A Perfect Body
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by Cassandra Barnes
Description: A bundle of contradictions, Madeleine Andrews doesn't play well with others, yet is a devoted volunteer. Luke McFarland is a successful people-pleaser, burying his own desires beneath an ever-present smile. Theirs could be the love affair of the century, but first they have to learn to like each other. She thinks he's insincere and a phony. He thinks she's arrogant and difficult. And that's just the start of their problems.
eBook Publisher: ebooksonthe.net/ebooksonthe.net, 2009 ebook
eBookwise Release Date: June 2009
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [410 KB]
Reading time: 240-336 min.
"Luke McFarland? I've never heard of him." Madeleine Andrews tried to keep annoyance from her voice. The four other members of the Board of the Center for Life Skills had just dumped the whole publicity project on her, including working with a public relations firm and its hot shot executive director. "Who recommended him?"
"Brian Werner, managing partner of the best-known public relations firm in the state," Dave Fleming replied. "Brian and I play tennis regularly at the country club."
"And?" Madeleine tapped her pencil on the scarred conference table.
"Well, it just makes sense," Dave said, matching her impatience with his response. "Lane and Werner have to do a certain amount of public service work." He shrugged. "It's part of their code of ethics. So I mentioned our project to Brian, and he said he'd assign Luke McFarland to us. Said McFarland is the best man the firm has, that he's earned nearly every industry award for his innovative ideas."
"So we're not paying for this McFarland or his company to put together a publicity campaign for us? It's all pro bono?"
"Not only will McFarland put together a publicity campaign for us, Brian promised he'd help with our fundraising project, once we decide what we want. All pro bono. We won't pay a cent for their services."
Madeleine jotted the information on her copy of the agenda. The Center desperately needed help, both with recruiting volunteers and financing. If they could get a publicity program gratis, so much the better. Depending, of course, on the quality of the firm and their staff. She'd do her own research before accepting their help.
She put down her pencil and gazed at each of the board members in turn. "I still have one question." As if they knew what was coming next, their gazes slid away from her. "Why and how did I get to be chairman of publicity?"
Answers tumbled out. "You have the contacts." "I don't know where to start." "You have the ability." "You're younger." "It's too much for me." And the final response, almost in unison from the four people, "we'll help you, we promise."
"Seriously, Madeleine," Ilene Watson, Chair of the Board, said, "you really are the most qualified person to put this thing together for us."
"Look, I'm a low-ranking reporter. The assignments I usually get don't lead to the kind of contacts we need." Madeleine paused. She didn't need to drag dissatisfaction with her career into this meeting.
"I didn't mean your job," Ilene said. "I'm thinking about the people you know through your father's businesses, especially those with the big out-of-town corporations."
Madeleine stiffened. As much as she wanted to assist the Center generate enough money to continue, she wouldn't ask her father for help. No way, no how, never. "We're a local organization, formed to aid people in our own community. I think we need to show we can successfully raise funds locally, before we go outside."
"Great!" Ilene said, as the others nodded in agreement. "You're the perfect person to do all our publicity."
Too late, Madeleine realized she'd been finessed. "Okay, I'll try my best." She again caught the eye of each board member. "But I'll need help from each of you. Let's meet again in two weeks." She checked her pocket calendar. "That's May 25. I should have a report on the publicity campaign by then." She hand wrote notes as she spoke, disdaining the use of an electronic gadget. "You all belong to other organizations. I want to know what they've done in the way of fund-raising and public relations. Include what's worked for them, and what hasn't. Make a point of watching television ads, looking at magazines, and so on, and analyze what makes an effective ad for you."
"But Madeleine," Ilene objected, "won't the public relations firm do that?"
"Since we aren't paying them, I think we need to do the basic research ourselves. Besides, we want to make sure they put together a campaign that fits us, not a boiler plate plan they use for everyone. And we want the most effective plan possible."
"She's right." Dave said, pushing aside the paperwork jumbled in front of him. "The Center is in a precarious position right now. If we can't get more money and more volunteers, we risk losing everything we've worked so hard to achieve. Not to mention that the people depending on us for help have nowhere else to go. It behooves us to contribute as much as we can to a successful publicity campaign, as well as coming up with a unique fund-raising idea."
"Thank you." Madeleine nodded toward Dave. He was the most businesslike member of the board and could be counted on to inject common sense into their discussions. "At last month's meeting, we talked about a soiree. I know other organizations have been successful with silent auctions. I've been thinking about ways of combining the two into one big bash." She smiled. "Let's try to come up with something unusual and exciting. How about we each bring a new idea to the next meeting?"
"I'll be in San Francisco for the next ten days," Janice Collier said, a guilty tone in her voice. "Well, I didn't know we'd be doing all this," she added when Dave glared at her. "We're going for my niece's wedding and we made plans a long time ago."
"That's okay," Madeleine said. "In fact, that's good. While you're there, do the same thing you'd do if you were here. Gather information from people and the various media. You can e-mail your input to me before the meeting."
"I have another matter we need to discuss informally," Ilene said, after the meeting had adjourned. She explained that Carmen, their executive director, totally opposed working with a public relations firm.
"Why?" Dave asked.
"She looks at using outsiders as a negative reflection on her abilities because part of her job is to keep our name and activities before the public."
"She does that. I saw her on the Good Morning show last week, and she's always sending news items to the paper," Madeleine said. "None of us have ever complained, in fact, I think we've all been pleased with her work." She waved her hand in dismissal. "Carmen will just have to get over her hurt feelings. This has nothing to do with her."
"I'll talk with her, build up her ego a bit," Ilene said. "I just wanted to let you all know we potentially have trouble brewing with her."
"Tell her we appreciate her work and think she really does a good job. She'd be very difficult to replace. But we've got to have professional help," Dave said. "Whether she wants to or not, she'll have to put aside her personal feelings. For the good of the organization, she'll have to cooperate with Madeleine and Luke."
Madeleine and Luke. The phrase startled Madeleine. How had they become so connected, so quickly? Who was he anyway, this person about to enter her life? Before she set up an appointment to meet with him, she'd make a point of learning all she could about him. A tingle, unlike anything she'd ever known before, started at the base of her spine and sparked its way upward. Luke McFarland. The name circled around in her brain, looking for a place to settle. Madeleine shook her head in exasperation, as if to dislodge his presence. She hadn't even met him yet, for heaven's sake. But the name remained, shimmering in her consciousness.