When the employee entrance door of the Minola Department Store and Emporium swung open, a blast of cold air swept the warning ahead.
“Shrew in the building. This is not a drill. The shrew is in the building.” Luc dropped the microphone back on the counter and grinned at Bianca. Anything, absolutely anything, to impress the most beautiful girl he had ever laid eyes on.
As outraged shouts heralded the customer service manager’s progress toward her department, Bianca glanced at Luc under her lashes. Then she straightened a stack of forms on the counter, straightened her back and tried very hard to twist the straight line of her mouth into a smile.
“Lounging again, you worthless sack of frothy ineptitude?” Kat’s voice scraped the paint off the department’s crumbling walls. Bianca pouted and considered retreating to the ladies room. But yesterday Kat had followed her and hammered on the stall door until it dropped off its hinges.
Her manager stomped across the office, kicked a trash can, and hurled a half-full paper cup in its general direction. The brown stream spattered magnificently across two scratched desks and dripped into the motley pattern of old carpet. “I swear that I go for one cup of tepid, turgid coffee and everyone does nothing.” Luc blew a kiss to Bianca, then ducked his head busily over a clipboard of reports when Kat stared at him suspiciously. Bianca took the brief second to smile flirtatiously back.
Kat swept back her black hair with a beautifully small hand and seized the stack of complaint forms resting in the “in” box. “Staff discourteous? Assistance not rendered?” She leaned in and shook them in Bianca’s face. “And after I, I have trained you?” Her voice peeled another long thin streamer of paint from the wall.
“How could you say that, Kat?” Bianca pleaded. “I’ve followed all the protocols. And people like me.”
“Like you! Who likes you?”
Bianca looked around and pointed hesitantly to an elderly man patiently waiting by the counter.
“I should have known!” Kat rounded her fury on the old gentleman. “You, again?” Fists balled onto her hips, she leaned across the counter so that her nose nearly touched his. “We don’t have time for this. We have customers who actually pay for their purchases!”
The man stepped back involuntarily. “The manager,” he managed to say. “I want to speak to the manager.”
“I am the customer service manager,” Kat snarled.
“Store manager,” the man mumbled hoarsely. “I want the store manager. Please.”
Kat’s eyes narrowed. Bianca wrung her soft hands. The old gentleman tried to square his shoulders, but found he could not meet Kat’s smoldering glare. The silence grew louder and louder until, without breaking eye contact, Kat grabbed the microphone. “Store manager to the customer service department. Now!”
There was a brief electronic shriek. Everyone cringed and tried to look busy. The old man stared at the ceiling, fiddling nervously with a coat button. Kat stared at him.
Moments passed. Again Kat picked up the microphone. “Pete, move your arse to the customer service department.”
There was another long pause. At last the door breezed open. Kat slammed her fists on the counter and glared at the manager strolling into the office. His jacket was rumpled, he had not shaved, and his tie was loose around his neck.
“You are a disgrace,” she snarled.
Pete smiled, nodded to the old gentleman and leaned on the counter. “There is no disgrace when our customers are met with your pretty face. Sweet, kind, gentle, Kat.”
Kat turned to the old man. “Father,” she exclaimed. “Are you going to let him dress like that? Or talk to me like that?”
“Indeed…um…yes…” Mr. Minola mumbled. “Pete. A word. If you’re not too busy, my boy.”
“For you sir, I’m never busy.”
“Nor for anyone else neither.” Kat kicked the trash can again and flounced to her desk.
Mr. Minola led Pete aside. “Now, son…may I call you son? I have a proposition. Marry my daughter. Get Kat out of my store while I still have any business.”
“And if I do?” Pete’s smile widened and he chuckled, “Father?”
The old gentleman glanced at his daughter and swallowed. “It’s yours. Everything. I’ll leave it all to you – if you can win her heart.”
They both turned and stared at Kat who was ripping Luc’s report into shreds. Pete smiled and he stroked his chin. “Consider it done, sir…Now Kat, my pretty kitten…”