender, and lemongrass. He smelled terrific, I wasn’t going to deny it, but his gaze appeared tepid at best.

It had been a long time since I’d met someone as good-looking as Phillip Daniels up close and personal. In fact, I hadn’t been up close and personal with anyone in quite a while. But that was no excuse for being rude and leering at the guy.

“Hope we can accomplish some fine work together.” Was it me, or did I sound like I was coming on to him? Crap, I needed to get laid and fast before I embarrassed myself any more.

“I see Randy dropped off the files I want you to comb through,” Daniels said in a velvety voice.

“About that, we’ve got all this on the computer. I don’t need to go through the hard copies,” I said, meeting his cool stare.

“I’m afraid I’m going to have to insist.”

I gave a surprised laugh. “No, I mean it’s been done several times already.”

“Then one more time won’t hurt anybody, will it?”

I hesitated. Did he have bad hearing or something? “I’ll see if I can get to it.”

“On the contrary, I want you to make this a top priority.”

He might be gorgeous, but he was either dumb or an arrogant prick. “Maybe I’m not making myself clear. These have already been gone through and saved to the computer.” I spoke slowly, in case he was having trouble understanding the big words.

“Look, Taylor, is it? We need to get something straight right off the bat. I’m your boss, and I’m giving you a direct order.”

“I understand that, but I have a lot of work and this is a waste of my time.”

Lucinda gasped and looked nervously between Phillip and me.

“Do you want to catch the thief, Taylor?” he asked.

“What does that have to do with—”

“You should be willing to do whatever it takes. Since you’re so familiar with the data, it shouldn’t take you long.”

“It’s not as simple as that. Going over all this is extremely time-consuming,” I said. “I have other things I need to get to.”

“I’m sure you’ll work it out. I expect a report ASAP.”

He turned his back on me and walked to the next cubicle, perhaps to spread his good cheer.

“Wow, you like the rough stuff.” Randy snickered.

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