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Pencil Him In
Chapter One"I'M GOING TO NEED those meeting notes by tomorrow," Anna Simmons called over her shoulder to her assistant as they made their way out of the empty boardroom.
Anna could hear Jennifer behind her, shuffling papers and ... yep, cursing under her breath. Jen had a mind like a tack, organizational skills not to be believed and a mouth, at times, like a trucker. Anna kind of liked that about her.
"We'll want to send champagne to Aurora and ..." Anna considered for a split second, the sound of her heels hitting the tiles echoing through the offices of Arsenal Advertising. Jen's did the same right behind her. "Some daisies." She turned left in the Creative department and headed toward the right corner of the Arsenal offices. Her corner office. Anna's lip curled for a second. "You getting this, Jen?"
"Yes," Jennifer answered, apparently not at all trying to keep the frustration out of her voice. Perhaps it was time for Anna to have a little talk with Jen about this attitude she was developing.
Anna cruised past Jennifer's desk and threw open the door to her office. She continued across the hardwood floor toward her desk. "Creative's going to need to be briefed and ..." Anna paused. Jen's footsteps were no longer behind her. And the grumble had stopped. Anna turned and Jen was not there. Anna walked back to the doorway.
Jennifer was sprawled out at her desk. Head back, her long blond hair falling down the back of her chair, her arms were out, her eyes shut, she looked like she was asleep or dead.
Her very chic and painful-looking stacked heels were kicked out into the hallway.
"Jen?" Anna asked, surprised. She had never seen the classy and together Jennifer look so ... undone.
"Anna?" Jen mumbled, her eyes still shut, her lips barely moving. "Have you noticed that we are the only people here?"
"It does seem quiet." Anna looked into the darkened offices with empty chairs and blank computer screens. "Where did everyone go?" she asked. There was still so much work to do. The meeting had only ended a few hours ago.
"It's seven o'clock on a Wednesday night, Anna...."
"You're right, we should order some dinner." Anna leaned against the doorframe. It was so easy to forget, in the heat of the deal, to eat. And she suddenly realized she was starving.
"No, Anna." Jen's eyes opened, her head came up off the back of her chair. "I'm leaving."
"Yes, as in going home." Jen pulled her body upright. "As in bed. And sleep. Sweet, sweet sleep." She opened a big drawer in her desk and pulled out her purse.
"But, Jen, there's still so much work to do. We have -"
"I spent the night here, Anna." Jen's brown eyes snapped and Anna took a step back. "I was here all last week until midnight."
Anna was well aware of the schedule they had been keeping. She rubbed her neck which she was beginning to think had permanent damage from sleeping on the couch in her office.
"You can fire me, Anna, but I am going home."
"Fire you?" Anna asked, shocked. "Jen, I'd never fire you." Jennifer and her hard work and fanatic attention to detail had been a huge part of the success they had achieved in the boardroom today, finalizing a deal that had been months in the making.
"I wish you would," Jennifer mumbled as she went about shutting down her computer. "Swear to God, I'd finally get some sleep."
Anna quickly realized she had worked the very hardworking Jen too hard. "Go home. Take the rest of the week off."
Jen suddenly looked at Anna as though she had grown two heads. "Really, Jen. You did an amazing job today. I could not have done this without you." Jen's mouth fell open and Anna was embarrassed. Was she such a bad boss that a little recognition was shocking?
Jennifer sat back in her seat, her brown eyes looked tired but still sharp. "It's about time you noticed that," she said. "You can fire me -"
"Jen, I am not going to fire you."
"But, I have got to say, you have the worst case of tunnel vision I have ever seen."
Anna smiled - nothing wrong with a little tunnel vision. "Well, it certainly paid off today didn't it?"
Jen grinned back, albeit a little weakly and Anna felt a serious tug of appreciation for her. "Let's go get some drinks," she said, surprising herself. "Celebration drinks." They could have those Cosmopolitans everyone loved. Anna would bet Jen loved Cosmopolitans. The two of them had never done that, gone to happy hour together after work. Well, Anna had never done that, perhaps Jennifer did.
"Drinks?" Jen asked.
"Sure." Anna nodded her head definitively. Though as soon as the words had come out of her mouth she began thinking of the amount of work she needed to do. But if Jen wanted drinks; drinks it would be.
"You ... ah ... you and me?" Anna read horror all over the girl's face and remembered why she never went to happy hour. Anna wasn't the most popular person around Arsenal. "Uh ..."
"Never mind." Anna saved Jennifer the trouble of coming up with some lie to avoid socializing with her. "Go home and I'll see you Monday."
"You should go home, Anna," Jennifer said softly.
Anna nodded, having no intention of doing that, and shut her office door behind her. She leaned back against it. She wasn't bothered by Jennifer not wanting to go to a bar with her, but Anna deserved some drinks.
After what happened in that boardroom I deserve a parade, she thought.
She closed her eyes and for a moment just felt blank. Empty. And very, very tired. But then, from deep in the pit of her gut there was something cheering. She pushed away her mental to-do list and let herself savor the delicious sensation of victory.
"Anna Simmons," she murmured through her smile. "Top of the world."
Part of her wanted to dance around and cheer. She wanted to kick off her heels and leap around on the dark leather furniture. She had done it. She had pulled it together. Again. Goddess Sportswear had just agreed to pay Arsenal Advertising a fortune for the fall campaign.
But she was exhausted. Dancing and cheering would have to wait until she had had six straight hours of sleep. She did, however, manage a little jump and a little wiggle on her way over to her mahogany desk. Humming ABBA's "Dancing Queen" under her breath she sat down at her desk. The chair rolled around a little on the hardwood floor and she turned it into a spin as she opened the bottom drawer and took out the family size bag of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups she kept stashed there for just these sorts of occasions.
She swivelled in her chair and faced her floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over San Francisco Bay. She kicked off her shoes and put her feet up on the printer table to survey her kingdom. Lights were beginning to illuminate the fading day. The houses on the hills of Sausalito were glowing with their pastel colors like Easter eggs and the Golden Gate Bridge was bloody red in the last bright rays of the sun.
A chuckle of contentment bubbled up from her chest.
Anna liked the birds the best. They looked like hundreds of bright white handkerchiefs blowing in the breeze. She watched them, ate her chocolate and knew that nothing could ruin her tremendous good mood.
There was a knock on her door and she turned toward it as Camilla Lockhart, her boss, mentor and friend, poked her head in.
Excerpted from Pencil Him In by Molly O'Keefe Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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