Marcus Blackwood had discovered it was entirely possible for him to fall asleep with his eyes open. In fact, so gifted had he become at this skill, he was able to respond to questions, carry on conversations and completely convince the person he was talking to he was awake, lucid and giving his whole attention to the matter in hand. When in fact, Marcus was drifting away, in a land which existed nowhere else but inside his head.
This talent had saved his sanity during many a long meeting and, as the head of acquisitions and mergers, regurgitated an incomprehensible wedge of facts, figures, statistics and forecasts in a monotonous and, dare Marcus even think it, downright boring voice, he could feel his grip on reality beginning to slip.
Sitting bolt upright, in his incredibly uncomfortable chair, Marcus blinked several times in a desperate attempt to focus, listen to what was probably very important information. His thoughts were reluctant to obey, sulky and truculent, they whined and complained about being forced to waste a second of their precious time on such futile rubbish.
Pay attention! Marcus brusquely ordered himself. It was no good, with all the wild enthusiasm of boisterous puppies being released from their leads, his thoughts slipped from his grasp, gambolling and frisking into the distance, eager to explore, and see what was over the hill.
It didn’t help it was a hot, sticky, day, that the round, golden, eye of the sun was streaming through the firmly shut office windows, broiling its occupants, as sluggish air conditioning fought to deal with such an unusually warm, British May. Was it any wonder, Marcus’s imaginings longed to be elsewhere, anywhere but here, somewhere cool, green and shady, somewhere he could relax, loosen his tie and slip off his tight, confining, patent leather, shoes, in which his toes squirmed in sweaty, cramped, misery.
‘Don’t you agree, Marcus?’
Marcus blinked, instantly back in the room, realising, for once, his skill had let him down. Rather than leaving a small portion of his awareness behind to field questions, had allowed his whole being to slip away to that freshly dappled oasis. He paused, hopeful inspiration would strike, unwilling to let his colleagues know he’d not been listening. That all their carefully prepared reports and flow charts had been for nothing, because the boss had been asleep.
Eight pairs of expectant, slightly sycophantic, eyes silently gazed. Marcus knew he had to say something, he’d a fifty-fifty chance of getting it right and, hell, even if he got it wrong, no one was going to argue with him. After all, he was the boss.
‘That’s a complex question, Nigel,’ he stalled, and Nigel nodded seriously, myopic gaze blinking behind thick lenses. ‘And one that needs a good deal of consideration,’ Marcus continued, praying Nigel hadn’t merely asked if it was time to stop for coffee.
His intercom buzzed. Thankfully, desperately, he lunged at it in relief, deciding that, even though he’d told Sally, his PA, not to allow any calls through, she deserved a raise. ‘Yes?’
‘Marcus, you have a call on line one,’ Sally’s voice was low, concerned, and Marcus frowned at the taut worry he heard in her tone.
‘I did say no calls, Sally,’ he chided, mildly.
‘I know, but, I think you need to take this one, Marcus. It’s your mother…’
‘My mother?’ Marcus shifted in surprise, intensely aware of eight pairs of eyes, all busily pretending not to be eavesdropping.
‘Yes, your mother,’ continued Sally. ‘Something’s happened, Marcus, and, I really think you should talk to her… alone.’
Marcus’s brows flew up in surprise; Sally had been his PA for many years, was aware of his feelings concerning his mother. He knew, she’d never interrupt a meeting with one of his mother’s self-imposed crisis calls. If Sally said it was important; then it was.