Title: TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW
Author: BETH HENDERSON
Genre: ROMANTIC COMEDY
Success was hers . . . at least in her career. But when it came to love . . . well, she’d obviously inherited her mother’s talent for making bad choices when it came to men. With her biological clock ticking louder every year, Lauren Nugent decided that motherhood did not require a man to foul things up. Adoption was doable.
Except, it wasn’t a step she wanted to take unless she knew she was up to the challenge. Her sister oozed maternal instincts, made the job look easy, though Lauren doubted it was. But she wasn’t going to take the plunge into adopting until she knew whether she, too, had maternal instincts.
Hence, when co-worker Sam Hackett, a single superparent, able to juggle being both father and mother to his 18-month-old daughter, was jockeyed into a position where he was taking the “Hell, no, I won’t go” position, Lauren jumped into the fire. She volunteered to be the live-in babysitter while he was out of town. The question was, could she measure up in taking care of the toddler with such a TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW?
THE MYSTERY MAN was back.
Lauren Nugent knew he was there the moment the female staff filed by her open office door, leaving their desks en mass, drawn from their work by the magnetic attraction of a great looking man with a baby. Being the newcomer in the office, Lauren wasn’t sure if the women flocked to the man or to his tiny daughter.
She knew which one would draw her, and it wasn’t the baby.
Lauren stayed where she was and pretended to work. Considering the path her thoughts had been traveling recently, it should be the baby. Ever since her last birthday she’d begun evaluating her life as thoroughly as she did the customer complaints that crossed her desk at New Century Group Insurance. The future she foresaw wasn’t as full has she had thought it would be by now. Oh, her career was sailing along beautifully, but when it came to her personal life, there was nothing to boast about.
Had she been too busy being a success in business to notice there were things she was missing out on? Her sister Rella had always been the one gung-ho to be a wife and mother and look where it had gotten her. She’d been a young widow with children and no income until Kevin Lonergan turned up unexpectedly on Rella’s doorstep and changed her life.
Well, her own life, too, Lauren admitted. Once Rella was happily married again, Lauren had joined the western branch office of New Century Group Insurance, where she’d met Mason Epstein and fallen hopelessly in lust.
She was still kicking herself over that mistake. Over two years wasted waiting for Mason to propose. And he had, in a way. His eyes already roaming to the slinky new hire in payroll, Mason had proposed they go their separate ways.
Lauren had done more than that. Rather than accept a well-deserved promotion, she had asked to be transferred to New Century’s Midwestern regional office. The move not only put her near Rella’s family, it put her two thousand necessary miles away from Mason. She had no regrets. Mason had simply been one more jerk in a line of jerks. The trouble was, she was thirty-three years old and just as far from taking a walk to the altar as she had been ten years before. Although she hadn’t spent her girlhood dreaming of marriage and children like her sister, Lauren had always thought that one day she would indeed be both a wife and mother. With every passing year, the likelihood of it happening was growing less and less.
But just because the Mason incident made the acquisition of a husband seem a long shot, Lauren’s bruised, and smarting ego reminded her that she needn’t remain childless. An overheard conversation at a restaurant had set her to thinking about adoption. There were several things to recommend the idea. For one thing, her career kept her busy, which seemed to rule out the advisability of introducing an infant into her life since care of a baby was very time demanding. There were numerous older children in need of love and a family though. She had both to offer and, since New Century valued her more than Mason had, her income was more than substantial. That ensured that life as a single parent was financially feasible. There was just one thing that stopped her from taking the first step in the adoption process.
Lauren wasn’t sure she was the nurturing type.
In the large outer office, the mystery man’s tiny daughter squealed happily, keeping the women entertained. It was tempting to join them, but since she had only met Sam Hackett, the company legend, in passing, and she’d never been one to coo over a stranger’s child, Lauren continued to stay right where she was. The general manager’s emergency meeting wasn’t due to start for another five minutes. She’d linger at her desk and leaf through the mail her secretary had delivered hastily before running off to greet Hackett and his little girl.
The mail remained in the “In” basket.
Would he remember her? Lauren wondered. She’d been at the Midwest office three months yet hadn’t seen Sam appear there more than a handful of times. Everything she knew about him – which was very little – had been learned through company gossip, not the most accurate of methods for gathering the whole, or true, history of a co-worker. He was respected for his business acumen despite his reputation as a bit of a maverick. But what else could one term the only man in the history of the company to ever ask for, and receive, maternity leave?
His legend didn’t stop there. He’d also been the only employee to opt for telecommuting from his home rather than physically be at the Midwest regional office. The brief appearances Sam made were to drop off paperwork that the company preferred not to receive as an email attachment. Regular meetings he attended via speaker phone rather than in person.
Since their quick, but memorable – from her standpoint – meeting, Lauren had only caught glimpses of Sam, yet through his participation during those conference calls she had often enjoyed listening to what had to be one of the sexiest male voices in the world.
The management team would do more than simply listen to Sam today. The general manager had put his foot down, insisting attendance in person was de rigueur for everyone for this meeting.
The reason why one was even being called was the best kept secret in the company. Naturally, rumors buzzed – none hampered by reality or grounded by fact – but the only leak to filter down from top management’s secretarial staff was that it involved a prospective client – a big prospective client.
Lauren glanced at her desk clock and was surprised to find that she’d wasted over five minutes and was late for the meeting. Grabbing her electronic notebook and stylist, she headed for the conference room.
What makes your featured book a must-read?
So often it’s the heroine in a story who is raising a child without a father at hand. That made the idea of reversing that situation irresistible. As I “inherited” the care of two young boys when I married my 2nd husband, though didn’t have any kids myself, I was also quite familiar with stepping into a situation that I probably wasn’t as prepared for as I thought I was. In any case, Sam Hackett probably benefited from my own father and maternal grandfather liking nothing better than to be at my beck and call when I was a kid. I was most definitely their girl.
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BETH HENDERSON spent a decade writing and rewriting the same three books during the 1980s, but all those rewrites paid off via a romance spinning career now 30+ years long. Romantic-comedy and historical romantic adventure are her forte.
Today she divides her time writing urban fantasy comedic mystery as J.B. Dane, and Steampunk and Dieselpunk adventure as Nied Darnell. She also continues to dapple with romantic suspense and historical romantic adventure. For the past 10+ years she’s been at the virtual front of the room for various online workshops, sharing her experiences and offering helpful – she hopes – hints to other fiction writers. As each of those workshops is retired, it morphs into an e-book, so the info is still circulating. Let’s say Beth is diversified, hmm?
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