“You’re not actually wearing that to the party, are you?”
Lenna Davenport frowned. A second earlier, she’d opened her door with an anxious smile. Since her mom was stuck at home, nursing her thirteen-year-old sister back to health after a row with strep throat, Lenna had agreed to accompany her dad to his company’s Christmas party. And she’d actually been energized about getting in a little father-daughter time.
Anticipation dying a quick death, she rolled her eyes. “Why, not at all, Father. I’m just trying it on to see how it fits.”
He blew out a breath and swiped at his brow. “Thank God.”
“Dad!” She ignored the jolt of disappointment because he hadn’t immediately oohed and ahhed. “Of course I’m wearing it tonight.” Why would she be in it if she wasn’t going to wear it? Hello.
He made a face as if he’d just tasted a tart apple. “But, it’s so...revealing.”
She hadn’t lived at home for six months now, yet to listen to him she would’ve thought she was still fifteen.
“It goes all the way to the floor.” She kicked out a toe to demonstrate. “Look. Even my ankles are covered.”
He didn’t bother to glance down. “I’m not worried about the length. It’s the overall effect that concerns me.”
Instinctively, she covered the bare expanse of skin below her throat with one hand, hoping he didn’t pick on its strapless factor. There wasn’t even a hint of cleavage.
“What’s wrong with the overall effect?” She bit her lip, wishing she didn’t sound so much like a pathetic kid desperate to please Daddy.
Why she’d always been so gung ho to gain his approval was beyond her. It was sad, really. She was twenty-two, and sometimes she still caught herself acting like she used to, aspiring to become his special girl.
“You’re too pretty,” he said.
Sucking in a surprised breath, Lenna beamed. Now that was more like it. She’d spent three hours picking out her dress so he would be proud to have her at his side tonight. It was nice to know her efforts had been worth it. She opened her mouth to thank him, but his next words cut her off.
“I don’t want my boss knowing how pretty you are.”
Huh? Lenna tilted her head and squinted her eyes. “You lost me. Why would Mr. Farris care what I—”
“Good, God,” he broke in. “You haven’t heard.”
She faltered. “Heard what?”
Alienation swamped her. Though she went home most Sundays on “family night” to eat supper with her parents and siblings, she missed being a more integral part of their lives. Obviously, she’d missed something major.
Her dad wiped his mouth with his hand. When she saw his fingers tremble, she gasped. “What happened to Mr. Farris?”
She pictured the kind, fatherly man she’d met only a few times. He better be okay.
“He retired. It was rather sudden. And mysterious.”
Lenna’s jaw dropped. “What?” She hadn’t realized the president of Farris Industries was anywhere near retirement age. Spencer Farris couldn’t be much older than her father, and Tom Davenport was only fifty. “Who’s the new president then?”
She knew of three top executives at her father’s workplace: Pat Foley, Ben Hendricks, and her dad. The three men were terribly close. One of them must’ve taken over Farris Industries. Since it obviously wasn’t her dad, that could only mean one of his two best friends had just moved from coworker to boss.
She braced herself for the answer, but her dad’s response still shocked her. “Farris’s son took over.”
Lenna blinked. Wait. What?
If Spencer Farris wasn’t much older than her father, then his son couldn’t be much older than...
Wow. Her dad’s new boss was more than likely young enough to be his...well, his own son. She winced, knowing all too well how much her dad didn’t respect her generation or trust them to make any kind of responsible, executive decision. He had to be hating life right now.
“Oh,” she said, her bare shoulders drooping an inch. There went the fun evening she’d been all eager to have. Damn it.
Her dad didn’t reply, but moodily grabbed her coat off the back of a chair. “Let’s just go already.” Not meeting her gaze, he held open her jacket. “I refuse to give him any more leverage to use against me by being late to his precious event. I’ve already been warned insubordination is the leading cause of employee termination.”
Lenna’s eyes widened. That didn’t sound good. Nodding compliantly, she hurried forward so he could slip her sleeves snugly around her arms. Glancing over her shoulder, she sent him a worried look. “He can’t really fire you for being late to a party, can he?”