Authors: Bernadette Marie
|The Executive's Decision|
|Keller Family |
|5 Prince Publishing (2011)|
Regan Keller fell in love with a wealthy and powerful man once. He was her boss. When that turbulent relationship ended, she swore she’d never again date someone she worked with. That was before she literally fell into her new boss’s lap. Zachary Benson is a successful man running an empire and used to getting what he wants in the boardroom and outside of it. He is determined to convince Regan that even though he is her boss they can share a life together. However, when Regan’s past threatens Zach’s business he will have to make an executive decision whether to choose his business or fight for the woman he loves. The Executive's Decision is the first book in the Keller Family Series written by Bernadette Marie and published by 5 Prince Prince Publishing.
Bernadette Marie grew up obsessed with pens and notebooks, each one filled with lists and ideas for stories. Not much has changed. This wife and mother of five sons has a passion for writing stories about falling in love, finding love where you left it, and strong families. Bernadette Marie is an accomplished martial artist who holds a Black Belt in Tang Soo Do and she is a chronic entrepreneur. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and Colorado Romance Writers. Visit her website at www.bernadettemarie.com for news on upcoming releases, signings, appearances, and contests.
What readers are saying about
THE EXECUTIVE’S DECISION:
“Bernadette Marie always seems to take you along on a whirlwind of romance.
The Executive’s Decision
is no exception. You fall in love with the characters and can’t wait to see what is next for these two lovebirds that are destined to be together no matter what falls in their way. I am glad Bernadette has made this a series and cannot wait for the next book to come out to see what lies ahead for Regan and Zach.”—Connie Kline
“I felt like I was right there with Regan and Zachary while they fell in love and handled difficult situations. I cried when they cried, I laughed when they laughed, and got angry when either of them got hurt. My emotions were so high that I could not put the book down for fear that I would miss something while I was gone. I look forward to more novels to see what Bernadette Marie has in store for her characters and her story lines.”—Theresa Lindsey
“Bernadette has a way of bringing the characters in this book to life. This story makes you believe in giving yourself a second chance! I can’t wait to read more stories about the Keller family.”—Antoinette Giambrocco
This is a fictional work. The names, characters, incidents, places, and locations are solely the concepts and products of the author’s imagination or are used to create a fictitious story and should not be construed as real.
5 PRINCE PUBLISHING AND BOOKS, LLC
PO Box 16507
Denver, CO 80216
Copyright © 2011 5 Prince Publishing and Books, LLC. Bernadette Marie
Photo Credit: Front and Back Cover Getty Images
Author Photo: Copyright ©2009 Damon Kappell/Studio 16
ISBN 13: 978-0615461342 ISBN 10: 0615461344
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations, reviews, and articles. For any other permission please contact 5 Prince Publishing and Books, LLC.
First Edition/First Printing April 2011 Printed U.S.A.
If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”
5 PRINCE PUBLISHING AND BOOKS, LLC.
As always I can write about true love because I live it.
The journey to bring THE EXECUTIVE’S DECISION to light was not undertaken alone. As always, I have had so many supporters. I must thank my husband, who weathers my mood swings as I feel what my characters are feeling so that I can get their emotions onto the page. He has never faltered in his belief in me. My children, the five most wonderful little men any one woman could have been blessed with, are my biggest fans and I love them dearly. A big thanks to my sister, who jumps in to edit, critique, and enjoy all my books no matter which state they are currently in. I was blessed with supportive and loving parents who have always smiled and nodded as I’ve rambled on and on about real or imaginary people. An ENORMOUS thank you goes out to my editor Susan. Without you I surely would have fallen flat many times. Your spirit lifts me up. Your knowledge makes me better. Your friendship is invaluable. Judy, thank you for coming along with me on this journey. Knowing those I work with makes it so much better. June, I look forward to many journeys with you. Connie, thank you for always being there at the head of the line to read my books. You are the very best kind of fan to have. Theresa, having you be part of this was special. You are my sister from another mother, and I love you as I love my own sister. And last but certainly not least, to all my readers who make me want to get up every morning and write something. Knowing you look forward to my next books lets me know I’m doing the right thing with my life.
Romance usually looms where we least expect to find it, just as Regan Keller finds out in THE EXECUTIVE’S DECISION, book one in the Keller Family series.
After swearing off office romances, Regan finds herself falling in love with her boss, Zach Benson; however, her past relationship with her former boss will prove destructive not only to her new relationship with Zach, but to his business empire as well. It will be his executive decision to stand behind the woman he loves or protect his business.
As is my passion, I love to build families and unique stories within those families. I hope you will join me as I weave the tales of Regan, Carlos, Curtis, Arianna, and their children in the Keller Family series.
Please visit my website at www.bernadettemarie.com to read about upcoming releases, book signings, appearances, and contests. And, as always, drop me a line. I love to hear from my readers at [email protected]
Thunder rippled through the gray clouds that loomed overhead. Regan Keller raised her eyes to the sky.
Please, please don’t rain.
As she sent up the silent prayer, she felt the first drop hit her forehead.
The nervous flutter in her stomach quickened as she looked down at her watch. Surely her day couldn’t get any worse. But the sky opened up, and those around her crowded together in the bus stop shelter. Her hair, tied in a tail at the base of her neck, dripped rain down her back as she hunched in her coat. How could she have forgotten her umbrella? Had her car been running, she’d have the one tucked safely away in the glove compartment because spring in Tennessee often meant sudden storms. She should carry one in her bag but had suffered a lapse in memory, having opted for the sunny beaches of Hawaii for the past two years.
As the bus arrived, those under the shelter huddled onto it ahead of her, claiming every seat. Soaking wet, Regan wedged herself between two people and held onto the handrail above her head. She looked out the window at the commuters driving themselves to work in the pouring rain. That should have been her.
A bitter-faced old woman sat below her, her oversized bag occupying the next seat. Regan bent to ask her to move it, but the woman glared up at her and gave a grunt that sounded like a dog’s bark. Regan flinched and tried to look away. But she was compelled to keep an eye on the woman.
The man to the other side of the vacant seat snickered. Regan looked down at him in his long black overcoat and perfect hair. Hemmed in between the old lady’s bag and an overweight man in a jogging suit, he was as pinned in his seat as she was to the people around her. She would have given him a piece of her mind for laughing at her had the bus not jolted to a sudden stop. It lurched forward then back and tossed Regan onto the man’s lap.
“I would have offered you my seat,” he said with a bright grin as the bus lurched again.
“Why, you…” She struggled to free herself, but the crowd moved in tightly around them as the bus bounced down the street. The pace of her heart kicked into gear and she could feel the sweat bead on her brow.
She hadn’t been this close to a man in over a year, and the panic of having him actually hold her on his lap was making her more than uncomfortable. “I need to stand up.”
“You might as well sit.” He wrapped his arms around her. “Doesn’t look like you’ll be standing again anytime soon.”
Regan took a few deep and cleansing breaths. She forced down the panic that was filling her body and tried to push it away. There should be no danger in sitting on the lap of a nice-looking man. She should find it within her to enjoy the experience and focus on something else.
He didn’t have an accent native to Tennessee like hers. Perhaps the rain had caught him off guard as well. If she didn’t relax, she’d have a heart attack, and this nice gentleman who wasn’t from Nashville would probably be blamed for her death on the bus on his way to work.
Accepting her predicament at face value would be a prime opportunity to let go of bitter feelings for the opposite gender, though after what she’d been through, she wasn’t sure she could. The thought of ever loving another man or letting one touch her made her palms sweat and her stomach clench.
The man smiled at her, and a dimple formed in his cheek. “This is your first time on this bus, isn’t it?” He pushed back a wet wisp of hair from her forehead, and she flinched away. “It’s always crowded, but I know I would have seen you.”
“My car wouldn’t start this morning.” She pressed her hand to her jittery stomach and willed it to settle. “I start a new job today. Car trouble couldn’t have come at a worse time.”
“New job? Congratulations. So what is this new job?”
God, he was handsome, and wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy the ride? But she wasn’t. “Executive assistant.” The words shook as she spoke.
“You think it’s just some glorified secretary, don’t you?” She clenched her teeth and her fists. Why wouldn’t she be angry? The last man she’d worked for had interpreted the title
as a license to run her life and to ruin it.
“No. I was serious. It’s a very important position.” He looked sincere. “So where is this new job?”
“Benson, Benson and Hart.”
“Real estate development.”
“Yes.” Her breath was becoming harder to push through her lungs. “I should get off your lap.”
“You’d ruin my day.” He laughed easily, so she tried to relax. “So whose executive assistant will you be?”
“Zachary Benson’s.” She looked around for a space to stand.
“CEO? He must have been very impressed with you.”
“I’ve never met him. His current assistant is having a baby and leaving the company. He was out of town when she interviewed me.” She thought about Mary Ellen, his current assistant. The interview had had a motherly quality to it. She wasn’t sure whether it was because Mary Ellen was pregnant or that worried for her boss. “I think she takes good care of him. It’ll be a hard pair of shoes to fill.” And if that hadn’t had her stomach tied in knots, here she was having a conversation about it with a man she didn’t know while sitting on his lap. Had she completely forgotten the last man she’d gotten this close to tried to kill her?
“I’m sure he’ll be pleased with her choice.”
“Thank you.” She wanted to wiggle away from the hard muscles she could feel in his chest, from his arms that held her tight against him, and from the legs of a man who obviously kept in shape. She couldn’t, so she kept talking. “I hope he likes me. I can’t imagine him not wanting to meet me first.”
“Maybe he’s ugly.”
Finally a laugh rolled from her throat. “That’s not what Mary Ellen said.” She tucked in her lips. “She says he’s a hottie.”
“Hottie?” His voice lit with humor. “Well, you’ll enjoy your job then.”
“Strictly business here. I don’t get involved with the boss,” she said sternly.
This was, after all, her chance to take back her life after making such a mistake.
The bus stopped, and the old woman stood and grabbed her bag.
“Move!” She shoved her way through the people who climbed on and made her way out the door. Before Regan could stand and claim a seat, the crowd around her pushed her closer against the stranger, whose arms wrapped tightly around her as others dropped down beside them.
“Your stop is the next one,” he offered, and she nodded. “So what’s your name?”
“You’re native to Tennessee, aren’t you? Your accent gives you away.”
“I was born in Memphis. I spent most of my life in Nashville though. I did a stint in Los Angeles and then lived in Maui for the last two years. I missed home though.” The more she tried to suppress her nerves, the more she talked.
“Los Angeles? Tried your hand at Hollywood?”
“No.” She shook her head. “I worked for a prominent lawyer who had some big-name clients. But I wasn’t seeking fame and fortune.”
“Well, Ms. Executive Assistant, I’m glad you came home or this would have been a very boring ride this morning.” The bus stopped, and most of the people began to move to the door. “This is your stop.”
She finally stood and turned to exit with the crowd without looking back.
The man caught her hand and held it. Her very core shook, and her first instinct was to rip her hand away. But she needed to move on and not be so damn afraid of every man that gave her attention.
“Would you have lunch with me?” he asked.
“What?” She looked back at people climbing on. If she didn’t exit the bus now, she’d miss her stop. “Oh, I don’t think so.”
“Meet me at the hot dog stand at noon just on the north corner of your building,” he said with a wink and a nod.
She couldn’t think to speak. She nodded as she hurried off the bus.
The rain had subsided for the time being. Regan had almost dried off as she sat on the handsome man’s lap. The smell of his cologne lingered on her coat. She closed her eyes and breathed in the scent of him.
She stopped as she neared the door and turned to see the bus drive away. He was watching her from the window, and he waved. It occurred to her she didn’t even know his name.
She looked down at her hands. They were shaking.
Get over it. Move on.
Not everyone wanted to hurt her. Not every man was evil with ulterior motives. No, some were just nice men who wanted to take you to lunch.
Well, it wasn’t like he’d asked her to stay at a hotel. He’d offered to buy her a hot dog. Really, it was harmless. And he’d assume she was too busy with her new job if she just didn’t show up.
But she wanted to.
Well, there was no better time to move on with her life, and no better way to get to know the man on whose lap you’d ridden to work than over a hot dog.
A tingle of hope shot through her. She needed to start taking back her life the way she wanted it. No more mistakes. No more regrets. It was her life now, and she was going to enjoy it.
Mary Ellen Rothchild, the very pregnant assistant to Zachary Benson, was waiting for her as she exited the elevator. “There you are. I was worried.” She held her hand out.
Regan took her hand, giving it a firm, professional shake. “Car trouble. I had to ride the bus.”
Mary Ellen crinkled her nose and let out a grunt. “I hate the bus.”
“So do I,” she confessed as Mary Ellen led her through the office toward the break room. “But this morning wasn’t too bad. It was wet and crowded, and there was this really mean old lady.” She laughed, and Mary Ellen glanced at her. “When the bus jerked, I fell and landed right in some guy’s lap.”
“How did that go?” She raised her eyebrows playfully.
“I have a lunch date with him at noon on the corner.” Well there, she’d committed to it. And suddenly her stomach gurgled and she knew it wasn’t as much from hunger as it was from excitement for the chance to have a normal moment with a man. A stranger.
Mary Ellen showed her to her locker, where she could hang her coat and secure her purse. She introduced her to a few people and headed to her new office. Her new corner of the world. Her new beginning.
“This is your office,” Mary Ellen said as they entered a small office away from the cubicles in the main area. “Mr. Benson’s office is right through here.” Mary Ellen walked into the other, larger office behind hers. “This way he can still have you near, but be shut off from the rest of the floor. His private conference room is right through there.” She pointed to the adjoining room. Both had full walls of windows that looked out over the river that ran through downtown Nashville.
Mary Ellen walked her into Zachary’s office. “He likes coffee in his own pot.” She filled the pot with water and poured it into the coffeemaker on the counter. “He likes it strong. So four scoops and set it to strong brew.” She stuck out her tongue as if she could taste it. “Later in the day check on it. The man cannot remember to turn it off.” She started the machine.
She dusted off her hands and looked around the office. “His bathroom is private. This is important. He often showers here and sleeps on the Murphy bed.” She pointed to a set of doors in the wall. “That is a secret only you and I know, but you have to know it so you don’t startle him or yourself. He never brings anyone up with him, so no worries there,” she added with a wink. “He does have a private entry from the parking garage, so you always, always, always want to knock before entering. Again not to startle him or you.”