Home > Primal Instincts_ Volume 2(2)

Primal Instincts_ Volume 2(2)
Author: Nicole Edwards

Oh, boy. It was go-time.
“Are you nervous?” Delaney asked as we followed Cheryl into the empty room.
“Terrified,” I admitted.
“Just imagine them in their underwear,” Delaney whispered.
“Maybe she doesn’t have to imagine,” Gem muttered under their breath.
“Maybe I don’t,” I retorted, grateful for the anger that overpowered my anxiety.
Hello, backbone. Welcome to the party.
Delaney’s head snapped over, her eyes wide, but she didn’t say anything.
I cocked an eyebrow and headed for the row of chairs at the back of the room. There were four, one for each of us.
At 12:59 p.m., the door to the conference room opened, and four of the most magnificent men I’d ever seen in my life strolled in. They were laughing about something, but it faded off as they looked our way. When Hawk met my gaze, I smiled, and it earned me a sexy smirk in return. The butterflies in my belly fluttered recklessly, hope and anticipation stirring them into a frenzy.
No sooner did the door close than it opened again. The directors who oversaw each product line came in one after the other. My nerves weren’t thrilled that the party was a little bigger than I’d anticipated.
“Good afternoon,” Nick greeted, addressing us while the others took their seats at the table. “When Cheryl calls you up, you’ll have fifteen minutes to present and another fifteen set aside for questions if we have them. We’ll move through these as fast or as slow as you need. Once everyone’s done, we’ll review amongst ourselves and make a final decision. Cheryl will have our final answer first thing tomorrow morning.” He smiled. “Good luck.”
As he joined the others at the table, Cheryl called Wayne to the front.
He didn’t dress for the occasion because he wasn’t aware the timeline had shifted. If he had, maybe he would’ve come in wearing something that wasn’t wrinkled. His navy-blue dress shirt would’ve been a nice choice if it didn’t look like he had grabbed it from the floor of his closet after it had been there for a week. His khaki Dockers didn’t look much better, and his Sperry boat shoes felt too casual for a meeting of this caliber.
“Introduce yourself,” Garrison stated when Wayne stepped to the front of the room.
“Wayne Parson,” he said with a grin. “Nick and I go way back.”
They all peered over at Nick, who shrugged.
“New-hire orientation,” Wayne reminded him.
“Continue,” Creed said firmly, clearly not amused.
“Give us a little of your background,” Nick instructed, his tone warmer than Creed’s but only a little.
“I worked in a sporting goods store as a teenager, but I got tired of stocking shelves. I spent some time after that trying to find myself. Different jobs here and there.” He tucked his hands in his pockets, smiled. “I didn’t go to college because I don’t think we put enough emphasis on life skills, nor does a degree accurately depict your level of intelligence.”
“But it does attest to your dedication,” Nick noted.
“That’s what I hear. Not sure I agree. I have life experience, which is far more valuable.” Wayne shrugged. “Before I came here, I worked at a large tech company in their communications department.”
When he paused as though they might ask him something, Hawk spoke up. “And your presentation.”
Wayne stepped to the side and motioned toward the blank television screen behind him. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t given enough time to complete my presentation.”
Eyes began shifting, then Garrison said, “You weren’t given enough time?”
“No. I only learned this morning that the meeting was moved to today.”
I peered over at Cheryl. She appeared unfazed despite Wayne lobbing an accusation she could’ve easily countered. I liked her more for the fact she didn’t feel the need to get defensive.
“Where were you when the rest of the team learned on Friday?” Nick asked.
“Out sick.” He waved. “Just a twenty-four-hour thing. No big.”
“When did you start working here?” Hawk asked, and it was clear he was trying to be pleasant, but his frustration bled into his tone.
“Last week.”
Garrison turned, glancing back at me, Delaney, and Gem, addressing us as a whole. “Were you given enough time to complete your presentation?”
“Yes, sir,” I answered dutifully.
“Yes,” Delaney acknowledged.
“More than,” Gem stated.
Garrison turned back around, but I couldn’t see his expression as he peered at each director before glancing down the table at Nick.
“Were you able to meet with the product teams?” Nick prompted, his friendliness waning.
“Only the CBD team.”
“Who did you meet with?” Garrison asked.
“I … um … I got the notes from the last meeting they had.”
“So you didn’t actually meet with anyone?”
“I was going to do that today, but—”
“No more excuses,” Creed barked. “Get on with your presentation.”
Wayne’s eyes narrowed on Creed for a moment before he looked away. “I was able to do some research on our competitor’s similar products. I made a list”—he produced a sheet of paper from his pocket—“of things that I feel are beneficial to my success.”
Honest to God, I had to grind my teeth together to keep my jaw from falling open as Wayne read from the list I’d had on my desk. Verbatim.
I was right; he hadn’t been borrowing a pen.
He’d been stealing my work.
“Why do you feel those are good comparison products?” Hawk asked.
Wayne fidgeted with the paper. “Well, you see, I didn’t make it much past that. I thought I had time.”
“But you chose those for a reason, did you not?” Hawk probed.
“I did, yes.”
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