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Authors: Nicole Helm

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #AcM

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BOOK: Too Close to Resist
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“Because you were living and breathing that wedding. And when
Montana Skies
signed on for the photo essay, you spent the majority of your time in another world that had nothing to do with the job. Even when you were there, you weren’t there.”

“I did my job,” Shae protested.

“You went through the motions. Gerald and Risa were forever clearing up loose threads you left.”

“They’re my assistants.” And if there was one thing Shae was good at, it was delegating.

“You weren’t doing
your
part.”

“Well,” Shae said briskly as she got back to her feet. “Thank you so much for stopping by. I feel better now.”

“I’m not here to bury the knife deeper,” Mel said bluntly.

Shae wrinkled her forehead. “Then why does it feel so much like that’s exactly what’s happening?”

Mel sighed. “Pretending you were fired for a bogus reason might make you feel better tonight, but it won’t help in the long run.” She nodded at the bottle. “Are you willing to share, or do you need the whole thing?”

“I’ll let you have a little,” Shae said, getting to her feet and walking into the kitchen. With altitude the tequila had more of an effect. She turned around.

“Maybe you’d better have
that
shot,” she said pointing at the glass she’d left on the coffee table. Getting drunk out of her mind sounded good in theory, but was the aftermath worth it? Wasn’t she dealing with enough aftermath as it was? “If you’re not afraid of loser germs.”

Mel smirked at her as she reached for the shot and sipped at it. Mel always had been a sipper, very much like Liv, while Shae was a tosser. She liked to have the whole thing. Now.

“Have you told Whitney and Bree and Heather—”

“No,” Shae called from the kitchen, stopping Mel before she could name all seven bridesmaids. She turned on the faucet, filled a glass, thought about what she wanted to say. A moment later she walked back to the doorway, took a sip of water and faced the truth. “I don’t think they’re that anxious to hear from me.” She’d run them hard for over a year. As the plans had escalated, so had their duties, and she had been sensing some rebellion close to the end. Besides that, there was the embarrassment factor. Dumped
and
fired.

Shae gave a sniff, feeling the ridiculous tears starting to surface. She was not going to fall apart. Not again. “How’d Risa’s presentation go?” she asked as she came to sit beside Mel, who’d barely made a dent in the tequila shot.

“Not so well,” Mel said. “Miranda was there, and you know the effect she has on people.”

“I know the effect she’s had on me,” Shae said darkly. Hearing that Risa had crashed and burned wasn’t as satisfying as it should have been. “And do you know what really fries me? I admired her. I thought that she was a tough, capable businesswoman.” She’d actually thought they were two of a kind, confident go-getters who said what they thought, went after what they wanted.

“I think she still is, Shae.”

Shae hated hearing that. Hated thinking that she’d screwed herself here. Much better to feel the victim...except that Shae never embraced that sort of role. She changed things that needed to be changed until she was happy with them.

How was she going to change this?

“So you’re saying I lost my own job,” she finally said.

“It was like wedding planning possessed you.”

“Planning a wedding is time-consuming and stressful,” Shae said, once again eyeing the tequila bottle.

“I understand, but it was...” Mel made an odd face. “You were...” She shifted her position on the sofa, turning toward Shae with a frown knitting her forehead. “It was like everything had to be beyond perfect—bigger and better than any wedding anyone had ever seen.”

“There’s a problem there?”

“There is if you let the need to be the best rule your life.”

“I like things to be...nice.”

“Over-the-top nice.” Mel exhaled and settled back against the cushions. “I’m just trying to point out what got you into this trouble. And until the wedding plans began, you poured that energy into the job, which was why Miranda loved you. And Gerald and Risa hated you.”

“Gee. Thanks so much.”

“You know it’s true,” Mel said. “And you know it doesn’t bother you that they resent you.”

“Touché.”

“Do you have any leads for jobs?”

“I’ve only been fired for a matter of hours.”

“Are you telling me you don’t already have a plan?”

“I have a list of firms to cold-call,” Shae admitted before sipping the water again. “I’ve posted my résumé on the job-search sites.” Her mouth tilted down at the corners. “I want my old job back. I liked it. And Mel, I was ten months away from being vested in retirement. Ten months!”

Mel reached out to squeeze her shoulder. “If you need a reference, I can give you one.”

“Meaning Wallace won’t?”

“I don’t know. Depends on Miranda.”

“Yeah.” Shae pinched the bridge of her nose for a moment. She’d get past this. Mel finally finished off the shot and set the glass on the table.

“I have a study session. Are you going to be all right here? Because I can cancel and stay.”

“Don’t do that,” Shae said. She would have liked the company, but she was beginning to think some alone time wouldn’t be bad, either. She’d had enough hard truths for one night.

Mel picked up her purse, then gestured to the tequila bottle. “Maybe you should do yourself a favor after I leave...pour the rest of that bottle down the sink.”

Shae flashed her friend a frown. Damned if she was pouring good tequila down the sink. Shae picked up the bottle, putting the stopper back in and pressing it down hard before handing it to Mel. “If it makes you feel better, take custody. I really need to be alone.”

“Are you sure?”

“No. I want you to stay and tell me about how I had my head up my ass for months.”

Mel smiled. “Call if you need me?”

Shae closed her eyes. Mel was the best friend she’d ever had. And the most sensible. Maybe this was the time to tell her that her head had been where the sun didn’t shine, while she was still reeling from shock. That way it didn’t ruin yet another day. “I’ll call,” she said. “Will you be available to answer? I know how you are when you study.”

“I’ll leave the phone on.” She gave Shae a quick hug. “Call.”

“I will.”

Once Mel’s footsteps faded into the distance, the apartment was too quiet. So quiet that the lack of sound seemed to press in on her. Where were the noisy neighbors when she needed them?

The phone rang then, the vibration making it dance on the glass coffee table. Shae glanced at the number. Vivian calling for the second time since hearing Shae’s most recent bad news. Shae wanted to ignore the call, but if she did, her stepmother would be there knocking on the door, probably with her father in tow.

The phone rang again. One more ring and it would go to voice mail....

Taking a deep breath and suddenly regretting the lack of readily available tequila, Shae picked up the phone, forced a smile and said hello. Her father’s voice, heavy with concern, answered her.

“Shae, honey. We’re in Missoula and Vivian wants to stop by, if it’s not too late.”

In Missoula? At this hour?

“Dad, I’d love to see you,” Shae said. There was no way she could turn them away after they’d obviously driven in from their home a good hour away.

“We’re right outside. I thought it might be too late, but we passed Mel as we turned into the cul-de-sac.”

“Come on in,” Shae said, picking up the shot glass and carrying to the dishwasher, where she popped it in out of sight. “See you in a few.”

She hung up, raced into the bathroom and quickly gargled some mouthwash. If Vivian thought she was drowning her sorrows, no telling what steps she’d take. Seconds later the doorbell rang.

Vivian hovered for a moment, then said, “I can’t help it,” and threw her arms around Shae. “I’m so sorry, sweetie.”

Shae tried to smile as she gently eased out of Vivian’s embrace and then hugged her father.

“I called around,” her father said. “Checked with some buddies to see if they’ve heard of any openings. No luck yet, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.”

“The problem is the real-estate market,” Vivian lamented, taking Shae’s hand and leading her to the sofa.

“I know,” Shae replied gamely.

“Of course, we’ll help you with the bills until you get back on your feet,” her father said. Shae started to say
thank you,
but he held up a hand. “No arguments.”

“I appreciate that,” Shae said. The bills were her big concern at the moment. She’d charged an entire trousseau and had yet to see the final damages. And then there were the living expenses, which were going to catch up with her soon, since she’d been living paycheck to paycheck, spending every dime she had, as well as several dimes she didn’t have, on the wedding. “I’ll pay you back, of course.”

“Of course,” Vivian said, shooting a glance toward her husband that Shae couldn’t quite interpret. “Whenever you can.”

Her father sat down on the sofa, pulling a list out of his jacket pocket. “Here are the guys I contacted for you. You should check back in with them periodically. Several of them owe me favors. The ones without check marks are people I couldn’t get hold of.”

Shae stared down at the list, a bit overwhelmed. Her parents were in full rescue mode, and even though a small voice inside her protested, it was soon overpowered by logic and necessity. These were her parents. This was what they did, and Shae wasn’t about to stop them.

Copyright © 2014 by Jeannie Steinman

ISBN-13: 9781460333693

TOO CLOSE TO RESIST

Copyright © 2014 by Nicole Helm

All rights reserved. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical,
now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of publisher, Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either 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. This edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

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BOOK: Too Close to Resist
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