may be resistant to change, but that doesn't mean I can't win them over,' Corinne insisted.

Colin groaned, resigned to the inevitable. She wasn't ready to cave in yet. But no matter how hard Corinne tried, sex wouldn't sell newspapers.

It wasn't that Colin had anything against sex. Hell, he was a man, wasn't he? But sex had its time and place. And it had been sadly lacking in his life, he silently admitted. The dry spell had gone on too long. Still, he wasn't about to embark on a meaningless fling. Casual sex was neither smart nor satisfying, and travel didn't lend itself toward establishing long-term relationships.

Apparently, neither did sticking around. His marriage had bottomed out fast because his wife didn't know the meaning of fidelity. She'd cheated on Colin. Twice. Two different men, Lord knew how many times with each. Colin had left town soon after the discovery. Sick of the reminder of past failure, he'd booked a flight to Europe, trading in a local TV anchor job for one abroad.

'I'm going to make sure Joe's doctor knows to stop by and talk to me before he leaves the hospital tonight,' Corinne said as she walked toward the door.

'That's fine. I'll stick around until you get back.' He wanted the older man to know he had people by his side and a family to return to when he walked out of the hospital, even if Colin wasn't sure Joe knew that anyone was in the room.

Corinne disappeared out the door just as Joe's snoring became obscene. Colin grinned, the sound calming him in ways only his heart understood. Joe and his first wife, Nell, had taken Colin in when his parents died. At twelve, he'd been a pain-in-the-ass kid who thought he knew best and resented the world because his parents were gone. But Joe and Nell understood. They gave him time, space and a home in which to adjust. Later on, they'd adopted him, even knowing he couldn't bring himself to call anyone but his birth parents Mom and Dad. They'd just wanted him to feel loved and know he had family. The same thing Colin wanted for Joe now. Which was why he forced himself to get along with Corinne, even if he wanted to throttle her.

Joe's snoring continued and Colin laughed. When Joe wasn't at work, he always spent a great deal of time snoring in his old recliner chair. A chair Corinne had dragged to the street corner the day she'd said 'I do.' Colin didn't know what possessed Joe to marry a woman the complete opposite of Nell. But he had.

'I'm back.' Corinne carried two soda cans in her hand. 'I brought you a cola.'

Again, Colin was struck by the incongruity of her actions. 'Thanks,' he muttered. Obviously Joe had seen something in her, which was another reason Colin wanted to give her a chance.

Just not where Joe's beloved paper was concerned.

'When you get back to the office, take a look at Rina's column. I promise you'll be impressed,' Corinne said, taking his place in the chair by Joe's bed.

Colin forced a nod. But at the reminder of what he had waiting for him, he snorted in disgust. Matchmaking ads, self-help columns and a series on what men want? He was beginning to doubt either Corinne, Rina Lowell or any other woman had a clue.

He let himself out of the hospital room and leaned against the back wall next to a utility cart. Corinne had already told him she didn't believe Fortune's Inc. would pull their new ads, not once they saw how readers reacted to Rina's first column and the other assorted new things she had planned. Reality wasn't a part of Corinne's thinking, and Colin's frustration flew as fast and furious as his thoughts.

Corinne was so caught up in her newest scheme, she didn't care or understand that her livelihood and Joe's legacy were at stake. How the hell could he reach her? She was so damn excited about Rina's new series, she wouldn't listen to reason.

He ran a hand through his hair. And the solution dawned.

Rina. Corinne's newest flavor of the week. An employee she obviously trusted. Someone with whom he'd heard Corinne shared a family connection. A bond. Rina Lowell might be the only person who could make Corinne see the error of her ways. If Colin could get Rina on his side.

He'd have to spend time with her in order to subtly sway her to his way of thinking. Considering she'd piqued his interest from day one, being with Rina would be no hardship. But gaining her trust under false pretenses didn't sit well with him, and guilt gnawed at his insides. He'd be pursuing friendship, all the while knowing he was plotting a return to hard news at the expense of her job.

He attempted to assuage his guilt with the facts. Rina would be out of a job whether Corinne ran the paper into the ground or Colin got things back on track. But if he got to know her first, if she believed he wanted what was best for all involved, maybe she'd be willing to help him talk Corinne into accepting the best of all possibilities. They could save the paper, and in return, he could promise Rina a good recommendation for another, more appropriate job.

He groaned, still feeling like a shit for considering the plan. But feelings didn't change the fact that the Times was a newspaper, not a woman's magazine, something the advertisers and now Colin's lender understood. The money he'd contributed would only hold out for so long. They needed positive cash flow again soon.

A smart man would hop on the next plane back to South America. But Colin couldn't. Not yet. Financial debt and gentleman's agreement aside, Colin had more compelling reasons to stay. He hadn't been here when Joe first got sick and Colin lived with that knowledge every damn day. He loved, respected and owed the man. Joe had given him a shot in life and Colin wouldn't betray him now.

Colin wouldn't allow anyone to destroy the paper Joe had built. He'd do anything he had to for the older man. Even if it meant using Rina Lowell.

* * *

RINA WATCHED with amusement as the head of the maintenance crew tried to hang mistletoe according to Emma Montgomery's direction. The older woman had already hung sprigs in unsuspecting places around the Ashford Times's offices and had taken to adding a bit more each day. Of course, she did her decorating after five, when the core staff had gone home for the day.

'A little more to the left. No, to the right. Left. No, right.' From her seat, Emma tried to choreograph everything and everyone in her sphere of influence, a mean feat for an eighty-year-old woman. At least Rina thought she was eighty. Emma never discussed her actual age.

'Geez, lady, make up your mind.' The man's weight tipped the ladder precariously with each stretch of his arm in a different direction. 'I haven't got all night.'

Emma sniffed. 'That's the problem with today's generation. Everyone's in such a rush. What do you think, Rina? Come here and check it out from my perspective.'

Knowing Emma wouldn't be satisfied unless she complied, Rina shut down her computer for the night and joined the older woman. She glanced upward at the ceiling. 'Looks good to me. Want to test it out? Emma's willing,' Rina jokingly told the maintenance man.

He glared, obviously not enjoying his role in holiday merrymaking.

Emma laughed. 'You need holiday spirit,' she informed the man, then squinted upward once more. She nodded at last. 'That's it then. Leave the mistletoe there.'

Directly over Colin Lyons's hair. Despite Corinne's warning, his return had shocked the staff. Those who knew Colin had expected his long absences to continue. Instead, as soon as he'd arrived home, he'd come on board at the paper. Corinne had agreed to let him take over the small news department, admitting that wasn't her forte. But even she didn't think he'd stay. According to office gossip, he never did.

Rina glanced at the greenery over his seat and grinned. 'You are one wicked woman, Emma.'

She rubbed her hands together with glee. 'Tell me you wouldn't love to get that man underneath the mistletoe.'

Of course she would. But Rina wouldn't be admitting anything to Emma. No way would she give the queen of the 'Meet and Greet' column a cause to focus on. She could handle her own affairs, thank you very much. Because if Emma discovered that Rina was attracted to Colin-incredibly attracted, in fact-she'd pull out all the stops to get them together. And the timing was all wrong for Rina to find herself on the receiving end of Emma's renowned matchmaking skills.

With her series coming up, she had put together a plan to decipher what the opposite sex wanted. She couldn't have Emma meddling in her social life. Not now.

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