Authors: Lauren H. Kelley
He said nothing for a few seconds, and then the corner of his mouth slanted upward into a smirk. “Why would I fire you? You’re the best account rep here, the best rep who has ever worked with me, period. At least give the job some consideration. You and I would be working closely together on several projects. I think we’d make an excellent team. I can be intense, and you’ll balance me out.” He placed his right hand on his chest over his heart, offering his pledge. “The work will challenge you, but I promise the job won’t be overwhelming. I’d never do that to you. The position comes with a salary increase, too. What do you say? Just think over my offer.” He bit his lower lip, pausing while she pondered his proposal.
“May I have my old job back if I accept and then change my mind?”
“Yes, but I promise, you won’t want your old job back. I want you by my side. I have grand things in store for us.” Again, his words held more than their face value. “You’re a stellar performer and we’ll make great partners.”
She inhaled a deep pained breath. He had only been thinking about business. The crush she had on her boss was going to jeopardize her success if she didn’t get her lust under control. He’s not after you. Stop listening to Ashley before you make a damn fool of yourself. A man like Axel Christensen had any number of beautiful models at his disposal, and someone like her didn’t fit the mold and wouldn’t hold his interest. From that moment, she decided to bury her feelings for him deep inside, vowing not to expose them again.
“Okay. You win. I’ll accept the position under one condition.” She paused.
“You’ve got my attention. What are your conditions this time?” He narrowed his eyes on her as the corners of his lips curled upward into a faint smile, perched on the edge of a full grin at pending victory.
She shook her head. “I don’t need more money. You already pay me a handsome salary, and I’ve done okay for myself over the years. Instead, would you consider donating the extra money to some of the charities I support and volunteer some of your time? I can always use the tax deduction.”
He studied her for a brief moment, and then slowly a victorious grin emerged, spreading wide and full. “See, you’re already balancing me out. Your generosity and thoughtfulness is inspiring. Just tell me how to make out the checks and what I need to do to volunteer, and we’ve got a deal.” He backed away, his hands down at his side, and his stance triumphant. “Kerrigan, you and I are going to be great together.” He raised his brow. “You okay now?”
Inhaling another deep breath, she released surrendered vapors. “Yes. I’m fine,” she said and then smiled. “Thank you, Mr. Christensen.”
Later, she heard about complaints from others who were in the conference room speculating that their abrupt departure resulted from a lover’s quarrel. She laughed at the ridiculous notion. Determined not to let Mr. Christensen affect her again, she was glad that he planned to stop attending those meetings. Instead, he offered to arrange private, one-on-one sessions with her, and of course, the thought of being alone with him caused her a number of sleepless nights. Private meetings might cause greater tension than the group setting, but at least she wouldn’t be subject to an audience when drool oozed from the corner of her mouth.
August 20, 2012
Damn her. What in the hell is wrong with Kerrigan? Why is she so formal all the time? She resisted the raw, heated attraction that he knew existed between them. Axel pondered as he sat grimacing at Kerrigan beneath his bared teeth, a sneer masquerading as a grin. Her lips moved, and words came out, but his mind raced with rousing fantasies, making concentration and understanding not possible. Energized by her presence, his temperature rose, blood raced through his veins and his throat tightened. He knew just what he would do if he ever got the chance.
I’d have her screaming my name at the top of her lungs.
Axel respected her mind, admired her professional skills, but being so close to her drove him crazy, and the red-blooded male part of himself throbbed with desire. I’d spread her legs so wide and pound her so good that… Blinking hard twice, he couldn’t focus on anything she said. His mind raced, sexual fantasies controlling his brain kept him in a perpetual daydream.
He lifted her blouse and his eyes widened, discovering her perfectly round bosom bouncing freely. Skilled fingers circling her round breasts, he coaxed them to swell and then slowly descended his watering mouth onto a hard nipple.
She squinted, her brow wrinkling as she sat at the conference table in his office gaping at him. “Uh, um. Mr. Christensen.” She paused. “What do you think about the proposal? Would you like … do you … should I make plans to meet with the McBride Group?” she stammered timidly, ripping Axel from his salacious thoughts.
Tugging at the tight collar around his neck to ease his rough breathing, his stomach hardened. He hoped she didn’t realize that he wasn’t paying attention to whatever she had been saying.
A few more moments of awkward silence passed before the meaning of her words registered in his cerebral cortex. He placed his elbow on the smooth wooden table and gripped his temples between his index finger and thumb.
“What?” he rasped, her
words still catching up to him. “Yeah, I’ll need time to think it over Kerrigan. I want to play my cards just right. The McBride account is difficult.” Rubbing the back of his neck, he released a hard breath and lowered his voice. “I honestly didn’t think we’d reach this stage. You shouldn’t be surprised if we don’t win this one. I don’t want you to be upset over this account.” He lowered his hand and patted her forearm, leaving his hand to rest there. A prickly sensation greeted his touch and radiated to his spine. “This isn’t a reflection of your capabilities. I’ve pitched this guy before. He’s tough, a bit intense.” He moved in closer, a mixture of a floral fragrance and her natural scent flooded his nostrils. “I know you’re capable of putting up your defenses against a man even more intense than this one, aren’t you?”
Slipping her arm out of his hand, she slinked away from the table. Even her fair caramel skin tone couldn’t hide the red glow that kissed her cheeks. Although he was the owner of the agency and her boss, she’d be dead wrong to think he wasn’t interested or that he wouldn’t act on his attraction.
Reclining in his seat, he slowly stroked his chin. “I believe you can command any man to his knees to do your bidding, can’t you?”
Blinking rapidly, she stilled. “I … I guess so.” Her voice cracked.
Axel enjoyed watching her fluster, her beautiful face contorting with emotion. He wondered what she was thinking now.
Smirking at her humble reaction, he twisted his lips. “Hmm. You’re being modest. I recall you took over the Danvers account when Megan and Claire couldn’t handle the client. They were beside themselves. Your finesse in managing the account put them
both to shame. That makes you a rare treasure.” Raising his brow, his eyes cascaded gingerly from hers, down to her bosom and back up. “You’re oblivious to the effect you have on others. I’m sure glad you work for me and not for one of my competitors because even I’m not immune to you.” He paused, and then the ends of his mouth curved upward. “I think you could get me to do almost anything.”
blushed again. His remark an open invitation, he expected her to flirt back. Silence screamed loudly, the dull hum of the laser printer on his desk making the only sound in the room.
She offered her crescent smile
, bright and beaming like the moon. “Thank you Mr. Christensen. It’s good to know I’m appreciated.” Avoiding his gaze, her eyes focused on her fidgety, manicured hands resting in her lap.
He spent the last six months in misery day-in and day-out. Sexy, curvaceous and exotically beautiful, Kerrigan sashayed about the office tempting his masculine restraint. On more than one occasion, he had invited her out to
dinner under the guise of an office gathering only to be rejected. She always gave the excuse of volunteering as a tutor at some school as her out.
Rubbing his furrowed eyebrows, he assessed her with his unwavering stare. He leaned back in his chair until it teetered on two legs and then brought it down slowly.
This time he spoke to her with authority. “You and I will entertain McBride. You know, show him a good time and eventually win him over. I want you to work with the creative team and turn that proposal into a slick presentation.” He paused, ran his hand through his thick hair and then stood.
the long edge of the table across from Kerrigan, his fingertips glided along the cold surface. He always thought best on his feet and he needed all the brainpower possible, making up his plan on the spur as words spilled from his lips. “We’ll need time to review and prep before we meet with McBride. I’m going to schedule a few meetings for you and me over the next few weeks. We’ll spend as much time together as it takes to work through the details of the presentation.”
Her nervous eyes fluttered following his footsteps. “We’ll start this week. Brenda will send the meeting schedule to you once she confirms with McBride. Kerrigan
, make sure you’re available this Wednesday evening for our first meeting. We’ll leave from here at seven o’clock. I’ll drive.” He halted his steps and turned. “Oh, and from now on, call me Axel. As closely as we work together, it seems odd that you call me Mr. Christensen.” He sat down again, positioning himself close to her.
Repeatedly twirling her long strand of pearls around delicate piano fingers, her eyes darted from him to the closed door on the other side of the room.
“Any questions?” He asked. Landing on his, her eyes grew large, again.
Her restless fingers were joined by the incessant swing of her crossed leg, bouncing. “Uh, no Mr. Christen … I mean, Axel,” she stammered.
She was uncomfortable having to address him by his first name, but she’d get used to it. “That’s all Kerrigan. I’m glad we’re working together on this project. See you later.”
Unsteady on her feet, she stood. He reached out and grabbed her wrist to help her stabilize. Almost holding her hand, the simple touch made his stomach roll.
“Your balance seemed a little off kilter when you got up. You okay?”
She swallowed hard. “Um, yes … yes, thank
you.” Sputtering her words again, she broke free from his grasp and whipped pass him where he sat. Her stilettos tapped fiercely against the hardwood as her gait quickened. “Goodbye,” she said, rubbing the wrist where he held her and then she was gone.
Axel did something to Kerrigan, making her feel both terrified and exhilarated. Besides their private one-on-one meetings, she usually worked as part of a larger team on projects where he was involved. This would be the first time they would work together exclusively. The thought made her nervous.
Her legs carried her back to her office
as fast as they could move. Jittery and shaken after the encounter, she sat down at her computer and started on the McBride presentation. She replayed his words in her head over, and over, again. An incredibly smart man, Axel’s suggestive phrases weren’t merely a poor choice of words strung together haphazardly. What did they mean exactly?
he ping of an incoming email caught her attention disrupting her thoughts—an invitation to lunch the following day and to the Wednesday evening meeting. She was amazed at how quickly Axel Christensen made things happen.
Not even five minutes had passed before Ashley knocked and peered through the door. Kerrigan waved her in. After closing the door
behind her, Ashley grinned widely as she took a seat across from her desk.
“So, what happened? Mr. Christensen
had you in there for quite a while today. Kind of sent some of the groupies into a heated frenzy,” Ashley smirked.
Kerrigan rolled her eyes. “You
’re probably the leader of said frenzy. We met about the McBride account. Mr. Chris…I mean Axel was absolutely professional. He even paid me a compliment,” she defended.
“Axel? You’ve always called him Mr. Christensen.
Since when did you two become so chummy that your vocabulary was upgraded, to first name basis? That must have been some compliment,” Ashley teased.
“Cut it out
Ash! Seriously, I mean it. He’s giving me a chance to prove myself in this new role. He insisted that I call him Axel since we’ll be working together on this account, spending lots of time with McBride himself. I’m really nervous about the whole thing, and I could use your support.”
Ashley leaned forward, and a serious expression took hold of her.
“Two things–One, you’ll do a terrific job. You got this promotion because you have the skills, have worked hard, and most importantly, you deserve the job because you get results. Two, Axel Christensen has a thing for you, and that’s what you should be nervous about Kerri. I’m not the only one who’s noticed. There’s a buzz in the office. Haven’t you seen the way he looks at you? Are you blind?” Ashley pursed her lips and raised her brow. “The man practically salivates in meetings when you’re in the room. He stares at you as though you’re a steak and he’s a starving man. If I were you, I’d get Axel to nail me good,” Ashley quipped.
She felt herself warm, but she managed to stave off a full-on
blush. “Ash! Oh my god! Just stop. Please. That’s inappropriate. I don’t care about the office buzz. Hasn’t the thought occurred to anyone he’s watching me closely because he’s been assessing my performance?”
“He’s assessing something,” Ashley muttered under her breath.
Kerrigan released a heavy sigh and rolled her eyes again. “He wants to make sure he made the right decision by giving me this promotion. That’s all, nothing more. Here, look at this.” She pushed the torn piece of paper across the desk to Ashley.
s this?” Ashley looked at the newspaper clipping, her lips twisted into a frown.
That’s an article in today’s paper about A.C. Advertising. They refer to Axel as the millionaire playboy. See, I know all about his reputation. Now please, I have work to do. I’ll talk to you later.” She hoped that was enough to get Ashley off her back for the rest of the day, at least. She already had too much to process after the intense meeting with him.
Ashley rose to leave,
holding a laugh back. “Okay. I’m sorry, but you know I call it as I see it. That article doesn’t prove you’re not into him. Like I said before, he’s on the prowl for you and men like that usually get what they want. I hope you remember my theory the first time he makes a move on you. Nah, you probably won’t. You’ll be too dazed and breathless to think about little old me in the heat of the moment.”
Ashley had more experienced with men and thought her
naïve. Kerrigan valued her advice, but sometimes she could be over the top. She couldn’t tell Ashley about Axel’s suggestive remarks during their meeting.
tossed her hair over her shoulder and closed the door behind her. A second later, she pushed her way back through the door. One hand mounted her hip, and the other held up high halted the air. “Let me know when you’re ready for the birds and bees conversation. You need to be prepared for a man like that.” Kerrigan shook her head at Ashley’s whispered remark.
and still standing in Kerrigan’s doorway, Ashley pivoted, staring at someone in the hall. A clear view of Ashley’s face, Kerrigan saw her turn ashen gray. The rumble of a deep voice could be heard from the hall.
blushed and greeted him. “Oh! Hello Mr. Christensen,” she said in a shaky high-pitched voice. Ashley smiled, but based on her ghastly expression, he must not have returned the gesture kindly. “Miss Turner.” Even the sterile sound of his voice made Kerrigan’s belly flutter. Ashley twisted her lips, glanced at Kerrigan, and then scampered away.