Authors: Erica Matthews
Falling for the Boss
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e-book can be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted without the written permission of the author.
This book is fiction and
its characters are purely a manifestation of the imagination of the author. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, places, and events is entirely coincidental. (1)
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The historic district of Charleston was just beginning to come alive on this first real morning of spring. Though the calendar had promised warmer weather weeks ago, Mother Nature had only recently taken her cue. The young woman strolling hurriedly down the sidewalk hardly had time to appreciate this concession. Her thoughts were focused on the day ahead.
he arrived at the side door of an imposing mansion, she paused a moment to catch her breath. Once inside, her movements were purposeful as she ensured that each room was in readiness for the tourists who would soon be viewing them. The library was her last stop, and here she took time to peer through the heavy, velvet curtains at the cloudless blue sky she hadn’t had time to notice earlier. The mellow rays of sunshine filtering through the beveled glass windows settled on her golden head. With an inward sigh, the woman allowed the curtain to fall back into place. Another day of work had begun.
Her morning routine
complete, the woman turned to go. As she did so, her attention was caught by the appearance of another across the room. Despite a feeling of urgency, she hesitated, smiling impishly at the petite figure in the beige suit. Her smile was returned immediately, giving animation to a face that possessed no particular mark of beauty except for a pair of exceptionally pretty dark blue eyes.
I don’t have time to talk to you today,” the woman called out teasingly. “I’m already late as it is.” Blowing a kiss in the direction of a gilded mirror on the opposite wall, she darted out of the room.
An hour later
, she was escorting a group of tourists into the garden, a wry smile pulling at her soft mouth. Their general lack of attention made her think they had stayed out late the night before. They would no doubt remember little of what she had so faithfully imparted.
“Well, Maggie, the search appears to be over
These words made
her turn swiftly, her lips widening into an amused grin when she caught sight of the satisfied look on the approaching woman’s face. “Does two days constitute a search? I can’t believe they found someone already.”
That someone is a ‘he’ and he’s coming here tomorrow. I’m giving you the dubious honor of showing him around.”
Don’t you think it would be better if you took him around, Brenda? Not only are you the manager of this place, but you’re ten times prettier than me.”
Brenda laughed softly and shook her head.
“Can you see me giving a tour? I can barely remember my own name, and I get the feeling he’s one of those meticulous types. I’ll have my hands full explaining the business side of things. Anyway, I asked him to come at nine – before the tours get started. It’ll be just the two of you.”
aggie rolled her eyes. “Lucky me. I better go or the natives will get restless.”
With an amused nod, Brenda turned back
toward her office, and Maggie made her way to the crowded foyer. During the rest of what turned out to be a busy day, part of her mind dwelt on this surprising turn of events. She hadn’t really believed the owners of Bradford House, an eccentric, elderly couple hardly ever seen beyond a token appearance at the annual Christmas party, would actually part with their popular tourist attraction.
By the time she boarded
a bus for the ride home, the specter of the following morning didn’t seem so nerve-wracking. It was just a tour – like so many others she had done. Bidding the friendly driver goodbye, Maggie walked briskly past aged exteriors of once-elegant homes before turning sharply into a narrow passage flanked on either side by a tall hedge. The passage ended abruptly at a stout wooden door. Collecting her few items of mail from the box, she let herself into the basement apartment she called home.
Just inside the door sat a
handsome black and white cat. The feline watched with solemn eyes as Maggie dropped her purse on the coffee table and sank down on the sofa with a heartfelt sigh. After a few moments, the cat jumped lightly onto Maggie’s lap.
“Changes are coming, Mittens. And sooner than we thought.
I wonder how it will all turn out.”
Change had become a staple of Maggie’s life in the
last few years. Her father’s sudden illness and death coupled with her mother’s uncharacteristic dependence on Maggie had had a significant effect on her plans. Ready to spread her wings, she had been forced to shelve dreams of finishing college upon learning the true state of the family’s finances.
aving done so, Maggie made the best of the situation and would have continued to do so except that once again matters were taken out of her hands. This time change took the form of a man. Though Maggie could well understand her mother’s desire for male companionship, she hadn’t been able to approve her mother’s choice. A convenient job transfer for her stepfather just weeks after the wedding had necessitated a move to Atlanta, something Maggie suspected had been planned all along. Her new relation made it clear her company wasn’t necessary or desired.
no one to consult or plan for but herself, Maggie acted on sheer impulse, quitting the office job she’d grown to despise. Before the panic this action might have produced set in, she had come across an advertisement in the newspaper for a tour guide.
five-story mansion brimming with priceless antiques and an intriguing history had captured Maggie’s heart. If it was possible to fall in love with a house, she had done so. Bradford House seemed to welcome her from the moment she stepped into the wood paneled foyer.
He may not like the house, you know,” she mused aloud, startling Mittens who was half asleep on her lap. “But then again, I don’t know if that would be a good thing or not.”
work the following morning, Maggie breezed into Brenda’s tiny office and calmly fixed herself a cup of tea. The reasons for this ease in a situation that might have been viewed with trepidation were easily explained. First and foremost, Maggie didn’t possess a nervous disposition. Less grounded in actual fact was her assumption that whoever this man might be, he was unlikely to be an expert on a house he had never seen. The final layer of comfort was the satisfying mental image Maggie had spent the better part of the previous evening creating.
Taking the few clues Brenda had provided, it had
n’t been difficult for Maggie’s lively imagination to fill in the details. An older man, she reasoned, nearing retirement, with no interest in Bradford House except to collect the lavish earnings generated by one of Charleston’s oldest and most toured homes. Someone like that would suit them all very well. A faint smile tugged at her lips as she absently stirred her tea. Its appearance provoked a comment from Brenda.
You look pleased with life this morning, Maggie. By the way, I’ve learned that our mystery man’s name is Marcus Seymour. He’s an attorney by trade and something of an expert on civil war history.”
Better and better, thought Maggie
. Before she could reply, the familiar chime of the front door reached her ears. Setting aside her cup, she glanced casually in the mirror across the room and tucked an errant strand of golden hair into place.
Don’t look so worried, Brenda. I’ll have this stuffy lawyer eating out of my hand in no time.”
Maggie swung open the ornately carved door, the welcoming smile on her face froze into place and the words she’d spoken so lightheartedly just moments ago seemed ridiculously short-sighted. The vision, for he could be called nothing else, standing on the doorstep wasn’t the white-haired gentleman she’d been expecting.
Tall and slimly built, Maggie guessed
the man to be in his thirties. His dark brown hair was cut short and yet still managed to wave attractively around his head. And then those eyes! They were a deep, vivid green; reminding her of the seas surrounding the exotic islands one always found pictured in travel magazines.
All in all, a
very handsome man, she concluded; probably the most handsome she’d ever run across in her twenty-two years. It was unfortunate the expression on his almost-too-perfect features was so cold and aloof.
ed with reality and won easily. This example of manly perfection couldn’t be their attorney. Maggie summoned an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t open for tours until ten.”
A flicker of
irritation passed over the man’s face. “I’m aware of your hours of operation. Brenda is expecting me.”
was having trouble reordering her thoughts. In a rush of words she later realized must have sounded both gauche and rude, she asked, “You’re Marcus Seymour?”
“I’ve always thought so
,” he returned coolly.
As the words sa
nk in, Maggie attempted to mitigate her former comments. “I do apologize, but I was expecting someone older.”
admission brought the merest glimmer of a smile to his face. “How much older? I can probably give you fifteen years as it is.”
With the feeling of having fallen
into a bottomless pit of her own making, Maggie stood aside. “I’m Maggie Pelham, one of the guides at Bradford House. Brenda asked me to take you around the house before she meets with you. If you’ll step this way, we’ll begin with the small sitting room just behind me.”
As the tour progressed,
the vision listened attentively, asked intelligent questions, and displayed considerable knowledge of the furnishings and historical significance of the house. Maggie, a lover of history and something of an expert on antiques, was impressed. She never imagined someone so decorative would turn out to be knowledgeable not to mention interested in such mundane things as furniture and paintings.
As they were returning to the house from viewing the garden, they met
Brenda, who’d been watching their progress with avid interest from the ballroom window. Maggie introduced the two and escaped downstairs to what was known as the break room, a rather gloomy place tucked away in the basement.
As she tidied her already neat hair and powdered her nose,
Maggie’s thoughts kept returning to Marcus Seymour. What had he thought of the house? It had been impossible to get any inkling of his opinion from either his expression or comments.
She wondered if he would mention her mistake to Brenda
, and then she wondered why she even cared. Maggie met hundreds of people every day and never thought about them again once their paths parted at the end of the tour. It must be the fact that she had been taken by surprise. Their next meeting, should there be one, would be different. She knew what to expect.
Not far away,
Brenda waved Marcus to the only other chair in her office. When he silently handed her a packet of brochures that had been resting there since their arrival some days previously, she laughed nervously and hurried into speech.
I hope Maggie took good care of you and was able to answer your questions.”
their initial exchange and hid a smile. “She could hardly have done better, possessing both a pleasing voice and a thorough knowledge of her subject matter. Moreover, there’s nothing in her mannerisms or physical appearance to distract one from the tour.”
accepted this blunt summation of the best guide to ever cross the threshold of Bradford House with admirable composure. “That’s all to the good, isn’t it? Most of our visitors aren’t interested in anything but the house.”
Marcus refrained from pointing out that visitors would likely
continue to confine their interest to the house if Maggie was representative of the guides employed there. Instead he inquired about the tourist business, a subject near and dear to Brenda’s heart.
After a half hour of conversation, she realized she
’d learned next to nothing about the man sitting across from her, and had divulged quite a bit of information about herself and the staff. Feeling that time was slipping away, and despite his obvious desire to keep his impressions to himself, Brenda gathered her courage.
Should you decide to purchase Bradford House, what are your plans?”
This house is an important part of the historic district. I would hate to see any alteration in such a successful partnership between past and present.”
Though his manner
was pleasant, it was obvious he wasn’t going to say anything further. Accordingly, Brenda dropped the subject and escorted him to his car, a glittering silver convertible whose price tag would have paid her salary for several years.
caught a glimpse of Marcus as he left and wondered again about the results of the morning’s activities. Had she done her job well enough? She never got the chance to ask the only person who could tell her.
evening, she found herself thinking about him again. As before, she marveled that he could have made such an impression. He wasn’t the only good-looking man she’d ever met.
few days later her curiosity was satisfied. Brenda, catching her between tours, imparted the exciting news. “We’re about to acquire a new owner, and we all have you to thank.”