A Very Exclusive Engagement(3)

By: Andrea Laurence



“Well?” Francesca asked.

“I think the power has gone out. The emergency phone is dead.” He pulled his cell phone out and eyed the screen. “Do you have service on your phone? I don’t.”

She fished in her purse and retrieved her phone, shaking her head as she looked at the screen. There were no bars or internet connectivity. She never got good service in elevators, anyway. “Nothing.”

“Damn it,” Liam swore, putting his phone away. “I can’t believe this.”

“So what do we do now?”

Liam flopped back against the wall with a dull thud. “We wait. If the power outage is widespread, there’s nothing anyone can do.”

“So we just sit here?”

“Do you have a better suggestion? You were full of them this morning.”

Francesca ignored his pointed words, crossed her arms defensively and turned away from him. She eyed the escape hatch in the ceiling. They could try to crawl out through there, but how high were they? They had started on the fifty-second floor and hadn’t gone very far when the elevator stopped. They might be in between floors. Or the power could come back on while they were in the elevator shaft and they might get hurt. It probably was a better idea to sit it out.

The power would come back on at any moment. Hopefully.

“It’s better to wait,” she agreed reluctantly.

“I didn’t think it was possible for us to agree on anything after the board meeting and that fit you threw.”

Francesca turned on her heel to face him. “I did not throw a fit. I just wasn’t docile enough to sit back like the others and let you make bad choices for the company. They’re too scared to rock the boat.”

“They’re scared that the company can’t bounce back from the scandal. And they didn’t say anything because they know I’m right. We have to be fiscally responsible if we’re going to—”

“Fiscally responsible? What about socially responsible? ANS has sponsored the Youth in Crisis charity gala for the past seven years. We can’t just decide not to do it this year. It’s only two weeks away. They count on that money to provide programs for at-risk teens. Those activities keep kids off the streets and involved in sports and create educational opportunities they wouldn’t get without our money.”

Liam frowned at her. She could see the firm set of his jaw even bathed in the dim red light. “You think I don’t care about disadvantaged children?”

Francesca shrugged. “I don’t know you well enough to say.”

“Well, I do care,” he snapped. “I personally attended the ball for the past two years and wrote a big fat check at both of them. But that’s not the point. The point is we need to cut back on expenses to keep the company afloat until we can rebuild our image.”

“No. You’ve got it backward,” she insisted. “You need the charity events to rebuild your image so the company can stay afloat. What looks better in the midst of scandal than a company doing good deeds? It says to the public that some bad people did some bad things here, but the rest of us are committed to making things right. The advertisers will come flocking back.”

Liam watched her for a moment, and she imagined the wheels turning in his head as he thought through her logic. “Your argument would’ve been a lot more effective if you hadn’t shrieked and called me names in Italian.”

Francesca frowned. She hadn’t meant to lose her cool, but she couldn’t help it. She had her mother’s quick Italian tongue and her father’s short fuse. It made for an explosive combination. “I have a bit of a temper,” she said. “I get it from my father.”

Anyone who had worked on the set of a Victor Orr film knew what could happen when things weren’t going right. The large Irishman had a head of thick, black hair and a temper just as dark. He’d blow at a moment’s notice and nothing short of her mother’s soothing hand could calm him down. Francesca was just the same.

“Does he curse in Italian, too?”

“No, he doesn’t speak a word of it and my mother likes it that way. My mother grew up in Sicily and met my father there when he was shooting a film. My mother’s Italian heritage was always very important to her, so when I got older I spent summers there with my nonna.”

“Nonna?”

“My maternal grandmother. I picked up a lot of Italian while I was there, including some key phrases I probably shouldn’t know. I realized as a teenager that I could curse in Italian and my father wouldn’t know what I was saying because he’s Irish. From there it became a bad habit of mine. I’m sorry I yelled,” she added. “I just care too much. I always have.”

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