The Only Solution(6)

By: Leigh Michaels

She didn’t recognize him as a representative of any of the companies they usually dealt with. In her experience, he was too well-dressed to be a government sort, which left the probability he was one of the attorneys involved in the bankruptcy. In any case, it was nothing to do with her, and she turned back to her portfolio just as the secretary stood up and pointed to Wendy’s cubicle.

Her heart missed a beat. But only, she told herself, because his business – whatever it was – was apt to make her late for her interview. She muttered a couple of words under her breath and started to stuff her portfolio back in the drawer. Then she reconsidered and left it on the blotter. She had Jed’s permission to leave early, and surely at this late date no one could blame her for not feeling much loyalty to the company.

The man crossed the room without hurry and paused in the opening which passed for a door.

Wendy picked up a note pad and pushed it into her portfolio. She didn’t look up. “I’m so sorry, but I’m just on my way out of the office. Someone else can help you.”

“I’m afraid not, Miss Miller.”

Her hands froze on the portfolio, and she thought, illogically, that he sounded different in person, without fifteen hundred miles of telephone wire between them.

No. That couldn’t be. She slowly raised her head to look at him, reminding herself that this man couldn’t possibly be Samuel Burgess. He probably didn’t sound anything like him, either – not really. It was only a trick of the mind.

He had braced one hand against the back of a chair and was leaning on it. “Our conversation was interrupted,” he said levelly. “I’ve come a long way to finish it.”

“You’re not Marissa’s father,” she said irrationally. But his eyes were almost the same color – a bit deeper blue than Marissa’s had been, perhaps, and without the dark ring around the iris.

“No. I’m her brother.”

“But I talked to…”

“You asked for Samuel Burgess. Since my father’s retirement, I’m the only one of that name at the Burgess Group, so the call automatically came to me. What’s the matter, Miss Miller? Would you have been more comfortable dealing with an old man? Did you think he might be starting to lose his faculties and would be easier to persuade?”

“I didn’t–”

“And what did you want to persuade him to do, anyway? I’m afraid I didn’t give you much of a chance to make your demands, but I’m all ears now.”

She bent over the portfolio again. Her hands were shaking. She’d starve herself to death before she’d expose Rory – precious, helpless little Rory – to this sharp and sarcastic man.

“Nothing,” she said. “No demands. No requests. No favors. I told you – I made a mistake.”

There was a second’s pause. His voice was almost casual. “So there’s no baby?”

“No.” She picked up the portfolio and stepped around the end of her desk. But the cubicle was narrow, and he was blocking her path to the opening.

“That’s a monumental error, I’d say,” he mused. “And a rather strange one, too. The people at your apartment complex told me there’s a baby.”

She hadn’t given an instant’s thought to how he had traced her to the office, or what he had already known about her before he came, and she had to scramble for an answer. “I meant, she’s not Marissa’s baby. She’s mine.”

Another pause, and then he said levelly, “So the Burgesses have nothing to do with it.”

Wendy looked him straight in the eye. “Absolutely nothing.”

He seemed to relax a little.

She had expected that sort of reaction – relief, perhaps, that there were no loose ends to his sister’s life after all. No wonder Marissa hadn’t wanted her family to raise her baby! Wendy was glad he wasn’t going to push it farther. Still, the easy way he’d passed over Rory’s existence, without even bothering to check it for himself, stung a little, and her voice was thick. “If you’ll excuse me, Mr. Burgess...”

Trying to push past him was like attempting to shove a building out of the way. “Just to satisfy my curiosity, Miss Miller, were you intending to sell the baby to my father, or were you simply trying out a spot of blackmail?”

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