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A Sweet Refrain

A Sweet Refrain

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Published by irish1703
Jodie Gallagher wants to get married — someday. But not until He sends the right man along, and not just so she can advance her career at Bradshaw International, where an unwritten rule prevents single employees from being promoted into senior positions. But could the right man be closer than Jodie thinks? And can he finally show her how to follow her heart, and make all her dreams come true?
Jodie Gallagher wants to get married — someday. But not until He sends the right man along, and not just so she can advance her career at Bradshaw International, where an unwritten rule prevents single employees from being promoted into senior positions. But could the right man be closer than Jodie thinks? And can he finally show her how to follow her heart, and make all her dreams come true?

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Published by: irish1703 on Dec 20, 2010
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A SWEET REFRAIN
 Jodie Gallagher wants to get married — someday. But not until He sends the right man along, and not just soshe can advance her career at Bradshaw International, where an unwritten rule prevents single employeesfrom being promoted into senior positions. But could the right man be closer than Jodie thinks? And can hefinally show her how to follow her heart, and make all her dreams come true? 
Chapter One
Time was running out for Jodie Gallagher. The employee recognition gala was in less than a week and she'dyet to secure a date for the evening. Bradshaw International Ltd. may have been one of the region's leadingmanufacturing enterprises, always on the cutting edge of technology and experimentation, but its leadershipwas solidly traditional. The founder firmly believed in family values. To his way of thinking, that meant everymember of the management team should have a family — an adoring spouse, a kid or two or three and acocker spaniel or Labrador retriever to round out the photo on the holiday cards.Old Man Bradshaw always said plenty of room existed at the top for talented employees. The only problemwas the road to the top of his particular mountain was paved with One Way and No U-Turn signs.Jodie wanted a husband and a family — eventually. And not because having such would improve her career.She had a lot of love to share, but love that needed to be put on hold while she pursued a career. Apparently,since He hadn't sent the perfect guy her way anyway, the Lord had a similar plan.Once upon a time, Jodie had a list. Her ideal mate would be no taller than six foot two and no shorter than sixfoot. He'd have blond hair and deep blue eyes. He'd always wear undershirts under his dress shirts, and cuff links in his French sleeves. He would drive a certain type of car, make an income that was large enough tosupport a family of up to five — in case she decided not to work after their children were born. He'd have asense of humour, would smile a lot and would always surprise her with sweet little nothings to keep theromance alive in their relationship. As a couple, they would be active members of their church, volunteertogether in the community and, of course, live happily ever after. It was old-fashioned and wonderful…andapparently unattainable.Jodie sighed at her desk. She'd been keeping an eye out for her fantasy man for a while now and more thanbiological clocks were starting to tick. She'd be twenty-eight on her next birthday. The truth of it was — shereluctantly had to admit — she hadn't allowed herself much time to date. Work was her constant companion.The routine, she grudgingly conceded, had gotten old. "Gallagher, you coming to the meeting or not?"Jerked out of her reverie, Jodie snatched up her notes. The irritated voice belonged to her boss, Ethan Lamb."On the way," she told him. "Ethan, I really don't think…"He cut her off. "We've been over it before, Gallagher. Leave the talking to me."Jodie frowned. That sort of condescension is what made her think it was time to end her tenure at BradshawInternational. She did want something more. She thought she could get it here. At one time, Ethan had beenthe perfect mentor, showing her the ropes and guiding her along. But lately, he‘d been short-tempered. Shesuspected something had happened to him in the past six months. He'd definitely changed — and for theworst. She wasn't at all comfortable with the presentation Ethan was about to make in this meeting. Hisconclusions weren't valid. And in addition to patronizing her, he'd pooh-poohed her objections and concerns.If this were her company, she'd do things differently.Vowing to send out a round of résumé packets before the week ended, Jodie took her seat in the boardroomat Bradshaw International. All of the VPs sat at the large oval table, while the junior execs occupied swivelchairs ringing what Jodie had come to think of as the Grown-Ups' Table. She wanted to sit at the Grown-Ups'Table.She had a stake in this company, a stake that she'd claimed the moment she'd accepted the offer to be amarketing assistant. A quick learner with plenty of ambition, she'd moved up the ranks in the department.Three promotions later, she'd found herself hitting a ceiling — one that had little to do with glass or genderbut marital status. No one specifically said anything, but the message was nonetheless clear.
 
Jodie bit back a sigh.Before she found a husband, she needed to find a date. A millisecond later Mark Bradshaw strode into theroom. Jodie's tummy did that odd little flip she'd come to recognize whenever she saw him.C. B. Bradshaw, commonly called The Old Man by just about everyone, may have been chairman of theboard, but the operational reins were fully in the hands of his utterly gorgeous grandson. Tall, with a slightlyrakish appearance, as if he'd just flown in from Monte Carlo or Rio or the south of France, Mark Bradshawturned heads everywhere he went. Including in his own boardroom. His blond hair always seemed a little toolong, but without a doubt he was the most eligible bachelor within a one hundred-mile radius of Portland,Oregon.At just over thirty, Mark was everything Jodie wanted in a man — even though at six foot four, he was too tallfor her tastes, and way too rich. Forget that whole business about not being too rich or too thin. Just thinkingabout all those zeroes in the kind of money the Bradshaw family commanded made her dizzy.Jodie wanted to be comfortable, not burdened. And at five foot six in heels, she didn't want to have to strainher neck to see her guy.In Mark Bradshaw's case, though, she could make an exception — on both points. Jodie, like all the others,watched him take command of the room."What a man," her friend Nikki said in a conspiratorial whisper as she leaned over toward Jodie.Jodie agreed with a nod but kept her expression neutral. Boy, did he ever fit her image of the ideal man. Toobad he didn't even know she existed.***All talking came to a halt the instant he walked into the boardroom. Mark Bradshaw heard the whispersbehind his back. They'd never bothered him.Not until now — when he saw her doing it as well. For a moment, he wondered about her loyalty. He'd wellvetted all of the key players in the company. Had he missed something important about her? More importantthan that — was the announcement he planned to drop on them all today the right move at the right time?His course already set, Mark gritted his teeth. Belatedly he remembered he was trying not to do thatanymore."Good morning," he said, his tone as terse as his mood.He strode to the seat of power, one he'd always felt uncomfortable filling. But with Gramps remaining in oneof his stubborn moods, there was little help for it. Somebody had to run the company."Let's get…" he almost said, Let's get this over with, but caught himself at the last moment "…the day'sbusiness on the table." He nodded for the vice president of production to begin his presentation.The meeting droned on for the better part of an hour. Thinking he might collapse from boredom, Markswivelled his chair a bit to see Jodie Gallagher better. The only thing that kept him focused was her. When themarketing vice president got up to highlight a series of charts on a multimedia presentation, she glanced overat him. Mark smiled at her. Instead of smiling back — like any other woman might — her eyes widened andshe blinked several times before darting her gaze back to Ethan Lamb.Mark sighed. So much for that.He put his attention back on the report being given. The more he listened, though, the more his browfurrowed. He glanced over at Jodie Gallagher, who sat perched on the edge of her seat, biting her lower lip,worrying at the cap of her pen.He frowned, looked back at the screen that dropped from the ceiling for just this sort of meeting. He didn'twant the CEO mantle, but he knew how to wear it and he knew when someone was trying to pull somethingover on him.
 
"I have a question."All eyes shifted to Mark. He noted that a couple of people looked as if he'd disturbed their naps. No wonderBradshaw International's growth had stagnated. Not only was he bored, so, too, were the people who weresupposed to be jazzed about what they did. Mark suspected that many, if not most, of the folks sitting at theoval table were there merely collecting a paycheck and executive bonuses, marking time until retirement or abetter offer with a competitor came along.The marketing vice president, not used to being interrupted, stammered, lost his place, coughed and thenblinked. "Yes, sir?""I'd like to know what Miss Gallagher thinks."Jodie's eyes widened. She clutched her portfolio pad, dropping her pen. "Excuse me?"From his position at the oval table, Ethan glared at her. Assistants, they all knew, were to be seen, not heard,in these monthly meetings. Such was the business culture of the company. Mark rose, picked up the fountainpen and handed it to her. For a moment, their hands touched. He heard the quick intake of breath she triedto mask."I'm going to do something a little different today.""But I'm not finished," Ethan said.The quelling look Mark sent his way all but said, You are if you don't sit down. Ethan sat.Nervous glances were exchanged all around."VPs to the outer ring," Mark said. "I want all of the assistants right here." He returned to his seat, tapped thecherry table for emphasis. "Quickly, people. We've already been in here too long.""But Mark, Mr. Bradshaw…"Mark held up a hand. "That includes you, too, Stanley," he told the sales division chief, who‘d been with thecompany longer than Mark had been alive. "Time is money, people. Let's move."With unsure glances cast in every direction, the nine assistants, one to each vice president, exchanged placeswith their bosses.After everyone was settled, Mark smiled. He took his seat, leaned back in it. "Now, Miss Gallagher, you'vebeen working here for what, two years now?"She nodded. "Yes, sir.""And you've listened to all of these reports, right? You know how we've fared in the marketplace.""Y-yes."It was clear Jodie had no idea where he was going, and that was just fine with Mark. He wanted to see howshe operated under pressure. "Tell me, Jodie," Mark said.She lifted a brow at the use of the first name. The boardroom was as formal as it got. Another one of thecompany's problems."What would you like me to tell you, Mr. Bradshaw?"He pointed toward the screen that still bore the last image from Ethan‘s presentation. "Why don't you pointout all the flaws in your boss's report."
Chapter Two
Suddenly, the prospect of not having a date for the gala didn't loom quite so ominous for Jodie. She wouldn'tneed an escort because if she truthfully answered Mark's question about her supervisor's report, she wouldn'thave a job. Ethan, said boss, would fire her on the spot. If she lied, she wouldn't be able to live with herself.

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