CHAPTER 1: FUCKIN’ FIASCO
"What do you mean, there's a problem? Valentine's Day is in a week, Robbie! We don't have time for a hold up that can turn into a catastrophe!" I run my fingers through my frizzy curls in complete annoyance.
"I'm terribly sorry, Miss Damore, we don't seem to have any information about the trucks carrying the ingredients we need to continue production. They are usually here by 8 AM on Tuesday. Today is Tuesday, right...?"
I push myself out of the office chair like a fire has been lit under me. My Louboutins click as I take strides to show this idiot that I'm in control. He's been our Factory Manager for over four years, but if we hired him yesterday, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
Shit for brains, I tell you!
"Don't we pay you to arrange info and orders, Robbie?!" My steady watch freezes him up.
"I... I...," he stammers.
"What you're saying is you can't find the trucks, because you simply forgot to place the order?"
Robbie's face turns pale. I completely understand he's feeling the pressures of working for Damore Lollipops. Especially when the most romantic holiday of the year is fast approaching But, I can't tolerate this type of negligence. This company means more to me than dealing with his bullshit right now. I'll take care of it myself.
"Just forget it. I'll fix it. Expect a word with my father... You can leave now and go back to work."
Boy, if looks could tell all. I'd be thinking he's about two shakes away from crapping his pants. If he thinks I'm intimidating, my father is in a category of his own.
My dad is a sweet, adoring man when it comes to his cupcake, yours truly. Regardless, he's quite the opposite when it comes to business.
Speaking of business, there are four main ingredients that go into making a basic lollipop: corn syrup, sugar, citric or malic acid and water. Without one of those ingredients, we can't bust out the millions of daily orders we need to create our one of a kind products. We make the most amazing lollipops! Ones with chocolate and caramel or strawberries and cream, for instance. The flavors are endless. It's like Ben & Jerry's. You can't have one without the other. Valentine's Day is one of the biggest holidays for people in our line of work.
My name is Truely and I co-own Damore Lollipops alongside my father, Truman. He's the CEO and I'm the vice-president. Daddy is mostly retired at this stage so I've been steering this ship for quite some time. This fifty-fifty balance is tricky, balancing our business and personal relationship. It weighs heavy on my mother Miriam's heart. Her clever self coaxed my dad into a plan: if I show him I can lead this company effectively and profitably for one more year, he'll give me an increase in shares. Which means I'll be the majority owner and CEO.
We get all our basic ingredients from within our Sunshine state. So it shouldn't be that hard for Robbie to arrange everything.
After putting all the numbers together, figuratively and literally, I detect the enormous ordering error Robbie made with our main supplier, U.S. Sugar in Clewiston.
Getting the ingredients straight from the source was and is a huge deal for my dad and I. Besides the fact that it leaves out the middleman, we've built a great and trusting rapport with the people over there. I like to be hands on and personable with my suppliers. They're the perfect ingredients to keep our relationships friendly and professional. An in person visit to fix this completely idiotic issue, should be the answer.
We chose their sugar cane because it sets us apart from other high selling lollipop factories or even brands. U.S. Sugar's cane gives us the lowest sugar content while holding onto its tremendous flavor. It's one of the reasons why our lollipops have turned this family business into a billion-dollar household name.
Again, I don't know why this is problematic for Robbie to do. But, I have a feeling his newfound romance has something to do with his slacker status.
Whatever it may be, it doesn't matter at this moment. I've to get on the road...
"Dolly, can you cancel all my appointments for today? Call Mark and Rick, please. We're going to Clewiston to work out a few kinks," I instruct my secretary through my Bluetooth speaker.
"Understood, Miss. I will," replies her chirpy voice.
A few moments later she notifies me that Mark is out sick and his replacement is pulling up at our headquarters with my dad in tow.
Perfect. Two birds with one stone. I can tell my father about Robbie's sloppy work ethic then turn my heel to drive to Clewiston.
"Good afternoon. How's my cupcake doing today?" My father greets me with a kiss on the cheek as I step outside.
"Hi Daddy, couldn't you let the driver open the door for you?" I ask, before giving him the news about our Factory Manager and my visit.
"Well, cupcake, there's a surprise for you waiting inside. I don't want to spoil it. He has told me about your itinerary. Why are you going out of town on such short notice?"
"It's Robbie, Daddy. He's halted almost all production! He's letting his southern regions do his thinking for him instead of using his other head."
My father chuckles mischievously at my choice of words and my pent up state. "Those cheeks of yours will be as red as maraschino cherries, from such talk. I'll handle Robbie. Promise, don't you worry, cupcake," he says, pulling me in for a hug and kiss goodbye. I watch as he goes straight to our factory located next to our headquarters.
I've always been a huge daddy's girl. Even at the age of twenty-six, I find myself still reverting to that little girl all those years ago, who craves her daddy's approval. Being an only child gives you that particular relationship with your parents, I suppose.
I hop into the awaiting car and almost immediately, I want to step back out.
"Christopher? What are you doing here?" I find myself pulling on the hem of my pencil skirt as his eyes roam over me.
Apparently, Mark's substitute is Christopher Ackles. A former fling who once regularly gave me tingles from the crown of my head to my quivering lips. And by those, I don't mean the ones on my face. He knew all the salivating ways to make this tootsie roll, if you catch my drift.
"Well, hello to you too, Gorgeous." His scorching gaze delivering sensations in places I'm embarrassed to confess. "Are you ready to let me ride you?"
"I beg your pardon? What did you just ask, Chris?!"
"Are you ready for me to drive you?" He gives me a puzzling look, "Are you feeling okay? You look a little flushed there, sweetheart."
Oh my God! I'm losing my damn mind!
It's been quite a while since I've been with a man. Seeing Chris again makes my libido start to spike, wanting to jump his drool worthy physique my eyes can't seem to stray from. Christopher is definitely up there on the yummy scale.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just a little preoccupied. We can press on," I tell him.
He nods and starts driving. I catch him sneaking glances my way through the rearview mirror. Not going to lie, it feels awkward. I decide to put my big girl pants on, getting past these feelings by clearing the air here and now. I need to put a stop to these absurd butterflies circulating inside my stomach.
"Ehm...," I try to clear my throat, but it just comes out sounding like a screeching record. "I'm sure you might wonder why I snuck out after the last night we were together. I just wanted...," Christopher cuts me off.
"Don't worry about it. My heart wasn't completely crushed." He gives me a sly smirk. Chris did always have a mellow ease to him and a great sense of humor.
"Okay. Great," I mumble.
I turn to look out the window. It was exactly what I wanted to hear, but somehow it seems to dip into my lack of a love life. Do men only see my shiny exterior? Am I not dateable? Do they only want a quick fuck with the billionairess? Nevertheless, my love life could use some traction.
"We've arrived. Would you like me to accompany you?"
"Why would you? It's not the custom." Like my father, I open my own door.
Christopher gets out and takes over my already open door, "T, please wait," he says as his fingers lightly graze my elbow. "I wasn't being truthful before. Being with you, loving you was remarkable for me. I was convinced that we had a real connection, Truely. Despite the fact that we were young."
I feel myself becoming lost in his eyes, while Chris continues, "I felt hurt when I found your spot empty that next morning..."
My head starts spinning. Six years of guilt coming at me like a freight train. Complete with blinding headlights. Couldn't this wait to be said on the way back? I can't be distracted by these angsty thoughts and feelings while I'm supposed to negotiate a new supply of ingredients.
"I know I wasn't the one that captured your heart," Christopher says. "But, I only had good intentions, darling."
What in the world is he going on about? I've never given my heart to anyone. Besides...
"What on Earth are you talking about, Chris? I didn't know you cared for me in that way! Why didn't you come to me before just now?!" I corner him against the car.
Christopher's gaze falls to his trembling hands. Eventually hiding them in his pockets. Alongside all of his telling emotions. "The way your eyes sparkled like stars when you spoke about him. I knew that I could never compare to Dominic Ghirardelli..."