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Diamond in the Rough

Diamond in the Rough by Bierce Jane
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Penny's an image consultant, Miles the genius behind breakthrough camping equipment. Can she smooth his rough edges?
Awe-Struck Publishing; March 2004
107 pages; ISBN 9781587494260
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Title: Diamond in the Rough
Author: Bierce Jane
The path led into a clearing that sloped gently downward to a fairly broad stream. There in an area of tall weeds was a rough plank shack in the shade of a lone oak tree, and half a dozen tents of strange colors, shapes and sizes, looking like a fairy ring of mushrooms with attitudes. The place appeared to be deserted.

All I need, she reflected as she caught her breath, is to be stuck out here in the middle of nowhere alone.

Hal had warned her his brother was not above capriciously taking off into the hills with a backpack for days on end. If that were the situation she confronted, he'd advised her to turn around and go back to Asheville immediately, and they would retrench and rethink.

That prospect was the most attractive she'd faced since she'd driven from Atlanta to Asheville the day before to visit Hal in his hospital room.

She took a few more steps through the tall grasses and decided she had to do something. Planting her feet firmly where she was, she gathered her strength.

"Yoo-hoo," she called, the way she'd heard an old housekeeper on her block call the neighbor children in to dinner. "Mr. Jacobs? Are you here?"

She listened for a long moment, but all she heard was the wind sighing through the pines and the slight murmuring of the stream. Between searching for the nerve to holler again or the energy to turn and tramp back through the trees to her car and some trace of civilization, Penny stared at the collection of tents, feeling alone, very alone.

"Who wants to know?" a deep voice challenged, roaring from somewhere and filling the clearing with an echo.

A mountain of a man appeared from just beyond the farthest tent, the sun gleaming off his sun-bleached hair and beard. Miles Jacobs' shoulders strained the tan shirt he wore, and his legs, beneath hiking shorts, were sturdily muscled and covered with a nebulous glinting of hair.

"Ah--your brother Hal sent me to--find you," Penny stammered, still winded from her walk.

"Yeah?" he asked, skeptically, closing the space between them with long strides.

Penny gripped her briefcase with both hands in front of her and braced herself against the anger she felt radiating from him. Hal had warned her Miles' reaction to being interrupted would not be pretty. She just hoped he'd had his distemper shots.

"Your brother Hal--ah--fell from a horse Saturday and is in a hospital in Asheville," Penny explained quickly, before Miles could get too close. "He's going to be fine, but it means you'll have to take his place at the trade shows for the next three weeks, and he hired me to--help you get ready."

"He did, did he?" Miles asked, stopping in front of her and clamping his broad hands on his lean hips. "And what is it he thinks you have to do to get me ready to go to shows?"

"Hal discussed and appearance, your manner of...ah...speaking and your familiarity with soliciting and writing up orders from clients," Penny said, trying valiantly to remember the important points of the long conversation she'd had with Hal the day before. All the while, the dark hazel eyes of the man in front of her bored into her with palpable intimidation.

It was hard to realize Hal and Miles Jacobs were of the same parentage. Hal, in physical pain in the hospital had nonetheless been every inch the Southern gentleman, cultured and articulate in his speaking, and acutely organized in his mental processes. Miles, on the other hand, seemed to barely retain his grasp on civility.

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