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Authors: Bernadette Marie

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BOOK: The Executive's Decision
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A man who would be forgetful of his coffee and sleep and shower in his office could not have much of a social life. Perhaps Mary Ellen was his only source of companionship. He would be in short supply of that from Regan. Mary Ellen did say he was a hottie, but she just couldn’t picture it. “From the sounds of it, having him scare you has been a problem in the past?”

“When he first took over this office, I’ll admit I walked in a few times and screamed out loud. Even last week I thought I’d go into labor, he’d startled me so badly.” She snorted a laugh and rubbed her oversized stomach. “I’ve never caught him in an awkward situation, but to think you’re alone and to find him sitting on the couch is a bit of a shock.”

“I can imagine.” The image of a balding, middle-aged man sprawled out on the couch with his feet up on the coffee table filled her head.

Mary Ellen walked toward his imposing cherrywood desk situated in the corner of the room. “He likes his newspapers on his desk when he comes in.
Wall Street Journal
on top,
USA Today
under that, and then the local papers. He’ll want twenty minutes after he comes in to get settled, and then you can come in with any messages or business for him to attend to.”

Regan nodded, absorbing her new instructions.

They walked out of his office and settled into
office. Regan pulled a chair up next to Mary Ellen, who flipped on the computer screen and began going over everything Regan would need to know to assist Zachary Benson, one of the most sought-after real estate developers in the nation.

“I really hope I don’t screw anything up.” Regan felt the knot in her stomach tighten again, and she feared her nerves were going to get the best of her. Lord knows she’d screwed up the last job she’d had. Suddenly every place he’d hit her throbbed with the memory of bruises.

“You’ll screw up plenty,” Mary Ellen said, and Regan shifted uncomfortably in her chair. Mary Ellen smiled and laid a gentle hand on her arm. “But that’s how you learn.”

“Great.” She wasn’t reassured.

“He’s a softy. He only fires people once in a while.”

“And if he’s a softy, what makes him fire people?” Regan’s attempt to hide the fear in her voice didn’t completely work.

“If you lose him a contract, he’ll fire you on the spot,” she said matter-of-factly. “I don’t think you’ll have to worry about it.”

Mary Ellen set forth to help Regan understand contracts and bids.

Though Regan had been around many of the forms before, she worried that she was once again placing herself in the position of caretaker of a very powerful man. Why would she think that she was doing the right thing when all she could do was concentrate on the physical pains she’d recovered from? Why hadn’t she taken the job her brother had told her about at the hospital? She’d be filing papers, not making sure some CEO’s coffeemaker was turned off, and his papers were on his desk in order.

When the phone rang, Mary Ellen handed her the wireless headset and pushed a button.

Regan’s eyes widened. She put on the headset and heard the line go live. Her body stiffened. She swallowed hard. “Good morning, Mr. Benson’s office,” she said, having heard Mary Ellen offer the greeting moments earlier.

“Good morning. May I speak to Mary Ellen Rothchild?” the man on the other end asked.

“Of course, let me connect you.” Regan fumbled for the hold button and let out a sigh. “It’s for you.”

Mary Ellen’s eyebrows pinched together as she took the phone. “This is Mary Ellen… yes… are you… Okay, I understand. In ten. That’s fine.” Her voice grew agitated as she replaced the receiver with a shake of her head. “Well, looks like you get to run the desk yourself for a few minutes. I have an urgent meeting in the lobby. I’ll be back in just a few minutes. If anything comes up and you don’t know the answer, just write it down, take a message. In a week you’re on your own anyway.” She adjusted out of the chair and rubbed her side. “This is a good time to try and fly solo.”

Mary Ellen retrieved a legal pad and a pen from the desk drawer and then headed toward the elevator.

Regan tried to settle into her new space, more than a little annoyed that she’d been training to be Zachary Benson’s assistant and he hadn’t even shown up yet. How could you run an empire if you didn’t even show up for work? Obviously, he was the kind of man Alexander Hamilton had been. The kind that pushes his employees to perform and then takes the credit for their success.

She took a moment to browse over his schedule in the computer and become familiar with the kinds of appointments she’d probably have to make excuses for when he didn’t show up.

There were plenty of meetings, both in Nashville and as far away as Los Angeles. She assumed she’d be present at most of them. Mary Ellen had made sure she had a very flexible schedule and could attend early and late meetings. She also needed to be available for business trips that lasted a week and trips that came up at the last moment. Sadly, this was something her life would allow. Her only commitments were to her family. She had dinner with them once a month, and it too was something she could reschedule if necessary.

For today, he had a meeting off site at two and a conference call at six. She assumed, looking at the other days in his schedule, this was a laid-back day.


Mary Ellen returned a half hour later and tossed her legal pad onto the desk. “Any crisis?”

“A Jason Agston from Steeple Concrete called and said the order was delayed and there was nothing more he could do about it. He’d appreciate if Zach could call him personally and get everything straightened out. A Ms. Simone Pierpont called and said, ‘That would be fine.’” She waved a hand in the air with her French accent flowing, and Mary Ellen smiled. “And his mother called and tried to get me to spill my life story when I said he wasn’t in.”

“She’s a talker. She’s gets lonely during the day when her husband plays golf or is swimming. She knows someone here will always answer the phone.”

“Will that impact my schedule much?” Did the job include taking care of his mother too?

“Only if you marry him.”

That certainly wasn’t going to happen.

She looked at her watch, which now read ten fifteen. “So where is he?”

“That was him in the lobby. He’s taken on a lunch meeting. He’ll be in this afternoon.”

“He’s not coming up to meet me?” Regan snapped, though she hadn’t meant it to sound as angry as it did. Didn’t he care whose hands he was going to be in?

Mary Ellen shrugged. “I’d say he’s a pain in the ass, but really he’s not. I’m not sure what he’s doing today. He’s usually up to his eyeballs in contracts by this time of the morning. Well, at least he’ll be your concern soon.”

Mary Ellen sank into her chair, and her eyes misted. She turned away, but Regan had noticed.

“I have a feeling you’ll miss him.”

“Nah,” Mary Ellen said, rubbing her stomach again and adjusting herself in her seat. “It’s only been ten years. I can just walk away.” She winced. “Really, though, I interviewed forty people out of one hundred applicants. You were the one I knew would take the best care of Zach.”

Regan wasn’t sure what to say to that. She’d hoped her vast knowledge of contracts had been why they’d hired her, not because she was most qualified to take care of Zachary Benson’s personal needs, especially when he didn’t have the decency to meet her. The thought left her uncomfortable with the prospect of the job at hand. Once she’d had a job for the same reason, and it hadn’t ended in the best way. She didn’t want to go through that again.


It was past noon when Mary Ellen announced she needed to eat because her head was spinning. Regan hadn’t wanted to stop her from showing her everything just so she could meet a total stranger for a hot dog.

Now she wondered if he’d even be there.

She grabbed her purse and joined the crowd in the elevator. There were four different conversations going on at the same time. She loved the banter. She’d missed corporate America.

When she walked through the lobby, sunlight streamed across the marble floor and she was glad. The sun was shining for her experimental moment of moving on.

Just beyond the door, she stopped and took out the compact from her purse and gave herself a quick glance. A quick gloss over her lips, and she had to look better than she had that morning. She walked around the side of the building to find the hot dog cart.

A variety of people in suits and skirts mingled with a few tourists in shorts in the small court between the buildings. Would she recognize him?

A laugh escaped her throat. She knew exactly what he looked like. His sandy hair and green eyes had burned his image into her mind. A shudder ran through her when she thought of his arms wrapped around her, protecting her. Enticing her. Scaring her because she feared letting a man be that close to her.

“I hope you weren’t waiting long.”

Regan’s heart hitched, and she spun around to find him standing behind her with a bouquet of daisies.

“Just got here.” She tried to catch her breath with him standing right before her. He was even more handsome in the full light of day than under the dingy glow of the bus lights. “I forgot to ask…”

“These are for you.” He handed her the bouquet and interrupted her thought on asking his name.

“Thank you.” She took the flowers from him, careful not to let their fingers meet. She was already feeling the surge of anxiety threaten her triumphant moment.

“So how is that new boss of yours?” he asked as they walked to the hot dog cart. “Working you too hard?”

“He hasn’t even shown up.” She blew out a breath of irritation then rubbed her fingers over her forehead to ward off the mark she knew was forming from her scowl. “You’d think that since I’ll be in charge of his every move by the end of the week, he’d want to meet me.”

“I’m sure he has good reason.” They approached the cart. “The usual, Frank. What will you have? Sky’s the limit.” He smiled a brilliant white smile.

He was taller than she’d realized, standing nearly a foot taller than she. “Well then, I’ll take the Polish sausage with sauerkraut and mustard, a bag of chips, and all caution thrown to the wind today, a Coke.”

“Caution thrown to the wind?”

“I don’t eat chips, drink soda, or eat hot dogs. But when a charming man asks…” When his smile widened, she stopped. It was okay to flirt with a man again, wasn’t it? Why was she so hesitant?

She swallowed hard. Because loving a man who was handsome and talked easily had broken not only her heart, but her will to live.

“This way.” He led her around the building to a courtyard that overlooked the river. An enormous fountain sat in the middle of the yard with stone tables all around. “There’s a nice spot over here.”

He started toward a blanket that had been set down under a shady tree.

She let out a long breath. “Your usual spot?”

“I suppose you could say that.” He laid down his lunch. Then he took hers and set it on the blanket as she maneuvered a seat in her skirt.

“So this is where you bring all your lady friends?” She could hear the jealousy bubble in her voice and she hated it. She didn’t want to care about this man and his life. She was being pleasant and having lunch with him because he’d asked.

“Well, I haven’t had one of those in a long time. Usually my assistant comes with me, but…” He stopped at that and bit into his hot dog. “I must say, I’m glad you took the bus today.”

“Me too. Otherwise I would have had to pay for lunch.” They shared a laugh, though his sounded more relaxed and natural than hers. Her eyes skimmed over him again. He was someone she could definitely find herself wanting to get to know better, if she’d only allow herself to do so. It was nice to have normal, female feelings toward the opposite sex again, but it scared her to the core.

BOOK: The Executive's Decision
3.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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