Choices by Stella Cameron released on May 25, 2004 is available now for purchase.
|Product dimensions:||4.19(w) x 6.63(h) x 0.81(d)|
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By Stella Cameron
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter One"HEY, SARA. Hold on a minute!"
Ben Murphy, the big sandy-haired man who was her sister's husband, loped across the wet cement floor of the fish cannery. At the sound of his voice, Sara Fletcher turned and waited impatiently. Behind Ben puffed Chick Enderby, security man and world-class pessimist. She forced herself to smile in greeting.
"Hi, Ben. Chick. I can't stop. I have to get this stuff over to the boss. Grant's at the main office for a meeting." Sara's voice was tight, and she let the shiny black curtain of her hair swing forward to partly hide her face. Don't ask me any questions, she thought in panic, because I don't know the answers anymore.
"Just one quick question, Sara. Who's that McGrath guy? Chick says the night man said he and the boss were roaming all over the plant last night."
"That's Evan McGrath," she said smoothly. Old well-meaning fussbudget Chick must be starting rumors again.
She looked past the two men out over the loading dock into the hot muggy August afternoon. "He's a consultant. Grant needs his advice, that's all. Grant's new at the business. You know that. McGrath is an engineer, an inventor - a robotics expert." She tried to sound knowledgeable. And all I know, she said to herself, is what I read about him in Business Who's Who. Grant never tells me anything. He's shut me out completely.
Sara shifted her briefcase to the other hand and rested it on her hip. Since Grant unexpectedly joined the company and took over Jarvis Foods from his ailing father, things at work had been slipping away from her. She had thought - everyone had - that when Homer retired she would take over the reins, but then Grant had arrived on the scene.
The only thing she'd got out of the move from the Vancouver waterfront to the expensive executive offices in town was the need to dress better. She glanced down quickly to make sure that her costly gray dress-for-success suit was still immaculate.
"Here, lemme hold that briefcase for you. It's as big as you are," Ben said, reaching out.
Sara shook her head and held it more firmly. "No, thanks, I've got to go." She wished everyone wouldn't refer to her size, or lack of it. Small women were never seen as authoritative. Peanut-size people got peanut-size respect. Her careful smile turned a little wintry.
"Robotics," Chick said suddenly. "Well, if he's thinking to fill this place with robots doing the work you know what that -"
"Now, Chick," she cut in sharply. "Don't you start any wild rumors about layoffs. It's nothing like that! Grant's got more sense! Ben, you talk to him, I've got to run."
"Sure, Sara, sure. Now, you cool it, Chick, until we get something more definite to go on." The pair turned and walked away, Chick still talking. Sara gazed after them for a moment. Her sister, Christine, was in her comfortably disorganized home, happily spinning her life around Ben and their two sons. It had always seemed such a waste of a college education to Sara, but sometimes - like now - leaving the rat race behind for a home and family didn't seem such a bad idea.
It was almost four o'clock. The homebound traffic would be getting heavy, she reflected. Now she'd never make it back to the office before the board meeting broke up.
Sara was right. When she entered the executive suite of Jarvis Foods, Limited, she saw Grant's smooth red head, bent over his desk reading. She glanced through the half-open door of the boardroom, seeing empty chairs pushed at angles away from the polished oval table, littered with pencils and crumpled paper.
She felt a stinging in her eyes, and blinked, remembering how she had used to sit in on all the meetings.
Why hadn't Grant been content as he was? For thirty-five years he had dedicated himself to having a good time. Now, all of a sudden, he wanted to be a tycoon. She could feel her mouth setting into a grim line.
"You found them?" He saw her and rose from his desk. He was too elegant looking, Sara observed, recalling she had always thought so.
She opened her briefcase and spread fat file folders out over his desk.
"All rejected plans?" he asked.
"All rejects. For one reason or another. Too much. Too little. Too expensive. Too something. Your father kept up on everything."
Grant started leafing through the folders. "Good. This is good," he was saying. "This is what Evan wants to study."
So it was "Evan" now. They were already getting buddy-buddy.
"I see everyone's gone," she said flatly.
"Yes. We finished a few minutes ago. And I see you're giving me that frosty stare again. I just figured out what it is that makes your eyes look chillier than any one else's. The color. Not blue, exactly. Not gray. Both." A faint grin turned up the corners of his mouth, and his dark eyes held what she privately called his little-boy-pleading look.
She ignored him.
Someone was still in the boardroom. She could hear the steady murmur of a masculine voice. There was only one voice with an undertone of laughter running through it. The speaker was talking to a friend somewhere, taking his time, obviously at ease. Without wanting to, she found herself straining to hear, oddly attracted to the sound of the man's voice. With an effort she brought her attention back to Grant.
"Let's not kid around. I have a million things to do. Can you give me a rundown on what's been decided about Mr. McGrath?"
"All right, I'm sorry if I've annoyed you again. I seem to do that a lot lately. I wish you and I could sit down and talk sometime - away from the phones and office hassle. Have dinner or something? You think we could manage that?" He lifted his hand and pushed aside a strand of her hair that had fallen forward over her face. She moved back just enough to indicate rejection, and he retreated instantly.
"We'll have to do that sometime," Sara said, hoping her tone conveyed an unspoken over-my-dead-body message. Grant had made it clear that he'd like their relationship to take a different turn. Grant was too sophisticated to let any situation become awkward, but the invitation had been there.
Excerpted from Choices by Stella Cameron Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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