The Contract(9)

By: Melanie Moreland

My gaze met the somewhat amused expression of Graham Gavin. We had encountered each other at industry functions a few times, always polite and distant—a professional shake of hands and brief acknowledgment being the only interaction. He was tall and confident, with a headful of silver hair that gleamed under the lights.

Up close, the warmth in his green eyes and the low timbre of his voice struck me. I wondered if the idea board had been left on purpose—a test of sorts.

I shrugged. “It’s a good concept, but not new. A family using the same product? It’s been done.”

He perched his hip on the edge of the table, crossing his arms. “Done, but successful. The client is Kenner Shoes. They want to appeal to more than one demographic.”

I nodded. “What if you did that, but only featured one person?”

“I’d like to hear more.”

I pointed to the image of the family, tapping my finger on the youngest child. “Start here. Focus on him. The very first purchase of their product—shoes bought by his parents. Follow him as he grows, highlighting some pertinent points in his life wearing them—first steps, first day of school, hiking with friends, playing sports, on dates, graduation, marriage . . .” My voice trailed off.

Graham was quiet for a moment, then started to nod. “The product stays with you as you grow.”

“It’s a constant. You change—it doesn’t. Yours for life.”

“Brilliant,” he praised.

For some reason, his compliment made my chest warm, and I ducked my head at the strange sensation. He pushed off the table, holding out his hand. “Graham Gavin.”

I took his hand, noting the firmness of his grip. “Richard VanRyan.”

“I’m impressed already.”

Before I could reply, my phone buzzed. Right on time. “I’m sorry.” I glanced at the screen, hoping I looked sheepish. “I need to take this. I apologize.”

“No problem, Richard.” He smiled. “I need coffee.”

I turned away as I answered. “Katharine,” I murmured, pitching my voice low.

For a moment, there was silence, then she spoke. “Mr. VanRyan?”

“Yes.” I chuckled, knowing I had confused the fuck out of her. I didn’t think I had ever called her anything besides Miss Elliott, and certainly never in a voice like the one I had just used.

“Um, you asked me to call and tell you your four o’clock was changed to three?”

“Three o’clock now?” I repeated.


“Okay, I’ll adjust. Is everything all right there?”

She sounded shocked when she replied. “Mr. VanRyan, are you all right?”

“Of course, I am.” I couldn’t resist teasing her more. “Why?”

“You sound, ah, different.”

“Stop worrying,” I soothed, knowing Graham was listening. “Everything is fine.”

“David was looking for you.”

“What did you tell him?”

“Exactly what you instructed me to say. He . . .”

“What? What happened?”

“He’s on a bit of a tear this morning.”

“David’s always on a tear. Take an early lunch and lock the office door. I’ll deal with him when I return,” I instructed as I smirked into the phone, injecting a concerned tone to my voice.

Bewilderment led to bravery for her. “Lock the office and take an early lunch? Are you drunk?”

That did it. I burst out laughing at her words. “Just do it, Katharine. Stay safe, and I’ll see you when I get back.” I hung up, still smiling, and turned around to face Graham. “My assistant,” I explained.

He regarded me with a knowing look. “I think I know why you’re looking to leave Anderson Inc.”

I returned his look with a small shrug.

I had him.

“Tell me about yourself.”

I grimaced at his question. “I think you know a lot about me already, Graham. At least you know of me.”

He nodded, taking a sip of his coffee. “Your reputation does precede you.”

I bent forward, hoping to appear earnest. “People change.”

“And you have?”

“What I want in life and how I get it has, yes. Therefore, the person I was, no longer exists.”