Chapter One

Samantha Kielty only thought the typically short commute into work couldn’t get any longer. Coming to an abrupt halt at another red light, she realized she’d been wrong. Again. Obviously venting her frustration in the middle of rush hour traffic wasn’t going to get her anywhere, so she gripped the steering wheel until her knuckles turned white, and focused on breathing in and out.

Weren’t Friday’s supposed to be the day when things slowed down, time to wrap things up from the hectic week and prepare for the relaxing weekend?

With the incessant rumble of James’ voice reverberating through her head and her truck – thanks to the Bluetooth connection that offered him in stereo –it didn’t appear there would be a moment’s peace today. Not even on the drive in to work. Hell, he hadn’t even given her a chance to get there before he called.

Tapping her fingers on the steering wheel, her eyes alert to the light in front of her, Sam waited for James to take a breath so she could interrupt.

He wasn’t offering her many opportunities.

Just as the traffic light changed to green, Samantha pressed her foot on the gas and headed through the intersection. Although the morning traffic was heavy, it wasn’t any worse than usual. Apparently the drive only felt longer than normal, but it must’ve been her boss’s constant rambling that had obscured her judgment of time.

“James, I hear what you’re saying loud and…”

Well, hell. He wasn’t going to let her get a word in edgewise, thanks to his need to fill the silence with words, which he was famous for.

It probably wouldn’t do any good, but when the opportunity presented itself a few seconds later, she decided to try again.

“James, I understand that you think –” Cut off again.

In the five years Sam had worked for James Banten, she had never heard him speak quite so much, and that was saying something because when the man started talking, he never seemed to shut up. Like now.

“James, I get it, but I don’t think…” it’s a good idea; she finished the sentence in her head since the stubborn old man just wasn’t going to listen to her.

The conversation was going nowhere fast, and Sam was rapidly losing her patience. Not that her patience hadn’t been stretched a little thin lately anyway.

“James! I understand that, but I don’t think it is a” –she plowed on through his attempted interruption – “Good grief, James! Will you listen to me for a minute?”


This time she was the one who paused. She thought for a second that he might have hung up, but ultimately she knew she wouldn’t get that lucky. His signature sigh echoed through the truck, her indication that he would attempt to be silent for at least sixty seconds. That mysterious stop watch in his brain was probably halfway around the dial by now.

With a deep breath, she continued, “James, I understand you think this is a good opportunity for me, I really do, but I’m not sure now is the right time. We have so many things going on here, with the SJ2 project in the stabilization phase and LX1 about to launch. Who will keep an eye on those if I leave?”

Now she had no choice to but to let him speak. The best she could hope for would be a debate worthy response to her valid questions. The silence filled the car as he fumbled around with his answers, but just as she suspected, he came up with something immediately.

A man known for his quick wit and intelligence, James Banten never seemed to disappoint. He was skilled at thinking on the fly – something she had been working on for years – and even though he often spoke over people, he usually did have fresh ideas. Those ideas landed him the position he was in, and Sam respected him for it. But they still weren’t the answers she wanted to hear.

When he paused, probably to take a sip from his morning coffee, which was always the same – large, skinny Vanilla latte – Sam took the opportunity to plead her case again.

“Ok, I get what you’re saying, James, I honestly do. What I don’t get is how this opportunity will be different from what I currently do here.”

Sam was all for climbing the corporate ladder; hell, she’d been busting her ass for years trying to get ahead. But did James seriously think sending her to Dallas was going to be in her best interest? The idea seemed so far out of left field, Sam felt a little off balance.

However, if she was perfectly honest with herself, which she tried to be on a regular basis, she knew the timing couldn’t have been worse.

Or better.

The idea of being some two hundred miles from her regular routine was somewhat daunting, although a little intriguing at the same time. Ok, so maybe more intriguing than anything else, but still.