Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.
― Mary Shelley, writer
When Leo Perkins retrieved his buzzing phone and saw the name of the caller, his drowsy eyes blinked twice. The ocean breeze suddenly lost its sweetness and the hot sand intensified under his feet.
He felt his wife’s gaze as she adjusted her sunglasses. As much as he had tried to master his facial expressions, he couldn’t hide stress from Teresa.
“Is it him?” Her eyebrows tightened just over the rims of her dark lenses. “Now?”
“Yep.” Leo shook his head and sighed. So much for this oasis away from the job. He pressed “accept” and sank into the lounge chair.
Teresa pointed at the phone, whispering like a muted steam engine. “Well, you can just tell that man to–”
Leo pushed his palm toward her. “This is Leo. Yeah, how are you, Bill?”
Despite his seven decades, the caller’s whiny voice sounded like a college kid’s. But Bill Grafton made up for his stature with practiced curtness. “Are you still flying through Miami tomorrow? We need to meet. Things are heading sideways. We’ve got to make some changes.”
Heading sideways? Changes? Where did this come from? Last he knew, Leo was still the golden boy in the eyes of the board. He’d righted the ship by putting some new hands on deck and personally landing the largest account in company history.
The only other time the chairman had placed this kind of impromptu call was to offer Leo the CEO’s job a few years ago. The fact that he was calling after so long—while Leo and his wife were on vacation, no less—meant there was about to be blood in the water.
Leo’s mind sharpened as adrenaline lit him up. He was going to have to speed up his plans and unfold his new vision now.
“Can I call you later this afternoon?” Leo couldn’t look at Teresa. Her slamming piña colada voiced her protest. “Or when we get home tomorrow night?”
“What time will you be landing in Miami tomorrow?” Bill asked. “Still 3:20? I’ll swing by the airport.”
There was no escape. When the chairman of Carter Phillips called a meeting, you took it. Even if you were on your first vacation in three years.
Leo smiled his politician’s smile to force confidence into his voice. “Yep, 3:20. It’ll be great to see you. Keep in mind we’ve only got a ninety-minute layover.”
“This won’t take long. Come out to baggage claim and someone will be waiting there. We’ll meet in my car.” The phone went silent. Leo’s smile hung lifeless.
He was determined to not let this meeting be his last.