In the original version of Private Property, there was an epilogue but during the editing process, my editor and I decided it wasn’t necessary to the story so we deleted it. But I thought you might like to see what I envisioned happening with Jodi and Mark. It is unedited, but it’s fun…
Copyright © 2009 Leah Braemel
All rights reserved
Jodi tugged on her jacket and re-crossed her ankles, scowling at the new pair of high heeled shoes she’d forced her feet into. They had to have been designed by a man—what woman would create such torture devices? She’d much rather have worn her standard cargo pants and company T with a comfortable pair of sneakers, but realized their clients expected a more professional look during meetings. And she’d wanted to look her best today while Mark signed the contract merging his company with Sam’s.
“If you’ll sign here,” the attorney murmured, pointing to a page of the thick merger contract. “And initial here.”
Mark signed and pushed the contract back to the attorney who flipped to another page.
Jodi glanced around his office, and caught Sam looking at her. Like her, he’d dressed up for the occasion. Instead of the black leather he’d worn that first night, he was now clad in a somber blue pinstripe with white button-down shirt and a red power tie. But the suit didn’t make him appear any less lethal. Something about those thick slashing brows over serious brown eyes, and that off-center nose sent a clear do-not-mess-with-me message, she decided. Not to mention his massive shoulders.
The chair creaked beneath him as he leaned toward her. He spoke quietly so Mark couldn’t hear. “Guys giving you any problems about your promotion?”
She shook her head. “No, not really.”
To her surprise they hadn’t. Oh, she’d overheard a couple of jokes about how to get promoted in the company, but none of them held any venom.
“Good. I was worried they might hassle you—maybe mouth off about how you’d earned your promotion by sleepin’ with the boss.”
She forced herself not to smile, unable to resist correcting him. “Don’t you mean bosses?”
To her surprise, she could have sworn Sam blushed. He ran a finger under the collar, then tugged on his tie, wrenching it askew. “Yeah, well, if they know about that, they didn’t hear it from me.” He stopped fidgeting and grinned. “I heard Bobby Ray Cleburne had some objections yesterday though.”
Jodi grimaced at the reminder at her latest client’s objections. Southern gentleman always thought the little woman should be the one protected, not doing the protecting. “Yeah, he said he wanted a good ol’ boy like Mark protecting him rather than a sweet young thing like me.”
Sam chuckled. “I’ll wager he didn’t object much after you laid him flat on his face with your knee in his back. Oh, and I want to thank you for not using that technique on me the other night.”
“And here,” the attorney said, drawing her attention back to the reason for being in Mark’s office. Jodi frowned as Mark signed once more.
Sam placed his larger hand over hers and squeezed. “It’s a merger, sweet pea, not a hostile takeover. You’ve read the contract—Mark’s going to be my partner, not my employee.”
“And that’s it,” the attorney announced. He smiled broadly as he shook Mark’s hand. “It’s been a pleasure.”
Once the attorney finished congratulating them all and had left to file the papers, Sam cleared his throat and held out his hand to Mark. “You won’t regret it, partner.”
“Thanks. You can congratulate me too,” Mark said. He pulled Jodi toward him, wrapped his arms about her waist. “I asked Jodi to marry me and she said yes.”
Sam lifted Jodi’s left hand and inspected the diamond engagement ring Mark had placed on her finger two days before. “That’s quite a hunk of rock there, sweet pea. When’s the date?”
“It’s still under negotiation.” She stood on her toes when Sam leaned down to press a kiss on her cheek. “Mark wants to fly to Vegas, but his mother wants a full ceremony at the cathedral.”
Even as a kid, she’d never envisioned herself walking down an aisle with the white-dress and bridesmaids and tuxedos. She’d been too busy playing shoot-the-bad-guys with her friends. But Mark’s mother was a power unto herself, a force that no one could deny.
And Jodi had a feeling that despite Mark’s threats to his mother about tying the knot in Vegas, he wanted—needed—to be married with his family surrounding him. She stared down at her shiny black shoes again, feeling them pinch her toes. Imagined them as white satin pumps. Hmm, given what she and Mark had done with Sam three days before, she should probably wear something off-white, maybe ice blue. But that wasn’t something she was about to admit to Mrs. Rodriguez.
“When we get some of the details hammered out, I’ll let you know when and where,” Mark said to Sam. “Because you’re going to be standing up beside me as my best man.”
“I’ll be there.” Sam pulled out a cigar and ripped off the cellophane wrapper. “So where should I send my wedding present? To your place or Jodi’s?”
“My place for now,” Mark said. “I convinced Jodi to give up that little shoebox of an apartment. She’s moved in with me.”
That was something else she wouldn’t admit to Mrs. Rodriguez. Or Mama as she’d been urged to call Mark’s mother. To save the confusion since she’d soon be Mrs. Rodriguez too, his parents reminded her. She hadn’t yet informed them she planned to keep her own name. She’d decided to save that little bombshell for another day.
“We’re looking for a house—something in the Mid Cities, maybe Grapevine,” Mark said. He tightened his grip around Jodi’s waist briefly, pulling Jodi from her musing. When she looked up, he winked. “One with lots of bedrooms.”
Heat flooded her cheeks at the memory of the practicing they’d been doing to fill those bedrooms. Practicing in Mark’s bedroom. In Mark’s living room. On his kitchen table.
And last night, on Mark’s desk.
“And then I’m going to install a security system rivaling Fort Knox,” Mark continued, his grin broadening. “I’m going to make sure your sorry ass can’t get in, Watson. After all, I can’t have anyone else getting their hands on my private property.”