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The Trouble With Love
By Jasmine Creswell
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Jasmine Creswell
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSam always chose five-thirty Friday afternoon to throw a tantrum. The staff at Services Unlimited had grown accustomed to having their weekends kicked off by Sam hyperventilating over some crisis or other. This time, unfortunately, Sam had decided to stage his weekly scene over one of Caitlin's projects.
He stormed into her office, looking as threatening as a man can look when he's chubby, five foot four and blessed with no more than a dozen silvery hairs carefully arranged over his bald pink scalp.
He shook a fistful of papers under Caitlin's nose. "This reference from the Countess of Yardleigh stinks. How come you're still recommending this Tittleswit guy for the job? Why didn't you recommend Jackson? Jackson is already in Washington, and he's got a slew of solid American references."
Caitlin drew a deep breath and managed a reassuring smile. She loved her job, her colleagues and her life in general. Most days, she even loved her boss, Sam Bergen. This afternoon, however, she admitted to feeling frazzled. It had already been a long tough week. "The man's name is Littlethwaite, Sam. Algernon Littlethwaite. Not Tittleswit."
"Yeah, and his references stink."
"Sam, I called the Countess of Yardleigh and spoke to her in person for twenty minutes. She thinks Algernon Littlethwaite is an excellent butler, but she's very restrained and uppercrust British. Her definition of lavish praise is to say that Algernon 'fulfilled his duties to the best of his ability.' Don't worry, Sam, we've found the perfect butler for the Japanese ambassador."
Sam had no intention of being mollified. Late on Fridays, he seemed to enjoy worrying. "What about Littlethwaite's work permits? God knows what kind of runaround they'll give you at Immigration if his paperwork isn't in order."
Caitlin reminded herself that she was paid an excellent salary and that the job market in Washington, DC, was tight. "As you can see if you've read the file, Sam, Mr. Littlethwaite faxed us copies of his visas and documentation three weeks ago. He has absolutely everything he could possibly need to work legally in this country, and I'm sure he'll arrive from London tomorrow afternoon right on schedule."
A tap on the door of her office was followed by the immediate entry of Dot, her secretary. "Sorry to interrupt, Sam, but Caitlin has to sign these letters right away if we want them to catch tonight's mail. As it is, I'll have to take them to the late pickup box."
Caitlin flashed her secretary a grateful smile. "Sorry, Sam, but I really must read these through before I sign them."
Sam left Caitlin's office, gloomily predicting that Mr. Littlethwaite would turn out to be a con man and that Services Unlimited would be dragged into bankruptcy as Sam valiantly tried to fend off lawsuits from the disgruntled Japanese ambassador.
Dot shook her head. "What is it about Friday nights?" she asked. "From Monday morning until quitting time on Friday, Sam Bergen is an intelligent, considerate, efficient employer. The clock strikes five on Friday and suddenly he grows fangs and turns into a monster."
"I think he misses his wife. Friday nights used to be special for them. It was the only time he absolutely refused to allow business to intrude. Now he has nothing to look forward to except an empty house and a lonely weekend."
"Poor man, but Shirley's been dead for two years now. He should get out and about more. Find himself a nice woman to liven up his lonely weekends."
Caitlin finished signing letters and handed the bulging folder back to her secretary. "Dot, I left home so that I wouldn't be surrounded by people who think getting married is the cure for all the world's problems. Don't you start, please."
Dot held up her hands in protest. "Caitlin, honey, I never said one single word about Sam needing a wife. I said he needed a nice woman he could date, that's all. I'm no fan of matrimony."
"Sure. That's why you've been married three times."
"Right, and divorced twice and widowed once. It's taken me twenty years, but I finally got smart. From now on, the men in my life are gonna be strictly short-term and strictly by appointment. Marriage is a one-way street, with all the advantages going in the man's direction."
"You're too cynical," Caitlin said, although in her heart of hearts she didn't really disagree with her secretary.
"Wait until you're married - then we'll have this conversation again."
"We'll have to wait a long time. I'm not planning to get married for the next hundred years or so."
"Huh, you're too pretty to stay that smart. Chestnut hair, green eyes, curves in all the right places. Honey, you're a surefire bride-in-waiting if ever I saw one." Dot grabbed her jacket and purse, tucked the package of mail under her arm and waved from the doorway.
"See you on Monday, boss. Have a good weekend. And if you're seeing that gorgeous hunk Alec Woodward tonight, give him a kiss from me."
"Gorgeous hunk? Alec?"
Dot shot her a curious glance. "In case you haven't noticed, honey, he's endowed with one heck of a body hidden under those conservative lawyer's suits of his. Not to mention that he has a pair of wicked blue eyes, expressly designed to make any normal woman sit up and beg for attention. If you're determined to stay single, I recommend you keep away from Alec Woodward."
Caitlin chuckled in genuine amusement. "I'm not in the least danger, Dot, I promise you. Alec and I don't think of each other that way."
"You're not blind, girl. How can you avoid thinking of him that way?"
"Easily, because he's my friend. Alec moved in next door when I was eight. That means I've known him for twenty years, and in all that time, I can honestly say I've never noticed his wicked blue eyes. So I don't suppose they're going to start driving me insane with longing any time soon, do you?"
"Keep it that way, hon, and you'll live a happy life. Lovers and husbands are two a penny. Good friends are a heck of a lot harder to find. Especially of the male variety." She shrugged, gazing at Caitlin thoughtfully. "Of course, if a woman ever did manage to find a lover who was also a friend, then I guess she'd have a match made in heaven."
Caitlin grimaced. "Don't hold your breath."
"Honey, I've lived long enough to know that anything can happen in this world. Sometimes even the good things. Have a nice weekend." Whistling under her breath, Dot ran for the elevator.
Excerpted from The Trouble With Love by Jasmine Creswell Copyright © 2003 by Jasmine Creswell
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.