Dear Mrs. O’Reilly,
How do you do it? How do you make accountants sexy? No offense to any number crunchers out there, especially at this time of year, but the profession isn’t up there on the sexy-job-o-meter. Daniel’s brothers, the lawyer and the bartender, have jobs that could be considered babe-magnets but it takes a special woman to appreciate his talent with an audit and, bless his heart, I’m glad he finds her in Catherine.
Catherine’s initial impression of Daniel seems spot on. He’s a lonely Odysseus, longing for his wife. Only in Daniel’s case, his wife is dead and he’ll never see her, hold her or laugh with her again. He knows most people, including his brothers, hope that he’ll get back to normal eventually, especially since it’s now six years after her loss. But as his mother-in-law says, she never expected to bury her daughter nor he his wife and their lives will never be “back to normal” again. All they can do is struggle on.
Catherine realizes none of this at first. All she sees is a sexy man whom she itches to draw. Her talent is good but not great which is fine since her real job is appraising the antiques and priceless treasures sold by her grandfather’s world renowned auction house. There she’s excellent though still reluctant to put herself forward since she’s a quiet type unlike her people oriented mother and grandfather.
Daniel hates making small talk but finds himself at ease with this pretty woman who demands nothing of him except to enjoy the sunny day at the Hamptons. They later find themselves enjoying an encounter of quite a different kind, one which rocks Catherine’s world and begins to make Daniel realize just how much he’s cut himself off from the world and it’s pleasures.
Neither thinks to continue what they started once they’re back in the city but fate intervenes landing Daniel in charge of the audit of the Montefiore auction house. Rumors have turned into an investigation into whether the house has colluded with a rival to match their sales schedule and thus inflate sales prices. An auction house lives or dies by its reputation and if proven, this would ruin Montefiore.
Accountant Man to the rescue! Or maybe not since neither Daniel nor Catherine can find anything, anything at all, to clear her grandfather of the charges. Until Daniel’s methodical nature unearths exactly what’s going on. In the meantime their relationship heats up, his wedding ring comes off and Gabe and Sean start to sniff out the fact that their brother might finally be willing to risk a new love in his life. But will Catherine wait for him to realize it too?
I love how you work Daniel’s profession into the heart of this story. Guns won’t solve the problem, only a sharp eye for numbers and a willingness to sift through pages and pages of data. Catherine’s eyes might cross after ten hours of it but Daniel is in his element. And while her mother might believe in Catherine’s ability to do more in the auction house, it’s her assistance in solving the investigation that helps Catherine realize the abilities she’s always had inside her.
And while Daniel has his moments of anguish, he’s neither drowning in it nor willing to throw it off too quickly once he’s met Catherine. Feelings this deep rooted take time and I’m glad you give that to him as well as to Catherine to believe that he finally has. I love this almost final scene.
It was a typical Manhattan apartment. There were no burning candles, or needlepointed wedding announcements. The couch was brown leather, bacheloresque, but tasteful bacheloresque. It seemed spacious-sanitized, and then she saw the picture hanging in the corner. It wasn’t a wedding picture, or a photograph of Michelle and Daniel together. It was her sketch. Framed, matted and looking as if it belonged there.
She walked over and looked at it, looked at her scrawled signature in the corner, and Catherine started to cry. She didn’t like to cry around people. Crying was something private and personal, and implied ties, but the tears slid unchecked down her cheeks.
He came up close behind, almost touching her, but not quite. He even lifted his hands, but then forced them back down to his sides.
"I didn’t mean to hurt you," he said, and she could tell where this was going. She wiped her face and headed for the door, but he caught her. This time, he did touch her.
"I didn’t want to love you. I didn’t want to love anybody. You didn’t ask for anything, you didn’t demand anything, you never took, only gave and then gave some more, and I was the one who was taking everything, bleeding you dry, and I knew it, too. But you didn’t whine or complain. I think that’s the reason I fell in love with you."
Catherine sniffed once. "You make me sound like a doormat."
He whacked himself on the forehead with his palm, but his eyes were soft. "I’m so bad at words. I think that’s why I’m an accountant. Gabe and Sean, they can talk. Not me. Never could. You’re no doormat, Catherine. You have no idea how strong you are, how talented you are, how special you are. But I do. I didn’t expect it because you hide it so well from everybody, and you kept surprising me."
She took a step back, until there was a safe distance between them. "What are you doing?"
"I don’t know what I’m doing, but I am tired of being alone, and I didn’t know I was tired of being alone until I met you."
"Yup. Just you. When I saw you on the beach, I knew I didn’t have anything to be scared of. You were so much like me that it was easy. So quiet, so lonely, but you weren’t going to be with just anyone. You had to find the exact right person, and thankfully I think it’s me."
"I don’t know," she said, because Catherine was smart and careful and wasn’t going to be with just anyone.
"I love you, Catherine."
He was waiting for her to share, but these things he was talking about were serious and forever, and Catherine didn’t take serious and forever lightly. She didn’t think Daniel did, either, but she had been through so much with him, for him, because of him. She wasn’t ready. Not yet.
"Why aren’t you saying anything?" he asked, looking nervous.
"I’m not sure."
"About saying something, or about this?"
"Will you try? Please, take a chance, Catherine. I deserve a chance. I know that now. I deserve a chance."
It surprised her that he expected her to give in so easily, but she’d learned some things since they’d been together. She was stronger. "Maybe this is temporary."
"Catherine, do you know me?"
"I don’t think temporary is going to be my problem."
Okay, he was probably right there. But the list of bad possibilities went on. "I’m not Michelle."
"I know that."
"What if somebody comes along that’s, you know, more like her?" Catherine asked, which was her polite way of saying that she wasn’t some knockout in a Vera Wang gown, and her skirts would always hang a little off, and she would give up buttercream cupcakes for no man, so if he was going to take her, this was what he got.
"If I meet another woman like Michelle, I’ll smile nicely and then go home and make love to the woman I love, and think how lucky I am to have someone like you who wants to be with someone like me."
And he believed it. He honestly believed that he was the lucky one. At which time, Catherine decided to admit that maybe, possibly, it was worth a try.
She went to him then. "We try," she said, clutching at the teardrop hanging from her neck.
His arms were outstretched. "Good."
Ah, very sweet. Though I have to say that if the woman on the book cover thinks her butt is too big, she needs to take a look at mine. B+
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