Read an Excerpt
His Saving Grace
By Lyn Cote
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHe grinned, staring at the computer monitor, the only brightness in the dark room. Glee roared through him. He was invading files, data, territories not meant for him. Rows and rows and columns and columns of names, dates, diagnoses, procedures done, doctors and prescription names, cost, but primarily numbers.
His gaze fixed on the many zeros on the glowing screen. An angry voice deep in his memory replayed, "That's all you'll ever be - a nothing. A zero." His hand trembled as it hovered over his mouse, then he moved his cursor to a random column. He hadn't gone to all this trouble for nothing. He'd add a few zeros. That would make things interesting again.
Gracie Petrov had come to work this morning with a clear goal in mind: to resign. Ten hours later she was still circling it, unable to take the last fateful step and tell this to her boss, Jack Lassater. Dear Father, everything in my mind tells me to do it - say it now. But my heart ... She felt a tightness over her heart. She pressed a hand there, trying to suppress the pain.
Why did I ever think Jack would notice me as a woman? I'm just his faithful girl Friday, an extension of his computer network.
The phone rang. She leaned over and picked up the receiver from her oak desk. Her greeting came out automatically: "LIT, Lassater Information Technology. This is Grace Petrov speaking. How may I help you?"
"Gracie, you're not home." Her father's voice scolded her in the kindest tone.
His concern brought a lump to her throat. She promised herself silently that her next job would definitely have regular hours. "I'm sorry, Dad. I -"
"I know. I know. You're trying to get the 'brain' to close up shop for the day."
Dad, it's more than that. "I won't be much longer." Speaking these words made her more aware of her fatigue. The inverted triangle of muscles across her shoulders, which created a V between her shoulder blades, ached from sitting in front of the computer for hours.
"I've heard that before. Okay. I'll make a plate of supper for you and put it in the fridge."
"Don't bother. Jack went out to get us a couple of hot dogs."
"That sounds healthy," he teased. "Just remember you're staying home tomorrow. It's Saturday. We have to give your cousin's room a fresh coat of paint. There's only a week before your cousin will be home."
She tried to put a smile into her voice. "Gotcha! 'Bye.'"
Her father just chuckled and hung up.
Gracie put the receiver in the cradle and stepped away from her desk. Looking out the tenth-story window, she glanced downward and glimpsed Jack. His straight back was toward her - broad shoulders in a tan knit shirt. His reddish brown hair shone in the golden twilight.
Oblivious to her as always, he had paused at the corner newsstand to talk to Old Louis as he shut down for the night. Everyone called the man Louis because his gravelly voice sounded just like that of the late Louis Armstrong. She leaned her head against the window. Jack always stopped to share a conversation with the toothless, elderly man. It was one of the things about Jack that had snared her heart.
But the flip side of this endearing trait puzzled his partner, Tom. Jack never spoke with their paying customers until after Tom had nailed down the deal. Then Jack only wanted to discuss the software project with the customer. There was no chatting or socializing, strictly business.
It frustrated Tom, but Gracie realized Jack wasn't merely a quiet man. Long before she'd ever met him, some part of him had shut down. She thought she knew why it had happened, but what could she do about it?
The phone rang again, and forgetting to let the machine pick up, she answered.
A man cleared his throat. "This is Dr. Cliff Lassater. Is Jack in?"
Dr. Lassater, Jack's father? Startled, Gracie drew in a deep breath. He had never called here before. In fact, she knew that Jack hadn't seen his father in ... how long?
But she couldn't let her curiosity show. To a stranger like Dr. Lassater, she was just the executive assistant at LIT and should act like one. She kept her voice businesslike.
"I'm sorry, Dr. Lassater. Jack isn't here. May I take a message?"
"I know it's late. I thought I'd get your machine."
"I'm just getting ready to leave." The truth of this sentence hit her with sudden force. She pushed away the heavy feeling of finality.
"Well, then ... I'm glad I caught you. I'd like to schedule a business lunch with Jack as soon as possible."
Excerpted from His Saving Grace by Lyn Cote Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd. . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.