Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Satusfaction Guaranteed - 10 page excerpt!


Hello everyone!

It has been a very busy week and I apologize for the infrequent posts. Today is special because I'm posting a 10 page excerpt.

Enjoy!

The first person to comment back on the except will win a Lucy book!

She rolled her eyes again. "Come on, Stud, admit it. I'm not exactly your usual date."

He'd gotten the nickname at the agency long before Beth had come and it had never bothered him before. There was something about the way that she said it that made him feel as if she was mocking him though. The moniker Stud simply did not sound like a compliment when it rolled off of her acerbic little tongue.

"You're an unusual woman, period."

"I don't think so."

The waiter arrived again with a basket of fresh bread and the salad, then disappeared again just as quickly.

Ethan served her and then himself from the large bowl. "You're wrong, Sunshine. You are different than most women in this town and yet you were born and raised here."

Her eyes narrowed. "What do you mean?"

"You're as fresh and sweet and a man can't help wondering how you maintained such aura of innocence in a city so filled with anything but."

"Are you saying I lack city sophistication?"

He looked her over, letting his gaze linger extra seconds on the parts his body craved to touch. Her little black dress was perfect and the last word in sophistication, not to mention sexy as hell. The way she'd styled her hair was both tantalizing and chic...her make-up was neither too gaudy nor underdone. Nothing about the individual elements lacked the polish he would expect of her mother's daughter, but Beth still managed to project an innocence that challenged the predator in him to teach her the depths of her own passion.

"No. You don't lack anything, but you don't fit this city either. Not like your mom does."

"Or the women you actually date."

He shrugged, not sure what to say. It occurred to him that another woman might be justifiably offended by his comments, but Beth was only looking at him with curious speculation.

She sighed. "If you want the truth, I've never felt like I fit. Not my family. Not this city. Not any of it."

"So, why do you stay?"

"I love my parents even if I don't always get them and vice versa. Besides, D.C. is all I know. I've thought of moving...I just wonder if I'd fit in any better someplace else."

"So, why take a job with agency?"

"There were a lot of reasons. It was time to make some changes and that felt like the right one. I was also bored out of my mind doing investment counseling."

"You got a degree in finance."

"And didn't realize until too late how much making money bored me. I love what I do for the agency...the way I get to be involved in so many different things and people's lives." She buttered a piece of warm bread and put it on his plate.

"Thanks." He took a bite, his hunger warring with his need to know more about this surprisingly enigmatic woman. "But you don't live the adventure yourself."

"Until now."

But that hadn't been her idea and he was sure she would have refused if she could see another way around the problem. "What are you afraid of?"

"Who said I was afraid of anything?" She ate a bite of salad, her eyes closing in apparent bliss. She moaned. "This is good. The dressing is perfect."

"Everything here is perfect."

Her eyes opened and she smiled. "Good. I'm starving."

He was too, but the food was not as alluring as the woman sitting across from him. Or her secrets. "You like touching the pulse of a project, but you've never wanted to be out there where the blood is really pounding. I'm wondering what about life scares you so much you don't want to live it."

Her brow furrowed. "I never said I didn't."

"You read about what you want to do sexually. You don't do it." She hadn't confirmed that, but he was almost positive it was the case. "You hide sexy lingerie beneath conservative business attire," he said, taking another guess.

Her hand stilled with a forkful of salad halfway to her mouth. "You said you hadn't gone through my drawers."

"I haven't...yet. I saw the top of your stockings when you got into the car."

"Oh." Her Madonna like features blushed. "Conservative attire is appropriate for the office."

"Maybe...but the more I think about it, the more I realize you hide your natural sensuality."

"So, now you're a mind reader and a pop psychologist?"

"No, just a man who knows a lot about women."

"Now that I believe, but you don't know as much about this one as you think you do."

"I'm going to remedy that."

"So you say."

"It's necessary. For the case."

"What a convenient excuse to sate your over active curiosity."

"Isn't it?"

She ignored that and tucked into her salad.

He let her eat in peace until she finished it and then said, "I still think you're afraid to live."

"Are you goading me for a reason?"

Was he? He guessed he was. He wanted to push her past her control and get to the real woman under the put together, sunny exterior. "You don't date agents..."

"That merely shows my intelligence, not some deep seated fear of really living."

"Why, Beth? What is so smart about refusing to date men who fascinate you?"

"You think agents fascinate me? Brother, you are so wrong."

"I don't think so."

Her dark eyes snapped with irritation. "Stop being a prick."

"Whoa...that's a pretty strong reaction for what is essentially a harmless conversation. I must have struck a nerve." And that interested him. A lot.

"Why don't we dissect you and see how much you like it?"

"Go ahead, Beth. What you see is what you get." He put his palms out in an open gesture. "I left my family behind in Texas when I realized I wanted more from life than I could find following in my daddy's footsteps as a cattleman. So, I left that for my sister and both she and Daddy are happier for it. I like to test my limits with extreme sports and my job, which makes me a little more primitive than your average Washington politician, but that's not something I'm ashamed of. I'm nowhere near ready to settle down, no matter what my mama might like and I have very few sexual inhibitions."

He didn't know why he added that last bit...like a challenge...except he couldn’t get the image of those hot pink handcuffs out of his head.

"Which is exactly why I don't date agents."

"Because of the lack of sexual inhibitions? I'd say that would be a benefit considering your leanings in that direction."

"Because agents aren't good long term relationship material."

"You said you weren't interested in getting married." And he'd about convinced himself to believe her because doing so would mean he could go after those pretty pink handcuffs with a clear conscience.

After the assignment.

If he made it that long.

"I’m not, but things happen. If you date a man, you can fall in love with him and end up married to him against your better judgment. My mother once told me never to date a man I wouldn't want to end up married to."

"That doesn't sound like your mother. She seems like the type that would encourage dating whoever got you the connections most beneficial to her."

"She's not that much of a barracuda. Now if it were my Aunt Connie..."

"Your mom's sister who is an actual politician, not someone who likes to play behind the scenes like your mom?"

"That's the one. She makes my mom seem positively June Cleaver maternal by comparison."

"So, your mom told you not to date agents," he said going back to the topic that interested him.

"She told me not to date a man I wouldn't want to end up married to and agents make lousy family men."

Considering the fact her dad had been one, that said a lot about how Beth felt about him as a parent. "You don't think agents should get married? At all? That's pretty extreme, don't you think?"

"I didn't say that. You're really into twisting my words tonight. I merely said that agents make lousy family men and that I have no desire to end up married to one. Ever."

"It's a good thing for you your mom didn't feel the same way, isn't it."

"I don't know. Is it?"

"Your dad is a good man."

"Yes, he is. I'm very proud of what he's accomplished with his life, but it came at a price." She sighed, her expression not so much sad as determined. "He wasn't the only one who paid it either. I know what it's like to grow up with a very absentee father. Lots of kids do, but that doesn't make it any easier to live with when you are one of them.

Dad didn't settle for a desk job until I was in my teens. By that time, Mother had developed a whole life independently of him. So had I. That works for them, but it's not what I want for myself or for any children I might have. I'm not sure that what I do want is anything more than a pipe dream, but I'm not settling for something less. Which is why weddings and marriage are not high on my list of interesting conversational topics."

It was a hint to let the subject drop, but he didn't want to. He didn't want to settle down right now either, but someday he had every intention of getting married. Maybe even having kids. Family was a good thing. He was just too busy enjoying the single life at the moment to have one. But she sounded like she really never planned to go that route and something told him that would be a real waste.

She was warm and sweet...the kind of woman that would thrive in a family like the one he'd grown up in.

"Okay, so your dad missed a few school plays, but think of all the good he did."

She laughed, her expression almost pitying. "It was a lot more than a few school plays and someone else could have done what he did in the field."

"He was a damn good agent."

"Yes, he was...but he wasn't the only agent, not even the only really good agent. And who is to say that him moving to a desk job earlier wouldn't have done the agency more good?"

"But he wouldn't have been happy." Didn't she see that?

"I know. But his happiness came at the cost of mine. I can understand that as an adult...that he had to do what he felt was right, but I can never condone subjecting any child of mine to a similar situation. It hurts too much. I didn't understand why he had to do what he did when I was little. All I knew was that my dad didn't love me enough to be there for me when I needed him. I love him, but I'll never allow a child of mine to go to sleep at night wondering what is wrong with her that she's so unimportant to her dad he's missed her birthday again, or her first date, or her high school graduation."

He opened his mouth to speak and then shut it again. He didn't know what that was like. Sure, things had come up when he was a kid that made his parents have to miss something here or there, but never one of his birthdays...or his graduation. It would be too easy for him to say it wouldn't have mattered, but he didn't know because he'd never had to face that.

"It sounds to me like you know exactly what you want—"

"Or don't want."

"Or don't want. You're definitely strong enough to turn down a guy if he wasn't offering you the kind of lifestyle commitment you're looking for."

"You'd think so, wouldn't you? Maybe I am now...but I wasn't always."

"What do you mean?"

"Just that I've made mistakes in the past I have no intention of repeating."

"You've never been married."

She winced. "No, I haven't."

Did she have any idea how her half answers were driving him nuts. The more he learned about her, the more he wanted to know until it was a burning thing inside him.

That was just his curiosity. Nothing special, but he hadn't been intrigued by something outside his job like this for a long time. Not since wanting to find out who had killed the uncle who had lived estranged from his family for decades.

He'd had to learn that info second hand...another man had discovered the identity of the killer. But this time, Ethan was going to be the one to discover what made Beth tick.

"So, you'd be safe dating agents."

"And if I fell in love?"

"Love?" He didn't deny its existence, but he'd never felt it. Not for a woman. Sometimes he wondered if he just wasn't the type of man to fall in love.

"Yes, you know that pesky emotion that causes people to do lots of stuff they swear they'd never do."

"I don't see you letting it rule you."

"Don't you?"

"You're too stubborn."

"Stubborn...what kind of talk is this? You are supposed to be telling this one of her beauty...ai, ai, ai...you leave the talk of stubborn for after the marriage." Vito was shaking his head and staring at Ethan in horror.

Beth grinned. "You tell him, Vito. Besides, I'm not stubborn. I don't know where he gets the idea that I am." She batted her long dark lashes at him and the old Italian beamed, eating up this flirtatious side to the quiet little admin.

Who damn well was stubborn. Very. His mama would love her. So would his sister. His daddy would say to steer clear unless he wanted to end up roped and hog-tied. He frowned. Not bad advice.

"Now you glare at her? This sweet thing. What could she have done?"

"Nothing. Honest." Beth smiled coquettishly. "He's a little upset because I think he's a poor prospect for a long term relationship like marriage. He thinks jumping out of airplanes and forgetting to pull the rip cord on his parachute until the last minute is entertainment. I have my own ideas about how to pass the time."

She said it so suggestively Ethan almost choked on his wine. This vixen was not the shy, but stubborn little secretary he was used to dealing with.

Vito was shaking his head again. "There is nothing romantic about jumping out of an airplane, but he did bring you here for dinner."

"That's true," Beth mused provocatively. "I suppose I'll have to give him marks for some level of romanticism."

"That is good, no?" Vito placed their dinners on the table before leaving to greet another obviously well known customer at the door.

"I can be as romantic as the next man, but this is not a real date, or had you forgotten?"

"My memory is just fine, thanks."

"Then what was all that stuff you spouted at Vito? I never said I wanted to marry you." He realized how ridiculous he sounded only when the words were out of his mouth.

He was coming off like a defensive kid, who was not confident of his ability with women so had to tell her what a great guy he was.

She laughed, the sound warm and filled with amusement. At his expense. "Would you prefer I told him that our get-to-know-you session for the sake of the case was getting too intense?"

"Of course not."

"He thinks we're on a date, so I acted like I was on a date."

"Then I pity the poor man you actually deign to allow yourself to go out with."

"Do you?"

Hell no. He envied him...the date and the pink handcuffs.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Another Look at Satisfaction Guaranteed!

Hello Everyone- today I thought I'd provide you with an extra long excerpt from the anticipated mass-market re-release of Satisfaction Guaranteed. Enjoy and stay tuned for some giveaways and more news later this week!


(((EXCERPT)))

Ethan pulled the rental car to a stop in front of the gate of Arthur Preston's home. It was impressive. The stone wall was eight feet high with decorative wrought iron spikes at the top. Ethan was sure they were electrified and not for decorative purposes at all. They looked damn sharp.

The gatehouse was built into the wall and look easily defensible, the gate itself was a huge double unit made of the same black wrought iron looking material that topped the brick wall. A much smaller gate slid back into the wall and a guard in a smart black uniform stepped through the opening.

He stopped directly beside the drivers side of the car and just waited.

Ethan opened the window and met the guard's flat stare. "This is Beth Whitney. She's got an appointment to interview with Mr. Preston."

The guard looked down at his clipboard and then up again. "Please step out of the car for a visual identification, Miss Whitney."

Beth went to pull the door handle, but Ethan stopped her. "Is that strictly necessary?"

"Yes, sir."

Ethan frowned, playing his role of over protective boyfriend very well and nodded grudgingly. "Go ahead, sweetheart."

She climbed out of the car and came around to face the guard. Ethan was already standing in front of the driver's door, his expression brooding as he watched the guard.

The guard did a visual comparison to something on his clipboard and then smiled. "I'll escort you up to the house, Miss Whitney."

Ethan put a proprietary arm around her shoulder. "I'd rather drive her up, if it's all the same to you." His voice implied it had better be.

The guard's smile disappeared. "You are not on the appointment list, Mr. ..."

"Ethan Grange," Ethan replied giving an alias that Beth had learned was a well established identity for him.

Apparently being a writer of rather depressing literary fiction was a good cover in the espionage world. He even had two books published by a small press that had been subsidized by TGP. It was a good cover, one Preston could investigate if he wanted.

"Mr. Grange, I'm afraid you'll have to wait out here."

"No. I'm going in with Beth, or she doesn't go."

Beth gasped, but he squeezed her shoulder and she subsided.

The guard looked at her with something that might have been sympathy. "I'm afraid that isn't possible."

"Then, we're leaving." He started guiding Beth toward the car.

She couldn't believe he was doing this. "Ethan..."

He ignored her protest and kept walking. "If your boss doesn't understand my desire to see to your comfort, he wouldn't be a good employer. You can't even see the house from here, honey. You aren't walking all that way on a whim of some rich dude who thinks he can control you and the rest of the world. You know I'd rather you didn't work at all."

The guard was talking into his comm.unit in low tones.

"But I wanted this job, Ethan. It's perfect for me and it's only part-time." If she sounded more irritated than cajoling, that couldn't be helped. She wasn't an actress and she didn't think the guard would notice the difference.

Ethan walked her around the car and tucked her into her seat before going back to the driver's side and climbing in.

"Wait. Mr. Grange...I've asked my employer to approve your entrance on the estate."

"I don't think—"

"Please, Ethan, don't be so difficult," Beth pleaded, impressed with Ethan's acting ability in spite of herself.

He smiled at Beth. "You really want this job, honey?"

"Yes," she gritted out, deciding right then that he could play the role of over protective and possessive boyfriend, but she didn't necessarily have to accept the one of total doormat.

"All right." He turned to the guard. "Well, what did he say?"

The guard was listening to something in the comm.unit. "Do you have proof of your identification?"

"Of course."

"Can I see it please?"

Ethan leaned over and grabbed a book off the backseat. "Here's my picture."

The book was a hardback with a dust cover and on it Ethan Grange was emblazoned in bold letters under a pretentious title. He flipped the book open and a picture of him in a dark turtle neck and black rimmed glasses was on the back inside flap of the dust cover. It was a totally supercilious move, and fit the persona of her pretend boyfriend to a T.

"I would prefer to see your driver's license, sir."

Beth's heart stuttered and then started beating again, but too fast. Of course Ethan would have a fake license to go with the identity, but she held her breath until he reached for his back pocket, grumbling the whole time. Adrenalin was surging through Beth in pulsing waves. This undercover stuff was stressful, but...weirdly fun.

The guard waved them through the gate and Beth breathed out a sigh of relief. "That was close."

"Don't say anything, Beth."

At first she thought he was staying true to his part, but then he shook his head imperceptibly.

And she remembered that he and her father had drilled into her that she needed to be circumspect about what she said while on Preston's property or anywhere close to it. She hadn't realized they meant the car too, but she should have. She knew as well as any agent that there were listening devices that could be targeted at her right now and relaying her conversation with Ethan to Preston's security team.

"I wish you would have let me walk to the house with the guard. You almost cost me a chance at this job," she said, trying to play her role just in case.

It seemed like overkill, but then this man wouldn't be so hard to get to if he wasn't the ultra cautious sort.

"I wasn't letting you walk anywhere with that guy. Did you see the way he smiled at you?"

"Oh, please..."

"He's interested, Beth. Stay away from him."

"Give it a rest, Ethan."

He winked at her, his approval of her playacting apparent and despite knowing that they were no better a fit than she and her parents, she felt warmth steal through her.

Another security guard met them at the front door and Ethan was shown to a room to wait while Beth was taken to Preston for her interview.

According to their intel, Arthur Preston was fifty-two years old, but with raven black hair, an unlined face, and the body of someone who obviously worked out, he looked much younger. Everywhere but his eyes. They were just flat, grey metal disks for irises, lacking all emotion and yet purveying the impression of a life that had seen things she never wanted to.

He asked the usual questions for a job of the nature he'd advertised and she answered them easily, confident in this aspect of the case. Though she felt like he watched her more closely than any other prospective employer had. There was a quality to his regard that she couldn't quite define, but she felt almost touched by his gaze.

It was not a nice feeling because despite his professional manner, she did not get the sense he was a nice man. She didn't think it was knowing he was one of the bad guys that was influencing her either. There was something about Arthur Preston that gave her the chills.

Then he went silent and looked at her speculatively for several seconds. "I heard you had problems at the front gate."

"Not with your guard. He was only doing his job."

"But your boyfriend objected to leaving you."

"Ethan can be a little over protective, but he didn't mean any offense by it."

Preston frowned. "As a general rule, my employee's personal lives do not interest me, but I would have to be sure that your relationship with Ethan Grange would not impinge on your ability to do your job."

"It won't, I promise," she said earnestly.

Preston smiled, his eyes assessing more than her value as an investment counselor. He was looking at all of her, his gaze lingering a tad too long on her breasts and she had to suppress a shiver. "You're a lovely woman, Miss Whitney. I understand your boyfriend's protectiveness, but I need your assurance he will not make trouble should I need you beyond the minimum hours for the job."

"I thought the job was part-time?"

"I may want to call on your expertise outside your usual hours and there are times I entertain business associates that I might find your presence invaluable."

"I'm sure that won't be a problem." But her shock at his request showed.

She didn't think it would be out of character for her to react this way, so she didn't berate herself. Besides, he'd said he was looking for the quiet sort. She did shy well, since it was a natural part of her personality.

Preston smiled, his cold gray eyes going almost friendly. "Good. Do you have a number I can contact you at tonight to let you know my decision?"

She nodded and wrote down the number for the hotel. "We're checked in under Ethan's name."

"Very good. I'll call you and let you know my decision personally." He brushed her fingers with his and she had to fight to keep from yanking her hand away.

"Um...that's wonderful. Thanks." Her skin itched with discomfort as she unobtrusively slipped her hand back and stood up. "I'll just collect Ethan and go."

He stood and took her arm. "Let me walk you, Beth. I may call you Beth?"

"Yes, of course."

"Should you end up working for me, you will call me Arthur. I do not stand on formality with my closer advisors."

"Um...thank you."

He certainly stood on formality with his security team, but he was looking at her like a meal he'd like to devour. While it made her skin crawl, she couldn't help thinking it was a totally unexpected development. She couldn't wait to tell Ethan. Surely if Preston was interested in her as a woman, she had a better chance of worming information out of him that could be useful.

They were thirty minutes from Preston's estate back toward Portland before Beth felt comfortable bringing the subject up.

Ethan's reaction was explosive. "What the hell are you talking about? You are not the agent in charge of securing information. You are the conduit, Beth. You will not encourage Preston in any way."

"Don't be ridiculous. With a little effort on my part, I'm sure I could end up at some of these business meetings he mentioned."

"It would be totally out of character for your role."

"Wrong. You're not looking at the big picture here, Ethan. I'm a fairly intelligent woman. And no matter how shy I am, I'm bound to chafe at restrictions placed on me by an over protective boyfriend. I can encourage the attraction under the cover of a minor rebellion on my part."

Ethan's jaw hardened and his hands tightened on the steering wheel. "You aren't encouraging anything. I mean it, Beth. This man is dangerous and you aren't trained to play that kind of role with him."

"I don't think it takes a lot of training to do the man-woman thing."

"That's where you are wrong."

"You seriously think I need agent training to engage in a light flirtation?"

"You are not engaging in anything with Arthur Preston."

"You don't think I'm woman enough?" She crossed her arms and looked out the window. "I may not be gorgeous like Elle, but he's already interested Ethan. All I have to do is encourage him a little."

"It has nothing to do with your feminine allure. I obviously think you have plenty of that."

She said nothing.

He frowned. "Believe me, Beth, this kind of thing requires proper training."

"I just don't see what kind of training I could possibly need just to flirt a little."

"You'd be surprised."

"Maybe I would."

He shot her a sideways look. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Well, we've already agreed that you and I started this sex thing between us because it was good for the case and I'm just wondering if a big portion of your response isn't training."

"I never agreed to any such thing."

"You said the timing was because of the case."

"That's not the same thing as saying I'm taking you to bed for it."

"Whatever."

"I thought we already had this discussion."

"We did."

"But you came away with the wrong conclusion."

"I don't think so."

The noise he made was one-hundred percent masculine irritation. "Do you honestly believe that if my response to you was nothing more than part of my training that I would be worried about the level of intensity? Believe it, or not, I'm more professional than that."

"You said it had been a while. You're reacting more strongly than you expected, but that doesn't mean it isn't part of some master plan."

"Seducing you was not part of my master plan for the case," he gritted.

"You didn't exactly seduce me."

"Damn right I didn't. It was entirely mutual."

"I never said it wasn't."

"You implied it was just part of the job on my side."

She was sure to an extent that was true, but he obviously felt there was more to it as well. The man was really worried about the intensity thing. "Maybe it would be less confusing if it was."

"Why? So you could compartmentalize me with your other fantasies?"

"It's more than a fantasy now."

"Yes, it is. It's a relationship."

"Not hardly."

"What the hell do you mean by that?"

"Do you notice how you swear a lot when you get irritated?"

"It only happens with you."

"I don't believe that."

"Ask my mama. She raised me not to curse in front of women, but you wind me up." And he sounded apologetic about that. Embarrassed even.

"I don't mean to."

"I don't believe that for a minute. You've got an ornery streak, Beth, about as wide and deep and Texas gulley."

"Gullies aren't that wide...or deep."

"They are in Texas."

"According to Texans, everything is big there."

"It is," he said suggestively.

She laughed. "Well, I'd have to agree about some things anyway."

He smiled, but then went all serious again. "We have a relationship, Beth."

"We have sex. That you want to keep light."

"We're friends and we're lovers; that makes it more than just sex."

"If you say so."

"I do. And I also say that you are not going to encourage Preston in his attraction to you."

"If I think otherwise?"

"I'll pull you from the case."

"You wouldn't. It took too long to get this in. You aren't giving it up on stubborn principle."

"No, I'm not. But I'll give it up to ensure your safety. You know he's dangerous."

"So you've said, but just because he sells information to the enemy doesn't mean he's going to hurt a woman."

"He's had women and men killed, Beth."

"Because he knew they were agents. He doesn't know about me and I'm not going to blow my cover."

"Are you attracted to him?" he asked through stiff lips.

"Are you kidding? He gives me the willies."

"And you think you can hide that?"

"I think if I can't, he'll like knowing. He's that kind of man."

"Which is all the more reason to keep your sweet behind out of his sights."

"I don't think it's my behind he's interested in."

"With a man like him, you never know."

"Now, you're just being alarmist."

"No, dam—darn it, I'm not. Men like him eat women like you for dinner."

"Give it a break."

"I'm being serious here."

"You're being paranoid."

"We agreed I was the agent in charge."

"We also agreed that I'm not brain dead."

"I never said you were."

"Then don't treat me like it."

"Disagreeing with you is not doubting your intelligence."

"Maybe not, but trying to lay down the law without talking about it, is."

"We have been talking about it!"

"Don't yell at me. We started off with one of your unilateral commands if you'll recall."

"Which you didn't listen to."

"I listened, I didn't agree."

"I'm going crazy here, Beth. Stop arguing with me just for the sake of it."

"Is that what I'm doing?"

"It feels like it."

"As opposed to me simply disagreeing with your decision?"

"Yes."

She laughed. "But I do disagree."

"And when we disagree..."

She sighed, knowing what he wanted her to admit. "You get final say as agent in charge."

"Good answer."

"After due deliberation and discussion."

"Is there more you want to say on this?"

"Only that I think we should leave the option open."

"We aren't going to exercise it."

"I agree...for now."