What happens when an analytical numbers man meets a mercurial marketing Rep? Romance is a calculated risk.
Whoever said opposites attract was right, of course…but no one ever said what they attract.
Jilted by the latest of her father’s choices of “real men,” Cisney Baldwin rashly accepts an invitation to spend Thanksgiving weekend with a sympathetic colleague and his family. Nick LeCrone is a man too much her opposite to interest her and too mild-mannered to make her overbearing father’s “list.” Now, Cisney fears Nick wants to take advantage of her vulnerable state over the holiday. Boy, is she wrong.
Nick wants little to do with Cisney. She drives him crazy with all her sticky notes and quirks. He extended an invitation because he felt sorry for her. Now he’s stuck, and to make matters worse, his family thinks she’s his perfect match. He’ll do what he can to keep his distance, but there’s just one problem—he’s starting to believe Cisney’s magnetism is stronger than he can resist.
In search of the yellow sticky with her ideas for today’s meeting, Cisney Baldwin sifted through papers on her desk. She had a choice: honor her rash commitment to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with Nick LeCrone and his family, or lie and join her friends on the Colorado ski slopes.
Biting cold air and exhilarating speed might keep her mind off slime-ball Jason. And, she’d need her Richmond friends nearby to nurse her self-esteem after she told Daddy she’d lost his pick for her future.
She planted fists on her hips and stared at the papers sprinkled with yellow stickies that covered her workspace. Minutes before her meetings with Nick, she could never put her fingers on her notes. Why did this always happen?
How was she going to face him today, after he’d stood in her office doorway last week and watched her disintegrate during Jason’s dump-Cisney phone call? If only she’d stopped there, but no, she hung up and blubbered about the end of her six-month relationship and having nowhere to go for Thanksgiving.
She splayed her arms over her paper-covered desk and knocked her head on the piles. This was all Jason’s fault. Jason needed space? Right. What he needed was freedom to date that woman with a waist the size of his muscular neck.
She shot erect, raking her hair from her face.
Nick stood in her doorway. He didn’t have a greasy mop of hair or wear button-down shirts two sizes too small, but he carried a calculator loaded with countless complicated functions. The joke around Marketing was that actuaries were accountants without personalities.
Nick came from a long line of actuaries, several still kicking. And unlike go-getter, snap-decision-maker Jason, built like a football tackle, lean Nick was analytical, reserved, and deliberating.
Daddy would eat him for lunch.
She peeled a yellow sticky from her arm and stuck it back on her desk. “Hi. Come in and have a seat.” She moved aside a stack of company summaries. Her new marketing strategy would turn the profiled companies into customers for Virginia National Health Insurance—if Nick approved the financial risks.
As he eased into the chair beside her desk, she fiddled with her pen. She needed to back out of the weekend now, before he had a chance to give her holiday details. Which of her excuses would avoid hurting his feelings?
He hooked his arm over the back of the chair and rested his ankle on his knee, as if he had no upcoming trips on his mind. “Did you come up with an alternative to shortening the pre-existing period?”
Happy day! Could he have forgotten he’d invited her to spend Thanksgiving with his family? Oh, yeah, he never chitchatted before getting down to business. Didn’t he want to know how she was holding up the week after her boyfriend had dumped her? He must know her heart still hurt like a triple bypass.
She lifted a legal pad. None of the yellow stickies beneath it had miraculously morphed into the one she needed since the last time she’d checked. “Yes, I do have a couple of new ideas that came out of our focus groups.” If she could find them. She picked up an empty foam cup hinting of French vanilla and threw it into the trashcan. Maybe this was a good time to renege on their trip south.
Nick leaned over and removed a yellow sticky adhering to the side of her desk. “Is this what you’re looking for?”
She squinted. Yep, that was the sticky. “How’d it get there?”
The knowing smile on the tight-lipped man’s face probably meant he thought she’d resorted to using other surfaces of her desk, now that no space existed on top. What next, her forehead?
“Let’s see…” She turned over a memo and drew boxes, circles, squiggles, and lines, labeling them while she pitched her proposal. His gaze kept up with her scurrying pen, until the paper filled with shapes and words, and she stopped.
He studied her pen scratches.
Was he entering one of his endless deliberations of her great ideas? Cisney didn’t need this right now. Boyfriend problems and Thanksgiving among a family of actuaries still loitering on her calendar was enough. She would not nudge Nick for his opinions. Today, she’d let him sit and think. She’d bring blood to her lips before she’d say a word. She tapped her toe under the desk.
He didn’t move. Not a comment. Not a question.
Would it be impolite to ease her new phone from her pocket and set the stopwatch? She put down her pen and bit her lip. Cisney Ann, do not open your mouth.
She sat back and crossed her arms. Did Nick have a girlfriend? He wasn’t bad looking. Hair, ho-hum brown. Decent nose. Maybe turned slightly to the right? Lips…kissable, if actuaries knew how to kiss. Eyes…whoa. Nice job, Mr. and Mrs. LeCrone.
Why, in the year she’d professionally known this man, hadn’t she noticed how his abundant lashes framed and gave life to his gentle brown eyes? Probably because of the get-down-to-business glasses he always slipped on as soon as he sat.
Nick punched numbers on his calculator and jotted figures next to her drawings.
Ah, movement from the actuary. Come on, Risk Man, bless my proposal.
Who’d have thought this analytical man of few words would sympathize with her falling-apart moment and tell her she’d spend Thanksgiving with his family in some small town in North Carolina? Who’d have…?
Ha! He hadn’t asked her, he’d told her. She’d nodded, while she blew her nose, but her nod was ever so slight. So insignificant it didn’t count as a commitment.
“Sounds doable and the risks are manageable.”
She startled. “What?”
“They’re good ideas, Cisney.”
She sat up straight. “Really? I mean, that’s great.” She jetted her hands upward. “Hurray! I can move forward with actuarially sound ideas.”
He smiled while removing his glasses. “I knew you’d come up with something workable.”
Was that a second bona fide compliment? “Thanks, Nick.”
She rose as he stood. Time to weasel out of Thanksgiving with the LeCrones. Her heart hammered and her hands trembled. Could she deliver her spiel without her voice betraying her twist of the truth? She swallowed. She could do this. The words were simple: She was so sorry. When she’d accepted his kind offer during her stressful moment, she’d forgotten about the ski trip with her friends.
“Um…” Her tongue sought saliva, but finding none, ran over her lips like a dry cotton swab.
Let your yes be yes and your no be no.
But she needed the companionship of the other singles in Marketing. Marketing people were outgoing and fun. With Mom and Daddy in Germany, wasn’t a ski trip with her friends the balm for her wounded heart? Angela and the others were her safety net after she told Daddy his ideal future son-in-law had bolted.
Let your yes be yes and your no be no.
OK. Fine. She’d go with Nick.
He collected his calculator and legal pad. Wasn’t he going to give her trip details? After all, they would leave for his hometown in less than three days. She needed to know the Thanksgiving dress code and what time he’d pick her up.
He put his pen in his shirt pocket.
If he still wanted her to spend four days with his actuary infested family, why didn’t he act like it? She widened her eyes and arched her eyebrows. “Well…?”
He met her gaze. “Yes?”
She refused to drag trip information from him. He needed to learn to communicate. Before she’d met Jason’s parents, Jason told her to wear her royal blue dress, bring a homemade dish to wow his mother, and remove her shoes on the welcome mat.
She shrugged off her comment.
He moved to the door.
Lord, aren’t you going to prod him, as you so rightly did me?
Ah. Now he remembered he’d invited a guest who needed particulars.
He nodded at the paper she’d used to pitch her proposal. “As soon as you turn your collage into a document, get it to Julie, and she’ll run the official numbers.”
She stared at him, speechless.
He held up his hand in farewell and left.
She sank to her chair and thrust her hands toward the drop-ceiling tiles. “Actuaries! They should be forced to take remedial communication classes.”
Zoe M. McCarthy believes the little known fact that opposites distract. Thus, she spins inspirational contemporary romances entangling extreme opposites. Her tagline is “Distraction to Attraction, Magnetic Romances Between Opposites.” Calculated Risk, Zoe’s debut novel, will be available November 21, 2014. Christian Fiction Online Magazine published two of her short stories. Zoe enjoys leading workshops on the craft of writing, speaking about her faith, planning fun events for her 5 grandchildren, and exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains, where she lives with her husband, John.
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Off to read another great book!
Sandra M. Hart