Sweet Persuasion(6)

By: Maya Banks

Carrie’s expression softened, and Serena smiled in satisfaction. Carrie really was the perfect assistant. She had a heart of gold and an undying commitment to making people happy.

“Her parents called a few minutes ago to thank you,” Carrie said softly. “This means the world to them. I think it was wonderful for you to make the arrangements at no charge.”

Serena shifted uncomfortably, her cheeks tightening under Carrie’s scrutiny. “Yeah, well, it’ll make a nice tax write-off.”

Amusement glinted in Carrie’s eyes. “You can’t fool me, Serena. You’re a big ole softie, even if you won’t admit it.”

“Did you arrange the tour?” Serena asked impatiently.

Still grinning, Carrie plopped a folder onto Serena’s desk. “All done. You just need to call Michelle’s parents with the final dates and times after you’ve touched base with the cruise line.”

“Okay, I’ll do that now,” Serena said. “Then we can mark one more fantasy off our list.”

“And don’t forget to eat lunch,” Carrie called over her shoulder as she walked out of Serena’s office.

“Yes, Mother,” Serena muttered.

She glanced down at the file that Carrie had dropped on her desk. Michelle stared back at her, a waiflike little girl who’d seen way too much horror in her young life. If Serena could make her smile, even for a short while, it was worth every penny.

She picked up the phone and dialed her contact at the cruise line. A few minutes later, she rang off, satisfied that all the arrangements had been made for Michelle’s once-in-a-lifetime trip. She hesitated as she started to dial Michelle’s parents’ number then changed her mind and buzzed for Carrie instead.

“Can you call Michelle’s folks and let them know that everything has been taken care of? I’m going to go grab lunch.”

A light chuckle worked over the intercom. “Chicken. Yeah, I’ll call them. You can’t avoid them forever, Serena. They’ll want to thank you in person.”

Serena grimaced and broke the connection. This was why she had an assistant. Meeting grateful parents was much more Carrie’s forte than it was Serena’s. Serena could make decisions, run the business, but Carrie had a natural affinity for people that made her a better choice as the company’s spokesperson.

Stretching her feet to feel around for her shoes, she snagged them with her toe and then slid them on. After grabbing her handbag, she tossed her cell phone inside and headed for the door. As she walked by Carrie’s office, she heard her assistant’s cheerful voice as she passed on the information to Michelle’s parents.

A smile crept over her mouth despite her attempt not to become involved in the more personal details of Michelle’s trip. She stepped into the hot summer air and closed her eyes as the sun brushed across her face.

It was muggy and hot, but she loved the weather in Houston. Even the perpetual haze that hung over the city in the summertime didn’t bother her.

As she reached for her car keys, her cell phone rang. With a sigh, she fumbled for it and looked at the LCD. She frowned when she didn’t recognize the number. It could be a client.

“This is Serena James,” she said by way of greeting as she continued on to her car.

“Miss James, this is Damon Roche.”

His deep voice crawled up her spine and hit her right at the base of her skull. She hadn’t expected to hear back from him.

“How did you get this number?” she demanded, then winced when she realized she sounded exactly as he had when she’d first called him.

His chuckle rolled through the line. “It’s my turn to intrude. Your number didn’t register when you called me so I had to track you down using other methods. You’re a hard lady to find.”

“Not too hard, apparently,” she murmured.

“I called Faith,” he said simply. “I apologize for my earlier rudeness. It was uncalled for, particularly as you are a friend of someone I care a lot about. Now, what can I do for you?”

Serena grimaced. “Faith didn’t tell you?”

“Of course not,” he said smoothly. “She only told me that you needed my help. Have you had lunch yet?”

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