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MAGGIE TRENT sold real estate.
None of her family or friends particularly appreciated her job, although her mother was supportive, until Mary Donaldson of Tasmania got engaged to Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark and it was revealed that she had worked in a real estate office.
From then on, everyone looked at Maggie Trent with renewed interest, even a little spark of "the world could be your oyster too"!
In fact, the world could have been Maggie's oyster anyway, had she wanted it. She came from a very wealthy background. At twenty-three she was a golden blonde, attractive, always stylish and well groomed.
Nevertheless, she also had a well-developed commercial instinct and a flair for her job in the form of matching the right people to the right properties plus a very real "eye" for the potential in houses that many missed.
This came from the Bachelor of Arts degree she'd done at university along with courses in architecture and draughting, as well as her natural interest in people and her ability to get along with them. She'd been born with great taste.
If she had a creed it was that nothing was unsaleable.
She was enjoying her life and her career far too much, especially with the property boom going the way it was, to contemplate marriage, although there was at least one man in her life who wished she wouldnot a prince of any designation, however.
But Maggie had two goals. One was to prove that she was a highly successful businesswoman in her own right. She had visions of opening her own agency one day. The other was to allow no man to make her feel inferior because she was a woman. Both these ambitions had been nurtured by a difficult relationship with her father, a powerful, wealthy, often arrogant man who believed she was wasting her time working at all and equated real-estate agents with used-car salesmen.
It was undoubtedlyshe didn't try to hide it from herselfthis mindset that saw her take such exception to Jack McKinnon, wealthy property developer, with such disastrous resultsnot that she'd ever intended to deprive him of his liberty!
She couldn't deny that was how it had turned out, though. Nor had the fact that she'd been deprived of her liberty at the same time seemed to hold much weight with him at all. In fact, he'd ascribed some really weird motives to it all that still annoyed her to think of...
Anyway, it all started one sunny Sunday afternoon. She and Tim Mitchell were sipping coffee and listening to an excellent jazz band amongst a lively crowd on a marina boardwalk. Her relationship with Tim was fairly casual. They did a lot of things together, but Maggie always drew the line at getting further involved. Truth be told this was placing undue strain on Tim, but he did a good job of hiding it.
"Who's that?" Maggie asked idly. She was feeling relaxed and content. She'd sold a house that morning that was going to earn her a rather nice, fat commission.
Tim glanced over his shoulder at the new arrivals that had caught Maggie's attention and drew an excited breath.
"Jack McKinnon," he said. "You knowthe property developer."
Maggie stared at the man. She did know the name and the man, but only by reputation.
Jack McKinnon was a millionaire many times over and amongst other things he headed the company that was developing new housing estates in what Maggie thought of as "her patch', the Gold Coast hinterland.
If she was honest, and she was, Maggie disapproved of the kind of housing estates Jack McKinnon developed. She saw it as tearing up of the rural land that had always been the Coast's buffer zone. The area where you could own a few acres, run a few horses, breed llamas or whatever took your fancy; the green zone that was a retreat for many from the highrise and suburbia of the rest of the Coast.
Now, thanks to Jack McKinnon and others, part of that green zone was disappearing and thousands of cheek-by-jowl "little boxes' were taking its place.
Unfortunately, the reality of it was that the Coast's population was burgeoning. Not only did it offer a good climate and great beaches, but its proximity to Brisbane, the state's capital, also made it desirable and future urban development was inevitable.
Doesn't mean to say I have to like the people involved in doing it and making a fortune out of it at the same time, she mused.
"Do you know him?" she asked Tim as Jack McKinnon and his party, two women and another man, selected a table not far away and sat down.
"I went to school with him, but he's a few years older. Bumped into him a couple of times since. He's a Coast boy who really made good," Tim said with pride.
Maggie opened her mouth to demolish the likes of Jack McKinnon, then decided to hold her peace. Tim was sweet and good company. At twenty-nine he was a dentist with his own practice. With his engaging ways and a passion for all things orthodontic, and the prices dentists charged these days, she had no doubt he would "really make good' as well, although perhaps not on the scale of Jack McKinnon.
It was on the tip of her tongue to ask Tim what the man was like, but she realized suddenly that she couldn't fathom why she wanted to know, and she puzzled over that instead.
It came to her there was definitely an aura to him that she found a little surprising.
His dark fair hair streaked lighter by the sun fell in his eyes. He would be over six feet, she judged, slim but broad-shouldered and he looked lithe and light on his feet.
Unlike many of the "white shoe" brigade, Gold Coast identities, particularly entrepreneurs, who had over the years earned the sobriquet because of their penchant for flashy dressing, Jack McKinnon was very casually dressed with not a gold chain in sight.
He wore jeans, brown deck shoes, a white T-shirt and a navy pullover slung over his shoulders.
There was also a pent-up dynamism about him that easily led you to imagine him flying a plane through the sound barrier, crewing a racing yacht, climbing Mount Everest, hunting wild animals and testing himself to the limitrather than developing housing estates.
As these thoughts chased through her mind, perhaps the power of her concentration on him seeped through to him because he turned abruptly and their gazes clashed.
A little flare of colour entered Maggie's cheeks and Jack McKinnon raised an ironic eyebrow. Even then she was unable to tear her gaze away. Somehow or other he had her trapped, she thought chaotically as more colour poured into her cheeks. Then he noticed Tim and instant recognition came to him.
That was how Tim and Maggie came to join Jack's party.
She tried to resist, but Tim's obvious delight made it difficult. Nor was there any real reason for her to feel uneasy amongst Jack McKinnon's party, at first.
Her slim black linen dress and high-heeled black patent sandals were the essence of chic. Her thick dark gold hair fell to her shoulders when loose, but was tied back with a velvet ribbon today. Her golden skin was smooth and luminous.
She was, in other words, as presentable as the other two women. Nor were they unfriendly, although they were both the essence of sophistication. One, a flashing brunette, was introduced as Lia Montalba, the other, Nordic fair, as Bridget Pearson. The second man, Paul Wheaton, was a lawyer who acted for the McKinnon Corporation, but who was paired with whom was hard to say.
The conversation was light-hearted. They discussed the music. The McKinnon party had spent the night out on Jack's boat cruising the Broadwater, and had some fishy tales to tell, mainly about the ones that got away.
The man himselfwhy did Maggie think of him thus? she wonderedhad a deep, pleasant voice, a lurking grin and a wicked sense of humour.
All the same, Maggie did feel uneasy and it was all to do with Jack McKinnon, she divined. Not that he paid her much attention, so was she still stinging inwardly from that ironically raised eyebrow and her curious inability to tear her gaze from his?
Well, if he thought her scrutiny was the prelude to her making a pass at him, if that was why he was now virtually ignoring her, he was mistaken and she was perfectly content to be ignored.
Or was she?
It occurred to her that what he was doing was a deliberate insult and before much longer everyone was going to realize it, to her humiliation. Her blood began to boil. Who did he think he was?
Then he trained his grey gaze on her and said musingly, "Maggie Trent. David Trent's daughter, by any chance?"
She hesitated. "Yes," she replied briefly. "The David Trent?" Lia asked, her big dark eyes wide. "Ultra-wealthy, from a long line of distinguished judges and politicians, grazier, racehorse owner, champion yachtsman?"
Maggie shrugged. "Maggie doesn't like to trade on her father," Tim murmured.
What an understatement, Maggie marvelled, considering how stormy their father/daughter relationship had sometimes been.
"Lucky you, Maggie," Paul commented. "Yes," Jack McKinnon agreed. "Do you actually do anything useful, Maggie? Not that one could blame you if you didn't."
Even Tim, obviously a fan of Jack McKinnon, did a double take.
As for Maggie, she stared at Jack out of sparkling green eyesgreen eyes sparkling with rage, that was.
"I knew there was one good reason not to like you," she said huskily. "I detest the little boxes you build and the way you destroy the landscape to do so. Now I have another reason. Wealthy, powerful men who are completely in love with themselves mean absolutely nothing to me, Mr McKinnon."
She got up and walked away.