Company Ink - TEASER

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Ben Preston stepped into Wynne's Kitchen at Rockefeller Center, knowing full well these

next few minutes would determine whether he would take over this store or not. The only

information the H.R. manager had divulged was that the last general manager had

emotionally collapsed under the weight of the numbers the popular dessert bakery saw on

a daily basis, so they were looking for a GM who could handle volume, particularly in a

fast-paced environment.

Fast-paced was practically Ben's middle name. And even though he had admitted his

complete lack of bakery experience, the H.R. manager insisted he meet with Wynne and

take a look around their Rockefeller Center location. It wasn't overconfidence that kept

him from being surprised, because he worked hard for his reputation—he was the

captain, the go-to guy when a company needed a location to succeed.

Ben waded his way through the crowd that waited for service while the counter staff

grabbed and bagged items as fast as they could, managing to do so with smiles on their

faces. All this for cupcakes and pastries? At least this place could provide the muchneeded

distraction from his pending divorce.

Spotting the woman he guessed to be his new boss, Wynne Lansing, he made his way

toward the register. She was all sophistication, even in an apron and street clothes, with a

bandana tied around her auburn hair. She looked as if she was ready to throw down in the

kitchen with the rest of the bakers. Wynne must have wanted to illustrate that she still

remained active in day-to-day operations. Chuckling inwardly, Ben smiled and took her

hand to shake it as he introduced himself.

"Wow," Wynne remarked as she leaned back to get a better look at him. "How tall are

you?"

"Six-four, ma'am," he answered with a smile. "I come from a family of Vikings."

"Clearly! Well, we have some low ceilings in the basement, so be careful."

"I'll be sure to do that. So, tell me about this place."

Wynne nodded, motioning for him to follow her down into the basement. Her voice

was loud and clear over the roar of the excited customers shouting their orders. "This is

our flagship location. We call it The Rock for two reasons. One—obviously—we're at

Rockefeller Center. Two, this location consistently sells the most product, sees the most

traffic, and is the highest-rated unit in the entire company. We need someone here who

won't just maintain its status but will strive to make it better."

"Gotcha," he replied, narrowly avoiding slamming his head on a low ceiling. "How

are the other stores performing?"

Wynne practically dashed through what Ben immediately knew to be the prep area.

"They're all doing great, given their locations and challenges. We were hoping to see

how you do here, then potentially have you move through the other locations to see what

kind of magic you work there."

He'd already spotted areas throughout the store where his strict fine-dining

background might be completely useless. But he also saw where his expertise could be

injected, so the fact that Wynne seemed to have already pegged him as the guy to get the

job done was encouraging. He'd spent a lot of time in recent weeks questioning

everything about his career and life in general—so the ego stroke was rather validating.

"So are you saying I have the job?"

Wynne stopped and turned around. "You came highly recommended. Everyone we

called had nothing but amazing things to say about you. I want you with Wynne's

Kitchen. And I'm prepared to meet your salary requirements and exceed them when you

prove that your incredible reputation is not unwarranted."

Ben chuckled. "This is all very intense."

Wynne shrugged with a grin. "I know what I want."

"I see that," Ben replied. "I'm happy to come on board and, frankly, thankful that

you've put so much faith in me."

"It's my pleasure," Wynne said. "I recently hired a production supervisor in your same

position. She lacked experience but has all of the skills I'm looking for to do great. And

so do you. We're a great team, and I know you'll get the support you need to excel, just

like she did. So, do I need to give you a tour of the prep area?"

"Actually, it's pretty compact. I'm guessing I could point out the sections without

doing much more than a spin: prep, dry storage, walk-in, paper goods."

Wynne laughed. "Exactly. Let's show you around upstairs, and we'll get your

paperwork started."

They breezed back through the prep area, where he couldn't help but notice the

amazing smell of caramel as a cook whisked vigorously in a metal saucepan. Ben led the

way up the stairs, gradually becoming more excited about the new job with every step he

took. He turned the corner to the hallway that led to the main floor and was suddenly met

with a pair of eyes that looked like two pools of silvery silk. He stopped short, his

sneakers squeaking as he did so. Ben's vision focused on an unknown woman staring

back at him, looking about as surprised as he did that they'd managed to avoid colliding.

She was tall, and her jet-black hair was bundled up in a hair net. She clutched her

clipboard and continued to stare at him fixedly, her eyes wide. His eyes involuntarily

scanned her body. Built like the sexiest of female superheroes, her solid body curved

more dangerously than a winding road. He forced his eyes to focus on her forehead. So

unprofessional.

Wynne stepped around Ben, breaking the trance between him and the girl. "Oh,

good—just in time! This young lady is your production supervisor. You'll be working

closely together; she handles all of the production and makes sure you don't waste money

on unused product. She'll be your greatest asset while you're getting to know this store.

Ben, meet Violet."

He took a deep breath as he nodded in greeting, knowing full well that with Violet in

his store, he was in for a challenge bigger than he ever could have anticipated.



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