They were all there to fuck me. And not in a good way.
Stan introduced them as if we were meeting at a cocktail party. “Candice, this is Mrs. Nelson from Human Resources and Mr. Griffin from our legal department. They both looked at me without saying a word.
“What’s up, Stan?” I asked, forcing a smile that didn’t want to be there. Stan cleared his throat and clenched his hands together until the knuckles turned white.
“Candice, it’s come to our attention that during your trip to Tucson you engaged in certain activities that… well… quite frankly, are not acceptable as proper conduct for a Goldman & Stern employee.”
There it was.
I had literally fucked my way out of a job.
I tried to hold the smile, but it was no use. It melted from my lips like a snowman on a hot day. I did the only thing I knew to do. I played dumb.
I said, “I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about.”
The lawyer chimed in. His tone was brisk, like a prosecutor questioning a witness. “Miss Carlson, while you were in Tucson did you engage in sexual relations with Tanner Wright, CEO of Wright Enterprises?”
I suddenly knew how Bill Clinton felt when he was caught banging Monica Lewinski in the oval office.
I did not have relations with that woman, Miss Lewinski…
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand why that’s anyone’s business…”
“It’s a simple question, Miss Carlson,” the lawyer said with a dismissive shrug. “Did you or did you not have sexual relations with Tanner Wright, CEO of Wright Enterprises and a client of Goldman & Stern, while you were in Tucson. Just answer yes or no.”
I blinked at the woman from HR. She was looking at me like she’d caught me banging her husband in her bed. It was a look of disgust and disbelief.
I leaned in to her and said, “Do I have to answer these questions? Don’t I have rights under the EEOC or something?”
“I’m afraid the Equal Employment Opportunity rules are not pertinent in this situation, Miss Carlson,” she said, looking down her nose in judgment at me. “Just answer Mr. Griffin’s question, please.”
I glanced at Stan. He was studying his hands on the table. He wouldn’t look up at me. I set my jaw and looked directly at the lawyer.
I said, “Yes, while I was in Tucson I was involved in a personal relationship with Tanner Wright.”
The lawyer’s eyes went around my face. I could see the corner of his mouth twitching. This was kind of turning him on a little. Douchebag.
He said, “You were involved in a sexual relationship.”
“Yes what, Miss Carlson?”
I took a deep breath as my career vanished before my eyes.
“Yes, Mr. Griffin. While I was in Tucson I was involved in a sexual relationship with Tanner Griffin, CEO of Wright Enterprises.” I gritted my teeth at him. “Is that good enough for you.”
“It is,” Griffin said with a nod.
“In that case, we have no choice but to terminate your employment immediately and have you escorted from the building,” the HR lady said. She blew out a heavy sigh, as if she’d been holding her breath the entire time.
“Stan, you can’t let them do this,” I said, desperation creeping into my voice. “I’m the best analyst you have. Stan? Talk to me.”
Stan finally looked up and shook his head. It was that moment that I knew all was lost.
“I’m sorry, Candice, but your actions have put Goldman & Stern -- and our relationship with Wright Enterprises – in a very precarious position. I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do.”
The lawyer stood up and opened the conference room door. A burly security guard was standing at parade rest outside the door.
The lawyer nodded to me and said, “Escort Miss Carlson to her desk and see that she retrieves only her personal property, then show her out of the building.”
I felt like a total douchebag when Henry told me that Goldman had fired Candice because of our affair. I felt like a douchebag because I knew ahead of time that she was going to get fired and I didn’t do a fucking thing to stop it or to warn her.
Jesus, what an asshole I was!
That sort of thing wouldn’t have bothered me a bit before I met her. Now, it ate away at my gut like a cancer.
I also knew that Henry was the one who demanded she be fired. I was livid at first, but finally came to see that he was right: I had to stop thinking with my cock and start thinking with my brain.
I liked Candice a lot – AN AWFUL LOT -- but if news of our relationship came to light, it could create the appearance of impropriety that could kill the Anderson deal.