She took a deep breath, smoothed her palms down the front of her dusty khakis, and tried to calm the anger bubbling to the surface. She studied her boss. Well, technically it was her boss’s boss because Elijah Walters was a partner at Walters and Everson, and she worked for one of his project leaders, Graham Dunlop, whom she rarely saw because she was always on top of her projects. The sleeves of his blue shirt were rolled up to the elbow, his tie slightly askew, and a look of impatience was etched into the gnarly lines of his face.
“I’m not debating this with you, Cassie. I made my decision, and now we all need to move on.”
“Let me get this straight,” Cassie said, trying to keep her tone neutral but doing a god-awful job of it. “A junior project manager, Brandon Walker, screws up the project management of a school expansion in Brooklyn, while I—a lead project manager—do a kick-ass job of a Manhattan high rise. And as a result, you want to switch us over, so I can go fix his mess on a smaller job, while he takes over one of our premium projects.”
“That’s an unfair assessment, but yes, I do want you to go get the school on track. No, wait, the New York City Department of Education wants you to do it. They spent the better part of the morning tearing me a new one because the project won’t be completed for the start of the new school year. They don’t want to hear it might go beyond Christmas. You’re the best I’ve got.”
“You promised me this, Elijah. You said if I did the New York harbor project, which nobody else wanted to do, you would give me The Grosvenor building.”
Cassie’s heart beat faster than one of the jackhammers she’d left tearing up The Grosvenor’s old rear access lane. As she’d made her way from Midtown to the Upper East Side, she’d wondered what Elijah wanted her for. She’d strongly suspected that, as it was a little after her mid-year review, which she’d sailed through with an exceptional rating, she was about to be promoted.
Looking at Elijah as he ran his hand along his jaw, it was clear she was about to be demoted to a shit project, while Brandon-incompetent-asshole-Walker was about to take over her prime Manhattan job. “I’m sorry, Cassie. What can I say? This is purely a business call.”
Cassie shook her head. “So, fire Brandon. If he’s screwed it up so badly, he shouldn’t even be here. I know he’s your nephew but—”
“That’s got nothing to do with it. Brandon is great at steering a steady ship, you’re great at fixing derailed projects.”
“The Grosvenor is only in a steady state because of me and my expertise. Do you think there haven’t been derailments? There have. I simply fixed them as they came up. If Brandon can’t handle a school, what’s he going to do when the elevator shaft of a fifty-eight-story building doesn’t pass inspection.”
“I’ve told you, Cass. I need you to do this.”
Cassie huffed. “Give me both projects. I’ll make it work. The Grosvenor is in great shape. I’ll split my time and—”
“Stop. This isn’t a question of whether you could do it or not. This is a question of optics. The project is behind . . . significantly. And I can’t replace a full-time project manager with a part-time one, as it sends the wrong message to the school board about the importance we place on their projects.”
While Elijah had a point about the optics, it didn’t quell her need to fight against it. “How about we leave Brandon on the project and I’ll work with him behind the scenes? The school is twenty minutes from my apartment. I can meet with Brandon every morning before I head over to The Grosvenor. I can meet him every evening to review. You can tell them you’ve put double the number of people on it now. Isn’t that an even better optic?”
Elijah reached for his pen, tapped it against his palm, and then threw it back down onto the desk. “The answer is still no. We—”
“Why are we so concerned about the school? Schools are small projects with unnaturally bureaucratic processes and hoops we have to jump through. Its budget is so small compared with The Grosvenor. Why can we not—”
Elijah slammed his palm on the table. “Cass. I’m getting grief from all angles. I need you to do the job I’m paying you for and fix it.”
Cassie took a deep breath. Then another. And another. She wanted to shout at Elijah for the unfairness of it all. Then again, construction wasn’t a fair world to a woman, no matter how badly she wanted it to be, even though it was in her blood. Even though she was a third-generation Cunningham to work in it.
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