Seduction And The CEO - Page 3

She backspaced to erase the H and typed Jared Ryder into the search engine.

In a split second, it returned a list of options that included the home page of Ryder International, Jared’s speech last month to the Chamber of Commerce, contact information for his new office tower and a link to the Ryder Ranch.

Curious, she clicked the ranch link.

A brilliant green panorama of trees, meadows and rolling hills appeared in front of her. The sky was crackling turquoise, while a ribbon of pale blue meandered through the meadow, nearly kissing a two-story, red-roofed house surrounded by pens and outbuildings.

So that was what Montana looked like.

A row of thumbnail pictures lined the bottom of the screen. “Natural beauty,” advertised one caption. “Surrounded by wilderness,” read another. “South of Glacier National Park.”

Susan shut down her own computer, rising to sling three cameras over her shoulder. “Gotta get to work.”

“Have fun,” Melissa offered, clicking on a thumbnail of summer wildflowers. Red, purple, yellow, white. They really were quite gorgeous.

Susan grinned as she pushed a drawer shut with her hip. “I will. Headshots today. Then there’s a gala Friday night, and I’m going to hitch a ride on the channel-ten chopper for the bike race Sunday.”

“Shut up,” Melissa griped as Susan rounded the end of the desk.

Melissa would be sitting right here all week long, in the stuffy, hot office, combing through the minutes of various City Hall committees, looking for permits or variances or financial-policy news, anything that might lead to an interesting business story.

“What’s that?” asked Susan, nodding to the computer screen.

Melissa refocused on the verdant green and bright flowers. “Montana,” she answered. “Where I’d be if Seth had half a heart.” Or half a brain.

She clicked on an area map. There was an airport in Missoula and everything.

“Not my cup of tea,” said Susan, popping a jaunty plaid hat on her curly brown locks.

“Not mine, either,” Melissa admitted, gathering her own straight, blond hair into a knot at the nape of her neck in an effort to let the building’s weak air-conditioning waft over her hot skin. “But I’d fly there in a heartbeat to meet Jared Ryder.”

“So do it,” said Susan.

“Yeah, right.”

“Why not?”

Melissa swiveled to face her coworker. “Because Seth turned me down flat.”

Susan shrugged. “Tell him you’re doing City Hall research from home. Then get on a plane.”

Oh, now that seemed brilliant. “Lie to my boss and ignore his orders?”

“He’ll forgive you if you get the story.” Susan’s lips curved in a conspiratorial grin. “Trust me.”

Melissa let the hair slip out of her hand. The idea was preposterous.

Susan leaned in and lowered her voice. “If you don’t get the story, somebody else will.”

“At least it won’t be Brandon.”

“Result will be the same.”

“Flying to Montana could get me fired,” Melissa pointed out.

“It could also get you promoted.” Susan straightened.

“Easy for you to say.”

Susan shrugged the cameras into a more comfortable position, then adjusted her cap. “Up to you. But no risk, no reward. My biggest payday was when those vandals let the lions loose at Lincoln Park.”

“That was insane,” Melissa reminded her. Susan had been clinging to the branches of an oak tree with a hungry male lion pacing below when the animal-control officer had darted the thing. Another shrug.

“Are you suggesting that if I don’t put myself in mortal danger, I’m not trying hard enough?”

Susan patted Melissa’s shoulder. “I’m suggesting if you don’t torpedo Brandon and go after that promotion, you’re not trying hard enough.”

Point made, Susan winked and sauntered away, while Melissa drummed her fingertips on the desktop.

She glanced at the pictures of the Montana ranch. Then her gaze shifted to the spacious window cubicle reserved for the new feature writer.

She pictured Seth’s expression when she presented the article. She pictured Brandon’s face when he learned of her coup. She pictured her byline on the cover of the Bizz. Then just for good measure, she pictured herself at the podium, accepting a Prentice award next January. She could wear her black-and-gold-layered gown, with the teardrop medallion she’d found last week in that funky little art gallery on Second. Take that, Brandon Langard.

Her life would be perfect. All she had to do was talk her way onto the Ryder Ranch.

Body loose in the saddle, Jared Ryder held his horse Tango to a slow walk across the wooden bridge that led to his sister Stephanie’s place. Her jumping-horse outfit was built on Ryder land up on the Bonaparte Plateau, about ten miles into the hills from the main spread at Spirit Lake. Tango’s ears twitched and his body tensed as he took in the nearly hundred head of horses grazing in the fields and milling about in the pens clustered around the main riding arena.

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