The Only Solution(5)

By: Leigh Michaels


“Miss?” His voice was sharp now. “What did you say your name was?”

There were worse things for a child than lack of money. Besides, Wendy had a little time before the situation really became critical. There would be a way; there would be another job. They’d make it – somehow.

“Where are you calling from?”

Wendy ignored him. She watched idly as Jed turned off the lights in his office and headed for the door. Jed was obviously distressed, but he wasn’t making noises about disowning his kids just because things were going to be tough for a while. The Landers family would make do, as families always had.

And Wendy could do that too. For Rory’s sake. She and Rory were a family, now.

“Never mind,” she said crisply. “I’ve obviously made a mistake. I’m sorry to have bothered you.”

He was saying something when she hung up on him. She didn’t know what it was, and she didn’t care.



*****



In the next week Wendy sent out a blizzard of resumes and took a precious personal day off so she could make the rounds of all the companies in Phoenix which might be in need of a mid-level marketing executive.

Nothing came of it immediately, of course. She was competing with not only the usual applicants but the entire department which had been laid off with her, and naturally other companies were not going to jump to hire anyone until they’d looked over the whole field.

But it would work out, she told herself. She was good at her job, and her education was impeccable. If only she had a little more money in reserve, so she didn’t have to worry as she waited for something to come along... But it was too late to think about that.

Her mood lifted each evening, of course, when she picked Rory up from the sitter’s. There was something very ego-soothing about a baby who turned into a bundle of energy at the mere sight of her, laughing and babbling and cooing and flailing her arms and legs like a windmill in an effort to be held an instant sooner. The child really was getting to be a delight.

But in the long nights, when Rory was asleep and Wendy was too exhausted to rest, things weren’t quite so clear and straightforward. She had just a few more days to work, and her last paycheck would be smaller than usual because she’d made arrangements to pay their health insurance in advance. Her savings would let them survive for a month, maybe two if she was very careful, while she looked intensively for another job in her field. But if she hadn’t been successful by then, she’d have to take whatever work came along just to feed the two of them.

And if sometimes in the dead of night she thought of Samuel Burgess, and the first few moments of that conversation – when his warm, soft voice had made her start to think that Marissa had been wrong about her father – she didn’t let her mind dwell on him for long. She’d made one mistake, and she wasn’t about to make another.

She had a job interview set up for Thursday afternoon, and Jed Landers had told her to slip out of the office early. It hardly mattered, now that their work was done and the final liquidation was underway. She had come to work in her best suit – the rust-colored one she’d bought early in the fall because it picked up the mahogany highlights in her hair – and she’d caught her hair up in a french braid. She looked pleasant and professional, but not too sleek; looking like a clothes horse left a bad impression with some interviewers.

She was checking her leather portfolio to be certain everything was at hand when she noticed a man standing at the department’s secretary’s desk.

He was about thirty, she guessed, and not bad-looking, though he appeared to be the arrogant sort – or perhaps that was just his eyebrows, dark brown and heavy and drawn together at the moment in a frown. His hair was surprisingly light, considering the shade of his eyebrows – brown, with blond streaks which spoke of hours on a beach or perhaps under a sun lamp. He was certainly put together well. He was lean and tall, and his dark gray suit had obviously not seen the inside of an ordinary department store. His shirt was blindingly white, and she’d bet his tie was silk and his briefcase the best and most delicate leather.

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