"Your IQ is ten notches below an idiot's!" Lane Conder bellowed while staring directly into the face of a virtual stranger who had to be the biggest pain in the butt he'd ever met even though she was less than five and a half feet tall. Standing as he was, leaning far over his desk, only his stiffly braced arms kept him from falling face-first onto stacks of paper clutter.
Inhaling strictly as a controlling measure, the very determined woman set out to prove herself to the handsome, arrogant man who couldn't be much older than herself. Right about now, she liked scorpions better than him. "My idea is terrific! There are a lot of unwanted women in the world, and if they can read about the problems that others could be facing, it's bound to make them feel better about themselves. People who are around those women need to be shown how awful it is to be rude to them. They can help to make a difference by being polite. You'd be smart to get in on this. It's going to be big, really big. Heaven knows, this once a week rag sheet of yours can certainly use the boost."
Temptation was great to thumb his nose at her, which would have been easy to do.
Misty realized that her skirt and matching blouse were almost the same shade of pink as the irate man's flushed faced. She grinned.
"The only woman I can think of right now that isn't wanted, is you!" he snarled. "As for my newspaper, I'll handle it as I damn well see fit. I'm not interested in lousy articles that'll run it into the ground. My parents built this business up from scratch, and I fully intend to protect it from people like you. Our standards are high and it's going to stay that way." Snorting in disgust, the twenty-four year old not-quite-owner sat in his swivel chair, elbows on the armrests, fingers laced together on the desk in front of him. He stared more intently than ever, primarily at shimmering, jaw length, ash blonde hair. If he hadn't been neck deep in problems these days, he might have enjoyed looking at this woman. But he was neck deep, and wasn't about to let her opinions raise that problem level above his head.
Since practically shouting at the dunce wasn't getting her anywhere, Misty decided to change her tone to calm and collected. Perhaps even bordering on sweet. No matter how loud he yelled. "Your command of the English language stinks." His vocabulary was also slightly colorful, only it would undoubtedly get even more colorful if she called that fact to his attention. "It's a good thing the circulation subscriptions for this paper are a grand total of ten, so not many people care." Grabbing her neatly typed articles from on top of what might be other submissions, she slipped them carefully into her expanding folder. Noticing a grocery list tagging out, she tossed it back down. "Not mine."
Lane ignored that information, as well as the fact of his list landing between his hands, a corner jabbing the knuckle of his right thumb. "I inherited this, 'rag sheet', as you so kindly called it, when my parents were killed in an accident five years ago. Since then I've done whatever it takes to make a continued success of Citizen's Views. With the help of people like George, Rusty, Carmen and Kurt ... I've learned the ropes. An ignoramus damn well isn't going to use that rope to hang us all out to dry!" he firmly declared. "How good are you at pulling a vanishing act?"
"Lousy. So what were you doing when your folks were scratching this newspaper together?" Misty purred ever so sweetly. "Never mind, it's obvious. Mr. Intelligent was busy learning how to read out of a blank book."
"Your brain is blank! But for Mz. Fruitcake's information, I was busy being a kid, then came to work here out of high school." He didn't have the foggiest idea why he was so loose tongued with this wretch.
"You, a kid? That recently?" the on a roll woman mercilessly provoked. He'd already told her he wasn't interested in her proposal, so she had nothing to lose except excess steam. There was no place more logical to do that venting. "Here I thought you were a well preserved ninety year old."
"What the hell does that mean?" Lane snarled. He was glaring at her so intently that his eyes were nearly squinted shut.
Taking a good look at the very handsome man, who had an unbelievable crop of thick brown hair topping his pea-brained head, she sniggered, "Your opinions are antiquated."
"And yours could pass for filler in a trash can!" He played it cool by glancing casually around his large office, with its average furnishings, computer set-up on a counter next to the bank of windows, framed calendar pictures of old cars on the gray walls and the smell of ink emitting from the printing equipment on the ground floor. To his way of thinking, the free-standing, two story building hadn't been laid out well.
Misty could read handwriting on the wall as easily as the next guy, and the stubborn fool seated in front of her was doing his lettering with a paint roller. Obviously her opinions weren't getting her anywhere, so she might as well dish out a measure of tactful begging. Not that she expected it would change his mind, but it would be fun.
"Look, Mr. Conder," she said, "I'm not asking to be put on your payroll. I'm not at all interested in a regular job," she lied smoothly. "I'm only asking that my articles be given thoughtful consideration." Seeing his attention was drifting off somewhere, hope of even slim success continued gurgling down the drain: slim success that he'd agree to publish one of her articles and base publishing the rest on readership flack. "I can see this is getting us absolutely nowhere. The best of luck in your family business," she said politely, gracefully turning to leave.
Lane sighed in relief.
She had the guts to hiss waspishly over her shoulder, "I hope you don't commit suicide when my articles hit it big in a smart owner's paper, and just what you've missed out on hits like a ton of bricks!"
Forcing what she hoped was a pleased giggle, Misty Stevens calmly walked over to his closed office door, pulled it open and made her way through the desk scattered newsroom to the elevator. Once inside away from curious eyes, she stomped her feet while pacing impatiently. When the door slid open after a lazy descent, hurried steps carried her across the small lobby to the glass door. She swiftly exited into the early morning sunshine of what was turning out to be a crummy day in early March.