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It was raining in chilly gray torrents, and Kenna Dean made puddles on the floor beside her desk as she shed her beige raincoat and its matching hat. Even her long, wavy dark hair was soaked, and she pushed it angrily out of her bespectacled eyes. She was already ten minutes late because she'd missed the bus, and now her suede boots were drenched along with the hem of her new blue ruffled frontier skirt. She sighed wearily. What was the use? She had just bought the new frontier skirt and a matching high-necked ruffled blouse on Saturday, and this morning she walked out of her small apartment with confidence. Today she was going to make Denny Cole look at her and see a woman, not just an efficient secretary who made good coffee. But then it rained and she'd missed the bus and had to walk four blocks to the downtown Atlanta law office where she worked. It was starting out to be a typical Monday.
Denny Cole's office door opened just as she had known it would, and her tall, boyishly attractive boss walked into the outer office. One fair eyebrow rose expressively as he looked across at her, and she could see that he was struggling not to laugh. She could imagine how she looked: tall, gangly and small-breasted, wearing clothes that suddenly seemed to emphasize all the faults in her figure. To complete the image of disaster, her mascara was running down her cheeks. She looked like an ideal applicant for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
"Go ahead, say it," she dared him, pursing her full lips, which were ineffectually painted with thick, pink lipstick. "I'm off to join the clowns."
"I'm a gentleman, or I might," he admitted, letting his white teeth show in a smile as he jammed his hands into his pockets and moved closer. "What's on the agenda today, Kenna?"
Just like that. No notice of anything except the job, even when she looked horrible. She should have known better than to try to dress up for him.
She reached into the top drawer and pulled out the appointment book. "You've got Mrs. Baker about the property suite at nine, you're due in court at ten-thirty on the James case and you've got a meeting in chambers with Judge Monroe at two-thirty. Isn't he sitting on the James case?"
"Then if you don't finish by two-thirty, you can forget the meeting in chambers, I suppose."
"Are you kidding?" He chuckled. "Henry will recess until we talk over that continuance. How about the rest of the afternoon?"
"Thank God." He sighed. He winked at her. "I've got a heavy date with Margo tonight. I don't know how I live from evening to evening!"
She tried to smile and look unconcerned, while her heart was being slowly strangled by the thought of the dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty he'd been dating for the past two months. It was beginning to look serious, and she was really scared. How would she live if Denny married someone else? She seemed to have loved him foreverat least for the past year. And all he ever noticed was her typing speed.
"Has Regan come in yet?" he asked.
She felt herself tense at the thought of Denny's older stepbrother. He frightened her with his hard, dark face and his huge physique. He was the most abrasively masculine man she'd ever known, and the six months he'd been in partnership with Denny had been the most trying of her work history. She still couldn't understand why Regan had left a lucrative law practice in New York to come down to Atlanta and join Denny's, when Regan already had a national reputation as a trial lawyer and Denny was just out of law school.
"I don't think so," she murmured after a minute. "I just walked in the door, and I haven't looked."
"You won't, either, unless I insist, will you?" he asked curiously. "It amazes me how nervous you are around my brother. The other day he told me that you seem to go into hiding when he's here. He has to hunt for you to give dictation."
She shifted restlessly. She wasn't a timid person. She had a temper and on occasion she showed it even to Denny. But Regan made her bristle. She couldn't be in the same room with him for five minutes without wanting to take his trash can and dump it over his shaggy dark head of hair. And that wouldn't do at all because Denny worshipped his brother. So she tried to avoid trouble by avoiding Regan Cole. In her mind they were one and the same.
"I'm busy most of the time," she reminded him. "There are those files in the storeroom that I'm trying to alphabetize when I'm not typing petitions for you or entertaining nervous clients "
"I know, I know." He sighed. He cocked his head at her, and his fair hair, so unlike Regan's, glinted gold in the fluorescent light. "You don't like Regan, do you?" he asked bluntly.
She shrugged her thin shoulders. "I suppose I'm a little in awe of him," she said after a minute, searching for a tactful way to admit that she hated his guts and finding none.
"Because he's famous?" Denny chuckled. "His name always makes the gossip column when he goes to Hollywood or the Big Apple, all right. Regan attracts women the way honey attracts bees. He's not a bad-looking devil, and, God knows, he's not poor.
"Come to think of it, I'm surprised he didn't bring his own secretary when we began the partnership," Denny murmured, smiling. "Sandy was quite a dish. Uh, not that you aren't "
She managed a faint smile, to show him that she didn't mind being thought of as drab and uninteresting by the man she worshipped.
"Maybe Sandy didn't want to leave New York," she suggested.
"Maybe." He turned. "Well, send Mrs. Baker in as soon as she gets here. I'm not snowed under with mail yet, am I?"
"I'll run down to the mail room and get it," she said.
"Made coffee?" he called over his shoulder.
"Sure," she muttered to herself, "and swept the floors and de-cobwebbed the corners and reupholstered the chairs and the sofa and patched the carpet and painted the door facings, all in the past three minutes since I walked in the door."
"Not yet," she replied sweetly. "As soon as I get back, okay?"
He sighed. "I guess it will have to be," he mumbled, closing his door behind him.
"Oh, damn men everywhere," she muttered as she opened the outer door, and came face-to-face with Regan Cole.
She had to force herself not to start at the unexpected sight of him. He was intimidatingnot only his superior height, but the sheer size of him, and not an ounce of that physique was flab. He could back down most opponents just by standing up. His eyes were brown with amber specks, and they were hard and cold as ice when he was angry. His face was broad, his mouth chiseled and faintly sensuous, his nose was too big and had been broken at least twice; it matched his hands and feet, which were equally oversize. But somehow they all suited him.
She moved quickly aside to let him enter the office, and felt herself bristle as he came by her. He had a frightening vitality, an aura of pure menace when he was out of sorts. And he was always out of sorts with Kenna.
"I'm expecting a letter from a colleague in New York," he said without preamble and without a trace of good humor. "Bring the mail in as soon as you get it."
His broad back disappeared into his office and the door closed behind it. She glared at it and, giving in to a sudden whim, went down on her knees and salaamed in front of his closed door. Just as she was giving her best to the effort, the door suddenly opened again.
Regan's thick eyebrows rose while Kenna struggled to regain both her feet and her forgotten dignity.
"I'll need you for some dictation when you get the mail, so bring your pad in with it," he said curtly.
"And if you're auditioning for the stage, don't practice on my time."
He turned back into his office and slammed the door.
There was a muffled laugh from behind her, and she turned to see Denny struggling to keep a straight face. They looked at each other and burst into laughter, rushing out into the hall together to keep from exploding where Regan could hear them.
This was Denny at his best, a co-conspirator with a sense of humor that she loved. Regan's exact opposite, in every way.
"I thought you were going to faint when he opened the door." Denny chuckled, leaning back against the wall in the deserted corridor as the laughter passed. "That made my morning."
"I wasn't expecting him to open the door," she confessed. "I couldn't help it, he throws orders around like a conquering army."
"He always has. I've learned to nod my head and listen and then go do what I please. It works half the time," he added with a rueful smile. "Poor kid, he's rough on you, I know. I truly didn't realize he was going to leave his own secretary behind in New York and then want to share mine."
She flushed at that unexpected sympathy and smiled up at him. "It's okay," she murmured, ready to wade through crocodile-infested waters for him. "I'd better get the mail before his lordship comes out with battle ax in hand. Then I'll get your coffee."
"No rush, I'll survive," he said with a wink. "Don't let him intimidate you, Kenna. He's not what he seems. In a lot of ways, Regan's had a hard life." He straightened away from the wall. "Chin up, and all that rot," he said in his best fake British accent. "Right, troops?"
She saluted. "Aye, sir!" She turned and rushed down to the elevator.
A little over an hour later, she was sitting at her desk when Denny came out, shrugging into his trench coat on the way.
"I'm late again." He sighed and smiled at her. "I should be back by three-thirty. You can call the courthouse if you need me before then."
"Will do," she promised. "Have a nice day."
"I'll do my best. Oh, pull out the Myers file and photocopy those deeds for me, will you? And do a cover letter, along the lines of, 'Dear Mr. Anderson, enclosed please find copies of the deeds for the Myers land dispute. When you have looked them over, see if you concur with our client's contention that the new survey confirms his ownership of land his neighbor has deeded for an industrial park. I will wait to hear from you, etc.' Okay?"
She was scribbling on the back of an envelope, because, as usual, he wasn't waiting for her to open her pad. "Got it," she agreed.
"Hold the fort, honey," he called over his shoulder. He stopped with his hand on the doorknob. "Oh, if Margo calls, tell her I'll pick her up at six for the ballet, okay? That's my girl."
And he was gone. She glared at the door, feeling vaguely betrayed. She hated Margo, because Margo was beautiful. The Argentinian woman was black-haired and black-eyed, with a complexion like ivory and the most sensuous figure Kenna had ever seen. She ached to look like that, to have that slinky walk and that air of unshakable confidence that drew men like flies. She got out her compact and stared at the plain little face in the mirror with a rueful smile. She wasn't going to set any men on fire with desire, that was for sure. With a sigh she put away the compact and turned her attention back to her computer screen.
The morning went quickly, and pleasantly. Regan stayed in his office. His clients came and went, and the telephone lines stayed busy, but Kenna didn't have to see him. She liked days like this, when confrontations could be avoided. She didn't like Regan. She didn't exactly know why, but compared to his stepbrother, he was like winter to spring. Denny was so personable and pleasant, such a charming man. The only thing Regan might appear charming to would be something as dangerous as he wasmaybe a rattlesnake.
She was grinning wickedly at that thought when Regan's office door opened and he came out into the office with curt, deliberate steps.
"Get me the Myers file," he said curtly.
She had it on the desk, having just photocopied the deeds. He rattled her, though, when he used his courtroom tone on her, and she jumped up and started looking through the filing cabinet for it.
His dark eyes went over her with distaste before they fell to the desk. His big hand moved, lifting the edge of the file folder. "Isn't this it?" he asked, his voice sharp.
She turned, flushing as she realized it was. "Yes, sir," she said for lack of anything more original.
He opened it, thumbing through it. His eyes shot up, pinning hers. "What are you doing with it?"
"Denny dictated a cover letter on his way out," she explained coldly, "and said to copy the deeds and send them along."
He tossed the file back onto her desk with a scowl. "I wish to God he'd take time to tell me when he's already done something he's asked me to do."