It was bad enough finding out she had just become newly deceased on the morning of a major corporate merger she had spent months putting together. The real bombshell for Gwen Truax comes when she's informed by the powers that be in the Hereafter she has an assignment which must be completed by Christmas; specifically, to find a new wife for Dan, the husband she was planning to divorce. Sent back to Earth in the frumpy persona of an inept typist, forced to live in a terrible flat above a noisy Chinese restaurant, and-even worse-to be fraternizing amongst the lowest rungs of her former executive ladder, Gwen has yet to discover that all of her actions are being evaluated by an angel in disguise.
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"And what the hell does 'prove myself' mean?" Gwen Truax snapped, her hands on her slender hips in as haughty a statement of defiance as her green eyes, now blazing with venomous anger at the man she'd met only twenty minutes ago.
"Shall we run the video for her again, sir?" the squeaky voiced assistant named Mr. Pimms spoke up from the corner where he'd obediently planted himself ever since her arrival.
Before Michael could reply to his question, Gwen strode forward and leaned across the marble desk, nearly toppling the closest statuary of what looked to be the Virgin Mary. "Look, I don't know what kind of head-game you two clowns are playing here, but do you have any idea how late you're making me for my board meeting?"
Michael's eyes of electric blue met hers without any sign of flinching or guilt. His bold stare of assessment, in fact, had just enough maddening arrogance to it to be a sensual turn-on. Well, under different circumstances, of course. At the moment, she could only see him as a silver-haired, cleft-chinned chauvinist who was being a royal pain in the ass.
"Well?" she said, in case he hadn't heard her.
"I'm afraid that it's later than you think, Mrs. Truax," he calmly answered.
"That's Ms. Truax to you," she corrected him.
"As you wish," he replied.
Gwen couldn't help but notice that his glance darted briefly to her diamond wedding band as if to affirm that he'd really seen it. "What I wish," she said, "is to knock off all this screwing around and get to my meeting. Do you think you can handle that?"
Michael shook his head. "That's not within my purview," he informed her. "Now if you'll justhave a seat--" "Then who the hell's purview is it?" Gwen demanded.
Behind her, Mr. Pimms was nervously clearing his throat.
"If I might ask you to refrain from the use of expletives while you're with us," Michael said, "it would be greatly appreciated."
Gwen had reached for her purse and was now withdrawing a cellular phone.
"What are you doing?" Michael inquired.
Gwen didn't miss that the corner of his well defined mouth had a quirk of amusement. Well, she'd fix that soon enough. When she was through, he'd be lucky to get a job in the mail room. "I'm going to make a call to your supervisor," she said. "What's his name and number?"
"He doesn't take calls," Michael informed her.
Was she mistaken or had she just heard a faint squeak of laughter from that idiot Pimms? "Well he'd better by God take a call from me," she retorted. "We're talking serious money on the line with this merger and, believe me, heads are going to roll if I'm not there to put it together." For the first time, she noticed that her adversary had no name plate on his fancy desk, no means to identify him to a higher authority other than the moniker "Michael" by which he had introduced himself.
"I'm afraid they'll have to manage without you this time, Ms. Truax," Michael quietly said.
"And why, praytell, is that?"
Michael folded his hands atop his desk. Was it a trick of the light, Gwen wondered, or was his skin tone golden? Maybe he'd just come back from a vacation in the tropics, she decided. Some people tanned that color naturally. Golden and glowing, just like an ad for suntan lotion. Not the way she did, of course, with skin as fair and delicate as her best china. Besides, who had time for vacations anyway, when there were deals to be done and profits to be boosted?
"Well?" she said again when no explanation was forthcoming. How on earth had a man with such drop-dead good looks gotten a desk job by being so completely witless and unresponsive? Was he sleeping with the boss' daughter or what?
Michael looked up at her with an expression so galvanizing that Gwen thought for a second she'd melt through the floor.
"Apparently you didn't hear it the first time I told you," he spoke at last. "That's certainly understandable."
"Hear what?" What was he talking about? Did this have anything to do with that dumb tape he tried to show her?
"The truth of the matter is, Ms. Truax... you're no longer among the living."
Copyright © 1999 by Christina Hamlett