Breathless on the Beach(2)

By: Wendy Etherington

Shelby laughed. “And I’ve got your stomach.”

Despite her mood, Victoria was grateful for her friends’ support. As a caterer, Shelby was giving up the long weekend with her live-in boyfriend to serve as chef to the Rutherford house party they were attending in Southampton. Calla, a travel writer, was hoping to make good use of both her camera and her keyboard.

“You know I appreciate you guys coming with me,” Victoria said, making an effort to soften her tone. “I need these meetings to go smoothly.”

“Hey, I’m just happy to see the Rutherford estate.” Calla sounded slightly awestruck. “It’s been featured in Architectural Views countless times over the years. Maybe I’ll get my own magazine piece out of this.”

“And I’m grateful for the business,” Shelby said. “After the June bridal season it was a long, booking-free summer.”

“You were exhausted after all those weddings,” Calla pointed out. “You needed a break.”

“Why doesn’t that rich lover of yours recommend you to all his rich friends?” Victoria asked.

“He does, but he’s got a business of his own to run. Besides, just like most of the friends you recommend, the affluent have been in the Hamptons all summer. I’m too small of an operation to be hauling equipment and supplies out there every weekend.”

“I’m sure Rose Rutherford’s gourmet kitchen has everything we need,” Calla said.

“The housekeeper assures me they do,” Shelby explained. “Plus, she was willing to let my food suppliers deliver everything directly, so I didn’t have to bring the van.”

“I’m not arriving at the Rutherford estate in a catering van,” Victoria insisted, cutting between two cabs to take the next right onto East Thirty-second.

“Heaven forbid anybody thinks you have a domestic for a friend,” Calla teased.

Victoria met Calla’s gaze with a glare in the rearview mirror. “I’m not a snob. Appearance is important for getting this contract.”

“And I’m not a domestic,” Shelby stated firmly. Then added, “Not that there’s anything wrong with being one…”

Shelby turned and exchanged a meaningful look with Calla.

“I saw that,” Victoria said. “Since I’m the one who’s driving, aren’t you two worried about me being both deaf and blind?”

Shelby cleared her throat. “I was reminding Calla that this weekend is about you getting the Rutherford Securities contract, even though she could be tanning and ogling lifeguards, and I could be naked between the sheets in a beachside hotel with my man.”

“Wow, that was some look,” Victoria said drily.

“Have you heard any more about Coleman Sr.’s rumored retirement?” Shelby asked, obviously guessing Victoria’s temper was too cutting for humor.

She nodded. “They’re announcing next week after the holiday. I got it straight from his secretary.”

“Why’d she tell you?” Calla asked.

“Because I, unlike her boss, never forget her birthday or Secretary’s Day, or that her favorite flowers are daisies or that she likes chocolates filled with caramel.”

Shelby angled her head. “How do you remember all that?”

Victoria shrugged. “I have a file on everybody. Trust me, ladies, the key to a smooth ride up the corporate ladder is making nice with the real power brokers—the assistants.”

Which she’d learned straight from The Legend, namely her mother. The reminder dulled her resentment. Victoria didn’t expect people to pity her because she had to live up to excellence.

But besides her mom, there was her attorney father, her cardiac surgeon grandfather and the Holmes foundation run by her grandmother and cousin to measure her success against. All in all, a pretty daunting yardstick.

“So when Coleman Sr. retires,” Shelby said, “Coleman Jr. inherits the long-awaited president’s position, and their valuable client Rutherford Securities is up for grabs.”

Victoria’s mouth went dry with anticipation. “And the senior VP corner office gets a new occupant.”

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