Why had she gone against her better judgment and accepted Scott’s invitation to grab a beer? The Strategy Director was handsome, charming, and easy to talk to – Ah, yes, that was why, she reflected grimly.
They had enjoyed a friendly rivalry for years, and were both secretly glad that their companies would be merging. She knew it was a bad idea when he suggested a celebratory drink in public, but she couldn’t say no to his devil-may-care grin.
“Who’s going to recognize us at a bar?” He had pointed out.
At the time, it had seemed very reasonable.
At the present moment… not so much.
“Do you care to explain yourself?” Jared broke in on her musing.
Jada took a breath. She had the slimmest chance of escaping punishment. Jared was tough but fair – he almost always gave an offender a chance to tell her side of the story. However, he did so by putting a lid on his anger and letting it simmer to a boiling point while his eyes drilled into her very soul. It was intimidating, to say the least. Jada knew she walked a razor’s edge.
“Yes, sir,” she began, “well, Scott and I had finished our meeting and finalized the proposal. He suggested we get a drink to celebrate.”
Her mind spun wildly for an excuse, or at least a good reason for going against Jared’s orders. All the while, Jared stared. Unable to meet his eyes, she focused on his arms, which were crossed in front of his chest.
“I uh, I told him it was a bad idea. But he assured me it would be fine.”
Jared raised an eyebrow. “And then you said ‘No, thank you, my boss would have my hide if we were seen,’ right?”
“Uh…” her shoulders slumped. She had no defense. “No sir, I didn’t. I went to the bar with him.”
“I see. So you have no excuses?”
Now she was looking at the floor. “No sir. I knew you wouldn’t approve and I did it anyway. I didn’t think anyone would recognize us.”
“And do you understand the consequences of your selfish decision for this company?” Now his anger was starting to seep into his voice.
She couldn’t speak; it was too horrible to say. She nodded instead, hoping that would suffice.
He slammed his hand down on his desk suddenly, making her flinch. “This puts the merger in jeopardy, Jada! And it’s scared our shareholders – our stock has already fallen 20%!” Jared’s voice rose as he went on, so that by the last word he was shouting.
“No one was supposed to know about the merger until the details were finalized! You KNEW that!” Now he was truly furious.
“Yes sir, I’m sorry.” Jada could feel tears gathering at the corners of her eyes. How could she have been so stupid? She had put the merger at risk and harmed the company. This affected everyone. She had never felt more selfish and ashamed.
Jared stared at her a while longer, silently fuming. When he spoke again, his voice was a normal volume. “I don’t know what’s gotten into you, young lady. You haven’t made this bad of a decision in… well, ever! I thought I could count on you to be sensible!”
Jada sniffed. “You can, sir. I’m so sorry, I promise it will never happen again!”
Jared chuckled mirthlessly. “Oh, we’re going to make damn sure of that.”