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Online Romance Novel -- Chapter 11
Jeff gazed out the wall of windows at a world that looked like a snow globe. Even New York’s winter conspired against him to keep Haley forever in his thoughts.
"Jeff? Hey, boss!"
Jeff shook his head as if to clear it and turned to his secretary. "Sorry, Marge. What did you say?"
"Is that all you wanted to say about Dr. Gant’s project?" his secretary asked.
"Oh. Uh, I don't know. Where’d I stop?"
She read the last sentence he’d dictated. Jeff tried to focus on the summary he’d written based on the project report Haley had mailed to him last week, but it was no use. Every time he said Dr. Gant, his heart squeezed. He’d finally fallen in love, and the fall had devastated him. Well, not the fall, but what had happened afterwards. He lapsed into thought again, recalling the hours they’d spent snowbound in the cabin.
"Maybe we should finish this in the morning?" Marge suggested, bringing him back to the present.
"Sure, Marge. No problem. Maybe I’ll be sharper tomorrow."
"You might try getting some sleep. That’d help." With a tsk tsk, she added, "You could pack clothes in those bags under your eyes."
"Get out of here," Jeff said. "Next thing I know you’ll be complaining about my personality."
"Now that you mention it, you seem to have left your sense of humor out west." Marge grinned. "Maybe you should go back to Montana and find it."
Jeff waved his hand at her, shooing her out of the office.
"Okay. I can take a hint. I’m going. I’m going."
Jeff listened to her soft chuckle as she closed his office door. Marge knew him too well. He’d brought her with him from company to company. They were a good team. When he’d accepted the EnviroMed position, she'd been more thrilled than he. The woman was honest to a fault. Trouble was, she was right. He’d been a pain in the neck for three weeks now.
Three long weeks.
He realized now that he should have made Haley listen to him that day. But he’d been so hurt by her accusations. By her lack of faith in him. Then when he’d got back to New York, his hurt transformed to anger.
After another week had passed, the anger and hurt turned into a loneliness he’d never felt before. He missed her. He should have tried harder to make her listen - to convince her that he was more interested in her, the woman, than in her as a scientist. A heavy sigh escaped him. He’d made mistakes every step of the way. Last week, he'd sent her a demand that she turn over all her project papers. He'd hoped that would at least get her to talk to him on the phone. Instead, she'd sent a terse report with no supporting documents. Not even a cover letter. His plan to get a dialogue going must have just incensed her. Morosely, he thought his order had been the nails in the coffin of their fledgling relationship. He should just email her and tell her how he felt about her. Would that work now? He sighed again. Probably not.
Tiredly, Jeff picked up his briefcase and opened it to pack away the work he should have done at the office. Staring at the expensive leather case, he grimaced then slammed it shut. Why take any work home? He knew he wouldn’t be able to focus on it any better there than he had here. He rubbed the tense muscles at the back of his neck, straightened and stretched and walked to the window. Snow continued to drift past the glass. Was it snowing in Montana too?
* * *
Haley stared out the cab window at the black glass skyscraper. Weak morning sunlight ricocheted off the top of the building. If her timing was right, Jeff should be seated at his desk, having his morning cup of coffee.
She stepped out of the cab and shivered. Somehow New York seemed colder than Montana. Of course, in Montana she dressed like a lumberjack. She shivered in her charcoal wool pants suit. The high-heeled boots looked great, but they weren’t nearly as warm as her fleece-lined work boots.
Still, freezing her toes off would be worth it if Jeff thought she looked good. She wanted to be sophisticated and cool, not frazzled and needy, when she told him what she thought about that demand letter he'd sent.
* * *
Jeff stared at his coffee. Anger coursed through him. Enough was enough. He was tired of giving Haley space. That had been a mistake, and it was time to correct it. He nodded emphatically, picked up the cup and drained it. For the first time in weeks, he felt clear-headed and decisive. He rose and went out to Marge’s desk.
"Get me a reservation on the first flight to Montana."
"Good morning to you too!" Marge grinned up at him.
"It is a good morning," Jeff said heartily. "Or it will be once I get back there."
"Looks like you had an epiphany during the night."
"You might say that." Jeff winked. "I decided to go back and find my sense of humor."
"I’ll let you know when I have your reservation." Marge said with a sly grin. "You sure you don't want to tell me about what happened between you and Dr. Gant during that blizzard?"
"That’s for me to know and you to wonder about." Whistling, Jeff turned and went back to his office. He’d just sat down when the phone buzzed.
"Got that reservation already?"
"Not yet, Mr. Talent," Marge said, formally. "You have a visitor. Dr. Haley Gant."
Jeff dropped the phone and raced to the door. When he jerked it open, the woman standing next to Marge’s desk turned.
Gone were the ponytail and jeans. No thermal knit undershirt peeked from the vee opening of a plaid shirt. Instead, red lipstick outlined Haley’s mouth to perfection. Her hair was coiled in a simple twist. She looked as cosmopolitan as any woman in the city. But the gray eyes sparkling with some unnamed emotion were unmistakably the same.
Jeff couldn’t suppress his grin of delight. "Haley! You’re not in Montana!"
"How astute you are, Mr. Talent." Haley arched one dark brow as she walked toward him.
Jeff devoured her with his eyes. She was wonderful this way too. Her eyes held his gaze. He realized what emotion shimmered in her beautiful gray eyes. Anger.
Cautiously, he stepped back. "Why don’t you come in and tell me what's on your mind?"
She breezed past him. He caught the scent of perfume, a fragrance that made him think of tropical flowers. His imagination took a short leap to his favorite fantasy - Haley and him and miles of golden sand. Coconut-scented suntan oil. Her luscious body with no flannel shirt, no jeans, no longjohns, no blanket between her skin and his.
"You can wipe that silly grin off your face," Haley snapped. She clenched her hands around the slim briefcase she carried. If she let go of the case, she knew she’d make a grab for him. Why did he have to look so good?
His was the face she saw in her dreams. He was the man she wanted, but it was obvious from the nasty demand letter he’d sent that he had no thoughts about her other than ones related to EnviroMed’s project.
Jeff realized he was still holding the door wide, and no doubt, she was right. He probably did have a silly grin on his face. "Sorry," he said, closing the door and walking toward her. He didn’t know how to begin. He'd made a mess of things before, and he didn't want to blow it again. What could he say to make her forget what a jackass he'd been?
What could he say to make her fall into his arms? That's all he wanted. Haley in his arms again.
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