Bargaining with the Bride(7)

By: Allison Gatta

"I keep them in my desk for emergencies."

"Bad meeting pick-me-ups?"

"No, more, um, phone-call-from-my-mother, chat-with-my-fiancé situations." She hadn't bothered moving from the desk. Instead, she spun around in her office chair like a kid at a playground. Midway through her tilt-o-whirl, Garret finished collecting all the trash and settled himself back onto the sofa, and she stopped abruptly, her curls hiding her face momentarily as they were caught in the inertia.

"See, all cleaned up. You're probably feeling better already. Let's get you some coffee and—" He started for the door, but the sound of her voice stopped him in his tracks.

"Listen, Garret, I'm going to have to give you my two weeks." She sniffled again, but didn't give any more information.

So much for getting his day off to a good start.

"What? Why?" He turned to face her.

It was the most ridiculous thing he could think of. Nobody worked harder than Rachael did—pulling in extra hours almost every day, coming in sick, working over the weekend. She was the most dedicated employee he could have ever hoped for, and now she was going to leave at the drop of a hat?

She tapped a pen on her desk, and then exhaled as she kicked her small, bare feet up onto her work surface. "It doesn't really matter. The point is that I have to go. So, you know, I really wish you the best and…" She made a gasping sound, springing for a tissue and blotting at her cheeks before he could see the evidence of her break down.

His mind was screaming at him to abort. Raise the draw bridges and get the hell out of dodge, but he couldn't leave her there alone, looking so sad and broken. And he especially couldn't bear to see her resignation. He settled back onto the couch and rested his elbows on his knees, flipping through charts in his mind of how exactly to tackle this particular scenario.

For some reason, though, he could only think of elaborate, Cosby-Show-esque plans to get her to stay. Things like setting up fake businesses to show her how terrible it would be to work elsewhere, or making all of the secretaries not respond to her when she walked by so she could see what things would be like without her.

And none of that seemed rational. Or sane.

So he sprang into action plan B.

"How about right now I'm not your boss. Right now I'm your friend, and I want to know what's going on. Also, as your boss, I need to know if you need to take the day to work things out before you do anything rash.” Then, rushing to correct himself, he added, “But, as I said, right now I'm not your boss." That probably could have gone smoother.

"So, am I answering your question as my boss while you're not my boss? Or—" Her brows knit together, but at least the tears had stopped.

"No, but it would be helpful to know."

"Well, I'm definitely not going to be heading home today. So, uh, there's that?" The corner of her mouth pushed into her cheek, revealing a dimple he'd never noticed before.

"Okay, now that's settled, why don't you tell me why you're leaving? Are you not happy here? I hear the boss is a real asshole, so, I can understand that."

She smiled at him, and hope pricked at his senses. Maybe they could get this sorted out after all. "I really appreciate this but it's just—Well, it's a little personal." The last word was measured, and her cheeks flooded with color as she pronounced it.

"I understand if you don't want to talk about it. I just want to make sure I'm doing everything I can to help you. I wouldn't want to lose you over something that could have been fixed if you'd only asked. So, financial stuff, that kind of thing, I'm willing to make the investment to keep you around."

"It's not really like that." Her mouth hung open, like she was willing more words to come out, but nothing happened. She just sat there, surveying him, wondering how much to say.

If there was anything business had taught him, it was that now was the time to play dead with the opposition. He remained cool and quiet, fanning out the bridal magazines on the coffee table, and then straightening them again. Waiting. She'd come around to telling him. They always did.

"My fiancé and I had," she paused, "a bit of a falling out. That's all."

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