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Flirting With The Boss
By Teresa Southwick
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSweet Spring, Texas - June 4, 2004
All that glitters ...
Is not gold, Ashley Gallagher thought. She stared at the gold-wrapped chocolate coins on her desk - one of Caine Chocolate Company's specialty items. Bentley Caine, owner, president and her mentor, had recently promoted her to manager of the specialty and seasonal department.
Touching the red ribbon tied around the cellophane package, she thought about the man who was also her friend. He was in the hospital recuperating from a heart attack. After collapsing at work, he'd insisted she contact his estranged grandson.
Max Caine wasn't the last person she'd wanted to talk to, but he was among the bottom three. Only her respect and affection for his grandfather had compelled her to make the call.
She'd given him the facts. Max had made no attempt to draw out the conversation so she'd said goodbye. That had been two days ago. She wasn't sure what she'd expected from him, but her expectations hadn't included nothing. Surely by now Max should have -
Ashley looked up at the sound of the masculine voice. Her stomach knotted when she recognized the good-looking specimen of manhood in the doorway. Just the man she'd been thinking about. A stressinducer if she'd ever seen one. Unfortunately she'd seen her share. This one had just been the first.
"Hello, Max." Her voice was breathless. Considering she'd barely gotten the two words past the constriction in her throat, breathless delivery was a win.
"Ashley." Max Caine moved into the room. "How are you?"
How brazen was he? Acting as if it had been ten days instead of ten years since she'd last seen him. Swallowing hard, she met his blue-eyed gaze. If only she could say she'd forgotten how blue his eyes were, but she couldn't. Not if she was truthful.
And darn her heart for thumping so hard. The fact that he was even better looking than the last time she'd seen him was no excuse for this reaction to him. She could only chalk it up to the fact that she was a serial non-dater.
But gosh darn it, Max Caine had actually come back. She hadn't thought he would. Neither had Mr. Caine. While they'd waited for the paramedics, he'd said he wanted to see his grandson. But he didn't think Max would come if he did the asking. He'd insisted she make the call to bring Max home. Mission accomplished.
"How am I? How do you think after your grandfather's heart attack? How is he today?"
"I haven't seen him yet." Max rested his palms on her desk and leaned forward, frowning as he studied her. "I'm here looking for my grandfather, Ashley."
"Have you looked for him at Sweet Spring General Hospital?" she asked.
"He's not there." Exasperation coated his words.
"That's impossible. He was just moved to a regular room from the cardiac care unit yesterday. The doctor said he wanted to keep Mr. Caine in the hospital at least a few more days."
"Apparently he left."
She blinked. "Why would he do that?"
"Your guess is as good as mine." Max lifted one broad shoulder. "I'm just passing on the information I was given."
Ashley stared at him, then picked up her phone. "Bernice, get Mr. Caine's cardiologist on the phone."
"Right away," came the female voice on the other end of the line.
Ashley set the receiver back in the cradle and looked up. "I don't understand. Who did you speak to at the hospital?"
"Does it matter?"
"Maybe. Patients get moved. It's possible you were given the wrong room number."
"Are you suggesting I should have searched every room?"
"I'm just saying, maybe you only talked to someone at the information desk who hadn't been updated yet about a move."
"A move that happened yesterday? News in the hospital travels by pony express?"
He had a point, but wild horses wouldn't compel her to tell him that. "I can't believe he would do this." The phone buzzed, and she picked it up. When she was told the doctor was on line two, she pressed the button and said, "Doctor Davis? Ashley Gallagher here."
"How can I help you, Miss Gallagher?"
"It's about Mr. Caine." She looked up at the other Mr. Caine staring intently at her and tried to ignore the jittery feeling his gaze generated inside her.
"I've just been told he's no longer in the hospital."
"That's right. He walked out."
"But how could you let him do that?"
"I can't force a patient to stay. I can only make sure he understands the seriousness of his condition. Are you calling from work?"
"So he's not there?"
Her eyes widened. "I haven't seen him, but that doesn't mean -"
"If he is, I advise you to make him go home."
"And what makes you think I would have more luck with him than you did?"
The chuckle on the other end of the line was tinged with dark humor. "Good point. I wish you luck anyway. He's a stubborn old man. But I like him."
"Me, too," she said.
"If there's anything I can do, let me know."
"Can I call on you if I need some muscle?" She looked at the muscular man whose gaze had been superglued to her this whole time. But Max had disappeared from Bentley Caine's life ten years ago. There was no reason to believe she could count on him for help now.
Excerpted from Flirting With The Boss by Teresa Southwick Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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