True Tilt: An Uncommon Quest

True Tilt: An Uncommon Quest

by Pam Boney

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781546232995
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 03/13/2018
Pages: 238
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.54(d)

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CHAPTER 1

The evening should have been the pinnacle of her career. As Addie mounted the stairs in the Grand Ballroom to accept the award, she felt awkward in the tight, black, floor-length gown that restricted her movement even more than the skimpy heels underneath. She'd never felt quite comfortable in dresses or with her hair up, but the occasion required it and her hotel had just won the highest award possible in one of the most well known hospitality companies in the world. So she had to look the part. Her team had accomplished the impossible, exceeding performance in all key performance indicators on the company's balanced scorecard.

She was accepting the leadership award for the Top Hotel in the World from the tall and aristocratic Chairman of the Board. Mike Rockwell dripped with charm, smarts and tan good looks. Addie felt weak-kneed as she mounted the marble stairs to the podium.

The room teemed with the luxurious romance of colorful floral arrangements and candlelight bouncing off antique gold chandeliers. Into the far corners of darkness, all she could see were black ties, tuxedoes and shimmering gowns. Was it possible she knew all these people and she was up here on stage? Were those her team members being interviewed, talking about her on the towering screen behind her? The flush on her upper chest betrayed her nervousness and embarrassment. Addie was always uncomfortable being the center of attention and this was a moment where being onstage was unavoidable. Taking care of other people usually kept the focus off of her. Wasn't this why she'd chosen hospitality, to avoid her own emptiness? What was she doing up here? The cameras flashed as she held the heavy Rockwell Trophy in her arm, all smiles in the embrace of the powerful Chairman of the Board. And then, as quickly as it came, the moment was over.

Addie descended the stairs, a crowded rush of chattering colleagues immediately surrounding her, chomping out congratulations, enthusiastic handshakes and rowdy embraces. The rest of the evening was a blur. Addie was swept around the room as person after person offered congratulations. She found herself with no sense of satisfaction, though she'd worked tirelessly for the last two years. Instead, a dark cloud enveloped her consciousness. She desperately tried to avoid something on the edge of her awareness but it was gaining on her. Perspiration rolled down her back as she danced with someone she didn't even know. She had no idea what he'd just said and was at a loss for how to answer. What am I doing here?

The room full of people overwhelmed Addie with emotions she'd hoped to avoid, and she longed to escape. When she felt the old familiar pain she knew so well, the only solution was to be alone. That way no one could see past her false bravado and she could stop pretending, a practice that took great effort and drained her of precious energy.

Going out to party in the clubs after the ceremony was out of the question, so Addie uttered apologetic goodbyes and headed back to the safety of her quiet hotel suite. This was her big night in lights but her singular focus was to call her team and tell them what they'd won. Maybe that would help lift her spirits. Unfortunately it was too late to catch the night manager. Instead, the hotel's long time, loyal night auditor, Chuck, was on the other end of the phone.

He responded with his usual lack of enthusiasm to Addie's good news, but he did promise to tell the team first thing in the morning. Addie was sure they'd be thrilled with the news and awed by the irony of earning this prestigious award in a year when they'd worked fewer hours each week (no more grueling 70-hour weeks), focusing on life practices that enabled performance AND balance. The team would be so proud of the accomplishment, mostly because of the many obstacles they'd overcome together. Yet the exhilaration of the historic moment wouldn't have the expected effect on Addie.

She hung up the phone, her mind in utter silence. Sitting awkwardly positioned on the bed, legs dangling, her delicate sandals fell off with a light thud that sounded louder than it should. She had no idea what to do next. A frightening prospect, for a person who finds her value in moving forward to take care of someone or something. Staring blankly at the trophy sitting on the parlor table, she let her soul go black with the emotions she'd been avoiding.

Addie was aware of only one thing. She felt as alone as she'd ever felt. It dawned on her that she had no one else to call. Her daughter, Emma, was long tucked into bed, her troubled marriage was all but over, and she didn't have any close friends. Energy was reserved for work, her daughter, and anything else that kept her busy enough to avoid the dark feelings that chased her. She worked all the time and avoided social relationships that required any serious level of commitment on her part. She could call her parents, but they were busy with lives of their own and probably asleep, too. The absence of people who might care about her accomplishment was suddenly and conspicuously obvious.

In that moment of clarity, Addie deeply acknowledged the personal cost of her relentless drive to work more than she should and with a force she was yet to understand. In the silence, a still small voice rang out: "Who is there to care if you win?"

Suddenly the trophy looked too large, too shiny and very, very cold. Instead of success, it represented lost love, broken loyalties, a half-furnished house full of dead plants, a neglected cat and questionable parenting. She sat stunned by the shock, completely present to the pain of loneliness. The trajectory of her life flashed through her mind as she wondered what she'd been so hell-bent to find. What manner of energy propelled her drive for work, so much that it dominated her entire being?

Her daughter, Emma, was the only person she'd let come close enough to see the truth. Most painful of all was the knowledge that Emma could plainly see her ruse. What manner of life was she teaching her beloved daughter to pursue? Her mind flashed back to the last time she'd been late to pick Emma up from dance practice. With tears in her eyes, Emma had wisely asked why work was so important. More important than her. That memory still felt like a dagger in Addie's heart and put the trophy into crystal clear perspective.

As she looked around, the perfectly furnished suite looked surreal. The luxury of the linens and the grandeur of the accommodations were suddenly not very comforting. In the silence of her room, Addie could no longer avoid the staccato of sound in her ears, as loud as a symphony of cicadas screaming in unison on a dark July evening. Yet unlike the peacefulness of a summer evening, this particular sound was maddening, imposing and rising up.

In a coherent moment-of-truth Addie knew what she so desperately needed – a familiar pair of loving eyes, two hands holding her face to wipe away the tears now streaming down her cheeks. She longed for a warm embrace that represented everything she hadn't had in a long time and maybe never would, if she didn't make some changes. This realization gave her a small spark of hope.

The wide gap between who she was at work and who she was in her personal life was a fissure at her center that divided her into two persons. Suddenly she desperately wanted to be whole. She knew she was capable of being more, she just didn't know how to find that path, much less where it would lead.

When it came to accounting or quality or aesthetic design or leading with dignity and respect, she knew about that kind of integrity and lived it. Yet how much was she doing the same in her personal life? She'd coached her team to first place. When was she going to find a strong voice for her own life? Fix the broken promises? Now it was time for her to change. She could not deny it any longer.

The silence in the room had spoken to her, and Addie knew she would never be the same.

CHAPTER 2

Jim Chandler felt uneasiness in the air. The firm's partners had been in a meeting all day, and through the glass windows across the hall he could see his friend Stephen pacing the room, in a heated discussion. He doubted Stephen could defend him much longer. Jim hadn't been on his game lately and his charm had run its course with the other partners.

No one had said the meeting was about him, but he had a gut feeling it was. Everyone had been strangely quiet around him lately, throwing covert glances in his direction, or vague agreement that bordered on dismissal when he shared his views in creative meetings. The firm had lost two of its biggest accounts in the last six months, and financials were not in the tip-top shape they'd been for the firm's 28 years in business.

As third largest advertising agency in Pittsburgh, its top accounts were easy prey for the two larger firms, who could pick away at their loyal customers, throwing more money at them and eventually winning them over. Jim had been the lead on two accounts that had recently switched over to Dunn, Logan and Brower, the biggest agency in town. Preoccupied with his complicated personal life the last two years, he'd been holding onto the account relationships by the skin of his teeth, when suddenly he realized they were at risk. By then it was too late to save them. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had recently run a story about the success of the competing agency, rubbing salt into an already festering wound. All because of his personal problems, his firm was now suffering a decline in reputation.

He'd lost focus, and no one knew it better than he did. Jim was keeping a secret that was slowly killing him, his obsession with Erin, an intern who'd come back to work full time. He'd been sleeping with her for more than two years and she was asking for promises he could not keep. Juggling the demands of two separate lives had become exhausting.

He loved his wife of fourteen years, Robin, and his kids. But this hadn't dissuaded him from becoming involved with Erin. She'd looked at him the way Robin used to look at him before the kids were born, and he'd found it irresistible. He felt fortunate to have his easygoing good looks, but they only got him into trouble. He knew it was dead wrong to indulge in an extramarital affair, and his conscience was killing him, but he felt he couldn't live without the thrill of being desired.

He rationalized the affair by changes in his marriage. Parenthood had slowly taken its toll on the romance. Robin's energy was always focused on the needs of the kids, so he was the last to have her attention. Despite the loss of intimacy, though, he loved her now in a different way, she was HIS wife and he felt responsible for her. For the kids. And for keeping his commitment to them. So he'd chosen to keep that commitment to his family, yet take what he needed wherever he could get it. He deserved to have a love life. It was only natural to want that. But the guilt was increasing instead of getting easier. Especially now that he'd been exposed and he had to face it with other people. What's wrong with me that I'd risk everything, all we've built? The guilt was scorching his insides.

Yet risk it he had. He couldn't help himself, when sassy Erin practically threw herself at him after a business dinner. He hadn't felt like this since his college years at Princeton. He thought he could indulge just a little for the fun of it, and playfully let her pursue him. Once he'd tasted the forbidden fruit, though, he couldn't stop. Now, it was going to cost him everything.

All in the span of a few months, Jim had lost his credibility. Not only was his focus off, his sense of self was missing. He knew it and everyone around him knew it, too. It was the reason for his loss of stature at the firm and at home. His wife sensed things weren't right between them, and at some point his kids, too, had stopped listening to what he said. Joking with the kids and being "good-time Charlie" no longer worked. He was detached. Unable to love. Anxious. Guilty. With lie upon lie he'd weaved himself into a sticky web of his own making.

Unable to speak his mind at all, Jim didn't know himself anymore. The power of his youthful attractiveness was shallow and fading. He'd lost it, that was all. The panic radiating from his midsection was giving him almost constant indigestion. Even the drinks after work failed to relax him anymore.

High school and college life had been so easy. Captain of the basketball team, he'd been popular and always the star. An epicure of life, he was the ring leader in his circle of friends. Voted most likely in the senior class to be successful, no one questioned that his life would turn out great. Quick-witted and intelligent, he had a creative mind and could charm the pants off anyone. Well, maybe that was where things went wrong.

Jim had confided in Stephen, who'd tried to talk sense into him numerous times, but Jim hadn't been able to stop. Stephen had confronted him again last week. News of the clandestine relationship had finally made it to the partners and the majority partner was a staunch conservative with strong moral convictions. Jim knew he wouldn't survive the landslide that was about to cave everything in around him.

He put on his overcoat and headed out the door. He had to walk. The icy air cut through his skin, but he was so numb he didn't even feel the cold. He needed a drink and he needed to think. Somewhere off the beaten path. All hell was about to break loose. Today would be his last day at the agency. He would have to explain to Robin. To everyone.

Yet, strangely, Jim felt a sense of relief. He'd once been a man of conscience, and his recent duplicity had not been easy on him. Not so long ago he'd been an idealist with big dreams to change the world of advertising with his novel approach and ideas. He just wasn't very good at following through. He wished he could put his finger on the exact date and time when people stopped listening. He tried to remember the last great idea he'd had for a campaign that ended well. His head pounded with the promise of a migraine.

He couldn't keep face anymore. He was out of steam and no longer desired to be anything but himself. Sometimes you have to accept your weaknesses and look them dead in the eye. There was nothing else left. Jim knew he was on the verge of the most important moment of his life.

Entering the bar in the tavern several city blocks away from the office, he sat down and ordered a Scotch on the rocks. Macallan 18. He felt a little better as he watched the bartender pour the sparkling amber liquid over a glass full of ice. Next to him, a man who looked exceptionally successful nodded in Jim's direction. "Bad day, eh? Let me buy you a drink."

CHAPTER 3

Kit had never lost at anything. Sharp, hungry and smart, she was a tough competitor in any battle of wits. Gazing at the chess board in her boss's office, she gauged his next three moves, then without hesitation made a play that would put him in checkmate in four moves. That is, if he was as predictable as she hoped. She knew his style wasn't as aggressive as others might think. Less than ten minutes later she announced her win and stood up, stretching her arms in the air as if she'd been waiting to get on with it and finish him off.

"Damn you, Kit Laidlaw," Sebastian exclaimed, "You've done it again! I shall be doomed to lose to the wicked redhead in every match!"

Kit fell into the teasing pattern they'd both come to enjoy. "You always let me win, don't you, Sebastian, you old rascal? I think you rather enjoy losing to me."

"No, no, no. You have won fair and square again, Kit, my dear. You've beaten an old man at his own dirty tricks! Well done!" He winked at her, then paused and gave her a sober look. "Sit back down Kit. We have some other business that must be done, and not as pleasant as this game. Have a seat and listen."

The senior partner at a popular Dallas consulting firm named after him, Sebastian was famous for the best sellers that had made him a very rich man. An icon now, he enjoyed being a wise old father to the partners, who all admired and wanted to please him. All but Kit, who mostly played devil's advocate in meetings, even when he was there. She spoke her mind and he tolerated it from her. But never from the others.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "True Tilt"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Pam Boney.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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