Authors: Kathleen Long
Tags: #Romantic Comedy, #humor, #contemporary romance, #kathleen long
Nate shook himself from the trance. “Yes, Bunny...er...Beatrice. Good morning.”
A bright red blush fired in her cheeks. “I see Mr. Parks shared my nickname with you.”
“I apologize. That was a slip of the tongue on my part, and Bert shouldn’t have told me.”
A grin spread across her delicate features, tiny laugh lines crinkling the corners of her brilliant eyes. “It’s fine.” Her nose wrinkled as she spoke. “I prefer it to Beatrice, actually.”
Nate shook his head. “It won’t happen again.” He jerked his thumb toward the hall. “Our client is waiting. This is a major account, so I’ll expect you to present yourself as an expert. Understood?”
“Absolutely.” Beatrice turned back to her desk. “Let me grab my pad.”
Nate watched as she knelt beside her chair, pulling a box from beneath the desk and plucking a leather notebook from its contents.
“What do you have there?”
She quickly pushed the box out of sight, looking up at him. Her turquoise gaze locked onto his. Nate’s stomach caught and twisted.
, he thought.
So incredibly alive
“This?” Beatrice shook her head, pulling herself upright. “Just some...knickknacks I won’t be needing.”
“Yes.” She stepped to his side. “They’re nothing really. I had them in my office at home and thought they’d liven things up here.” A furrow formed between her brows. “Mr. Parks pointed out my mistake. They’ll be gone tonight.”
“Very well,” he said. “Ready to meet our client?”
Beatrice’s eyes grew wide. “Yes, sir.”
“Brace yourself,” Nate mumbled as he led the way down the hall.
“Pardon me, Mr. McNulty?”
He could hear Beatrice scrambling to match his long strides. “Nothing. I didn’t say a thing.”
Bunny frowned at Nathan’s back. She’d heard something, but the man seemed far too polished and smooth to mumble. He seemed perfect, actually. From the back of his hair, to the cut of his suit, to the fit of his pants. The man was, well, perfect.
Every nerve ending in Bunny’s body kicked into overdrive.
, she silently chastised herself.
She cast a quick glance at her clunky shoes, managing only to stub her toe on the gray carpet, stumbling headlong toward Nathan’s perfect back. She righted herself seconds before her nose would have connected with his perfect behind, then concentrated on calming her breathing.
“You’re going to meet Kitty Worthington.” Nathan stopped just short of a pair of closed doors. “Mrs. Worthington is a local powerhouse. Her family has sponsored The Worthington Cup for years.” He arched a dark brow. “Are you familiar with it?”
Bunny shook her head. “I’m afraid not. Is it a boat race?”
Nathan’s perfect features winced. “No. A dog show. A very old, very prestigious, very
“And McNulty Events is handling the details?”
“Precisely.” Nathan reached for the doorknob. “More specifically, you and I are handling the details. Together.”
Bunny swallowed down the lump in her throat. “Yes, sir.”
“We have a lot of work to do quickly.” His expression grew serious and intense. “Mrs. Worthington must not know you’re a novice. Follow my lead, and we’ll be fine.”
“I’ll do my best, Mr. McNulty.” Bunny fought the tremble that threatened to shake her shoulders. “How soon is the event? Six months? Nine months?”
Nathan leveled a gaze at her that sent shockwaves to her toes. “Five weeks.”
“Weeks?” she squeaked.
He nodded. “We’re going in. Brace yourself.”
That’s what she thought she’d heard him say before. She swallowed again. Hard.
Her heartbeat thumped in her ears. Five weeks. Event planning. Dogs.
. Where were her bunny slippers when she needed them most?
They were no sooner in the door than a white blur rushed Bunny’s feet. She yipped and grabbed for Nathan’s arm. He grasped her elbow to hold her steady, sending shockwaves of awareness outward from his touch. She could have sworn she heard him mumble again.
“Beatrice, meet Chablis.”
The tiny lump of fur wiggled and squirmed at her ankles.
Bunny’s face warmed with embarrassment at her initial reaction. “Oh, my,” she cooed. “She’s beautiful.” She dropped to her knees, letting the dog lick her face.
“And this is Kitty Worthington,” Nathan continued, clearing his throat. “The force behind The Worthington Cup.”
Bunny scrambled to her feet, smoothing her suit front.
Kitty Worthington looked as though she’d stepped off the page of a safari adventure brochure. Her sage jacket and skirt accentuated the green in her hazel eyes, but were better suited for a stint in the outback than a meeting to discuss a dog show. Short, crisp silver waves framed the woman’s patrician features.
Oh well, Bunny thought. She’d be the last one to criticize the woman’s fashion sense. If anything, Mrs. Worthington should be commended for cultivating a unique look. Bunny glanced down at the violet suit she’d borrowed. At least Kitty Worthington hadn’t become a slave to fashion in order to blend in.
Bunny extended her hand and smiled. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Kitty gave Bunny’s fingers a quick squeeze. A warm smile spread across her face as she nodded. “I can tell you’re the perfect choice to coordinate The Worthington Cup, Miss Love. Look how genuinely Chablis took to you.” She waggled her finger. “My Chablis is a flawless judge of character.”
At her words Bunny gazed down at the little dog. The ball of fluff sat staring up at her, tiny rump wiggling, miniature paw swatting at Bunny’s pumps.
“She’s adorable. Is she a Toy?”
“Teacup,” Kitty answered.
“Charming,” Nathan muttered.
Bunny shot him an inquisitive look.
He straightened and gestured toward the conference table. “Where’s Chardonnay?”
“Chardonnay?” Bunny asked.
“At the groomer’s.” Kitty clucked her tongue. “She had an unfortunate accident in the garden. Decided she liked the feel of mulch against her fur.” The woman pressed her lips into a tight line and shook her head. “Ghastly.”
Bunny stifled a giggle and turned to Nathan. For the briefest of moments, she could have sworn he bit his lip. Well, what did you know? Perhaps the stiff wasn’t so stiff after all.
“Well.” Nathan took Kitty’s arm, steering her toward a chair. “I’m very sorry to hear that. Beatrice is disappointed she didn’t have an opportunity to meet her. Isn’t that right, Miss Love?”
Bunny nodded and followed.
“What we’d like to accomplish this morning,” Nathan continued, “is to bring you up to date on how we plan to make this Worthington Cup the best ever.”
Kitty’s eyes brightened. She looked expectantly at Nathan as she slipped into a leather chair.
He nodded in Bunny’s direction. “Miss Love’s credentials are stellar. With her expertise, we’re assured of an unforgettable Cup.”
Kitty swiveled in her seat to look at Bunny. “Tell me what you’ve got planned, dear.”
“Perhaps it would be best if I ran over the list,” Nathan interrupted.
Kitty held up one hand, eyeing Bunny. “I can tell she’s a natural talent, Nathan. Let her speak.”
Incredulity flickered across Nathan’s face. Bunny wondered how in the world she was going to bluff her way through this one. Would it be completely inappropriate to run screaming from the room?
“Well,” she stammered. “There are a variety of things that are crucial at this point.”
Nathan leaned his chin against one fist, turning his face toward her. His lips moved.
“Pardon?” Bunny asked.
“I didn’t say anything, dear,” Kitty replied.
Nathan rolled his eyes and mouthed the word “No.” Bunny blinked. Ah. Whisper down the lane.
He moved his mouth emphatically. Bunny squinted, concentrating on each position of his lips. A warm flush raced up her neck. She couldn’t help but wonder if the sensation was due to her predicament or the object of her focus.
Suddenly, she understood the first word. “Media. We need to be thinking about media,” she said excitedly.
Nathan nodded, mouthing a second word.
“And hotel,” Bunny continued. “You know,” she ad-libbed, “there are many details to consider when preparing for our four-footed friends.”
Hey, this wasn’t so difficult after all.
Kitty nodded in agreement as Nathan mouthed a third word.
“Communications.” Bunny gave a knowing head tip to Kitty. “This aspect is vital in an event of this size.”
She narrowed her gaze at Nathan, unable to decipher what he was now saying. His eyes widened and he repeated the phrase.
“Night...planning,” she stammered. What in the heck was that?
Nathan winced, squeezing his eyes shut.
“Night planning?” Kitty frowned. “I don’t understand, dear. Are you referring to the evening receptions?”
“Yes.” Bunny brightened. “Night planning.”
Nathan shook his head, mouthing the word “No” repeatedly.
“The opening cocktail party?” Kitty’s gaze widened. “That would be the first night to be planned, correct?”
“A cocktail party for the dogs?” Bunny couldn’t imagine it, but she supposed it could work.
Nathan slashed a finger across his throat, using caution to keep the motion out of Kitty’s line of sight.
Why was he so agitated?
“A cocktail party for the dogs.” Kitty clapped her hands with delight. “What a marvelous idea. Oh, I can tell you have a gift for this.”
Nathan shook his head and spoke. “I hardly think a cocktail party for the dogs is necessary.” He shot a glare at Bunny. “Perhaps Miss Love got a little carried away with her enthusiasm for the project.”
Kitty pushed back from the table, straightening her safari suit jacket. “Nathan, you are to be congratulated on adding Miss Love to the firm.” She nodded her head appraisingly. “Sheer brilliance. A cocktail party for the Cup participants.”
Bunny flinched at the frustration etched across Nathan’s face. She had a sneaking suspicion her event coordinator charade was off to a shaky start.
“Would you keep an eye on Chablis while I visit the ladies’ room?” Kitty asked.
“Of course,” Nathan replied.
Bunny stared at her lap as Kitty left the room.
“Well.” Nathan’s tone was anything but approving.
There was only one thing to do. Make a preemptive strike. “Yes.” She met his gaze. “It did go well.” She gestured toward the door. “Mrs. Worthington is thrilled with our plans.”
He blinked. “I’ll grant you that. But I specifically said site planning. How could you misinterpret that to say night planning?” His cheeks flushed to a soft pink.
She tipped her chin defiantly. “You should learn to enunciate more clearly.”
Nathan let out a deep breath and plowed a hand through his chestnut locks. “Now we’re expected to host a cocktail party for one
pampered pooches and their owners.”
Bunny straightened in her seat. “Think of the potential, Mr. McNulty. This firm will be seen as cutting edge. Everyone will be buzzing about McNulty Events.”
Nathan squeezed his eyes shut again, pausing for a beat. “You may have a point.” He shot her a frustrated look. “Time will tell, Miss Love.”
The conference room door opened and Kitty reentered. “I’m confident I’ve made the right decision in switching the Cup to your firm.”
Nathan rose. “You won’t be disappointed.”
The woman turned her warm smile toward Bunny. “It was an absolute delight to meet you, Beatrice. I know the Cup is in good hands.” She glanced down to her feet then quickly around the room. Her features twisted into a panicked expression. “Where’s Chablis?”
The next few moments passed in a frenzied look under chairs and behind credenzas. They came up empty-handed.
Bunny’s gaze locked onto the conference room doors. A sliver of the gray hallway carpet shone where they sat ever so slightly ajar.
She cleared her throat. “I think Chablis may have slipped out.” She nodded toward the hall.
Kitty gasped, and Nathan waved one hand in the air. “Let’s remain calm. She couldn’t have gone far.”
He pulled the doors open wide. Sounds of mayhem filtered down the hall. Voices laughed, whooped, and...sang.
“What the-” Nathan scowled.
Bunny tipped her head, trying to make sense of the commotion. Suddenly one voice among the many became clear.
Kung Fu Fighting
. Her stuffed hamster. She swallowed down the lump in her throat and pushed past Nathan.
“I know where she is, sir.”
They excused themselves, pulling the conference room doors closed behind them.
Bunny raced to her cubicle. A group of McNulty employees stood gathered around the work space’s entrance. Several laughed uncontrollably and a few dabbed at tears beneath their eyes.
Bert Parks stood with his fingertips pressed to his lips, a glint in his eyes. “Bunny.” He grinned as she stopped next to him, staring into the gray space. “Seems to be some sort of commotion in your office.”
“Cubicle,” she murmured.
The singing hamster had been tossed against one of the cubicle’s walls. Tufts of fake fur lay scattered on the surrounding carpet. It must have been a massacre.
“Oh my,” Bunny said softly. She stepped into the small space just as a blur of white charged from beneath the desk. The poodle’s tiny jaw clamped down on the hamster’s paw. The singing began anew.
Everybody was Kung Fu fighting
The hamster danced and spun, bald patches gleaming where Chablis’ attack had left its mark. The poodle yapped and charged, retreated, yapped and charged again.
Bunny dove into the melee, wrestling the hamster to a standstill. Chablis nipped at her ankles in between bursts of shrill barking. Bunny fumbled the hamster’s battery cover open, and a pair of double As fell onto the gray carpet. The cubicle grew silent. Deathly silent. Chablis finally sat, her tiny head cocked to one side.
The heat of countless eyes burned into the back of Bunny’s head, and her insides twisted. She sucked in a steadying breath.
“Chablis, darling.” Kitty Worthington’s voice was light with relief. The tiny dog scampered out of Bunny’s line of vision. “Mumsy was so worried.”