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Authors: Jennifer Cruise

Charlie All Night (6 page)

BOOK: Charlie All Night
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*  *  *
Allie watched Charlie open the binder and begin to read.
Now that they weren't naked, it was easier to make decisions about her
future.
For one thing, she was definitely not going to be sharing her bed with
him again. She was almost sure
of that. She didn't need any more
tension in her life. And after all, she barely knew him.
And sleeping with him would be bad professionally. It was wisest to
break this off now, before she
really started to care about him.
Because she didn't care about him. She just wanted him. She wanted
him right now on the floor of her office. Except
there wasn't enough room. Maybe the desk—
No.
She looked at him, reading the stupid WBBB handbook, that lock of
blond-brown hair falling over his forehead. The best thing she could do
would be to stay away from him as much as possible. While he was on the
air, there would be a glass wall between them, so that was safe enough.
And maybe they could discuss the show through memos instead of
face-to-face.
Eace-to-face made her think of his mouth.
Definitely memos.
Charlie read something that was particularly inane and groaned.
"I told you it would be bad," Allie said unsympathetically. She had to
get away from him. She had
to do things that did not include
fantasizing about being pressed against a wall while his hands—
She grabbed her coffee cup and stood up. "Listen, if you're happy here
for a while, I promised to talk
to some people. If you want coffee, the
break room is down the hall, turn to the left, first door on the
left.
You can't miss it."
"Coffee is not going to make this garbage better," Charlie said.
"Be sure to mention that to Bill at the meeting at five," Allie said
and made her escape.
*  *  *
Allie got coffee from the break room, smiling absently at Mark and
Harry
the Howler who were
talking cars. She wasn't even mad at Mark anymore.
Amazing what good sex and a new shot at a
career could do for a woman's
outlook. Mark looked at her strangely, so she ignored him. She had
enough to do without worrying about Mark, especially since worrying
about Mark was no longer
her job. This was an incredibly cheering thought in a day that had been
pretty cheerful to
start with.
Buoyed beyond reason, she left the break room and went back to doing
what she did best: keeping
the station ticking. She picked up the
ratings from Albert, promised Marcia they'd have a late lunch
the next
day to discuss her show and headed for the receptionist's counter.
"Hey, Karen," she said as she breezed into the lobby. She picked up a
cookie from a plate on the
counter and bit into it. "Where did the
almond cookies come from?"
"Mrs. Winthrop brought them in for Grady again, but he said to leave
them here for everybody."
Karen looked around and then crooked a finger
at her. "Come here for a minute."
Allie popped the rest of the cookie in her mouth and went behind the
counter, mystified.
Karen picked up a basket covered with a baby quilt. "I'm in big
trouble, Allie, and I don't know what
to do."
Allie prayed there wasn't a baby in the basket. Some things were beyond
even her ability to fix. Then
she looked at the dark circles under
Karen's eyes and felt ashamed. "You look awful," Allie said.
"What's
wrong?"
"I have to feed him every hour and I can't get to sleep in between.
I've been doing it for two days
now, and I'm afraid he's going to die."
Karen started to cry, and Allie took the basket from her,
expecting the
worst.
It was almost that bad. Under the blanket, nestled in soft flannel, was
a tiny black puppy, no bigger
than two of Allie's fingers. "Oh, no."
Allie shot ah anguished look at Karen. "What happened?"
Karen's words came out in a rush. "Mopsy had her puppies, but there
were too many, and he came
last, and he can't suck or something, and
she doesn't even seem to notice him." She gulped in some
air. "And I've
been trying to feed him every hour, but I'm not getting much down him,
and I think
he's going to die." Tears started in her eyes, and she sniffed them
back. "And I'm so tired, Allie.
I just can't think what to do."
Allie put the blanket back over the basket. "Is the formula in here?"
Karen nodded. "And the bottle and everything."
Allie patted her on the shoulder. "Go home at five and sleep. We'll
take
it from here."
Karen blinked. "I don't have permission to have him at the station.
Bill doesn't know."
"Bill doesn't have to know. Charlie and I can handle it until two, and
then Grady's in." Allie grinned
at her. "And you know Grady and nature.
He'll probably have this little guy sitting up and begging
by morning."
Karen's tears moved from a trickle to a gush. "Are you sure? Will
Charlie be mad? Oh, Allie, I—"
"Go home at five," Allie ordered. "Grady will pass the basket to you at
eight, and I'll pick it up again tomorrow night at five. Charlie and
Harry will be glad to help. They're good guys. We're covered.
Go get
some coffee to keep you going until you get off work, and leave
everything else to me."
Karen mopped at her eyes and nodded. "His name's Samson. That's what I
call him when I feed him.
I wanted to give him a strong name, you know?"
"I know." Allie patted her again, back in control of the world. "We'll
save him."
*  *  *
After fifteen minutes of trying to make sense of Bill's highly original
take on broadcasting, Charlie gave
up and went in search of the break
room and coffee. Mark and Harry, the big tow-headed guy from
the lobby,
were deep in conversation about Mark's carburetor when he came in, and
as far as Charlie
was concerned, they could stay that way.
"Just came for coffee." He picked up a disposable cup and filled it at
the coffeemaker. Then he
turned back to the door.
"So, Charlie..." Mark was leaning back in his chair, smiling one of
those man-to-man smiles.
"So, Mark." Charlie kept going.
"So you've moved in with Allie and Joe."
"Yep." Charlie was almost through the door.
"So how was it in the sack with our Allie last night?"
Charlie stopped.
Keep your mouth
shut,
he told himself.
Get
out of
here
. He turned around. "What?"
Mark smiled his man-of-the-world smile. "You and Allie. How was she in
the sack? Not what you're
used to, I bet."
Don't make waves
, Charlie told
himself. He looked at Mark's smug face
and thought about Allie and felt his temper spurt. He walked back and
leaned over the table until he was almost nose-to-nose with Mark.
"Never... ever... make a derogatory comment about Alice again. Because
if you do, I will wipe up this station with you."
Mark lost his smile for a minute, and Charlie turned back to the door.
"Tough guy."
Charlie kept going.
"Was she as lousy for you as she was for me?"
Charlie stopped.
Don't do it
.
Then he turned around and walked back
toward Mark.
Mark stood, caught his foot on the leg of his chair and fell over
backward to the floor, taking the
chair with him.
"I warned you not to do that," Charlie told him mildly. He looked at
Harry. "Didn't I?"
"Yes,"
Harry said, nodding
judiciously. "
Yes
, I'd have to
say that you
did." He didn't look particularly
put out that Mark was on the floor.
Mark glared at Charlie from the floor. "It was just a joke."
Charlie frowned down at him. "Don't joke about Allie. It annoys me." He
turned to leave and came face-to-face with Karen.
"Just came in for some coffee," she said brightly, waving her cup at
him.
"Fine," Charlie said. "Step on Mark while you're getting it."
This will not do
, he told
himself on his way back to Allie.
This
woman
is screwing up your head.
Keep away from her.
4
Charlie was still scowling when he got back to Allie's office.
Threatening Mark had been stupid.
He hated being stupid, although Lord
knew he should be used to it by now.
"What's wrong?" Allie peered at him over a blanket-covered basket on
her desk. "You look upset."
"Not me."
"You sure?"
Charlie tossed the handbook on the desk, feeling like a fool. "Well,
Mark sort of fell over."
Allie froze. "Fell over?"
Charlie sat down and sipped his coffee. "He's not hurt. It wasn't that
far to the floor."
Allie looked severe. "I suppose you had a reason."
Charlie shrugged.
He insulted you,
and for some reason I lose my mind
every time I think of you
.
"I didn't like his looks."
"Right. What did he say about me?"
That was another problem with Allie. She was too damn sharp. "Don't be
so conceited."
"He doesn't know you well enough to insult you. What did he say about
me?"
"His very existence insults me. Can we get back to business?"
"I'll find out, anyway." Allie waited and then opened the folder in
front of her. "Okay. Fine. We'll
do business. Any questions so far?"
Charlie gave her the one that had been bugging him since the day
before. "Yeah. How did an idiot
like Mark get to be a star around here?"
Allie blinked at him. "He's not an idiot. He's a good broadcaster. His
voice is clear and it makes
people feel good. Plus he's great at PR.
He's good-looking, and his picture's been plastered all over
the city
on billboards. He pulls a pretty good female audience."
Charlie scowled harder, not sure why he cared. "So why isn't he on TV?"
"He's really shy." Allie's face softened, and Charlie got more annoyed.
"I know he comes across
as a conceited jerk, but he's really unsure of
himself. He's never even thought about TV. All those cameras? He'd have
a nervous breakdown."
"Shy." Charlie snorted.
"Hey, not everybody is as comfortable with himself as you are." Allie
surveyed him. "You're exactly
who you want to be, doing exactly what
you want to do. That's pretty rare. Mark doesn't have your confidence,
so he relies on his good looks to get him through, but he's still
anxious. All the time."
Charlie focused on the part of her argument he liked the least. "He's
not good-looking."
"Yes, he is. He looks like Richard Gere before he went gray."
"Mark's gray?"
"Richard's gray. Mark is still tall, dark and handsome, and women
swoon."
Charlie slumped lower in his chair. "He's medium, dark and dweeby." He
looked at her suspiciously.
"Are you still swooning?"
Allie leaned back in her chair. "Nope. I've been cured. Thank you very
much."
His spirits rose miraculously. "My pleasure, believe me."
Allie smiled at him, and Charlie felt himself slipping into lust. Oh,
no. He yanked himself back.
"What's wrong?"
"Nothing." He shook his head. No more Allie. They would work together
at the station where it would
be almost impossible to make love—he
shoved the desk thoughts firmly from his mind—but he was definitely
finding another place to live. He'd take her to dinner tonight and let
her down easy and then move to a motel. Good plan. He suppressed a sigh
of relief at being back in control and returned to the problem of the
station. "Who's on before me?"
"Harry the Howler. The big guy you met in the hall."
Mark's companion in the break room. "I think I just met him again. Calm
sort of guy."
Allie nodded. "Exactly. That's what I keep telling him, but he insists
on howling. Which is not your problem. In fact, I don't see that you
have any problems." She beamed at him, the Positive Career
Talk smile.
"I'm taking over for a paranoid gun-nut, and you think I have no
problems."
"Of course not. After Waldo,
anybody
is a step up. And we've been at
the bottom of the ratings for
so long, you can only go up. Just
remember, we're an easy-listening station, and you can't go wrong."
"Well, that's our first problem. I'm not an easy-listening kind of guy."
Allie looked exasperated. "You must have known we weren't hard rock
when you signed on."
Charlie shook his head. "Bill told me I could play what I wanted."
"Which is?"
"Everything." Charlie leaned back and tried to sound as if he knew what
he was doing. "I like rock, country, rap, jazz... I like it all. The
way I figure it, I'll talk to people and they can call in and talk
back and in between I play music I like."
Allie shrugged. "Well, Bill is a lot of things, but a liar he isn't. If
he said you could do that here, you
can do that here, you better go
look at our library. I don't know how much of variety we have."
"Well, I'll just have to give Bill a shopping list." Charlie hoved the
handbook back across the desk
to her. "I don't need this. As long as I
don't do anything to give the FCC leart failure, I'll be okay."
"All right. Now, what do you need to get your show started?"
"Nothing." Charlie leaned back and spread his hands out o embrace the
world, back in control again.
"I can do it all."
"Great." Allie pulled the basket on her desk closer to her. 'There's
just one other little thing we have
to do tonight." She cached under
the blanket and pulled out a doll's baby bottle. "Samson needs to be
fed every hour. We're going to have to cover this until two. Grady will
do the rest. I've already called
him, and he's fine with it."
"Samson?" Charlie said, totally confused.
"The station puppy." Allie pulled back the blanket and Charlie peered
over the edge.
The tiny dark shape inside looked like an undersize chocolate Twinkie.
"That's a puppy?"
"Well, he's small right now, but he's going to get a lot bigger."
Allie tried to nudge the bottle into the puppy's mouth, but he made no
movement to take it.
Another one of Allie's lost causes. First Mark, then Charlie's show,
and
now this puppy. Charlie
squinted at the tiny scrap of protoplasm Allie
insisted was a dog. "Are you sure it's not dead?"
He stepped back as Allie's eyes came up blazing. "This puppy is
not
going to die."
"All right." Charlie had some small experience with animals on the
farms he'd worked on during his summer vacations, and all of it told
him Samson was doomed, but he wasn't going to fight Allie on it.
"Where's his mother?"
"He's the runt. Things didn't work out between them." Allie tipped the
bottle so the formula ran into
the puppy's mouth without him sucking,
and his throat made weak swallowing movements. "See?"
she said
triumphantly. "He's going to be fine."
Charlie sat back and watched Allie work over the puppy, tickling its
throat to get it to swallow. Well,
if anyone could save an embryo dog,
Allie could. He'd only known her twenty-four hours, but he
already had
a healthy respect for her determination.
"We may have to do this every half hour," Allie told him. "He's not
getting enough this way. He's got
to learn to suck."
So now he was a dog nurse, too. Well, he liked dogs. And if this was
what Allie wanted... "All right."
Allie covered the basket again. "He's going to make it. I know he is."
At least when the dog died, he'd be there to comfort her.
Platonically.       
BOOK: Charlie All Night
8.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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