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Defending The Heiress
By Susan Kearney
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter One"We need to slow down, delay the expansion," Daria Harrington told her twin sister Fallon with a touch of impatience.
Neither the full blush of white amaryllis in a striking cachepot on Daria's desk, nor the blooms' soothing fragrance, calmed her. The peaceful Warden serigraph depicting a cottage with warm lighted windows that her sister had recently purchased for her didn't ease Daria's agitation either.
"The meeting in Tokyo is set for next week," Fallon argued.
Daria forced her gaze from her slice of the New York skyline outside her office window to her sister, sitting in a guest chair beside her husband, Harry.
"Growing our business with skyrocketing speed hasn't allowed enough time to build a proper foundation."
While Daria enjoyed staying in the city, putting down roots and tending the business, her more reckless vagabond sister preferred new adventures while traipsing around the world. Together they'd made a great team, opening their signature floral boutiques and expanding at a record pace. The partnership they'd started just out of college had succeeded beyond either of their most imaginative dreams.
But this time Daria would insist on delaying the new expansion into the Asian markets until they dealt with some pressing business issues here at home. She thrummed her fingers on the antique desk she'd purchased during college. Even back then she'd known she wanted a home with beautiful objects, and she'd started collecting on a meager budget. Now she no longer had to let price determine whether or not she could acquire Tarkay's newest painting or an antique emerald ring, but she no longer had the time to shop - for groceries, much less estate sales.
"Must I remind you that you wanted to delay opening Harrington Bouquet's London branch?" Fallon challenged her. "And London is now one of our best success stories."
Fallon swiped a lock of hair behind her ear, exchanged glances with her silent husband, Harry Levine, who simply shrugged. Daria thought Harry the perfect brother-in-law. Fully supportive of her sister and confident in his own abilities, he never interfered in the business. So far as she knew, he hadn't even muttered one protest after the wedding when Fallon had insisted on keeping her maiden name, Harrington. Intelligent and always alert, Harry spoke at least a dozen languages and enjoyed accompanying her sister in her gypsy lifestyle.
The problem wasn't Harry, but Fallon. Her sister wouldn't sit still and listen. Fallon never stayed in one place long enough to comprehend a problem, never mind help solve the underlying difficulties.
Fallon smiled at Daria. "We must grow with the market or risk becoming stagnant. With low interest rates and the worldwide economy strong, the time is ripe for expansion."
Fallon could talk the talk, but Daria didn't buy into the innocent smile or her sister's theory, no matter what spin she put on it. Daria simply had to find the words to convince her stubborn twin, who - already restless - stood and paced, making an elegant picture from the top of her neatly coiffed off-the-shoulder chestnut hair to her Dolce and Gabana dress and custom-made Italian pumps.
Daria tried again. "We have a lot to lose, Fallon. We aren't kids anymore. Due to Grandma Harrington's trust fund, and our ingenuity, we're successful."
"Thanks to our recent expansions in London, Paris, Milan and Sydney. What's wrong with opening more stores?"
"Because while you're off gallivanting around the world, I'm stuck in the New York office dealing with suppliers, shipping and legalese."
"Stuck?" Fallon spun and placed her hands on her hips. "You're stuck because you refuse to leave. How many times have I invited you overseas, but you always make up excuses to stay in that stifling penthouse you call home."
Daria wouldn't let her sister sidetrack her with her critique of the fashionable penthouse Daria had turned into her personal haven. Despite Fallon's propensity for fine clothing and makeup, she didn't care if she lived out of the back of a bus. Daria appreciated her creature comforts, which included clean sheets, a hot soak in her tub and her cats.
"My running the corporation wasn't our deal, remember? You were going to share the paperwork -"
"But you're so good at it." Fallon tried flattery, but Daria simply raised an eyebrow that needed shaping since she'd had to cancel her last three waxing appointments in order to deal with pressing business.
"I'm good at the paperwork because I do it."
"And I'm good at opening stores. Let me do my job."
"That's what I'm telling you." Daria released an exasperated sigh. "Right now your job needs to be here in New York. With me. The paperwork is too much for one person."
"You need a man in your life to distract you."
"That might be nice," Daria replied. "I don't have time to go out on dates. I don't leave here until after eleven and fall asleep exhausted, then get up at five and start all over again. And why am I working so hard? Because you keep opening new stores and creating more paperwork. It's time to assess our company, enjoy life a little."
"I'm enjoying life," Fallon answered.
"But I'm working too hard. I can barely find time for the Big Sister program. I want a change."
Fallon stared at her, no doubt assessing Daria's determination. Unlike her sister, Daria didn't enjoy conflict, but she wasn't giving in - not this time.
Daria liked life to run smoothly, so usually she let Fallon have her way. But not this time. No matter how much her stomach clenched into a hard knot from having to deal with the conflict, she would win.
As children, the sisters had reacted differently to their wealthy but cold and demanding father, who had remarried shortly after their parents' divorce. They had lived with their mother for one year until her death, then returned to live with their father and his new wife.
Shuffled from nanny to boarding school to summer camps, the only consistency in their lives was one another. While the two sisters couldn't have been closer, they were very different people. Fallon avoided facing the lack of parental love and support in their lives by constantly changing her locales and friends. Daria reacted differently, building a comfy spot for herself wherever she happened to be.
And Daria depended on her sister's honest opinions, her friendship and her love. Since they'd been kids, they'd always backed one another, stood up for one another. Daria could count the arguments they'd had on one hand.
"You want to sell the business? Retire?" Fallon asked in astonishment.
"I was thinking about a vacation and, afterward, I want to work only three or four days a week." Then she could spend a full day with Tanya, a kid in the Big Sister program where she volunteered her free time - when she had free time. "But I can't leave the office when my partner isn't here to take over when I'm gone."
"Look. I know you won't be happy until you've built a Harrington Bouquet in every major city of the world. But we need to hire more people, delegate."
Excerpted from Defending The Heiress by Susan Kearney Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
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