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Authors: Bonnie Hopkins

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BOOK: Seasons
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“No. Of course not!” She was getting a little miffed at his attitude. “That was never my motive. And if you must know, I needed
the investigator’s salary. I couldn’t care less about being the first woman to hold the position. Is this why you invited
me to lunch? So you could hassle me about my job?” she asked a little testily.

“No,” he answered slowly, still trying to process what she had told him. “Actually, I wanted to offer you a job.”

“A job?” she asked, feeling both relief and surprise. Then she listened in wide-eyed astonishment as he told her he was the
owner and CEO of Information Tech, a software development company, and explained what the job entailed.

“Am I correct in my understanding that you work only four days a week?” he asked. After her affirmative nod, he continued.
“I would like for you to come and work for me part-time. You would be researching and collecting detailed information from
potential customers. Information that will assist in the development of comprehensive and effective software programs to meet
the customers’ needs.”

“But . . . I don’t understand. Don’t you have to do that up front? Before developing the software?”

“In cases where we’re customizing it for the customer’s specific business, yes. And we often have to go through months of
trial and error before getting the software working to the customer’s satisfaction,” he explained. “I’ve found that if we
obtain more of the small, seemingly insignificant pieces of information often overlooked initially, we can ultimately save
time and money, and maintain better customer relations.”

With cautious but growing excitement bubbling through her, she felt she needed to confess. “J.P., my knowledge of computers
is very limited. I know how to produce documents in several programs, and, in fact, I manage to make a little extra money
from time to time doing word processing and graphic design jobs, but that’s the extent of my computer literacy.”

J.P. continued in his deep, sexy voice that did unexplainable things to her insides. “This job doesn’t require a lot of technical
knowledge. I need someone who is conscientious, dependable, and who has the ability to pay attention to small details. I’ve
watched you in those hearings and I know you’re that kind of person. It’s all about customer service and getting to the root
of what my customers want and need. Jaci, I believe you’re perfect for this.”

Although relieved that he hadn’t made some ridiculous proposition, she was reluctant to commit herself before thinking long
and hard about it.

“It sounds like something I’d like to do and I could certainly use the extra money,” she said, thinking about the cost of
replacing her roof. “But I don’t know . . . it sounds almost too good to be true. I learned the hard way to never leap before
taking a good long look.”

“I can understand that. And if I’m making this sound like it’s that good—take my word for it, it’s hard, demanding work. That’s
why finding the right person is critical. It’s very hard to find a conscientious individual with integrity and an eye for
detail. I really need someone full-time, but at this point, I’ll take what I can get. Most of the work is local, but some
travel is required. Would that be a problem?” He badly wanted to ask the question uppermost in his mind, but her wall of reserve
made it difficult to find a way to approach it. He had to resort to fishing around for the information he needed.

“The travel would be okay as long as I can plan it around my regular work schedule.” In all honesty, it sounded both intriguing
and like an answer to her prayers.

J.P. noticed her struggling and could guess some of her concerns. “I wouldn’t ask you to do anything that conflicts with your
regular job, or that would interfere with your life in a negative way. You will always have the privilege to accept or reject
assignments. I need someone to relieve me of some of these quality assurance responsibilities, and like I said, it’s vital
that I have the right person. As you know, I’m heavily involved in my family’s real estate business and wish to expand our
commercial holdings. But I can’t afford to neglect my other business interests either. My V.P. takes up a lot of the slack,
but he’s beginning to get pretty stretched too.”

“How much . . . I mean uh . . . what does the . . . uh . . . what’s the salary?” Jaci finally managed to ask. He quickly named
a figure that caused her mouth to fall open. “You’re kidding!” she exclaimed loudly, causing heads to turn in their direction.

He looked at her calmly and said, “No, I’m very serious. I know to get quality, you have to pay for it.” J.P. felt her hesitancy
and suggested, “Why don’t you think about it. You don’t have to give me an answer right now. Just call me when you make your
decision. You still have my card, right?”

Jaci observed the amused look on his face and knew she had been right in her conclusion that he had watched her throw men’s
unwanted phone numbers into the trash. “Yes, I still have it.”

Her lunch was untouched as Jaci excused herself on the pretext of needing to get back to work. Her stomach was in too much
turmoil to eat anyway. She prayed silently as she drove back to her office.
Father, please give me the wisdom and guidance I need to make the right decision. I know I need the money and the job really
sounds fascinating, but I know that everything that shines isn’t necessarily gold. And most importantly, Lord I want to be
in Your will and purpose.

J.P.

J
.P. had been troubled since his lunch with Jaci. The thought of her going into those dangerous buildings weighed heavily on
his mind. He couldn’t understand why a woman would put herself in danger like that. But he didn’t know the whole story, he
reminded himself.

It took more than a week, but she finally called and accepted his job offer. He had literally given a joyful whoop! “Jaci,
I promise, you won’t ever regret this. The timing is perfect. I’m bidding on a job for a hotel in D.C. on Friday. Can you
go with me so I can start showing you the ropes? We’ll leave Thursday evening, do the assessment on Friday, and return Friday
night or Saturday morning.”

“It’ll be a push to get ready, but sure, I’ll be able to go.” After a brief pause, she continued. “But is one day enough to
get the kind of information you need to develop an effective program?”

J.P. laughed. “See there, that’s what I mean. That detailed mind is already working. And to answer your question, yes, I believe
so. They’ve already completed a preliminary survey and supplied enough data to get us started. We’ll go over it on the plane
and plan the best way to proceed. We’ll primarily be looking for the small things they may have overlooked, details that will
help us tailor the right program for their needs. We’ll do that by talking to employees from the top all the way down to the
lowest level. We’ll review their current procedures, look at their records, and just observe how they conduct business.”

“Okay. Sounds clear-cut enough. But I confess, I’m more than a little nervous about this.”

“Don’t be. You can relax since you’re in training. But you will have to observe closely. I’m a pretty hard taskmaster and
you should know, I expect a lot from my employees. And by the way, since I value my life, I have to ask, will your husband
or significant other mind you traveling out of town with another man?” He boldly fished for information.

“No. That’s nothing for you to worry about. But you’re scaring me with all this hard taskmaster talk. Now I’m wondering what
I’m getting into. I don’t want to find myself trying to do a full-time job on a part-time basis. I want to make it clear that
I’ll only be held accountable for part-time responsibilities. Otherwise, I’d better bow out right now.”

“I’m not unreasonable, Jaci. You’ll be okay. You want to ride to the airport together? We’ll be flying out of Hobby.”

“No, I’ll get myself there. I promise to be on time.”

He knew that was her way of trying to keep things on a professional level, so he didn’t push the issue and provided the flight
information.

Their arrangements worked out smoothly. They met at the airport with no problem, and though Jaci was obviously nervous, she
tried to cover it. He searched for a way to put her at ease, wishing he could tell her that her accompanying him meant more
than the prospect of getting the luxury hotel account.

As they studied the information on the plane, he was even more certain he had made a sound decision in hiring her, even beyond
his ulterior motive of getting to know her better. Her limited knowledge of computers didn’t hinder her logical mind, and
she brought up questions and pointed out customer relations details that the hotel and his staff had overlooked in their preliminary
data.

After checking in, and as they walked to their rooms, he asked about dinner. “How long will it take you to get ready for dinner?
I don’t think it’s any dressier than what you have on. In fact, we’ll probably be fine with what we’re wearing.”

Jaci tried to beg off. “I think I’ll bypass dinner. I’m kind of tired and I want to be well rested for tomorrow.”

But J.P. wouldn’t let her. “You have to eat and we still need to go over a few things. I won’t keep you up too late. Anyway,
the hotel manager may join us and give us a jump start on our work.”

Jaci looked a little uncomfortable. “You’re the boss.”

“Think you can be ready in say . . . forty-five minutes?”

“Yeah sure,” she answered before entering the room next door to his.

The remainder of the trip went as he had predicted. They worked all day Friday and well into the night, going through the
hotel’s records and talking to employees. The process took longer than expected but Jaci was in her element. She dug right
in, enthusiastically typing information on the laptop computer he brought along, often with comments or suggestions of her
own. He loved it.

It was after ten when they wrapped up things in the hotel office and headed to their rooms. “I’d like to go over everything
again, compare notes, and see if we’ve overlooked anything before we leave. Are you up to doing that tonight?”

“Well, I’m tired, hungry, and sleepy, so I don’t know how much help I’ll be, but I’ll try.”

“Okay, okay! I know I’m acting like a slave driver—it’s just that when I’m on a roll, I hate to stop. Why don’t you take a
thirty-minute break and get your second wind, then come on over and I’ll feed you. We’ll get down to work after we eat. It
shouldn’t take long.”

“All right, sounds good.” She realized when she got to her room that she was surprised at herself. She hadn’t hesitated at
all about going to his room to work. She was amazed at how relaxed she now felt in his presence.
What a difference a day makes,
she thought with a smile. She showered and slipped into slacks and a casual blouse, ran a comb through her hair, put on lip
gloss, grabbed her purse, and knocked at his door in just under thirty minutes.

“A timely woman! I don’t believe it!” J.P. said with a smile as he opened the door.

“I don’t play when it comes to my stomach,” Jaci joked.

J.P. looked at her and knew he would have a hard time concentrating on work. Dressed casually in slacks and a short-sleeved
blouse, Jaci looked beautiful. Her beauty packed more of a punch because she was totally unaware of it. She hadn’t dressed
to impress or seduce, as he had come to expect from women. It was clear that comfort had been her only objective. But he
was
impressed. And he was seduced by her lack of pretentiousness.

“I went ahead and ordered dinner. I didn’t think you’d want anything too heavy, so I ordered a chef salad with a fruit and
cheese tray. Is that okay?”

“Perfect.”

“Let’s just relax while we wait for the food. Have you been to D.C. before?”

“Yes, I was here years ago for a wedding. That was a short trip too. Someday I want to come when I have the time to tour the
Smithsonian, the memorials, you know, the whole tourist scene.”

“We could stay over if you want and do a little sightseeing. Sometimes you just have to seize the moment. Come here, let me
show you something.”

He opened the French doors leading to the balcony and led the way from the room. “If I’m not mistaken, you can see the White
House from here.”

“Oh wow!” She followed him onto the balcony. “I wish I could say yes to staying over, but I need to get back tomorrow. Now
where is the White House?”

He pointed it out to her, along with some other points of interest. “I spent a lot of time here years ago. But I haven’t done
the tourist thing either. I’ve heard it takes more than a day just to get through the Smithsonian. I’d like to do that one
of these days too.”

They stood close together on the balcony and looked out over the dark streets. J.P. caught a whiff of her fresh, clean scent.
He liked perfume on a woman, but the mere smell of soap on Jaci was wreaking havoc on his senses.

“Jaci, I . . .” A loud knock on the door interrupted him. Sighing frustratedly, he went to let room service in.

“You call this light?!” Jaci’s mouth dropped as she took in the large bowl of salad, a tureen filled with some kind of soup
that produced a wonderful aroma, a tray of fruit and cheese, assorted crackers and rolls, and a dish filled with melon balls.
A bottle of sparkling cider sat in an ice bucket. “This is wonderful, J.P.”

They ate leisurely while they went over the hotel assessment. The meal was almost finished when J.P., taking note of everything
she ate, observed that Jaci hadn’t touched the rolls. “You don’t like bread I see? Or are you on some kind of diet?”

“Oh no. I love bread, but I don’t particularly care for rolls that are so hard you almost pull your teeth out trying to bite
into them. These things could be used as baseballs.” She grabbed one and began tossing it into the air like a baseball. “I
bet if one of these hit somebody in the head, it would knock them out cold.”

J.P. walked across the room to the corner and grabbed a long stem silk flower from a tall vase and positioned himself, holding
the flower like a baseball bat. “Okay, pitcher! Let’s see what you got.”

BOOK: Seasons
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ads

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