Seduced:The Unexpected Virgin(8)

By: Emily McKay

So by the time Emma knocked on the door and stuck her head into Ana’s office, Ana was feeling surly and disgruntled.

Immediately reading Ana’s mood, Emma asked, “Aren’t you pleased with all we accomplished today? It feels like things are really starting to take off.”

Ana shrugged noncommittally as she crossed her arms over her chest. And then quickly dropped them to her side. This was one of the disadvantages of working with someone who knew you so well.

Ana’s parents had worked for the Worths for years. She’d spent her teenage years living in the apartment over their garage. Though Ana’s family was hired help, Emma’s kindness and generosity meant they hadn’t been treated that way. Ana and Emma were practically sisters.

She tried not to be annoyed by Emma’s cheerful demeanor. Within the past month, Emma had fallen in love with Chase Larson, Rafe’s stepbrother. It certainly wasn’t Emma’s fault that she was practically glowing with the combination of love-infused happiness and pregnancy hormones. Of course she was happy for her friend. And yet, Ana couldn’t help but feel Emma’s new status as pregnant and soon-to-be-married only highlighted Ana’s own perpetual and permanent state as a singleton.

But none of that had any relevance to Hannah’s Hope.

Ana tapped her fingers on her desk. “It feels like a lot of big dreams that we aren’t going to be able to do anything about.”

Emma frowned at the unexpected censure. “Me, I’m thrilled.” She took a sip from the bottle of water that she seemed to carry with her constantly now that she was pregnant. “I think we came up with a lot of great ideas. What about the street fair? Surely you love that idea.”

Christi had thrown out the idea halfway through the brainstorming. Instead of hosting an open house next week on a weekday evening, they would host a street fair in downtown Vista del Mar at the end of the month. They could generate far more publicity as well as draw in plenty of passersby. Everyone else had loved the idea.

“It’s not that it’s a bad idea. But we still have so much real work to do to get Hannah’s Hope off the ground. I’m still working with our accountant to file our 501(c)(3) application. I don’t want us to get distracted planning something fun when there’s serious work that needs to get done.”

“This isn’t a distraction.” Emma’s tone showed her excitement. “Now that we’re up and running, how many people really know about us? We need to reach out to the community and let people see everything we have to offer, both to clients and to volunteers. This is the perfect way to do that.”

“I’m not saying a street fair won’t be fun, I’m just not sure it’s the best use of our resources.”

“That’s the beauty of getting local businesses to donate goods and services. And if Ward really can get some up-and-coming local act to perform, we’ll be golden.”

Omar was the one who had brought up the possibility of Ward performing. Ward had smoothly dodged the question by offering up the services of the musician whose albums he was producing.

“Yeah, great.” Here she was trying to play the taskmaster and get everyone to complete paperwork and Ward swept in with his fun ideas and yummy muffins. Was it any wonder she resented him for charming her staff so efficiently? Maybe she could more easily forgive him if she wasn’t so afraid of falling under his spell herself. Maybe she should be glad he wasn’t going to perform. She might not survive the excitement. “By the way, do you have any idea why he won’t perform himself? I’ve always wondered…”

“No, I don’t.” Emma gave a quick slice of her hand to indicate Ana should stop talking, then bobbed her head in the direction of the hall leading toward the back door. “Anyway,” she said loudly. “I’ve got to go. Lots of things to do. Favors to call in and whatnot.” She raised her eyebrows in silent question. “We’ll talk later?”

Ana pressed her lips together and nodded. Obviously, Ward was coming down the hall. What was it with him sneaking in the back door, anyway?

Emma excused herself just as Ward appeared in her doorway. Ana had hoped she wouldn’t have to see him again today. Certainly not alone. Weren’t lazy stars supposed to be whiling away the afternoon by the pool or something? For that matter, wasn’t he supposed to be a lazy star? Why couldn’t he just throw a temper tantrum or snort some kelp like she’d expected him to?

“Do you have a minute?” he asked but didn’t wait for her answer before entering her office and shutting the door behind him.

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