The call came on Samantha's direct line at thirteen minutes after three Wednesday afternoon. Cal, she assumed, because he'd been hovering restlessly all week. With a multimillion dollar contract just signed and fifty high-tech jobs to fill, Calin Tremaine was at his most restless.
She let the phone ring a second time, then a third as she finished answering an e-mail from the security company she'd hired for Friday night. Then she picked up the phone, ready for Cal's next question.
But the voice on the phone wasn't her boss's.
"Grandma Dorothy?" Samantha eyed the stack of unanswered messages on her desk. "How are you and the baby? Still terrorizing Gabriola Island?"
She expected her grandmother's breathy laughter, felt a shaft of unease when it didn't come. "I'm in Nanaimo, Samantha. I need you."
"Is it Kippy? An accident?" It was no use telling her heartbeat to slow, her breathing to quiet. Ever since the plane crash, she'd been too jumpy, too quick to assume the worst.
"No accident, sweetheart, but we need your help."
Marcy stuck her head in the door, mouthed Cal's name, and pointed to the phone. Samantha held up one hand, fingers spread, indicating she'd be five minutes.
"Tell me," she urged her grandmother, her voice taking on the calm tones that had become habitual for her in times of stress. "Tell me what the problem is. If you need help with Kippy or money—" Money, she thought. Dorothy was probably short of money. Samantha kicked herself for not insisting she accept a monthly check to help with Kippy.
"Moonbeam, you have to come up here."
Moonbeam. It was years since Dorothy had called her that.
"I can be there at the end of next week. I'll take a long weekend and we can work out whatever—"
Dorothy was crying!
"Grandma, what's wrong?"
"They say I'm not fit to look after Kippy."
"That's crazy. You're fitter than most forty-year-old women. Grandma, who...?"
A hiccup that might have been a sob. "I was in overnight. I shouldn't have been in at all—it was just a little pain, but Diana insisted. You know Diana Foley?"
"Yes, of course I—in? What do you mean, in? In the hospital?"
"I told the doctor I mustn't be in more than overnight, but he insisted and Diana said it would be fine. Absolutely fine, that Kippy was no problem. Samantha, you must do something!"
"Grandma, I'll look after everything. Explain to me exactly what's happened. You're sick?"
Dorothy had perfect health. At the age of sixty-nine, she walked three miles a day, pushing Kippy's baby carriage to the mailbox each day. "Why are you in the hospital?"
"It's nothing serious. It's Kippy we need to worry about."
"If Diana needs help with Kippy, I'll arrange for someone, and I'll come up this Friday night. We'll sort everything out." If necessary, if Dorothy really was sick, Samantha would bring Kippy back with her until her grandmother recovered.
"You have to come now, Samantha."
"I promise you, I'll look after everything. We talked about this last winter. If there's any problem, I can look after Kippy. We'll—"
"The social worker put Kippy in a foster home."
Samantha felt a lurch of nausea. "Kippy in foster care?" She remembered how frightened Sarah had been all those years ago, how Samantha had hidden her own fear and pretended confidence for her sister. How Dorothy had come and saved them both.
She found a pen in her hand. "Give me the name of the social worker. And Diana's number. Have you called a lawyer yet?"
Dorothy gave her Diana's number. "The social worker is Brenda Simonson. I don't know her number. She'll be in Nanaimo, but I'm not sure which office. I called Dexter Ames, the lawyer we used to arrange Kippy's guardianship last winter."
Her mind seemed numb. She had to think. "I'll talk to Dexter, and I'll find the social worker."
"Samantha, what if they don't let Kippy come back?"
"Of course they will. We're Kippy's family."
"You're coming, aren't you?" demanded Dorothy as the door to Samantha's office opened again. She had one hand in the air to shoo Marcy away, but her assistant ignored the gesture and strode across the office to drop a message slip on Samantha's desk.
Meet me ASAP in the boardroom. Cal.
Her fingers crumpled the note.
"I'll do some phoning," she told Dorothy in a super calm voice. "I'll find out exactly where we stand, get things in motion. Then I'll call you back. I'll look after this. What about you? This pain?"
"I'm fine," snapped Dorothy in the voice Samantha remembered. "It's probably indigestion."
Marcy was waiting, motionless on the other side of the desk, while Samantha wrote down Dorothy's hospital-room phone number, then said good-bye, promising to call back as soon as possible.
"He wants to know how long," said Marcy as the receiver settled in its cradle.
"Fifteen minutes, and get me the phone number for Dexter Ames. He's a lawyer in Nanaimo."
"Nanaimo. British Columbia. Canada."
Fifteen minutes. It wasn't enough. If only this had happened on another day, another week, when she could rush to Nanaimo instead of acting at a distance. She had to find that social worker before her office closed for the day. She needed to talk to the lawyer, to Dorothy's doctor.
Exactly when did government workers quit for the day in Canada?
Diana Foley had the worker's phone number, but the woman wasn't at her desk. Samantha hit the intercom just as Marcy came through the door with Dexter Ames's phone number.
Only five minutes until she was due to meet Cal in his boardroom. "Get Ames on the line. Tell him it's about Dorothy Marshall."
She dialed her own phone, said, "Diana, it's Samantha Jones again. I haven't been able to get the social worker. Do you know anything else?"
"Hi, Sam." Diana sounded breathless, as if she'd run to the phone. "All I know is that there's going to be a hearing. I asked if they could put Kippy with me as a foster child until Dorothy's out of the hospital, but the worker said no. I'm so sorry, Samantha."
"Diana, I know you did your best. It's all right." Samantha saw that her telephone was flashing and hurriedly said good-bye.
Dexter Ames, and she was due in the boardroom in two minutes.
"I don't have the family court date yet," said Dexter. "I'll know more within the hour."
One minute late for her meeting with Cal and nothing was settled. Family court sounded bad and urgent. Please God it wouldn't be until next week. Tomorrow was Thursday. By Monday she just might be able to slip away, but it would be irresponsibility of the worst kind to walk out now, less than forty-eight hours before she was due to oversee a massive employee screening process at the recruitment open house.
She glanced at the pile of message slips on her desk, picked up her portable computer in its case, and walked out of her office. No time to check lipstick and hair. No time to think. She stopped at Marcy's desk, said, "I'm expecting a call from Dexter Ames. When he calls, put him through to the boardroom. And get hold of Del in development. Get a list of the volunteers he's enlisted for Friday."
If all went well Friday night, Tremaine's would be playing host to dozens of top e-commerce developers in a massive headhunting expedition. The developers who already worked for Tremaine Software were an essential element of the open house. They would greet the candidates, talk about their own experience with Tremaine's, and generally build enthusiasm to work in a rapidly expanding, forward-looking company rich in advancement opportunities.
The open house had been Samantha's idea. If it went well, she'd be one large step closer to a seat on Cal's board and a director's position in the company. Somehow, in the next few days, she needed to look after the welfare of Cal Tremaine's massive staffing needs, while rescuing her six-month-old niece from the clutches of the foster-home system.
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