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Authors: Marie Astor

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BOOK: Lucky Charm
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“Well, hello there.” Annabel leaned against the wall, doing her best to strike a seductive pose, praying all the while that she did not look ridiculous.

“Wow, babe!” Jeremy’s jaw dropped as he stepped inside. He was dressed in a pair of jeans and a corduroy jacket with leather patches on the elbows
. It was
his attire of choice: polished and presentable, without trying too hard, as he liked to describe it. However, this time he did not look as collected as usual
. H
is jacket was creased and his hair was tousled. “You did all of this for me?” Jeremy slid his hefty laptop case off his shoulder and placed it on the floor as he leaned over to give Annabel a quick peck on the lips.

Well, whom else?
Annabel wondered, taken aback by Jeremy’s reaction
. I
t was far from the response she had been expecting.

“You don’t like it? It’s too much isn’t it?”

“No, no! I love it! You look great. Turn around, let me have a look at you.” Jeremy plopped himself on the couch. “Ah, Ann, you got Hine too! You are too good to me, you know that?”

“Yeah, well, I wanted to surprise you.” Annabel perched herself next to Jeremy.

“And you lit candles, too.” Jeremy motioned at the blown out candles. “I’m sorry for being so late
. T
here was some kind of outage with the Metro-North and we were stuck for over two hours. I tried to call you, but there was no signal on my cell.”

“Hey, it’s
okay
. Don’t worry about it. The night is still young.” Annabel slid closer to Jeremy and nuzzled his neck.

“Hey, Ann, can I take a rain check? Don’t get me wrong
. Y
ou look great
. I
t’s just that I’m dead tired.”

“Yes, sure. No problem. I should have thought about that.” Annabel rose from the couch
. S
uddenly, she felt incredibly ridiculous and could not wait to get the itchy, uncomfortable lace off of her.

“Hey, baby, I’m sorry! You are not mad, are you?” Jeremy rushed after her as she ducked into the alcove of the studio that was their bedroom, drawing the curtain that served as a makeshift door. “Come out and let’s have some of that cognac.” Jeremy resumed his place on the couch.

With her hair tied into a ponytail, dressed in her terry bathrobe and slippers, Annabel joined Jeremy on the couch
. I
t took her considerably less time to get out of those lacey contraptions than it took to put them on.

“So, how was the conference?”

“Oh, you know, same old, same old
. A
bunch of wannabes, desperate to get their foot in the door.”

Annabel nodded, thinking it best not to mention that only a few months ago
,
Jeremy was no different himself.

“Have you heard from Athena?”

“No
. W
hy would you ask that?” Jeremy shifted in his seat, taking a swig of his drink. “It’s the weekend
. S
he never calls me on weekends.”

“I was just hoping that she might have called with good news
.
I remember you mentioned that she was close to clinching a deal.”

“She is, she is
. S
he just wants to make sure I get the best possible deal.”

“Are you sure she’s not pushing too far? I mean, it’s you
r
decision, but I’m just worried that she might overdo it.”

“Babe, Athena represents some of the best-selling authors in the country
.
I think she knows what she’s doing.”

“I was only trying to help.”

“I know.” Jeremy squeezed her shoulder. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s all right.” Annabel snuggled closer to Jeremy. “Hey
,
I wanted to ask you something about the wedding…”

“Can it wait till tomorrow? I just want to sit down and unwind for a bit.”

“Sure
. I
t can wait.” With a sigh, Annabel reached for the book she had been meaning to finish
. T
here was always tomorrow.

Chapter 5

 

 

“Did you have a nice weekend?” Annabel saw her boss in the doorway of her cupboard
-
like office before she even managed to put down her morning cup of coffee on her desk.

“Hi, Paige
. Y
es
,
I did. How about yourself?”

“Just marvelous!” Paige threw her head back theatrically. “But now it’s off to the races.”

Annabel did her best to maintain a neutral expression
.

O
ff to the races’ was Paige Martin’s favorite expression
,
and it never failed to puzzle Annabel
. A
s far as she could tell, there were no horses and no race track at the agency
,
and that was precisely the image that the expression summoned in her mind every time she heard it.

“We’ve got a very important client coming in this afternoon,” Paige continued in her crisp, faintly accented tone. Paige Martin
had grown
up on a ranch in
Australia
, but one would never
know that
by her tailored Chanel suit tha
t fitted her delicate, five-foot-four
frame to a T and her Louboutin black heels. At the tender age of fifteen
,
Paige
had been
helping her father lasso cattle – a skill that she joked came in handy in landing a husband. When she was sixteen, both of her parents died in a car crash; the ranch was put up for repossession for unpaid taxes
;
and Paige was sent to live with her alcoholic aunt. After putting up with her aunt for a year, Paige ran away to
New York
. Her fiery red hair and
piercing
green eyes made her an instant standout in the sea of blonds, and at the age of eighteen she married John Hall of Park Avenue, an investment banker who was twenty years her senior. She divorced him five years later on the grounds of infidelity
,
after she caught him banging his secretary in his office, no less. The evidence was undeniable, and Paige was awarded a sizeable chunk of her ex-husband’s fortune. Unencumbered by children, she promptly resumed her maiden name and used her divorce settlement
,
along with her ex-husband’s connections
,
to start her own advertising agency. Now, at the age of forty-two, Paige continued to fearlessly navigate the
New York
dating scene.

“Ok
ay
, what is it? Fashion? Cosmetics?” Annabel grabbed her pad, ready to take notes. Despite its boutique size, Paige’s agency represented some of the best-known names in the fashion industry. Over the years
,
Annabel
had
bec
o
me a pro at writing advertising copy for new lines of lipstick, perfume
,
and designer shoes. Occasionally, there were a few out
li
ers, such as posh restaurants or hotels, but the client list never really varied much.

“Neither,” replied Paige triumphantly. “Are you sitting firmly in your chair?”

Annabel nodded, wondering what all the fuss was about.

“I just wanted to make sure
,
because once you hear what this woman does, you will be litera
ll
y blown away. Her name is Marlene Parker
,
and she has her own shooting range! Isn’t that marvelous?”


Marvelous

was another one of Paige’s favorite expressions.

“Her own shooting range?” Annabel repeated, thinking that she might have misheard things.

“You heard me.” Paige flashed a bright smile.

“Where is she from,
Kentucky
?”


Upper West Side
– the Dakota building
,
to be more precise. I met her at a birthday party I went to this Saturday
. T
errible party, but meeting Marlene more than made up for it. Her husband died two years ago, and she told me this wonderful story about how lear
ning
to shoot helped her
get over her grief
. T
hat’s what gave her the idea to open her own shooting range. She wanted to help women cope with grief or anger. Apparently, this little venture of hers became extremely popular, and now she wants to expand. She’s been looking for the right agency to represent her
,
and believe it or not, most of the
New York
shops refused to represent her, telling her that the business is too risky. So
,
she’s hired some amateur
s,
and she hates what they did
. I
t really is very tacky and primitive.” Paige waved a manila folder she was holding in her hand. “The moment I heard Marlene’s story, I wanted to represent her
.
I know we could do so much better!”

“Shooting can help cope with grief?”

“Have you ever held a rifle in your hands?” Paige demanded.

Annabel silently shook her head.

“Well, I have
. M
y daddy taught me how to shoot.” Paige paused. “And I tell you, that year when I lost my parents, I used to go out in the backyard and fire away at a line of empty cans
. I
t never failed to cheer me up.”

“But we don’t normally handle this type of… industry,” Annabel stammered. “I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”

“Where is your sense of adventure? Have some faith in yourself, will you? You are my best writer. I could
,
of
cours
e
,
give the account to Janine
. S
he is catching on fast, but I think you would do a much better job.”

“Thank you, Paige
.
I will do my best,” Annabel assured her boss
. S
he was not about to turn down an assignment for it to go to Janine. Fresh out of college, Janine Saunders
had
joined the agency a year ago and immediately became Annabel’s nemesis as she relentlessly vied for Annabel’s position of Senior Associate
,
a title that was distinguished by not only higher pay, but also by the cupboard office that Annabel occupied
.
Janine sat behind a desk next to the reception area. It had taken Annabel over five years to earn the promotion, but apparently Janine was not concerned with this fact. Aided by her bubbly personality and angelic blond looks, Janine expertly kept her hostility under wraps, but she never missed a chance to steal Annabel’s ideas or take credit for her work.

“That’s what I thought. Just wait till you meet Marlene Parker
. Y
ou are going to love her!”

“I’m sure I will.” Annabel nodded, conjuring up a bright smile. Paige was a pretty good boss most of the time, but every now and then, her manipulative streak kicked in.

“Mrs. Parker is coming in at one o’clock. Here’s some background info.” Paige handed Annabel a thick manila folder. “And be sure to give me an update first thing tomorrow morning. Once you come up with the content for the website, make sure to coordinate with Eddie regarding the site layout.”

Eddie Frank was a freelance web designer who worked on an occasional project for the agency. Paige ran a bare bones operation with tight profit margins and believed in hiring as few employees as possible. Up until two years ago, Annabel and Sally, the office receptionist, had been the only full time employees, and then Janine
had
joined the crew.

Sipping her coffee, Annabel started to leaf through the folder that Paige had given her. Normally, she liked to have at least a day to prepare for a client meeting, but, alas, she was not the boss of things.

By twelve
-
thirty
,
Annabel knew everything there was to know about Marlene Parker and her shooting
range, which was aptly named
Artemis Club. She had barely finished her early lunch sandwich when Janine appeared in the doorway of her office.

“Marlene Parker is waiting for you in the conference room. I heard she owns a shooting range
. T
hat is so awesome!” gushed Janine. “Let me know if you need any help with the account
.
I’d love to contribute in any way I can.”

“Thanks, Janine.” Annabel hastily gathered u
p her folder
. I
t was five to
one
. A
pparently, Mrs. Parker was not one to dilly
-
dally. “You can start by asking Mrs. Parker if she wants any coffee or tea.” The last time Annabel had allowed Janine to help out on one of her accounts, Janine
had
made it look like Annabel’s content for the client’s website was all her idea.

BOOK: Lucky Charm
9.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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