Authors: Kathleen Long
Tags: #Romantic Comedy, #humor, #contemporary romance, #kathleen long
“I never was one to say no to a beautiful woman.” Armand bowed dramatically.
“Or a tumbler of scotch,” Nathan mumbled.
Bunny shot a disbelieving glance in Nathan’s direction.
“I’m sorry,” Armand said slowly. “Was there something you wished to share with me?” He thinned his lips.
“I said there’s not much to botch,” Nathan replied. “You’ve laid out the groundwork beautifully. I’m sure Bunny will have no need of your number.”
“Be that as it may,” Armand closed Bunny’s fingers around the card, “I’d sleep better at night knowing she has it.” He gave her hand a quick squeeze then turned to leave. “Ciao,” he called out as he left the building.
Bunny rubbed her hands together to erase the chill caused by the absence of Armand’s fingers. She and Nathan stood wordlessly for several long seconds. When the silence grew uncomfortable, she turned to meet his gaze. His brown eyes stared, locked on hers.
“I was only being friendly.”
“That,” His glare flashed with anger, “was evident.”
Great. She watched as he tossed one last glance toward Armand. A second emotion flickered across Nathan McNulty’s face, and it was not anger.
He glanced back to Bunny. “We’ve got to get back to the office. You have everything you need?”
“And from Mr. Miller?” One dark brow rose above the other. “Will you be needing anything more from him?”
There it was again. Butterflies flitted inside Bunny’s abdomen. Nathan McNulty was jealous of Armand Miller.
“For now.” She tipped her head as if deep in thought. “But, I do have his number if I think of anything.”
“About that-” Nathan began.
“Look.” She pointed toward the exit doors, interrupting Nate before he could finish his thought. “There’s a cab.”
She hurried toward the door hoping Nathan would leave his warning unsaid. For the time being, she rather enjoyed having the attention of Armand Miller, even if the man had a high opinion of himself.
She’d rather have the attention of Nathan McNulty, but suspected Mr. Prim and Proper would never let himself fraternize with the likes of Bunny Love.
Bunny stared at the wall. Blank. Gray. How did these people stand it? She scanned the top of the gleaming credenza. Nothing. Not even a fingerprint.
Closing her eyes, she drew in a deep breath, trying to pick up an energy vibe from the conference room.
. She sighed. She craved zing and all she got was zilch.
Someone entered the room and she blinked her eyes open.
Bert pulled out a leather chair and settled himself at the head of the long, mahogany conference table. “Your friend Matilda is quite interesting.”
Bunny tore her contemplative stare from the energy-lacking space, focusing her frown on Bert. Her mind raced. “You met Tilly?”
“She stopped by to give you a message. The Condo Board meeting’s been changed to six o’clock tonight.”
“Thanks,” Bunny said softly. Six o’clock. She had hoped to get home in time to center and calm herself, though as long as Alexandra was in residence, there’d be nothing calm about home. The meeting change would mean she’d have to dash straight from work into Thurston Monroe’s lion’s den.
She glanced down at the violet suit. Maybe her new, refined image would dazzle the feng-shui-loathing grouch.
Bert continued to ramble about Tilly. Bunny paused her obsessive thoughts long enough to examine the brightness of his expression. Well, what did you know? It seemed Tilly Stringer had cast her spell on the unsuspecting suit.
“Did she read your aura?”
“Yes.” Bert frowned. “How did you know that?”
“She fancies herself gifted.” Bunny opened her notebook and clicked out the point of her pen. “So? What did she see?”
He raised his chin, puffing out his chest. “A perfect rainbow. Balanced and healthy.”
Bunny stifled a laugh.
Wow. Tilly must be smitten right back at Bert
. “Most impressive.”
Bert composed himself, shuffling his notes. “Yes, well, no matter.” He cleared his throat. “You and I have a campaign angle to develop.”
Five minutes later, the deafening tick of the brass wall clock filled Bunny’s otherwise empty brain.
“Anything?” Bert asked.
She stopped tapping her pen against the blank sheet of paper long enough to cast a worried glance in his direction. “I’ve never done a full media campaign before.” She shook her head. “I’ve got stage fright.”
“Nonsense.” Bert leaned forward on the mahogany table, lowering his gaze to meet hers. “Apply your design skills.” He patted the tabletop. “Be creative. What angle would boost coverage and attendance for The Worthington Cup?”
Bunny swallowed, trying to concentrate. Nothing. She hadn’t one single idea. What in the heck was wrong with her? Brainstorming had always been her forte.
She glanced around the gray room, down at the gray carpets and across to Bert’s gray pinstripes. “It’s too gray here,” she said. “There’s no energy in this room.”
“Pewter,” Bert murmured.
“You keep calling it gray.” He clucked his tongue. “The color is pewter.”
Bunny bit her lip then forced a smile. “Sorry.”
“Well,” Bert stood, pacing the length of the room and back, “I can’t come up with a thing either.”
“We need to create energy.”
He pivoted on one heel, shooting a disbelieving frown in her direction.
Bunny straightened. “We need something to ease our focus on the problem. Something to free our creative juices.”
Bert sank into a chair and rubbed his chin. “Do you still have the batteries for the hamster?”
Bunny felt her tension ease. “No. I thought it best to dispose of the evidence.”
He shook his head. “Pity. That was a diversion of epic proportion.” His brow furrowed. “Refresh my memory. What other tricks did you have in that box of yours?”
Bunny thought for a moment then grinned. “How do you feel about basketball?”
A slow smile spread across Bert’s face. “I was once feared for my bank shot.”
Bunny straightened. “I’ll be right back.”
A few moments later, she reentered the conference room. She pulled a trash can from behind the credenza and snapped the plastic hoop onto its rim.
“What do we do now?” Bert looked at her expectantly.
“We brainstorm.” Bunny slipped into her seat, giving a quick shrug.
“I know that, but how does the basketball hoop help?”
“Distraction.” She grinned.
“Here.” She ripped off a sheet of notebook paper and slid it across the table to Bert. “Crumple it up and shoot.”
She watched as Bert’s pale brow arched. She warmed in response. In the little time she’d known this man, she’d had a glimpse into the real Bert Parks. The softie.
Bert made a dramatic display of crumpling the paper. “Do I shoot standing or sitting?”
“Up to you.” She waved one hand. “Be creative with it.”
“Okay.” Bert nodded. He twisted to shoot the wad of paper from behind his back. It nipped the edge of the rim and bounced to the carpet.
“Try again.” Bunny scrambled to retrieve the paper. She tossed it back to Bert. “This time, throw out a slogan.”
Bert squinted, carefully aiming his shot. “The Cup for All Canines,” he called out. His shot caught the lip of the rim and fell into the basket. He let out a whoop and grinned.
“Nice shot. Lousy tag line,” Bunny teased.
Bert extended his hands, wiggling his fingers. “Give me another one.” Bunny slid a second piece of paper across the table. Bert crumbled the sheet and aimed. “Your turn.”
“This is not your father’s dog show,” Bunny blurted out.
Bert let the shot fly. The paper hit the floor more than a foot from the basket.
“That was sad,” he said.
“So was your shot.”
“You think it’s so easy?” Bert asked. “You try.”
Bunny crumpled a sheet and took aim. The shot fell perfectly into the hoop.
She shrugged. “True.”
“What’s your slogan idea?”
“Dog shows. They’re not just for poodles anymore.”
Bert snorted and the pair laughed until tears filled their eyes.
They continued to brainstorm until a list of twenty slogans sat scribbled across their notes. They had settled on a revolutionary idea when Nate’s deep voice sounded outside the door.
“Damn,” Bert whispered.
The doorknob rattled. Bunny dove for the trash can and hoop, sweeping both beneath the conference table. She dropped into her seat just as Nate entered the room.
“What have we here?” he asked suspiciously.
“Brainstorming,” Bert answered.
Nate turned his dark brown gaze in Bunny’s direction. Anxiety flickered in her chest. As attractive as this man was, he was still the ticket to her job security. And that job security was the ticket to keeping a roof over her head.
Nate frowned. “Sounded like laughter.”
A dimple winked from his cheek and Bunny’s anxiety morphed into butterflies. Between the heat that surged through her whenever Nate was near and the sensations Armand Miller had inspired earlier in the day, she was exhausted.
Her response to Nate intrigued her. Unlike Armand, Nate made no effort to evoke a reaction. He didn’t flirt. He didn’t compliment. He did nothing out of the ordinary. Whereas Armand used every line and move in the book to impress Bunny, Nate did nothing.
She scrutinized the strong line of his jaw. Her gaze traveled to where his brown hair stood haphazardly on end. As if on cue, he reached up, smoothing down the wayward strands.
Nathan McNulty simply was. And that was more than intriguing. It was mesmerizing.
“Did you hear me?” His smile had turned into a bone-rattling glare and Bunny’s stomach flip-flopped.
. She snapped to attention. Electricity sparked from his rich brown eyes. “I’m sorry?”
“I asked about the campaign slogan. What did you come up with?”
“We have a list of possibilities,” Bunny stammered. “But they aren’t fully developed.”
Bert opened his mouth to speak, but Nate held up a hand to cut him off.
“Miss Love. I realize you are a new employee who has not benefited from a proper orientation period. Our job is to ensure our clients’ satisfaction. We do that by delivering well-run events. Well planned. Well organized. Well orchestrated.” He ticked off the points one by one on his fingers. “Have you developed an acceptable concept or not? It’s a simple question.”
Bunny cringed at his firm tone. The man was seriously stifled. A drop-dead-gorgeous life force trapped in a suit—a
“Well,” Bert spoke quickly. “It’s not set in stone, but we were thinking of a reality-show theme.”
“Reality show?” Incredulity flashed in Nate’s eyes.
“Hear me out,” Bert said. “We’ll add an interactive voting component to the Best in Show judging.” He waved his hand to quiet Nate before he could interrupt again. “The public will watch and vote, adding a People’s Choice category to the competition.” He pointed to Bunny. “Our tag line?”
She straightened in her chair, shivering as Nate’s chocolate eyes locked with hers. “The Worthington Cup—The People’s Choice for Excellence.”
Nate stood silent for several long seconds, finally releasing a slow breath. “It has potential.” He turned to Bert, ignoring Bunny. “I’ll count on you to finesse the idea. We need to remember Miss Love lacks experience.”
Bunny felt relief that Bert was in on the event planner charade, but Nate’s words cut to her core, just the same. As she gathered her notebook to leave, she realized he’d hired her to fill a spot. Plain and simple. No matter how hard she tried, he’d probably never see her as more than an under-qualified designer hired in a moment of desperation.
After Nate concluded his final lecture on decorum, Bunny hurried back to her cubicle. Mere feet from her goal she came face to face with the Barbie doll in pink. Only today’s shade was a pale melon.
Bunny plastered on her best smile and extended her hand. “I should have introduced myself yesterday. I’m Bunny Love.”
“Bunny?” the woman asked. “I thought Nathan said your name was Beatrice.” Barbie’s pale features puckered into a confused expression.
“It is.” Bunny gave a quick shrug. “Most people call me Bunny.”
The Barbie smiled. “It’s very country club chic.”
Bunny swallowed down her laugh. “So I’ve been told.”
“I’m Melanie Brittingham.”
“Pleased to meet you.” Not practiced at office chitchat, Bunny blurted out the first conversation starter that popped into her mind. “Have you worked here long?”
Melanie laughed, a bright smile lighting her beautiful features. She shook her head. “I don’t
here. I’m meeting Nathan for dinner. We need to discuss our engagement.”
The words fell between them like a ton of bricks. A pang of jealousy rippled through Bunny, and she mentally chided herself. She’d known the man with the sizzling cosmic energy for little more than twenty-four hours, yet her heart ached because he was engaged? Absurd.
“Congratulations. I had no idea.” She hoped she appeared more cheerful than she felt. She scanned Melanie’s left hand, but the ring finger was bare.
As if sensing her glance, Melanie placed her hands on her hips, fingers out of Bunny’s view. “It’s not official yet,” she whispered. “We’ll be announcing our good news sometime over the holiday season.”
Melanie glanced at her watch. “I’ve got to go. He’s a stickler for punctuality.” She moved past Bunny, but stopped to turn back. “I hope you enjoy working with Nathan. I hear he’s a wonderful boss.”
Bunny nodded, focusing on the opening of her cubicle.
I hope you enjoy working with Nathan
. Somehow, she had enjoyed it a whole lot more before she found out he was as good as engaged.
Oh well, she guessed it was too much to ask to find a great job and a great guy all in the same week.
Nate fought the urge to yank off his jacket. The vibrancy of Beatrice Love’s blue eyes had sent his internal temperature soaring.