Too Close to Touch
afternoon trying to decide when the best time would be to talk to Gretchen about the sales reps. They had yet to go over yesterday’s meeting and Kylie had Þ elded about a dozen phone calls from Jason Bergman alone, angling to hear how Gretchen had responded to the message Kylie was supposed to pass along. Kylie had some choice words on her tongue for the man, but managed to keep them safely locked in her brain for the time being. Pissing off their top sales rep probably wasn’t a smart career move. Jason might be arrogant and self-centered, but he also took care of some very large accounts; that fact gave him power.
    Talking to Gretchen about the reps’ opinion of her methods wasn’t a conversation Kylie was looking forward to, but only because she didn’t know Gretchen well yet. She and Jim used to have such discussions quite often. Jim had relied on her to keep him abreast of numbers, new clients, potential clients, and proÞ ts. They’d had many talks over lunch about which reps brought in the most money, who needed to work a bit harder, and so on. Talking to Gretchen about such things should be no big deal. It was part of Kylie’s job, after all. And once they got into the subject, Kylie’s plan was to slip in a comment or two about maybe going a little easier on the crew in the future. No big deal.
    She jumped when she heard Gretchen’s voice cut through the quiet of the ofÞ ce. “Kylie, can I talk to you for a minute, please?”
    “Be right there.” Kylie closed the open application on her desktop and grabbed a pad and a pen. She’d realized that, though she didn’t really need to jot notes during their meetings, it made Gretchen feel better if she pretended. She headed in.
    Kylie had noticed, over the past few days, that Gretchen’s ofÞ ce had begun to Þ ll up. The bookshelves were lined with sales report binders and several books on sales managing and sales in general. There were also several awards from the various companies she’d worked for.
    Kylie had snuck a peek one day last week while Gretchen was out.
    • 42 •
    One trophy and three crystal awards were engraved with Sales Rep of the Year . Three plaques reported Highest Percentage over Quota .
    Five different pieces read District Sales Manager of the Year . The twelve decorations were from three companies. The woman apparently knew her stuff when it came to sales. It seemed that Gretchen was a phenomenal success wherever she happened to be working. Kylie found herself hugely impressed and unexpectedly proud to be working for someone who was such an asset to any company.
    One odd discovery Kylie had made during her covert perusal of her boss’s décor had been the two framed photos on Gretchen’s desk. They seemed to be the only personal items in the entire room and both faced Gretchen’s chair, as if they were not meant for public consumption.
    Kylie had had to walk around behind the desk to see them.
    One was an older picture of a family of four: a man and a woman in their Þ fties or sixties, the man’s dark eyes and chiseled jaw line telling Kylie he could be none other than Gretchen’s father, along with a tightly smiling Gretchen and a younger man Kylie assumed was her brother. In the other picture a much more relaxed version of Gretchen was with a smiling, handsome man of about Þ fty. Both were wearing sombreros and holding up large margaritas in salute toward the camera.
    Gretchen’s cheeks were rosy and there was a sparkle in her eyes; she looked like she was laughing out loud. Kylie was struck by the contrast between the two photos. Gretchen could have been two different people, one the boss Kylie saw every day, and the other a more playful and vibrant woman. Kylie liked that there might actually be more to her new boss than seriousness and concentration.
    Yet again rehearsing what she was planning to say about the sales reps, she took a seat in one of the maroon fabric-covered chairs in front of

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