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By Diana Palmer
Center Point Large Print Copyright © 2006 Diana Palmer
All right reserved. ISBN: 9781585477401
Violet Hardy sat at her desk and wondered why she'd ever taken this secretarial job in the first place. Her boss, Jacobsville, Texas, attorney Blake Kemp, didn't appreciate her at all. She'd only been trying to keep him from dying of a premature heart attack by changing his regular coffee to decaf. For her pains, she'd been on the receiving end of the worst insult she could ever imagine, and from the one man in the world that she loved above all others. She knew her coworkers were as upset as she was. They'd been kindness itself. But nothing made up for the fact that Blake Kemp thought Violet was fat.
She looked down at her voluptuous body in a purple dress with a high neckline, frilly bodice and straight skirt, vaguely aware that the style did nothing for her. She would be wearing it today, of all days, when Kemp gave her that disapproving scrutiny. Her mother had tried to tell her, gently, that frills and big bosoms didn't match. Worse, a tightfitting skirt only emphasized those wide hips.
She'd been trying so hard to lose weight. She'd given up sweets, joined a gym, and worked hard at cooking regular and weightconscious meals for herself and her elderly mother, who had a heart condition. Her father had died the year before of an apparent heart attack. But just lately there were rumorsthat her coworker Libby Collins's stepmother might be responsible for Mr. Hardy's sudden death. Janet Collins had been suspected of poisoning an elderly man in a nursing home, and she'd taken Mr. Hardy for quite a sum of money before he died unexpectedly, just after being seen with her in a motel room. It had been too late for Mrs. Hardy to stop payment on the check, because she didn't realize the money was missing until well after the funeral.
Violet and her mother had been devastated, not only by his loss, but by the disastrous financial condition he'd left behind. They'd lost their nest egg, their home, their car, everything. The woman who'd convinced Mr. Hardy to give her a quarter of a million dollars couldn't be positively identified. And she'd run up accounts in department stores and even jewelry stores for which Mr. Hardy's estate was suddenly responsible. Her mother had had the first stroke just after the funeral.Violet's small, separate inheritance had been just enough to support them for a few months. But after it ran out, Violet had been forced to support them both. There had been a vacancy at Kemp's office, working with Libby Collins and Mabel Henry. Fortunately, Violet had taken a business course in spite of her father's disapproval. She'd never have to get a job, he'd said confidently.
It was nice working in Kemp's office and she was a good secretary. But her boss didn't appreciate her. Less today than ever before. She raged for five minutes, while her helpless coworkers listened and sympathized. She poured out her heart, including her feelings for her taciturn boss.
"Don't take it so much to heart, dear," Mabel said finally, sympathizing with her despair. "We all have bad days." "He thinks I'm fat," Violet said miserably.
"He didn't say anything."
"Well, you know how he looked at me and what he insinuated," Violet muttered, glaring down the hall.
Mabel grimaced. "He's had a bad day." "So have I," Violet said flatly.
Libby Collins patted her on the shoulder. "Buck up, Violet," she said gently. "Just give it a couple of days and he'll apologize. I'm sure he will."
Violet wasn't sure. In fact, she'd have bet money that an apology was the last thing on her boss's mind.
"We'll see," she replied as she went back to her desk. But she didn't believe it.
She pushed back her long dark hair and her blue eyes were tearful, although she was careful to conceal her hurt feelings. It was far worse than just his insinuation that she was overweight. She'd overheard Mabel and Libby whispering that the intercom had been on when Violet had poured out her heart to her coworkers after Kemp's blistering attack over the decaffeinated coffee he'd been given. She was crazy about him. He'd heard that. How was she ever going to be able to face him again?
It was as bad as she feared. All day, he walked out to the front to meet clients, talk about appointments and get coffee. Every single time he walked in, he glared at Violet as if she were responsible for the seven deadly sins. She began to cringe when she heard his footsteps coming down the hall.
By the end of the day, Tuesday, she knew she couldn't stay with him anymore. It was too humiliating all the way around. She was going to have to leave.
Libby and Mabel noticed her unusual solemnity. It got worse when she pulled a typed sheet from her printer, got up, took a deep breath, and walked down the hall to Kemp's office.
Seconds later, they heard him. "What the hell...?"
Violet came stalking back down the hall, redfaced and unnerved, with an enraged Kemp, minus his glasses, two steps behind, waving the sheet of paper at her back.
"You can't give me one day's notice!" he raged. "I have cases pending. You're responsible for sorting them out and notifying the petitioners...!"
She whirled, eyes flashing. "All that information is in the computer, along with the phone numbers! Libby knows what to do, she's had to help me keep track of your cases when I had to be home with Mother during her last stroke! Please don't pretend it matters who's doing the typing or making the phone calls, because I know it doesn't matter to you! I'm going to work for Duke Wright!"
He was seething, but he went suddenly quiet. "Going over to the enemy, then, Miss Hardy?"
"Mr. Wright is less excitable than you are, sir, and he won't rage about coffee. In fact," she said audaciously, "he makes his own!"
He looked for a retort, couldn't think up one, mashed his sensuous lips together, let out a word under his breath that could have had him up for charges of harassment, and stomped back down the hall still clutching the single sheet of paper. As an afterthought, he slammed his door.
Libby and Mabel tried not to laugh. Mr. Kemp had thrown two people out of the office onto the sidewalk in less than a month. His temper had gone from bad to worse, and poor Violet had caught the worst of it. Now she was leaving and it would be lonely without her. Sadly, Libby thought, her own workload had just doubled.
Violet apologized to her coworkers, but insisted that she couldn't take the working situation anymore. At the end of the day, she closed down her computer, noting that Mabel and Libby were both out the door before she could get her things together. Libby had already agreed to come back as soon as she had a bite to eat and finish up two cases that Kemp was presenting the next day. Violet would have offered to do it; poor Libby had problems of her own with her horrible stepmother trying to sell the Collins house out from under Libby and her brother, Curt. But Libby insisted she didn't mind.
Violet shouldered into her long sweaterjacket just as Kemp came stalking down the hall, still in a temper, his pale blue eyes flashing behind his glasses, his lean face taut with anger, his dark wavy hair slightly mussed in back from his restless fingers.
He stopped and glared at her. "I hope I've made my point about the coffee," he said bluntly. "Have you reconsidered your impulsive resignation, by the way?"
She swallowed. He'd made his point about a lot of things. She drew herself up to her full height and faced him bravely. "I have not. I'll be leaving as soon as you can get a replacement, Mr. Kemp."
His eyebrows arched. "Running away, Miss Hardy?" he asked sarcastically. Continues...
Excerpted from Boss Man by Diana Palmer Copyright © 2006 by Diana Palmer. Excerpted by permission.
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