A Cowboy For Christmas - Chapter 1
Sarah Walker stared at the incensed woman standing in front of her desk, at a loss as to how to deal with her. The woman was screaming like a banshee, and Sarah had absolutely no idea what the woman was on about. Or, more precisely, whom.
The clearly irrational woman was accusing Sarah of sleeping with her husband, but who the hell was this person? Sarah had never seen her before. She didn’t even know the woman’s name.
“Excuse me, ma’am, but who are you?” she finally managed to say while the smartly dressed woman drew a breath.
The look thrown her way could have sliced cleanly through glass. “What do you mean, who am I? You may have seduced my husband with your innocent-looking face and womanly wiles, but I’m wise to you. And I’m telling you now, step the fuck out of my marriage, or you’ll be sorry.”
As the initial shock of the stranger’s attack finally started to dissipate, Sarah felt her own temper flare. She was tired of going around in circles and getting nowhere. Just who exactly did this bitch think she was talking to anyway? Before the other woman could launch into yet another rant, Sarah quickly spoke. “Look, I don’t know who you or this husband I’m supposed to have seduced are, but I won’t stand here and be spoken to in this manner. I am in a committed relationship, and my boyfriend is most definitely single. I would never have an affair with a married man. I’m no homewrecker.”
Snorting derisively, the woman sneered, “Typical. You have no compunction ruining a marriage but don’t have the stones to admit it.” The woman looked Sarah up and down before continuing, “My name is Grace – your very married boss, Greg’s, wife.”
Sarah’s entire body went rock solid and ice cold. She blinked. Her brain scrambled to grasp the implications of the woman’s words.
“I’m sorry? Did you say Greg? Are you talking about Greg Fraser?”
Sneer still firmly in place, the woman replied, “As if you didn’t know.”
Unable to hold onto the tenuous grip she had on her irritation, Sarah snapped. “Enough! I have no idea who you are or what you’re on about. Either tell me this Greg’s surname or get the hell out of my office.”
For the first time since she’d stormed into Sarah’s office, the woman paused. Then, lip curling in apparent disdain, she replied, “Yes, Greg Fraser. As if you didn’t already know. I now know all about you, you thieving skank, and I’m here to tell you I won’t tolerate you interfering in my marriage. Stay away from my husband. I won’t say it again.” With that, the woman flounced out of the office, much the same way she had on her way in.
Watching the shrewish woman storm off, Sarah sank onto her office chair. Her entire body was shaking, and her legs could no longer hold her up. What had just happened? Had she been pranked? Because God knew, she was at a loss as to what else it could be. She replayed the ugly scene in her mind. Slowly, like the sun breaking over the horizon, clarity hit her. Hard.
Her thoughts stalled. She closed her eyes and prayed she was wrong. That this really was just a prank – nothing but a tasteless prank. Shooting to her feet, before she was even aware of what she was doing, Sarah dashed down the hall to the boardroom where her boss was currently working.
Without knocking, she tore into the room like a crazed person. In fact, she could only imagine that was how she appeared to the man as he looked up at her pompously.
“What is it, Sarah? I told you I didn’t want to be disturbed.”
“Yes, I know. I’m sorry. But Mr Fraser, I just had the strangest encounter with a woman who claimed to be your wife.”
“My wife? Not possible. Are you sure?”
Sarah couldn’t fathom the look on Greg’s face. “That’s what she said. She said her name was Grace and that she was your wife.”
She watched in fascination as the colour drained from his face. Then he straightened to full height. “I beg your pardon?”
“A woman came storming into my office about ten minutes ago, performing about me trying to steal her husband away. When I asked her who she was talking about, she said she was talking about you.” A weird look passed over Greg’s face but disappeared before she could decipher what it meant. He remained silent, simply staring at her until she couldn’t stand the silence any longer. “Greg?” she whispered.
“I need to make a phone call.” That was all he said as he pushed past her, leaving the room in a rush.
It felt as if someone had sunk a dagger into her heart. Slowly, as if she might shatter if she moved too quickly, she turned and made her way over to the boardroom table. Collapsing into the comfort of a chair, she stared at the door through which Greg had just disappeared.
A sick sensation settled in her stomach as reluctant acceptance seeped through her. It seemed she’d been lied to, manipulated, played with masterful skill. Which meant she was, indeed, a homewrecker.
Sarah had no idea how long she sat there, still as a stone statue at the boardroom table before one of the receptionists came into the room.
“Sarah, Mr Fraser is asking for you. He wants to see you in his office immediately.”
She raised her eyes up to the other girl’s and took in the look of sympathy on her face. Why was she looking at her like that? Did she know something?
Nodding her head wordlessly, she rose gracefully to her feet. Following the receptionist down the hall back to her office just outside Greg’s, Sarah didn’t have a good feeling about being summoned.
The closer she got to Greg’s office door, the more her feet dragged. She paused a moment, gathered herself, then knocked.
“Come in,” he called.
Bracing, Sarah opened the door and entered. “Claire said you want to see me?”
“Yes. Please come in and take a seat.”
Closing the heavy wooden panel behind her, she sat in one of the visitor’s chairs in front of his desk. Her heart was racing, her palms sweaty. Nerves had her clasping her hands together. She pasted an awkward smile on her face and prayed she wouldn’t be ill all over the expensive carpet beneath her feet.
“What did you want to see me about, Mr Fraser?” Greg had warned Sarah to only address him as such while they were at work. So as not to raise suspicions, he’d informed her.
For a brief moment, the man looked supremely uncomfortable before he carefully masked his feelings. He cleared his throat. Rested his elbows on his desk and steepled his fingers. If she didn’t know better, Sarah would swear the man was stalling. Finally, he cleared his throat again. “I regret to inform you that your services are being terminated, with immediate effect. You need to clear your desk out, and security will be along to escort you from the building once you’re done.”
Her jaw dropped. For the second time that afternoon, Sarah reeled in shock.
“I’m … wait … you … What?” Words escaped her.
“I’m afraid your services will no longer be required. You will receive a handsome severance package and a good reference. However, should you decide to fight me on this or breathe a word of what occurred in these offices today, I will ensure that you never work in this industry again. Do I make myself clear?”
Out of nowhere, a scalding anger unlike anything she’d ever felt washed over her. “Oh, crystal clear, Mr Fraser, sir.”
“Sarcasm doesn’t not become you, Sarah,” Greg criticised.
Unable to do anything more than stare at the man she’d been involved with for over two years, she felt as if the blinders that had prevented her from seeing him for the lowlife, lying snake that he was fell away. Her gaze roamed his face, taking in details she’d never noticed before.
The sallow skin, the petulant, downward curve of his thin-lipped mouth, the meanness she saw in his eyes. Coming to her feet with as much grace as she could muster, she gave him a cold smile. “I’d take sarcasm over lying and cheating any day. But have no fear. I won’t fight you on my dismissal. I’m happy to go, knowing what I know now. Just remember, Mr Fraser, karma is a bitch, and she always comes around.”
On that parting shot, Sarah straightened her spine, spun around, and went to her office to clear out her things, closing the door softly, much as she wanted to slam it with all her might.
A numbness settled over her as she went in search of a box to pack her personal belongings into. Finding what she was looking for in a storage closet, she made short work of boxing the few items she’d accumulated over the years she worked for the firm.
When she was ready, she took one last look around. Sarah knew she should probably feel something about closing off this chapter of her life, but all she felt was detached. No doubt, when the dust settled, emotion would overwhelm her, but right then, in that moment, she couldn’t wait to leave.
Turning to the big bear of a man standing off to the side, a sad look on his kind face, she squared her shoulders. “That’s it, Jimmy. I’m ready.”
He shuffled his feet, clearly uncomfortable. “I’m really sorry, Ms Sarah. I don’t know what’s going on, but I know you, and I know you wouldn’t do anything worthy of this.”
For the first time since the entire bizarre event had begun, Sarah felt tears burn her eyes. “To be honest, I don’t know what’s going on either, but after everything that’s happened today, I’m glad to be leaving.” Taking a deep breath to stave off the tears threatening to fall, she continued, “Come on then. Let’s blow this popsicle stand.”
The journey to the foyer of the building was made mostly in silence, apart from the quiet goodbyes as she made her way to the elevators. As they reached the security desk, Sarah stopped and dug her security badge out of her handbag. Handing it over, she couldn’t prevent the lone tear that tracked down her cheek.
“I’m going to miss you, Jimmy. Thank you for everything. Take care of yourself.”
The sombre look still on his face, he dipped his head. “It’s been a pleasure, Ms Sarah. If you ever need something, don’t hesitate to come look me up. Godspeed, ma’am. I’m certainly going to miss you too.”
On impulse, she reached out and gave him a quick hug before dashing for the exit as the tears she’d been fighting back began to fall.