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In lieu of the more obvious horns and tail, the smug little man at the gate check-in counter was sporting an orange-and-purple vest with the East West Air logo, but, judging by the barely suppressed glee in his expression, he would enjoy the eternal torment of others. "Oh, I'm so sorry, ma'am, but the plane has left the gate. Perhaps you were unaware of our company's policy encouraging passengers to check in at least an hour in advance?"
"My flight out of Detroit was delayed," Joss explained breathlessly, still winded from sprinting through O'Hare.
After a dismal breakfast meeting that morning, when she'd been told her agency was not getting the account, then being grounded for an hour because of mechanical difficulties, she'd finally arrived here in Chicago. She'd jogged up to the departure gate just in time to see her plane's backside as it turned on the tarmac. That had been the topper - being mooned by a 717.
Eyebrows raised, the man with the receding hair-line and conspicuously absent name badge consulted his computer screen. "This was a connection? I'm not showing any EWA -"
"It was with a different airline." Joss enjoyed her job with VisionsMedia, a much smaller advertising agency than the last company she'd worked for, but the much smaller expense budget left something to be desired. Convenient travel plans, for instance.
"Oh, I see." He smirked. "You chose to go with one of our competitors. How unfortunate they proved unreliable."
Client-oriented herself, Joss had marveled in the past over the occasional rude waitress, condescending bank teller or postal worker who seemed on the verge of going, well, postal. Today, she should have expected it. The EWA agent was just par for the course here at purgatory's country club.
"I realize the plane's taxied away from the gate, but it hasn't actually left the ground, right?" Hoping to win him over while there was still time, Joss attempted a bright smile. The result felt muddled, like the face-lift her mom's friend Lacey had had. "Is there any chance we could call it back?"
"Oh, sure. We make it a point to inconvenience hundreds of passengers to accommodate the one who couldn't be here at final boarding call." His sarcasm sent her newly risen hopes plummeting like the stock market on Black Thursday.
Fighting the urge to abandon her own people skills and grab Mr. Helpful by his ugly polyester ascot, she reminded herself that any hint of violence would send airport security swarming.
Then again, a flying body tackle by a well-muscled guy would be the most action she'd seen since her breakup last month with David. And let's face it, David wasn't anything to write home about. No man had been, not since -
The gate agent heaved an impatient sigh. "There's another flight in a couple of hours. Do you want me to book you on it, or not? According to the schedule, I should've been on my break three and a half minutes ago."
And she should be en route to Dallas! The ADster awards gala was tonight, and her More Than Common Scents campaign for a local aromatherapist had been nominated.
"Yes." She spoke through involuntarily clenched teeth. "Please get me on the very next plane."
Joss had been in the ADster running last year, too, but had placed a frustrating second behind then coworker Hugh Brannon, who'd been nominated for a separate campaign. At the time, she'd been working for the ultraprestigious Mitman Marketing Solutions ... and had only recently ended her affair with charming, competitive, sexy-as-sin Hugh. He was an incredible lover, but somehow his stealing a salon account out from under her had quelled her warmer feelings for the man.
Losing a promotion to him prior to the awards had been harsh; taking home a silver certificate in light of his gold trophy had been rock bottom. But, as any good geologist knew, you could get a lot lower than rock - there were whole layers of iron and crust and molten core. Joss probably shouldn't have been so surprised when, a week later, her mother had called to ask if Joss was watching the news. Mitman Marketing had been charged with fraud. So much for prestige.
Now Joss was with Visions Media Group and back on top of her game, more than ready to face Hugh tonight. One of his print campaigns with the full-service agency Kimmerman and Kimmerman was up against her aromatherapy ads. Her employer was overjoyed just to have a nomination, but Joss wanted to win. She hadn't been raised to appreciate second place.
Behind the counter, Mr. Helpful stabbed a few computer keys with his index finger. Then he stole a pointed glance at his watch - clearly her cue to genuflect with gratitude for his postponing his break to do her the favor of a seat assignment.
Next time, she was flying the friendly skies.
He handed over the new boarding pass in its orange-and-purple paper jacket. "I suggest you come to the gate early so that we don't have to do this again."
Deciding a mumbled thanks was the wisest, if not the most satisfying response, she walked away. As she headed for the lounge on the other side of the corridor, she dug her cell phone out of her purse and hit the preprogrammed button for the office.
"Visions Media Group." The male voice that answered didn't belong to receptionist Cherie Adams.
"This is Joss ... Nick?"
"Yeah." Like numerous advertising groups these days, Visions was small, made up of fewer than a dozen people. But they weren't so tiny that the graphic design/IT guy usually played secretary.
"She had a dental emergency," he said. "Where are you? Over Indiana?"
"No." She sat on a padded vinyl stool in the passenger bar and darted a malevolent glance over her shoulder toward the now abandoned gate counter. "I missed my connection out of O'Hare."
"Missed your connection? Joss, the awards are tonight!"
You don't say. Nick was a good guy, though, so she spared him her cranky sarcasm.
"I'm on a flight at five," she said. "My car's at DFW, and if traffic's not too bad, I should be able to just make it. I'm going to call Emily now. If she can drop off my dress and shoes, can you meet me in the lobby tonight?"
Excerpted from Not Quite As Advertised by Tanya Michaels 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.
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Posted December 9, 2008
Visions Media Advertising expert Joss McBride is a perfectionist so coming in second two years in a row in the prestigious ADster Gold Award hurts, but adding to her sense of failure is that her former lover Hugh Brannon won both times. At this year¿s banquet Hugh flirts with Joss, but she writes him off as just another inane ad campaign though she admits to herself she remains attracted to him.............................. Hugh knows his previous drive for perfection cost him Joss in their rivalry, but he has changed his life ambitions ever since his brother suffered an eye awakening heart attack. Now his plan is to win the heart and mind of his beloved before she strokes out. The merging of their companies provides him the avenue, but he must convince Joss that he is the real deal................................. Surprisingly this often amusing contemporary romance contains a deep serious theme on what is most important in life. The lead couple is extremely deep as Hugh realizes how fortunate he is to have learned his lesson. Hugh prays that his Joss does not follow in his sibling¿s footsteps as he struggles to convince her that he truly loves her....................... Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.