Willing Sacrifice

       part  #6 of  Knights of the Board Room Series  by  Joey W. Hill / Young Adult / Romance & Love
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Willing Sacrifice
Page 1
Prologue

“All right back there, Mrs. Kensington?”

“Yes, Max. If you ask me one more time, I will make you stop the limo and shoot you with your own gun. ”

“Yes ma’am. That’s clear thinking, having me stop the car before you shoot me. ”

“I’m pregnant, Max. Not mentally defective. Now, at the risk of sounding like a rich and powerful woman with minions to indulge my every whim—shut up and drive. Or raise the glass and annoy Janet. ”

Max pressed his lips together, as if hiding a smile. “Yes ma’am,” he repeated.

Sitting in the front passenger seat, Janet shifted onto her hip so she was facing him. While it helped her sort through the paperwork she had in her lap, it also served the purpose of keeping an eye on their very important passenger.

Savannah Kensington was in her eighth month and had been put on bed rest five weeks ago for pre-eclampsia. Because of that condition, as well as being in her late thirties and having other physical factors that concerned the doctor, she had to go in for regular diagnostics to monitor the baby. Today she had one of those appointments, but she’d called Janet early, before Matt arrived at the office. Janet had to hide her own smile, recalling the conversation.

“Janet, when Matt gets there, please ask him if he could send the car to the house a couple hours early so I can go for a drive. I was a complete bitch this morning and I know he’s likely to walk in and tell you he’s cancelling his Baton Rouge meeting. If he does that, I swear to God I will lose it. Tell him I called to wish him a good day and to apologize for being cranky. Make it sound as though you suggested the drive, and I’m very happy about it. Reassure him that we women know what we’re doing, the universe is in balance, and we’ll handle things. He can go to his meeting. ”

“Is it just a cover, or would you really like to go for a drive?” Janet asked.

Though the man was a six-foot four-inch female fantasy, Matt Kensington, head of Kensington and Associates, was overprotective to the nth degree. As well as being his pregnant wife, Savannah was CEO of Tennyson Industries and a remarkably independent and self-contained woman. Sharing some of those same qualities, Janet understood the woman’s state of mind, the frustration Savannah’s weary sigh revealed.

“It’s utterly pathetic,” she confided, “but I would love a drive. Maybe go to one of the parks and sit by the water for a little while. ”

“It’s not pathetic,” Janet assured her. “And I’m glad you meant it. It’s very difficult to get a lie past him. ”

“Try impossible. ” There was a smile in Savannah’s voice now. “I owe all of you an apology. I know he’s been coming to work agitated, and Matt agitated is like dealing with a wounded bear. Much like dealing with me, I expect. The only thing that’s kept this pregnancy from triggering a double homicide is the innocent life we’d be sacrificing. ”

Janet chuckled. “Peter dropped Dana off at the church this morning, so Max may have come in early. I’ll check and see if he’s available. ”

“Give him my thanks and my regrets beforehand, since I’m sure to be highly ungracious when he picks me up. ”

“They’re men. They like it when beautiful women abuse them. ”

* * * * *

When she’d disconnected the call, Janet had realized she had some paperwork that needed to go to the airport for signing by their private charter company. She could easily courier it, but with Matt and all the others heading out of New Orleans to go to Baton Rouge today, it was going to be relatively quiet. From Savannah’s tone, she might appreciate having a woman along. Plus, if Max was driving…

So here she was. Savannah had insisted Max take them out to the airport first, and the women had chatted along the way, Janet bringing Savannah up to date on K&A business matters she would find interesting, and any other tidbits about business district gossip and politics. Max put in a word now and then, but mostly he drove. Even so, Janet was far more aware of him than she knew she should be.

She could dismiss it as mere sexual attraction, because the former SEAL kept his body in the kind of shape that gave even the most practical woman salacious ideas. But since every one of the five-man K&A executive team, including Matt, had the face and form to turn a woman’s head three hundred and sixty degrees if necessary to secure a proper view, she was usually immune to that. However, there was a steady core to Max, a quiet mystery, that kept drawing her attention. Several vital issues made them incompatible, but even so…there was nothing wrong with thinking about it, was there?

They stopped at the park for about a half hour. Janet walked Savannah the short distance to a bench and stayed with her while Max relocated the car to the street, eschewing the more remote parking area provided off the road. He obviously had no intention of letting them out of his sight, even though Janet could buzz his cell.

“It’s like they all take a class,” Savannah muttered. She waved Janet off once she was settled. “Why don’t you go take a stroll? I’m just going to sit here and watch the ducks a bit. ”

While her tone suggested she’d be fine if Janet and Max jumped in the lake and drowned, Janet took no offense. Max had looked a little concerned when Savannah insisted on walking to the bench. Janet had given him a slight shake of her head, stopping him before he tried something admirable but misguided, like offering to carry Savannah, or driving the limo over the green and only stopping when the bumper was within a hair’s breadth of the bench.

If the whole world was hovering over her while she felt like an overinflated balloon, Janet expected she’d be just as cranky as Savannah. She chose a bench about twenty-five yards away, making a show of checking her email on her phone. When she glanced over her shoulder toward the car, Max nodded to her, holding eye contact for an intriguingly long moment before shifting it back to his primary charge.

Janet was amused to find her cheeks warmed from the attention. Yes, definitely something fascinating about the man.

Savannah was gazing meditatively into space, oblivious to passing joggers and cyclists, the ripple of wind on the lake. Janet knew they didn’t have to worry about her overdoing. No matter how hormonal or frustrated Savannah was, she and Matt were equally protective of their unborn child. Being downwind of the woman, Janet could hear Savannah humming a lullaby, all while keeping her arm curled beneath her belly, holding what would surely be their only biological child, given the difficulty of this pregnancy and Savannah’s age.

Janet lifted her face to the wind, closing her eyes. She didn’t do enough of this, simply taking a moment to relax. She wondered what it would be like if it was just her and Max, and he was sitting next to her. He’d likely be as quiet as he always was. She imagined reading next to him, his arm along the back of the bench, fingers sliding along her upper arm as he gazed up into the branches of a live oak spread over them. He would be like that tree, a powerful, comforting presence.

Maybe Max was her midlife crisis. She could do far worse.

Once back in the car, Savannah said little. She instructed Max to drive around the city, making loops through different districts until it was time to head for the doctor’s. Then she laid her head back on the seat as she studied the passing terrain. Glancing over at Max, Janet noticed him checking his rearview mirror. He’d been doing it even more frequently these past fifteen minutes, and now she realized he wasn’t watching traffic, but Savannah. Taking her legal pad, she scribbled the question, turned it in his direction. Problem?

He shook his head, checked the mirrors once again. Janet followed his gaze. Savannah’s thick-lashed eyes were half closed. Her long blonde tail of hair fanned out over her shoulder. The woman was stunningly beautiful on a normal day. Despite the changes to her body, pregnancy had enhanced her attraction, making her blue eyes more vivid, the golden hair even softer and thicker. She projected ice princess calm, but it came with a physical delicacy that drew men to her. Her designer maternity wear was a tailored pale-green creation with pleats and slashes forming soft folds from the empire waist. Janet noticed Savannah had her hands on that expanse of cloth, pressing her palms against her stomach here and there. Perhaps she was having cramps or gas pains. She wondered if that was why Max kept checking on her.

“Just a feeling,” he murmured. “I’ll take you back by the office and then run her home. Maybe hang around a while. ”

Janet debated whether to ask him for more details, but then—unfortunately—she didn’t have to ask.

There was a sudden indrawn breath from the back, followed by a sharper, startled gasp. When her head snapped around, Janet saw Savannah had gone from a relaxed position to one where she was hunched forward, both arms curled around her belly. “Janet…”

From Matt, Janet knew Savannah was stoic about pain, barely made a whimper about anything. Now a cry wrenched from her lips, strangled back with the greatest of effort. “Oh…Oh God…this…”

“Get in the back,” Max ordered, flipping the console out of Janet’s way. “Now. ”

Janet was already in motion, abandoning her heels so they wouldn’t slow her down as she navigated between the front seats. The moment she was seated next to Savannah in the roomy back area, the limo leaped forward. Max was buzzing the office, using the steering wheel controls to activate his hands-free.

“Randall, I’m en route to the hospital with Mrs. Kensington. ” He glanced at the GPS, and Janet saw the ETA was approximately thirty minutes with traffic. His jaw tightened. “Her ob-gyn needs to be contacted. ”

“Her pager and cell numbers are on my desk, right next to the phone. ” Janet jumped in immediately. Max’s gaze caught hers in the mirror. “Tell them she’s experiencing constant pain and…” Janet laid her hands over Savannah’s, gripping her stomach. The area was hard. Really hard. Oh God. “Her stomach is rigid. ”

“In short, prepare them for an emergency, in case that’s what this is. ” Janet was impressed by how calm Max sounded, looked. There was no doubt it was definitely an emergency, but he had the presence of mind to make it seem like anything else was a possibility. She’d never seen Savannah look frightened before. It flipped the same switch for Janet, taking her to a cool place in her head, a place where everything else shut down.
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