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Marriage by Design
By Lynn Michaels
Random HouseLynn Michaels
All right reserved.
Mia Savard loved fashion. Anyone who looked in her closet could tell you that, once they picked their jaw up from the floor.
In design school Mia excelled at classes in textiles and pattern-making. Blindfolded she could sew a seam straight as a laser. She dreamed designs. Her illustrations won awards that hung on her father Lucien's office wall.
Mia simply hated brides.
It was nothing personal. Some of her best friends were brides, had been brides or were about to become brides. Which had absolutely nothing to do, Mia swore to her father, with her loathing for brides.
"I'm simply up to here with bridal gowns." Mia held her index finger against her eyebrows, in her father's office one snowy Thursday morning in November. "If I have to design another one, I'll scream."
"Pish." Lucien didn't even bother to look up from the stack of sketches on his desk. "You're having a snit because all your friends are getting married and that bum What's-His-Name dumped you."
"The bum's name is Terence and this is not a snit," Mia insisted. She couldn't argue about being dumped; it was true and the hurt still throbbed like a stubbed toe. "I'm bored as stiff as a bolt of tulle with bridal gowns. Move me to the trousseau line."
Lucien plucked a sketch off the stack, crumpled it and threw it overhis right shoulder. "No."
"Move me," Mia said. "Or I'll quit."
"Absolutely not," her father replied.
"All right. If that's the way you want it."
Lucien's Paul Newman-blue eyes lifted and narrowed at her over the silver half-lenses perched on his fine patrician nose. Mia had her mother's snipped-off pixie nose. She hated it. These days she hated almost everything. Especially Terence the Bum, the GQ hunk formerly known as Terence the Love of Her Life.
"I battled your brother, Mia, and I battled your sister." While Mia was still in design school, but she'd heard about the Sibling Wars from nonfamily Savard employees. "Do not threaten me. You will not win."
"You're stifling my creativity."
"I'm trying to run a business."
"You're trying to run my life."
"You're a Savard. This business is your life."
"That's what I just said. You're running my life."
"Mi-ah." Lucien threw an "h" on the end of her name to let her know that he was losing patience. "Go find yourself a new boyfriend. You'll start dreaming about weddings again and everything will be fine."
"Not this time," she retorted. "I'm finished with men. I don't want to be a bride--not ever--and I do not want to design brides' dresses anymore. I need a change. I'm bored. Stale--"
"You're depressed," Lucien cut her off. "You're an artist. You're prone to depression. Go shopping. It'll cheer you up."
"Move me," Mia said between her teeth, "to the trousseau line."
"We design one-of-a-kind bridal gowns, Mia. It's what we do, how I built Savard Creations. I'd need my head examined if I moved one of my best designers from our custom line into ready-to-wear."
"Move me or I'll quit."
Lucien bent his head over the sketches. "No."
Mia drew a deep breath. "Then I quit."
Her father crumpled another sketch and tossed it without so much as a glance at her. "Are you coming to dinner tonight?"
"No." Mia wheeled away from his pool table-size desk, thought about slamming the door on her way out of the office but didn't.
She was too old to slam doors. Thirty and unmarried, unattached and unappreciated--Waa-waa, she thought, have a little cheese with your whine, Mia--plus she'd rather stick her right hand, her drawing hand, into a garbage disposal than give her father the satisfaction.
Mia stalked to the elevator, rode the car to the fourth floor and stomped down the hallway--her body so stiff with fury that her knees refused to bend--and turned into her office.
Her cousin Robin leaned his folded elbows against the edge of her drawing table, his Lucille Ball-red hair dull and dark against the gray sky framed by the wall full of windows behind him. His father, Rudy, Lucien's younger brother, was CFO of Savard Creations; Robin, his second in command. He glanced up at Mia from the sketch on her board.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Snooping." Robin cocked an eyebrow at Mia as she yanked the chair away from her desk and sat down. "What are you doing?"
"Typing my letter of resignation." Mia pulled out the keyboard tray, shook the wireless mouse to clear the Colin Farrell screen saver from the flat screen monitor of her PC and glanced at her cousin. "I'll drop it off on our way to lunch. Are we eating in or going out?"
"Neither." Robin pushed off her board. "I just remembered I made an appointment to have bamboo shoots shoved under my fingernails."
"Coward." Mia snorted and started typing. "Some friend you are."
"This isn't about friendship, mighty mite," Robin replied. "This is about business and blood, which happen to be the same thing if your name is Savard. Love you, cuz, but I want to keep my job."
"What makes you think Lucien will fire you if I quit?"
"He fired my dad, his own brother, last year. He fired the whole accounting department twice." Robin perched on the corner of her desk and eyed her soberly. "One of these days, Mia, he could mean it."
"He never means it. He's fired the design staff a dozen times."
"He's never fired you."
"He doesn't dare. I'm the baby. Mother would kill him."
"If you're still alive later, call me." Robin stood up and kissed the top of her head. "Give me ten minutes to get out of the building."
"Hurry, Chicken Little. The sky is falling."
"Cluck, cluck." Robin grinned and strolled out of her office.
Mia shut and locked the door. The front wall of her office was glass. So was the front wall of the design department across the hall. Anyone could see her--Jordan, for instance, her best friend in the design department, the biggest nosey-pocus in the entire Savard Building, who occupied the second cubicle on the left--but Mia didn't care who saw her, so long as no one could hear her.
She reached for the phone and placed a conference call to her sister, Jenna, in LA and her brother, Luke, in New York. Jenna, the overachieving middle child, ran the Savard's boutique on Rodeo Drive, Luke the Fifth Avenue showroom. They'd both fled as far away from Lucien as they could without jumping into an ocean.
"Well?" Jenna demanded, her voice hollow on the speakerphone. "Did he agree to move you to the trousseau line?"
"No. He said absolutely not, so I quit. I spoke the words. I said, 'I quit.' He asked me if I was coming to dinner tonight."
"It was worth a shot," Jenna said. "Tell us what he said."
"Exactly," Luke said. "Word for word."
Mia told them. Exactly, word for word. When she finished, Jenna said, "You should've slammed the door on your way out."
"I thought about it," Mia said. "But I'm not you."
Jenna was the Queen of Slamming, Banging and Breaking Things, a talent she'd inherited from their father. Jenna once threw a lunch tray at Lucien in the employee cafeteria. It missed his head but drenched him in chili mac and peach cobbler. The Chili Mac Skirmish was considered one of the turning point battles of the Sibling Wars.
"Have you written your resignation letter?" Luke asked.
"Yes." Mia read from the screen: "Dear Dad, I quit. Love, Mia."
"Short, sweet and to the point," Luke said. "Sign it and deliver it."
"I'm going to, on my way to lunch," Mia said, and hit Print.
She folded her resignation into a pale mauve envelope with Savard Creations, 4700 Ward Parkway, Kansas City, Missouri, 64111, scripted in dark burgundy ink in the upper left corner, licked the flap shut and headed for the elevator. Lucien's secretary Selma, whose desk sat in the reception area outside the closed double doors of his office on the seventh floor, eyed the envelope warily when Mia handed it to her.
"Is this," she asked, "what I think it is?"
"My resignation," Mia said.
"Oh, boy." Selma sighed. "Here we go again."
Mia went back to her office, hoping she could grab Jordan for lunch. Her friend's cubicle was empty, so Mia put on her boots and her coat, picked up her purse and left the Savard Building. Under the canopy over the revolving front doors, she flipped up the hood on her purple merino wool stadium coat.
The bleak sky was spitting snow, tiny, dry flakes the wind swirled into curlicues along the sidewalk. Mia dug her cell phone out of her purse, dialed Savard Creations, then Jordan's extension. She meant to leave a message on her voice mail, but Jordan answered.
"I did it," Mia told her. "I quit."
"You go!" Jordan cheered. "Where are you?"
"Standing on the sidewalk wondering if I should throw myself under a bus and be done with it."
"He's a tyrant. A genius, but a tyrant," said Jordan, whose whimsical, Laura Ashley-esque designs were frequently and roundly praised by Lucien. "Want me to come down and we'll go to lunch?"
Mia thought about it. If Robin the Wuss hadn't bailed on her she might've been able to choke down half a sandwich. Now she felt too nervous to eat, her stomach jumping with dread.
Excerpted from Marriage by Design by Lynn Michaels Excerpted by permission.
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