JILL STOOD in front of the camping supply store and
plotted ways to sell the manager on painting his window
for Valentine's Day. You've backpacked your way into my
heart. Nope. Warm her heart with a Coleman stove. Ugh. My
canteen runneth over with love. Yuck!
Of all the stores in this mall, Jegger Outfitters promised
to be the toughest sell, but she liked challenges. Maybe
she'd walk in without a specific window plan, and if the
manager sounded the least bit interested, she'd come up
with an idea on the spot. Sometimes pressure could be
inspirational. That's how she'd snared the optometrist,
with her sudden brainstorm of Give her rose–colored
glasses for Valentine's Day.
Jegger Outfitters smelled of canvas, crepe soles and pine
shelving. Old–fashioned picks and shovels hung on the
walls, along with tins for gold panning, old mining claim
maps and a ragged banner that vowed Pikes Peak or Bust. In
the merchandise on the rustic shelves were several camping
items she could have used, but she was here to sell, not
As she continued down the aisle toward the rear of the
store, she overheard an angry voice and a placating one
coming from behind a closed door marked Private. Damn.
Store managers with problems seldom wanted their windows
painted with hearts and flowers.
Just then a thin young man in a rumpled cotton shirt and
parachute pants rounded a counter and came toward
her. "Can I help you?" he asked. "My name's Jill
I'd like to see the manager please. I think," she
the tirade from behind the door continued, punctuated by
an occasional distinct "Dammit, Charlie," or
"Uh..." The clerk hesitated and followed the line of her
"This seems like a bad time. Perhaps I could —""
"No," he said quickly, assessing her with a glance. "I
wouldn't want to make that decision for him."
"Thanks, but I could easily come back tomorrow. I'm
orders for valentine window decorations, and it's really
no trouble for me to come back." Jill was certain
rejection lay behind that office door.
"No," the young man said again, continuing to appraise
from behind wire–rimmed glasses. "Stay right there
I'll tell him you're here."
His blatant perusal didn't disturb Jill; she was used to
being ogled. In tandem with orders for window decorations
had come several offers for coffee and/or drinks from the
male managers she'd approached. Her polite refusals
lost her a single order, which delighted her, confirming
that in the past seven months she'd learned to deal
effectively with predatory men.
The clerk rapped on the closed door and without waiting
for clearance, opened it. "Someone to see you,
"Who is it?" The voice was still gruff with anger.
"Jill Amory. She wants to decorate the windows for
Through the open door Jill heard a bark of laughter. "Has
she cleared this with Tippy the Lip?"
"I didn't ask."
"Well, I don't think —""
Jill sighed, knowing what would come next. "Wait a minute,
Spencer, my boy," interrupted a second,
male voice. "Horace, did you say her last name was Amory?"
"I think that's what she told me, Charlie," the
"You know her?"
"No, but the name is...nice. Is she, ah, young?"
"Maybe early twenties."
"That's young," said the older man, chuckling.
couldn't you at least find out what she has in mind?"
Jill was grateful for this unknown Charlie who thought she
had a nice name and wanted to give her a chance. At that
point the clerk lowered his voice and she heard only
snatches of his comments. "Foxy–looking brunette,"
through pretty clearly, though.
"Okay." The man named Spence sounded weary. "Send her