A Very Exclusive Engagement(2)

By: Andrea Laurence



Right now, what he did need was a stiff drink and some red meat from his favorite restaurant. He was glad ANS’s corporate headquarters were in New York. While he loved his place in D.C., he liked coming back to his hometown. The best restaurants in the world, luxury box seats for his favorite baseball team…the vibe of Manhattan was just so different.

He’d be up here from time to time on business. Really, he wished it was all the time, but if he wanted to be in the thick of politics, which was ANS’s focus, Washington was where he had to be. So he’d set up his main office in the D.C. newsroom, as Boyle had, keeping both his apartment in New York and the town house in Georgetown that he’d bought while he went to college there. It was the best of both worlds as far as he was concerned.

Liam went to his office before he left for lunch. He put his suitcase on the table and copied Francesca’s words from his notebook onto a sticky note. He carried it with him, stopping at his assistant’s desk on his way out.

“Jessica, it’s finally over. Mrs. Banks will be bringing you the paperwork to process Ms. Pierce’s suspension. Human Resources needs to get that handled right way. Now that that mess is behind me, I think I’m going to find some lunch.” He handed her the note with the Italian phrase written on it. “Could you get this translated for me while I’m gone? It’s Italian.”

Jessica smiled and nodded as though it wasn’t an unusual request. She’d apparently done this in the past as Graham Boyle’s assistant. “I’ll take care of it, sir. I have the website bookmarked.” Glancing down at the yellow paper she shook her head. “I see Ms. Orr has given you a special welcome to the company. This is one I haven’t seen before.”

“Should I feel honored?”

“I don’t know yet, sir. I’ll tell you once I look it up.”

Liam chuckled, turning to leave, then stopping. “Out of curiosity,” he asked, “what did she call Graham?”

“Her favorite was stronzo.”

“What’s that mean?”

“It has several translations, none of which I’m really comfortable saying out loud.” Instead, she wrote them on the back of the note he’d handed her.

“Wow,” he said, reading as she wrote. “Certainly not a pet name, then. I’m going to have to deal with Ms. Orr before this gets out of control.”

A blur of red blew past him and he looked up to see Francesca heading for the elevators in a rush. “Here’s my chance.”

“Good luck, sir,” he heard Jessica call to him as he trotted to the bank of elevators.

One of the doors had just opened and he watched Francesca step inside and turn to face him. She could see him coming. Their eyes met for a moment and then she reached to the panel to hit the button. To close the doors faster.

Nice.

He thrust his arm between the silver sliding panels and they reopened to allow him to join her. Francesca seemed less than pleased with the invasion. She eyeballed him for a moment under her dark lashes and then wrinkled her delicate nose as though he smelled of rotten fish. As the doors began to close again, she scooted into the far corner of the elevator even though they were alone in the car.

“We need to talk,” Liam said as the car started moving down.

Francesca’s eyes widened and her red lips tightened into a straight, hard line. “About what?” she asked innocently.

“About your attitude. I understand you’re passionate about your work. But whether you like it or not, I’m in control of this company and I’m going to do whatever I have to do to save it from the mess that’s been made of it. I’ll not have you making a fool out of me in front of—”

Liam’s words were cut off as the elevator lurched to a stop and the lights went out, blanketing them in total darkness.

*

This couldn’t really be happening. She was not trapped in a broken elevator with Liam Crowe. Stubborn and ridiculously handsome Liam Crowe. But she should’ve known something bad was going to happen. There had been thirteen people sitting at the table during the board meeting. That was an omen of bad luck.

Nervously, she clutched at the gold Italian horn pendant around her neck and muttered a silent plea for good fortune. “What just happened?” she asked, her voice sounding smaller than she’d like, considering the blackout had interrupted a tongue lashing from her new boss.

“I don’t know.” They stood in the dark for a moment before the emergency lighting system kicked on and bathed them in red light. Liam walked over to the control panel and pulled out the phone that connected to the engineering room. Without saying anything, he hung it back up. Next, he hit the emergency button, but nothing happened; the entire panel was dark and unresponsive.

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