Book Tour. Excerpt & Giveaway: The Creepshow by Adria J. Cimino
Posted by Cristina
Three days passed before Louis finally waved Wanda inside his office when she approached. Louis ran a hand through the dark hair that fell over his brow and looked up at Wanda through crystal blue eyes that had attitude. He was about Wanda’s age and moderately attractive, yet he saw himself as extremely attractive. That was written all over his face, especially when dealing with women. He had been transferred from New York to the Paris office more than a year ago. At first, Wanda had rolled her eyes at his comments, even laughing at his “I’ll fuck anyone to get ahead” manner, but after a while she simply avoided him. His behavior had always been borderline—although worse outside the office. But she didn’t want to think about that.
She placed her fund reports on the desk, the data facing Louis.
“Thomas should be fired,” she said, voice low, confidence high. “This is outrageous. I gave him specific instructions, and he did the opposite.”
Louis smiled with what appeared to be feigned sheepishness and shrugged.
“Babe, when you’re gone for four months, you can’t expect everything to remain frozen. Things evolve.”
She flinched. Wanda always flinched when Louis called her “babe,” but considering the importance of this conversation, it seemed even more inappropriate than usual.
“In this case, they didn’t evolve in the right direction. And I was on maternity leave! I didn’t just pop off for a four-month vacation.”
Louis stood up and walked around the desk. She refused to step back even though this felt too close for comfort.
“Whatever the reason for the absence, sweetheart, it was an absence.”
“It was a normal absence.” Wanda’s voice trembled with anger. Control, control, this is all about control, she reminded herself.
“How about if we discuss this tonight, maybe over a drink?” His lips curved into a smile, and his eyes seemed to undress her. “It’s been too long.”
Wanda thought back to her only social experience with Louis, the memory she hadn’t wanted to stir up: a cocktail hour at a neighborhood bar when she and Max were dating. She’d run into Louis there, and Max had called to cancel after an emergency at the hospital. So they’d had a couple of drinks. But when Louis’ hand had ended up wandering up her skirt, her hand had ended up slapping him across the face. The next day at work, business had continued as usual, and Wanda convinced herself to forget about it. He had been drunk. And it had been the first and last such situation.
“Well, what do you say, babe?” he asked, running a finger down her cheek.
She remained frozen to the spot, shocked at his audacity, then took a hasty step back. She hated being on the defensive.
“This is a business matter, Louis, and should be dealt with here in the office,” she said, her eyes locking with his.
“I heard you weren’t seeing—what is it, Mark?—any more.”
“It’s Max, but that isn’t anyone’s business, Louis.”
“So you’re still saying no to me, sweetheart?” He wore the arrogant smile Wanda knew well.
“Would it make a difference if I said ‘yes’?”
“Perhaps. I have power with the powers that be.”
Wanda felt as if she’d been hit in the stomach. She wanted to lash out at him, to threaten him, to tell him he wouldn’t get away with using her fund performance as a sexual bar-gaining chip. Instead, she took a deep breath and ordered herself to remain calm, to show indifference.
“Let me say it again: This is a professional matter, and I plan on dealing with it pro-fessionally. In the office.”
“OK, I’m fine with that.”
But it was clear that nothing was fine at all. Wanda’s mind was racing. Had Louis set this up from the start, or was he simply taking advantage of an opportunity? In any case, she didn’t understand his loyalty to Thomas. He should be punished regardless of whether Wanda was able to salvage the funds.
“Why are you protecting Thomas?” she hissed. “He betrayed me, and he betrayed our clients.”
“You only think about business, don’t you?” He shook his head and returned to the other side of the desk, where he lounged back in his chair. “This isn’t about protecting anyone. It’s about being reasonable.” Wanda shivered at the chill in his voice, but she didn’t waver.
“Being reasonable is handling our clients’ money properly. And in this case, that did not happen.”
“Well, now that you’re back, Wanda, you’ll manage to get things in order.” All of a sudden, he was businesslike too. Would he have been if she had accepted his advances? Of course not. He’d practically said it himself. She narrowed her eyes and continued as if her boss’ outrageous behavior had never happened. She would put it behind her with the barroom memory. But she couldn’t put fund performance behind her.
“I can’t make any promises, Louis. Did you see these numbers? I know the markets, but I’m not a magician.”
“Well maybe you’d better brush up on your tricks.” He grinned, as if delighted to see her squirm.
“What do you mean?”
“Wanda, you’re experienced enough to be able to iron out this type of problem pretty quickly.”
Wanda didn’t like the forceful tone of his voice, the implication that she’d better find a solution or else. She especially didn’t like this attitude in light of the unpredictable nature of the markets. There weren’t guarantees, and Louis knew that as well as she did. So why did he seem adamant about holding her responsible for Thomas’ mistakes? Was it punishment for rejecting him.
“When do you expect the funds to return to positive?” she asked. She willed her voice to remain steady and her eyes to remain unafraid, and each obeyed.
“At the end of the quarter.”
Not showing an ounce of emotion, she nodded, gathered her papers and left.