Bride by the Book (Crimson Romance) (6 page)

BOOK: Bride by the Book (Crimson Romance)
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Not that Garner would see anything entertaining on her page. He would, however, find out about the trouble at BrownWare that had resulted in her recent firing. Or her grand exit, depending on whose side you were on, she thought with wry humor.

Maybe she ought to take down her old Facebook page, just in case.

At least she’d had the good sense not to fool with a Twitter account, even though she knew all too well that the other BrownWare engineers and employees were tweeting away about the latest fireworks in the upper echelons of management.

She so did not want to know what was happening at BrownWare. At the moment, she had too many other things to do and experiment with.

Except cooking, she reminded herself. She had just put a new app on her phone that promised to deliver recipes for whatever she wanted to cook. A good secretary, Angie figured, ought to know how to cook. Why she had decided this, she wasn’t sure, other than the fact that Fonda, her father’s secretary and her good friend, was an excellent cook. Therefore, she would learn how to cook, also. How hard could it be?

She glanced again at the computer on her desk that her boss still stood before in mesmerized silence. From the look of things, she might need the phone’s capabilities just to do her daily work.

Either that or she would need an alternate computer. The small notebook computer she had bought last year for use in meetings would be perfect. It would fit in her briefcase.

On that thought, she turned a considering gaze upon the printer hooked to the desktop computer. It looked even more archaic than the computer, but if it worked, she could deal with it. Hopefully, she could find some drivers that would allow her notebook to control it. If not, she would get a cheap little inkjet printer.

She moved her broom closer to the desk and hovered there, all too conscious of the spicy scent of his aftershave, and watched Garner as he watched his old computer. His long, elegant fingers with their almond-shaped nails rested on the desktop, and she astonished herself by wondering what those fingers would feel like if he should stroke them over her skin.

Angie caught herself. A good secretary never fantasized about her boss. Or she didn’t on her first day on the new job.

“What are you going to do to it after this?” Garner asked.

“Reboot and run a couple of other disk-fixing programs.” Angie made a couple of half-hearted attempts at sweeping under the desk. “By the time I get through with it, it should be running as well as it’s capable of running.”

“I believe you.” Garner turned to give her a respectful glance. “It seems I remember something about disk-maintenance programs. But that was a hundred years ago, and I expect the computer to just keep on running.”

“Right. Like your car. No maintenance required.”

“Not much, anyway,” Garner said, grinning.

“You’ll need to start running several programs on your computer every day when you finish your work. Otherwise, it’ll quit on you when you need it most. I’ll show you how.” Angie ignored the advice from her secretarial manuals about taking too much authority upon herself, especially in front of the boss. It was obvious he needed help badly when it came to computers. “By the way, a Ms. Mindy Adams is supposed to call you back right about now.”

On cue, the telephone on Angie’s desk rang.

Garner regarded it with dislike. “Tell her I’m not expected back this afternoon.”

“Is this a case where the secretary is expected to lie through her teeth for the boss?”

“Consider it the truth.” He checked his watch. “The office just closed. This over-worked lawyer won’t be in again until tomorrow morning.”

“I don’t think she’s interested in legal advice.” Angie picked up the phone. “Mr. Holt’s office. Yes, Ms. Adams, I informed him of your call. He won’t be in the office until tomorrow morning. Yes, I certainly will give him the message.” She hung up. “There’s a message on your desk. Ms. Adams is giving a party a week from Friday, and she isn’t taking any excuses. You’re expected to attend.”

“Is that right?” Garner eyed the computer screen wistfully. “How about showing me how to operate the program you’re running.”

“Tomorrow,” Angie said firmly. Tonight, she needed to reread the sections in her manuals about the awful things that happened to secretaries who fell for their bosses. “We’re cleaning tonight, remember?”

Garner leaned back in the chair and studied her. “Didn’t they teach you in secretarial school about the importance of catering to your boss?”

“My boss has already given me an ultimatum about cleaning this desk and this office.”

She made herself ignore his silver-gray eyes and sensitive, bracketed mouth. She had a job to do, an interesting job. She had no time to dream about good-looking bosses.

“Now, Angie . . .

“Sorry, boss. This is a lot of dirt, and tomorrow morning, they’re delivering those shelves. They
are
delivering the shelves tomorrow, aren’t they? Then kindly vacate that desk, because this floor is about to be mopped.”

“I don’t believe this.” Garner left the chair reluctantly and moved aside so she could attack the floor beneath the desk vigorously. “Are you really intending to stay here until this floor is clean?”

“Hey, Garner, I just got a call from Mindy Adams,” Cliff Jones called from the front door. “Oh. Hello, ma’am. I didn't know Garner had anyone in here.”

“Come on in and meet my new secretary.” Garner backed off from Angie’s ferociously wielded broom. “Miss Brownwood, meet my brother-in-law, Cliff Jones.”

Cliff came in, eyeing Angie’s elegant figure appreciatively. “Wow. A woman with a broom. This is a terrifying setup, Garner. Miss Brownwood, you’re the answer to a great many prayers, let me tell you.”

Angie stopped sweeping long enough to shake his hand. “This office is a true challenge for a secretary with a passion for cleanliness and order. When we get the shelves in tomorrow, you won’t recognize this office.”

Cliff’s jaw dropped.

“She’s got all the computers cleaning and defragging,” Garner said, indicating the desktop computer. “She actually got this one working again.”

“Is she the one from the résumé?” Cliff stared at Angie, who went back to sweeping. “She looks familiar somehow.”

Great
, Angie thought, chastising herself yet again. One public appearance in shorts, and everyone of any importance in her new life saw and remembered the event.

• • •

Garner shook his head at Cliff. He’d already seen Angie didn’t want him recognizing her. Why antagonize the secretary-from-heaven before she’d had a chance to straighten out his office and teach him a few things about computers?

“On the other hand,” Cliff said swiftly, “I’ve been known to lose bits and pieces of my mind at odd times. At least, now I know why Mindy bothered to call
me
.”

“Show us how to call up that disk-cleaning program, Angie,” Garner urged. “I want Cliff to see this.”

“Tomorrow,” Angie said firmly. “Tonight, I have more important things on my mind, like getting ready for those shelves. Excuse me, please. I’ll shut down the computer.”

Garner swiveled to watch her fingers fly expertly over the keys, before hitting the master switch of an electrical strip. “Where’d you find that?”

“You had it stored in the bottom desk drawer.” She indicated the drawer with a stern gesture. “What I want to know is why haven’t you been using it?”

Garner glanced up in time to see his brother-in-law’s silent whistle. “Darned if I know. Well, carry on, Angie. Come on in my office a minute, Cliff.”

“Pleasure meeting you, Miss Brownwood.” Cliff smiled at her. “I can see you’re just what this office needs.”

Cliff followed Garner into the other office, and Garner half-closed the door. “Well, what do you think?”

“Are you sure you want to know?” Cliff nodded his head at the door. “That one is a force to be reckoned with, mark my words. If you’re not careful, she’ll be going to court in your place. Have I seen her before?”

“That bad?” Garner laughed. “She does seem a mite determined for such a young thing, doesn’t she?” He grinned and added, “Remember that young girl you were so impressed with this morning? The one who was tasting her first serving of grits?”

“You’re kidding.” Cliff whistled again. “So she’s the one from the résumé.”

“She does appear to know a lot about computers.” Garner settled behind his desk and cast an indifferent glance at the three messages from Mindy Adams Angie had left for him. He picked up the letter Angie had typed and admired the beautiful formatting. “I figure she has an agenda of her own. Why else would she want this job?”

“Why, indeed?” Cliff took the other chair. “Now that we know she’s a stranger in town—”

“Look at her, Cliff.” He gestured toward the outer office. “Why would a woman like that take on a job in this picayune office?”

Garner dearly loved his sister and thought Cliff was the perfect man for her, but sometimes he found Cliff’s complete lack of suspicion toward strangers a bit naïve.

“Yeah, and with a sleazy shyster such as yourself as boss. I guess I can see your point.” Cliff leaned back, yawning. “Lord, I’ll be glad when the quarter is over. These quarterly reports are killing me.”

Garner reminded himself of the help Cliff had given him, unasked and without asking awkward questions, when he left Dallas and moved back to Smackover, not to mention the way he had stuck by Garner and Laura during the death of their father that occurred around the same time.

“Seriously, why would she take this job?” he argued, seeing Cliff was unconvinced. “That outfit she’s wearing probably cost what she’ll make in a couple of weeks working for me.”

“Didn’t she say she just moved here from California? Salaries were probably a lot higher out there.” Cliff ran a hand through his curly hair and yawned again.

“She’s up to something.” Garner reread the letter she had typed. “She even used the printer to address the envelope. I’ve never figured out how to—Huh.” He thrust the letter at Cliff. “Instead of ‘arbitration,’ she’s got ‘Arbitron.’ Instead of ‘abate,’ she’s got ‘Seagate.’”

“Isn’t Seagate one of those companies that make hard disk drives for computers?” Cliff took the sheet and read it swiftly. “Beautiful job otherwise. Are you sure she didn’t type it off something you hand-wrote? Because if so…”

“Go ahead.” Garner took the letter back. “Insult my writing. Seriously, Cliff. Take a good look at her and tell me why you think she’s in this office.”

“I already told you.” Cliff looked over his shoulder obligingly but Angie wasn’t visible. “She just moved here and she needed a job. It’s probably as simple as that. And no one but you can read your handwriting.”

Garner wished he could feel as sanguine. The feeling that there were major chunks missing from Angelina Brownwood’s professional résumé had been growing all day. Her peculiar choice of words to fill spots where she couldn’t read his writing added to the feeling.

“Then you don’t think she took the job just to get the inside tips on one of my cases?” he asked. “I have that big case coming up in a couple of months—”

Cliff stared at him. “Inside tips? Jeez, Garner, are you defending Mafia dons or something? One of these days, you’re going to have to tell me just what the hell happened in Dallas. You’re going paranoid, buddy.”

Garner felt faintly foolish. “Can you blame me? Why would a woman like her take a job here, unless she’s a reporter? Either she’s on the run, or she wants inside info.”

“If it’s a choice between the two, she must be on the run,” Cliff said. “You ought to be glad you’re so desirable and in the right business. Otherwise, you might never have gotten a good secretary.”

“It isn’t a joking matter,” Garner said. “Who knows? She might be into white-collar crime.”

“Yeah,” Cliff dead-panned. “Hold onto your bank account.”

As his bank account wasn’t worth a decent white-collar criminal’s attention, Garner felt even more foolish. But he still wondered just what Miss Angelina Brownwood was up to, and why she’d picked his office to do it.

• • •

Just outside the door, Angie paused, broom in hand, and dropped all pretense of working. Who on earth did Garner Holt think he was?

If there hadn’t been a grain or two of truth in his speech, Angie wouldn’t have been nearly so angry. As it was, she swelled with righteous indignation and thought about marching in and telling him what he could do with his filthy office.

Instead, she turned and silently walked back to the other end of the room. Not for anything would she let him realize she’d overheard this conversation.

That did it. She’d allow herself to work for him for three months; she’d seek employment elsewhere after that. By then, she’d have gained enough new skills to call herself a legal secretary.

Garner was suspicious, which meant he would probably research her name on the Internet. Then he would find out she’d been fired from BrownWare for “official misconduct.” Angie now had no doubt he’d believe the worst of her.

The secretarial manuals were right. She had no business developing romantic feelings for her boss.

Angie began sweeping vigorously, raising clouds of dust with each push of the broom. She’d show him. She’d show everyone, including her father, who had told her she’d come crawling back home within six weeks, begging to have her job back.

Never
, Angie declared silently. She wasn’t going back to California, and she was never working for BrownWare again, she didn’t care if she starved.

Not that she would starve, thanks to her alternate source of income, but the principle remained. Not for anything was she ever returning to Palo Alto or to BrownWare.

Angie listed what she probably needed to learn in order to call herself a legal secretary. The first item on the list was the ability to understand legal terminology. Angie resolved to look into some books on the subject. She was a quick study. In three months, she would be on her way out Garner Holt’s door, with skills she could use to get a job almost anywhere, a job that did not require sixteen-hour days or working every weekend. She would be free to have a
life
.

BOOK: Bride by the Book (Crimson Romance)
10.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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