Something Wicked

Something Wicked by Lisa Jackson

Book: Something Wicked by Lisa Jackson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lisa Jackson
were in the process of demolishing the existing house and starting from the bottom up. Of the two commercial buildings, one was a four-unit office condo complex north of the city, near the town of Gearhart; the other was an apartment building with six units, three upper and three lower, tucked along the Necanicum to the south of their offices. To date, they’d poured the foundation for the office complex, and the apartments were being framed. None of the coast projects were even close to completion, and with their limited staff, Hale was wearing a lot of hats these days. He could trust the people in Portland to apprise him of what was going on, but the Seaside projects required daily supervision.
    He checked the time on his desk clock. Nine forty-five a.m. Declan hadn’t come into the office yet, but as he’d aged, his time of arrival had grown later and later. Sometimes he didn’t get in till noon, but since he was more of a figurehead now than ever before, it really mattered only to Declan whether he even showed or not.
    Glancing out the window at the now driving rain, he strode out of his office and grabbed his jacket from the wooden tree in the entryway. As he passed by the open door to Sylvie Strahan’s office, she glanced up and said in a stage whisper, “Ella’s going to give you hell again.”
    Ella Blessert was their receptionist and bookkeeper. She’d been an assistant bookkeeper before the economic downturn, but after their full-time bookkeeper, Nadine, made the move to Portland with Clark Russo, Ella had taken over all the office bookkeeping duties. She had also, unfortunately, adopted a proprietary attitude about Hale and his well-being, and she was constantly mother henning him. For someone in her midtwenties, Ella was a fussbudget like he’d never seen. Hale wondered if he could sneak out without her seeing him. He didn’t really want to be reminded that he never dressed for the weather, or anything else.
    But from her reception desk angled in a corner of the upper gallery, Ella saw him before he’d taken the first step down the curving staircase to the first floor.
    â€œYou can’t go out in this weather without a hat, Mr. St. Cloud. Here, take my umbrella.”
    â€œI’m fine, Ella.”
    Sylvie strolled out of her office with a smile threatening her lips, ostensibly to turn toward the butler’s pantry–type coffee room, but she hesitated at the upper stairway rail. Hale gave her a “Don’t go there” look, which she ignored, and then she had to cut off some laughter when she saw the lavender umbrella Ella was holding out to Hale.
    â€œWe can’t afford to have the boss come down with the flu or worse,” Ella told him. “You’re the engine around here, Mr. St. Cloud.”
    â€œIt’s Hale,” he told her for about the thousandth time. Her mannerisms and rigid office protocol tickled Declan, who flirted outrageously with her, but they just made Hale feel tired and impatient.
    He glared again at Sylvie, who simply lifted her hands and turned away, her shoulders shaking with suppressed laughter. Though Hale had no interest in Sylvie other than as his right-hand woman, he sometimes wondered why he couldn’t have chosen someone more like her as a mate than Kristina. She seemed, at least as well as he could ascertain, to have a strong sense of herself and what she wanted and where she was going. Kristina, on the other hand, was losing confidence daily, and he didn’t know what, if anything, he could do about it.
    It was all he could do to circumvent the lavender umbrella as he headed downstairs. He was just about to push through the glass double doors to the outside and dash across the parking lot to his SUV when his cell phone started singing the default ring he’d chosen for his sister-in-law. Grabbing it from his pocket, he glanced at the caller: Savannah.
    â€œHey, Savvy,” he answered as

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