Read an Excerpt
By Stephanie Rowe
Copyright © 2004
All right reserved.
What in the world was a total hottie doing sitting in the
office next to mine?
I barely caught a glimpse of dark hair and some broad
shoulders as I walked by. Too obvious to walk back by and take
Probably. It was a law firm after all. Must always be
circumspect. Too bad being lawyerly and dignified wasn't my
best attribute. Probably a good thing I wasn't actually a
lawyer, huh? Much to my parent's dismay.
But hey, I was twenty-four. Hardly had to be living out my
parents' dreams now, did I? Especially since I'd promised
myself that I'd be living my own dreams by the time I was
twenty-five, which left me less than two months to figure it
out and accomplish it. At least I'd finally broken up with
Max. That was a start.
"Morning, Isabel." I nodded at my secretary as I walked by,
then stopped and retraced my steps. Isabel would know. "Who's
my next-door neighbor? Office was empty when I left on
Isabel looked a little frazzled, even for a Monday morning at
seven-thirty. "Blaine Hampton. New partner they hired from
"Partner?" He'd looked way young to be a partner. "Already?"
"Comes from money," she whispered. "Lots of connections.
Ah, excellent. Just my parents' type. Perhaps I should cozy up
to him and make him my newboyfriend. Wouldn't that do a lot
to get me back in the McCormick family good graces? Hadn't
been there since I dumped my ex, who they all thought was my
ticket to respectability. "Bad news," Isabel
continued. "Your event on Friday night? Cancelled. Place had a
fire on Saturday night."
"Cancelled?" I felt my heart start to do weird little
palpitations, as it always did when I felt an encounter with
the firm's managing partner coming on. "I don't have an event
for Friday?" The culmination of the first week of the summer
interns. Always a huge event. Cancelled? Visions of tearing
out my hair and racing through the halls screaming and hurling
things at random people popped into my head, but I immediately
dismissed the idea as dangerously close to that "unbecoming
behavior" standard the firm was always using to justify firing
people. It was a nice, vague term, infinitely useful for
tweaking to fit any situation the firm didn't think was up to
par. Seeing as how I was but a lowly social director, I didn't
bring enough value to the firm to be able to get away with any
So instead of freaking out, I smiled and said, "Can you make
some calls and see if you can find another venue?" Excellent,
Shannon. Way to keep your voice calm. See? I could be a
lawyer. Totally able to handle stress.
Ahem? Who 'ahems'? I turned around to find
potential-new-boyfriend himself standing behind me. Early
thirties at most. Kick ass blue eyes. And to think I
complained regularly about working in a law firm. I took it
all back. "I'm Shannon McCormick. Your next-door neighbor."
He looked at me blankly. Okay, so he was a literal guy. He'd
never get my oh-so-witty sense of humor. So, I pointed to my
office. "My office is next to yours."
"Oh. I'm Blaine Hampton."
"Nice to meet you." When I shook his hand, I actually felt my
stomach do this little somersault. Blaine was totally hot.
Terrible name, but very hot guy.
"Isabel is your secretary?" he asked.
"How much of her time do you usually take?"
Didn't like the attitude behind that question. Defenses:
armed. "As much as I need."
Smokin'-hot-next-door-neighbor pursed his magnificent lips.
"Well, I have a big deal I'm working on this week that will
require pretty much all of her time. Can you try to limit your
use of her?"
My mouth gaped open before I could stop it. "What?"
"My deal. I need Isabel."
I glanced at Isabel, who shrugged apologetically. "You two are
Blaine turned to go back in his office, not even waiting for
answer. Yeah, right. Just because I didn't have a law school
degree on my office wall didn't mean I was some unworthy pond
scum. "Excuse me? Blaine?"
He paused in his doorway. "Yes?"
"I have a lot going on this week. I run the intern program,
and they arrive in a half-hour. My event for Friday night got
cancelled, and I need Isabel's help to make all the
arrangements for everything else this week. It's not like I
can just not have these things done." My parents might think
lawyers were better than social directors, but I sure as hell
wasn't going to let some partner walk all over me, even if he
He lifted an eyebrow. "You're welcome to take it up with Otto,
but somehow I think he'll opine that a six billion-dollar
merger is more important than your interns' lunch plans.
That's why I have you as my split. Because my work can take
Was he kidding? The
wanted me to take it up with Otto Nelson? The managing
partner. Seventy-three, totally old school, believed it was a
lawyer's prerogative to be an ass to every single person who
worked with him, from junior partners all the way down to
He scared the crap out of everyone. Including me. Oh, except,
apparently Blaine, who had somehow gotten Otto his side. With
Otto in his corner, Blaine could indulge in all the unbecoming
behavior he wanted and he'd never be held accountable. Jerk.
Blaine flashed me a dimpled smile that would have brought me
to my knees if I didn't want to grab him by the neck and throw
him out the window. Then he shut the door in my face.
I closed my eyes and pictured his head a punching bag. Did a
few quick jabs, then slammed my foot into it. Hah. Not smiling
so much are you now, Blaine?
Right. Standing there still facing a closed door with my eyes
scrunched shut probably wasn't quite the professional and
together look I usually strove for. I turned back to Isabel.
"Okay, so can you help me find a place for Friday?"
She gave me an apologetic smile that sent waves of terror
thudding through my body. "I'll try to find some time, I
promise. Otto introduced him and told me his work took
priority. You know I want to do your stuff, but ..."
But Otto's a bastard who would think nothing of carving you up
into little pieces and you don't want to risk that kind of a
miserable death by arranging for my event on Friday night.
Totally understandable. I gritted my teeth and smiled. It
wasn't Isabel's fault. "No problem. Just keep me posted on
what you can do."
Isabel shot me a grateful smile, picked up a file that wasn't
mine and walked into Blaine's office.
Perhaps if I became some ornery bitch, then people would be
afraid to piss me off, and then I might actually get some
respect around here.
Yeah, right, the only way I could get away with being a bitch
is if I had a J.D. and brought in buckets of money, neither of
which applied in my particular case. Besides, my job was about
being fun and nice and approachable and beloved. Keep those
interns well fed and pampered, and make sure their stories
about their summer outshone the stories of all their
classmates who interned somewhere else.
That was my job.
A professional entertainer. Swallow your pride. Keep everyone
fat and happy, and you may survive to see another summer.
Not that I was bitter. Or insecure. Or had self esteem issues.
Never. I didn't have time for such ridiculous emotions. I had
twenty-seven minutes to make sure the breakfast buffet was set
up and the interns all had their name badges.
I dropped my briefcase on the floor of my office, glanced at
the note from Isabel that Friday night's event was a bust,
deleted three voice mails from my ex, tried not to wish I
could crawl under my desk and hide, smoothed my bun,
straightened my suit and marched into the hall to put on the
Some days I really loved my job.
Excerpted from Unbecoming Behavior
by Stephanie Rowe
Copyright © 2004 by Stephanie Rowe .
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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