Seduced by Mr. Right(10)

By: Pamela Yaye

“Ms. Nichols, are you okay?”

Her eyes flew open. Embarrassed that her boss had caught her daydreaming, Sharleen stuffed her feet back into her shoes and stood. “Good afternoon, Mrs. Fontaine.”

“May I have a word with you?”

Adjusting her glasses, she fervently nodded her head. “Yes, of course.”

“This won’t take long.” Her boss, a petite woman with mocha-brown skin, had a no-nonsense demeanor and impeccable style. As she marched into the office, her wavy hair and leopard-print scarf flapped around her. Her colleagues gossiped that Mrs. Fontaine and her second husband, Jules, were having serious marital problems, but Sharleen didn’t believe them. Her boss looked chic and well put together, not like a woman having man trouble.

“Please have a seat.” Coming out from behind her desk, she gestured to the glass table beside the window. “Would you like something to drink?”

“No, thank you. I’m fine.”

Mrs. Fontaine sat down on one of the wrought-iron chairs, and Sharleen did the same.

“Over the years, you’ve become good friends with Ms. Calhoun, and I want to ensure her departure doesn’t cause you any unnecessary grief.”

Confused, Sharleen furrowed her brow. “Her departure? I’m afraid I don’t understand.”

“I’m surprised she didn’t tell you.”

“You’re surprised she didn’t tell me what?” she repeated, wishing her boss would quit talking in circles and tell her what the hell was going on. Sharleen knew Jocelyn was worried about her mother’s health and wondered what had happened.

“Has she taken a leave of absence?”

“No. Ms. Calhoun has been relieved of her duties.”

Sharleen struggled to find her voice. “B-b-but everyone loves her,” she stammered. “She’s the best life coach here and—”

Mrs. Fontaine scoffed. “No, she’s not.”

Oh, that’s right. Brad is. He’s your favorite. He’s everyone’s favorite. Sharleen despised Brad McClendon, and that would never change. When he wasn’t talking trash about her to their colleagues, he was stabbing her in the back and trying to steal her clients. All because she’d spurned his sexual advances at last year’s Christmas party. His boy-next-door charms fooled everyone—including their boss—but Sharleen saw through his phony, I-love-everybody facade. He was a know-it-all, with an ugly attitude, and she didn’t trust him.

“I didn’t come here to gossip. I came to discuss your career.” Mrs. Fontaine clasped her hands around her knees. “You’re a valuable member of the Pathways team, and I have high hopes for you.”

You do? Really? Then why are you so hard on me?

“I hope you’re not still upset about your performance review last month...”

Sharleen was, but she would never admit it. She didn’t want Mrs. Fontaine to think she was overly sensitive, so she dismissed her boss’s concerns with a flick of her hand. “Of course not. I appreciate your honesty, Mrs. Fontaine, and your thorough assessment of my performance. I love working here, and I’m going to do everything in my power to promote this wonderful, life-changing center.”

Mrs. Fontaine’s face came alive and visibly relaxed. “That is wonderful news. You looked upset after our meeting, and I feared you were going to quit.”

“You can’t get rid of me that easily,” she joked. “I’m one tough cookie!”

Mrs. Fontaine laughed, and Sharleen did, too. Her joke lightened the mood, and the tension in the air abated. They spoke about ways to attract new clients and how to boost staff morale. Moments of levity with her boss were few and far between, and she enjoyed their one-on-one time. Finally, after working together for years they were starting to make some headway.

“I look forward to working with you and the rest of the Pathways team for many more years to come.” As Sharleen spoke, her boss’s smile got bigger, brighter. Encouraged, she went on. “I’ll miss working with Jocelyn, but her departure won’t have a negative effect on me. I’m committed to my clients, and I’d never do anything to impede their personal growth.”

“As you know, I’m expanding our services and planning to open centers in Seattle, Houston and LA later this year,” she said proudly. “I’m going to need someone I can trust to be my vice president, and I wanted you to know you’re one of the top contenders for the job.”

Sharleen wanted to break out in song, but she squelched her excitement. “When will you make a decision about the position?”

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