Crazy Ever After

By: Kelly Jamieson

Chapter One

“Sorry to interrupt, Samara, but Travis Murray is on the phone, and he needs to speak to you urgently.”

Samara Hayden paused, holding up the remote control for her PowerPoint presentation on second quarter sales figures, gaping at her assistant Jennifer standing in the door of the conference room. The only thing that would have stunned Samara more was if an earthquake had started shaking the office building in which she stood. Her arm slowly lowered to her side.

“Travis Murray?” she repeated.

Just saying his name sent a rush of remembered heat through her body. She blinked at Jennifer.

“Yes.” After a short pause, Jennifer repeated, “He says it’s urgent.”

“Oh-oh,” said someone at the long conference table in a teasing tone of voice. “It’s the big boss. Maybe you’re in trouble, Sam.”

She forced a smile.

“Nah, probably a big promotion,” Barry said, also joking. “Better go talk to him, Sam.”

“I’m so sorry for the interruption.” She set down the remote control. “I’ll be right back. I guess when the VP of Wholesale and Retail Operations calls, I answer.” None of the others knew of her relationship with Travis. Her heart raced and her hands trembled, but she flashed an apologetic smile as she exited the meeting room, leaving the district managers and supervisors of Cedar Mill Coffee Company sitting around the long table. “Please excuse me.”

Outside in the hall, Jennifer said, “Do you want to take it in your office?”

Samara swallowed. “Sure. Thanks, Jenn.” She strode down the carpeted hall as fast as she could in her narrow skirt and high-heeled pumps, her mind racing with a million thoughts and questions. Travis? Travis was calling her? Why on earth...?

Technically, he was her boss, heading up the wholesale and retail operations office in Los Angeles, but several layers of management separated them, and in the two years since she’d been in a management position at Cedar Mill Coffee, he’d never had occasion to call her. Why would he? What was this about? It wasn’t likely to be a promotion, as Barry had joked, nor could she be in any kind of trouble. Her forehead tightened as she closed the office door behind her.

She stood behind her desk and paused with her hand on the receiver, gazing out the large window of her office where the Transamerica Pyramid thrust its sharp white tower into the cloudless blue sky above the San Francisco skyline. Her hand hovered over the telephone, as if she was afraid it was going to electrocute her if she touched it. Then she drew in a deep breath and picked up the receiver. “Samara Hayden,” she said crisply.

“Samara.” Travis’s deep voice, still so familiar after all these years, made her knees go weak. She sank into her leather chair.

“Hello, Travis.”

“Hi.” A short pause followed. “I’m sorry to interrupt your meeting. Your assistant told me you were doing your quarterly update meeting.”

“Yes.” Why are you calling me? She wanted to shout the words into the phone. With a shaky hand, she pushed her hair off her face.

“I have some bad news for you, I’m afraid,” Travis continued, his voice going even deeper. “It’s about your father.”

Samara frowned. “Dad? What is it?”

“He...he was in...Matagalpa.” Travis’s hesitancy was unusual for him. He’d always been so confident, so sure of himself. “On business.”

“Matagalpa? Really?” Her frown deepened. “We haven’t done business there for quite some time, I thought.”

“That’s true. But he was there talking to some growers. Apparently last night he’d been at a fiesta, and on the way back to his hotel, he had an...accident.” Another pause. Samara’s skin went icy, and she straightened in her chair. “His vehicle crashed and caught fire and burned with him in it. He’s...he’s dead, Samara.”

Samara’s office began to slowly spin around her. She rubbed her forehead. “That can’t be true. There must be some mistake.”

“No. God, I’m sorry, no. I spoke to the Matagalpan authorities myself. I...had the same reaction―it must be a mistake. But apparently not. They contacted your mother this morning, and she called me. Then I called them.”