Let him stew about it for a while, she decided.
She amused herself by calling the local florist and ordering a dozen red roses to be delivered to his office. She almost danced out of her apartment to keep her appointment with James.
“Well, aren’t we bright and sassy this morning,” Tod commented when she swung into The Gallery.
“Aren’t we just.” She caught his face in her hand and gave him a noisy kiss. “Is he in?”
“Upstairs. He’s expecting you. Sugarpie, you look fabulous. Good enough to eat.”
“I feel good enough to eat.” She patted his cheek, then glided up the steps. She knocked on the office door, stepped in. “Hello, James.”
“Malory.” He rose from the desk, both hands extended. “Thank you so much for coming in.”
“Of course.” She took the chair he gestured toward. “How are things?”
With a pained expression on his face, he sat. “I’m sure you’ve heard about the difficulty Pamela had with Mrs. K. A terrible misunderstanding, which I?
?m afraid may have cost The Gallery a valued client.”
Malory forced herself to appear concerned even while her mind jumped with glee. “Yes, I’m so sorry that things have . . .” Don’t say gone to hell in a handbasket, she ordered herself, and continued without missing a beat. “Been a bit difficult during this transition.”
“Yes. Difficult. Pamela’s very enthusiastic about The Gallery, but I’m afraid she’s still learning. I see now that I gave her too much autonomy too quickly.”
To keep from punching her fists in the air, Malory sedately folded her hands on her knee. “She has a very precisely defined vision.”
“Yes. Yes.” He worried his gold pen, fiddled with his tie. “I think her strengths may lie in a more peripheral area than actual client-staff relations. I realize there’s friction between the two of you.”
Cool, she reminded herself. “I also had a very precisely defined vision, which unfortunately clashed with hers. So, yes, there was considerable friction.”
“Well.” He cleared his throat. “Perhaps I let Pamela influence me in that regard. I felt, sincerely, that it might be time for you to explore your talents, to experiment. However, I see I didn’t take into consideration your affection and loyalty to The Gallery, or how being nudged out of the nest, as it were, might upset you.”
“I admit it did.” But she tempered her statement with the sweetest of smiles.
“I have considered all of this over the last couple of weeks. I’d very much like you to come back, Malory. To resume your managerial duties. At a ten percent increase in salary.”
“This is so unexpected.” She had to imagine her butt glued to the chair so she couldn’t leap up and do a victory dance. “And I’m flattered. But . . . can I be frank?”
“The friction we spoke of is still going to be there. I have to admit I hadn’t been happy here the last several months. Your . . . nudging me out of the nest,” she said, “was painful and frightening. But once I was out, I had the opportunity to look back and realize that the nest had become . . . let’s say a little crowded.”
“I understand.” He held up his hands, then clasped then together under his chin. “I can promise that Pamela won’t interfere with your authority, or with the policies that have long been in effect here. You’ll have the last word, barring mine, of course, on acquisitions and displays, on featured artists and so on. Just as before.”
It was exactly what she’d wanted. More than, she realized when she calculated the bonus in salary. She would be back doing what she did best, and with considerable financial reward, and she would have the personal, if unattractive, satisfaction of putting Pamela’s nose out of joint.
She would have won, without firing a shot.
“Thank you, James. I can’t tell you how much it means to me to know you want me back, that you have confidence in me.”
“Wonderful, wonderful.” He beamed at her. “You can start right away, today if that’s good for you. It’ll be like the last two weeks never even happened.”
Like they never even happened.
Her stomach gave a mighty pitch. Then, suddenly, it was as if sensible Malory stepped to the side and listened in shock as reckless Malory took charge.
“But I can’t come back. I’ll always be grateful for everything you taught me, all the opportunities you gave me—the last being pushing me out the door so I’d have to leave my comfort zone. I’m going to open my own business.”
Oh, my God, she thought. I’m going to open my own business.