A Mate for Lazarus

By: Charlene Hartnady

The Program Book 3


Chapter 1




The reception area was decorated in crisp modern finishes. Stainless steel banisters, gleaming marble floors and white leather sofas. The artwork was contemporary and bright. Each piece cost more than what she could earn in a year. Much more.

This was it. The next level. She had five minutes to make her pitch and she best not blow it. Alexandra tried not to fidget as the magnitude of this opportunity sank in. Her palms felt sweaty. Damn, her armpits didn’t feel too much better. She suddenly felt like she was suffocating in her gray pinstriped pantsuit. The urge to take off her jacket increased despite the perfect temperature control in the building.

There was a soft ringing tone and the personal assistant answered, her manicured nails clicked against the telephone as she picked it up. Her gaze flew to Alex and she nodded. “Yes, sir.” She put down the receiver.

“Mr. Armstrong will see you now.” She licked her bright red lips. “Are you sure I can’t bring you anything during your meeting? A coffee or a juice maybe?”

Alex stood, she swiped a hand down her pants and adjusted her jacket. “No, thank you.” Her stomach lurched at the thought of anything going into it. This included beverages.

The PA nodded once before turning back to the computer screen in front of her. “Go on in,” she muttered, almost to herself.

Alex made her way down the hall. It was long and just as beautifully decorated as the rest of the building. The door was closed. Alex swallowed hard, she lifted her chin and sucked in a deep breath. She had worked hard over the last few years in order to get where she was today. Senior journalist before the age of thirty was no mean feat. So what if Sweetwater Press was a small local paper. She’d fought hard, she’d gotten ahead and was ready for the big leagues now. She could do this.

She opened the door and walked in. James Armstrong was standing with his back to her, admiring the view. It was a sight to behold. New York City in all her glory. One of these days she was going to have her own office like this one, maybe the view wouldn’t be quite as sweet but it would be pretty darn close if she had anything to say about it.

James turned and smiled. He was still a handsome man despite the fact that he was pushing sixty. His hair was gray at the temples, the only wrinkles were around his eyes. “Little Alexandra Stone. Look at you. All grown up I see.” He moved towards her while holding his arms open.

Awkward.

“Hi, Uncle James.” Even though they weren’t related, she had always called him that growing up so the words just seemed to fall from her tongue. She inwardly cringed. This wasn’t supposed to be a reunion      , this was supposed to be a business meeting.

His arms closed around her and he even rubbed her back. “You look the spitting image of your mother.” He said as he pulled away. “Thankfully, since your father had an ugly mug of note.” Despite his smile, his eyes clouded. She felt a jolt of pain as she remembered her father, taken too soon. He never got to see her go to college or get her first job. He wouldn’t get to see her name up in lights either.

James’ eyes hardened up. “You’ve come to see me about a piece…”

She sucked in a breath, ready to confirm when he put his hand up to stop her.

“I agreed to see you because I’m a firm believer that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. We go way back, Alex. I loved your father like a brother.”

Damn!

That’s not how she wanted this to go down. She needed to be awarded this on her own merit.

“Don’t look so upset.” James smiled. “You have a few minutes of my time to pitch but that’s where the favor ends. Your father was a brilliant journalist. I want you to prove my apple theory right.”

“I appreciate your time.” She forced herself to keep her hands by her sides and to stay composed.

James gestured for her to take a seat. “So…” He paused. “What is this big story idea that you so desperately needed to see me about?”

“I’ve been accepted into The Program. I’ll get all the inside details. This will be the scoop of the century. In return, you allow me to write the piece myself and I want a front-page slot.”

His eyes widened. “Not asking for much are you? What the hell is The Program anyway?”

It was her turn to widen her own eyes. She quickly schooled her emotions though. There was no way in hell that James Armstrong was unaware of The Program. She played along though for the time being and even made a little gasping noise. “Please don’t tell me that you don’t know?” She didn’t wait for him to reply. “You are aware that we have non-humans living in Sweetwater, right?”

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