I could feel steam coming out of my ears. Just let them try to bounce me from the team, I thought. Just let them try…
Tanner held the ball in front of him and bounced it in his palm. “In fact, there’s no need for you guys to fly out commercial. We’ll all take the corporate jet out together. It’ll be fun.”
Tanner gave everyone a quick smile, then handed the rubber ball to Costas and left the room, leaving all of us to wonder what the heck just happened.
It was a quiet car ride back to our offices at Goldman & Stern because the other members of my team were as dumbfounded as I was by the actions of Tanner Wright.
The silence in the car spoke volumes.
I knew what they were all thinking. They were wondering how long it would take for Stan to boot me off the team, even though I hadn’t done a thing to deserve getting the axe.
Juliette was sitting in the front passenger seat and Stan was driving. I was in the back seat, scotched between Bob and Irving. Bob stared out the window the entire way back to the office. Irving was sitting up straight with his eyes open, softly snoring.
Every now and then, I’d catch Stan glancing at me in the rear-view mirror. When our eyes met, he quickly looked away.
Juliette sat staring straight ahead and didn’t say a word. I could almost hear her teeth gnashing.
I was sure Tanner’s behavior in the meeting would be the talk of Goldman when we got back and Juliette got the gossip mill started. She’d like nothing better than to see me kicked off the team even though I posed no threat to her. That was just Juliette’s way. She simply didn’t like other women. She was more of a male chauvinist that any man I’d ever met. If she had her way, she would be the only woman working at Goldman, if not the only woman on the planet.
All I could do was shake my head and bite my tongue. I’d deal with Stan when the time came; which I knew would be soon.
Tanner Wright’s smirking face flashed into my mind. I could hear the pop of electricity as our fingers touched. I could smell the faint hint of ozone in the air. He had won the Douchebag of the Century Award, hands down. I had never met anyone so cocky and full of himself.
Fine, he was a hot billionaire with a big bulge in his pants, but did he have to pull me into his silly little game?
I was completely innocent in all this. It would be remarkably unfair to kick me off the team just because of Tanner’s actions.
Turned out, Stan felt otherwise. After he parked the car in the underground garage and the others were headed toward the bank of elevators, he asked me to hang back.
“What was that all about back there?” he asked with an air of accusation to his tone.
“I have no idea what that was, Stan,” I said, huffing at him. “Probably just another rich asshole jerking us around. Isn’t that the way this works? We’re management consultants. We get jerked around by rich assholes then bill them a thousand dollars an hour for it?”
“It was more than that,” Stan said, rubbing his chin as he studied me with narrow eyes. “You’ve never met him before, have you?”
“Never had any contact with him at all?”
I knew where this was going. I’ve never been one to bite my tongue and I was too good at my job to fear losing it, so I spread out my hands and gave it to him straight.
“Look, Stan, if you’re thinking about bouncing me off this project because Tanner Wright is a flirt, you can forget it. You need me on this team. Nobody knows the digital side of telecom like I do. I’m a consummate professional and you know it.”
“I know you’re a professional, Candice,” Stan said with a sigh. “I’m just not so sure about Tanner Wright.”
I didn’t even bother going up to the office. I knew Juliette was already up there telling anyone who would listen how I disrupted the meeting by flirting with Tanner Wright.
She wouldn’t tell the whole story, of course.
Her version would undoubtedly have me oohing and goohing at him with my tits hanging out.
By Monday, I’d be fodder for the office gossip mill.
I’d be branded as the junior consultant who almost killed a ten-million-dollar deal because she couldn’t resist flirting the bad boy billionaire.
It would all be a lie, but it wouldn’t matter.
The only saving grace was that it was after five on Friday afternoon, and most of the Goldman employees would already be headed for home.
It was little solace.
I caught a cab and made it home around six. I held it together as I rode the elevator up to my tenth-floor apartment. I hurried down the hall and unlocked my door.
The moment I stepped inside and locked the door behind me, I fell to my knees and began to sob.