Best Laid Plans
by Amelia Elias
eBook ISBN: 01743-00542
His perfect woman is moving across the country in the morning, leaving to take charge of a distant corporate office. Luc has one chance left to show her the magic they could share, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to convince her to stay.
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Pungent lavender smoke billowed through the office, filling the air with the scent of Nag Champa. Lucas waved his hand impatiently.
Today of all days, he was not in the mood for theatrics.
The smoke cleared at last and Gene stood before him, arms crossed over his muscular chest, a Cheshire cat smile curving his lips. “You rang?”
Lucas slammed the lamp down on the desk. “Damn right I rang, you worthless excuse for a magical creature!” he growled, resisting the urge to throttle the genie. It might be momentarily satisfying, but in the end, he forced himself not to strangle the lamp’s servant. The others who’d invested heavily to purchase the artifact wouldn’t be happy if he sent it back damaged.
That didn’t mean he wasn’t tempted, though. “Just what the hell kind of trick is this, Gene?” Lucas demanded. “I planned it all out. I spoke the required words. I followed every single instruction, so why aren’t you granting my wish?”
Gene crossed his arms with an expression of resigned patience. “I granted your wish, Master Lucas, granted it to the letter. You wished for a woman to love, a woman who was everything you’d ever dreamed, who would be a perfect partner for you. Correct?”
Lucas glared. “You and I both know exactly what I wished. I’m asking you why she’s leaving!”
The genie shrugged. “I have granted every single condition of your wish,” he said. “And you never wished that she would feel these same things for you, did you?”
Those words drove the air from Luc’s lungs. He stood, frozen, his thoughts whirling as the exact words of his wish echoed in his memory. Damn, how had he missed something so completely obvious?
Every wish had been planned to the nth degree. It was the only way of protecting his investment in the lamp. What good was it to throw away his life’s savings on the thing if he made a bonehead mistake on his wish and didn’t reap any of the rewards?
Apparently his cautious planning had been far less than perfect. He’d have to remember to warn Ethan and Megan, the other two investors, to quadruple-check their wishes to avoid the same fate.
Then again, admitting a blunder of this magnitude… he rubbed his temples and shook his head. Maybe they’d just have to be more careful on their own.
He remembered his wish perfectly. Genie, guide a woman to my side who will be the perfect partner. An intelligent woman who values her independence, but isn’t afraid to rely on me. A pretty woman —” Lucas had known too many vain and beautiful women to ever wish for one of those, “– heterosexual, adventurous in bed, who will capture my heart and never lose my interest. This is my heartfelt wish.”
And he hadn’t said one single word about her attraction to him.
He groaned. “Why didn’t you say something, for God’s sake?”
Gene stopped his moustache smoothing and raised an eyebrow. “It is forbidden for a genie to influence his or her master’s wishes,” he said, his voice pompous and very shocked. “I could never do such a thing. If a wish was bungled because of a genie’s interference, however well-intentioned, the consequences would be –”
Luc waved a hand, cutting him off. He’d heard the whole self-righteous impartial genie code-of-ethics spiel before. Rubbing his aching temples, he tried to think his way around the problem. It was a skill he’d perfected in his business dealings, even before the wish that had brought his Internet security firm such unprecedented success.
But this problem couldn’t be so coldly analyzed.
Allyson Vaughn was the woman of his dreams. Gene couldn’t have found a more perfect woman if he’d tried. The daughter of the man who’d helped Luc get this company off the ground, Allyson had inherited Jacob’s half of InterLocked Security’s shares and his seat on the board when he’d died. Lovely, confident, and sexy as hell, she had more business savvy in her little finger than most of the other board members had combined.
Yes, she was the perfect partner. The perfect business partner.
She’d never once given Lucas any encouragement that she’d like to be more than that.
He slumped on the edge of the desk, his head in his hands. One other part of that wish had definitely come true. He was head-over-heels in love with Allyson and had been from almost the moment he’d first seen her. His heart ached with every beat at the thought of her imminent departure from InterLocked’s headquarters to fill a position at one of the company’s most important subsidiaries.
“God, what am I going to do?” he breathed, banging his fist against his forehead. “Think!”
Gene cleared his throat. Lucas glared at him. “What?”
“Master, the answer to a problem wish is often found within the other two wishes.”
Lucas fought the urge to roll his eyes. “Yes, thank you, Gene. Might I remind you that I’ve already used all three of them?”
“I may have been created before written history, but I can add just as well as the next man.” He examined his fingernails. “Master.”
Luc bit back another stinging retort. Arguing with Gene would only raise his blood pressure, and that wouldn’t do a damn bit of good.
Listening to the genie, however, just might. He forced his breathing to slow, his fists to unclench, and concentrated on the other two wishes he’d made, just in case there was any hope to be found there.
The wish that had helped his business become such a success over the last year was a simple one. He’d wished for beneficial business deals, lucrative contracts, good employee morale, annual profits, no scandals or bad press — all the things a company needed to become an industry leader. And after this year’s phenomenal sales figures, InterLocked certainly led the Internet security industry.
At least one wish had gone as planned.
Luc drummed his fingers on the table as he considered his third and final wish. It had been his own version of a security system — after so much time spent safeguarding others’ property, it had just seemed like common sense to guard his own.
“That which belongs to me, and all things that are intended to come to me, cannot be taken by force, forfeited through negligence, or otherwise become lost to me, without my express and explicit consent. This is my heartfelt wish.”
His eyes widened as the words took on an entirely new meaning. “Gene,” he said, straightening and trying not to look too hopeful, “when your power guided Allyson here, was it your intention to grant the spirit of my wish?”
Gene smiled. “It is always my intention to grant my Master’s wishes.”
He had to fight not to whoop aloud. “Then she was intended for me, and cannot be lost! Gene, I need you to –”
A shuffling sound in the lobby interrupted him and Luc stiffened. Written into the ironclad agreement of the collective that had purchased Gene’s lamp was a secrecy clause. If anyone caught him talking to the magical apparition, there would be hell to pay. He quickly modified the command he’d been about to give.
“Get out of here quick, and for once can you ditch the smoke?”
The genie shrugged and disappeared with a faint pop. A hint of incense teased his senses, but at least this time Luc wasn’t smothered by a purple cloud of the stuff.
He stashed the precious lamp in the hidden desk safe built especially for that purpose, spinning the lock and making sure the side panel of the desk had been replaced seamlessly before turning toward the door. He had a pretty good idea who was moving things around in the lobby at eight p.m. on a Friday night.
Allyson wasn’t the type to make a big display on her last day of work. She hadn’t boxed up one single thing from her office and had looked thoroughly uncomfortable at the farewell luncheon InterLocked had thrown for her.
Of course she’d wait until everyone was gone before she cleaned out her office. She didn’t want to deal with the goodbyes.
Lucas Drake, ruthless businessman and corporate shark, wrenched off his tie and took a deep, steadying breath. He had no intention of saying goodbye to her. Not now, not ever.
Then he pulled open the door of his corner office and braced himself for the most important merger negotiation of his life.
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