A Bargain with the Boss - Page 7

He drew a breath, looking like he wanted to bolt for the exit. “What am I doing wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“I’m behind by two thousand emails.”

“Dixon was very organized.”

Surely Tuck didn’t expect to rival his brother after only a single week. It had taken Dixon years to become such an effective vice president.

Tuck frowned at her. “So everyone tells me.”

“He worked very long and hard to get there.”

Yes, Tuck was arriving on time. And really, that was more than she’d expected. But Dixon had taken on far more than his fair share of early mornings and late nights working out systems and processes for covering the volume of work. Tuck seemed to expect to become a boy wonder overnight.

Tuck’s tone hardened. “I’m asking for some friendly advice. Can we not turn it into a lecture about my sainted brother?”

“You can’t expect to simply walk through the door and be perfect.”

“I’m not expecting anything of the sort. Believe me, I know that Dixon is remarkable. I’ve heard about it my entire life.”

Amber felt a twinge of guilt.

Tuck did seem to be trying. Not that he had any choice in the matter. And it didn’t change the fact that he’d barely bothered to show up at the office until he was backed into a corner. Still, he was here now. She’d give him that.

“Zachary should have given you a heads-up on the branding,” she said. “He should have pointed out the deadline.”

“I shouldn’t have missed it,” said Tuck.

“But you did. And you’re going to miss other things.” She saw no point in pretending.

“Your confidence in me is inspiring.”

She found herself annoyed on Tuck’s behalf, and the frustration came through in her voice.

“Tell him,” she said. “Tell them all. Tell them that it’s their job to keep you appraised of critical deadlines, and not just in an email. Make it a part of your regular meetings. And make the meetings more frequent if you have to, even daily. I mean, if you can stand to see Zachary every day, that is.”

Tuck cracked a smile.

It was a joke. But Amber shouldn’t have made it. “I know that was an inappropriate thing to say.”

He took a couple of steps toward her desk. “I don’t have a problem with inappropriate. It’s a good idea. I’ll send them an email.”

“You don’t have to send them an email.” Her sense of professionalism won out over her annoyance at his past laziness. “I’ll send them an email. And I can triage your in-basket if you’d like.”

His expression brightened and he moved closer still. “You’d read them for me?”

“Yes. I’ll get rid of the unimportant ones.”

“How will you do that?”

“I have a delete key.”

He leaned his hands down on the desk, lowering his voice. “You can do that? I mean, and not have the company fall down around my ears?”

Amber found herself fighting a grin. “With some of them, sure. With others, I’ll take care of them myself, or I’ll delegate the work to one of the unit heads. And I’ll flag the important ones for you.”

“I swear, I could kiss you for that.”

It was obviously a quip. But for some reason his words resonated all the way to her abdomen.

Her gaze went to his lips, triggering the image of a kiss in her imagination.

She caught the look in his eyes and the air seemed to crackle between them.

“Not necessary,” she quickly said into the silence.

“I suppose the paycheck is enough.”

“It’s enough.”

He straightened, and a twinkle came into his silver-gray eyes. “Still, the offer’s open.”

She considered his handsome, unapologetic face and his taut, sexy frame. “You’re not like him at all, are you?”

“Dixon?”

She nodded.

“Not a bit.”

“He doesn’t joke around.”

“He should.”

Her loyalty reasserted itself. “Are you criticizing Dixon’s performance on the job?”

“I’m criticizing his performance in life.”

“He’s been through a lot.”

She didn’t know how close Tuck was to his brother, but she had seen firsthand the toll Kassandra’s infidelity had taken on Dixon. Dixon had been devoted to his wife. He’d thought they were trying to start a family while she had secretly been taking birth control pills and sleeping with another man.

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