Compromising Positions

By: Tawny Taylor

She dashed into the hall and upon reaching Thomas’s office, opened the door and stepped in. The man sitting at the desk was not Thomas. She studied him, middle-aged, wearing a poorly fitting navy suit and a 1980’s power tie. When he didn’t speak she asked, “Where is Mr. Thomas?”

He slowly stood. “He’s gone, Miss…”

“Gone? Where? And who are you?”

He swiped his hand down his polyester-sheathed leg and thrust it at her. “Curtis Duncan. Vice President of Sales and Marketing. And you are?”

She glared at his hand and then met his gaze. VP of Sales and Marketing? Thomas was gone? What the hell was going on? Had she inadvertently walked into the wrong office? The wrong world? She waited for the Twilight Zone music to play from hidden speakers. Was this some sick jerk’s idea of a joke?

Still unable to grasp what was happening, she took his hand in hers and shook it. “Fate Doherty.”

A tentative smile spread over his face, sending creases from the outer corners of his eyes up to his temples. From there, the lines plunged under his greenish-tinted rug. “Miss Doherty, glad to meet you.” He motioned toward the chair in front of his desk. “Why don’t you have a seat, and I’ll fill you in.”

She hesitated, not sure if she wanted to know what was going on. It was all a bit too bizarre. Then, knowing she needed her job, to understand what was happening, she slumped into the chair and waited.

“Last week, your company was the victim of a hostile takeover.”

Hostile takeover? By what, Martians? She cringed.

“I understand Mr. Thomas was fond of you. Hopefully we can share a comfortable working partnership as well.”

She bit her tongue, holding back a sarcastic retort, and nodded. When the heat was on, her mouth ran out of control. High time she put that to a stop.

“As I was saying, my employer, The Date Doctor, purchased Love Lines last week. Despite your former C.E.O’s attempt to purchase back controlling shares, we remain the owners of sixty-five percent of Love Lines. In order to cut costs, we have decided to combine operations and maintain one office. Since Love Lines’ location is more suitable for our market, we chose to set up our new offices here.”

“The Date Doctor?” Gabe! Oh God, he was now…working with her?

Nausea sent her stomach into relentless spasms. What was going to happen next? Surely they didn’t need two marketing directors.

Duncan leaned back in his chair and continued, “We have made a handful of staff changes, mostly trimming excess. And speaking of excess, we didn’t need two V.P.‘s of Sales and Marketing.” His smile faded as he cleared his throat. “Anyway, I have to decide how to structure the rest of the departments under my control, including yours.” His gaze leveled at her.

Great, despite that little speech about working relationships, it was obvious he didn’t like her already.

Her front teeth stung her bottom lip as she bit down. “I understand. I suppose you don’t need two marketing directors either.”

“Not exactly.”

“What does that mean?”

“I’m still considering a number of different ways to structure the marketing department. In the meantime, I’ve decided to assign you and Mr. Ryan, whom I trust you’ve met, with an assignment.”

“Yes, we’ve met,” she muttered, trying to hide her loathing for Gabe behind a façade of indifference.

“Excellent. Then here’s the assignment.” He slid a binder toward her. “You might need this, it contains some standard marketing info on The Date Doctor, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with it before you begin.”

She ran her finger along the lumpy spine of the black binder and stared at the white print emblazoning the front: The Date Doctor. “Thank you.”

“Now, I’m looking for something fresh. We need a new name and an entirely new way to market ourselves. No more phone soliciting. We have a great service, and I want to target the younger crowd. No more forty-something women living in trailer parks with five kids. Got it?”

She nodded. Another opportunity for sarcasm. She had great respect for women in all economic brackets and here she was with another male chauvinist.

But no, she wouldn’t risk her job for a punch line.

“For the time being, I hope you don’t mind sharing your office with Mr. Ryan. You’ll be working together anyway, so I figure it would be good for you to share the office. Once the overall department structure is in place, we’ll make more permanent arrangements.”

The threat in his tone was unmistakable. Reading between his words was like reading a neon sign. Cost-cutting was a priority to the new brass. There would be only one marketing director.

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