Read One Week (HaleStorm) Online

Authors: Elisabeth Staab

Tags: #enemies to lovers, #boardroom romance, #contemporary, #romance, #contemporary romance, #office romance, #series romance, #workplace

One Week (HaleStorm)

BOOK: One Week (HaleStorm)
10.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

One Week

HaleStorm, Volume 1

by Elisabeth Staab

Published by Elisabeth Staab, 2014.

Copyright

Copyright © 2014 Elisabeth Staab.

Cover Design by Babski Creative Studios

Editing by Tere Michaels

Publisher’s Note: This title is a work of fiction. The characters, events, and places are fictitious or are used fictitiously.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher at
[email protected]
or via
http://elisabethstaab.com/

Book Layout ©2013 BookDesignTemplates.com

One Week / Elisabeth Staab.—1st ed.

ISBN
978-0-9913903-0-4

Table of Contents

Copyright Page

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Author’s Note:

 

To Tom

Chapter 1

T
he most important business lesson Michael Hale learned from his father was that success required failure. Fall off the horse? Get right back on that son of a bitch. And when you find yourself careening wildly on an out of control beast, hang the fuck on and take control of the situation.

Okay, let’s get this done. Quick and painless, like ripping off a bandage. A very angry, high-maintenance bandage.

Michael leaned forward in a backbreaking deli chair and pulled an envelope from his breast pocket. “These are for you.” He slid it across the table, meeting his soon-to-be ex-wife’s stare.

Becca opened her watery blue eyes extra wide. “What’s this?”

“You know what it is. We’ve lived separately for over a year now. It’s time to finalize the divorce. Have your attorney go over it first, if you like.”

“I thought....” Becca’s bobbed black hair swung around her chin as she frantically looked around the tiny sandwich shop. As if someone overhearing their conversation actually held some meaning. “You’re not going to even consider moving back?”

Jesus. Perhaps it was sleep deprivation making him stupid, but he’d honestly thought she’d be on board. Their marriage had been based on little more than convenience and bullshit, after all. Now of all times, he sure as fuck didn’t need Becca tugging on his sleeves. He needed this to be over. One less thing hanging over his head.

Michael braced his elbows on the little square table between them. He looked her right in the eyes, wondering if her threatening tears held any sincerity. “I told you when I moved out that I wouldn’t come back. I meant it then, I mean it now.”

She placed a pale, brightly polished hand over his. “Michael. You’re mourning your father. I’m sure taking over for him at HaleStorm has been trying.  I don’t think now is really the time to make such a huge decision.”

His BlackBerry buzzed with the incoming email he’d been waiting for.
She
had arrived. “It’s past time.” He stood, nearly knocking back his chair. “I have to go. I have another fire to put out.” When Becca said nothing more, Michael flipped his empty water bottle into a nearby recycling bin and then headed for the door.

“Michael? Are you referring to me as a problem to handle?”

The touch of her hand on his shoulder barely registered as the cold wind outside blissfully numbed his body. Leaving his coat in his office had given him an excuse to hurry back across the parking lot to his building.

“I really do think this is a mistake.” She tugged on his suit jacket, gripping his arm in an apparent effort to make him turn back around.

“The mistake,” he said as gently as possible, “was having gotten married. You know I loved your father like an uncle, but it was not enough of a reason to chain ourselves together for the rest of our lives. It’s time to put an end to this charade.” He spared a glance at her now, trying to soften the next part while making his point clear. “I know it wasn’t easy being married to me—the missed weekends and the long hours—and I’m sorry. Now you’re free to find someone who can give you more of their time. Someone you don’t have to work so hard to forgive.”

He stepped away, but she held firm. “It’s your company now. You can set your own hours.”

“Not if I want to save everything my father worked so hard to achieve.” He disengaged her fingers from his arm. “Becca. Stop. Please. Or I’ll push back, and you won’t like the result.”

Michael walked away then, leaving her standing in front of the Tysons Corner Deli with her yogurt parfait and her stunned disbelief. Already, he could breathe more freely.

He dialed his contracts manager as he crossed the office complex back to the HaleStorm Engineering building. “Tom. Saw your emails. I wanna talk to you about this Elise Jackson you hired to work the validation project.”

“Some sort of problem?”

“Could be. Do me a favor and meet me in my office in five.” Six figures circling the drain. Hell of a way to start a Monday morning.

Michael ended the call and went back to staring at the email, like the words would magically transform. He closed his eyes and sucked down a breath so deep his stomach got frostbite, remembering the betrayal in Elise’s eyes when he last saw her face.

Five years.
Surely Elise would be professional enough not to let the past affect the present.

She had to be. In the wake of his father’s death, HaleStorm Engineering had been burned, betrayed, and hung out to dry. Their recovery depended on her.

***

E
very hollow
click-click-click
of Elise Jackson’s new basic black pumps on the frozen sidewalk sounded a warning: “Go.”
Click
. “Back.”
Click
. “Big.”
Click
. “Mistake.”
Click-click.

You swore you’d never speak to Michael Hale again. What the frick are you doing here?

Elise bit down on her tongue and pulled the warm wool of her coat tighter, trying to block both the sharp November wind and the misgivings she shared with her shoes. Hell, maybe she was getting spun up over nothing. For all she knew Michael no longer worked for his father. She’d probably get in and out without ever having to see him.

Stopping short in front of the shiny monolith that made up HaleStorm Engineering, she pulled out her phone to check the time and see if she had any urgent emails. One from her mother raised some alarm bells, but she didn’t have time to call when she was reporting to start a new contract. She sent a message that she’d touch base later before checking the day’s forecast, even though the outlook was clearly “colder than almighty hell” with a chance of “who can I blow for an extra pair of mittens?”

Okay. She was officially stalling now, but after five years the idea of walking back into that building still put a tight grip on her lungs and an embarrassing dampness in her palms
.

Still, she straightened her shoulders and put one foot forward. One more
click
of her new Aigners toward reaching for the massive push bar on the double-doors, when a squealing sound came from behind her.

“Oooh, my goodness! Elise, is that you, young lady?”

Elise paused, forcing her shoulders back down to a neutral position. She turned slowly to face the same old sweet HR director she remembered from her HaleStorm internship five years before. Yowzers, she was still here? “Mrs. Macol, hi.”

Wrinkled fingers came up to pinch her cheeks. “Good grief honey, it’s Penny.” The lady tugged a stray curly hair Elise’s hat hadn’t tamed. “I saw you all the way from the parking garage. So hard to miss, as tall as you are. And that hair of yours. My vision isn’t what it used to be but I’d know that red anyplace.”

Elise’s face heated. The flaming color of her hair had nearly driven her to grab a box of L’Oreal and change the shade so many times. “Good to see you again, Penny. It’s great to be back.” She made a point of squinting into the morning sun a little so her eyes would appear to crinkle with sincerity as she smiled through the lie.

Anxiety-induced sweat formed on the back of her neck and the wool from her coat itched. Why had she agreed to take this project again? If she broke out in some panic rash, she’d be toast.

It wasn’t as if she’d had a plausible reason to decline HaleStorm as a client—Elise’s job was to go where PermaSolv sent her. “The CEO’s son rejected me and hurt my feelings.” sure wasn’t gonna fly as an excuse. Anyway, she’d liked Mr. Hale Senior.

Honestly, when the job had come across her desk, her concern for her former employer had been enough to get past her issues with the man’s son. At first, anyway.

Her conviction had certainly been stronger before she found herself in front of the shiny, windowed front doors with Penny smacking at her cheek. “Come on, sweetie,” Penny said. “Let’s get you in out of this cold. See if we can get you squared away with security.”

Elise smiled again, sucking in a deep breath. She could do this. She could. Nothing she hadn’t done a thousand times. She would go in there with her best emotional armor on, kick this project’s ass, and leave with nobody the wiser. “Great. Thanks. I’m excited to get started.”
And by excited, I mean I’m sweating like it’s hot tub weather.

The HaleStorm lobby looked larger and more opulent than Elise remembered. All granite and chrome, with carved benches and a fancy coffee bar off to one side. They’d decorated for Christmas already, and along one wall stood an assortment of shiny trees all tinseled-up with packages underneath. Perhaps they sat waiting for this year’s holiday reception. Mr. Hale loved to put on big parties.

“Oh.” She stopped mid-stride following Penny to the security desk. The double click of her heels on the granite tile made a sudden “oh shit” sound before they abruptly brought her to a halt before the company directory. A maintenance man was in the process of swapping nameplates next to the CEO title.

On the floor lay a plate with the name “Stewart Michael Hale.” The stocky guy with bushy hair slid the name “Michael S. Hale” into place, groaning slightly as he retrieved the old strip of shiny metal from the floor and locked the case. Michael S. Hale.

Michael.

Elise blinked.

Shit. Michael took over as CEO? No way.

“Can I help you, ma’am?”

Elise shivered and tried to blame it on the fact that she’d just come in from the cold. That couldn’t be right, could it? Mr. Hale’d had a VP. And Michael had been so young. It seemed unlikely for him to be in charge of the entire firm. Then again, he’d always been intelligent and driven.

If Michael really was in charge now, well then Elise wasn’t sure if she was screwed or if she’d gotten lucky. She took a breath and decided to go with lucky, willing the knots to unwind in her stomach. Yes, she’d go with lucky. Michael would be too busy to as much as even see her if he now ran this entire company. She glanced over to Penny at the security desk and then back at the maintenance man. “Has Mr. Hale Senior retired, then?”

The man shook his head, making his way past her toward the bank of elevators behind the security desk. “Passed away a week ago.”

Oh. No.

Elise’s heart squeezed. Whatever issues she might have with Michael, his father seemed like a true gentleman. Not that she’d known him well, but he’d come across as warm and concerned about everybody. The kind of confident guy with a firm handshake who would drive his own employees to the mechanic on Friday afternoon so they could get home for the weekend. He’d done it once for her.

She made her way over to Penny. “I didn’t know about Mr. Hale. He’ll be missed.”

You wouldn’t have known he died if you hadn’t come back.
Still. She’d heard the tales of how he built this company from the ground up with his closest friend. He’d made the speech at all the company gatherings.

Penny shook her head. “I tell you, it’s like there’s a dark cloud hanging over this place since he passed.” She slid over a form. “Fill this out, would you sweetie? Then if you can hang tight while they get you into the computer and give you a temporary security badge, I’m going to run to my desk and drop my things. I’ll be back shortly to get you squared away.” A firm, quick squeeze of her hands on Elise’s. “So glad to have you back with us.”

Elise smiled again as Penny turned to go, but didn’t reply. She couldn’t, all of her words had been stolen by the figure coming into the lobby.

BOOK: One Week (HaleStorm)
10.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Ghost by Robert Harris
Exposed to You by Beth Kery
Dead In Red by L.L. Bartlett
After Midnight by Grimm, Sarah, Sarah Grimm
Eat the Document by Dana Spiotta
Say Goodbye by Lisa Gardner
Secrets by Melinda Metz - Fingerprints - 4