Page 56 of What Lies Beneath

“Thank you for this opportunity, Darlene.”

“Knock ’em dead. Bye, now.”

The phone sat silent in Adrienne’s hand, but she couldn’t move her thumb to hang up. She was showing in New York at an event sponsored by one of the biggest fashion magazines in the world. The exposure potential was incredible. And if her collection were chosen for the magazine…

Perhaps her career wasn’t over quite yet. Maybe the pain and suffering of surgeries, fractured bones, broken hearts and shattered dreams would be worth it if in the end she could make something of the mess.

Adrienne hurried downstairs to the dining room, where her sketches were scattered across the table. There were thirty designs and not a single one existed off the page yet. She could work in some of the pieces she’d already made, but it might not be cohesive enough. She started sorting though, axing the labor-intensive knitwear and pulling out the ten items she thought would make the most impact, the last being the blue satin gown. Even ten pieces would be a challenge. It would mean working nonstop for two solid weeks, but she would do it.

She had to.

* * *

“Mr. Taylor?” His assistant, Jeanine, popped her head into Will’s office. “Mr. Dempsey is here to see you.”

Frowning, Will took a big sip of his coffee. He figured eventually it would come around to this meeting. The one where the e-reader deal would finally fall through. He’d managed to avoid George for a few weeks, probably because George was avoiding him, too. They’d seen each other at Cynthia’s funeral, but, unexpectedly, it had turned into a circus.

Cynthia’s lover had shown up, wailing and throwing himself over her casket. It hadn’t taken long for people to figure out who he was and turn to Will with mixed expressions of bewilderment and pity. George and Pauline were horrified by the scene, but her father, at least, didn’t look surprised. Apparently the deteriorating state of their relationship was public knowledge, despite how hard he’d tried to hide it.

After that debacle, Will had buried himself in work and Thanksgiving festivities with his family. But now all that was behind them. There was nothing but frantic Christmas shopping over the next few weeks, of which he was sure George Dempsey did very little.

“Send him in.”

George came through the door, his suit looking a little larger than normal on him. The man was in his sixties, but today was the first time Will had ever thought about his age. He looked every year and maybe a few more. He had bags under his eyes, his wrinkles were more prominent with the loss of some weight, probably due to stress. Losing Cynthia must’ve taken a larger toll on him than Will had imagined.

“George, please, sit down.”

With a curt nod, George settled into a chair. “How are you faring, Will?”

Truth be told, he was miserable, but not because of Cynthia’s death. His feelings for her had died long before she did. But he did feel horrible about her death. No one deserved to die like that.

“I’m hanging in there. I think it’s going to be a struggle to get through the holidays.”

George nodded. “Pauline doesn’t quite know what to do with herself. She started to decorate for Christmas, then kept having to stop because she’d run across something that reminded her of Cynthia and she’d start crying. Cynthia was always so busy, it just seems like she’s working late and will call any time now. Then you remember again.”

Will understood the feeling. His apartment had been a ghost town. He kept walking into his place at night expecting Adrienne to be there. To hear the excited thumps of her bare feet as she ran to greet him at the door. To see her sitting at the kitchen table with toast and tea. He had very quickly gotten used to having her there with him.

“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, Will.” George eased back in his chair. “This e-reader project we’ve been working on has a lot of potential.”

Which is why I’ve decided to sell to the highest bidder and you’re out, Taylor.

“Which is why I’ve decided we should go forward with it.”

Will’s eyebrows shot up, his surprise plainly obvious to anyone who chose to look. “What about blood and family and all that?”

George shrugged. “Cynthia is dead, Will. Emma is sixteen, and I’m not about to marry her off to seal this deal. As much as I like working with family, there’s no one I know that can make this as big a success as you can. This is the technology of now. It needs to go forward. We’ve got everything in place to do that.”

Will wasn’t quite sure what to say. George had been adamant about this from the beginning. The turn of events was surprising, to say the least. “Thank you, sir. I’m glad to hear you’re still interested in working with us.”