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The Fix-it Girl Chapter 1

Chapter One Excerpt

Jill Marrack checked her watch, and then her gaze wandered to the frosted glass, affording her marginal vision of three people outside her office. Any second the door was going to open. Jill stood and wandered to the coffee machine, smiling as a gurgle of bubbles welcomed her presence. To her left was a tray with matching white china: mug, sugar bowl, and milk jug. It was the perfect trio. With a nod of satisfaction, Jill opened a cupboard door underneath the coffee machine and withdrew a packet of chocolate orange digestive biscuits, her boss's favourite snack, and put the biscuits on a side plate.


When the door opened with a snick, she positioned the plate on the tray and said, "Coffee will be on your desk in two minutes."


Her boss, Elise, entered the office and stormed past her desk. The door to Elise?s office slammed and Jill held on to the china.


"She's had a bad meeting," Jill muttered, thankful the afternoon beverage was ready. A few moments later, after adding the coffee pot to the tray, she balanced the object, knocked on the glass panel, and entered Elise Ridge's inner sanctum.


Jill marched inside the generously proportioned office, carefully ensuring nothing spilt onto the tray. She skirted by the large conference table dominating the room and placed the coffee on a modest desk.


"I don't give a rat's ass if the next quarter puts you in the red, Peter. You owe me and I'm claiming what's mine. Call me back when you have the finances ready."


Jill waited until her boss replaced the phone on its cradle before she said, "You look like you need a coffee fix."


An intense grey gaze rested on Jill. "I think I'm going to need more than coffee, Jill. Has Kay Walker called me?"


Jill shook her head. "No. Do you want me to contact her?"


"Peter Daniels is trying to wriggle out of that deal we made five years ago when I bailed him out of bankruptcy. Put the legal people on alert. We'll probably have a fight on our hands if he doesn't want to pay up."


"Will do. The Daniels Corporation reports indicate financial stability. Why would he default on payment after all this time?"


Elise gulped down a mouthful of coffee before replying.


Jill used the interval to consider Peter Daniels's attempted default. In the big picture, he was a small fry and not likely to cause Elise any major financial headache. So what is making her so upset? Elise's forthright tones dragged her back to the conversation.


"The corporation is solid. Daniels has immediate cash flow problems due to an extension on a loan he approved. He?s reluctant for the Daniels board to find out. His shareholders are fickle creatures, and they might find him incompetent and oust him from the board of directors. If he doesn't renege on our deal, I'll help him out. Hmm, you say Kay hasn't called. Damn."


"You sound worried. Are you sure you don?t want me to contact her?" Jill asked.


"She'll call when she has what I want. Any pertinent issues before I leave tonight?"


Jill considered the question carefully. After working as Elise's PA for five years, she had accumulated an insight into what Elise considered important or trivial in the workplace. "Carol Van Cliff wants you to approve the funds for the family social day outing next month. I said you'd contact her when you returned from overseas."


Elise nodded. "Good, good. Why don't you just approve whatever she wants? You normally do in the end."


Jill laughed. "I know that, but she doesn't. You know she only wants your approval. Besides it looks good."


"For whom? Her or me?"


"You, of course." Jill grinned. "Everyone loves Carol. She's one of those people you meet and immediately they feel like your best friend." She began to turn away.






"You really think my reputation needs work?"


"We both know that the employees and families social gatherings are not your strong point." With a deadpan expression, Jill added, "Although if you actually attended one, that might break that myth."


Narrowed eyes looked at Jill, and then Elise said, "Hmm. I think I'll stick with one Achilles heel. I have a couple of conference calls and don't want to be disturbed. Good night, Jill, I'll see you in a week. Have a good weekend."


"Thanks and the same to you. Don't go drinking the local water. Okay? Stick to the bottled. The last time you went native in Rio, you spent two days recuperating in hospital and the medical insurance went sky high."


They both laughed as Jill left the room.


Jill returned to her desk and half an hour later checked the time. It was a quarter after six and time to go home, the weekend beckoned. After clearing away everything on her desk, she collected her purse, briefcase, and jacket. She gave her workstation one last glance and left for the evening.


Grace Ridge balled her fingers and took a deep breath. "Why can't you help me, Mother? I wouldn't ask, except it's important."


"Curb your disrespectful tongue, Grace. You sound like a pathetic fool. Don't scowl, it will mare your beautiful face, and that won't win you any accolades on the catwalk."


"Mother, unless you help me, there will not be a catwalk. All I ask is that you take care of Lily for a week. She's your granddaughter for God's sake! Most other grandmothers would jump at the chance to spend quality time with their only grandchild."


"I'm not most grandmothers. And I will do no such thing. Lily is your responsibility. You brought her into the world much against my wishes. Your sister provides you with a generous personal allowance, giving you the means to engage a nursemaid. Better yet, take Lily with you to Paris while you undertake this modelling position." A scowl never seemed to leave her mother's face.


"I can't find a sitter at this short notice. I need to leave at five in the morning. The modelling environment is no place for a child. Please, Mother, she's no bother."


"Who's no bother?"


Two pairs of eyes glanced toward the new entrant into the conversation.


"Elise, help me, please. Mother refuses to assist in taking care of Lily for a week. I have the opportunity to take a modelling job in Paris. It could be that big break."


Elise frowned. "Little sis, you've been saying that for the past eight years. Why is this different?"


Grace blew out an exaggerated breath. "James Coombs saw my portfolio and called me last night. They have a no-show, and he figured I would fit in perfectly."


"Who is James Coombs exactly?" Elise asked.


"You know perfectly well. He owns Meridian Entertainment Magazine."


"Ah, that James Coombs. Okay, I know him. I don't like him. He's a bloody womaniser, who chases everything in a skirt, and his business ethics are doubtful in my opinion. Why did you agree to go? You can do better than working for him."


"I can't. At least not without a lot more of your money. I need to do this on my own. A goal I've achieved. Not what your money can buy me. I know I can make it. I just need help with Lily for a week, that's all," Grace said.


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