Excerpt 2: Plan B: Boyfriend

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The first excerpt I posted with Sarah is the beginning of the book, but since I wrote this book because I love Charlie, I thought I'd post his first scene, too. Here's Charlie...

Charlie liked his office door closed. Especially these past two weeks with Erik and Lauren gone, and damn he still couldn’t believe that had played out the way it did, it was like the rest of the firm had gone giddy. Which was saying something because Baxter Smiley was normally much closer to morgue quiet than giddy. He hated to think who might be following Lauren and Erik’s example—messing around with your co-workers was wrong in too many ways for him to count.

So he kept the door closed. The crazy stayed out in the hall and he got his work done. Today it seemed like the crazy was louder than usual, though. If Lauren didn’t get her cheating ass back to town soon, she was going to have trouble reining her staff back in.

For himself, he’d be happy if she stayed away one more week. That would give him time to seal the Ryan deal. He was inches from convincing Henry Ryan Senior to transfer his account to Baxter Smiley. Where Senior went, Junior and his two brothers went along with their five combined ex-wives whom Senior still counted as family. Charlie tugged on the knot of his silk tie and then impatiently straightened it. If he scored the Ryan family, that would clinch his promotion to vice-president.

When he scored the Ryan family.

He glanced down at the leather portfolio on his desk. It contained every bit of information he’d been able to dig up on Senior. He flipped the pages until he found the timeline he’d created before he made the first contact. Before he’d even started lobbying for a seat on the Carol Ryan Memorial Elementary board, which was where he’d befriended Junior, who’d introduced him to Senior. It had taken most of a year, but he was finally that close to clinching the deal.

What the hell was up with the noise? It sounded as if someone was screaming out there. How was he supposed to work in this atmosphere?

Crash.

That wasn’t high spirits because the boss was out of town. That was a vase or possibly a potted plant meeting a violent end on the parquet floors of the Baxter Smiley foyer. His parents had tossed enough pottery at each other in his childhood that he recognized the sound effects. Come to think of it, the shouting sounded familiar enough to make him wonder if his mom had come back from the grave. If she had it would be typical for her to show up throwing stuff at his office while he was trying to work.

Another crash. Charlie couldn’t stand it. He stalked out from behind his desk and flung the door open. A crowd was gathered at the end of the hall at the door to the foyer.

Baxter Smiley was good at what they did—their clients came in rich and got richer the longer they stayed. But along with the professional reputation came the illusion created by the offices that everything and everyone connected with the firm was genteel, mannered, and worthy of admission into the club. Didn’t matter which club, just that it was clear in everyone’s mind there was no standard so exclusive that Baxter Smiley couldn’t meet it.

This illusion involved a lot of hardwood, a lot of designer fabrics from Europe, and art. Real art. Which, if he wasn’t mistaken, was currently being smashed piece by piece in the foyer.

Charlie pushed through the crowd of his coworkers until he could see the lobby. Then he understood why no one seemed capable of dealing with the problem. The problem wasn’t a what. It was a who. Sarah Finley. The scorned wife. Sure, he’d wanted to kill Erik and Lauren for what they’d done and all the upheaval it had caused at the firm. But judging from the way Sarah was tossing vases, he’d have to get in line.

Malcolm Donnelly, one of the senior partners, a colleague of Erik’s just under Lauren at the top of the Baxter Smiley organizational chart, was standing near the front of the crowd, his face red and panicked. “Charlie, thank God. Stop her.”

Sarah picked up a potted jade and dropped it from shoulder height to the floor. “You’re the senior partner,” Charlie protested. “You stop her.”

“You know her. I don’t.”

True. He knew Sarah Finley. Knew her the same way all the kids who went to St. Peter’s Elementary and then high school knew each other eventually. The way a guy knows his brother’s wife’s best friend. The way a person who danced with another person one night at a homecoming dance back in high school, knew…screw it. Fine. He knew her.

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