Authors: Kendra Little
Tags: #office romance, #workplace romance, #alpha male
And I was going to miss it.
"Is tonight a problem?" Ellen asked, her
vibrant blue eyes piercing me over the rim of her cup. God damn,
she knew. How did she do that? I was sure I hadn't shown any
disappointment, but she'd picked up the vibe from me anyway.
I thought about telling her the truth, but
decided against it. For now. Despite Ellen's earlier friendliness,
the steeliness of her glare warned me not to refuse.
"Of course not." I laughed. "Where do I ever
go? It's just that I thought I was to be Reece Kavanagh's
assistant." That's how it usually went with me and my targets.
Ellen got rid of their regular assistant and I stepped in, all
flirty efficiency, and made myself indispensible. "Shouldn't I
start on Monday?"
"I want you to lay the groundwork at a gala
event he's attending tonight. I scored an invitation. It's the
perfect opportunity to make contact and let him know you're
available." The way she deepened her voice on 'available' had me
watching her for signs of teasing. Not that she was the sort to
find the juvenile double entendre amusing, but I searched her face
anyway. Nope, all business.
She stood and picked her way across the room
like a stork with those long legs of hers, and set the cup down on
her desk. "There's an invitation here somewhere,"
"What time does this gala start?" I asked,
hopeful. Perhaps I could go to Becky's exhibition for an hour then
head over to wherever it was Reece Kavanagh would be.
She plucked out a black and silver invitation
and flipped it open. It looked familiar. My heart rose and then
dove again so quickly I felt ill.
"My apologies, it's not a gala," she said.
"It's a small art exhibition by a group of students." She handed me
I didn't need to look at it to know the time
or venue, but I looked anyway. It was Becky's exhibition. A sort of
numbing vagueness came over me as I tried to digest the
coincidence. Was it a good thing that I could be both supportive
sister and trapper at the same time? Or was having my work intrude
on my personal space a bad idea? I couldn't think through the fog
and come up with an answer.
I tucked the invitation into my bag and
slipped the laptop in alongside it. Either way, I was off the hook.
Ellen would be none the wiser. "I wonder why he's going to such a
low key event? Does he have a friend who's exhibiting?"
Ellen snorted. Snorted! It was so out of
character that I laughed, but quickly stifled it when she glared
back at me. "His friends and family aren't the artistic type. No,
there's an obvious answer as to why he's attending. It's the reason
why we were hired for this job."
"He bought the premises where the art school
"He did?" I didn't even know the building had
been sold. "So he's checking out his new tenant. That sounds
She crossed her arms. "No, he's going tonight
to check out the opposition and assess the mettle of the people
he's up against."
My pulse thudded loudly in my ears. I got a
bad feeling about this. "Up against? What do you mean?"
"He wants to close the school and bulldoze
the building to make way for a hotel."
"He's expecting opposition from the art
teacher and her students," Ellen went on.
I heard myself agree with her, but hardly
knew what I was saying. I was on auto-pilot, trying to digest what
she'd just told me. Reece Kavanagh wanted to shut down Becky's art
school, the one place she loved, the one thing that fulfilled her
and made her happy.
Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. The teacher
could move into different premises and keep the school going. The
current location was a pretty one in the suburb of Serendipity
Bend, the same suburb where Reece Kavanagh had been raised. The
Bend, as it was known locally, was snuggled into a sweeping curve
of the Serendipity River like a child in the crook of a mother's
arm. It was an expensive piece of real estate near the heart of the
city, and highly sought after by the rich and famous. The art
students drew their inspiration from the willows bowing into the
water and the ducks paddling lazily past the old house. It was a
tranquil oasis on the edge of Roxburg's busy, concreted business
district. It would be a shame to lose the house, but not a total
loss. Becky's teacher could move elsewhere from the proceeds of the
"Kavanagh is expecting opposition?" I asked
Ellen. "Aside from your client, I mean."
She nodded. "The previous owner was the art
teacher's brother. He sold the building to Kavanagh without
informing his sister. She's apparently furious and is refusing to
leave. The house belonged to their grandmother and her sister died
there. She claims she won't let it be bulldozed and will fight RK
Financial Group all the way if she has to. It's going to be an
interesting evening with those two in the same room."
"Yeah," I said weakly. "Very interesting."
Particularly for me. Becky would not be happy when she saw me
flirting with the enemy. She didn't know what I did for a living
and I had no intention of telling her. She would fall into that
category of people who considered what I did unethical, even if I
told her I didn't sleep with my targets. Her moral compass always
pointed north. Mine flipped back and forth and sometimes spun
around as if following a drunken magnet. Ellen was right. It would
be an interesting evening.
Becky clearly didn't know her teacher's house
had been sold from under her. She was like a ball of nervous
energy, wriggling and talking the entire way to the gallery. I
couldn't get a word in, but that was okay. I was too nervous but in
a different way. Mine was from trepidation, not excitement. I was
used to dealing with OBF (old, bald, fat) billionaires, not hot
guys like Reece Kavanagh. It was easier to get an OBF to develop a
crush on me, but why would someone who could score a model respond
to my lame attempts at flirting? Unlike Ellen, I didn't think the
sexy school teacher type would work on a guy who could get any girl
"My three pieces will be on the left," Becky
said as we flashed our invitation at the door. She craned her neck
to the left and stood on her toes. She was a little shorter than
me, even in her heeled ankle boots, but only because my heels were
I'd changed my outfit after coming home from
Ellen's office. Forget casual, I needed classy sophistication. I
was relieved to see I wasn't entirely out of place. There was at
least one other woman in stilettos and a dress. Hers was cut low at
the front and revealed a boney back whereas mine had a pencil skirt
and modest neckline. Almost everyone else wore jeans, pants or
summer skirts. Becky had chosen jeans and a white shirt, but only
after I advised her against the T with the political slogan printed
on the front. Thankfully she listened to me for once.
She plucked a glass of champagne off the tray
of a passing waiter and handed it to me. "Want to check out my
pieces first?" she asked, grinning. She hadn't stopped grinning
since getting out of the car.
"Show me the way."
She took my hand and pulled me along after
her. I scanned the room, but there was no sign of Reece Kavanagh.
It was still early. The well-dressed woman's gaze met mine then
flicked past me and scanned the room too. I wondered if we were
searching for the same person.
Becky stopped in front of a painting of a
woman whom I recognized as her teacher, Cassie. It was mostly
various shades of gray except for Cassie's hair painted with a
bright splash of red. On closer inspection, the strands were
different shades of red and orange, giving the hair depth and
bringing it to life. It was a vibrant yet evocative piece with
Cassie's eyes downcast, her long lashes shadowing her cheeks.
"You did this?" I said to Becky.
She tucked her blonde hair behind her ear
even though it was too short to stay and popped right back out
again. Her grin broadened. "You like it?"
"Hell yeah. It's amazing. Cassie looks
"How much is it?" I asked, turning back to
the picture. "I want to buy it."
"It's already sold." Becky pointed to the
attached tag. "Someone bought it based on the photo Cass put up on
the website. She has no idea who."
"Intriguing. A mystery art lover."
"Or just a lover of Cassie," she said,
laughing. She nudged me. "Take a look at the others then we better
mingle." She was already glancing around the room before she'd
finished her sentence.
I looked at the other paintings and decided
to buy the one of the river behind the art studio. The sweeping
branches of the willows were as finely depicted as Cassie's hair,
and the light gave the scene a freshness that made you want to sit
and rest on the grassy banks.
"You don't have to buy it, I'll give it to
you," Becky said. "You're my sister. Besides, you're out of
contract and can't afford it."
"Actually the meeting with the agency today
was productive," I told her. "Nothing's firm yet, but next week
I'll know for sure if I have a new position." As far as Becky knew,
I worked for a temping agency that farmed me out for short-term
contracts as a personal assistant to high-flying businessmen. It
was so close to the truth that I didn't even feel like I was lying
to her. Much.
She put her arm around me and squeezed.
"You'll get it. How can anyone resist my big, wonderful sis?"
I hugged her back. "I don't mind if you call
me wonderful, but can we drop the 'big'?"
She giggled and took my hand. "Come on, Cleo.
Let's go find Cassie."
We passed by other students' work and spotted
Cassie in the middle of the gallery surrounded by her guests. The
quirky, vivacious redhead was in the middle of a lively
conversation when she spotted something by the door that wiped the
smile off her face. Her eyes darkened. Her lips peeled back off her
teeth and she pushed through the throng.
doing here?" she
snapped, jabbing her finger in the direction of the suited
Reece Kavanagh. Even if I hadn't seen the
photographs of him, I would have known who he was based on her
vitriolic greeting. She did not want the man who was going to tear
down her beloved home and studio at her exhibition. I couldn't
Reece pulled out the silver and black card
from his inside jacket pocket. "I have an invitation." His voice
was rich and deep, rumbling from the depths of his chest. It suited
him. It would have been disappointing for such a hot, masculine guy
to sound like a spotty teen.
I didn't think it possible, but he was more
gorgeous in real life than in the photos. His hair was as black as
ink, the stubble on his jaw just as dark and adding a rugged touch
to his otherwise smooth face. Either he liked to wear suits or he'd
come straight from work. I wasn't good with brands, but I'd bet it
was Armani or something equally expensive. It was sharp and crisp,
and showed off his broad shoulders to perfection. The guy was tall
with the form of an athlete, although there could have been a
paunch hidden beneath that jacket. God, I hoped so, otherwise I was
way out of my depth. Hell, even if he did have a paunch and a small
penis I was still going to struggle to get his attention.
"Who invited you?" Cassie went on, not in the
least distracted by the dazzling good looks of the man in front of
her. She was tiny by comparison, barely coming up midway to his
chest. Not only was she not distracted, she wasn't intimidated
either. Hands on hips, she glared right back into those ice-blue
eyes as Reece stared her down.
"Do you know who that is?" Becky whispered to
"Reece Kavanagh," I said, unable to look
away. "Billionaire businessman."
"Yeah? Then why doesn't Cassie want him
"Maybe they're ex-lovers and he dumped
Becky made a huffing noise. "Doubt it. Suits
aren't her type. They're more hers." She pointed her chin at the
well-dressed woman I'd spotted earlier.
The woman, a sleek blonde with sharp
cheekbones, slipped her arm around Reece's waist. He didn't react.
"I invited him," she said.
Cassie turned on her and I thought she would
grill her. But instead she shook her head and sighed. "I should
have known. Be careful, Ally. He's not a good guy." She stalked off
before the woman named Ally had a chance to respond, and was soon
swallowed up by the crowd.
Becky joined her teacher, leaving me to watch
Reece. He stepped to one side just far enough away from Ally that
she had to drop her arm. She spoke quietly to him, her expression
serious, her gaze never leaving his face. He, however, didn't
appear to be listening. His gaze flitted around the room,
assessing. Within moments he seemed to have taken in the faces of
everyone there, including mine. He'd not lingered on a single one
for more than a split second. It was as if nobody was interesting
enough to waste even a moment longer on.
The enormous task ahead of me just got even
harder. I was supposed to dazzle Reece with my efficiency and
skill, while flirting with him in front of his date and a roomful
of people who despised him, including my own sister. Worse, I
didn't even hold his interest with my figure-hugging pencil skirt
and great hair. I'd spent ages trying to get the long strands to
stay up in an elegantly messy knot. The guy might as well just hand
me a stick so I could poke myself in the eye with it. It would be
less painful than trying to get his attention.
I had no idea how long he would stay so I
needed to make my move soon or risk losing the chance altogether.
He clearly wasn't welcome at the gallery, something Cassie's
students weren't hiding. They all glared daggers at him as she
spoke to them.