Taking Care of Business

By: Brenda Jackson

One

“M s. Williams, Mr. Teagan Elliott is here to see you.”

Renee Williams took a deep breath, slipped off her reading glasses and pushed aside the medical report on Karen Elliott, bracing herself to deal with the woman’s son, who from what Renee had heard was causing problems.

Since learning of his mother’s breast cancer, and trying to assist Karen in dealing with all the paperwork for her upcoming surgery, Teagan Elliott was going about it the wrong way by putting unnecessary pressure on the hospital staff just because his last name was Elliott.

She pressed down the respond button on her phone and said, “Please send him in, Vicki.”

Renee silently prayed that her confrontation with him would go well. She didn’t want to remember the last time she had taken a stand against a man who thought his last name was the key to open any and all doors.

Her job as a social worker at Manhattan University Hospital meant helping everyone and making sure they were treated fairly, regardless of their economic, educational and cultural backgrounds.

A knock on the door brought Renee’s thoughts back to the business at hand. “Come in.”

She stood and placed a smile on her face when the man she knew to be Teagan Elliott, of Elliott Publication Holdings, one of the largest magazine conglomerates in the world, walked into her office dressed as if he had just posed for a photo shoot in GQ magazine. Renee had to concede he was a handsome man with all the sure-sign characteristics, which included expressive eyes, a symmetrical face, a straight nose and a chiseled jawline.

Moving from around her desk, she met him halfway and offered him her hand in a firm handshake. He automatically took it. “Mr. Elliott?”

“Yes, and you’re Ms. Williams, I presume.”

His northern accent was polished, refined and spoke of old money and lots of it. “Yes, I am. Would you like to have a seat so we can discuss the matter concerning your mother?”

He frowned. “No, I don’t want to sit to discuss anything. I want you to tell me just what will be done for her.”

Renee lifted a brow as she stared into the icy blue eyes that were holding hers. So he wanted to be difficult, did he? Well, he would soon discover that when it came to handling difficult people, she could be a force to reckon with. She crossed her arms over her chest. “Suit yourself if you prefer standing, but I’ve had a rather long and taxing day and I don’t intend to stand.”

With that, she resumed her seat. The glare he gave her was priceless, and if it weren’t for the seriousness of the situation at hand, she would have quirked her lips into a smile. Evidently, not too many people sat down and left him standing.

“Now, about your mother,” Renee said after taking a sip of her coffee, which had turned cold. “I see that her surgery is scheduled for—”

“I think I need to apologize.”

Renee glanced up, put down her mug and gave him a look. The eyes staring back at her were no longer icy but were now a beautiful shade of clear blue. “Do you?”

“Yes.” A smile touched his lips. They were lips that Renee thought were beautifully shaped.

“Normally I’m a likeable guy, but knowing what my mother is going through right now is a little hard to deal with. It wasn’t my intent to come across as an arrogant ass. I just want to make sure she’s getting the best of everything,” he said, coming to take the seat across from Renee.

A part of Renee wondered if there was ever a time an Elliott hadn’t gotten the best of everything. “That’s what I’m here for, Mr. Elliott. My job is to make sure that not only your mother, but anyone faced with emotional concerns that can impede their recovery is given help to deal with those issues.”

He nodded and his smile widened. “Have you met my mother?”

Renee returned his smile. For some reason she was drawn to it. “Yes, I had a chance to talk to her a few days ago. I found her to be a very beautiful person, both inside and out.”

He chuckled. “She is that.”

Renee could tell Teagan loved his mother very much. In talking with Karen Elliott, Renee had discovered the woman had three sons and a daughter. Teagan, at twenty-nine, was the third child, youngest of the sons, and a news editor at one of the family magazines, Pulse. Renee had also discovered during her talk with Karen that of all her children, she and Teagan had the closest relationship.

“So tell me, what are we up against, Ms. Williams?”

Teagan’s question broke into Renee’s thoughts. “Now that the doctor has given your mother the diagnosis and a decision has been made for surgery, what Karen needs from her family more than anything is support. I understand some of you don’t comprehend her reasons for having a double mastectomy when a tumor was found in only one breast. She wants to have both removed as a precaution. Doing so is her choice and should be accepted as such.

“Karen also will need all of your love and support when the surgery is over and during her period of recuperation before she starts her chemotherapy treatments. Again, although there is no sign the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, she has decided to undergo chemo as a precaution. The outlook at this point is still guarded, but I truly believe everything will work out in your mother’s favor since the lump was found early.”

Renee leaned back in her chair. Now that it was pretty obvious that Teagan Elliott was just trying to help his mother, although he had approached it in the wrong way, her heart went out to him. It was admirable for a son to care so much for his mother the way he did.

“Do you have any idea when the surgery will take place?” he asked.

“Right now, it’s scheduled for next Tuesday.”

Teagan sighed as he stood. “I really appreciate you taking the time to explain what the family needs to do. And again I apologize for my earlier attitude.”

Renee smiled as she also got to her feet. “You are forgiven. I completely understand how an unexpected medical condition can cause havoc to even the mildest-mannered individual.”

He laughed. “I said I’m normally a likeable guy. I never said anything about being mild-mannered.”

Renee grinned. Nobody had said anything about him being a handsome hunk, either, but the proof was standing before her. With his six-foot athletic build, jet-black hair and blue eyes, she couldn’t help wondering if anyone had ever told him that he bore a marked resemblance to what she perceived would be a younger-looking Pierce Brosnan. He was definitely worth taking a second look at. But she knew a look was all she’d ever take. Men with the kind of money the Elliotts had didn’t bother dating people out of their social class. Besides, he was white and she was black.

“Here’s my business card, Mr. Elliott. As your mother’s social worker, I’m here whenever you need me. Just give me a call.”

Teagan accepted the card and placed it in the pocket of his jacket. “I appreciate that. I’ll get the family together tonight and we’ll talk about what you and I have discussed. Right now my mother’s health, as well as her peace of mind, is the most important thing. Thanks for everything.”

Renee watched as he turned and walked out of her office.



Teagan, better known to family and friends as Tag, stepped into the elevator, glad he was alone. He released a deep sigh that came all the way from his gut. What the hell had happened to him while in Renee Williams’s office? The woman was definitely a beauty, and radiated an almost palpable feminine presence that nearly knocked him to his knees. Nothing like that had ever happened to him before while sharing space with a woman.

When she’d spoken, the silkiness of her voice was enough to stroke everything male inside of him. It had been like a physical caress on his senses. And when their hands had touched in that handshake, it had taken everything he had to control the urge to pull her closer to him. He figured she was about five feet five inches without the pumps, and the outfit she’d been wearing, a tangerine-colored business suit, had definitely defined her curvy figure.

Then there was the coloring of her skin, a creamy color that reminded him of rich caramel. Combined with long, black hair that flowed around her shoulders, and dark brown eyes that had stared at him, she reflected, in addition to striking good looks, compassion, intelligence and spunk.

He actually had to chuckle when he thought of what she had told him when he had initially refused to sit down. Yes, she had spunk, all right, and he would give anything to have the opportunity to get to know her better. But he knew that would be impossible. A romantic involvement with anyone was the last thing he had time for. Since his father had decided, and rightly so, that spending time with Tag’s mother was more important than what was going on at the office, Tag was more involved with the magazine than ever. And then there was that blasted challenge his grandfather, Patrick Elliott, had issued that had sparked a rivalry between EPH’s top four magazines.

Each of the four magazines was run by one of Patrick’s children. There was Pulse, the one run by Tag’s father, Michael, which was a world-class news magazine; Snap, a celebrity magazine run by Tag’s uncle Daniel; Buzz, which focused on showbiz gossip and was headed by Tag’s uncle Shane; and Charisma, a fashion magazine run by Tag’s aunt Finola.

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