Brandon held his breath, struggling to remember his father’s words. Something about God making him trip over a good woman.
He eyed the young woman with raven hair—shiny and black like that of a thoroughbred—and eyes an unusual shade. Liquid gold with flecks of brown, though it was hard to be sure in the dimming light.
An uneven rhythm thudded in his chest. That was new.
He’d not seen her jogging on the trails before today. Maybe Dad was right. She was beautiful, obviously loved to run, and. . .he didn’t work with her.
Feeling tongue-tied as a schoolboy, he wasn’t sure where to go from here.
Suddenly, he was hit with the strangest desire—he wished. . .he wished he could share the beauty of the eroded pinnacles that only appeared to look like ancient ruins in the moonlight. Asking her—a woman he’d only just met—if he could show her the sight was completely out of the question. And yet?
No—they were complete strangers. What could he say to her?
She appeared uncomfortable under his scrutiny. Uh-oh. He’d better say something and quick.
“I understand about disappointments and failures in the workplace, so I can certainly relate to how you’re feeling.”
She tilted her head just so. Cute. “You can?”
“Sure.” Now what did he say? He was quickly losing his ability to communicate. But how could he tell her the rest? His job had been his life and when he’d lost it because of a vindictive young protégé. . . Brandon took a step back, feeling like he was finally coming to his senses.
“It’s getting dark. I should probably go,” she said.
Curious, he cocked his head. “So, where do you work? If you don’t mind my asking.”
She kicked the dirt around, then looked up at him as though bashful. “I shouldn’t have said anything about my troubles. Really. I start at the museum store tomorrow. You should stop by some time.” She smiled then took off running. “My ankle’s feeling better,” she called, with a quick glance back at him.
A smoldering sensation filled his gut. She must be one of the new interns Jim had mentioned. Heaving long and hard, he started running again, but in the opposite direction. He’d catch the connecting loop to burn off his frustration.
Jim insisted they needed help, and though he was right, Brandon needed to focus on the mounting work ahead of him. It was an odd twist, bringing in help, only to have to divert energy into these individuals, guiding them in the disciplines, directing their futures. In Brandon’s mind, a volunteer intern was almost a contradiction.
He’d just as soon do the work himself at this point. But why had they put this young woman in the museum store? She’d been seriously disappointed.
Years ago he’d been a research paleontologist for a museum. But with a museum director father, collections had always held a draw for him, causing him to harbor the desire to follow his father. He’d forged a friendship with the director in the museum where he worked, who mentored him. Eventually, Brandon learned the process well enough to manage a small museum. When presented with the opportunity, he’d taken it. But then. . .disaster struck.
If it hadn’t been for the aid of a well-respected friend, Brandon wouldn’t have found his life again in the newly created Harrington Museum. Even though several years had passed, he wasn’t ready to open himself up again to risk or criticism.
No more protégés. . .
The words he’d spoken to Jim came back to him. He’d stand by them. Even if she was beautiful beyond words, and he’d come within a breath of asking her on a date. Lungs burning, Brandon slowed his run as the museum complex came into view. Only two cars remained—his black Jeep and Jim’s silver Lexus. He let himself in through the back, feeling the pain in his joints from the long run. After a quick stop in the men’s room to wash the sweat from his face and neck, he continued on to Jim’s office. Talking on the phone, Jim turned his back to Brandon, finishing the call.
Finally, Jim faced Brandon and flipped his phone shut. “Have a good run?”
“Not entirely. I ran into one of your new interns. Literally.”
Jim quirked a half grin then shuffled some papers. “Sounds like Providence.”
Dad would agree. “Did you personally interview them?”
“I reviewed applications and took the ones with recommendations from professors. The usual. Why? Is there a problem?”
Brandon rubbed his chin to cover his misgivings. Why was he so upset? “No, I just wished you would have talked to me before bringing on interns.”
Haven’t we already been through this? What’s done is done. Besides, it’s a menial task you relegated to me last year, remember?” A subtle smirk slid into Jim’s lips. “Though you didn’t accept them, your name is on the letter. You’re the director.”
Brandon heaved a sigh. He was making too much out of this.
“If it makes you feel any better, I’ll make sure you never see a volunteer or intern again this summer, all right?”
“An impossible promise, Jim.” Scratching the back of his neck, Brandon sagged, blowing out the last of his frustration.
“So what is it about this intern you ran into that has you upset?”
How could he tell Jim he’d wanted to see this woman again only to discover she was one of the museum’s interns?—a dangerous activity in which he refused to engage.
“Just ignore me.”
Brandon left Jim’s office, kicking himself for the knee-jerk reaction.
Guilt chiseled through him. If it weren’t for people willing to invest in him during his formative years as a young college student, where would he be today? He was more than obligated to pass on their generosity, despite his personal issues.
He grabbed his keys and exited the museum. Walking backward, he gazed up at the large letters. The Harrington Natural and Cultural Museum.
Everything was riding on his making this museum work. Everything. He’d been given a chance to prove himself.
An image of the young intern with dark hair flashed before his eyes, replacing that of the museum. He turned toward the Jeep and heard the telltale chirp of the lock’s disengagement. She was a striking beauty, really. Good thing he wasn’t one to easily fall for beautiful women.
The last thing he needed was an ever-present reminder of his past failures, lingering around the museum every day.
Elizabeth is giving away a copy of her book, Exposing Amber. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!