The Contract(8)

By: Melanie Moreland



“I will.”

Hanging up, I checked my schedule, smirking when I realized Miss Elliott had updated it last night. I had a breakfast meeting at eight, which meant I’d be back in the office by ten or so. I decided not to go into the office. I had an idea how to introduce my so-called girlfriend into my interview.

I dialed Miss Elliott’s number. She answered after a few rings, mumbling her sleepy greeting.

“Mmmm . . . ello?”

“Miss Elliott.”

“What?”

I sucked in a deep breath, trying to be patient. It was obvious I had woken her. I tried again.

“Miss Elliott, it’s Mr. VanRyan.”

Her voice was raspy and confused. “Mr. VanRyan?”

I sighed heavily. “Yes.”

I could hear a lot of movement, and I had the mental image of her scrambling to a sitting position, looking rumpled.

She cleared her throat. “Is, ah, there a problem, Mr. VanRyan?”

“I won’t be in the office until after lunch.”

There was silence.

“I have a personal matter to take care of.”

Her voice was dry when she spoke. “You could have texted me . . . sir.”

“I need you to do two things for me.” I kept going, ignoring the somewhat sarcastic edge to her voice. “If David comes in and asks where I am, tell him I’m on a personal matter and you have no idea where. Is that clear?”

“Crystal.”

“I need you to call me at eleven-fifteen. Exactly.”

“Did you want me to say anything or just breathe heavily?”

I pulled the phone away from my ear, surprised at her tone. It would seem my PA wasn’t pleased at being woken early. She was being far mouthier than usual, and I wasn’t sure what to make of it.

“I need you to tell me my four o’clock appointment has been switched to three.”

“That’s it?”

“Yes. Now repeat what I just told you.”

She made a strange sound, somewhat like a grumble, which made me smirk. Miss Elliott appeared to have a bit of a backbone if the circumstances were right. However, I wanted to make sure she was awake enough to remember my instructions.

“I’m to tell David you are on a personal errand and I have no idea where. I will call you at exactly eleven-fifteen and tell you your four o’clock has been switched to three.”

“Good. Don’t screw it up.”

“But Mr. VanRyan, it doesn’t make any sense, why would—”

Not bothering to listen anymore, I hung up.





RICHARD

THE BUILDING HOUSING THE GAVIN Group was a polar opposite to that of Anderson Inc. Unlike the vast skyscraper of steel and glass I worked from daily, this building was brick, only four stories high, and surrounded by trees. I parked my car after checking in with the guard at the entrance, who smiled pleasantly and handed me a guest pass. Entering the building, another security guard greeted me and let me know Graham Gavin’s office was located on the top floor, then wished me a good day.

Minutes later, a secretary led me to a boardroom, handed me a fresh cup of coffee, and told me Graham would be with me momentarily. I took the time to absorb the details of the room around me, again struck by the difference between the two companies.

Anderson Inc. was all about flash. The offices and boardroom were all state of the art—white and black was the predominant palette. Even the artwork was monochrome with lots of metal everywhere. Hard, modern chairs, thick glass-topped tables and desks, blond hardwood on the floor—all cold and remote. If this room was any indication, I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. The walls were lined with warm oak paneling, there was an oval wood boardroom table surrounded by plush leather chairs, and deep, soft carpeting underfoot. An open area to the right housed an efficient kitchen. The walls showcased many of their successful campaigns, all framed and displayed tastefully. Various awards lined the shelves.

At one end of the room was an idea board. There were scribbles and ideas sketched out on it. I stepped closer, studying the images, quickly absorbing the structure of the campaign they were outlining for a brand of footwear. It was all wrong.

A deep voice brought me out of my musings.

“From the look on your face, I’d say you don’t like the concept.”

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