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By Alison Kent
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe gIRLS behind gIRL-gEAR by Samantha Venus for Urban Attitude Magazine
Welcome back, loyal readers, to another deliciously dishy and voyeuristic peep into the world of gIRL-gEAR ... a place where the women have brains and the men don't stand a chance.
This month we catch up with two of our long-time bachelorettes whom we last saw on that luscious island vacation off the coast of Belize. And our number one bachelorette of the month is none other than that Scandinavian beauty, Kinsey Gray.
Those of you male readers who might like to get to know Kinsey better will have a chance later this month. Urban Attitude is pleased as punch to bring you the scoopage on the Halloween night bachelorette auction.
During said auction, Kinsey will be put on the block and made available to the man among you whose pockets run deepest. Get out those checkbooks! Don't be cheap! The cause - and Miss Gray - are worth every penny.
Until next time, this is Samantha Venus for Urban Attitude Magazine. Ta-ta for now!
"Did you hear that Doug Storey is moving to Colorado?"
Holding a forkful of spring greens halfway between her plate and her mouth, Kinsey Gray stared across the gIRL-gEAR conference room table at one of her lunch dates and business partners, Lauren Neville.
Doug? Moving to Colorado? Impossible. Unbelievable. "Run that one by me again?"
Lauren nodded, cutting off a chunk of spinach-and-feta cheese pizza and stabbing it with her fork. "Anton told me last month. Doug got an offer from a firm in Denver. An offer so amazing that he's considering selling his half of Neville and Storey."
"Selling out to Anton?" A curious frown creasing her brow, Annabel "Poe" Lee, the newest gIRL-gEAR partner, squeezed a lemon wedge into her steaming cup of tea.
Lauren shook her head, took a sip of her soda before answering. "No. One of the junior execs wants to buy into the firm. Nothing's been settled."
Maybe not in the world of the architectural firm Doug owned along with Anton Neville, but one thing had certainly been unsettled - Kinsey's stomach.
Slowly, she lowered her fork to her plate and twisted her fingers into the linen napkin on her lap.
The thought of parting with even a pittance of her stake in gIRL-gEAR, the fashion empire she and her five girlfriends from college had launched the year after graduation, was absolutely unfathomable. Equally unfathomable was the idea of Doug selling his half of the company he'd been a part of building from the ground up.
But the thing she had the most trouble understanding was how he could even think of leaving her when she was still undecided about her feelings for him.
What did that song say about not knowing what you've got till it's gone? Something like that, anyway. She took a deep breath and looked back at Lauren. "When is he leaving?"
Lauren shrugged, sawing again at her pizza. "The date's still up in the air. Nothing's been finalized. I thought he might've already said something to you."
"No, he hasn't." And why hadn't he? Why hadn't he? The dog! Friends shared the goings-on in their lives. Especially friends with the history she and Doug had. In fact, if their history wasn't so ... scandalous and her feelings for him so personal, she'd think of him as family. He was that much a part of her life.
Still, Kinsey was not going to panic yet. "And, anyway. If nothing's been finalized, then you should've said that Doug might be moving to Colorado."
"No," Lauren answered, shaking her head. "He's definitely going. The timing and whether or not he sells his share of the firm are the only things not yet decided."
Now Kinsey was going to panic.
"He's flying back from Denver today, in fact, and flies out again on Monday." Lauren took another sip of soda, then transferred another slice of pizza from the raised serving pan in the center of the table to her now empty plate.
She dived right back in. "But I can guarantee you the man will be in the office all weekend long. One day his work habits will be part of a case study on burnout, I swear."
Watching Lauren attack her food, gIRL-gEAR CEO Sydney Ford frowned. "Uh, Lauren? You're not eating for two, are you?"
Lauren rolled her eyes, but barely looked up from her plate to do so. "Ha. No. I'm not pregnant. I'm starving. Anton and I argued over bedroom furniture until the store closed at ten. I wasn't in any mood to eat when we got home, so I went straight to bed."
"And this morning?" Sydney blotted her lips with her white linen napkin. "Don't tell me you were still arguing at breakfast."
"Actually, no. We were making up." Lauren didn't even stop eating to blush. "I hardly had time to get to work, much less eat."
"I think I'm going to be sick," Kinsey said. Her stomach rolled; her face felt clammy, as did the palms of her hands. This true love stuff was disgusting.
And now Doug was leaving Houston for parts unknown. Okay. For Denver.
Arching one dark brow, Poe studied Kinsey's plate. "You don't like your salad?"
"I don't think it's her salad." Sydney ran a finger around the rim of her iced tea glass, a far too intuitive smile lighting up her face. "I think it's Lauren's news."
"What?" Lauren finally stopped eating long enough to glower at her tablemates. "My fighting and making up with Anton is sickening?"
It was, but that was the least of Kinsey's trouble.
She glanced from Lauren to Sydney to Poe, all the while feeling as if she'd left her body and was looking down at herself and the other three gIRL-gEAR partners. The four of them sat around one end of the conference room table.
The three remaining original partners - Poe having joined the firm only last year - had taken the afternoon off to spend a long Columbus Day weekend with their respective significant others.
Macy Webb and Leo Redding were busy moving the rest of her furniture out of the loft she'd once shared with Lauren in preparation for Poe to move in, while Chloe Zuniga and Eric Haydon were off for a weekend trip with Melanie Craine and Jacob Faulkner.
Kinsey almost needed a scorecard, so much had happened this last year: Sydney, Macy, Chloe and Mel finding their soul mates. Lauren finally marrying hers. Poe coming into the company as a full partner, taking over Chloe's product lines, while she and Rennie Faulkner, Jacob's sister and soon to be Melanie's sister-in-law, launched the gUIDANCE gIRL mentoring program.
And what had Kinsey done? Waste the sixteen months since last year's trip to an island paradise - a vacation during which she'd gotten to know Doug Storey intimately - twiddling her thumbs.
She and Doug had dated off and on. Nothing serious. Dinners and movies and ball games and concerts. Neville and Storey functions; gIRL-gEAR soirees. She'd thought he would always be around. She'd never imagined he'd move out of town.
Or leave her.
Now what was she supposed to do?
Excerpted from Wicked Games by Alison Kent Copyright ©2003 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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