Eli Walker stared at his computer screen, unblinking. His eyes were glazing over, unfocusing. At first he had only skimmed over the article, certain it would only be offering the same praise the others had. But something disconcerting had caught his eye. When he read back over it, he felt his hands and feet go numb. Once they had thawed out, he got a burning sensation in his gut which rose to his chest and eventually made its way to his brain. How dare this woman say something like that about him! She didn’t even know him. How could she come to such preposterous conclusions about his character and his motives for hosting a celebration on behalf of his company?
Granted, he had been fine to let the other reporters speak about him without knowing anything about him. But they had all said such positive things. They all oohed and aahed over his party and talked about what an outstanding host he had been. But this woman? Eli Walker’s personality leaves something to be desired. His main goal for the evening was not making sure his guests were enjoying themselves and feeling welcome. Instead, he was much too focused on making an appearance for the big shots, trying to prove his position among them. What gave her the right to say such things? What really got to him about the whole thing was that he could only hope no one else who read it was able to tell that it was true.
Eli looked at the name on the by-line. Gracie Parker. He wracked his brain trying to remember her, what she looked like, what she was wearing, anything that could prove to him that he had not treated her the way she was accusing him of having done. But no matter how hard he thought about it, he couldn’t recall anything about her. Could it be true that he really had ignored someone from the media all night long? How could he have been so careless!?
Eli picked up the receiver of his office phone and dialed his assistant’s desk. “Hey, Ken. Can you come in here for a moment?”
Ken was coming through the door almost before Eli could hang up the phone.
“What can I do for you, sir?” he asked.
Eli gestured toward his computer screen.
Ken came around the desk to stand beside Eli. When his eyes fell on the article, his expression drooped. “Ah,” he said. “I was kind of hoping you wouldn’t run across that one.”
“How can she do this?” Eli blurted out. He hated showing his frustration over things like this, but it was too much for him to handle. And if he was going to let anyone see him have an outburst, it might as well be Ken. At least he knew he could trust him not to say anything to anyone outside this room.
“Well, she is a reporter,” Ken said. “She’s allowed to have her own opinion and let others know about it.”
“Well, isn’t this libel or something like that? We can’t let her get away with this!”
“She hasn’t technically done anything wrong,” Ken informed him.
“Contact that magazine,” Eli commanded, not listening to his assistant’s words. “I want to speak to the manager. I want that girl fired.” Eli was out of his seat by this point, pacing the length of his office, pointing his finger accusingly at his computer monitor as he spoke, as if the girl, the magazine, and the entire mess actually existed within.
Ken’s voice was level as he spoke. “Unfortunately, a reporter not liking you isn’t grounds for firing her.”
Eli looked Ken in the eye. He knew he was fuming, and he knew Ken was keeping calm in an effort to try to get him to calm down as well. He took a few deep breaths and ran his fingers through his hair.
“You’re right,” he said. “Trying to get her fired might be going a step too far. But I don’t have to just sit back and take this from her either. Ken, new assignment. I want you to find me everything you can on this reporter, Gracie Parker. Where she went to school, everywhere she’s ever worked, everything she’s ever written. There has to be something there I can use against her.”
Ken frowned. “I’m not sure this is the best route to take on this matter either,” he said hesitantly.
“What?” How could Ken, of all people, not understand why Eli had to do this? He was supposed to be on his side for anything, no questions asked. That was the whole point of having an assistant.
“What I mean is, I think you need to refine your plan for revenge. You don’t want word of it to get out and the public starts seeing you as someone who loses poorly.”
Ken was right, Eli realized. “Good. Good thinking. Revenge isn’t the best route.” Eli paused for a moment and slowly walked the length of his office as he thought it through. “What about an apology then?”
“Yes. Perhaps I can meet with her, talk to her, get her to change her opinion of me. Then she will be able to write something else telling everyone how wrong she was, that I’m really a nice guy and someone who cares about my customers.”
“Perfect. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that in the first place. Thanks, Ken. You get to working on that. I’ll have Gracie Parker eating out of the palm of my hand in no time, just like the rest of the media.”