Authors: Lisa Watson
drian sat heavily in his chair. He felt
like his head was about to explode. The throbbing in his temples made it
difficult to concentrate on the woman standing in front of him. When his
assistant had come in to tell him that his nine-thirty appointment was waiting,
he had assumed it was a prospective interviewee for the Interior Designer
position. How wrong he had been. When Adrian’s assistant told him that the woman
he had agreed to meet with had been recommended by his mother, a feeling of
dread rippled through his entire body and then pure anger. Interior Designer
indeed. This was no interview. It was a setup.
In an effort to calm down, he ran his hand over his face and
breathed deeply. Resentment made the air hiss on its way out of his mouth. His
mother had gone too far this time. This was his place of business, not some bar.
With a practiced eye, Adrian scrutinized the woman that his assistant had shown
into his office. He may be mad, but he sure wasn’t blind. She was like a stop
sign placed in the middle of a freeway during rush-hour traffic. Her looks
demanded a man come to a screeching halt and take notice. Long legs did an
excellent job of supporting her curvaceous body. The golden hue of her skin was
flawless, except for a splattering of freckles on her upper cheeks and nose. Her
hair was the color of rich chocolate, and with golden highlights. The way light
reflected off the luminous waves that hung just below her shoulders made the
color contrast stunning. It beckoned a man to run his fingers through it. His
hands clenched together unconsciously.
Adrian’s gaze sought hers. This time the air that expelled
itself from his mouth was for an altogether different reason.
Her eyes were the pièce de résistance.
They were an expressive, medium brown with flecks of light gold around the outer
edge that held both strength and mystery. They could drown a man if he was not
And he would love every minute of it,
told himself. Adrian felt an instant reaction to the visual display of beauty
before him. Instinct kicked in. His body eagerly anticipated taking the perusal
to a whole new level, until he remembered the person responsible for the
exquisite vision standing in front of him. Cold water splashed on his face could
not have produced a faster effect. Slightly annoyed that he had gone poetic at a
time like this, he remembered the catalyst by which this gorgeous woman now
graced his presence.
I can’t believe this. She’s done it to
That realization was enough to jolt Adrian out of his trance.
His ardor was quickly squelched and back under wraps where it belonged. This
time when his eyes centered on the woman before him, they brooked no warmth. “I
can’t believe she sent you.”
Despite his new motivation to send her on her way, Adrian
couldn’t deny that her voice was as appealing to him as warm butter on a
biscuit—and he loved biscuits.
“My mother!” The two words burst forth, coating the air with
tension. He tried to calm himself. Lord knows it took considerable effort. It
would appear that the Love Broker
had struck again.
Looking at the latest proof of Norma Jean Anderson’s handiwork made his blood
pressure skyrocket. Hadn’t they had this conversation hours earlier?
Confusion registered on the woman’s face. “Well, yes. Your
mother gave me your card and told me I had to come see you.” Sitting across from
him, she shrugged out of her suit jacket. “She told me you were exactly the man
“I’ll bet she did,” he quipped. Adrian stood up, his hands
straightening his suit. He’d heard enough. She may be working it in all the
right places, and his temperature may have risen a degree or two, but there was
no way in hell he was taking the bait.
“It would appear you’ve wasted your time, Miss Dixon—and mine.
As fine as you are, and believe me you are without a doubt the most desirable
woman my mother has ever paraded my way, I’m just not interested. Of course, if
she had tried a few months ago before I got inundated by trolls maybe I
“Excuse me?” Despite her surprise, Milán scowled at him. “You
think this is a...a come-on?”
Though his eyes devoured her, they also held a hint of
challenge that transferred itself to his tone of voice. “Like it isn’t?”
Milán was out of her chair with her hands on her hips in an
instant. “No, it isn’t. This was supposed to be a job interview.”
Her rapid breathing caused her ample chest to stretch the
ecru-colored silk blouse taut. His eyes were drawn to the motion like a magnet
on a stainless steel refrigerator.
Coming around the expansive desk, Adrian stopped just shy of
wearing her. He was impressed she stood her ground. It would appear his mother
had finally found one with spirit. “Oh, my mother set up an interview all right,
but it’s apparent from the looks of you a job was the last thing she had in
Standing ramrod straight, it took a few seconds for Milán to
recover. When she did, her voice chilled the air around them like a cold front.
“You know, of all the stuck-up, asinine, incredibly rude men I’ve come across in
my travels, you, Mr. Anderson, set the precedent.”
He leaned back against his desk and crossed his arms in front
of his chest. The smile he wore relayed his admiration. “Interesting. Smart,
fiery, yet still able to retain your composure in tense situations. I’m truly
impressed. I must say, my mother really outdid herself. Do me a favor. The next
time you see Norma Jean, and she asks how her ingenious plan went, tell her this
for me.” His arms snaked out and yanked Milán to him. He held her in an
unyielding embrace as his lips clamped down on hers.
He felt Milán try to wrench herself free, but she was no match
against his strength, or his irritation. He would teach his mother a lesson once
and for all, and if he had to use her latest protégé to ram that point home, so
be it. With practiced movements, Adrian slid one of his hands up and into her
hair at the base of her neck to hold her steady. His other arm moved to encircle
her back. He leaned over her, tilting her body backward in order to deepen the
kiss. Time slowed and then screeched to a halt for him as he continued the
onslaught of Milán’s mouth with deft precision.
The kiss ended slowly. He took his time unlocking his lips from
hers. Unable to help himself, he gave one final nibble to her bottom lip before
moving his hand to her face. She tasted like nectarines. His thumb that caressed
the swollen flesh was slightly unsteady. “Tell my mother I said nice try,” he
spoke in a voice thick with emotion, “and Lord knows I do mean nice.”
Adrian reluctantly stepped back so that he could look into
Milán’s face. He expected to see her all doe-eyed and flushed. Instead her eyes
bored into him with heated purpose. Her jaw was clenched so tightly the lips he
had so expertly ravished seconds before were thinned to mere slits.
“Release me,” she ground out. “Now.”
Instantly, she was free. A second later, Milán delivered a
well-placed fist to his midsection. Adrian’s world faded momentarily, but not
before he saw the expression of satisfaction that slid across her reddened
Caught off guard, he sagged against his desk. It took some
time, but eventually the pain dulled and he was able to stand up straight. He
took a few deep breaths. “I take it you didn’t like my message?”
Milán reached over to grab her jacket off the chair, and a
portfolio out of her briefcase. She flung it on his desk, and left. Stopping
before she got to the door, Milán spun around to look at him. “If you ever put
any part of your anatomy on me again without my permission, I promise you I’ll
cut it off. Oh, and just so you know, your mother said you were looking to add
an interior designer and staging expert to enhance your practice. Considering
the real estate market we’re in right now, that was a wise choice on your part.
Regrettably, Mrs. Anderson didn’t warn me in advance how rude and unprofessional
her son was—not to mention being a narcissistic jackass. Had she done so, I
could’ve saved the price of parking.”
Adrian winced when his office door slammed with such force it
sent one of his numerous Realtor awards crashing to the floor. A good minute
passed before he gingerly lowered himself into his chair.
He told himself. His ears were still ringing with the
censure of Milán’s words. The last part of her insult had been in Spanish, but
that didn’t matter. He was fluent in Spanish and understood every word she’d
said. Even if he hadn’t, the intonation translated perfectly. Inches away, her
résumé taunted him. Either he’d just made a monumental error in judgment, or his
mother wasn’t taking any chances on making Miss Dixon’s claim believable.
Figure the odds of your being
his conscience piped in.
Not after all
you’ve dealt with over the years.
Still, what if he was? The familiar
throbbing returned to his temples. It would have to wait. The pain in his
stomach took higher priority.
“Huh,” he said, incredulously. “I just got cursed out in two
different languages, and by a complete stranger. I guess it’s safe to say this
day couldn’t possibly get any worse.”
Later that afternoon, his assistant knocked and immediately
entered his office.
“I’m sorry to interrupt, Mr. Anderson, but I’ve been trying to
“I don’t want to be disturbed.” Adrian’s bad mood had
resurfaced after lunch. He had found out from one of his employees that a
potential client had decided to sign with Tony Ludlow, one of his major
competitors, to list his penthouse apartment on Lake Shore Drive. Finding out he
had lost a sale always bothered him, but hearing that Ludlow had taken one of
his clients from under his nose irked the crap out of him.
“You have a call holding, sir.”
“Let me guess, my mother’s on the line checking on her latest
The woman opened her mouth to reply, but Adrian
“You’d think she’d give me some time between setups to catch my
breath and regroup. When will she learn?” Agitated, he rose from his chair to
pace around the room.
“Oh, let’s not forget my date this past weekend. She made calls
to her therapist all through dinner. Now there was a woman in touch with her
inner self. Or how about the kleptomaniac that eyed my Rolex more than me? If
I’d have married her, she’d be stealing her own damned silver!”
“You know...I can see you’re busy so I’ll just leave you in
peace. One of the other Realtors can take the call.” She backed out and closed
the door firmly behind her.
Startled, Adrian halted his diatribe to stare after her.
What had he done?
Thoughts of Milán came barreling back. He could see her
horrified and then livid expression after he had kissed her. He hadn’t been
prepared for the venom she had hurled at him. Another thing he didn’t see coming
was his body’s reaction to their kiss.
He felt like he’d been jolted with an electric current. The
feeling had run through his entire body before settling like an explosion into
his groin. That woman felt altogether too amazing in his arms. Her body was
enough to disrupt any man’s peace of mind, and that temper of hers only enhanced
his excitement—until she had punched him.
You ruined your chances and there’s no
recovering from that fiasco
, he complained to himself. Adrian was
thoroughly embarrassed and disgusted with himself over his actions. Not that
he’d ever admit that aloud. He stifled a curse. It was time to call it a day.
The sooner he ended his backward day the better.
While stacking papers into his briefcase, he spotted Milán’s
folder. Staring at it, he was about to throw it away when curiosity overpowered
him. He grabbed the portfolio, sat down and put his feet up on his desk. Several
moments later, the reality of the situation hit home. “
” he said to himself. After reading over Milán’s
credentials and seeing samples of the homes she had staged, he was intrigued,
impressed and extremely pissed off. He was stupid. She was just the caliber
designer he needed at Anderson Realty and he’d blown it.
With a multitude of services under the Anderson umbrella,
Adrian’s goal was for his clients to be as unstressed as possible during their
realty experience. His clients ranged from average income to
really-rolling-in-it kind of wealthy, but a realty company wasn’t enough; Adrian
had a title company, real estate attorney, a relocation expert, a mortgage
specialist and concierge dedicated to providing whatever services were needed.
Adrian’s dream had almost come to fruition, but came dangerously close to going
belly up when the market bottomed out.
Now more than ever, he needed to assist his clients any way he
could to combat the fierce competition. His nemesis, Tony Ludlow, came to mind.
Ludlow had been in business about as long as Adrian. From the moment they had
met, some undercurrent of one-upmanship had sparked and ignited. Ludlow would
watch Adrian to see what he would do, or gloat when his agency came out ahead.
He was sure Ludlow did not have a staging expert.
A great designer would be the proverbial icing on the cake for
Like the one you just watched walk out your
office. Actually stomped out was more accurate.
He had to fix this.
¡Me tengo que disculpar!
” There was no way that
he was going to let her get away without taking a good look at what she could
bring to the table.
Granted, having to apologize for the huge mistake he made did
not sit well with him, but the idea of losing such a talented designer to
someone else appealed to him even less.
Adrian ran a hand over his face. He truly hated this part.
Picking up Milán’s résumé from his desk, he scanned over it. He grabbed his
handset and dialed the mobile number she had listed in her contact information.
The line rang twice and then connected. Her sweet, now slightly irritated voice
brushed across his ear.