Authors: Mallory Crowe
Tags: #Billionaires In The City - Two
Teasing The Boss
Teasing The Boss
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. Fonts used with permission from Microsoft.
Copyright © 2015 by Mallory Crowe
Mallory Crowe (2015-03-28). Teasing The Boss (Billionaires in the City Book Two) Kindle Edition.
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“So you’re a stalker now?”
Grace’s eyes widened behind her oversized sunglasses. “I’m not stalking anyone!” she said into the phone as she navigated through the busy morning sidewalks, trying her best not to bring attention to herself. Though it was hard to remain inconspicuous when she banged into the pedestrians walking by.
She’d give anything to take off the damn glasses, but she couldn’t risk being recognized. The long shadows cast by the skyscrapers on either side of her kept the streets dark, and she could hardly see where she was going.
“I’m never going to wear sunglasses again,” she promised as a heel caught in the crack of the sidewalk. Letting out a rather unladylike grunt, she pulled the shoe free and scanned the busy street for her target.
“For what it’s worth, I think they looked fierce.” The smile in Andre’s voice was evident, and she was sure he was enjoying this all too much.
“I think I lost him,” she breathed. Body after body brushed past her, but she didn’t budge from her spot as she looked for any sign of the short red hair she’d followed all morning.
Andre scoffed on the other end of the line. “You lost your one chance at cleaning up your image? You gotta want it, honey.”
Grace pursed her lips. “He’s not my only chance,” she muttered. She moved forward, glanced in the windows of the buildings and hoped he’d ducked into one when she’d been distracted. “He’s just my best chance.”
“Well, the paparazzi are still following me around, so you might be able to take off your incognito wear.”
“I can’t believe that worked.” She passed by a bakery. The scent of pastries fresh out of the oven wafted through the air, and she was half tempted to give up her chase and drown her sorrows in sugar. At least if she was fat, no one would recognize her.
“The press are smart enough when they’re trying to track you down, but the second they think they’ve got a lock, they get blinded by their own greed. I could’ve been five inches shorter with a beer gut, but as long as I was wearing your outfit and that wig, they’d follow me to the ends of the earth.”
The corner of her mouth ticked up at the memory of Andre wearing the blond wig that slightly resembled Grace’s own long locks. “I really appreciate all you did this morning.”
“Just because I like boys doesn’t mean I dress in drag for fun. You
A trickle of guilt snaked its way through her. Andre had done so much for her, and not just by distracting the press. He’d been the first employee at Bell Planning, her event coordination business. She owed him so much, and at this rate, Bell Planning would be closing doors within the month.
“Don’t worry,” she told him with false confidence. “I’m going to find this guy, and he’s going to fix everything.”
Andre was silent, and that sent a shiver through her. If he didn’t think she could turn this around, what shot did she really have?
The defeat didn’t have time to settle in her gut. Her target turned out of the coffeehouse a few doors away and started down the street. Right toward her.
Every instinct within her told her to turn and hide, but it was too late. Simon West stared intently at her as he cut his way through the crowds. His gaze managed to keep her frozen in place.
Simon West didn’t fit the mental image she had cooked up in her mind. She expected the consulting prodigy to wear oversized glasses and have a haircut from the eighties. She’d worked with a lot of the high-powered elite during her few years in New York City, and she’d come to realize that most successful businessmen fit into one of two categories: the smooth movers and the number men. From all the articles and stories she’d read, Simon West was one of the best number men in the business.
Except the man who walked toward her, the one she’d followed since he left his apartment twenty minutes ago, was a drool-worthy example of a smooth mover. His gray suit was perfectly tailored to his toned body, and his dusty red hair was kept almost as short as the neatly trimmed beard that covered his face. It was just long enough so his strong jaw and killer cheekbones were evident. And, at the moment, his deep chestnut eyes were focused solely on her. She could tell by looking at him that Simon was the type who got what he wanted, when he wanted it.
With all that energy focused squarely on her, Grace suddenly wished she could be like a turtle and hide inside her shell when threatened.
But before she could snap herself out of her frightened daze, Simon had reached her and come to a halt about a foot away. “You were outside my apartment this morning,” he said abruptly.
“Uh,” she murmured. Only then did she realize she still clutched her phone. Unable to think straight under his scrutiny, she shoved the phone into her purse and did the first thing she could think of. She lied. “Was I? It’s been a crazy morning and I’ve been walking around for a while.” She said a quick prayer of thanks for the sunglasses she’d been cursing just moments before. They might be the only thing keeping Simon from seeing just how full of crap she was.
He narrowed his eyes. “Do I know you from somewhere?”
She felt the blood drain from her face. “No! I don’t think so. I mean, I would remember someone like you.”
He cocked his head. A grin pulled at the corners of his mouth. “Someone like me?”
Damn it! She was better than this. She had hobnobbed with some of the richest people in the city. She could get through one conversation without tripping over her words like a smitten schoolgirl, but she wasn’t quite as used to being so desperate going into business talks, and it threw her off-kilter.
“Let me start over,” she said in her “let’s get down to business” voice that always seemed to calm her clients down.
“Okay then.” Simon held out his hand. “I’m Simon. Nice to meet you, and why are you following me?”
This time she kept her cool as she met his handshake. The warmth of his touch was a sharp contrast from the cool shadows of the late summer morning. Goose bumps went up her arm. “I’m not following you, and my name is Grace Bell.”
If she hadn’t been studying him so closely, she might have missed the flash of recognition in his features. “I can’t think of many reasons for an attractive woman to be hunting me down at seven o’clock in the morning, but if you really want a date, I would be open to it.” He planted a smile firmly on his face.
Grace stiffened, torn between flattery and annoyance at his proposition. “I’m not here to hit on you,” she clarified.
His lips drew together. “That’s a shame. Because you offering to go to bed with me is about the only thing you could say right now that I would say yes to.”
She ripped her hand out of his. “Mr. West. I don’t know what you’ve heard about me, but I promise you I’m not the type to hit on strangers in the street.”
His dark eyes quickly moved up and down her body. The glance was quick enough that she didn’t have time to fidget, but slow enough to let her know he didn’t care whether she knew what he was doing.
Grace mentally took stock of her outfit. Her jeans were dressed up with the high-heeled boots she’d normally never wear for walking through the city, but she’d wanted to make a good impression on Simon.
“Let me save you some time, Ms. Bell. I’m not taking on new clients. I’m attracted to you and would love nothing better than to get a chance to impress you, but I just don’t have the time or inclination to get pulled into the mess you’ve found yourself in.”
Grace gritted her teeth as he slammed the metaphorical door in her face. “Mr. West, please hear me out. I never did a thing with Robert Bar. He’s setting me up, and I have no idea why. I just need someone to make sure my business survives until this all blows over.”
He raised a brow. “From what I heard, you and the senator were already doing plenty of ‘blowing over.’”
Her cheeks tingled as they filled with the blush that hadn’t gone away in the week since the scandal broke. She had no idea where it went wrong! One second, she was sharing an elevator with a senator in the swanky Hanson Hotel, and the next she’d tripped on a heel and fell right into the arms of the silver fox Robert Bar. Normally she’d just giggle off the embarrassing incident, apologize and move on, but when the doors opened, she’d been blinded by camera flashes.
“I never slept with Robert Bar,” she said through clenched teeth. At this point, she should just have those six words printed on the back of her business cards to hand out to the accusing public.
Simon arched a red brow. “That’s not how the good senator tells it.”
“That’s the problem! He’s running around every media outlet he can find, apologizing for cheating on his wife with me, and I only met the guy that one time in the elevator. I am an event planner for a very elite clientele, Mr. West. No one will hire me if they think I’m going to boink their husbands. I need to clear my name.”
He carefully looked her up and down. “I’m no public relations expert.”
Her confidence was bolstered when he didn’t immediately shoot her down again. She took a small step closer. “I know. But I’ve heard about you. You’re talked about in all circles and your instinct for reading people is practically legendary.”
His mouth ticked up at the flattery. “Funny, I thought most people thought I was a prick.”
“Oh, they totally do. But a prick they admire and respect. People, especially powerful ones, don’t want anyone to be able to see in their heads, but they need you. Mr. West—Simon—I need you. This man is destroying my reputation and my business. I’ve already been dropped by two clients this week. If I don’t move fast, I’m going to be closing doors within the month.” She held her breath as she waited for his features to soften even the slightest bit.
“Ms. Bell, I admit you’ve found yourself in a tight situation, but unfortunately I’m not taking on new clients.”
She opened her mouth to protest, but he continued. “And to be honest, you probably couldn’t afford my fee anyway. Good luck with your problem.” And just like that, any chance she had of putting her life back together turned his back on her and continued down the busy street.
Simon’s legs ached as he pounded up the stairs, but he didn’t mind the exertion. Days like today, when his mind raced with various probabilities and outcomes, he enjoyed the opportunity to zone out until all he could see, think, or feel was his body. Luckily his current consulting job, pulling Green & Sons out of the red, was challenging enough for him to mostly push his troubling thoughts away.
When he reached the tenth floor, he took a few seconds to catch his breath. The climb worked up a bit of a sweat, but he would be back to normal by the time he’d checked his email at his desk. He wasn’t a formal employee, so he was mostly left alone when at the corporate office of the hardware store chain he was helping to restore to its former glory.
Simon didn’t really give a damn about hammers and nails, but he thrived on the challenge of being in a completely new environment. Starting a puzzle unlike any he’d ever done before and putting all the pieces back into place.