For Erik Lindholm, it’s been a long climb to the top of his company. Now, as president he has the power to bring his vision to life and speed his company in bold new directions. If that means a complete staff overhaul, so be it. If that means firing the woman who left his heart in tatters fifteen years earlier, it’s a business decision, not personal…
Beryl Foster is highly competent and respected by everyone at the office. But rumors of a big shake-up are rampant and—surprisingly, scarily—Beryl’s job as CFO is on the line. Fifteen years ago she made a decision to put her career before everything else. It was also the last time she and Erik shared a life together. Every Christmas is a reminder. This one could be a second chance…
“Struth has a gift for layering stories within stories while keeping them all connected.”—Library Journal
“Struth is an author to watch!”—Laura Drake, author of RITA-award winner The Sweet Spot
“Sharon Struth writes a good story about love and loss. She knows her characters and has a path she wants them to take.”—Eye on Romance
About the Author
When she’s not working, she and her husband happily sip their way through the scenic towns of the Connecticut Wine Trail, travel the world, and enjoy spending time with their precious pets and two grown daughters. She writes from the friendliest place she’s ever lived, Bethel, Connecticut. For more information, including where to find her published essays, please visit www.sharonstruth.com or visit her blog, Musings from the Middle Ages & More at www.sharonstruth.wordpress.com
Read an Excerpt
A Blue Moon Lake Romance
By Sharon Struth
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Sharon Struth
All rights reserved.
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me — A necklace with a heart key.
"If you value your reputation, you'll get moving."
Darcy's clear, calm voice jarred Beryl. Before she could respond, Darcy looped her arm through Beryl's and pulled her from the doorway into the crowded room.
"Didn't you see that mistletoe overhead?" Darcy raised her classically thick eyebrows, darker versions of the ones that had made Brooke Shields famous years ago. "Chase was on his way over, and he had his sights set on you."
Together, they neared Chase Stockard, VP of communications for Global Business Solutions. His charisma had landed him the prime role dealing with the firm's media issues, plus the attention of most women in the office.
His Ken-doll smile turned into a frown. "Aw, ladies." He arched an eyebrow. "Catch you next time around?"
"Or save the mistletoe moves for outside the office," Darcy said, her tone stern, her brows lifted. "All due respect."
Chase laughed it off and headed for a gaggle of females not far away.
"He really ticks me off." Darcy tossed back her hair, dark as onyx and always worn to the shoulder with a little flip. "I'm beginning to wonder if anybody listened to me at last summer's sexual-harassment workshop."
Darcy took her job as director of human resources seriously. She once claimed to view corporate policy with the reverence of the Ten Commandments. Beryl was especially glad her best friend had stopped Chase. A mistletoe kiss might not be a big deal for some women, but in Beryl's position with the firm, others would talk.
The pair blended into a sea of formalwear, mostly black mixed with every imaginable shade of red. Beryl gazed at the Temple of Dendur, just ahead as they moved through her favorite room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Amber-colored spotlights illuminated the sandstone structure. Around it were tables covered with crisp linens and bowl-candle centerpieces, gleaming balls of gold light befitting the royal display. As a backdrop to the temple, a floor-to-ceiling projection screen played a continuous hypnotic loop of cascading snowflakes falling against a dark sky.
Darcy leaned close to Beryl's ear. "Did you hear the rumor he's dating a new copywriter?"
"Chase. She's a subordinate, works in his own department. That's pretty much the mother of all interoffice dating rule violations."
"Thank goodness men like that are a rare breed." Beryl didn't want to discuss gossip. She had her own worries tonight. "Ready for another drink?"
"Lead the way." Darcy grabbed a bite-sized quiche from a server passing by them with a tray, and popped it into her mouth.
Beryl moved slower than usual in the satin dress with a black-lace overlay, a nice change from her usual corporate attire. Leaving her arms bare, the gown showed a flash of skin beneath the satin, near the scooped neckline. A fitted silhouette followed the curve of her hip and gently flared from the knee down. Though most of her immediate peers were men, she refused to dress like one.
"Any idea why they've thrown the Christmas party so early this year?" Darcy dodged a waiter holding a tray of fluted champagne glasses. "Thanksgiving was only last weekend."
"Saul's choice. I'm pretty sure it's so he can announce his replacement tonight."
"And you really don't know who it is?"
"One, if I did, I wouldn't tell you standing in this crowd of our coworkers. Two, this is the best-kept secret since what was hidden inside Al Capone's vault."
Darcy laughed. "Probably will end up being as anticlimactic as the vault unveiling, too. Word around the office is that Rob Peterson is a shoo-in."
Beryl shrugged. As chief financial officer, she ranked high enough on the scale to be considered as Saul's replacement, too. Most expected someone with a sales or marketing background and many would argue that at the age of thirty-nine, she wasn't experienced enough to oversee the company.
Beryl glanced both ways and dropped her voice. "I hope he chooses someone from inside Global. An outsider will surely bring in some of his or her own upper-level staff. I may get tossed out on the street with a pink slip."
A sick pit settled in her gut. She'd been with this company her whole career and had given up everything else to achieve success. Losing the job by being fired would be more than humiliating. It would leave her empty-handed in life.
Darcy hoisted up the neckline of her strapless dress, her willowy frame without the meat to hold up the attire. "You shouldn't worry. Anybody would be out of their mind to get rid of you."
"The entire executive board is worried. Saul promoted us to these jobs and was our boss. If his replacement comes from outside the company, nobody is safe." Beryl tipped her head to the bar. "Come on. Let's get those drinks."
As they walked, she kept an eye open for the firm president, Saul Weinstein. Mentor. Friend. Ten years ago, he'd transferred her from the Boston office to be part of his management team. They were so much alike when it came to their work ethics and beliefs, they could nearly read each other's minds with a glance across the boardroom table. The faith he put in her abilities from the start had given her the incentive to work long, hard hours.
They ordered two glasses of Moscato and joined Darcy's husband, Will, who stood talking to a few people from Darcy's department. Saul appeared at the entrance, his full head of white hair like a beacon in any crowded room. He turned halfway, his mouth moving as he spoke with someone still outside the doorway. Beryl's heartbeat quickened, this anticipation more nerve-racking than she realized.
She elbowed Darcy. "Saul's here."
Their group went silent, all eyes on the firm president. He turned around and came into the room, someone directly behind him. At the same time, a small group came through the other set of double doors, swallowing both Saul and the person she suspected was her new boss into the crowd.
"Did you see who he's with?" Beryl whispered to Darcy, who stood several inches taller.
She shook her head.
Saul appeared at a podium set up at the temple's front facade. The hum of voices subsided and people started to clap. Beryl put down her drink to join the applause.
Saul cleared his throat into the microphone. "Welcome to this year's Christmas gala. I hope the food and wine makes up for such humble surroundings." Chuckles rumbled through the crowd. "Rather than torture you all with further guessing, I do plan to announce my successor tonight." He scanned the room, a subdued expression appearing on his age-lined face. "I almost can't believe the company I started forty years ago has grown to such heights. So many memories. The day we went public. The day we hit four thousand employees, operating in twenty countries across the globe." He raised a brow and motioned with his hand to his wife, whom Beryl knew quite well. "And yet, my wife informs me that it's time I moved on. In three days, she's putting me on a plane to take that grand European trip I never had time for."
The crowd laughed. Beryl perched on the tips of her sling-back pumps and tried to catch an early glimpse of whoever had followed Saul inside. Nothing stood out but familiar faces. She returned to her normal stance as a knot twisted tight in her stomach.
"In selecting my replacement, I asked myself one question. Who could take the top-notch crew I have here now and guide Global to great heights in the future? Although we possess huge talent within our fine organization, I wanted a fresh take on the business and decided to search outside of our four walls."
Disappointment rushed through Beryl. Time to update her résumé, just in case.
"So, without further ado, I'd like you to welcome the new president of Global Business Solutions — believe it or not a former employee of our firm — Erik Lindholm."
Beryl's body numbed. Loud applause faded in the background as his name pounded inside her skull. It couldn't be. It wasn't possible.
Erik stepped up to the platform and shook Saul's hand. Beryl blinked, thinking this might be a bad dream, a hallucination, or one too many trips to the bar.
Darcy touched Beryl's arm, ruling out the first two. "A former employee?"
Beryl was too stunned to speak or even nod. Erik's dirty-blond hair was still parted on the side and worn short, with thick wisps sweeping his high forehead. He smiled, making the dimpled cleft in his chin deepen and softening the rugged angles of his sculpted face. Old emotions bubbled to the surface. Love. Happiness. Anger.
Erik shook hands with employees seated near the podium, his smile still as confident as it had been years ago. Last she'd heard, Erik worked in Chicago and teetered at the top of the corporate ladder with the Holder Group, a competitor of Global's who could never quite beat her firm's status as number one in the industry. The same firm Erik had gone to after they split up nearly fourteen years ago.
"Did you ever hear of this guy before?" Darcy whispered in Beryl's ear.
Beryl nodded, her gaze stuck on the man she'd almost married.
* * *
"Good to see you, Samir. You look great. Haven't changed a bit since college." Erik embraced the hand of Global's senior VP and general counsel. Only once since college had they spoken. Erik had needed advice on a company visit to Pakistan, the country where Samir's parents were born.
Samir's black eyebrows lifted and quickly dropped with a grin. "Ah, my friend. I see you're still well versed in the fine art of flattery. If I recall, it served you well around campus."
"Let's not go there in front of Saul." Erik tipped his head to the outgoing firm president. "He hired me based on my résumé, but I'm not sure my college antics would've impressed him."
Saul laughed. "I may be an old man, but I was once young at heart."
Samir introduced his wife and a conversation ensued about Saul's retirement plans. Erik listened, but the chatter belied the enormity of his big night. He'd reached the pinnacle of his career.
Fifteen years ago, Erik had let Global management know his frustrations that they weren't moving him up the corporate ranks quickly enough. They had done nothing. After an interview with the Holder Group, he'd received an offer from their London office. The competitor of Global had loved his ambition and offered Erik a step up in his career. He'd grabbed the opportunity.
He studied the Egyptian monument. The temple, commissioned by Emperor Augustus around fifteen BC, was a perfect symbolic location to make this announcement, especially given Erik's desire to return to Manhattan and rule the empire created by Saul. Running Global had always been his hope.
Saul rested a hand on Erik's shoulder. "I'd like you to meet Beryl Foster. She's one of the best CFO's out there."
Beryl. Erik's gut knotted. "Great. Is she around?"
"She couldn't have gone far. We'll be sitting for dinner soon, and I believe she's at our table."
Quick. Shrewd. Understated beauty. He'd never seen anybody recite a tax law with such ease, juggle figures in her head with rapid-fire results, or confidently list the pros and cons for any argument without batting an eye. The way she'd done the day he'd been offered a job with the Holder Group. The day their wedding date hung on the brink.
Erik looked at Saul. "Can you excuse me a minute?"
Erik wove his way to the men's room, wading through the employees watching his every move. Good. Let them watch. Saul's were big shoes to fill. Their faces registered curiosity, doubt, maybe a little excitement. At the moment, there was only one face Erik was actually interested in seeing, and by the time he reached the men's room door, he hadn't.
They'd be sitting together at dinner, according to Saul. He had hoped for an air-clearing moment before then. Erik's chest tightened, the way it had after getting Saul's offer. Beryl had been the first thing he thought about when he got the call, but he'd accepted, afraid he might say no if he saw she was still there. Seeing her face on the firm website afterward had caught him off guard. Poised and beautiful, she'd stared back at him like a challenge, reminded him of their last, ill-fated conversation.
As he came out of the men's room, the ladies' room door beside it whooshed open.
"Have a great trip. I want details when you get back."
Pleasant, certain, her voice was just as he remembered. His heart pumped faster.
She looked up. Their gazes collided, the sparkling green of her eyes as instantly familiar as the sound of her voice.
"Oh. Erik." Her creamy cheeks blushed pink. Dark chestnut waves caressed her slender neck. She still possessed a pureness that one might easily mistake for naiveté, yet he knew she could hold her own against anyone.
She pushed the bangs from her forehead as she approached, extending her hand like the professional businesswoman she had become. "Congratulations are in order."
"Thank you." He shook her hand. Cool as her approach, impersonal, but fitting after everything they'd once shared. "I was surprised to see you're still with the firm, but happy you've gotten everything you set out to achieve."
"I did." Beryl straightened her shoulders. Behind her eyes, thoughts ran deep.
He shifted his weight, but it did little to balance his skewed confidence. "Your dad and sister, they're well?"
"My sister moved down South." The composure of her expression withered. "Pop passed away last year."
"Oh, God. I'm so sorry." Chet Foster, a great guy. Beryl had adored him, called him her rock since losing her mom as a teenager. Erik fought the urge to hug her, inappropriate not only in his new role, but also after how things had ended. "Was he sick?"
"Cancer." Beryl's stoic frame sagged. "I spent his last week with him, up at the lake."
She'd soon suffer another blow. Erik's changes for the company included a few replacements of top management. One person he planned to steal from the Holder Group was Matthew Quinn, the current chief financial officer and VP of finance. He'd all but promised Matt the job, a promise made before he'd realized Beryl currently held the position. Only at this moment, he was almost sorry he —
He snapped his attention to the sound of her voice. "I'm sorry. What?"
"How's your family?"
"Everyone is fine." He couldn't tell her how annoyed they'd been with him all those years ago, when he'd taken the job over a life with Beryl. "Thank you for asking."
"Please tell them I said hello. Especially your mom."
Sadness in her tone reminded him how she'd once said being with his mother was like having hers back. "I will. They'll be glad to know you're doing so well."
She blinked, pressed her lips tight. "If you'll excuse me, I need to get back inside. Congratulations again. I look forward to working together." She started to leave but stopped. "Do me a favor. I'm pretty sure nobody here knows about us. I'd like to keep our old relationship under wraps, if at all possible. I reached this position by working hard, without screwing a single man in power to get here. I'd hate to have rumors start flying now."
The unexpected comment caught him by surprise. After a moment, he snapped out of his stupor. "Sure. I understand."
"Good." She walked away, leaving him slightly tussled on the inside.
He held his head high but couldn't move, his feet suddenly heavy as cinder blocks. Nothing about being near her again was going to be easy.CHAPTER 2
On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me — Two leather gloves....
A blasting horn outside Beryl's apartment window was the distraction she needed to stop working. Stretching her arms over her head, she glanced to the white-painted brick fireplace in her living room. The mantel clock showed almost six hours had passed since turning on the computer. She saved her work, picked up her breakfast dishes, and went to the galley kitchen.
Taking an apple from the bowl on the counter, she mulled over her surprise at seeing Erik last night. Never in a million years would she have dreamed Erik would step back into her life. Especially not as her boss.
Excerpted from Twelve Nights by Sharon Struth. Copyright © 2015 Sharon Struth. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Very zweet second chance love story!
Twelve Nights was a sweet and quick holiday-themed second chance romance story. It's a nice way to start your weekend--though it does make me (almost) wish for snow :) Beryl and Erik were engaged once, years ago--until their jobs got in the way. They went their separate ways, until this year's holiday party--when Beryl finds out that Erik's her new boss. They try to keep away from each other--there's a strict no-dating policy in the office, and there's a whole lot of hurt feelings and resentment to get over to boot--but life, and their undeniable attraction to each other, has other ideas... Overall I enjoyed this story, though the main characters had a tendency to flip-flop back and forth between we're meant to be together; I can't live without him/her and forget it; this will never work. I liked how they resolved their issues in the end, though, and the twelve nights motif was very sweet. The rest of the series has potential; I'd definitely like to see more of Blue Moon Lake. Rating: 3 1/2 stars / C+ I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
This quick read was a wonderful holiday romance that had me smiling and believing in true love – even if it has to wait! The writing was fluid, and even though this was a novella, the story didn’t feel rushed or sell itself short in any way, and it definitely has me looking forward to checking out the other books in the series. I just loved Beryl and Erik. Their story is one that is totally relatable and real, and you could feel the connection these two shared even though they parted years ago. When fate brings them back together it doesn’t take long for them both to realize that time has not had any impact on their feelings, but circumstances may still not allow them to find their happy ever after. I loved watching these two work through the events of the past and realize that they both had the ability to change their future. And of course weaving in a “Twelve Days of Christmas” theme in the story infused just the right amount of holiday magic to the story. This is a great read for anyone looking for a quick holiday pick-me-up – there’s not a lot of angst, just a wonderful love story to make you smile and reinforce a belief in the magic of Christmas and true love. I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review. Sharon has done a magnificent job with Twelve Nights (Blue Moon Lake, #1.5). This may have been a quick read, but I LOVED IT!! Although it is a novella, it most definitely reads like a full length novel. The story was very well developed and did not feel rushed at all. The characters were engaging and Sharon's writing style is so descriptive that she captures so much in this short novella. Twelve Nights has it all: a successful, independent heroine, a sexy, powerful hero and heartwarming story about finding love again and the lengths one is willing to go through to make it work. Beryl is a very career driven woman who has climbed the ladder at her job through her hard work and determination. She knows what she wants and works hard to achieve her goals gaining the respect of all those she works with in the process. Eric, also a very successful businessman, has his own aspirations to be on top and in control. Their work ambitions drove them apart fifteen years earlier. What happens when they come face to face again? As Beryl's new boss, Eric has the power to destroy everything that Beryl has worked so hard for. Will love or power win? If you are looking for a quick read to get you in the Holiday Spirit, pick up Twelve Nights, you won't be disappointed!
How do corporate overhaul and a fifteen-year cold romance connect? When the overhauler was once in love with the overhaulee. Erik Lindholm wants to build his company in a new direction. A clean house is necessary. Or is it? CFO Beryl Foster is good at what she does. It just so happens she chose her career over him fifteen years ago. He owes her nothing more than he would any other person in her position. Add in the magic of Christmas and sparks that might have scattered but never gone out, and the edges of business and personal blur. Twelve Nights is a fabulous story to read curled up by the fire with a cup of hot cocoa. Perfect little addition to the Blue Moon Lake Series. Something to hold you over until the next one's out
I really enjoy books that are centered around corporate America, and Twelve Nights by Sharon Struth is all that and more. The author tells a warm-hearted holiday story about two people who were once in love some years ago, but decided that their respective careers were their number one priority. As a result, they gave up on their relationship and conquered the business world. Now they find themselves working for the same company and their feelings are just as strong as ever. CFO and romance writer Beryl Foster, believes she loves her life the way it is. She has worked extremely diligently to get to the top of her field and her reputation is impeccable. When Erik Lindholm is appointed president, Beryl is not sure whether she is going to have a job, or if she and Erik can put aside their past for the success of the company. They end up working together quite well, which leads to a passion that they cannot ignore. Over a very short period of time, the rumor mill, or should I say Erik's assistant Giana, let's the cat out of the bag. Now Beryl and Erik have to decide if their new romance, their respective jobs and a future together can be merged successfully. Overall, I liked this holiday novella. Beryl and Erik have great chemistry and Ms. Struth does a wonderful job of evolving their love story. I really felt like I got to know the characters very well, especially given the constraints of a novella. The office politics are fun to read about and Giana's use of social media is quite apropos for the times we live in. I love happy endings and this one will leave you smiling from ear to ear long after the story is over. Complimentary copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
Really enjoyed this one! It's a quick read novella but it's packed with a wonderful story of past loves, betrayal, forgiveness, and new beginnings. Fifteen years of hard work have gotten Erik and Beryl exactly what they'd hoped for. They just always thought they would do it together but a decision all those years ago to put career ahead of love has kept them apart. Now they are working in the same office and keeping the past and present separate proves difficult. A great quick read perfect for the holiday season. I highly recommend it.