Search For Love series, Book 9


In just a few moments she'd find out whether he was the man in her dreams.  If he was...

Melanie's heart thudded so hard, she felt as if it were going to jump out of her chest as Flo Briggs led her through a spacious living room, then down a hall.  There the housekeeper motioned to an open door. 

Melanie stepped inside and came face-to-face with Zachary Morgan.  Her organ donor's husband was sitting at his desk, his oxford shirt sleeves rolled up, deeply involved in his work and seemingly oblivious to her presence.

This is the man, everything inside of her screamed.  She felt almost dizzy with the realization that her dreams had been much more than dreams.

As he stood to greet her, their eyes locked and Melanie's heart lurched.

"Ms. Carlotti?" he asked, his voice deep and rich, striking a chord inside of her.  He extended his hand, and for a moment she was afraid to take it.

Then she did.  His grip was strong, his skin warm, his hand tanned, and she was so relieved when she didn't feel anything strange.  "Yes.  It's good to meet you."

Releasing her fingers, he leaned away and nodded to the black leather chair in front of his desk.  "Tell me why you'd like to decorate my offices."

After she took her seat, he lowered himself into his chair but kept his gaze on hers.  She still couldn't believe she was finally face-to-face with the man she'd been dreaming about for months—a man she'd found so very compelling.  Yet she knew if she told him her real reason for being here, he wouldn't believe her or worse yet, he'd think she was crazy.

Smoothing her hand down the rose skirt of her two-piece dress, she gave a logical explanation for wanting this job.  "The way I understand it, this is a large project—four floors of offices.  I'd enjoy working on a job that size, starting from scratch and choosing everything from wall coverings to furniture."

He glanced down briefly at the papers on his desk.  "You've mostly decorated homes.  Why do you feel you have the qualifications to do this job?"

"I'd expect you'd want your offices to reflect something about you and your business and how you run it.  It's really not so different from decorating a house to match a client's personality as well as likes and dislikes."

"I suppose that's so."  Keeping his gaze steady on hers, he noted, "There's almost a two-year gap in your work history, and you've only finished a couple of minor jobs in the past few months.  Can you tell me the reason for that?"

She could lay it all out on his desk right now—tell him about the fire and her cornea transplants and the keening ache that had brought her to him.  If she did that, he might escort her out of his building, lock the doors and never let her back in.  She'd be left with dreams and no explanations.  "I had some health problems," she explained.  "Now they're resolved and I'm ready to get back into the swing of my career again." 

He seemed to think about that.  "Why here in Northern California rather than back in L.A.?"

"I need a change.  I've heard that Santa Rosa is a particularly lovely place to live.  I have a good reputation that I can take with me anywhere, so I decided to start fresh.  If I get this job."

He arched a brow.  "And if you don't?"

"I might stay in the area for a while and see if there are any other opportunities."

After another long, silent appraisal, he asked, "Do you have a place to stay?"

"Not yet.  I checked into the motel at Cool Ridge last night."  Cool Ridge was about forty-five minutes outside of Santa Rosa and consisted of little more than a main street.  She'd been fortunate to find a room in the one motel there.  A country-music festival was being held at nearby Clear Lake this week and vacancies were hard to find anywhere in the area.

As her gaze held Zachary Morgan's, there seemed to be more than words between them.  Something akin to electricity.  She wondered if he felt it, too.

His brows furrowed as he once again looked down at the papers on his desk, and she suspected he was buying time as he made a first impression of her.  "Your résumé is certainly complete.  I phoned—"

Suddenly a toddler came running into the office.  From Jake's background report, Melanie knew Zack's daughter was eighteen months old.  The little girl made a beeline straight for Zack and held onto his knee, looking up at him with a beatific smile.

Melanie's breath caught at the wave of feelings that washed over her.  Zack's daughter had dark brown eyes and his dark brown hair.

"Da-Dee.  Up," she said gleefully.

Flo Briggs came tearing into the office, breathless.  "I'm so sorry, Zack.  She got away from me.  Right after her nap, she's got more energy than ten of me."

Zack laughed and lifted his daughter onto his lap.  "How's a man supposed to conduct business with a distraction like you around?"  His voice was teasing and warm and altogether loving.

"Da-Dee, Da-Dee," she said, as if that explained absolutely everything.

He shook his head.  "I can't play right now.  Maybe Flo can find a cookie or two for you."

As if telling her dad that was a fine idea, the child wrapped her arms around his neck and gave him a tight squeeze.

He hugged her back, and looking over her tiny shoulder, he said to Melanie, "This is my daughter, Amy.  Since we moved here and I often work out of the penthouse, she takes advantage of any time she can find me."

Amy suddenly let go of her dad's neck and turned to look at Melanie.

Melanie had felt an almost-hum when her gaze had first connected with Zachary Morgan's.  Now as she looked at his daughter, there was that same feeling of connection.  Was it her imagination?  Truth be told, if she hadn't already been dealing with strange things since her operation, she might think she was going crazy.

Her heart told her another story...especially when Amy blinked twice at her, broke into a super-wide smile and scrambled from her dad's lap.  She ran to Melanie and looked up at her with wide brown eyes.

"Hi, there," Melanie said almost reverently, feeling like a mother again.  Joy and sadness and an unfathomable yearning filled her.

Amy held her arms up, never taking her gaze from Melanie's.  Instinctively, she lifted the toddler to her lap.  The little girl touched Melanie's cheek, her soft baby fingers leaving an imprint on Melanie's heart.



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