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Authors: Katie Lane

Tags: #Contemporary, #General, #Romance, #Western, #Fiction, #Fiction / Romance - Contemporary

Hunk for the Holidays

BOOK: Hunk for the Holidays
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Table of Contents

A Preview of
Trouble in Texas

Newsletters

Copyright Page

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To my mother, Helen Marie, who loved Christmas and her family and who never once doubted that her daughter would become a published author

Chapter One

I want James Sutton taken out, Cass.”

Cassie McPherson smiled at her father’s gangster phrasing. It wasn’t that hard to picture Al McPherson toting a Tommy machine gun and issuing orders like the Godfather. As reigning chieftain of the McPherson clan and founder and president of M & M Construction, Big Al wasn’t a man you messed with.

“I don’t think we have anything to worry about, Dad.” She cradled the phone with her shoulder and shifted through the stacks of paper on her desk, looking for her day planner. “We both know that Sutton is low-balling. Either his employees are working for dirt cheap or he’s losing money.”

“Either way, I don’t like it. The Calloway Complex is the fifth project we’ve lost to him this year.” Big Al’s voice became louder, as it always did when he was losing
his temper. “And I heard from Michaels that he’s wining and dining Steve Mitchell, hoping to get Slumber Suites away from us.”

Cassie found the planner, but not a pen. “Now, Dad, stop getting upset. It’s been only a few weeks since your heart surgery, and the doctor said you’re supposed to take it easy. I shouldn’t even be talking to you about work.”

There was a loud snort on the other end. “Bullshit! It’s my company, and I’m going to run it. And I’m sure as hell not going to let some young whelp straight out of grade school put me out of business.”

She located a pen beneath a Snickers wrapper. She stared at the small smudge of chocolate on the side and had to stifle the urge to lick it clean. “Calm down. He doesn’t have enough capital or clout to put us out of business. We could buy his company with pocket change.”

Her father snorted again, but this time with less anger and more humor. “That’s my girl. You think just like your dad.”

“Which means?”

“I’ve been working on a plan to take care of Sutton.”

“A plan? Dad, it better not be anything that’s going to put you back in the hospital—or worse, in jail. Have you talked to the boys about it?” She used the edge of an envelope to wipe the chocolate off, then flipped open the planner to jot down the meetings she wanted to have after the first of the year. Unfortunately, the planner was only good through December. So instead she jotted down a list of things she needed to get done before the holidays—including her dreaded Christmas shopping.

“Why would I talk to your brothers about business?”
her father said. “They aren’t the least bit interested. I have four sons, and it’s my little girl who got the business sense in the family.”

Cassie rolled her eyes and rocked back in the chair, resting her Frye boots on the desk and crossing her ankles. “Dad, they all have good business sense and work their butts off for the company. They just don’t spend all their time thinking about business. Besides, who can blame them when you forced them to spend every summer vacation in high school doing the grunt work?”

“You did it and loved it.” He chuckled. “The guys on the crews used to call you Cast-iron Cassie because you pulled your own weight. Hell, you can even drink them under the table, just like your old dad.”

She sighed. “Okay, old Dad, enough already. Stop worrying about James Sutton. There’s no way that Steve Mitchell is going with Sutton, not when his father was so happy with the hotels we built for him. But after the holidays, I’ll set up a meeting with him just to be sure. No, you cannot be there. Mom would have both our hides.”

“Speaking of your mother,” her father whispered. “The vulture has landed.”

Cassie laughed. “Give Mom my love, and I’ll see both of you tonight at the Christmas party.” She dropped her feet to the floor and leaned forward to place the receiver in its cradle, knocking over a stack of invoices.

She glared at the mess. This was the part of her job she hated the most. Paperwork. She would much rather be on site, whether in Denver or another city, planning and watching as simple steel and hard work turned into an architectural piece of art. She loved the smell of welded
metal and the sounds of heavy equipment. Respected every carpenter, electrician, and steelworker. Her father was right: Her brothers might work for the company, but construction was in her blood.

Too bad her mother didn’t think it was ladylike for Big Al’s only daughter to be working on site. So Cassie was given the position of vice president in charge of accounts—pretty much a glorified accountant.

She heaved a deep sigh and bent down to pick up the invoices. It could be worse. Her mother had almost talked her father into sending her to interior decorating school. Which would have been a real disaster. She’d much rather do paperwork for M & M than stand around with some stuffy socialite while she decided between floral or stripes. One day she would get up the nerve to talk to her father about being an architect full-time. But not now, not after he had just gone through triple-bypass surgery. He didn’t need something else to worry about. James Sutton was quite enough.

James Sutton.

What was the man up to?

Cassie flopped back in the chair. Everything her father had said was true. They
had
lost a lot of business in the last year to Sutton Construction. Until recently, she hadn’t been overly concerned; they had lost jobs before and would lose them again. But now she wondered if maybe her father was right. Could James Sutton actually be stupid enough to think he could run them out of business? If so, she didn’t believe in hiding out and waiting for the bomb to drop.

She sat up and reached for her phone just as her executive assistant walked in the door, looking like a cute blond
Christmas elf in her green business suit and bright red high heels.

“Hi, Amy.” Cassie placed the phone back in its cradle. “Just the person I wanted to see.”

“Aren’t I the lucky one,” Amy said sarcastically.

“Lucky for you, you’re my best bud or I’d fire you for insubordination.”

“Then who would be your whipping boy?”

“Good point.”

A frown wrinkled Amy’s smooth brow. “Did you skip lunch again today?”

Cassie stood up, smoothing out the wrinkles of her jeans while discreetly brushing away any chocolate crumbs from her lap. “No.”

Amy walked over to the desk and lifted the Snickers wrapper. “I wouldn’t call peanuts and chocolate lunch.” She shook her head. “You should learn to eat a little neater, Cass. Then I wouldn’t catch you every time.”

“Okay, so I had a candy bar. Shoot me. I was planning on getting lunch. I just haven’t had time.”

Amy crumpled up the wrapper and threw it in the trash can. “Even when you have time, you get one of those foot-long, artery-clogging dogs from the vendor. Smothered in sauerkraut and hot mustard.”

The mere thought of a hot dog smothered in sauerkraut and spicy mustard had Cassie’s mouth watering. God, what she wouldn’t give for a couple dogs and an ice-cold beer. Unfortunately, there were other things to worry about at the moment.

She walked around her desk and leaned on the edge. “Okay, I’ll bring a tuna fish sandwich on Monday.”

“Monday is Christmas.”

“Okay, so I’ll bring a turkey sandwich on Tuesday. Now, what have you found out about James Sutton?”

“You want it from the beginning?” When Cassie nodded, Amy started sorting through the piles of paper, organizing them as she talked. If there was a personality type that came before A, Amy was it. “Sutton was born in Pittsburgh and comes from a lower-middle-class family. His father worked in the steel mills, and his mother was a housewife until she died of cancer when he was fourteen. Which would probably explain why he goes through women so fast.”

Cassie shot her a befuddled look. “Huh?”

“I read this article about how young boys—especially pubescent boys—can be traumatized by the loss of a mother. I guess sometimes it can affect their adult relationships—either they can’t get enough women or they don’t like women at all.”

Cassie rolled her eyes. “Well, I don’t care if Sutton is a womanizer or gay. I just want to figure out how he’s underbidding us. What else did you learn?”

It took Amy a second to remember where she’d left off. “After high school, he went to Penn State, graduating with degrees in business and architectural engineering. Then, after college, he started building houses in Las Vegas. He got in right before the market exploded and made a fortune. After the bubble burst, he moved here and got into the commercial side of things.”

Cassie turned and stared out the floor-to-ceiling windows at the steel-gray skies. “So the guy has more money than we thought.”

“If he does, he doesn’t show it. He lives in a nice but
modest neighborhood. Although maybe he spends all his money on women. From what his assistant said, he has quite a few.”

Cassie whipped around. “You talked with his assistant?”

“Yeah, the Internet can give you only so much info.”

“Who did you say you were?”

“Amy Walker, of course. The woman didn’t have a clue. I told her I was thinking about doing an article on her boss for the business section of the
Denver Post
. She was more than willing to sit and gab. I think she has a major crush.” She batted her eyelashes. “According to her, the man is a real hottie.”

“Not in my book. In my book, he’s the jerk responsible for my father’s heart attack.”

Amy looked up from the planner she’d been reading. “Right. Along with fourteen-hour work days, bad eating habits, and lack of exercise. Any of that sound familiar?”

BOOK: Hunk for the Holidays
3.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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