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At The Boss's Beck And Call(5)

By:Anna Cleary

‘You have failed as a company,’ he accused, steel in his deep, cool voice, ‘and I fully intend to rescue you, however painful that might be. At the end of next week Ms Capelli and I will be attending the International Book Convention in Bangkok as delegates. Before we leave, we will have finalised the new management and restructured Stiletto Publishing. You will be on the path to transforming from a small isolated company to being a vibrant part of a global organisation. Of course, you will all require some re-education. Some of you will find it necessary to invest your free time.’

There was an uneasy shuffling among the staff, but he continued on with inexorable calm. ‘Every publishing project, every job in every department will come under the microscope. And in return…’ He softened his tone, and not a muscle moved as the room held its breath. There was something so chilling in the pleasant cadences of his voice, with every consonant, every sibilant, so clear and distinct.

‘From those of you who keep your jobs I demand dedication. All employees of Scala Enterprises are expected to deliver a one-hundred-per-cent performance. This applies to the large things, as well as to the small. From achieving your project goals, to meeting your deadlines, to the scrupulous observance of punctuality. And I mean punctuality in all things. Your arrival at work, your return from your breaks, your attendance at meetings.’

Guilt jolted through Lara and she sank back into her chair as his unforgiving gaze roved from face to face. She felt the heat of it sear hers without noticing any change in his expression. No softening of recognition. It was as though he didn’t want to see her.

He added with lethal softness, ‘I think I should warn you, it is a very rare excuse I find myself able to accept.’

Her heart sank. The magic of a dew-spangled spider’s web hanging above the schoolyard fence hardly seemed likely to rate.

‘When you know me better,’ he continued smoothly, ‘you will discover that I do not like to be kept waiting. At Scala, there is no room for human frailty. We are uncompromising in regard to people meeting their obligations.’ He wound up with the grim warning, ‘Over the next couple of days Ms Capelli and I will be meeting with each and every one of you. Be prepared to defend your right to your job.’

A ripple of shock reverberated through the staff. Then, exactly as though his address had been a cosy chat, with polished courtesy Alessandro Vincenti thanked them all for their attention and dismissed them.

Lara rose with everyone else and joined the exodus from the room, but once beside her desk she halted. Shouldn’t she speak to him at once? Break the ice?

She shouldered her way back through the end stragglers and into the conference room, but Alessandro and his associate had already left, no doubt in a hurry to start the bloodletting. She hesitated a second. Would it be wise to interrupt him at this point? He seemed so efficient and remote, this might not be the best time to revive their old acquaintance. Although, it might be an advantage to at least inform him of her presence. The last thing she wanted was to give him the impression she had anything to be nervous about.

With that in mind she hurried along the corridor to Bill’s old office, her pulse pumping as fast as if she’d been a bad girl summoned to the headmaster.

The door was closed, probably for the first time in its history. She stood there a few seconds, breathing carefully to centre herself. She was brave, she was strong, she was a mother. She could deal with Alessandro Vincenti, woman to man, though she couldn’t help wondering if he’d still find her attractive.#p#分页标题#e#

Ignoring her galloping heartbeat, she raised her fist and knocked. She was just about to try again when Donatuila Capelli swept around the corner and, spotting her there, strode up on her four-inch stilettos.

Attractive in a corporate-Morticia-Addams kind of way, she delivered Lara a cool, sharp scrutiny from her long, cleverly made-up brown eyes. ‘Do you want something?’

‘I-came to see Alessandro.’

‘Mr Vincenti to you, honey. What’s your name?’

‘Lara.’ She indicated the door. ‘Is he…?’

Donatuila raised her thinly pencilled eyebrows. ‘No, he’s not. And I suggest you go back to your desk and wait your turn.’ She grasped the door handle and practically edged Lara aside with her bony hip. ‘You’ll get your chance with him, same as everyone else.’

Donatuila opened the door and went in.

The door closed in Lara’s face, and she felt some indignation. Whew. What a cold burr. Donatuila Capelli was brisk. It made her wonder if she’d been wise to draw attention to herself. Perhaps it had been a mistake to attempt to talk to Alessandro privately.