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On Today's Agenda: LOVE
From the moment Caitlin Briley stepped into his law office with her smoky eyes and burning ambition, Nathan McCloud wanted her. As a bachelor he would have had time to charm his way into her bed?and into her heart. But now he was a single dad, trading golf clubs for dollhouses. Could he convince her to follow him from footloose freedom to family responsibility?
Caitlin was a lawyer with a plan?and it didn't include ...
On Today's Agenda: LOVE
From the moment Caitlin Briley stepped into his law office with her smoky eyes and burning ambition, Nathan McCloud wanted her. As a bachelor he would have had time to charm his way into her bed—and into her heart. But now he was a single dad, trading golf clubs for dollhouses. Could he convince her to follow him from footloose freedom to family responsibility?
Caitlin was a lawyer with a plan—and it didn't include falling for her gorgeous partner or the adorable little girl he'd adopted. For Caitlin, making it big meant leaving small-town Mississippi—and Nathan—behind. But when Nate's smile melted her heart, she was tempted to revise her schedule and reach for the stars.
A loud sigh of exasperation cut into his mental calculations. "Nathan, would you please pay attention? We need to make this decision today."
He gave his partner his most engaging smile. Caitlin Briley was always a pleasure to look at, and he usually enjoyed teasing her and spending time with her. But he was impatient to escape on this perfect autumn afternoon. "That last one sounded good. Why don't we give her a call?"
He knew he'd said the wrong thing when Caitlin's heart-shaped face darkened with a frown. "You haven't been listening."
He cleared his throat. "Of course I was listening. Uh, what was wrong with the last one?"
Tapping a red-nailed finger on one of the job applications spread on the desk in front of her, Caitlin replied curtly, "This woman said she would like to work for our firm because it would be nice to be on the right side of the law for a change. She also wanted to know if her compensation could include free legal representation on occasion."
Nathan winced. "Maybe I wasn't listening closely enough. I'm not sure she's what we're looking for - though she might prove entertaining," he added thoughtfully.
Rolling her eyes, Caitlin let out what might have been a strangled growl. "We aren't looking for entertainment. We're trying to find an efficient, professional, reliable office manager."
"Couldn't you just pick someone? You're good at that sort of thing. I trust your judgment."
"You aren't 'trusting' me with this responsibility, you're trying to dump it on me."
Caitlin always had a knack for cutting right through his BS. Nathan sighed in resignation. "Okay, you're right. I don't really care who you hire as long as she's pleasant to work with and doesn't interfere with my schedule."
"Your schedule?" His partner looked at him in disbelief. "You barely have a schedule."
"Exactly. And I like it that way."
"We need a good office manager to bring some order to the chaos in this place. And you should have some input into choosing the person we hire."
"If I promise not to criticize your choice, will you take care of this?" he wheedled. "I'd stay and help you, but I have an appointment this afternoon."
"With a client or a fishing rod?" she asked suspiciously.
"A client," he assured her. And then, because he considered himself a fairly honest guy - for a lawyer - he added, "And a set of golf clubs."
She had looked momentarily mollified, if still skeptical, but now she was frowning again. "Darn it, Nathan."
He considered reminding her that he was the senior partner here. He had run this firm by himself for two years before he'd impulsively taken on a fresh-out-of-law-school partner just over nine months ago because his workload had gotten heavy enough to interfere with his leisure time.
Caitlin had been the first lawyer he'd interviewed, and he had hired her because she had the most beautiful smoky-gray eyes he'd ever seen - in addition to a thick, shoulder-length curtain of glossy brown hair, an intriguingly dimpled chin, and a petite yet nicely curved figure. Add those attributes to a more than respectable résumé, and he could find no reason at all to send her on her way after that first meeting.
He didn't know then that he had hired the Attila the Hun of ambitious young lawyers.
She had swept into his lazy little practice with a gungho, conquer-the-legal-world attitude that exhausted him. Apparently, she had added him to her list of things about this office that needed to be changed.
But he still thought she had beautiful eyes, he mused, losing himself in their depths for a moment.
She drummed her fingers on his desk. "You really aren't paying attention to any of this, are you?"
"Did you know you get little sparks in your eyes when you're annoyed? They just sort of glitter, all silvery in the gray."
"They must be glittering like crazy right now, then."
He propped his chin on his fist and gazed at her. "Actually, yes. And a very enticing sight they are, too."
Her invariable reaction when he flirted with her was to speak gruffly and busy her hands. She did so again this time, shuffling noisily through the applications she was suddenly studying with renewed interest. "I suppose I could narrow these down to two or three and call them in for interviews. I would, of course, expect you to sit in on those interviews with me and help me make the final decision."
"Why? You know what you're looking for in an office manager. Hire whoever you like. I have no doubt that whoever you choose will be perfect for the job."
She was the one who pointed out, "You're the senior partner. You should have the final say in major decisions like this."
He shrugged. "My decision is that you should make the decision."
"A lot of help you are," she muttered.
He grinned. "Glad to be of assistance. Can I go now?"
She leaned back in her chair with an expression of surrender. "Go. Enjoy your golf game. And if you really are playing with a client, try to talk a little business while you're out there."
"If he beats me, I'll bill him for my time," Nathan promised, already out of his chair and headed for the door before she could change her mind.
There had been plenty of times during the past nine months when Caitlin had wondered if she'd done the right thing joining Nathan McCloud's firm in Honesty, a city of 30,000 people in southern Mississippi. At the beginning the offer had seemed almost too good to be true. A partnership right out of law school? In a one-man office that was already making money and was doing so well that Nathan had been turning down cases?
After looking over the books and the day-to-day operations - Nathan had given her unrestricted access to his business records - she had seen the potential for turning this small office into a thriving law firm. At the very least, a few years of practice here would be a great springboard to the partnership track in an established, big-city firm.
Caitlin had lofty career ambitions. Unfortunately, her partner was what she termed "motivationally challenged."
A month after their confrontation, on the first Thursday afternoon in October, Caitlin was sitting in her office leafing through a thick file and admiring the practical color-coding system the new office manager had instituted when Nathan burst into the room without knocking. "You have to do something about that woman."
She took a moment to study the frown that creased his attractive face and darkened his blue eyes to near navy. "Which woman is that?"
"That ... that dictator you hired as an office manager. She's out of control."
"I hired her because you were conveniently unavailable the day of the interviews," she reminded him. "And you promised not to criticize my choice."
"How could I have known you were going to hire Irene the Terrible?"
Excerpted from The Family Plan by Gina Wilkins Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.