The Sign of Seven Trilogy

The Sign of Seven Trilogy by Nora Roberts Read Free Book Online

Book: The Sign of Seven Trilogy by Nora Roberts Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nora Roberts
area, and there was Alice Hawbaker at the desk. Trim, tidy in her navy suit with its bowed white blouse, her snowcap of hair and no-nonsense bifocals, Mrs. Hawbaker ran the office like a Border collie ran a herd.
    She looked sweet and pretty, and she’d bite your ankle if you didn’t fall in line.
    â€œHey, Mrs. Hawbaker. Boy, it is cold out there. Looks like we might get some more snow.” He unwrapped his scarf. “Hope you and Mr. Hawbaker are keeping warm.”
    â€œWarm enough.”
    He heard something in her voice that had him looking more closely as he pulled off his gloves. When he realized she’d been crying he instinctively stepped to the desk. “Is everything okay? Is—”
    â€œEverything’s fine. Just fine. Fox is between appointments. He’s in there sulking, so you go right on back.”
    â€œYes, ma’am. Mrs. Hawbaker, if there’s anything—”
    â€œJust go right on back,” she repeated, then made herself busy with her keyboard.
    Beyond the reception area a hallway held a powder room on one side and a library on the other. Straight back, Fox’s office was closed off by a pair of pocket doors. Cal didn’t bother to knock.
    Fox looked up when the doors slid open. He did appear to be sulking as his gilded eyes were broody and his mouth was in full scowl.
    He sat behind his desk, his feet, clad in hiking boots, propped on it. He wore jeans and a flannel shirt open over a white insulated tee. His hair, densely brown, waved around his sharp-featured face.
    â€œWhat’s going on?”
    â€œI’ll tell you what’s going on. My administrative assistant just gave me her notice.”
    â€œWhat did you do?”
    â€œMe?” Fox shoved back from the desk and opened the minifridge for a can of Coke. He’d never developed a taste for coffee. “Try we , brother. We camped out at the Pagan Stone one fateful night, and screwed the monkey.”
    Cal dropped into a chair. “She’s quitting because—”
    â€œNot just quitting. They’re leaving the Hollow, she and Mr. Hawbaker. And yeah, because.” He took a long, greedy drink the way some men might take a pull on a bottle of whiskey. “That’s not the reason she gave me, but that’s the reason. She said they decided to move to Minneapolis to be close to their daughter and grandchildren, and that’s bogus. Why does a woman heading toward seventy, married to a guy older than dirt, pick up and move north? They’ve got another kid lives outside of D.C., and they’ve got strong ties here. I could tell it was bull.”
    â€œBecause of what she said, or because you took a cruise through her head?”
    â€œFirst the one, then the other. Don’t start on me.” Fox gestured with the Coke, then slammed it down on his desk. “I don’t poke around for the fun of it. Son of a bitch.”
    â€œMaybe they’ll change their minds.”
    â€œThey don’t want to go, but they’re afraid to stay. They’re afraid it’ll happen again—which I could tell her it will—and they just don’t want to go through it again. I offered her a raise—like I could afford it—offered her the whole month of July off, letting her know that I knew what was at the bottom of it. But they’re going. She’ll give me until April first. April frickin’ Fools,” he ranted. “To find somebody else, for her to show them the ropes. I don’t know where the damn ropes are, Cal. I don’t know half the stuff she does. She just does it. Anyway.”
    â€œYou’ve got until April, maybe we’ll think of something.”
    â€œWe haven’t thought of the solution to this in twenty years plus.”
    â€œI meant your office problem. But yeah, I’ve been thinking a lot about the other.” Rising, he walked to Fox’s window, looked out on the quiet side street.

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