After her uncensored comments about a certain Boston playboy make headlines, reporter Lexie Templeton knows there will be hell to pay. Rome Lockwood—even more irresistible in the flesh—shows up at her office to accuse her of starting a smear campaign. Appalled by her powerful attraction to the magnetic businessman, no one is more surprised than Lexie when she throws down the gauntlet. She challenges Rome to prove he isn’t the macho, double standard–dealing male she believes he is by going on a date with her.
To Lexie’s shock and dismay, Rome gladly accepts the challenge. He’s determined to prove he isn’t the man she thinks he is. Much to the contrary—he’s the perfect man for her.
With over 300 million copies of her books in print, Janet Dailey has earned her place as America’s First Lady of romance fiction. That Boston Man—the twenty-first book in her Americana series, each featuring a different US state—takes readers to Massachusetts for a witty and seductive battle of the sexes.
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That Boston Man
The Americana Series: Massachusetts
By Janet Dailey
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1979 Janet Dailey
All rights reserved.
THE DIN OF the newspaper office was steady; telephones ringing, the clatter of typewriters and voices, an unceasing hum of activity. Sitting on the edge of a desk in an area partitioned away from the rest of the staff workers in the room, Lexie Templeton was impervious to the background noises. A paper cup of black coffee was in one hand and a half-finished Danish pastry in the other.
Her attention was on her co-worker Ginger Franksen, who was also her roommate and friend. Lexie veiled the amusement that glittered in her blue eyes as she thought, not for the first time, that Ginger seemed the epitome of the fresh, innocent Midwestern type, which she was. Two years older than Ginger's twenty-two, Lexie felt at times like Ginger's mother instead of a friend, and at other times simply irritated by Ginger's traditional outlook.
She studied the slim, blue-jeaned figure of her roommate pacing about the alcove, long and beautiful corn-silk hair flowing past her shoulders. There was little makeup to detract from Ginger's wholesomely attractive features, that all-American look of pure honey that gathered men like bees. Ginger rattled on in a troubled and despairing voice with a quaint Midwestern accent, but it was her words that were making Lexie lose her taste for the pastry in her hand.
A sideways glance caught the amused but tolerant look of the third member of the impromptu gathering. Shari Sullivan, whose desk Lexie was sitting on, was considerably older than both of the others, but she was hardly the mother figure of the group. Sophisticated, chic, always dressed to the teeth, Shari was a blonde, too, thanks to the expert skill of Boston's best and most sought-after hairdresser.
Despite all Shari's worldly airs and hard-bitten glamour, Lexie often felt sorry for the woman. She so obviously clung to the image of youth while seeking status and prestige with greedy hands.
They were definitely an incongruous threesome. Lexie had often wondered what inner needs the three of them fulfilled in each other. Obviously there was something; they congregated each day at Shari's private desk for morning coffee, Ginger coming from her lowly position in the sports department and Lexie from her fast, riding post in political news. Shari had the society and gossip column in Boston.
"... and Bob was so angry because I wasn't in when he called last night." Ginger continued her lament that had been going on for the past several minutes.
Lexie wrapped a paper napkin around the rest of her Danish pastry and tossed it into the wastebasket beside the desk. "I suppose you apologized for going out to do your laundry," she commented dryly.
"Well, I was sorry that I wasn't there when he called," Ginger defended.
"Honestly, Ginger—" exasperation riddled Lexie's response "—how can you let yourself become a doormat for that man?"
"I am not a doormat," came the protest. "He wanted to talk to me and I wanted to talk to him. We just didn't make the connection, that's all. But that has nothing to do with my problem. What Bob is really upset about is this weekend. I can't make up my mind whether I should go with him to Cape Cod or not, and I'm afraid if I don't go, he'll ask somebody else."
"Let him," Lexie declared in disgust. "Bob Jeffers is a sexist and you'd be well rid of him. He wants you at his beck and call—never vice versa."
"I think you hate men, Lexie," Shari observed in a husky, cultured voice she had cultivated to perfection over the years.
"I like men well enough," Lexie said, denying the allegation, "if I can find any that will really treat me like an equal. You should have been with me yesterday when I interviewed that new candidate for Congress and heard him explain why he didn't have any women holding the responsible positions in his campaign. He gave that old song and dance about the difficulties of a single woman traveling in the company of so many men and problems of a married woman leaving her husband and family behind while she's on the campaign trail." Lexie stared angrily at the black liquid in her cup. "Why is it that a man is never asked how he manages to combine marriage and a career successfully, but a woman always gets that question thrown at her?"
"Excellent point," the older woman agreed with a throaty laugh.
"And speaking of careers—" Lexie warmed to her subject with a vengeance "—stop and think about the way men have taken over. Women always did the cooking until men discovered they could make money at it. Voilà! Now they're chefs. The same is true with sewing and clothes. Men found out there was money in that and now our fashion designers are almost exclusively male. The same holds true with hairdressers. It used to be a woman's job, but men are making a fortune at it now. The list just goes on and on and on."
"It's a pity we can't convince them they can make money having babies," Shari offered in a dryly amused voice.
"Isn't it, though?" Lexie murmured, impatiently brushing a lock of titian hair from her forehead. "No matter what men say, secretly they want a woman to assume the traditional role of wife and mother and helpmate."
"I don't think that's true," Ginger inserted.
"Believe me, it is." Lexie's head bobbed with positive certainty. "A man may tell you that he feels a woman should work if she wants to, but what he really means is some other woman—not his wife. Men are such shallow creatures. They want women to soothe their furrowed brows, to pander to their insatiable male egos, to tell them what great lovers they are, and the women's reward is the so-called pleasure of their company." Her gaze strayed to the tear sheet on Shari's desktop, a photograph of a man dominating the page. "And he's the worst of the lot," Lexie accused.
"Rome Lockwood!" Shari exclaimed in disbelief, false eyelashes intensifying her round-eyed look.
The grainy newspaper photograph didn't do the man justice, but Lexie had seen him too many times in person to be deceived by the picture. She had never met him personally, only observed him at political functions. That had been enough to form her opinion.
Lean, dark features were molded into a stunningly handsome male face. Jet black hair grew with rakish carelessness above the wide intelligent forehead. Equally dark eyes glittered from the paper, a knowing light in their depths as if he knew the power of his attraction. And that mouth caught by the photograph in a disarming smile ... More than once Lexie had seen it work its charm, smoothly and subtly and successfully.
"Yes, Rome Lockwood," she repeated. "God, that name sounds like something Hollywood would make up!"
"He isn't a politician," Shari remarked, "So how did you come to meet him?"
"Political functions often become social functions," Lexie answered, again with a trace of contempt. "And, as you know, no social function is considered a success unless Rome Lockwood attends. Have you ever seen him with the same woman twice in a row?"
Shari thought for a moment. "I can't say that I have—not twice in a row. No one has even come close to hooking him yet, although a lot have tried—desperately. Which is probably why his black book has so many names. He probably finds safety in numbers."
"If I were Rome Lockwood, I'd be worried," Lexie observed.
"Why?" Ginger walked to the desk to look at the photograph claiming the others' attention. A glimpse of the man in the picture made her add, "With looks like that, he'll never have to worry about the supply running out."
"He should worry that some of his many women might get together and compare notes. I'm sure he finds safety in numbers because it conceals the fact that he isn't man enough to keep one woman satisfied."
Her caustic statement was initially greeted by silence, then Shari released a short, stunned laugh and reached for a scratch pad and pencil. "That's priceless, Lexie!" she declared. "May I quote that in my column?"
Lexie hesitated, then shrugged diffidently. "I don't care."
Shari hurriedly wrote it down, rings cluttering her fingers and long nails polished in a fashionably gaudy purple red. "The whole town will be buzzing when they read this. Everybody will be talking about my column," she murmured aloud, smiling with feline satisfaction when she read what she had written.
"I think that's a horrible thing for you to say," Ginger accused. "You're probably just jealous, Lexie, because you aren't one of the girls he takes out."
"You're way off base." Lexie gave a pitying look to her roommate. "I'm not the least bit jealous. All his good looks and charm can't change the kind of man he is. And I know his type. There'll never be just one woman in his life. He's always going to have to prove what a man he is by stringing out a long line of conquests. The disgusting thing is that all the other men look up to him, envy him. They refer to him as a man's man. It's what they would all like to be."
"A lot of women agree," Shari pointed out.
"A lot of women are fools," Lexie replied. "They cherish fantasies that they'll be the one to catch him."
"And why not?" Shari argued. "He's tall, dark and handsome, not to mention wealthy."
"And he's a born Casanova." Lexie drained her coffee and tossed the cup in the wastebasket with an air of finality.
"And you're a born cynic," Shari smiled.
"I prefer it to being a born innocent," she retorted, straightening from the desk and glancing at her wristwatch. "I'd better be getting back to my desk. Stan is bound to be wanting me by now," she said, referring to her editor.
"I'd better go, too," Ginger stated. "See you later, Shari." She followed Lexie as she left the thinly partitioned alcove. "Neither one of you said what you thought I should do about this weekend. Should I go with Bob?"
"I can't tell you whether or not you should go," Lexie frowned. "It's your decision, Ginger, not mine."
"I don't feel right about going," the girl sighed, flicking her long, straight blonde hair away from her collar.
"Then don't go."
"But if I don't, Bob won't ask me out anymore."
"If that's the kind of guy he is, then you're better off without him."
"That's easy for you to say, but I don't want to get the reputation of being a prude."
Meaning that Lexie had. But it didn't bother Lexie at all. The ones who called her that were the ones she wouldn't have dated if they were the last men on earth. They were the ones who fell into the general category headed by the likes of Rome Lockwood.
With the striking combination of copper red hair and startling blue eyes, Lexie didn't lack for invitations to go out. Thus, she had her choice of companions, and she chose those whose company she would enjoy and not have to fight off. A few times her choice had proved to be wrong, with her idea of a good time and her date's idea clashing.
"With an attitude like that, Ginger," Lexie offered as they reached the hallway where they would separate to go to their different departments, "you could wind up with the reputation of being easy. And that can lead to a lot more heartbreak than being called a prude."
Ginger looked skeptical, but didn't argue. "I'm meeting Bob after work, so I'll see you later on tonight at the apartment."
"What about supper?"
"Don't get anything for me."
Lexie's desk was barely distinguishable from the rows of others just like it. The typewriter, files and clutter of papers on top of it half-covered the standard black telephone. The file cabinet, desk and typewriter table fenced in her chair. As Lexie squeezed through the gap between the typewriter and the short file cabinet, the man at the desk facing hers glanced up. Ralph Polasky was a staff reporter twenty years her senior, and inclined to laziness.
"You're back," he observed. "Mike was here a minute ago looking for you."
Lexie had expected her absence from the desk to be noted. Very little escaped Mike Farragut's attention. The little wheels on her chair legs squeaked as she pulled it away from the desk.
"What did he want?"
Her co-worker shrugged. "Just asked where you were. I told him I thought you'd gone for some coffee."
"I can imagine his reaction to that," she murmured dryly.
Ralph Polasky smiled. "You know Mike. He went off grumbling about women, coffee and gossip."
"And, of course, you agreed with him," Lexie accused him jokingly.
"Of course," her fellow reporter grinned.
"Chauvinist," she taunted and drew the expected laugh.
The phone rang at his desk. He answered it, then cupped a hand over the mouthpiece. "I forgot. I think Mike left something on your desk," he said, then resumed his conversation with the telephone caller.
Sitting down, Lexie quickly skimmed through the papers scattered haphazardly over her desktop. One practically leaped from among the others, demanding her attention. It was the story she had just written and turned in to Mike not more than an hour ago. She sighed when she saw what was left of it after Mike's ruthless pencil had gone over it. She leaned back in her chair and began reading through the changes and corrections.
After reworking the story, she submitted it to her editor again. Mike read it through and nodded his approval. Words of praise were the last things Lexie expected from him, and she didn't receive any. But the announcement that he was giving her a by-line on the story was ample reward.
The following afternoon, as she was leaving for the day, she passed Ralph Polasky in the hall. He'd been out on assignment all day and was just coming in to write up the story.
"What are you trying to do?" was his greeting. "Make a name for yourself?"
She laughed, guessing he had seen the story with her by-line in the morning edition of the newspaper. "Jealous?" she teased. The elevator doors were just closing, and Lexie hurried to beat them. "Don't work too hard, Ralph," she mocked as she slipped inside the elevator.
The good mood didn't last long. Her roommate Ginger was at their apartment when Lexie arrived home. She was still in the thralls of indecision about spending the weekend with her boyfriend, Bob. Lexie simply couldn't sympathize with her roommate's dilemma, but it was the only subject Ginger wanted to talk about. She discussed it fixing dinner, after dinner, and while washing the dinner dishes. By then, Lexie's patience had worn out and she exploded.
"I don't care what you do, Ginger!" Her hands were on her hips, a damp dishtowel clamped in her fingers. "Either make up your mind or shut up! I'm tired of hearing about it!"
Her roommate's guileless face was incapable of concealing anything. The hurt expression that Lexie had inflicted transformed Ginger's and tears glistened in her eyes. The expression on Ginger's face made Lexie think of a puppy that had just been scolded severely. Without uttering a sound, Ginger turned from the sink and dashed to her bedroom.
"Damn," Lexie breathed, and tossed the towel on the kitchen counter. She felt like an insensitive brute and was angry for feeling guilty at speaking the truth.
Ginger remained in her bedroom for the rest of the evening. Twice Lexie walked to the door to apologize and make peace. Each time she was kept from knocking by the realization that Ginger was indulging in a childish sulk and by the feeling that she had been in the right to demand that Ginger make up her mind.
The next morning Lexie was dressed and walking out the door when Ginger finally came out of her bedroom. Lexie paused wondering whether she should make a comment about the previous night or let the matter rest.
Finally she chose the middle ground. "The coffee is made. I'll see you at work," she said as she walked out the door.
She didn't see Ginger again until midmorning, when she glanced up to find her roommate standing in front of her desk. Rouge had been applied to pale cheeks with a heavy hand, and Ginger's eyes seemed unnaturally bright.
"I've decided that I'm going to Cape Cod with Bob this weekend. I thought you'd like to know." Ginger's announcement had a defensive, almost challenging, ring to it.
"Bob will be happy to hear that," was the only comment Lexie made.
Personally Lexie thought her roommate was making a big mistake, but she kept it to herself. Ginger was already aware that she didn't like Bob. There was no need for Lexie to voice her disapproval and put more of a strain on their relationship.
"What time will you be off work tonight?" Ginger asked after a second's hesitation. "I thought I'd fix a pizza."
Excerpted from That Boston Man by Janet Dailey. Copyright © 1979 Janet Dailey. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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