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Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
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Chapter One"I thought you'd decided not to take that kind of case." Cassie York made herself comfortable across the desk from her new boss, Jennifer Rodriguez Madison. The phone rang before Jen could respond. She gave Cassie an apologetic smile and grabbed the receiver.
"Madison Investigations." She paused. "Today?" She didn't bother checking her full calendar. "How about tomorrow afternoon, say around three?" She rubbed her eyes and yawned away from the phone. "Sorry, that's the soonest I can meet with you, Mr. Rice. I'm squeezing you in as it is."
While Jen got the potential client's details Cassie got up and went to peek at Annie in her portable crib. Her chubby round face looked angelic, but that was because she was sleeping. When she was awake, she had a pair of lungs that could be heard all the way to Dallas.
With operating the new agency, being newly married and raising a child, too, Jen sure had her hands full. Cassie envied her in some ways. Jen not only had it all, but she was making it work, adapting along the way, balancing her time and responsibilities to suit both her career and her family.
Eventually Cassie would get to that place, but first she needed to prove herself. And Jen was about to give her the perfect opportunity.
"Sorry." Jen hung up thephone. "Where were we?"
"You were about to explain Marianne Cummings's case." Cassie returned to her seat.
"Oh, right." Jen pulled out her side drawer, leaned back in her chair and swung her legs up to rest her heels on the drawer. "I have to keep my feet up so they won't swell like two balloons." She rubbed her rounded tummy. "This baby wants out already."
"Don't you have two months to go?" She nodded, making a funny face. Cassie laughed. "Sounds as if it's mama who wants that baby out."
"That, too." Jen's lips lifted in a wry smile. "Okay, the Cummings case. This one's important to me, Cass. Marianne is a dear friend, and I personally think the slimeball she married is out for her money and then it'll be hasta la vista."
"Ah, so that's why you're taking this kind of case."
Jen shrugged. "I have no problem with the decoy tactic. If a guy is happily married and not looking, he won't take the bait. I only turned down the last one because I didn't have enough staff."
At least Jen didn't say she now had a dumb blonde to fit the bill as decoy, Cassie thought. Of course she wouldn't. They'd known each other for three years, and Cassie knew Jen respected her abilities beyond working as a secretary for a rival agency. She was just being touchy. Her experience with Chet had left her that way.
Jen smiled. "I know this is a disappointing case being your first one with us. You were probably looking forward to something meatier, but I really appreciate you jumping in. Like I said, I think Marianne is being taken for a ride. I'm glad she's finally starting to get suspicious of Robert."
"Why? What's he done?"
"Long periods away from home. Says he's on a business trip, but doesn't show any income, secretive about phone calls, and she thinks he has a private mailbox. He's never asked her for money, though, which is a bit of a puzzle."
"She has a lot of it I take it?"
"More than she'll ever be able to spend. Her first husband passed away two years ago and she was left with three homes, a healthy investment portfolio and too much free time to feel sorry for herself. And then up popped Robert Bask, twenty years her junior and as smooth as chocolate silk pie."
Cassie shook her head. The age thing alone wasn't a big deal in her mind, but the rest added up to trouble. "I'll see what I can do. I assume you have some information on his routines and personal habits."
"Right here." Jen picked up a file folder and laid it in front of Cassie. "Of course he hasn't been totally forthcoming about his whereabouts, but she does know he favors this one bar outside of town."
"I'll read this over and start tomorrow." Cassie stood. "Thanks for giving me this chance to join the team, Jen."
"Are you kidding? It's me who should be on my knees thanking you. But I'm sure you'll excuse me if I don't get up," she said with a wry grin and a hand on her tummy.
Annie chose that moment to wake up and let out a huge wail. Jennifer briefly closed her eyes and groaned. "On second thought," she muttered, struggling to her feet.
"I'll get her," Cassie offered.
"Thanks but it's feeding time and that makes me the most popular person in this little lady's life." She made a shooing motion with her hand. "Anyway, I want you to go get started on the case."
"You've got it, boss."
"Call me tomorrow." She picked up her daughter and the baby immediately quieted. "Let me know how you're going to handle the documentation. A wire would probably be best, but I'll let you decide how you want to work it. Although frankly, I think your word will be enough for Marianne to give him the boot."
"Let me think about it, but I'll probably use a wire. I know they haven't been married long, but just in case they end up in court."
"Good thinking." Jen got ready to feed Annie, and Cassie headed for the door. "I'm so glad you've joined us."
Cassie stopped with her hand on the doorknob, pride filling her chest. She'd do the best damn job possible on this case. Jen would never be sorry she took her in as a rookie. And everyone - Chet, her father, her brother - they'd all see that she was more than just a pretty face.
Excerpted from Hands On by Rawlins Copyright © 2002 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.