Be Mine - By Jennifer Crusie

CHAPTER ONE

“BUT, I DON’T WANT A partner,” Emily Tate said through her teeth. “I like working alone.” She clenched her fists to pound them on the desk in front of her and then unclenched them and smoothed down the jacket of her business suit, instead. “I don’t need a partner, George.”

Her boss looked exasperated, and she automatically put her hand to her hair to make sure every strand was in place, that no dark curls had escaped from her tight French twist. Be cool, calm and detached, she told herself. I want to kill him for this.

“Look, Em.” George tossed a folder across the table to her. “Those are the cost estimates from your Paradise project and the final costs after you brought the project in.”

Emily winced and clasped her hands in front of her. “I know. I went way over. But we still showed a mammoth profit. In fact, Paradise was the biggest money-maker Evadne Inc. has ever had. The bottom line, George, is that we made money for the company.” I made money for the company, she thought, but I can’t say that. Be modest and cooperative, Emily.

“Yeah, we did.” George Bartlett leaned back in his chair, looking up at her.

I hate it when he does that, Emily thought. He’s short, fat and balding, and he doesn’t have a quarter of my brains, but he’s the one leaning back in the chair while I stand at attention. I want to be the one leaning back in the chair. Except I wouldn’t. It would be rude. She sighed.

“Listen to me, Emily,” George said. “You almost lost your job over this last project.”

“You got a promotion because of this last project,” Emily said.

“Yeah, because of the profit. If it hadn’t made a profit, we’d have both been canned. Henry wasn’t happy.”

Henry Evadne was never happy, Emily thought. It didn’t have anything to do with her.

George leaned forward. “I don’t want to lose you, Emily. You’re smart, and you have a sixth sense about marketing that I’d kill to have. But you screw up the financial side on this next deal, and no profit is going to save you, no matter how big.”

Emily swallowed. “I’ll bring it in under budget.”

“You’re damn right you will, because you’ll be working with Richard Parker.”

“Who is Richard Parker?”

“He’s a whiz kid from the Coast,” George said. “He did an analysis of the Paradise project. It’s in the folder, too. You ought to read it. He wasn’t too complimentary.”

“George, how much have we made on Paradise?” Emily demanded.

George looked smug. “Close to four million as of last month.”

“Then why am I getting whiz kids from the Coast and nasty reviews in my project folders? Where’s the champagne?”

George shook his head. “You could have flopped.”

“I never flop.”

“Well, someday you will,” George said philosophically. “And when you do, you better flop under budget. Which is exactly what Richard Parker is here to guarantee. You’re meeting him at eleven in his office.”

“His office?”

“Next floor up,” George said with a grin. “Two doors from the president. Nice view from up there, I’m told.”

“Why not my office?”

“Emily, please.”

“Is he in charge of this project? Because if so, I quit.”

“No, no.” George waved his hands at her. “Just the financial end. And you’re not the only one he’s working with. He’s financial adviser for all our projects. It’s still your baby, Em. He just watches the spending.” He looked at her closely. She’d made her face a blank, but she knew the anger was still in her eyes. “Emily, please cooperate.”

“His office at eleven,” she said, clamping down on her rage.

“That’s it,” George said, relieved.

* * *

EMILY SLAMMED HER OFFICE door and slumped into her rolling desk chair. Jane, her secretary, followed her in more sedately and sat in the chair across from her. She broke a frozen almond Hershey bar in half and tossed the larger piece to her boss.

“I keep this in the coffee-room freezer for emergencies,” she said. “And I’ve given you the biggest half. Greater love hath no friend.”

“How do you keep people from stealing it?” Emily asked, pulling off the foil.

“They know I work for you,” Jane said. “They know I could send you after them.”

“No, really, how do you do it?”

“I keep it in a freezer container marked ‘Asparagus,’” Jane said, sucking on the chocolate.

“And nobody asks what you’re doing with asparagus at work?” Emily broke off a small piece of the chocolate and put it on her tongue. The richness spread through her mouth, and she