Authors: Abigail Anderson
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.
No Part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted or utilized in any form or by any mean electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher.
This book and its contents is copyrighted to RedZephyr Publishing© and to the writer.
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“So, what do you think?”
Yes, what did she think? Amanda opened her mouth and closed it again silently, reminiscent of a floundering fish out of water.
She looked up then, tearing her eyes away from the hideous thing that Harry had plonked down on her desk ten minutes before, and what she had been staring mutely at ever since.
She stared first at her assistant, or soon to be ex assistant, taking in his squirming body, his dark blonde hair and pale face, before her eyes swept back down to her desk. Or rather, the offending item now sitting happily on her desk.
“Well…” she paused momentarily. What, in God’s name could she say?
“I know…” Harry tried again but Amanda put up a hand to stop him, her green emerald eyes not leaving the hideous object on her desk.
“It’s… not… exactly what I was expecting.” She said out loud, and then her mind screamed, that has to be the understatement of the century.
Amanda stood up slowly on trembling legs. Her tall elegant frame approached Harry, she gained on him where he was sitting fidgeting in his chair anxiously.
His thin tall frame hunched over in his seat. His hair, normally well brushed, looked dishevelled. On account that he had more than once brushed his hands through it as he had waited nervously for Amanda’s response.
“Look…” he started. “I know it’s not… exactly… what you asked for but…” He shrugged his shoulders as his voice trailed off. He was in big trouble and he knew it.
“Not what I asked for?” she echoed absently, dumbstruck at her assistant’s stupidity. And then as if coming out of a daze she snapped angrily. “No… do you think?”
Her long, bare, slender fingers shakily pointed in the direction of the offending item on her desk as she carefully punctuated her words. She picked up the felonious thing from the table, man it weighed a ton.
Its cold stone invaded her warm flesh. She looked down at the grotesque, mottled grey face staring back at her with vivid concentration. “What were you thinking Harry?” she said, almost to herself, and then louder she asked. “What in heaven’s name possessed you?”
“You said…” he began.
“I said…” She cut him off reprovingly. “… To bid on number sixty-four and do not go over ten thousand.” She slammed the fowl object back down on the desk with a force that made Harry’s complexion pale and a wince escaped.
“Ah…” He said.
“Ah…” her head shot up again to look at him. “Ah… what?” she asked. This was going to get worse, she could tell.
“The thing is boss…”
“Harry, stop right there. Is what you are about to tell me putting you in danger of my killing you?” she asked him.
“Probably boss.” Harry screwed up his face.
“Oh Harry.” She moaned, though it sounded more like a wail.
“Perhaps we can find a buyer. You could re-sell it.” Harry suggested.
“Harry, it makes a gargoyle look like the Mona Lisa. It makes the devil look like a saint. It makes demonic poss-ession look like a leisurely stroll in the park on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Do you get the picture?” she flung her arm up in despair. “I ask you, who in their right mind… would buy… that.” She stared at Harry.
Amanda pointed at the statue as it stared back at her with its three eyes. Well, at least she thought they were eyes. It really was hard to tell for sure. “Harry, damn it. Do I even dare ask how much of my money you used to pay for it?” she asked looking at Harry’s downcast head.
He cleared his throat and shuffled in his chair before giving a delicate cough and Amanda’s heart sunk into her feet. “I am not going to be happy with the answer. Am I?” she stated rather than asked him.
Amanda ran shaky fingers through her unruly wavy long red hair as she tried to gather her thoughts and rein in her temper. She failed miserably on both counts.
“Well…” Harry said.
“How much?” Amanda began in a warning voice as she folded her arms across her chest and pulled herself up to her full five foot eight-inch height. “How much?” she asked again through gritted teeth.
“Well, I did go a little over the budget.” The words were almost a mumble and Amanda could see Harry’s teeth clench and his knuckles had gone white with the effort he was making at holding onto the arms of the chair. She closed her eyes briefly, she felt sick and faint.
“Please Harry, tell me you didn’t. How much over?” She asked him and he began squirming again. “Harry.” She snapped.
“Twenty-two and a half thousand.” He said quietly and for one ghastly moment Amanda actually thought that she was going to faint.
She turned sharply on her heel and marched to the window, if she hadn’t then Harry would have found himself on the receiving end of a right hook. “I’m sorry. I got caught up in the excitement and… well…”
Just once, couldn’t luck be on her side. Just once couldn’t something go her way instead of against her? It wasn’t much to ask, surely. But no, good old rotten luck found her no matter how well she hid.
Although, if she were honest with herself. It was not entirely his fault. She should not have given him so much respon-sibility. She should have overseen this job herself. Why hadn’t she?
Because she had been busy, that was why. Isn’t that why she had hired an assistant anyway. To do the jobs she could not find time to do herself?
“I trusted you to get this right Harry. I trusted you.” She turned back towards him.
“The lot you wanted went way beyond the ten thousand. More like fifty-five,” he began his explanation. “I couldn’t get you on the phone so… when I saw this I thought, this could work, so I bid. I was using my intuitive… like you said.” He finished.
“I said intuitive, not downright stupidity.” Harry swallowed hard as he listened to his boss. “Oh Harry…”
“Well, anyway, you should have answered your phone.” He defended.
“Aah.” Amanda rolled her eyes. “It’s my fault. This whole mess becomes my fault and I wasn’t even there.”
“No, of course not. That’s not what I was saying.” Harry tried to defend himself.
“Can you imagine how much damage I could have done if I had actually put in an appearance?” She concluded. Of course it was her fault. It was always her fault.
“That’s not what I meant. I am sorry.”
“I know.” She said on a huff. And she did, but that did not stop her from being angry at him.
“What shall we do about this?” He bit his bottom lip nervously.
“I don’t know yet. But I will think of… something.”
“Really?” Harry asked and Amanda rested her head in her hand and rubbed her forehead with her fingers.
“I have to think of something. Put that damn thing away. Just get it out of my sight before I can no longer resist the urge to smash it into a million pieces.” She asked him.
“I am sorry.” Harry told Amanda when he reached the door and Amanda sighed so deeply that it hurt her lungs and she closed her eyes.
This was going to be the start of the end for her small business. She could not afford the kind of financial loss that now lay before her.
“Yeah, I know.” She said. “Don’t worry, I will sort some-thing out.” Yeah, like what? She taunted herself. “Harry try not to worry. This is just a minor setback. It happens all the time in business.” She tried to reassure him but her tone lacked conviction, she could hear it.
“Yeah right, of course.” Harry sounded as convinced as she did.
“Harry, really. I’ll get us out of this mess somehow. I promise.” Harry shook his head sadly but he said nothing. There was nothing to say and, working for her these past six months he had learned to keep his mouth shut at times like these. His boss had a temper that put Genghis Khan to shame.
Harry left, closing the door quietly behind him and leaving Amanda alone to collect her shattered thoughts that were running around inside her head at break neck speed.
What was she going to do now? If she could not recoup the money, she sighed, she would go under… game over.
Amanda closed her eyes briefly as she listened to the rain falling hard against the window of her office. This was supposed to be the middle of summer.
Maybe the weather was coming out in sympathy. It was as miserable outside as she felt on the inside. She had been sitting in her office for hours now contemplating her future or rather lack of it.
She huffed deeply and sat back in her office chair. She had spent the last couple of days doing nothing but worrying since that day with Harry.
He had made himself scarce, which was just as well. He probably thought that Amanda would murder him and bury him under her patio. And if she had been able to afford the building materials her imaginings may have come to fruition.
There was a light rap on the door and Amanda reluctantly pulled herself out of her shadowy thoughts.
“What.” She barked fiercely as she massaged her temple with her fingers. Cautiously Marsha popped her head round the door but made no immediate move to step into the room.
Marsha was a small petite woman with rich brunette hair that she always wore in an elegant chignon at the back of the head. Marsha was easily in her fifties though she looked much younger. The years had been kind to her.
“I am sorry to disturb you.” Marsha told Amanda, finally advancing into the room.
“I’m so sorry Marsha. It’s not you I’m angry with.” And she truly was sorry. Just because she was in a bad mood it did not mean that she had a right to take it out on everyone else around her.
Well, she had a right to take it out on Harry, he was the reason she was in this mess after all. But Marsha had done no wrong.
“Harry is a good man… he just… well you know.” Marsha stopped. Yes, Amanda knew what she was trying to say.
“I know.” She sighed deeply. “Did you want something? Are you off home now?” she asked her.
“I just popped in to remind you that you have that fund raising party thing tonight.” Amanda’s heart sank. She had forgotten all about that. “And yes, I am off home now.”
Amanda had spent so much time and energy on mopping up Harry’s mess that the party had completely slipped her mind.
Time was running out. The bank had called that very morning. It was a conversation that Amanda had never wanted to have. She did not want or need some damn party intervening on her precious time right now.
“Oh no, that’s tonight.” Amanda flung herself back in her chair gruffly.
“I’m afraid so.” Marsha smiled wistfully.
“I suppose there is no way out of it?” Amanda asked hopefully, please say yes, she thought.
“No way. Gloria would kill you for sure.” Her secretary informed her and Amanda’s heart sank further at the sound of Gloria’s name. “She has been on the phone sixteen times already. Just to remind you so that you would not… forget. Though, why she thought that you might forget I am sure I do not know.” Marsha grinned at her. And Amanda pulled a face at her.
“Thank you for not putting her through. I don’t think I could have handled that as well today.” Amanda told her.
“She is rather.” Marsha stopped and Amanda laughed.
“Yes she is.” She agreed.
“Don’t worry, I told her that you were in a meeting and couldn’t be disturbed. Even though she became quite insistent.” Marsha informed her.
“Quite insistent?” Amanda raised her eyebrows. “Is that a polite way of saying she became hysterical.”
“I think there might have even been tears. Well, at least crocodile ones.” Marsha tutted and shook her head. “How a grown woman of her age thinks it’s okay to act like that I will never know.”
“Neither do I. You are an absolute angel. I don’t know where I would be without you.” She said. “Just don’t ask for a raise.”
“Yes I know. I am fantastic… you need to tell me that more often so that I don’t feel unappreciated round here.” Marsha gave her a cheeky grin. “And I will remind you of my raise later. I’m keeping a tab.”
Amanda looked down at her watch enclosed around her slender wrist. It was gone six already.
“Well I suppose I had better get a move on. I wouldn’t want to be late now, would I?” Marsha made a face, easily reading into the hidden message. “Will you be there?” Amanda asked hopefully.
“Uh well… you see… it’s like this… I would love to. You know I would. But, unfortunately…” Marsha hesitated.
“Yes.” Amanda prompted as she narrowed her eyes at her secretary who was squirming where she stood
“I kinda already made plans.”
“Plans.” Amanda asked perplexed.
“Yes, I made them weeks ago and I cannot cancel them at such short notice.” She smiled sweetly.
“We have known about this fund raiser for months.” She pointed out.
“Well yes… erm… of course we did but I didn’t realise that I had already made plans.”
“Sure you did.” Amanda told Marsha knowingly. So that was it, she had been abandoned. Harry had backed out this morning, apparently he was having some car trouble, and now Marsha. They had all jumped ship and let her stay on board without leaving her a life jacket.