A Bargain with the Boss - Page 4

Margaret’s eyes were red, tears marring her cheeks.

Amber rose to meet her. “It’s going to be all right. He’s getting the best of care.”

“How?” Margaret asked into the air. “How could this happen?”

The nurse excused herself to follow the paramedics.

“Do you think he has heart problems?” Amber asked quietly.

Margaret shook her head. “He doesn’t. Just last night...” Another tear ran down her cheek.

“Did something happen yesterday?” Amber assumed Margaret had meant yesterday, maybe late in the afternoon.

“He was in such a good mood. We had some wine.”

“You had wine in the office?”

Margaret stilled. Panic and guilt suddenly flooded her expression, and she took a quick step back, glancing away.

“It was nothing,” she said, focusing on some papers in her in-basket, straightening them into a pile.

Amber was stunned.

Jamison and Margaret had been together last night? Had they been together, together? It sure looked like it.

Margaret moved briskly around the end of her desk. “I should... That is...” She sank down in her chair.

“Yes,” Amber agreed, not sure what she was agreeing to, but quite certain she should end the conversation and get back to her own desk.

She started for the hallway, but then she paused, her sense of duty asserting itself. “I’ll call the senior managers and give them the news. Did Jamison tell you about Dixon?”

Margaret looked up. “What about Dixon?”

Amber decided the news of Dixon leaving could wait a couple of hours. “Nothing. We can talk later.”

Margaret’s head went back down and she plunked a few keys on her keyboard. “Jamison had a lunch today and a three o’clock with the board.”

Amber left Margaret to her work, her mind racing with all that would need to be handled.

Dixon was gone. Jamison was ill. And that left no one in charge. Tuck was out there somewhere. But she couldn’t even imagine what would happen if Tuck took the reins. He wasn’t a real vice president. He was just some partier who dropped by the office now and again, evidently giving heart palpitations to half the female staff.

* * *

A week later, Tuck realized he had to accept reality. His father was going to be weeks, if not months, in recovery from his heart attack, and Dixon was nowhere to be found. Somebody had to run Tucker Transportation. And that somebody had to be him.

The senior executives seated around the boardroom table looked decidedly troubled at seeing him in the president’s chair. He didn’t blame them one bit.

“What I don’t understand,” said Harvey Miller, the finance director, “is why you’re not even talking to Dixon.”

Tuck hadn’t yet decided how much to reveal about his brother’s disappearance. He’d tried calling, text messaging and emailing Dixon. He’d had no response. And there was nothing to go on except the cryptic letter his brother had left for their father, saying he’d be gone a month, maybe even longer.

“Dixon’s on vacation,” said Tuck.

“Now?” asked Harvey, incredulity ringing through his tone.

Mary Silas’s head came up in obvious surprise and chagrin. “I didn’t hear about that.”

She was in charge of human resources and Tuck knew she prided herself on being in the know.

“Get him back,” said Harvey.

Instead of responding to either of them, Tuck scanned the expressions of the five executives. “I’d like a status report from each of you tomorrow morning. Amber will book a one-on-one meeting for each of you.”

“What about the New York trade show?” asked Zachary Ingles, the marketing director.

Tuck’s understanding of the annual trade show, a marquee event, was sketchy at best. He’d attended a couple of times, so he knew Tucker Transportation created and staffed a large pavilion on the trade-show floor. But in the past he’d been more focused on the booth babes and the evening receptions than on the sales efforts.

“Bring me the information tomorrow,” he said.

“I need decisions,” said Zachary, his tone impatient.

“Then, I’ll make them,” Tuck replied.

He might not have a clue what he was doing, but he knew enough to hide his uncertainty.

“Can we at least conference Dixon into the meetings?” asked Harvey.

“He’s not available,” said Tuck.

“Where is he?”

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