Bride by the Book (Crimson Romance) (8 page)

BOOK: Bride by the Book (Crimson Romance)
6.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

“I can’t wait to tell Laura.” Cliff gazed after the butter dish with longing. “I’ll bet Dolly never gave her an extra slice of anything, either.”

“Actually, I left her a good tip the last time I ate here,” Angie said. “Dolly probably responds to proper appreciation just like everyone else.”

She tried not to notice Garner’s nearness and concentrated on his hands. His hands were works of art, long and slim, with smooth oval nails and beautifully shaped fingers. She studied the way he held his fork. Surely it was impossible to describe the way a man handled his dining utensils as sexy.

“Is that right?” Garner watched her layer the mound of grits on her plate with enough butter to render them liquid. “Look, that’s a ridiculous amount of butter for one person to eat. What are you trying to do? Drop dead in my office?”

“I’m only twenty-si—seven years old,” Angie said, amending hastily. “My parents are still alive and well, and so are my maternal grandparents. My paternal grandparents died in an accident years ago. They were in perfect health, by the way. And just look at Great Aunt Loretha.”

“Aren’t you worried about your heart?” Garner winced when she put more butter atop her scrambled eggs, and spread the remainder on her toast. “You must have added at least two thousand extra calories to that meal.”

“I have a fast metabolism.” Angie spread strawberry preserves on the buttered toast. “If I don’t eat lots of calories, I lose weight and look hollow-eyed.”

“If you look hollow-eyed, it’s probably because you don’t get enough sleep,” Garner said.

“Yes, I do.” She smiled serenely at him. “Last night was an exception. I wanted to have the place clean and ready to work in by this morning.”

“I’ll bet you haven’t had enough sleep for quite a while now.” Garner’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully. “You’ve gotten used to it. You probably wouldn’t know how to sleep a full eight hours. No wonder you burn up so many calories. Anyone would if they stayed active twenty hours a day.”

“Look out, Angie,” Cliff said, brown eyes twinkling. “He’s about to take over your life. I think he’s one of those high-priced personal trainers at heart.”

Angie took her time processing a succulent bite of buttered toast and strawberry jam. “I’m impervious to people with sadistic tendencies. Believe me, I’ve been stalked by experts at torture.”

“What an excellent choice of words,” Cliff said, chuckling. “That just about describes him. An expert at torture. Definite sadistic tendencies.” He winked. “He jogs every morning at dawn.”

“Please. You’ll put me off my food. If he wants to torture himself, I have no objections. But I have to draw the line at broiled chicken for breakfast.”

“If I’m going to be vilified like this, I may as well be shot for a sheep as for a lamb,” Garner said. “Miss Brownwood, consider it entered into your employment contract that I now have supervisory control over your diet and exercise regimen.”

“My what?” Angie didn’t look up from her plate. “The only way I’d sign a document like that is if you agree to give me control of your office and computer.”

“I thought you already had complete control of my office and both my computers. It’s obvious enough that I don’t.” Garner eyed her plate meaningfully. “Enjoy it, because you’re now on a new regime. It’s going to be my personal mission in life to get rid of those circles under your eyes.”

“What circles?” Angie stiffened indignantly. “I don’t have any circles under my eyes, but I will have if you start trying to starve me.”

“He’s right about that,” Cliff said. “Nothing can hide the effects of a sleepless night.”

“Whose side are you on?” Angie smiled at Cliff. “If you ever want to taste butter again, you’d better help me stand against him.”

“I can’t,” Cliff said mournfully. “He was present when my wife extracted a foolish promise from me. I have to cooperate with his health advice if I want to have a happy home life.”

Angie turned to look at Garner in a considering way. “I might have known you had no scruples. Although I’ve never worked for a lawyer before, I’ve been warned about their devious ways. Looks like everything I’ve heard was true.”

“I’m afraid so.” Garner sounded satisfied. “I want you looking really rested by the time I take you to Mindy’s party. Otherwise, everyone will think I’ve worked you half to death.”

Mindy’s party. Angie could hardly wait, even though she knew she was breaking every rule in the secretarial books. Attending a party would be a great start to getting a life. She would meet new people and learn how to have fun. She would not think about her escort as anything but a business colleague.

Thoughts of Garner led her to wonder if he thought she was going to bow to his dictates out of respect for Cliff’s feelings. If so, he had a lot to learn, especially when she began the process of upgrading his computer system. As she ate her scrambled eggs, she thought about what system would best answer a small-town lawyer’s needs.

“I’ve even been known to take candy out of babies’ mouths,” Garner said in sinister tones. “Our first step in bringing you up to par, my dear Miss Brownwood, is to put you on a suitable exercise program. My personal research shows that if you’re tired from plenty of physical exercise, you’ll sleep well at night.”

“An exercise program.” Angie repeated those words in the same way she’d have said, 'Slimy, loathsome snake.’ “Are you talking about signing away my life’s savings at one of those silly gyms full of space-age machines? No. Absolutely not.”

“I don’t blame you in the least,” Garner said smoothly. “Fortunately for you, Smackover doesn’t have a gym like that or I’d sign you up tomorrow. Therefore, we’re going to embark on a much simpler program. One that won’t cost you much beyond a good pair of jogging shoes.”

Jogging shoes
! No way,” Angie said. “I was the only person in my office who never owned a pair of jogging shoes, and I’m not about to break that record.”

“Come on, Angie,” Garner said, grinning wickedly. “Even Cliff owns a pair of jogging shoes. He never wears them, except to meetings of the Accountants’ Society in Little Rock once a year, but at least he owns them.”

Angie felt the impact of his smile all the way to her toes. She bit her lip and focused her attention on her plate. Her professional standards were going to be in deep trouble if she didn’t get hold of herself right away.

“A man has to maintain his image, even if it’s totally false.” Cliff sawed away determinedly at the chicken breast on his plate. “All the big city accountants wear them so they can walk to work.”

“Really?” Angie glanced out the window at the sidewalk. “I walked to work this morning with no trouble.”

“That’s another thing,” Garner said. “You don’t need to wear high heels to work in my office, for Pete’s sake. I’m a small-town lawyer, not a high-rise corporate attorney.”

“I, too, have a professional image to maintain,” Angie said, with great dignity. “If you want to wear jeans and cowboy boots, that’s your prerogative. But kindly don’t think you’re going to dictate my office attire.”

Garner turned his head to stare dangerously into Angie’s unconcerned face. “Angie, you will no longer wear high heels to work. Is that clear? You’ll ruin your feet.”

Angie continued to eat with placid enjoyment. A woman who had faced down Vernon Brownwood’s vitriolic rages did not find mere cold stares intimidating at all. “Sorry, Boss. Those orders don’t compute. If you don’t want me telling you what to wear to court, you’ll allow me to dress as I please, so long as I don’t violate any professional standards.”

Garner looked both nonplussed and annoyed. “Angie, I don’t want to see you at work in those high heels. As soon as you’re through eating, I’m driving you home so you can change.”

“No, you’re not. Those shelves are due to arrive, and I’m going to be there when they bring them in,” Angie said in blissful unconcern. “Besides, I don’t own another pair of shoes that’ll match this outfit.”

Garner leaned back, looking exasperated. “In that case, I’ll buy you a pair of pink jogging shoes. Would you like white and blue pairs as well?”

Angie chuckled appreciatively. “That would be a good start. Fashion considerations are about the only factors that would make me consider buying a pair of jogging shoes.”

She scrubbed the remaining butter off her plate with the last scrap of toast and ate it, then dabbed delicately at her mouth with a napkin. With Garner’s gaze focused on her mouth, she wiped harder than usual. She kept imagining what it would be like to kiss him and ended up making a mess of her lipstick.

Garner’s expression remained undecipherable. “If pink is what it takes, then that’s what you’ll have. Come on, folks. It’s almost nine o’clock, and there comes the delivery truck, right on time.”

Angie paid her bill hurriedly, careful to leave Dolly a good tip, and followed Garner across the street to his office. In her briefcase she carried several flash drives that contained programs she’d need to jet-power Garner’s computers to something near her standards, and her own small laptop in case the programs failed. As soon as she got his books properly placed on the new shelves, she was tackling that computer.

Cliff went directly to his own office, where a client was already waiting. “See you later, Angie,” he said, and added in her ear, “Don’t plan on lunch at the diner unless you like broiled chicken breast.”

Angie nodded thoughtfully and thanked him with a smile. She’d thought the diner was perfectly located for her needs, but it looked as though she’d be wise to plan on packing a lunch for a while.

Garner vanished into his office, leaving Angie to dictate the placing of the shelves. That suited Angie perfectly. Accustomed to working under her own direction, she enjoyed arranging the books on the new shelves and happily spent an hour at it before being interrupted.

“Leave that until later.” Garner appeared in the door. “I need this letter retyped immediately.”

Angie glanced up and focused on the letter in his hand.

“What’s wrong with it?” she asked.

“You misread my writing. ‘Arbitron’ should be ‘arbitration,’ and ‘Seagate’ should be ‘abate.’”

Chagrined, Angie stared at the offending words. “Very well. I’ll have it ready in just a moment, as soon as—”

“Now, Angie.”

Angie stiffened and turned her indignant gaze upon him. Fortunately, she remembered her new calling before she could tell him to stuff his letter down his throat.

“I’m terribly sorry,” she said. “Next time, try writing a little more carefully, please.”

• • •

Garner’s mouth opened. He didn’t want to fire his wonderful new secretary before she had shelved his law library. Or before she had showed him a thing or two about his computer.

He withdrew into his office until he was certain she was concentrating on the computer then he slipped out and watched as she turned on the computer on her desk. The machine, which had been slow and crotchety when he’d last seen it, booted up swiftly. She’d done something more to it, but he was darned if he could imagine what.

She called up the letter without having to search the entire disk the way he did, swiftly altered the two words he had pointed out, and had another copy printed in the time it would have taken him to get his word processing program called up. Garner confessed himself both awed and baffled, not to mention grateful.

Angie turned, letter in hand, and started slightly when she almost walked into him. “Here’s the letter. In the future, maybe you’d better dictate your letters.”

Garner slowly read every word in the letter while she waited then signed it and handed it back to her. With great ceremony, she inserted it in the envelope and placed it on her desk for mailing.

“Thank you,” Garner said, with real gratitude. “Here’s a document I need typed right away, please. There are forms stored on the hard disk. Just pull up the correct one and insert the needed information in the blanks.”

Angie studied the document he handed her. It was a lease, and he’d penciled in the words he wanted inserted. Hopefully, she could read his writing this time.

“Very well,” she said. “I’ll have it ready in no time.”

She did, as far as Garner was concerned, even though she had to field several telephone calls from Mindy Adams and several other women. Probably, they each wanted him to escort them to Mindy’s party.

He watched Angie from his office door. Because she had her back to him, he could easily see the computer screen, where she flashed through the entire hard drive in record time in search of his legal forms. When she found them, he heard her sigh of exasperation and watched as she executed some sort of command that apparently involved transferring the folder of forms to another spot on the drive more to her liking.

Once she found the proper form, however, she swiftly inserted the necessary information, and printed a copy. Garner slipped back behind his own desk when she sent the document to the printer.

“Thank you,” he said, when she carried it in to him, her heels tapping resoundingly on the hardwood floor. “I’ll be going out for an hour or so. Would you mind typing an answer to this letter for me? I’ve penciled in the information beside the pertinent paragraphs. You can draft up a reply.”

Angie took the letter and studied it with what was unmistakably an interested expression. Once again, he wondered what her agenda could possibly be. From the way she behaved, he’d swear she could hardly wait to perform any secretarial duty he assigned her. As if—he stared at her, wondering—as if she had never done a secretarial duty in her life and could hardly wait to find out what this one would be like.

It made no sense, but far be it from him to point that out and maybe cause her to stalk out of his office in a huff.

He left and ran several errands, then returned within an hour with a shoebox beneath his arm. “You’re already done? Great. Here, try these on while I look over your letter.”

Angie glared at the box. “If that’s a pair of jogging shoes, I’m not wearing them.”

“Yes, you are. They’re pink. Do you think I want to be responsible for your broken down arches and bunions?”

Angie looked shocked but said nothing.

BOOK: Bride by the Book (Crimson Romance)
6.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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