Miriam returned the phone to the cradle. Bill and Lisbon, her partners in crime, crept into the reception area.
“Worked out a plan?” She eyed them devilishly.
“Sending him out of town might stabilize his hormones.” Lisbon fiddled with the silver bangles encasing her wrist. “He’s been terribly lonely since his divorce, but we can’t let him fall in love with Annie. What if his attentions compel her to leave? This is the first time I’ve been able to send email to clients without a glitch. I refuse to go back to The Stone Age.”
Miriam nodded in sympathetic agreement. “He doesn’t know the trouble he’s in.”
Bill rubbed his stomach. “My ulcer could use less excitement.” To Miriam, he said, “You haven’t mentioned Michael’s crush to Annie? Ask if she’ll ward him off? We’d hoped you might.”
“Do I look nuts?”
“You are her next door neighbor.”
“And the reason we’re in this mess,” Lisbon added in a faintly accusatory tone. “You encouraged her to apply for a position at Rowe.”
Miriam brushed off the comment. “Annie has proven her worth. Yes, she’s beautiful. No, she doesn’t understand the depth of Michael’s attraction. She’s a geek with a complicated private life.”
Bill frowned. “I don’t follow.”
“Even if she is aware of how Michael feels about her, she won’t encourage him. There’s too much going on in her life. She’s not looking for romance.”
Lisbon pursed her lips. “And Michael?”
“The Bedouin?” Miriam snorted. “He’s as freewheeling as an Arab traipsing across the Sahara. Since his divorce from Jen, he’s more likely to pack up his tent and travel the world than settle down. Love will never ensnare him again.”
Relief melted the anxiety on Bill’s face. “Maybe you’re right,” he said. “Once he realizes how he’s behaving, he’ll take one of his offbeat vacations. To Patagonia or Tibet. Which works for me, as long as he’s not gone too long.”
Miriam stared at the phone. “I should check if his shots are up-to-date.”
“Good thinking,” Lisbon said.
Miriam drummed her fingers on her desk. “Until he comes to his senses, let’s stick to the plan. Find an excuse to cart him out of town.”
“We’re on it,” Bill said.
Miriam jerked her chin at the closed door to Michael’s office. “The pheromones in there have reached toxic levels. I’m worried it’s contagious. The new secretary, Bitsy? Yesterday she was batting her eyes at Herman. And that’s not all. I find myself less inclined to beat Terrence to a pulp, maybe because he’s sugared the art department with Barry Manilow music and chocolates. This ain’t good, children.”
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