Literary agent Adrienne Corley liked Gideon McCloud’s books, but that didn’t mean she liked him. Meeting her temperamental client face-to-face had everything to do with his career and nothing to do with how she found the reclusive writer sexier than she’d dreamed possible .
Gideon enjoyed his solitary lifestyleuntil his gorgeous agent turned up demanding he attend to matters professional and…personal. Enthralled by Adrienne’s sexy smile, Gideon welcomed her into his homeand into his bedbut could he keep his heart out of the deal?
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Conflict Of Interest
By Gina Wilkins
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAfter the thirteenth unanswered ring, Adrienne Corley slammed her telephone into its cradle. She wasn't the type to lose her temper very often, but Gideon McCloud could provoke a saint into a tantrum.
It was the fifth time in the past three days that she had attempted to reach him. His answering machine had broken several weeks ago and he hadn't bothered to replace it, so she couldn't leave a message. She'd sent e-mails, but apparently he hadn't checked those in a while, either.
The worst part was that she suspected he was sitting right there beside the phone, listening to it ring and choosing not to answer.
"I do not need this aggravation," she grumbled, glaring at the phone as if her scowl would carry through the lines to the man she had been trying to reach. "I could get an easier job, you know. Working in a bank. A library, maybe. Even digging ditches would have to be better than working with eccentric, temperamental authors."
"Threatening to quit again?" Jacqueline Peeples, her administrative assistant, asked as she set a mountain of mail on Adrienne's desk.
"Someday I'm going through with that threat."
"Yeah, right. Tell that to your daddy."
Adrienne transferred her glare from the telephone to her co-worker. "I'm not afraid of my father. If I choose to quit his literary agency, I'm certainly free to do so."
"Mmm-hmm." Jacqueline had heard that before, of course. She didn't believe it any more than Adrienne did.
"At least you've got your vacation coming up. If I've ever seen anyone who needs two weeks away from the office, it's you. So don't you let your father try to talk you out of it again."
"I won't," Adrienne vowed. "I've earned this vacation - the first I've taken in three years - and I'm going to enjoy every day of it. I'm so tired of schedules and appointments that I haven't even made any plans for the next two weeks. I'm going to act completely on impulse, take every minute as it comes."
"That sounds like exactly what you need. But in the meantime, what are you going to do about Gideon McCloud?"
"I'm going to make him talk to me - even if I have to fly to Honesty, Mississippi, and break into his house."
Jacqueline laughed, as Adrienne had intended. "Now that I would like to see."
"Me, breaking into his house?"
"No. You in Mississippi."
The more she thought about it, the more it seemed like a brilliant solution. Just the sort of gutsy, tough-guy move her father would make. Gideon McCloud was curt, blunt and reclusive, but he was a talented writer with a great future ahead of him, and she intended to grab a percentage of that future.
"Book me a flight," she said without giving herself a chance to think about it. "Early next week, preferably. That will give me time to get everything here cleared away."
Jacqueline's eyebrows rose. "You can't be serious. You want to go to Mississippi to meet with an author during your vacation?"
The more she thought about it, the better the idea seemed - though, of course, she was overworked and overstressed. She nodded slowly, her resolve strengthening. "It'll only take a day or two, and I've never been to Mississippi, so I can count that as a vacation trip. Two birds with one stone. Let's just see if Gideon McCloud can ignore me when I'm staring directly into his eyes."
Gideon McCloud's telephone rang several times Monday, but he ignored it so effectively he hardly heard it. In a moment of weakness earlier that morning, he had answered a call. The unfortunate telemarketer's ears were probably still ringing from the force with which Gideon had slammed the receiver back into its cradle. He had an almost pathological aversion to telemarketers; hence, his general reluctance to answer his telephone.
He really should replace his answering machine, he mused when he became aware that the phone was ringing yet again. Maybe he would get around to that sometime later in the week. Then he focused on his computer screen and tuned everything else out.
Perhaps another half hour passed before he was distracted from work by his doorbell. It chimed half a dozen times, followed by a pounding on the door, followed by someone leaning on the doorbell again.
Muttering beneath his breath, he shoved himself away from the keyboard and stalked through his immaculate house to the front door, which he jerked open impatiently. "What?"
A tall, slender woman in her early sixties stood on his doorstep, holding the hand of a blond cherub with shoulder-length curls and huge blue eyes. A large, wheeled, red suitcase rested on the porch between them, and the little girl carried a bulging purple backpack. Gideon frowned at the luggage for a moment before slowly lifting his gaze to his mother's face. "What's going on?"
"If you would pick up your telephone, you would already know the answer to that." Without waiting for an invitation, Lenore McCloud stepped past him into his entryway, dragging the suitcase with one hand and holding the little girl's hand in her other.
Gideon closed the door behind them, then turned to face his mother. He was still unnerved by the sight of that suitcase. "Well?"
"Your aunt Wanda fell during the night and broke her hip. It was several hours before anyone found her, and she's in bad shape now. Her neighbor called me a couple of hours ago, and I need to go there immediately."
Because his aunt was the only surviving member of his mother's immediate family, Gideon wasn't surprised she felt the need to rush to Wanda's side. "I'm sorry to hear that. I hope she'll be okay."
"Yes, so do I." Lenore glanced down at the still-silent little girl. "Isabelle, sweetie, the den is right through that door. Why don't you run in there and watch cartoons for a few minutes while I talk with Gideon?"
The child nodded obediently and disappeared into the den. A moment later Gideon heard the opening strains of "Scooby-dooby-doo ..."
Excerpted from Conflict Of Interest by Gina Wilkins Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.