Sometimes love comes when you least expect it . . .
Between her career and raising her sister’s orphaned little boys, industrial-planning consultant Jan Harper doesn’t have time for romance. Famous last words. From the moment she meets tall, dark, swoon-worthy Kevin Toliver, she is in danger of losing the one thing she swore never again to give: her heart.
When he walked into the boardroom of Toliver, Inc., Kevin was expecting a man—not a wholesome beauty with painful memories. But the New York entrepreneur is quickly drawn to Jan, even following her back to Pleasant Valley, Colorado, to offer the promotion of a lifetime. Try as she might, Jan can’t deny the powerful attraction between them. Can Kevin help her move beyond the secrets of her past and find that special place where love can thrive and bloom?
Recipient of the Washington Romance Writers’ Outstanding Achievement Award.
This ebook features an extended biography of Mary Kay McComas.
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About the Author
Mary Kay McComas is an acclaimed romance novelist and the author of twenty-one short contemporary romances, five novellas, and two novels. McComas has received numerous honors and prizes for her work, including the Washington Romance Writers’ Outstanding Achievement Award and two Career Achievement Awards from Romantic Times (one for Best New Novel and another for Most Innovative Romance Series). She has recently contributed to Nora Roberts’s J. D. Robb fantasy anthologies, with highly praised paranormal romance stories. McComas and her family live in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
Read an Excerpt
By Mary Kay McComas
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1988 Mary Kay McComas
All rights reserved.
"What am I doing here?" Jan Harper had asked herself that same question at least a hundred times since she'd arrived in New York. "And where is that old poop, Toliver? I can't stand around here all day." Jan eyed what she supposed was a piece of modern art standing in the corner of the boardroom of Toliver, Inc. "And what the hell is that?" To her it looked like a collection of scrap metal welded together haphazardly with no regard to symmetry, purpose, or even pleasure to the eye.
Her own eyes were dry and scratchy from lack of sleep. Her lids felt heavy, and she was afraid to blink for fear they would remain shut. Every muscle in her tall, slim body was threatening to go on strike if she didn't find someplace to lie down soon. Her headache had subsided to a dull throb in her temples, but her nerves were still standing on end. Jan's cool, calm front threatened to shatter into a million pieces.
The heavy oak doors of the boardroom opened finally, and Jan's eyes turned toward it, as did the other eight pairs of eyes in the room, belonging to the various heads of departments gathered there for an executive committee meeting of Toliver, Inc.
In her fatigue-induced stupor, it took several seconds for Jan to register what she saw. She'd been expecting an older man, but this was ridiculous. This man had to be over eighty if he was a day. He was shorter than Jan's five feet seven inches, and very thin. Well, how am I going to jump all over that poor little man, she thought with disappointment.
Her summons for a command performance at this meeting had been waiting for her the night before when she'd returned to the Western Division of Toliver, Incorporated, in Denver after two very long days of researching and visiting possible sites for the ever-expanding Toliver empire. She'd been very surprised at first, as she'd never had any contact with the hierarchy of the company before. She was an industrial site planning consultant who did most of her work for Toliver, Inc., but whose only contact was Gil Anderson, Director of Planning in Denver. He sent her reports and recommendations on to New York. Here they were considered by this executive committee, then reconsidered by the board of directors. The decision to accept or reject her recommendations came to her by reverse order through Gil.
At the moment she was more than a little disgusted with this Mr. Toliver. She'd done several projects for him and was still miffed about a particularly juicy stretch of industrial land in Arizona she found for him the previous year. She'd sent her report in, convinced that he would send her a Nobel Prize by return mail. Three weeks later she'd been informed that he had gone with his own original choice in the L.A. area. She had plotted and researched that area for him, too, but the Arizona land was cheaper and a more accessible location with equal resources. At the time she had decided he was a total fool, but, seeing him now, thought that maybe he was a little senile.
Jan's time was sorely limited at present, so she'd flown cross-country overnight to spend the day in New York discussing her latest project, which she'd submitted over a month ago. It wasn't quite the first-prize job the Arizona deal had been, but her recommendation beat the stuffings out of both of his preferred land choices. Jan was bound and determined to make him see reason this time. Then again, at his age maybe he had more money than sense.
The little man cleared his throat and spoke clearly but softly. "Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Toliver has asked me to beg your patience. He has been detained, but plans to make his appearance as soon as possible. He indicated to me it would not be more than thirty minutes."
Looking around, Jan noticed that after their initial inspection of the little man, the others in the room had dismissed him and gone back to their own private thoughts and discussions. They took his announcement in stride and didn't seem to notice that he didn't leave the room.
He walked somewhat slowly but steadily to a small cart to the right of the large double doors. He poured a cup of coffee and placed it on a silver tray with the cream and sugar. Picking it up, he turned slowly and began walking in Jan's direction.
The closer he got, the more Jan realized her initial impression wasn't completely correct. He looked to be in his sixties and he was far from senile. His eyes, watching and assessing her in return, were a sharp, clear pewter gray. He had a thick thatch of gray hair, which was neatly groomed. The gray of his hair, the gray of his eyes, and the erect carriage of his small body all distinguished him as a man of great wisdom and knowledge.
It may have been all the years she'd spent with her own very wise grandfather that prompted Jan to instantly respect this little man, or it may have been the fact that he was also bestowing on her the first friendly smile she'd had all morning. For both reasons she smiled back.
"Ms. Harper?" he asked softly.
"My name is Hobbs. Mr. Toliver asked me to make sure you were comfortable until he got here. Would you like some coffee?" he asked, offering her the tray.
She had already drunk enough coffee in her effort to stay awake and the mere smell of this rich brew almost made her nauseated, but she took the cup, saying, "Thank you, Mr. Hobbs."
"Have you had time to get settled in the hotel suite, or did you come straight from the airport?" he asked politely.
"Well, no, I ..." Her voice trailed off as she heard her name coming from someone seated at the large oak table in the middle of the room. Glancing over, she couldn't tell at first who was speaking.
"Harper? Did you say your name was Harper?"
"Yes." She turned to a slightly overweight man on her left. He was a balding, dark-haired man with dark eyes and pinched lips. His face looked to be on the angry side with some apprehension mixed in. The combination gave Jan the feeling of being an unwelcome adversary and put her on the defensive immediately.
"J. P. Harper? From Denver?" the man continued.
"Yes," she repeated.
"What are you doing here?"
Jan almost laughed, as she had been asking herself the same question, but he had directed it at her with such hostility that she thought better of it. "I was asked to come by Mr. Toliver," she replied calmly in her low, husky voice, made huskier from lack of sleep.
"Why?" he demanded.
"I'm not sure, Mr. ..."
"Talbet. Charles Talbet," he filled in the blank for her.
The name was familiar to Jan. Charles Talbet was vice-president of operations for Toliver, Inc. It was to him her reports and recommendations were submitted for presentation to Mr. Toliver, this committee and the board of directors. Obviously, he knew who she was.
"I'm not sure why I'm here, Mr. Talbet. I presume it has something to do with the plats I recommended for the Computer Research Center and Assembly Plant last month," she informed him. While she spoke she watched the anger in his face increase and she instinctively stood taller and straightened her tired shoulders in preparation for battle.
"That's ridiculous," he stated flatly, his voice rising angrily. "I've already presented that proposal and I've recommended the southern California site."
"The southern California site ..." She trailed off, confused. That was ridiculous! The Nevada land was cheaper and larger, so both units could be built together to make it even more economical. The natural resources were perfect, not to mention the sociological makeup of the surrounding communities. Suddenly her fatigue began to dissipate, taking with it her calm, her patience, and her temper, all of which she would normally have had more control over.
She thrust out her strong, determined chin. Her moss-green eyes began to darken and snap with anger. She flipped her head to one side, tossing her shiny shoulder-length auburn hair to one side.
A wiser person would have detected these subtle changes in Jan and would have considered it a day and gone home. Mr. Talbet was not a wise man.
His eyes slowly moved down her obviously feminine form, taking in her pale pink cotton shirt with its rolled-up sleeves that fit her loosely but showed off her curves in a very appealing fashion. He glanced at the apple-green pullover sweater tied loosely around her shoulders by its sleeves then moved down her body to take in her slim waist and lean, softly rounded hips and long, firm legs wrapped in the form-fitting jeans she'd worn for comfort on the plane. He briefly noted her white running shoes, then began his slow ascent, his eyes resting on her breasts once more before he began to speak again.
"You know, Ms. Harper," he said snidely, emphasizing the title before her name, "the casual work atmosphere in the West may work ... in the West, but it doesn't make much of an impression here. It's my impression that a person's personal habits reveal volumes about his ... or her work habits."
Practically blinded by red hot anger, and with her hands fisted, she walked lithely past Hobbs and halfway down the table until she was directly opposite Charles Talbet. She slowly laid her hands, palms flat, on the table and met Talbet's gaze with her own.
"You pompous ..." She stopped herself, thinking name-calling wouldn't be a terribly mature move, and although she had a whole list of things she'd like to call him, it would serve no purpose.
"Mr. Talbet," she started over, taking in a slow, deep breath, "I would like to apologize for my attire this morning. You might like to know, I did bring something you would have found more appropriate for this auspicious occasion, but I foolishly set my bag down in the ladies' room at the airport, and when I went to retrieve it, it was gone. The authorities at the airport advised me not to expect to see it again." She paused briefly to take another deep breath, then continued, her eyes never wavering.
"As to your insinuation that my casual attire reflects casualness in my work, I'd like you to know that I have spent the last two days crawling through courthouse records, talking to some very boring real estate agents, and slogging around in mud up to my knees, plotting lots for a floppy disk factory for this company. This is my third day without sleep, Mr. Talbet," she went on in a low, husky voice that did nothing to conceal her fury, "but I'm still strong enough to tell you I do damn good work for this company. And I'm still awake enough to see that only a fool would pick the southern California sites over the site in Nevada. Since you've already proven my point there, then I'll concede a point to you, Mr. Talbet. It is ridiculous for me to be here."
Taking one last look at an astonished Talbet, she straightened to her full height, turned on her heel, and walked briskly to the door.
Thank God for Hobbs, Kevin Toliver thought as the elevator doors swept open on the fourteenth floor and he headed for his office at a harried pace. That damned Jeff Manning can talk your face off.
The early morning breakfast meeting had been Manning's idea of a good time to discuss the Toliver purchase of a Manning subsidiary. Manning was a tough, shrewd businessman and Kevin respected him for that, but the man could talk forever on any given subject and now Kevin was late for his own executive board meeting.
It was a little embarrassing, especially since he'd wanted to make an impression on J. P. Harper this morning. With any luck at all today, he'd convince Harper to come to work for him permanently and take Talbet's place on the board. Last week when he had discovered what Talbet was doing, he'd almost fired him on the spot. After careful consideration, and with Hobbs's restraining hand on his shoulder, he had decided to give the man a chance to retire gracefully. Talbet was basically a good man and had served the company well for twelve years. Kevin had been vaguely aware of some domestic problems in Talbet's life lately, and he was sorry they had gotten so far out of hand, but dishonesty was dishonesty, and Talbet had cost the company millions of dollars last year with the Arizona proposal he had concealed.
This Harper guy did great work. He'd definitely be an asset. To top it off, when Kevin read over Harper's employment record, he'd discovered that J. P. Harper had worked his way rapidly through the ranks at Manning Industries and had left the position of vice-president of operations there two years before to strike out on his own as an industrial site planning consultant.
This morning when Kevin had mentioned to Jeff Manning that he was going to try to get J. P. Harper for the same position on his own board, Manning had appeared startled, then somewhat thoughtful as he'd said, "Well, I never had any complaints about the kid's work. The move back to New York will be your biggest obstacle."
"I'll just have to make him an offer he can't refuse," Kevin decided.
Approaching the boardroom, Kevin noticed that the doors had been left wide open. As he slowed his pace to glance into the room, he saw that everyone's attention was riveted to the far wall. There, standing beside Hobbs, was an incredibly lovely sight to behold at this time of morning—actually, she'd be a pleasure to look at any time of the day.
The woman had reddish-brown hair the color of chestnuts. Even under the concealed fluorescent lighting it sent off sparks of copper and gold. He couldn't see what color her eyes were, but they were large and expressive. She looked tired, and angry about something. His eyes slid down her figure of soft curves and swells, and even dressed in jeans—or maybe because of the jeans—he felt his breath catch in his throat.
Who was she? Maybe Harper's wife or girlfriend? The thought that she might belong to Harper sent a sudden flash of disappointment through him. Oh, he'd known and had his share of beautiful women, but this one was exquisite and, oddly enough, it rankled him to think that he wouldn't be able to touch her because she belonged to someone else.
He glanced around the room for Harper. The only unfamiliar face in the room was hers.
With eyes squinted in speculation, he continued on down the hall to his office. After a brief good morning to his secretary, Katherine, Kevin was pushing aside papers on his desk until he came up with the file he was looking for. There it was. "J. P. Harper. Industrial site planning consultant. Denver. Last employed at Manning Industries as ..." Yes, yes, he knew all that.
Flipping to the back pages of the file, he read, "Janelle Patrice Harper. Female. Twenty-seven. Single."
He shook his head in amusement.
With a light step and an exciting sense of anticipation he gathered up the rest of the materials he needed and set off back to the boardroom, his secretary in tow.
A normally easygoing, relaxed Jan could remember only one other time in her life when she'd been this angry. Two years ago, here in New York, she had raged with anger and pain and frustration at her father, whom she had once loved very much. Just recalling that day brought back the disappointment and disgust she felt for him in wave after wave of intense pain.
The memory helped to fuel the anger she felt for that pompous Talbet. Her brisk pace had picked up the momentum of a locomotive by the time she reached the boardroom doors. Still blind with fury, she nearly knocked herself out cold when she collided full force with what she thought was a wall.
Dizzy and winded from the force of the impact, Jan was stunned when two large hands grabbed her upper arms as her knees buckled under her. Gradually things began to register in Jan's overused head. The wall smelled good; it was warm too. This wall was wearing a blue shirt. Lifting her head, her eyes slowly, numbly, looked up a good six or seven inches and fixed on a pair of the bluest eyes she'd ever seen. They were the same color as the sky on a clear summer afternoon, and just as warm. She felt her body go from shocked rigid to stunned limp and yet still felt secure in the protective embrace.
Excerpted from Someday, Somewhere by Mary Kay McComas. Copyright © 1988 Mary Kay McComas. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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