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Authors: Heather Huffman

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Ties That Bind

BOOK: Ties That Bind
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Ties That Bind

 

by: Heather Huffman

 

Smashwords Edition

 

 

* * * * *

Ties That Bind

Copyright © 2010 Heather Bodendieck

Cover Image Copyright © 2010 Emily Stoltz

 

All rights reserved. Without limiting the
rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication
may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system,
or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the
prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above
publisher of this book.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the
author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author
acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various
products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used
without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not
authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark
owners.

 

 

 

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

 

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of this author.

 

 

* * * * *

 

To my parents, Dwayne & Carol. There are
no words to express how much I love you. Thank you for surrounding
me with love and for molding me into the person I am today. You
should be proud of the family you’ve created. We love you!

 

* * * * *

 

 

Chapter One

 

In the thirty-two years Kate Yager had been
on this planet, she had never once met another person with quite
the same shade eyes as hers. Until now. Her tongue suddenly thick,
she struggled to make a good first impression on her new boss.
Somehow she managed to tell him she was pleased to meet him.
Somehow she exchanged pleasantries about her move, her apartment,
the weather, the office décor. Somehow she managed to do all this
without telling him he was her father.

“Have you met your team yet?” A deep voice
with a perpetual smile asked.

“I don’t know,” she answered truthfully.
She’d met a dozen people this morning, but couldn’t remember any of
the names now. “I am, however, well aware of the dangers of
climbing file cabinets.”

“Are we still showing those?” the smile in
his voice moved to his face, faltering for the briefest of moments
when Kate smiled back. He abruptly dismissed whatever caused his
features to cloud. “HR says the safety videos are necessary,
although I’m not sure I believe them. Sorry about being tied up in
meetings all morning.”

“That’s okay,” Kate looked closely at him,
trying to learn the secrets not divulged by the pictures she’d
seen. She saw a strong man, obviously charismatic and confident.
There was nothing in his sandy hair or muscular build that seemed
to enlighten her, nothing familiar about his smile or voice.

“Let’s take you around to meet the girls and
drop your things at your desk, then we’ll grab some lunch to talk
about the launch party.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Kate was relieved to
not be eating lunch alone with Jack. She didn’t want to mention her
suspicions until she was sure what to say and couldn’t trust
herself not to blurt out the wrong thing if they were alone.

“Well, the whole team isn’t here yet. We
still have one member missing. Gavin Nichols is our new
photographer. He’s flying in from London next week. We’re really
excited to have him.”

“Is that so?” she wondered what was special
about Gavin.

“He’s an amazing talent,” Jack answered her
unspoken question. “Absolutely the best. I’ve been trying to
convince him to join us since we decided to launch this division.
Just look at this portfolio.” Jack picked a packet up from the desk
he was passing and tossed it at Kate.

“Then I can’t wait to meet him,” Kate agreed
before opening the envelope’s clasp. Once she did, she was
immediately taken. Gavin Nichols was an artist.

In picture after picture, vibrant color
danced with light and shadow. Each picture told a story, captured
the essence of the moment perfectly. Kate came to a stop at a black
and white of a little girl with her nose in a gerbera daisy. Long,
sooty eyelashes brushed cherubim cheeks and Kate’s heart tripped an
awkward beat. No matter how many years passed, it seemed little
girls of a certain age always made a “what if” flit through her
mind. Kate quickly replaced it with “what is” and handed the photos
back with a smile.

“If this is the new photographer, I’m even
more excited about this opportunity than I was before.”

“Wonderful,” Jack beamed his approval and
motioned for Kate to follow him into a large office with a computer
in each corner. “This is your new home.”

“Kate!” A young woman with honey hair and a
bright smile approached – welcoming Kate as if the two were already
the best of friends. “I’m Jessica, this is Liz. We’re so happy
you’re here.”

A dark-haired beauty with an equally kind
smile and the hint of a dimple joined the honey-haired angel, her
own welcome equally friendly, if less emphatic. Kate felt like
hiding behind Jack in the face of these two young beauties, keenly
aware of her plain wardrobe and her hair pulled back into a
practical but boring ponytail. She withstood the temptation and
instead returned their smiles.

“How long have you been with the San
Franciscan?” she asked politely.

“Since our internships,” Jessica answered for
both of them.

“We just love Jack too much to leave,” Liz
shrugged prettily.

“Flatterer,” he accused.

“I started as a fact-checker,” Jessica
added.

“And quickly moved up to features writer.
She’s the best we have.” Jack’s voice practically radiated with
pride. “And Liz here is the best creative designer in all of San
Francisco.”

“Just San Francisco?” her blush belied the
words.

“And now we have the best event planner on
the west coast,” Jessica announced. “Aren’t we quite the formidable
team?”

“Yes, quite…” Kate wasn’t so sure she
believed her own words, but Liz and Jessica so quickly swept her
into the welcoming arms of friendship, she didn’t have time to
wallow in her faltering confidence. Kate didn’t bother to analyze
the twinge she felt watching Jessica and Liz interact with Jack,
but it felt a bit like jealousy.

Together, the four of them ambled down the
street to a little coffee house to grab a sandwich before claiming
a table on the sidewalk. It was a sunny afternoon and they wanted
to soak up every minute possible. Plans for the upcoming division
flowed freely and Kate’s tension slowly gave way to the encroaching
excitement.

“And that’s where events come in,” Jack
motioned to Kate as the conversation came back around to her. “At
least once a quarter, we’ll be the absolute very best San Francisco
has to offer.”

Once a quarter? Had she really been paying
that little attention in her interview? Granted, it had been over
the phone, but she thought she’d paid attention. How was she going
to pull off a major event four times a year with no real staff?
Kate smiled back at him, hoping her sheer terror didn’t show.

“Any thoughts on the venue for the launch
party in September?”

“We can help you brainstorm when we get back
to the office,” Liz offered helpfully, sensing the panic she was
trying to hide.

“Definitely,” Jessica assured Kate.

“Pressure forces creativity,” she nodded with
more confidence than she felt.

Jack nodded with another charming smile and
Kate could easily see how her mother had fallen for him. What had
happened between the two? Why had she never mentioned him? Had he
beat her, cheated on her, left her at the altar?

Somehow Kate couldn’t picture any of those
scenarios. Or did she just want to like him? Should she even tell
him her suspicions until she knew more about him? Did he know he
had a daughter? Had he wanted her? What if announcing who she was
cost her this job? Suddenly the thrill of the upcoming challenge
outweighed her desire for answers, so she shoved the questions
aside for later.

The rest of the day was a blur. Kate drifted
home almost grudgingly, consoled by the knowledge that Liz and
Jessica had promised to spend the next day helping her find a venue
for the first event. In September. Yikes.

Kate deliberated stopping in a salon on her
way home to get her hair cut, but decided against it. She’d spent
most of the money from the sale of the house on the move. It could
be months before any life insurance came in. Things would be a bit
tight for a while.

But she would need to update her wardrobe
just a bit…. Kate chewed her lower lip in thought and let herself
in the door. As she looked around her empty loft, loneliness
descended. It seemed oddly silent without the steady beeps and hums
of hospital equipment. Her home now smelled of citrus, not
antiseptic. For some reason, that made her incredibly sad. With no
one to tend to, her night stretched out before her unendingly. Just
a few outfits wouldn’t hurt.

Her mind made up, she turned right back
around and headed to Union Square. Several hours later, she found
herself at a restaurant on the marina. Her bag-laden arms had made
hopping cable cars a bit tedious, but there was a thrill in it all
the same. She sat alone at a table for two, her treasures taking up
the spare seat. Her fingers itched to take out her prize of the
day—a pair of violet high heels that were far and away the most
expensive shoes she’d ever owned. But the purple pumps with the
pretty little curves had beckoned her.

She ate fresh seafood because she could and
treated herself to a glass of a fruity white wine. The waiter
sniffed when she ordered, and she knew he didn’t approve of her
choice of beverage. Maybe one of these days she’d get around to
developing a classier palate. For the moment, she was pretty
content sticking with whatever tasted good. All in all, it was a
good night and by the time she made her way back to the silent
loft, she collapsed into her bed too tired to do anything besides
sleep.

When the next day came, she bounded out of
bed anxious for a day exploring the city with newfound friends.
After making her bed and running through her yoga routine, Kate
stood in front of her closet, debating which outfit to debut first.
On the one hand, there were the purple heels—on the other, the Elie
Tahari black stretch jacket with the incredibly adorable silk sash
tie at the waist. Kate stood staring at the two for several minutes
before throwing her hands up in disgust.

“This is ridiculous,” she grabbed the jacket
and turned to the shoes. “Mommy is going to wear the black pumps
today, but that doesn’t mean I love you any less.”

Crisis averted, it wasn’t long before she was
headed out the door. It wouldn’t hurt to grab a pastry and coffee
on the corner before work just this once. Besides, she was ready to
show off the outfit. It was tailored and stylish and she felt ready
to conquer the world in it.

Surrounded by truly trendy twenty-somethings
diminished her confidence just a bit, but not enough to dampen her
mood. The warm smiles of her little team banished the haze of
loneliness immediately. After morning chatter to catch up on each
others’ evenings, the three settled in at their computers in
amicable silence.

“Jack, I can’t calm down. The wedding is so
close–how could he just walk out on us like that?” A shrill voice
cut through Kate’s morning. Jack’s reply was muffled in comparison.
Despite her intention to not be nosey, her head popped up to look
for the source of the commotion. For some reason, the sight of the
leggy blonde cliché bickering with Jack set her teeth on edge.

“That’s Tara,” Liz whispered knowingly.
“She’s Jack’s fiancée. I think their wedding planner walked out on
them with two months to go.”

“I don’t understand how anyone could do
that,” Jessica frowned. Kate got the impression Jessica would have
trouble understanding any selfish act. “What are they going to
do?”

“I don’t know. If it’s left up to Tara, the
whole thing will be a disaster. She’s an artist, definitely not a
planner.”

“She’s an artist?” Kate wondered aloud.

“She has a little gallery down off Geary,”
Jessica answered before continuing. “And they have the Ritz Carlton
on Nob Hill, too. It was going to be so pretty. We wanted the Ritz
for ours, but the price tag was just too hefty.”

BOOK: Ties That Bind
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