Authors: Katy Halliday
LOVE AND COFFEE
A CUP OF GRACE ROMANCE
Copyright © 2016 by Katy Halliday. All rights reserved. This book is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination, or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronically or mechanical, without permission in writing from the author or publisher.
Other books by Katy Halliday
A Montana Inspirational Romance, Book 1
A Montana Inspirational Romance, Book 2
LOVE AND COFFEE
A CUP OF GRACE ROMANCE
The diesel truck began to push its way into my lane, and I gritted my teeth. Oh, so close. We were crawling along the freeway at about ten miles per hour. Stuck in morning rush hour traffic. Again. I sighed. I loved my job as a third assistant editor at the city’s biggest newspaper, The Daily News. But I could do without the commute. I mean, as it was, I only lived 9 miles from work, but some mornings it took me an hour to get to there. Most mornings I made peace with it and decided that was the penalty for living in a big city. Not that I would change it for anything. I was going places in my career. Of that, I was sure.
I loved my job. Yes I did. Did I mention that? I loved it enough that I was going to make whatever sacrifice was necessary to get ahead there. I had recently been given a promotion and now, at 27 years old, I was the youngest third assistant editor that the paper had ever employed. That made me smile. Yes, Tara Barnes was going places.
A red Honda Civic honked at me when I didn’t move fast enough to let them into the on ramp, but I shrugged them off. I had more important things to think about. Like buying a house. I had recently begun searching real estate listings online. I was going to have a really great house. With a lanai. And a pool. Definitely a pool. I could already see myself lying out in the sweltering Arizona summer sun beside the glorious, blue water pool. Thank goodness I was going to be able to afford one in a nice neighborhood. I had been waiting for a drop in home prices to start my search, and here it was! I was giddy with excitement.
I pulled into my reserved parking space at the newspaper and began whistling a happy tune. I loved this place. I mean, genuinely loved it. I realize there aren’t a lot of people that can say they genuinely loved their job, but I sure did. I grabbed my briefcase from the passenger seat, grabbed my mocha cappuccino from the cup holder, and slammed the door shut. I pressed the button on the key fob and listened to the horn honk its approval saying my car was good and locked.
I absently reached a hand up to my hair. It was medium brunette and I had put it in a chignon. I had chosen a cute little red skirt and blouse outfit for the day. Sure, it was a lot of red, but I look good in red, so why not? I had paired it with a brand new pair of cute black stilettos. I silently reminded myself that I might need to cut back on these types of frivolous expenses for a while if I expected to get the house that I wanted. And I
going to get the house I wanted.
I had seen a cute Victorian over in Monte Villa. From the pictures online, it looked like it needed some paint, but hopefully that was all the renovations it needed. It had a lovely little lily pad shaped pool in the backyard. It was perfect! Oh, and a kitchen nook with lots of windows to let the summer sun in. It was a cute house with four bedrooms and three baths. It was the house of my dreams. I made a mental note to make an appointment with a realtor so I could take a look inside.
“Hey Tara,” Annie the receptionist said as I passed. I smiled and waved at her, my car keys still in my hand, jingling. Annie was such a sweet girl. I needed to remember to get her something for all the hard work she did for everyone in the department.
I pushed my office door open with my foot and flipped the light on. Oh, how I loved this place! I smiled. The plug-in air freshener I had installed last week doused the air in sugar cookie scented awesomeness, and I inhaled deeply. I dropped my briefcase onto a side chair, set my coffee cup on my desk, and then went around behind the desk and pulled the blinds, letting the sun in.
“Good morning, Tara,” Kathryn called out as she walked through my office door. “How are you?”
“Good!” I said. “I think I found the house! A cute little Victorian off of Grant Street in Monte Villa. I am so excited!”
“That’s awesome news,” she said, and then brushed her blonde hair back off her forehead. She looked back over her shoulder in a clandestine way and then reached over and quietly closed my office door. Uh oh.
“What’s up?” I asked as she headed toward one of the chairs in front of my desk and perched on the edge.
“I’ve heard some news, and it’s not good,” she whispered, looking over her shoulder again, even though we were the only ones in my office.
“About? You look like a gumshoe in one of my novels that I’m reading right now. What’s going on?” I frowned. I hated office gossip and Kathryn knew this. This had to be important.
Her eyebrows furrowed. “I heard there were going to be layoffs. Like, a lot of them.” She leaned in as she spoke.
I sat up straight. “Who did you hear that from?” Surely this had nothing to do with me. I had gotten such high praise for my work when I had gotten my last promotion three months earlier.
“I’m not allowed to tell. I was sworn to secrecy.” She leaned in further, her eyebrows furrowed. “I’m really worried, Tara. I mean, really worried.” She reached across my desk and straightened the pictures I had sitting near the edge. Neat freak, that one.
“Well, I really don’t think we have much to worry about, Kathryn. I mean, management has been pleased with our work. We both recently got promotions and pay increases. I’m sure they are just using it as an excuse to let people go that are less than stellar performers. You know, if they announce a layoff, there’s no big production over it. Just calling it budget cuts or something.” It sounded good to me and I hoped it was true. I couldn’t deal with this kind of thing right now. I had a cute little Victorian to buy. I was already mentally picking out curtains.
“That may be. But if I told you the source, you would know it’s legitimate,” she said. “I would not just gossip about this kind of thing.” She whispered the last part.
“Oh I know that,” I reassured her. “I wouldn’t think otherwise.” And that was the truth. Kathryn wasn’t much on gossip either.
A list of names of people that always seemed idle popped into my mind as possible candidates that management might want to let go. Yes, there were more than a few names that came up. Then I felt guilty. A layoff was bad news for anyone, even those that weren’t working up to par. I had no business feeling smug in mentally naming people.
“I have to get back to my office. Mums the word?” she said, standing up and straightening her black skirt.
“Of course,” I said as I watched her leave. I bit my lower lip and turned my computer on.
I took a couple sips of my coffee and started to relax. Coffee always did that to me. You would have thought the caffeine would have the opposite effect, but nope. It made me relax. Coffee was like a tiny little vacation for my mind.
My computer finally came up and I opened my email. Spam. Sale at Kohl's. Email from Grandma Hattie. Email from management requesting my attendance at an impromptu meeting at 9:00 AM. Hmmm. That was odd. I reread it. Very bland. Just show up at the large conference room. I sighed and scrolled through the names of the other recipients. That’s weird, I thought. There were people invited to the meeting that weren’t in my department. Everyone from mailroom clerks to secretaries to janitors were on the list. I scrolled through it again. There were a lot of people
on the list. Like middle managers. And upper managers.
I sat back in my chair and thought for a minute. Then I scrolled through the names again. Kathryn and our friend Jillian were on it. Weird. Our jobs were so diverse that we rarely ever ended up in the same meetings.
I sipped more of my coffee, hoping to calm my now loudly beating heart. Perhaps there was some special project going on? Or just an announcement? But why wouldn’t there be some others on the list that are normally there?
I closed the email and clicked on Grandma’s email. She chatted briefly about her cat, and her sick dog, and whether I thought the weather would turn bad. Oh Grandma, I thought. I so needed to get over there and spend some time with her. I missed her. But then it seemed like I always had something else to do on the weekends and I never quite made it. My cousin Sue had to teach her how to use the computer after I had promised to do it and failed to follow through. I felt guilty again. I needed to invite her to church on Sunday. We could go out to lunch afterwards. That’s what I would do, I decided.
I watched the clock on my wall from out of the corner of my eye as I worked on editing an article. Certainly editors would always be in demand at a newspaper. Especially a big one like The Daily News.
At 8:55,I locked my computer and stood up. Taking a deep breath, I headed out the door. Apparently everyone else that was on that list was doing the same thing at exactly that time. The hallway filled with people, all headed in the same direction. It gave me an uneasy feeling. We looked like Stepford employees, all programmed to do the same thing at the same time. I saw Jillian and she made a slash across her throat with her finger, her eyes wide. I shook my head at her. Thanks a lot, I thought. I needed confidence, not a reference to a slasher movie.
I suddenly wished that I had counted how many names had been on that email. I could have kicked myself for not doing that. Kathryn fell in step beside me.
“This is bad,” she whispered.
“No it’s not,” I said. “It’s probably just a reorganization or something,” I whispered. “Or maybe it’s a celebration of all the employees in different departments that are going above and beyond the call of duty.
“Sure it is,” Abe from accounting was walking ahead of me and he turned his head to say it. “It’s curtains for us.”
“No Abe, it is not,” I said. Abe was fifty something and had a reputation as being a bit of a downer. He was just a pessimist, I told myself. Don’t let your head get away from you, I told myself.
Jillian came along side us and I could tell she was freaked out. Her eyes bugged out from fear and her dark brown hair had begun slipping out from the bun she had worn it in. I reached out and gave her hand a squeeze. She smiled at me, but I knew she still had the same thoughts that everyone else did.
We filed into the conference room, each taking a chair. There wasn’t much chatter going on. To be truthful, it felt like we had just come in to hear our own death sentence. This must be what it’s like to be on trial for your life. Seriously. I looked around at the faces in the room. Each forehead was creased with worry.
I guessed there must be close to a hundred people in the room. I knew from experience that there were only sixty chairs in the conference room, and they were now all filled, with more people lining the walls. All just waiting. I forced myself to smile. No use being a gloomy Gus. This would be about something mundane and we would all wander back to our offices, laughing at our needless worries.
Finally Mr. Cameron, the CEO, stood with paper in hand, his mouth in a tight line. Light glinted off his shiny bald head.
“Good morning ladies and gentleman,” he said. “First I want to thank you all for being here, at this difficult time.”
“I want to tell you all what wonderful employees you all are. We value each and every one of you. We realize that you have all worked hard to make The Daily News what it is today and without each and every one of you, we would be lost.”
Oh that didn’t sound so bad. Maybe we were getting an award of some kind?
“Second, it’s with heavy heart that I must say that here at The Daily News, we have seen a lot of change the past few years. The Internet and online news agencies have really cut into our business. And I am sorry to report that we have felt the need to cut back on staff.”
I sucked in air, hard. This was no award.
“Everyone in this room is a part of that layoff. I’m so sorry.” With that, his face fell and he looked away.