Provocation (18+)

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46. Ballbuster

Magnus Head stared down at the desk, looking for the answers Nate was looking for.

“Magnus?” Nate was looking like he was trying to remain calm. Or at least trying not to drive lasers into the man’s head. “Why is employee turnover so high?”

“Well, when I hired the new supervisor for the floor-” Magnus began.

“Is he unfair? Too strict? What is the issue?” Nate bleated out, rapid fire.

“Well, Sir, she is quite the battle ax and abnormally strict,” Magnus said. “And I loathe to say it like this, but she seems to have quite a large chip on her shoulder.”

“Does this ‘chip’ have a name or is she just a generally nasty person?”

“She uh... she seems to think that because she is a woman in a supervisory position, that people will think her weak if she is... nice,” Magnus finished.

Nate quirked a brow in surprise.

“Has she implied as much or is this just your opinion?”

“Oh, Ms. Patton didn’t need to imply anything,” Magnus stated quite bluntly. “She said it outright in front of me. I was quoting almost verbatim.”

“Almost?” Nate asked.

“Well, I said it with fewer of her curse words, to be honest,” Magnus said, his head bowing.

Nate sighed, closed his eyes. No wonder turn-over was high. Low employee morale was a disease. The amount of money it took to find new workers, time spent in their orientation, and signing paperwork was costly. At the rate this was going, They’d have almost as much turnover as workforce in a few more months.

“Tell Ms. Patton to meet with me in half an hour,” Nate told Magnus. “If she wishes to keep her job, that is.”

“Where-”

“Right here in this office,” Nate interjected. “Half an hour and not a minute later.”

“Very good, Sir.”

Magnus went to leave but was stopped by Nate’s voice.

“And Magnus?”

“Yes, Sir?”

“Thank you for being honest about Ms. Patton,” he told him. “What’s her first name again?”

“Flora.”

Nate muttered to himself and made a face. Such a nice feminine and soft name for one so prickly and unbecoming of character. Like she was all rose thorns and no petals. Magnus seemed to be of the same mind and smiled.

“My sentiments exactly, Sir,” he said as he nodded and walked out of the manager’s office.

Leila got up from her place near the radiator. Or rather, on it. It was summer so the damned thing was turned off, but it was uncomfortable to lean against. Leila thought that she’d be massaging the ‘waffle-butt’ out of her fanny for the rest of her trip abroad.

“Would you judge me if I said that that little display of power was pretty damned hot?” Leila asked, smirking as she walked toward Nate.

“I won’t judge you if you don’t judge me for the fact I’m now thinking of what you’d look like naked and spread eagle across this desk right now,” he told her with a smirk of his own.

“Hmm... too bad you have a meeting with Brunhilde in less than a half hour,” Leila remarked. “What are you going to say to her?”

“Nothing she can’t bear to hear,” Nate said. “But it’ll be along the lines of ‘can the attitude and start treating people like people and not robots or you’ll see the unemployment line by the end of the day’.”

“I can dig that,” Leila said. “I wonder what her fucking problem is.”

“Don’t know and don’t care,” Nate said. “But if she doesn’t mend her ways, her sassy ass is out of a job.”

“I think I’ll let you handle Miss Sassypants all by yourself then. As much as I love to see a proverbial pissing contest, I’d rather not get rankled by another diabolical female. I’ve had enough of them this week.”

“There’s a breakroom at the end of the hall, or if you want actual good tea or coffee, there’s a shop two blocks east,” Nate told her. “Service is slow, but worth the wait.”

Leila nodded and left the room. She bypassed the breakroom where she was sure she would have been met with the grumblings of a downtrodden staff and/or ornery supervisor. Who knew where the hellion would be hiding? Maybe she was in her office making voodoo dolls of her most hated employees. Or she could be on the floor with a whip and cracking it over the heads of the laborers. Either way, the tension in the building was palpable, and Leila needed the fresh air to clear her head.

She walked past a small grocer’s and stopped for a moment looking inside. Seeing something that caught her eyes for the briefest of moments, the notion was gone in an instant and she kept moving toward the end of the block.

A small corner cafe with a few chairs and tables outside of it beckoned, as did the scents coming from it. Coffee and the unmistakable, yet light, scent of grease.

Ordering two cups of coffee to go, Leila got herself and Nate a drink and bought two buttery croissants that looked as sinful as they tasted. Her croissant was gone by the time she got back to the warehouse, and she almost wished she could head back to the little cafe to grab another one.

Her stomach rumbled angrily. It was only 2:30 PM and her innards were acting like it was time for supper. Traveling really did mess with your body’s time clock. She tried to do the math in regards to what time it would be in California, but got lost somewhere along the line and abandoned her search.

When she got back to the manager’s office, it was closed and a mumbled male voice was speaking rapidly. A few lighter words were spoken and Nate was off again. The next time the female spoke, it was quieter and seemed more demure. Good. Maybe she was getting was Nate was laying down. She sounded like a difficult woman to be around.

Another five minutes and the door opened. A petite female with light blonde hair stacked in a bun and watery blue eyes came striding out. She couldn’t have been more than 5 foot 2 and a buck ten soaking wet. The woman stopped when she saw Leila standing there with two cups of coffee and sized her up. Leila had no idea what the woman was thinking, but it was soon apparent when she finally opened her mouth.

“I hope he didn’t send you out on an errand for coffee like the good little woman you are,” the woman said to her.

Leila blinked, thinking.

This bitch...

“No, he didn’t,” Leila said plainly. There was obviously no point in being nice with someone as prickly as she. “I went to get something for myself and got him something as well. It’s this thing you call ‘being nice’. I’m sure it’s a foreign concept to you, but you should try Googling it and try it on for size. Sometimes people actually start being nice to you back. Maybe they have Youtube tutorials about being a decent human being that you can check out as well.”

The woman’s face- Flora’s- was a deep crimson. She didn’t seem to be breathing normally, though Leila granted her a huge smile when she saw she had hit a nerve.

“Oh, and when you smile? It reflects back on you lots of times,” Leila said, showing all her brilliantly white teeth. “People smile back and act pleasant. You might want to ease your way into it. You know- so your face doesn’t start cracking. Facial muscles are so very delicate when they’re not put to use frequently.”

Leila walked past the frozen woman into the manager’s office where Nate was lightly chuckling behind the door.

She placed Nate’s cup of coffee on the desk and turned to see him grinning at her.

“Fun meeting?” she asked blithely as if she hadn’t just put Flora Patton in her place seconds before.

“Not as much fun as watching you flex your ‘wit’ muscle,” Nate said. “I think she got what I was putting down, but I think you were the one who really schooled her.”

“Good,” Leila replied. “She deserved everything I said to her and more. She sounds like a horrible human being. I got you a croissant as well.”

She held the greasy baggy up to Nate who immediately opened it up and started to scarf up the pastry.

“We’ll go as soon as Magnus gets back,” Nate told her. “He’s dealing with a situation in HR. It wouldn’t surprise me if another twenty workers wanted out due to Flora’s horrible manners and strict work ethic.”

“She acts like these people are machines,” Leila said, eyeing Nate’s half-eaten croissant. He noticed her stare.

“As soon as we get out of here, we can grab something to eat,” Nate told her. “Not much around here, but there are a few good restaurants a mile or so away. It’s mostly factories and warehouses in this district.”

He finished most of his croissant but gave the last bite to Leila who was practically drooling.

“If it wasn’t already past the lunch hour, I’d suggest we steal Miss Patton’s lunch bag and inhale it, but we’re a bit late for that,” Nate told her, smiling winningly at Leila.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

After a quickly devoured late lunch, both Nate and Leila headed toward their hotel. They had spent the morning at one factory that was doing well in his absence, and then the afternoon was spent dealing with Formidable Flora, the hellcat of a woman.

“Magnus will be keeping me informed of Flora’s... progress,” Nate said. “One wrong move and that woman is gone. I wish HR had done a better job vetting her before hiring. I hate having to fire people, but it’s either her or half my workforce.”

They took the elevator up to their floor, high in the hotel. It had a wonderful view of the city. Nate had asked for a regular room, but the concierge had a wife who worked for one of the Charles companies, and he had pulled some strings. They were now housed in an extra suite that was available.

“Is there a grocery market or corner store around here?” Leila asked. “I need to pick up some personal items that can’t be found in a gift store.”

Nate looked back at her, pausing as he took off his light jacket.

“You need me to get something for you?” he asked. “I know most of the places around here well enough.”

“No,” she told him, giving him a small smile. “It’s some... feminine products and I prefer to pick them out on my own.”

Nate nodded. He didn’t have a problem picking up tampons or whatever Leila needed, but he also knew she was an independent woman and liked to do things for herself when she could.

“If you head out the hotel doors and turn left, there’s a corner market at the end of the block,” he told her and continued to extricate himself from his tie. “Nothing big, but it has the essentials.”

“I’ll get going in a few,” she told him. “Do you need anything?”

“I’d kill for a greasy burger and fries right now, but you can’t find them there, so not right now, love.”

Nodding, Leila walked up to Nate, placed a soft kiss on his lips and sauntered off to the bathroom to the necessary. British coffee seemed to move right through her.

While she was in the bathroom she checked her phone for a few things and sighed. She really didn’t feel like going to the store, but it was a necessary evil and one she couldn’t put off any longer.

Sometimes being a woman really sucked.


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