Compromising Positions

By: Tawny Taylor

“Isn’t there some kind of saying about love and hate being nearly the same?”

“Who knows.” Fate took a drink of her diet soda, forcing the liquid past the boulder-sized lump in her throat. She didn’t like the way the conversation had turned. She needed a strategy, not girl-talk. She wasn’t in high school, and there was more at stake than a prom date. “Tracy, I need your help! Would you quit with the mushy stuff?”

“What’s wrong? Did I hit it in the nose? Yes, I did, I’m gooood.” Tracy’s grin suggested she wasn’t about to give up.

“No. But you have to remember what’s going on here—”

“You’re too wrapped up in your work, that’s what’s going on,” Tracy interrupted, then popped a french fry into her mouth.

God, Fate hated when people interrupted her! Gabe Ryan did that too. It was annoying. “Would you let me finish? I love you to death, but you’re a terrible listener.”

Tracy chuckled and took a dainty bite of her sandwich. With a nod, she encouraged Fate to continue. “I’m all ears.”

“I have two weeks to get the financing for my mom’s house. If I don’t, her bank will put it on the auction block. I can’t change jobs. Not now!” From Tracy’s surprised expression, Fate guessed she’d forgotten about the house. Tracy was a wonderful friend, caring and true-blue, but sometimes she was a little flighty.

After taking a sip of her diet soda, Tracy said, “Of course you can change jobs. First, didn’t you get pre-approved?”

“Yup, but a pre-approval isn’t written in stone, you still have to go through the formal approval process.”

“But if you take a job in the same field it won’t matter. At least, that’s what I’ve heard.” Tracy took another bite of her sandwich and washed it down with a gulp of soda.

“I don’t think that’s true for all banks.” Fate watched her, wishing she could eat, but even the thought of food sent her stomach into convulsions. “I don’t know. I’m not willing to take the chance. If I fail, Mom’ll be out of a house. I can’t believe this is happening.” Her mood was sinking fast, like the Titanic into a frigid ocean.

Tracy tipped her head and regarded her with sister-like concern. “Oh, Fate. I’m sure everything will work out fine. They haven’t fired you yet, right? So there’s still the chance they won’t.” She munched on another fry, studying Fate with soft eyes and a gentle expression. Then, her mien changed, growing more determined. “What’s your boss have to say about all this? Thomas, right?”

“He’s gone. They fired him. I didn’t get the chance to talk to him before he left.”

The assuredness on Tracy’s face washed away. “Oh.”

Fate’s hope sunk to the darkest pit—down deeper than any ocean, where there was no light and the water pressure was high enough to crush steel. As the waiter dashed by, she flagged him down and asked for a to-go box. After he nodded and stepped away, she looked at Tracy. “I need some ideas. We have to come up with a new name, marketing concept, the whole nine yards. I’ve been wracking my brain all morning but haven’t come up with a thing.”

“Sorry, Fate. I’m an accountant not a marketing director. I couldn’t come up with an original idea if my life depended on it.”

“You’re no help.” The waiter set the white foam box next to Fate and ran off again before she could thank him. “Sheesh! I’m all for waiters who hustle, but every time I want something I practically have to wrestle him to the ground for him to stay long enough to listen.” She arranged her sandwich and salad in the box and closed the lid. Then she looked at Tracy.

Tracy dropped her gaze and, biting her lip, toyed with her napkin.

“Did I say something wrong?”

“No.” Tracy continued to avoid her gaze. “Although being told I’m no help isn’t exactly what I wanted to hear today.”

God, am I a coldhearted bitch. “Sorry, Tracy. You came at my beck and call, and I insulted you. I swear, I’m hopeless.”

“No, you’re not. You’re my friend, and I wish I could help you. But I have no idea what to suggest. Are you sure they’re going to fire one of you?”

She glanced down at her watch before answering. Ten minutes. “Almost positive. The new VP made it clear they don’t need two heads of marketing, and since he’s the former VP of the Date Doctor’s sales and marketing departments, Ryan has the home-court advantage.”

“What’s good ole Gabe doing? Has he been real secretive?”

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