Interlude: Puppet

“Hey, Zayne.” Caitlin smiled warmly at him as he crossed over the threshold. “Did you have a good weekend off?”

He nodded. “I did, thanks! I got to visit my cousin and her family… It was great!”

That weekend had been the first chance he’d had to stop by and visit Charlie and Ben’s new home. They’d moved about an hour outside of Windenburg a few months back when Ben’s job got relocated. It felt so good to see them again. A small smile came to his lips as he thought of sweet little Dahlia and what a bright little girl she was already growing into.

Time with his family had proved to be a welcome distraction, especially given all the stress he’d been feeling lately about Greg and the restaurant. Zayne had finally gotten Greg to squeeze in a meeting with him on Thursday, and he already knew he’d spend the next three days worrying. I wish I could just get it over with.

Zayne did his best to stay positive and keep his mind focused on work for most of the afternoon. There didn’t seem to be a very big lunch rush that day, so the slower moments made his goal a bit more difficult to accomplish. Any chance his mind had to wander, it always seemed to choose Hope or Greg as its destination.

After fulfilling the fifth or sixth order for a hamburger and fries, however, Zayne found his mind taking a very different path.

“Hey, Tom?” He asked one of the younger chefs curiously. “Have you noticed anything weird about the orders today?”

“What do you mean?”

“Look at the tickets we’ve been getting.” Zayne gestured for a moment toward the tiny slips of paper that held each table’s order. “It’s like the same boring orders again and again — burgers, BLTs, salads… Isn’t it kinda weird? We always get at least a few people asking for a Monte Cristo or stir fry or something.”

“Oh.” Tom laughed softly for a moment. “I forgot you were gone all weekend! The new menus came in already.” He explained. “That’s why.”

Zayne felt his stomach drop. “What are you talking about? New menus?!”

“Uh, yeah… I figured you knew about that?” The younger man furrowed his brown in confusion for a moment. “Greg says we’re ‘streamlining’ things, I guess. Sticking to the basics. We cut like ten items from the lunch menu. And a bunch from dinner too, actually…”

That motherfucker. Zayne felt his face growing extremely hot. In fact, his whole body seemed to be almost trembling. He closed his eyes for a moment and took a slow, deep breath. It almost helped.

“You know what? I’m… I’m really not feeling too great.” He muttered. “I think I’m gonna leave early. Do you think you can handle things til Felix comes in?”

Tom’s eyes widened. “Um… Y-yeah. Sure… I guess… But –”

“Great. Thanks.”

Zayne disappeared out the door without another word.

————————————-

“Oh, hello Mr. Rosebrook!” Greg’s secretary grinned as he entered.

He ignored her completely.

The woman jumped up to her feet. “Mr. Hinds is in a meeting! You can’t just –”

“Greg, we need to talk.” Zayne practically hissed through his clenched teeth as he threw the office door open. The handle smashed into the wall with a loud crash. Had he broken it? In that moment, Zayne certainly hoped so.

The man Greg had been meeting with looked aghast at the sudden entrance. And, for a moment, so did Greg. Then, a look of understanding slowly found its way onto his face.

“Shit. I knew this would happen.” He muttered. “Sorry to cut things short. Can you stop by tomorrow, Jim? Same time? I’ll have Lindsay pencil you in.” Greg forced a smile at the other man as he spoke.

“Um… Y-yeah. Sure. I’ll… I’ll see you then.” Jim rose to his feet and fled the room without so much as a glance toward Zayne.

Jesus, am I really that scary? Zayne closed his eyes for a moment, fighting to calm himself. He took a slow, deep breath, trying to clear his mind and remember Dr. Hall’s advice about controlling his temper.

When he opened his eyes again, Zayne was unable to find his voice. He was holding back all the angry, vile names he’d wanted to call Greg. But without them, what else could he possibly say?

In the end, Greg was the one who finally broke the silence. “Zayne, please sit down.”

He shook his head, refusing the invitation.

The other man simply sighed. “I’m sorry about this. I wasn’t expecting the menus to be in until next week… I never wanted you to find out like this. I wanted to wait until after our meeting.” He said seriously. “I made a mistake.”

“You bet your ass you did.” Zayne practically spit at him. So much for controlling myself. He took another deep breath. “How could you do this without talking to me first?” His voice was much steadier this time. “We’re supposed to be a team.

Greg shrugged. “Every team has a captain, doesn’t it? A leader? Someone the others follow?”

He said nothing for a moment, considering his next words carefully. “I’ve been following you since the beginning.” Zayne spoke at last. “I’ve always gone along with what you want, Greg. But this menu is mine. It’s the one thing you told me you’d never mess with!”

“I know. And I understand why you’re upset. But things change, Zayne. All of our biggest competitors have some kind of specialty menu… We had too much. There was no focus. And trust me, that would have hurt our business in the long run.”

“You can’t know that!”

“I couldn’t.” Greg agreed. “But I could make a damn good guess. And in this business, there’s no time for hesitation… We needed to make a decision — fast.”

“You mean you needed to make a decision. You weren’t going to let me have a say at all!” Zayne could scarcely believe what he was hearing. “We’re supposed to be partners! This isn’t what I signed up for.”

Greg said nothing for a moment, and neither did Zayne. How could he have let Greg manipulate him like this? How had he been so blind?

At last, Greg rose to his feet and crossed around the side of his desk, closing the distance between himself and Zayne. “I know this all must sound terrible to you… But Zayne, you have to understand. I just want what’s best for this business.”

“Yeah, well so do I!”

“I know. Believe me, I do.” Greg smiled. “Kid, you have so much passion. It’s amazing. And that’s exactly why I wanted to work with you in the first place. I see so much of myself in you. I really do.”

Zayne raised an eyebrow at him. “Oh yeah?” His skepticism was apparent. “How so?”

“I had a lot of big dreams too, back when I was your age. But I didn’t really know what I was doing either. I needed a lot of help, and I learned a lot of hard lessons along the way.” He paused for a moment. “I guess what I’m getting at is I want to help you, Zayne.”

The younger man shook his head slowly. He wouldn’t let himself fall for another of Greg’s stupid salesman pitches. He couldn’t. “I don’t mind you helping me, but this isn’t the way to do it!” Zayne insisted. “I signed up for a partnership. You’ve gotta let me start having a say in things! You can’t call all the shots!”

“You’ve had plenty of say.” Greg assured him. “Hell, do you think I know a thing about cooking? So what if I took a few things off the menu? These are still your recipes. It’s your food all the customers keep coming back for. That’s what you wanted, isn’t it? To share your cooking? Make people happy? That’s what you’re best at. And that’s exactly what you’re doing here, Zayne.”

Greg’s smile widened. “And me? I’ll be honest with you. I want to make money. And I’ve been doing a damn good job of it so far, if I say so myself. So why don’t you just keep doing what you’re good at, and let me keep doing what I’m good at?” He gave Zayne a small wink as he spoke.

“I… I… I don’t…” Zayne’s throat felt extremely dry. Greg had a point, didn’t he? Shit… I don’t even know anymore.

A heavy sigh passed Greg’s lips. “Look kid, I didn’t wanna have to put it like this… But I don’t think I can say it any more plainly — You need me. You can’t do this thing alone. But as for me? I hate to say it kid, but there are a hell of a lot of talented chefs out there… Dozens. Maybe more. And I’m sure all of them would be grateful to be in your shoes right now.”

“Great. So I’m easily replaceable. Is that what you’re getting at?!” Zayne snapped.

“I don’t want to replace you, Zayne! All those other chefs? I doubt they have even half  the passion you do! And that’s why I want to help you! That’s why you’ve gotta trust me with the tough calls. I’m looking out for usOur restaurant. Can’t you see that?”

“So that’s it then?” Zayne’s voice was very small. “You won’t let me have a say in anything? You won’t listen to me?”

“Oh, I’ll listen all day, kid.” Greg’s smile suddenly seemed so different. Cold, almost. “But in the end, I’m the one running this thing. I’ve got all the connections. And I’m the one pulling the strings around here.”

“So what does that make me, huh? Your puppet?!”

Greg didn’t even bother answering. “Thanks for stopping by, Zayne.”

He returned to his desk without another word.

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55 Responses to Interlude: Puppet

  1. If I were him, I’d quit.

    Liked by 3 people

    • CitizenErased14 says:

      I probably would too! I think some of what Greg said is kind of getting to him though… we’ll see within the next couple of chapters how Zayne decides to move forward from here.

      Thank you so much for reading, Deira!

      Like

  2. sourocha1 says:

    Hum…Greg sure has poisin, but Zayne needs to get some too! I think he has to read alotabout businees and such, or when Grege comeswith ”Naahhh you need me!” he can say some stuff back..or, he could be really rich, and start traveling the world, but even thought he is really rich, he would not be happy, because his restaurant that made this money come wasn’t his..And if he really wan’ts Grege to be gone, I heard cigarretes starts fires.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. karababy52 says:

    Oh man, I don’t like this Greg joker one bit! That cold, threatening look on his face says it all. Sure, he had some good points about knowing the business more than Zayne, but that doesn’t excuse him from going behind Zayne’s back and changing the menu. Zayne’s tolerated all the changes this guy has suggested up until now, but at this point it’s turning more into a dictatorship than a partnership.

    Oh, and how he kept calling him ‘kid’? GAH! I wanted to slap him, what a condescending jerk! I don’t know what Zayne will do, he has some serious decisions to make now. Anyway, great chapter, I’m so proud of Zayne for ‘mostly’ keeping his cool. That’s about the only good thing about his meeting with Greg.

    Weeee, my first comment here on anyone’s story. Feels so good to be able to do that now. 🙂 Have a great day! ❤

    Liked by 5 people

    • CitizenErased14 says:

      Yay! Hi Kara! ^_^

      Yes, Greg actually DOES make some good points… and I think that’s what’s really getting to Zayne. He’s recognizing the truth in some of what he says, and it’s making him re-think things a bit… But it’s also true that this is basically turning into a dictatorship and Greg is a condescending jerk! Haha

      Definitely big decisions ahead for Zayne… we’ll see what happens from here! Thanks so much for reading ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  4. maladi777 says:

    I hate seeing Zayne leaving Greg’s office with his tail between his legs again and again. There are lawyers he can consult with and come back armed with knowledge.

    Liked by 3 people

    • CitizenErased14 says:

      I know 😦 Greg is soooooo manipulative, and his words really got to Zayne. Hopefully he won’t give up and let Greg keep doing this to him!

      Like

  5. peaoorko says:

    Zayne said all the right thigns ❤
    But… is Greg the only businessman in Windenburg? I mean, speciality restaurants are cool, but they can get boring. And there are couples/ families with members that have very different tastes. So if Zayne's idea was to have a wide menu, he should stick to it. I said I'm not business savy, but I love dining out and actually when the comeptition is doing the same thing (as in specializes) it's not a bad idea to offer a different option.
    Not saying Greg doesn't know what he's doing- he knows all tol well. But that dynamic is srewed up and Zayne can do better.

    Liked by 2 people

    • CitizenErased14 says:

      I’m glad you approved of how Zayne was in this one 🙂

      Greg is not the ONLY businessman in Windenburg, but he is one of the most powerful! And yes, Zayne’s vision is for a pretty upscale restaurant with a wide menu… which I know you and I would like haha but according to Greg, maybe not everyone?

      We’ll see what Zayne does from here 🙂

      Like

  6. audreyfld says:

    Zayne needs a new partner but is he strong enough to find one and buy out Greg? Can he buy him out? Is there something in the contact that prevents it? Hopefully Auggy read it before he signed it. Greg is an ass. Zayne was right. It is a partnership. They should have totally discussed it first, but I bet Greg did it on purpose because he knew Zayne would be pissed.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. witchazard says:

    Dark WitcHazard: Kudis to Zayne for not blacking out and killing his ass! Justice we need to talk!

    Justice WitcHazard: I told you I already have PI WitcHazard looking into it! Zayne needs cold hard evidence that there’s been a breach of contract to truly stand a chance against Greg! The fact that he gave him the whole there’s so many other talented young chefs out there makes me think he might be doing this with some else! If not more! If he can get them all to testify against Greg he may have a shot! Of course this is all speculation! Usually when a businessman is using certain kind of tactics he’s used it before! It also doesn’t help that Zayne is the perfect target for manipulating! All his insecurities make him the perfect puppet!
    Anyway I heard you recommend Vulture for this case!

    Dark WitcHazard: Yep and the offer still stands!

    Justice WitcHazard: Give me time I’ll think of something that won’t entirely be illegal!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. julyvee94 says:

    Aw fuck. Zayne needs to step it up and get a new Business Partner…

    Liked by 2 people

  9. OnyxRaven says:

    GREG. BAD. So manipulative and condescending. I understand he’s just doing his job, but he could at least give Zayne a say, and not be a total jerk. I hope Zayne doesn’t resort to violence. I don’t want him to go to jail, which he very well could if charges are pressed. And a guy like Greg would surely press charges.
    Also, Caitlyn is quite pretty, or at least the side of her face is. 😉
    Just a random guess – Is one of Zayne’s traits Hot-headed? He seems to be quite a bit like Mari, and I can even see a little Stefan.

    Liked by 2 people

    • CitizenErased14 says:

      Definitely manipulative and condescending! (Though in a way he maybe makes some decent points too!) I hope Zayne has the self control to not react violently over this!

      And yes, Zayne is a hot head! Good call 😉 (he’s also Jealous and “good”… what a combo! Haha)

      And oh goodness, the Zaytlin shippers return! 😉 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Jes2G says:

    Hmmmm, as a fan of Gordon Ramsay, having too many items on a menu without a focus does have the potential to hang you. It doesn’t always, but it can. However, Greg needs to watch his back…

    Liked by 5 people

  11. sonniejj says:

    As much as I hate Greg and that stupid smirk of his, I think Zayne should think really hard before taking any kind of action and DEFINITELY check any contracts he signed. Greg seems like the type of jerk to sneak in some kind of weird contract-thing that would force Zayne to give up his restaurants if he went against one of Greg’s decisions or tried to fire him.

    It’s good that he learned to control his temper somewhat, though. Irrational decisions in a situation like this can be devestating!

    Liked by 2 people

    • CitizenErased14 says:

      Good questions about what kind of stuff could be in the contract! We will actually get a little more insight about that in the next chapter 😉

      Like

  12. I’m so over Greg. All those months didn’t perfecting recipes and now we’re not even using them? Ugh, now I’m regretting he even got a partner. Did his friend recommend this guy? Who should I be blaming for this mess?

    Liked by 2 people

  13. skcaga6 says:

    Poor Greg. He’s such a misunderstood asshole. Everybody wants to gangba…I mean gang up on him.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. gilplum says:

    Technically he’d be firing that old duck and I want him to do it IM SO ANGRY AT THIS MAN

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Erin says:

    NOOOOOOOO OMG that was so infuriating. I really want Zayne to get out of this partnership. He’s grown so much and learned so much. I have faith he can do it. But man that made me angry for him.

    Great chapter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • CitizenErased14 says:

      Thank you so much, Erin! Zayne has definitely been getting there, slowly but surely! But I wonder if he’s strong enough to back out of this? We’ll see!

      Like

  16. O'jenn says:

    Don’t get me wrong I like hamburgers just as much as the next person but uhh

    I hope Zayne can break away from Greg I don’t like this guy one bit.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. First of all: I applaud you Zayne. You controlled your temper (sort of, but it counts)!

    Now, a lawyer and a contract revising are definitely needed. Zayne, I know you don’t like the business side of having a restaurant, but I’m thinking you need to study up on it. Finding a trustworthy business partner (again) won’t be easy (again).

    Lastly, f*ck Greg. I get he’s doing his job and “looking out for the business.” He knows what he’s doing, but being a douche is not a job requirement. He is manipulative, controlling, condescending and an all around douche bag on a power trip.

    Greg needs a high five.
    In the face.
    With a chair.
    Twice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • CitizenErased14 says:

      “Greg needs a high five.
      In the face.
      With a chair.
      Twice.”

      NEW FAVORITE COMMENT OMG ❤ Ha!

      I'm glad you were proud of Zayne… He did pretty well, all things considered! And yes, you described Greg perfectly. He's manipulative and condescending and a total douche… Who also DOES know what he's doing… But come on, dude. Don't be a dick 😛

      Thank you for reading, as always! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  18. bennihickschloe says:

    *censors most of the things flying through our head right now directed at Greg*
    Zayne rally the family, buy him out and find someone else who’s not a complete *expletive* to do his job instead. Surely with all the connections your family has made you’ll find someone!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • CitizenErased14 says:

      Haha sorry to have inspired such rage! Greg really is something isn’t he? UGH. I like your advice for Zayne… Hopefully he’ll take it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  19. lisabeesims says:

    Oh my gosh … replace him? Hello you don’t replace a partner you replace an employee. Grrrr

    Liked by 1 person

  20. HOLD ME BACK I’m fighting him asap!

    Liked by 1 person

    • CitizenErased14 says:

      I don’t blame you… Greg is a total dick 😦 And Zayne is kind of a fool for letting himself be manipulated *sigh*

      Like

  21. Bugsie2016 says:

    Ok, I think it’s NOW time for the angry mob. >:) I would fight him but violence isn’t my corner. Try anybody else. Poor Zayne, I warned him.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Colourofmusic says:

    h my god! What a horrible man. He’s just using Zayne to accomplish his own goals. I’m so annoyed at him. Zayne has come really far and he deserves to have his restaurant the way he wants it.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. zombiegums says:

    *deletes the door to Greg’s office*

    *adds a lit fireplace and fills the room with chairs*

    I hate him.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. kaycee39 says:

    I don’t like Greg, yeah I really don’t. Ok so Zayne needs to talk to Auggy and see what legal options he has. He needs to get out of this arrangement before he gets swallowed up by Greg. He needs to start small but true to his vision. Being his own boss is the only option for his true happiness I feel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • CitizenErased14 says:

      Very insightful, and probably true! Zayne is independent to a fault… and now might finally be the time for him to embrace that and get away from Greg!

      Liked by 1 person

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