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Lock, Stock and Barrel by Diana Mylek
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Lock, Stock and Barrel by Diana Mylek
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Synopsis

Leah, a business woman, achieves more than she expects when she hires ex-Marine turned management consultant, Spencer. Given the task of with knocking her failing business back into shape. Spencer learns that the management of women is certainly not as simple as shouting out orders to a bunch of battle-hardened Marines. What's more, he had not made allowances for the fact that a woman’s touch can thaw even the toughest of hearts. obooko.

Also by Diana on obooko: Hook, Line and Sinker

Author's Website : www.dianamylek.com

Excerpt:

“One more,” Gunny ordered through clenched teeth. Pushing his body to the limit, he groaned and willed his arms to lift the weights once again.

“Getting soft?” asked Nick, wiping sweat from his brow with a towel. “You used to tear up the weights back in P.T. Haven’t you lifted a finger since leaving the Marine Corps?”

Gunny frowned menacingly and forced yet another rep, though his muscles screamed in protest. He was in the best shape of his life, better than his twelve years in the Corps. Being a civilian again meant he had to work twice as hard to prove his worth physically but it was a welcome challenge to the former Gunny Sergeant. Great odds were nothing to this man who was used to being in charge, both of people and circumstance. He knew from experience that there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do, any difficulty that couldn’t be overcome, and no adversary that couldn’t be beaten. Gunny was master of them all…except one.

The crushing grief shot through him like a rocket and made Gunny lose his grip on the weights.

Nick caught the edge and guided them to the holder, not chiding his friend for carelessness or neglect. He too missed General Merchant, more a legend than a man, Gunny’s father who died saving a Marine’s life during a training exercise gone wrong. One bullet was all it took to snuff out the life of a man who outlived his whole platoon in Viet Nam and who spent the rest of his earthly life preparing “his men” for spiritual and physical combat.

When the General died, it took the wind out of Gunny’s sails and the career that meant so much to him became a burden, a noose around his neck. Leaving the Corps was a relief, not defeat…Gunny told himself for the hundredth time. It was my choice, I decided to become a civilian again…He pushed his body from the bench and headed for the showers. Tomorrow I’m going to start my new job, and I’m going to do what I know best, lead people. Granted, it wasn’t the Corps and he wasn’t shaping recruits into battle ready combatants, but it was a job. Anything to keep his mind off the loss of his father.

•••

Leah sighed and pushed paperwork away from her tired eyes. Two days of juggling numbers on top of months more worry and she wasn’t any closer to resolving her cash flow problem than when her company first started its financial slide. Her beloved business was failing, fast and soon there would be nothing left…but twenty-seven women who lived by each paycheck and who would be nearly thrown out on the street if she closed her doors. Leah’s business, quilts and old-fashioned handbags grew so fast in the last year that she could barely keep up. But not anymore. Started out of her home with a used sewing machine, it began as a second source of income for her and Pam, Leah’s younger sister. Both worked day jobs and cared for an ailing mother by night, but neither earned enough to fully pay medical bills that accumulated faster than they could count.

Always a seamstress, Norma taught her daughters how to make simple quilts and they discovered a talent that helped them sells bedding at flea markets and craft shows. Finally helped by a distributor who networked craft fairs, Leah and Pam were besieged by orders and borrowed heavily to purchase an old factory building and renovate it to usable condition. Next they went to their pastor and asked for advice on hiring employees, and he suggested the women at a local battered woman’s shelter. They made excellent workers, and in what seemed a good idea at the time, Norma suggested that the sisters make a daycare in the building so the women wouldn’t have to be separated from their children while they earned a living.

It had worked fabulously, until production became so good that more quilts were made than they could sell. Leah needed to cut corners and sent Pam to work on marketing and distribution, but she couldn’t lay even one woman off; what would become of the families who depended on Quilts, Inc. for income and free daycare?

“I know there’s an answer; but I can’t compromise,” Leah prayed, asking God for wisdom and direction. She reached for the paper Norma had given her last week, with the name of a man who called himself a consultant and claimed to be an expert on leading and guiding. He wasn’t a business expert, but a former Marine and he sounded convincing enough that Leah called immediately and arranged for an interview. They talked over the phone last week and tomorrow he would begin moving her company forward to profitability or he wouldn’t charge a cent; his fee would be a portion of her increased profits. Leah didn’t know whether she was desperate or just plain crazy but she had prayed in earnest and this seemed a suitable answer.

•••

The former Marine commanded attention as he entered the building, standing ramrod straight, blue eyes piercing as they studied every part of the old structure. Leah nearly shrank in his presence, so intimidating was the Marine who asked questions in clipped tones that demanded an exact answer. Intending to take him to her office, she first showed him the large rooms that housed sewing machines, materials and bins full of scrap material. He stared hard and listened intently, and she could only guess what thoughts streamed through his mind as they passed from one room to another.

In her office, Leah held her hand to keep it from shaking as she waited for Sgt. Merchant while he perused the chart hung next to a window that allowed her to see the factory floor at all times.

From her elevated perch Leah could observe employees and supervise functions without leaving her office. Most days she was mired in paperwork and nearly a prisoner to her desk as she sorted invoices, talked with customers and ordered supplies. Her phone was the only lifeline to the outside world; often Leah ate, worked and slept in her office with the fold-out sofa bed. She kept clothes for such an occasion and lately her nights consisted of idea sessions with her sister to keep their business afloat.

“Remember dating? Going to lunch with girlfriends?” Pam often sighed. “When did we trade our lives for four walls and miles of material?”

Ever practical, Leah reminded her sister that this was their life and income. “Mom’s medical bills alone should keep us working nonstop. Maybe someday, Pam we’ll have a chance for a real life…just not soon.”

“I’m not waiting,” Pam said decisively. “You may think it’s all fine and good to bury yourself in work, but I’m going to use this business to get myself a life.”