Authors: Susan Anne Mason
Tags: #christian Fiction
Susan Anne Mason
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
COPYRIGHT 2014 by Susan Anne Mason
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or Pelican Ventures, LLC except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
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Contact Information: [email protected]
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version
Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.â¢ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com
Cover Art by Nicola Martinez
White Rose Publishing, a division of Pelican Ventures, LLC
PO Box 1738 *Aztec, NM * 87410
White Rose Publishing Circle and Rosebud logo is a trademark of Pelican Ventures, LLC
First White Rose Edition, 2014
Paperback Edition ISBN 978-1-61116-376-6
Electronic Edition ISBN 978-1-61116-375-9
Published in the United States of America
To my wonderful critique partners, Julie, CJ, Eileen, and now Sally, who have shared their time and talents to help improve my writing! I appreciate and cherish our friendship!
“Ninth floor penthouse.” The musical voice oozed from the speakers as the elevator slid to a smooth stop.
The doors whispered open, and Maxi North stepped out into the magnificent lobby of
. She paused, latte in hand, and smiled at the sheer luxury on display. The ornate crystal chandelier glittered above the mahogany reception desk that housed a striking array of orchids. Sometimes Maxi had to pinch herself to make sure she wasn't dreamingâthat this former farm girl from Rainbow Falls, North Dakota, now worked as a junior stylist in one of the top salons in New York City.
She hiked her purse farther onto the shoulder of her satin jacket as she strode into the heart and soul of the salonâthe chrome and glass stylist stations, where the employees worked their magic for a pampered clientele. The familiar scents of floral shampoos, coconut conditioner, and hair spray swirled around her.
Coming in for the afternoon shift meant that most of the stations already bustled with activity. On the way to her own station, second chair from the back, she waved to her friend Cherise. With a contented sigh, Maxi set down her latte, threw her purse in the bottom drawer, and plugged in her curling irons.
“You're early today.” Cherise stood on tiptoes, stretching to reach one of the sliding cupboards at Maxi's right. She grabbed some towels and blew her pink-tinted corkscrews off her forehead before flashing a dazzling smile.
“Nothing to do at home. My Internet connection died, so I figured I might as well come in and get a head start on my shift.” Maxi fished her cell phone out of her jacket pocket and deposited it on the counter in front of the huge beveled mirror. “Mrs. Rothman's my first customer. You know how picky she is.”
Cherise snickered. “Uh-huh. Better you than me.” She swung back toward her customer, then pivoted, her ebony eyes twinkling. “Rumors are flying today. Philippe and the other partners have been in a meeting all morning.”
The numerous cups of coffee Maxi had already consumed churned in her stomach. “Good news or bad, do you think?” She hadn't dared heed the latest gossip that the Baronnes might be considering taking on another partner.
“Hard to tell.” Cherise nodded toward the hall leading to Philippe Baronne's private office. “Guess we'll know soon enough.”
Lillian Rothman's formidable figure crossed the room, a frown already creasing her forehead under the silver-gray swoop of hair, leaving Maxi no time to dwell on what may or may not be happening in that meeting.
Maxi put on her brightest smile. “Good afternoon, Mrs. Rothman. How are you today?”
“Terrible, if you must know. Let's get on with it, shall we?”
Maxi gritted her teeth and managed to keep her expression pleasant. “Of course. Please have a seat.”
After washing and setting Mrs. Rothman's hair in large rollers, something the eccentric woman insisted on instead of curling irons, Maxi positioned her under one of the dryers and provided her with an espresso and some biscotti before ushering the next client to her chair. Once Maxi finished the quick trim, she finally found a spare minute for a sip of her now-cold latte. She grimaced and swallowed, her eye catching a movement in the mirror. The two other senior partners spilled out of Philippe's office. Philippe's wife, Suzanne, laughed before flitting off in the direction of the spa, high heels tapping across the marble floor.
The timer dinged, signaling Maxi to check Mrs. Rothman. She escorted the woman back to her station, and as Maxi started to remove the rollers, heavy footsteps sounded behind her.
“Miss North, my office, ten minutes.” Philippe barked the order and disappeared down the back corridor.
Maxi froze, hand poised over her client's head. Why would her boss want to see her now? Could it have anything to do with the morning pow-wow?
She bit her lip at the giddy thought. Then she quickly dismissed the idea. They'd never consider someone so young for the position of partner. In all likelihood, Philippe wanted to review her list of clientele. Or discuss the new ad campaign. Still, as Maxi continued styling Lillian Rothman's hair, she couldn't help but fantasize about the possibility.
“Quit daydreaming, girl. I haven't got all day.” Mrs. Rothman's raspy voice brought Maxi crashing back to reality.
Keep the customer happy.
Maxi repeated the salon's mantra to herself and pasted on a smile. “Yes, ma'am. I'll be done in a jiffy.”
Ten minutes later, with Mrs. Rothman primped, sprayed, and satisfied, and a sizeable tip tucked in Maxi's pocket, Maxi crossed the busy salon, neatly avoiding Cherise with a tray of color. Outside Philippe's office, she smoothed down her green jacket and knocked on the door.
.” Philippe's lilting French accent made Maxi's lips twitch.
She opened the door and stepped inside, inhaling the scent of opulence. Each time she'd had the occasion to come into this office, the magnificence of the space took her breath away. A huge picture window overlooked the spring greenery of Manhattan's Central Park. To the right, Philippe's oversized chrome and glass desk sat on a rakish angle. An impressive space for an impressive man. She still couldn't believe her luck in landing a job here.
Maxi shifted her gaze and frowned at the sight of Sierra Scott, one of the other junior stylists, already seated in a guest chair. As usual, Sierra had her honey hair pulled back in a perfect coif, complementing her champagne blouse and black skirt. Maxi resisted the urge to fiddle with her own hair or adjust her clothing. In comparison to Sierra's sleek style, Maxi always felt garish and overdone. Today, with the help of some styling gel, Maxi's red hair spiked out in all directions. The total opposite of Sierra's chic elegance.
Maxi ignored the smug expression on the other woman's flawlessly made-up face and smiled at Philippe. “Here I am. What's up?”
“Have a seat.” Philippe waved to a second guest chair. For a man in his early fifties, Philippe's vitality gave him the air of a much younger man. Faint threads of silver at the temples, as well as a few lines around his eyes, were the only concession to his age. His steely gaze could still wither anyone with one glance. Now his guarded expression gave nothing away as he watched Maxi sit down.
“I'll get right to the point,” he said, looking from one girl to the other. “You may have heard rumors that we are considering taking on another partner for the salon.”
“There's been talk.” Sierra crossed her long legs, accentuated by her skimpy mini-skirt.
Philippe raised a well-groomed brow. “Well, for once the rumors are correct. We are looking for a new junior partner.”
A surge of adrenaline spurted through Maxi's system. She didn't dare breathe in case she missed her mentor's next words.
Philippe leaned back in his leather chair and waved a hand in the air. “We would like our new partner to be someone young and vibrant. Someone with fresh, innovative ideas, full of creative energy, who will attract a younger clientele.”
Maxi forced her brain to slow down and take in every word Philippe said.
“After much consideration, we have narrowed our choice down to you two.” He looked at his watch. “I have a conference call soon, so I'll make this brief.” He slid two large brown envelopes across the desk. “Over the next few weeks, we will make our final decision. Here are the details of what a partnership would entail. You will find we require a substantial investment fee, should you be chosen. Please read the documents carefully, and if you're interested, give me your answer by tomorrow. I'll need an updated portfolio as soon as possible as well.” He rose, indicating the meeting was at an end. “I wish you both
Maxi picked up the envelope with a smile. “Thank you, Philippe. I'm honored to be in the running, and I am very much interested.”
Sierra stood and took Philippe's hand. “Oh, I'm definitely interested, Philippe.”
A slight frown creased his brow. “You must read the paperwork before you give me your answer.”
Undaunted, Sierra winked. “Believe me, I will.”
As she left the office, Maxi pushed back her annoyance at the other woman's blatant flirtation with their
boss and focused instead on the amazing opportunity just handed to herâthe very real possibility that her lifelong dream could now be within her grasp. Excitement buzzed though her veins while her mind reeled.
The diversity of her skills gave her a distinct advantage. She could do almost any job in the spa. Pedicure, manicure, any style of hairâeven colors, weaves, and extensions. And she was learning more every day. She breathed a sigh of thanks to Peg Hanley for taking her under her experienced wing while Maxi was still in high school. Who would have imagined that working at the
Cut 'N Curl
in Rainbow Falls would lead to a position in the top salon in Manhattan?
Memories of Peg brought about a sudden, sharp pang of homesickness. Maxi absorbed the wave. Then with great effort, she shook it off. She could not afford to be distracted from her goal. Instead, she strode over to her station, deposited the envelope in the drawer, and tidied her area in readiness for her next client.
Still, Maxi couldn't seem to shake her lingering thoughts of Peg. She longed to call her and share her incredible news about the partnership. But Maxi couldn't be sure
wouldn't answer the phone.
Before she could stop herself, Maxi rifled through the contents of her drawer in search of the treasured dog-eared photo within. The familiar shaft of joy and sorrow seared through her at the sight of Jason Hanley's engaging grin. It seemed a lifetime since she'd seen Jason or heard his voice. Peg had snapped this picture of them at their high school graduation several years ago. He stood with his arm draped around her shoulders. Both their faces were filled with youthful exuberanceâone of those perfect moments in time, captured forever.