Finding Love for the Workaholic ... excerpt
Chapter One: Something Old, Something New
Isabelle Harmon drew in a lungful of air. She counted three beats, and blew it out slowly. Repeat. In, out, in, out to make her anxiety subside. It was a familiar trick, necessary since childhood. Definitely needed in college. And grad school. And in her career as a Public Relations Executive? More times than she could count.
In one two three. Out one two three.
Maybe she should throw in a yoga stretch, right here behind her desk. Looking down at her slim snug skirt, she decided against it. Soon the beneficial effects of bringing air into her lungs became apparent. Her chest was less constricted, her pulse slowing and her mind clearer.
As many times as she’d employed the deep breathing ploy during her decade-long career here at Pearson and Thomas, she’d never used it for this particular reason before.
She finished placing a few personal items in her shoulder bag, logged off her company-owned laptop and grabbed the box of cupcakes. Smoothing her long blonde hair with her palm, she left her office.
A few minutes later she arrived at the large conference room located in the center of the second floor of their eight-story office building. Pearson and Thomas PR was the largest Public Relations firm in the Myrtle Beach area and they counted many hotels, vacation resorts and restaurants among their esteemed clients. Isabelle had loved working her way up the food chain, so to speak, delivering profitable PR plans for her clients. She had absolutely loved being at the top, managing other PR professionals on staff while hobnobbing at industry events and snagging new customers for the firm. But she had never been one to hang around because it was comfortable. Or easy. The challenge was gone, and now, so she would be.
She wondered if anyone would be surprised.
She wondered if anyone would miss her when she was gone.
She found her customary seat in the board room and settled in. She pulled the top off the bakery box and positioned it close by.
Her boss Jose gave her a greeting, a silent eyebrow up, when he entered the room. Jose had never been particularly warm and fuzzy to her, but after her surprise announcement in his office earlier this morning, he had no reason to make her feel comfortable. She’d asked for five minutes at the end of this meeting and he’d begrudgingly agreed. She knew he’d rather have sent a cold email to staff, but she wanted to handle this her way.
An hour later, the staff meeting of the firm’s executives had gone off without a hitch. When her six fellow execs were gathering up their papers, closing their laptops and getting to their feet, Isabelle raised a finger. “One more thing before you leave, everyone. Five minutes please?”
Considering the only thing standing between them and lunch was Isabelle’s five-minute delay, a few of them rolled their eyes while a few more groaned. Good-naturedly, she hoped.
“It won’t take any longer than five minutes, I promise. And you’ll get a cupcake out of the deal.” She gestured to the box that had been sitting beside her for the last hour.
A few appreciative noises now. Okay, she had their attention.
“In this box, I have sixteen cupcakes. Nine with chocolate frosting and seven with vanilla frosting.” She lifted the box and tilted it so they could all see. “As you notice, each cupcake has a single letter written on it. Your job is to break into two teams and focus on arranging the cupcake letters into an announcement that makes sense.”
They were intrigued, she could tell by the fact that they didn’t complain. “Quickly, break into teams and I’ll give you your next step.”
They were professionals and they’d been through their share of team building exercises, so they quickly split into two teams of three gathered on opposite sides of the conference table. Jose didn’t join in. Of course, Isabelle didn’t expect him to.
“Good. This team, you have the chocolate cupcakes.” She pulled out all nine and set them on the table in front of them. She walked to the far side of the table. “This team, you have the vanilla cupcakes.” She did the same with their seven cupcakes. She pulled out her phone and glanced at the time. “We’ve used roughly one minute for set-up which means you have four minutes to work together and solve your puzzle. I’ll set the stopwatch. Ready? Go.”