Hot Chips and Sand
Copyright © 2012 Mary Hughes
All rights reserved
her hand back to her
midriff, where it would be safe. She did not look up once during the time the
waiters were in the room; she was far too embarrassed. So again
she did not see
Cliff , who was not
embarrassed in the least , observing her minutely, seeing her
embarrassment. If she had, she would not
have been so puzzled by
his first words when they were again alone
She nodded hesitantly
, but without looking at him.
“Then why do you need us?” Vickie was
not only puzzled by the
sudden change in his attitude, she was genuinely baffled by his
insistence on bringing in her company; they
were smart, but certainly not geniuses.
“I’m getting to that. As I was saying, I have talented employees. I have enough money to fund
and enough equipment to support it. In
all modesty, I have to say I
have the vision to sustain their
future and growth within the
What I lack is the talent to make
want to pull together.
have read your records. Five employer’s
worth. In each case, you have
performed your work well.”
“Hear me out. What I noticed in each case was that while you were at
particular company, the department you were in, and sometimes the whole company
operated much more smoothly. And after you left, often within a year, the
company’s profits took a nose‑dive. Do
you know what that tells me?”
“That I’m a good‑luck charm? Listen, you don’t have to pay me big bucks to be ornamental
“No. That’s not it at all. Let’s approach it from another angle. Do you like working with your team?”
“Sure. They’re great people. Fun, bright, always ready with a joke.”
“And you work well together?”
Vickie laughed. “I was just thinking of that. Yes, we work very well together. Sometimes it seems we can read each other’s minds, we know each other so well.”
“And have you ever worked with people like that before?”
“Oh, sure. I’ve been really lucky. The last job, well, we were like family. And back at
we were all just a bunch of kids together, learning, discovering. Since we
learned about life together, naturally we worked well together .”
“Vickie, I have never worked on a team like that.”
She stared at him a second. Then she nodded. “Well, of course. You’re a genius. You can’t expect people to keep up
level of thinking.” She took a bite of her very expensive entree, and had to
admit that maybe it was a little better than McDonald’s.
Vickie put her fork down. “You want me to act as a go‑between? A conduit of information? I don’t have to
be head of the
project to do that , either. In fact, it would be better
if I weren’t.”
. I want you to jell
my team. And I want you to have the position that deserves.”
“I disagree. I’ve seen your records, I’ve talked with co‑workers, both present and past. You are the key in all cases. You are the catalyst.”
Vickie chewed on that a while. “All right. Let’s say that’s true. I still don’t know how I did it. My only idea of managing people is letting them wear blue jeans and
program in lotus position. Cliff, I have to be honest with you . I’m really a closet anarchist when it comes to professionalism , and
I don’t think you want that kind of person as a boss .” She shifted uncomfortably.
never short‑changed my people,
and I don’t
intend to start now. I won’t joggle
your elbow; you follow your own style. I’m betting it will work.
you fail, well, we
all fail at some point.
People forget failure unless you wave it in
their faces at every opportunity. So if
it doesn’t work this time, we’ll sit down, look at it, and learn
how to do it better the next time . And we’ll keep at it until it works, and it
will be the best.”
The next time? But
this thought was crowded out by the concept of Cliff, Sir
Humphrey Hawkesclyffe , failing at anything. “What do you mean we all fail? I don’t
get the impression you’ve ever failed at anything.”
He raised one sleek eyebrow at her. “Don’t be fooled by what I am right now. We often have to endure quite a bit of pain to learn life’s little lessons.”
Now, what did he mean by that? Surely the Cliff
had rescued her with such aplomb in Middle Yemen had never failed in his life. But
before she could say something, the
waiter returned , and the topic was dropped.
The drive back was
completed in silence,
the things Cliff had told her and Cliff seeming
content to let her.
When he pulled the car up in front of her
she felt a little awkward. Now, should
she give him a firm , client‑to‑vendor handshake, a
friendly hug, or a sisterly kiss? She was leaning in favor of
the handshake, with her body voting loudly for the
kiss when the decision was
forestalled by Cliff’s[MH2]
you hardly ate
anything,” he pointed out.
“Yes, you and my tie are having a very nice conversation now.”
He apparently got tired of waiting, for the next thing she knew, his fingertips were under her chin, urging her to look up. The gentle pressure strangely excited her.
So she gave in to his fingers, allowing them to tilt her head back so that she could see his face. He was looking down at her, their bodies so close that their height difference was very apparent.
[MH1]I think in some draft way back when I had her stomach so upset by Cliff’s nearness that she couldn’t eat. Ha. No longer plays for me so I changed this.
[MH3]While I don’t care for heroines who “can’t resist” a hero’s advances because her body betrays her, I do think there are times even the strongest of heroines doesn’t know whether to listen to their body or their mind, especially in an instant of shock or surprise