Authors: Judy Griffith Gill
JEANIE LESLIE & ASSOCIATES
, Career Consultants.
Marian Crane glared at the sign as she slammed through the door, ignored the young woman who looked up startled from her computer, and ignored the bitten off question that arose. She pushed open the door of Jeanie’s office and said, “Do me one big favor!”
“Find Rolph McKenzie, marina operator, boat broker and egomaniac an assistant who’ll sabotage his business, sink his boat and break his heart.”
Jeanie grimaced. “Turned you down, huh? I was afraid of that. The trouble is, he thinks he can do it all on his own. But those of us who know him and care for him know he can’t, that he’s making himself ill trying.”
“He turned me down all right. Flat. And insulted me in the bargain.”
“Sorry, kiddo,” Jeanie said with a sigh. “I shouldn’t have let Max talk me into sending you. I don’t blame you for being hurt.”
“I’m not hurt, I’m mad!” Marian slammed her bright red purse onto Jeanie’s desk and flung herself into the deep chair Jeanie kept for guests. She kicked off her bold red shoes and lifted one foot onto the opposite knee, rubbing it. “I’m so mad I’ve spent the past hour walking, hoping to burn off some of it, but it just keeps getting bigger and bigger inside me until I want to explode!”
“You’re hurt,” said Jeanie decisively, “and I’d be too. What did he say?”
“That he didn’t want some butterfly brain who didn’t know a halyard from a half-hitch!”
Jeanie pursed her lips and swiped a hand over her messy bush of uncontrollable hair. “Oh!” Her eyes widened. “Okay, I agree. You’re mad.” She sat back, folded her hands and cocked her head to one side. “Where to, now?”
Marian shrugged and massaged the other foot. “I don’t know. Maybe the Sorbonne? What about the Australian outback? Or Antarctica. I’ve never been there.”
“Quitting? Giving up?”
“Maybe. What’s the use? He can’t … see me. I mean, he looks at me and sees me at fourteen, with skintight jeans and hair in my eyes and six earrings in each ear. Dammit, Jeanie, I went down there today meaning to be noticed. I mean, look at me! Drop dead gorgeous white shantung suit that still manages to look businesslike, accessories that match, and I mean match, and an all-new, totally elegant hairstyle, subtle but effective makeup and perfume, and what did I get? He tousled my hair! He called me ‘kitten’! He as good as told me to run along and play with my dollies because he had women coming in.”
Angrily, she plucked pins from her hair and let it swing back down around her shoulders, shaking her head to spread it out.
“Oh, I was noticed all right. One man dripped white paint all over his toes, to say nothing of his teak deck. Another one dropped his screwdriver overboard. I got more whistles than at a truck stop and eyeballs rolled along the wharf after me. But from my good old friend Rolph McKenzie, what did I get? Mussed up hair and a belly laugh!
“What am I going to have to do to catch that man’s attention, Jeanie? Strip naked and waggle my tail?”
Jeanie would have laughed if it hadn’t been for the wobble in Marian’s voice showing how close the younger woman was to tears. The phone rang and Jeanie reached out to pick it up, smiling as she said, “Max! Hi, darlin’. What’s up?”
On the far side of the big office, in an alcove set up with a portable crib, plus a loveseat and chair, little Christopher woke up from his nap, rolled over and babbled cheerfully.
“May I?” Marian mouthed silently and Jeanie nodded before returning her attention to the phone.
“Come here, sweet thing.” Bending, Marian picked the baby up, cuddling him as she curled on the loveseat, her back to the room. She rocked the baby, her head bent low as she breathed in his sweet scent and took comfort from his warm weight against her. She wanted a baby! She wanted one so bad she hurt. But the trouble was, until Christopher was born, she hadn’t even suspected that she had a biological clock, let alone that it had started ticking. And an even greater problem was that whenever she thought of having a baby, she could only see herself doing it if Rolph McKenzie were its father.
Rolph McKenzie! She’d been utterly out of her mind to let Max, Rolph’s brother, talk her into approaching him for work. But dammit, they were all old friends and when Max, despairing of his brother’s ever finding a sorely needed assistant, jokingly suggested that Marian, who wanted a job, should apply, she’d let herself be persuaded.
With a deep sigh, she continued to rock Christopher as he nuzzled and snuggled and made soft, sweet baby sounds that made her ache deep inside. She thought about her arrival that morning at Rolph’s office high above the swaying boats in his marina …
She hadn’t been afraid. Nervous, of course, but filled with hope. Max had assured her she wouldn’t have any problem at all convincing Rolph he needed to hire her. Rolph, Max said, was desperate for some help. He didn’t know, of course, how desperate Marian was to work with his brother, but Jeanie, Marian thought, had at least some idea. She’d paved the way by reading parts of Marian’s resume to Rolph a few days ago, but as he so frequently did, he’d claimed not to have time to interview “the candidate”, which was all Jeanie had called her. Still, he’d sounded impressed with the qualifications listed on that resume.
Oh, sure! He’d been impressed all right.
He’d been leaning against the waist-high wall surrounding the deck outside his new home-cum-office, a building set on tall pilings at the end of the longest wharf in Sunrise Marina. His eyebrows had lifted high when he realized who she was, and he’d come halfway down the steep ramp to take her hand and help her to the top.
“Hi,” she’d said brightly. “The place looks great.” It wasn’t the first time she’d been in the marina since he’d taken it over four years before, but the first since he’d had his building constructed, the wharves redecked and all the railings painted. The refurbishing had done wonders. He even had a bright green burgee with the Marina logo on it flying over the green roof of his house.
“Thanks,” he said, drawing her up onto the deck that surrounded his house on four sides. He didn’t smile, but swept his clear green gaze over her from the top of her blonde hair to the toes of her red shoes. “Don’t you have more sense than to come to a marina dressed like that?”
She glanced down at herself. “Like what?”
His mouth tightened. His brows, a shade or two darker than his blond hair, drew together. “Like … the way you are. In front of all those men. Didn’t you see the way they looked at you?” He didn’t appear to expect an answer, because he swept on. “This isn’t a garden party down here, you know.”
“I’m not dressed for a garden party,” she said, flicking an invisible bit of lint from the lapel of her suit. Of course she’d noticed that she’d been noticed. That was what she’d come for. But she’d wanted the looks to come from him, not strangers.
“I’m dressed for a job interview.” She paused, met his gaze and added, “With you.”
“What?” He gaped at her then laughed with little humor. That was part of the problem his brother had lamented. Rolph had completely lost his sense of humor, so wrapped up was he in work. “What kind of joke is that?”
“It’s no joke.” She pushed open the door with the gilt letters reading
Sunrise Marina and Boat Brokerage
, and stepped through. Rolph followed her inside.
“Marian, I don’t have time for games this morning.”
She swung the door shut. “Neither do I. You are interviewing, today, I believe?”
“Yes, I am, but not you,” he said flatly, waving her toward a seat on a brown tweed sofa in the corner farthest from the untenanted desk. “What would I want to interview you for, for Pete’s sake?”
Marian looked at him, thinking of several things for which he could interview her. There were any number of positions in his life she felt capable of filling. Any number of positions in her life she thought he’d do well in. But that was another story. Today, what she wanted was a job. First things first.
She sat on the sofa, looking up at him. “You need an assistant, don’t you?”
He looked startled. “Well, yes, I guess I do, but not you.”
“I’m wounded,” she said lightly. “Why not me?”
“Why not you?” He stared at her. She could tell he still thought she was kidding. “Quite a few reasons, but first among them is that you don’t have any experience in any of the jobs I’m offering and—” Suddenly, he grinned. “Oh, hah! It is a joke, isn’t it? Jeanie sent you!”
Marian nodded. “Yes. So you see, I’m completely serious about this.”
He laughed. “Sweetie, you haven’t been serious a day in your entire life. You’ve been a professional student, flitting from school to school, from country to country, from …” She thought he was going to add “from man to man,” and was ready to defend herself on that, but he let the sentence trail off and shook his head.
“I’ve had jobs,” she said.
“Sure,” he agreed, “you’ve held jobs, I know that, but have you ever done anything for more than a few months at a time? What, exactly, are you qualified for?”
She swallowed hard. What he said was true. She had spent too many years wandering, studying, becoming an education junkie, and ended up well qualified for no one thing and overqualified for too many things. But Jeanie thought she could do this, and Max agreed. Max had gone so far as to suggest that he could force Rolph to hire her, “protecting his investment.” There, she’d drawn the line. Yes, she wanted to be with Rolph, and yes, she welcomed an opportunity to spend time with him, time during which maybe he would decide that she was a desirable woman, but she didn’t want him to feel pressured into hiring her. She wanted him to take her on because she was the right person for the job.
“Jeanie thinks I’m qualified to help you and she should know. She’s the expert in placing people in work situations, Rolph. When I told her I needed a job and showed her my resume, this was the first place she thought of.”
He raised his brows. “Need? Why would a little girl with wealthy, indulgent parents need to work?”
“For one thing, I like to eat,” she said tartly. “I like to pay the rent.”
“Your parents charge you rent?”
“I moved out of their home about the same time as you moved into this place. I only stayed with them the past six months because Mom wasn’t well. Now that her condition has stabilized, I’ve found a furnished apartment. She and dad need their privacy.” Especially now that we know the time they have left together is limited, she thought, but refrained from mentioning it. She hated to think about it. Talking of it was impossible.
“Besides,” she went on, “I like to have something productive to do. I realize you haven’t noticed it, but I’m not a little girl anymore, and I haven’t been dependent on my parents for a good many years.” She drew a deep breath. “I have to stay in Victoria, Rolph. And if I’m to be here, I need to have something to do. I want to be on hand if my folks need me again.” Not if, but when. But even the McKenzie family, close friends as they were to her parents, didn’t know. That was the way her mother wanted it.
Something told her that if she told Rolph exactly why she needed a job, he’d give her one, but then he’d never let her work at it. He’d find ways to keep any kind of load from her shoulders and her purpose would be defeated. In these very difficult months to come, she wanted to be busy, involved, immersed in work so she wouldn’t have too much time to think.
“That’s admirable, honey, but there are lots of other places you could work. What about one of the volunteer organizations?”
She blew out an impatient breath as she got to her feet. “Dammit, I don’t want to set up canvassing districts for the Heart Fund or walk puppy-dogs for the SPCA. I want a job to do, and you have one that needs to be done. Your brother, your parents, everyone who cares about you, is tired of seeing you run yourself into the ground. Max believes I can help you. He knows me as well as you do. Why can’t you believe it too?”