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A Bit of Garden Porn for Shameless Selfie Sunday

IMG_5995Since The Psychology of Dreams finished a few weeks ago, (If you missed it, you can read it in its entirety by following the link.) I’ve decided it’s time to do something completely different on A Hopeful Romantic, with my Weekend Shameless Selfies. There’s always be bad selfie or photo of me, more than likely doing silly things, along with an excerpt from one of my back catalogue novels or novellas that’s somehow connected with the selfie.

And you guessed it! Tis the season for garden porn! I couldn’t think of a better choice for a sunny August weekend that Surrogates. So, indulge in some sweet, succulent summer fruit, let the juice drip down you chin while you read a truly filthy way to enjoy your courgettes.

 

WARNING! This is garden porn, so no holds barred. Enjoy the entire first chapter!

 

Surrogates Blurb:

DANIEL ALEXANDER III takes his marriage vows seriously. Until he gets the balls to ask his wife, BEL, for a divorce, watching each other masturbate is all he can offer his beautiful gardener, FRANCIE CARTER. But when Dan’s friend, SIMON PARIS, agrees to be his surrogate, affairs of the heart get complicated.

 

Surrogates: Chapter One

‘Francie? Francie, are you there?’surrogates 2
Dan made his way around behind the jungle of runner beans, getting a shoeful of

soil when he stepped off the path. As the warm, moist earth infiltrated his dress socks, he would have cursed his clumsiness, but then he saw her on hands and knees, the swell of her hips slightly raised in her efforts to pull stubborn weeds. She didn’t have to do that. She was the head kitchen gardener, a goddess in her domain. He hired underlings to do the weeding, but fuck, he was glad she took the hands-on approach, especially at times like this. She had kicked off the silly blue plastic gardening clogs she always wore, and her bare toes curled into the soft earth as though the very touch of it was an irresistible pleasure. How could soil between toes be so goddamned sexy?

The thin summer skirt she wore barely covered the heart-shaped roundness of her bottom, hugging her and clinging in the heavy summer heat to the delicious juncture where her thighs met. There were clearly no panty lines. She gardened in skirts, like she wanted to expose herself, like the acts of planting and digging and cultivating made her a naughty bitch who couldn’t get enough. But then that was the way he saw her in his fantasies, and oh shit, did he have fantasies about her! His cock jerked with an insistence that nearly took his breath away. ‘There you are,’ he breathed, fingers already fumbling at his fly.

‘Go away. I’m busy,’ she said, giving some unfortunate weed an angry tug, an act that made the thin skirt quiver, made the firm muscles of her buttocks beneath clench and release. And his balls surged, sending a testosterone buzz clear to the crown of his head.

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He ignored the anger in her voice. Well, he didn’t actually ignore it. Her saucy temper made his cock even harder. ‘It’s all right, darling, you keep on working. Just lift your skirt for me.’ He grunted softly as he released his cock into his hand.

‘Lift it yourself. I said I’m busy.’
‘You know I can’t do that, sweetheart.’
She growled something particularly feral under her breath. He figured it wasn’t fit

for polite company, which made him wish all the more that he’d heard it.
‘I’ve got such a load for you. I’ll come all over it if you don’t lift it for me,’ he

said.

‘I have other skirts, Daniel.’ She only called him Daniel when she was really angry. ‘Why do I care where you come?’

‘Because you know where I really want to come, darling, and you have to know how badly I want it.’ He moved slightly to one side, not so far that her magnificent bottom wasn’t the centre of his attention, but far enough that, in her peripheral vision, she might catch a glimpse of him stroking his cock. Even if she couldn’t, she knew what he was doing, and he had no intention of being quiet about it. He lifted his balls free from his boxers and groaned at the feel of himself, so full, so heavy for her.

She gave another angry yank at the offending weeds, and the resulting squeeze of her buttocks nearly sent him over the edge.

He spat on his hand noisily, rubbed his saliva over the length of his cock and groaned again, squinting at her exquisite backside as though if he just stared at it hard enough he could slide the skirt up over her hips with sheer desire. And the view would be magnificent. The way her knees were open, the way she braced herself on the garden mat,

3

would showcase the tight dark bud of her anus nestled just above the splayed pout of her pussy. And her pussy, he had no doubt, would be slickened from knowing what he was doing, from knowing what he’d come for, what he so desperately wanted … needed.

‘You were with her, weren’t you? You were with your wife,’ she said, reaching a gloved hand to deposit a handful of weeds in the trug next to her, an act that made the skirt ride up even further, leaving him breathless.

‘What? No! I wasn’t. I promise. I had a meeting with my accountant that overran. I swear it, Francie darling. I haven’t seen Bel since I got home. Besides she’s staying over at her sister’s this evening. They’re having a girls’ night out. Sweetheart, you know if I were with her, I’d tell you. Haven’t I always been above board about what goes on between Bel and me?’

She knew he had. Not that there was much to tell, but on the odd occasion when Bel had had too much wine with dinner and demanded he do his husbandly duty, or when she was feeling morose about her advancing years, all thirty-four of them, and needed to be shown she was still sexy, he never lied about it. It didn’t matter what sex acts he’d had to perform to please his wife; when Francie asked for details, he gave them. A part of him hated that she always asked. Surely she knew it would be easier if she didn’t know, but she couldn’t seem to help herself. And he didn’t hold back anything, even though he was always careful to remind her that, when he did his duty where Bel was concerned, it was thinking about her, Francie, that made him come.

And all the while he told Francie what he’d done to Bel, told her details that made him blush, details that made his cock stretch and arch towards her, she listened while her cunt got slick and fat. Even as those details made her angry and unhappy, she asked for

4

IMG_5999them. And while he told her, she played with herself, fingers darting furiously in and out between her heavy slippery folds, hips shifting and grinding as she asked him in clipped, breathless words for more details. What did Bel’s pussy look like? How did she smell? Could he taste the wine she’d drunk or the spices from Cook’s curry when he ate her out? How hard did her nipples get? Did she talk dirty when he pushed into her? Jesus, having sex with Bel, even though he knew it hurt Francie, was almost worth it to watch the way Francie took the pain, twisted it, turned it, reshaped it and came on it, came in lovely gushing female squirts at what she had made of it in her filthy little head.

Of course she didn’t like it that someone else got his cock while she only got to watch him wank. He didn’t like it either, but there was nothing for it at the moment. As much as he wanted Francie, as much as he dreamed of riding her raw, he was still married to Bel, and he would stay faithful until he got the balls to ask for a divorce. No matter how badly he wanted Francie, he could never behave towards Bel the way his father had towards his mother.

So why was he such a coward? People got divorced every day. Lots of people. Hell, he knew people who had already been married and divorced multiple times. It was a simple thing to ask for a divorce these days. And yet here he was like a damned adolescent begging for a peek under a girl’s skirt. ‘Please, darling,’ he said. ‘I don’t have a lot of time, and I want to spend what I do have with you.’

He saw the sigh shiver up through her body, and he knew he’d been forgiven. She knelt up enough to take off her gloves, then with one hand she eased the skirt up over her hips and wriggled slightly to open her legs a little wider on the mat.

5

He pressed his thumb to the head of his cock. The urge to come at the sight of her all engorged and open was nearly overwhelming. The pearlescent sheen on the inside of her pouting labia told him he wasn’t the only one who needed to come. As she arched her back downward and forced her bottom even higher, her clit came into view looking like a heavy swollen marble at the apex of her pussy. ‘Oh, Francie,’ he breathed, ‘touch it for me.’

She dipped her index and middle fingers in between her slick folds then drew them upward tightly against either side of her clit until it bulged still further, like soft, ripe fruit waiting to be nibbled. And, fuck, how he wished he could!

‘Do you like that?’ she murmured, glancing over her shoulder.
‘Oh God, yes,’ he grunted.
‘I thought you weren’t going to show. I was angry,’ she said. ‘Oh, I definitely had

plans for the vegetables I was sending Cook for your dinner tonight.’ She nodded at the basket of mixed phallic veg sitting on the ground next to her.

His cock jerked. ‘Show me,’ he whispered. ‘Show me what you were going to do to my veg.’

She took a heavy courgette slightly thicker than his cock, crooked and arched nearly in the shape of a banana. She gave it a leisurely deep-throating that had him thumbing the underside of his cock again, that had him imagining how it would feel if it were him getting the benefit of her delicious tongue. Her cheek muscles tugged and pulled on the courgette like it was a rod of steel.

When she was absolutely certain she had his full attention, she repositioned herself to face him. She wriggled her bare arse down on to the mat with her legs splayed.

6

With one hand she scrunched her skirt into a wad just below her navel, raking her long slender hand over tightly
trimmed pubic curls, then she slid two fingers into her milky cunt and opened herself. With a little lifting of her buttocks and shifting of her hips she was ready. She snugged the hard jut of the courgette up tight against her reluctant pout.

Suddenly it was as though he weren’t even there, and that made it all the harder for him to hold his wad. She spat on her fingers and rubbed saliva around the place where the courgette met the tight press of her cunt hole. As though the task at hand demanded all the focus in the world, she alternately lubricated and pushed, lubricated and pushed, all the while making tight little grunting sounds low in her belly. He couldn’t take his eyes off the slow but relentless yielding of her grudging pussy to the press of the veg. With each push, with each shift, her clit marbled and beaded harder and harder just above the nudging of the courgette. She continued to push and stroke, push and stroke until at last her pussy hole yielded, her eyes fluttered and she caught her breath in a little gasp as the veg slid cock-deep into her gash.

‘Ah!’ she breathed. ‘That’s better. That’s just what I needed. Such a tight fit, but oh so yummy.’ Then she raised her eyes to meet his and offered him a smile that was almost shy. ‘Now I’m ready to come.’ Fingers still wet from her efforts with the veg, she undid the buttons of her sundress, releasing high firm breasts topped with heavy raspberry nipples into the pinching, kneading caress of one hand.

‘I don’t know about you –’ she grunted as she began to thrust and gyrate against the veg ‘– but I won’t be able to hold back long with all this heft up in my tight little fanny. And when I’m done coming, I’ll let you take the veg to the house for Cook. That way if you want to sneak a taste of my cunt, who’ll know?’ With each breathless thrust

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she lifted her arse off the gardening mat, giving him teasing glimpses of her gripping anus, and she knew exactly what he was looking at. She offered a throaty chuckle. ‘Maybe next time I’ll let you watch me shove a nice plump carrot back there. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?’

He only nodded. This was the point in their wank sessions where he always fell silent, too taken in by the heat of her, by the want of her, by the knowing that this was as much as he could allow himself of her, no matter how willing she was. He yanked at his cock like it was a wild thing he had to tame. He yanked until it hurt, and he kneaded his balls, feeling the surge at the base all ready to spill out on to the warm earth in front of Francie. It was the best he had to offer her right now, his humiliation, his need, his lust once removed.

She fell back on to the ground with a little cry, legs apart, offering him an exquisite view of the tremors of her orgasm tightly stretched around the courgette. The view, combined with the ripe scent of her, was more than he could endure, and he unloaded in heavy spurts on to the ground scant centimetres from her bare thigh. He unloaded till he thought he’d turn himself inside out, convulsing and grunting until he was spent, bent forward on his knees in the veg bed next to her, gasping and gulping for breath.

It was almost enough to give him the courage to ask Isabel for a divorce. He was sure he could almost do it after such erotic bliss, and what a lovely surprise it would be for Francie. But before he could verbalise that bliss, Bel’s voice rang out over the garden wall.

‘Dan? Dan, are you there?’ Fortunately they heard her before she found them.

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Francie cursed under her breath, grabbed the basket and fled into the greenhouse.

With a painful effort, Dan shoved his cock into his trousers and kicked at the earth to bury the evidence. ‘Coming, Bel.’ He fought hard not to sound breathless as his wife, dressed in tight jeans and a vest that showed plenty of her ample cleavage, stepped through the gate. He forced a smile. ‘I thought you were at your sister’s for the night, sweetheart.’

‘We had to cancel. She’s down with some sort of stomach virus.’ She grimaced. ‘God knows, I don’t need that.’ She took IMG_5998his arm. ‘I’ll be keeping you company this evening, darling. I thought maybe we’d make our own entertainment a little later. My massage therapist says sex is great for keeping the skin looking young. She says you’d be surprised at all the health benefits of an active sex life.’

Dan gave a quick glance over his shoulder, hoping desperately that Francie hadn’t overheard, but she had disappeared.

Bel continued. ‘Cook told me you were out here, so I thought I’d come down and have Francie send up a few more veg for dinner. During my massage today, Ellen also told me that we’d both benefit from eating more veg. She says a diet full of veg is the next best thing to the fountain of youth.’ She gestured exuberantly. ‘She says veg and sex are the keys to health and vitality. She says Francie probably grows most of the veggie superfoods right here in her garden.’ She looked around. ‘Where is Francie anyway? You haven’t seen her, have you?

Buy Surrogates Here:

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon AU
Amazon CA
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“Full of quirky characters, kinky sex, unusual settings and clever writing, Surrogates is definitely an erotic romance novella I’d recommend if you’re looking for something a little different.” Erotica For All

*****

“This was an exciting and sexy read at the turn of every page, with a storyline that was so original it was brilliant. If you want a fun, fast read with great character flow and connection and hot sex on almost every page this is for you.” Midnight Boudoir

*****

“Surrogates is the perfect novel for any erotica reader out there… hot, sexy, sensual… it definitely defines erotica it in it’s own right. K.D Grace is one amazing author whose novels simply should be devoured!” A Redheads Guilty Reads

*****
“There are plenty of hot hot sex scenes and a case of mistaken identity and misunderstandings. It is a fun and quick read. Overall, very well written. The characters come alive on the pages and they feel real. I recommend it to anyone who likes short, erotic tales and who aren’t put off by some f/f action and threesomes.” Hearts on Fire Reviews

*****

“Surrogates is full of tongue in cheek comedy, and has just the right amount of erotica to fill readers minds with accounts of how both Daniel and Bel get their orgasms. This is a voyeur’s version of heaven.” 5 out of 5, Love Romance Passion

 

I Make An Executive Decision

Knowing that everyone is gearing up for a long weekend, and for some people that will involve relaxing in the sunshine with a good read, I thought I’d continue on with the spirit of the Interviewing Wade Blog Tour and Giveaway by giving you something to read. It was the first three Executive Decisions novels that led fans to demand Wade’s story. And while Wade is a secondary character in each of those novels, his role is vital and vibrant. I’ve decided to celebrate the release of Interviewing Wade by sharing the first chapter of each of the first three Executive Decisions novels with you, so to begin with, here is chapter 1 from An Executive Decision.

Happy Reading!

Also be sure to check out all the Interviewing Wade Blog Tour and Giveaway by following the link.

Blurb An Executive Decision:Book One of the Executive Decision Trilogy

(Click here for Book Two | Book Three Interviewing Wade )

Sex in the contract – it’s the only way super-focused, over-worked CEO, Ellison Thorne, is ever going to get laid. That’s what his retiring business partner and secret match-maker, Beverly Neumann, thinks. She’s convinced no-strings, stress-free sex in certain employee contracts would raise productivity and minimize stress — perfect for a busy executive like Ellis. But she’s joking, right?

Enter her hand-picked replacement, Dee Henning. Young, hungry, gifted, Dee is the queen of no time for sex. When negotiations on a major project break down, and Dee and Ellis end up in each other’s arms, the Executive Sex Clause suddenly becomes more than a joke. In fact hot executive sex just might be the ultimate secret weapon for success. But secrets seldom remain secret, and Dee and Ellis soon learn there’s no such thing as no-strings where the heart is concerned.

AED new coverChapter 1

Dee gave herself one last inspection in the mirrored walls of the elevator. No tell-tale trembling or sweating; the stage was fright all hidden beneath a well-polished exterior. How could she be this tense? She’d been in business with the big boys long enough to have nerves of steel. But this was Ellison Thorne she was meeting. The man was in a league of his own. She’d waited three years for this opportunity, and she was determined he wouldn’t see the mass of quavering jelly beneath the calm.

When she reached the executive suites, Beverly Neumann beckoned Dee into her office. ‘Ellis is stuck in traffic. He figures it’ll be at least another half hour.’

‘That’s too bad.’ Dee tried to mask her disappointment. She had a meeting with a potential head of marketing for Sportwide Extreme Adventure immediately after this, so there’d be no lingering if Ellis didn’t arrive before her hour was up.

‘I know he’ll do his best to get here,’ Beverly said. ‘He’s dying to meet the woman who threw a drink in Terrance Jamison’s face at Jasper and McDowell’s big New Year bash last year.’

Dee blushed. ‘Not funny, Beverly. I nearly lost my job over that.’ She still couldn’t figure why the man hadn’t sued her ass off or ruined her career or had henchmen break the legs of her family and close friends. Even now it made her nervous that he’d taken it so graciously.

‘And if you had, there’d have been ten companies in line to hire you, including Pneuma Inc,’ Beverly said. ‘It was so worth it. If only I’d had the presence of mind to record it all on my iPhone, you’d have been the queen of YouTube. You seldom get that caliber of entertainment at a corporate New Years party.’

Dee glanced at the front page of The Oregonian lying on Beverly’s desk. There was a photo of Ellis shaking hands with the governor. The caption read, Ellison Thorne, a force of nature working for nature. She studied the image, one of many she’d seen of him. Though there was a warmth about him in the photos, it was never blatant, always slightly distant. She was familiar with that distance. She’d been accused of it herself by colleagues who just didn’t understand her sense of focus.

She lingered over the photo admiring again the short brown hair with its patina of bronze, which laid bare the strong geography of his face. The well-defined jaw and firm brow created a fortress, of sorts, keeping his emotions and thoughts from the prying hordes. From it, he looked out on the world through dark amber eyes that never missed anything and never gave anything away. Heroes were like that, she thought, and she had idolized him and his company for a long time.

It was through Beverly that Dee occasionally caught more intimate glimpses of Ellison Thorne. No doubt he’d be appalled if he knew. But that was a part of her meetings with the woman that Dee always looked forward to.

Beverly nodded to the seat in front of her desk. ‘Might as well relax. He’ll get here when he gets here.’ She turned her attention to the forest of plants behind her desk and began misting the broad leaves of something that must have come straight from The Little Shop of Horrors. Thanks to Beverly’s insistence that a green work place actually be green, the whole ten-story cantilevered edifice that was the Pneuma building was one colossal hanging garden. It was healthier that way, she’d said.

Dee sat down a safe distance from the sinister-looking foliage. ‘You don’t need to go to the rainforest. You’ve got a jungle right here in your office.’

‘You sound like Ellis,’ Beverly said.

‘Is he still giving you a hard time about your trip to Brazil?’

‘One minute he’s treating me like an old lady, saying it’s too dangerous for someone my age to go trekking through the jungle, and the next he’s telling me I’m too young to retire and he absolutely can’t run the place without me for at least five more years.’ She brushed pollen from the jacket of her power suit. ‘Five more years! Do you have any idea how much life a person can miss out on in five years?’

‘So what will you do?’ Dee asked.

‘Well,’ Beverly rearranged the leaves of a large fern as though it were her favorite child, ‘first I’m going to Brazil. I haven’t had a real vacation in longer than I care to remember. And when I get back, if he doesn’t find someone to replace me while I’m still here to help train them, that’s just too damned bad, because in exactly one year, I’m out of here.’

‘Good for you. Life’s too short not to go for it when you get the chance.’

‘Yes it is, isn’t it? And speaking of going for it,’ Beverly sat down in her chair and leaned conspiratorially across her desk, ‘I hear the accountant over at Ab Con – what’s his name, the one with the dark hair that always looks like someone’s been running their fingers through it, I hear he sent you flowers.’

‘I recruited the best finance manager in the history of finance managers for Ab Con, Beverly. I earned every one of those flowers.’

‘Earned the flowers?’ Beverly frowned at her and clucked her tongue. ‘What part about the man being hot for you did you not get, sweetie?’ Before Dee could cut her off at the pass, Beverly was on a roll. ‘Honestly you’re hopeless, Dee Henning. I understand your focus, your drive to succeed, really I do, but I gotta wonder how you even call it success when you’re so wrapped up in your work that the only way you’ll ever get laid is if they put it in the job description. And frankly, if I had my way and I were running the business world, sex would be a contract requirement.’

Dee rolled her eyes, but Beverly clasped her hands on top of her desk, doing a fair imitation of a psychoanalyst. ‘I worry about you, Dee. I really do. Not having time for sex just isn’t healthy.’

‘You’re probably right, it probably isn’t –’ Dee change the subject by shoving a half a dozen files across the desk at Beverly. ‘– but it’s also not healthy for Ellis not to have a replacement for his retiring executive assistant.’ The title, executive assistant, was entirely misleading. Dee knew that Beverly, not Ellis, had chosen it. And though technically she was his equal in the business the two of them, along with Wade Crittenden, had begun thirteen years ago, Beverly preferred to work quietly with no pompous moniker to live up to. She wore the title proudly and carried the incredible burden it entailed with panache and enthusiasm. Dee was certain that whoever took up Beverly’s weighty mantle would inherit the humble title as well as its prodigious responsibilities.

AED_teaserJust then Beverly’s Blackberry buzzed. ‘Damn!’ She punched in a quick reply. ‘Ellis says the traffic’s at a standstill. I was really hoping the two of you would finally meet before I head off to Brazil.’

Dee buried her disappointment. Meeting Ellison Thorne was not the real reason she was here, she reminded herself. She still had work to do. She nodded down at the files of resumes of Beverly’s perspective replacements. ‘Best get to it then, hadn’t we?’

But Beverly pushed the files to one side and picked up right where she’d left of. God, the woman was tenacious! ‘Seems to me the obvious solution is to include sex in certain job descriptions, like for an executive assistant, or a secretary, or any position where two people work closely. That’d be a good start, don’t you think?’

‘Great idea. Maybe I’ll find myself a nice male secretary.’ Dee gave the door a quick glance, certain she’d heard someone approaching. There was no one, but in any case, she was sure that wouldn’t have stopped Beverly.

‘I think that would be a wise decision for a busy executive. And I doubt you’d have any shortage of applicants. Ellis wouldn’t either, and the benefits to both of you – well, I think you’d be amazed. I’ve given it a lot of thought and I personally can’t see a down side.’ Beverly continued her speculations. ‘Just think of how much more relaxed the two of you would be if you and Ellis had a reliable source of stress-free sex available when you needed it. Imagine how much more focused you’d both be if your junk wasn’t interfering with your brain.’

Dee straightened in her chair. ‘My … junk does not interfere with my brain.’

Beverly leaned over the desk like an accusing lawyer. ‘Ah, but how do you really know that, since you’re not getting any?’

‘Beverly –’

‘The Executive Sex Clause could reduce sick days.

‘I’m never sick.’

Beverly came around the desk and laid an unsolicited hand on her forehead. ‘I’ve been thinking you look a little pale, and you feel a bit warm to me.’

Dee brushed her hand aside. ‘I’m fine. I don’t need the sick days I’ve got, and I bet Ellis doesn’t either.’

‘A good thing, since you wouldn’t have time to take them if you did. Forget sick days, think of the increase in productivity, the boost to creativity. Think of the serenity in the work place. That’s gotta be worth something. The possibilities are endless.’

‘My productivity’s fine and I’m very creative. And I work at Jasper and McDowell. Serenity isn’t part of the package.’ This conversation had gone far enough, farther than Dee wanted, and she really didn’t have time to wait any longer for Ellis. It looked like the long awaited meeting with the force of nature would have to wait for yet another time. Dee nodded to the folders on Beverly’s desk. ‘As interesting as the idea of a Sex Clause might be, if you insist on deserting Ellis, I need to do my job and find someone who can take your place, which won’t be an easy task.’

When the meeting finished, Beverly walked her to the door, glancing down at her watch. ‘Sorry you missed Ellis. But you know how it is with busy executives, it’s catch as catch can, isn’t it?’

Dee had the distinct feeling the woman wasn’t talking about work. She said her good-byes and promised they’d get together when Beverly returned from Brazil.

‘I missed her again didn’t I? She’s going to think I’m avoiding her.’ Ellis dropped into the chair in front of Beverly’s desk and flipped absently through the files Dee Henning had just left. ‘It’s not her that I’m avoiding; I’m avoiding your silly retirement plans.’

‘You won’t be laughing when you come in here some morning and find my desk empty. You’ll be SOL big time, boy.’

Ellis pulled one of the files from the stack and handed it to her. ‘Here. Here’s my choice. Why not Tally Barnes? She’s about as qualified as anyone, I guess.’

She shoved the folder back at him. ‘You know why not Tally Barnes, now stop being a smart ass.’

He offered her an amused chuckle. ‘Who are you kidding, Beverly? You love this place and you know it. You’re not going to retire. How many false alarms have there been now, three? Four? I’ve lost count. Face it; you’ll work here until you drop dead.’

‘Believe what you want, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.’ She pulled a manila envelope from the top drawer of her desk and handed it to him.

‘What’s this?’

IC_teaser‘My replacement. Since you won’t help, I’ve taken matters into my own hands. She’s been right under our noses all along.’ She rubbed her hands together with a shiver of anticipation. ‘Come on, humor me.’

Still holding her in a disapproving gaze, he took the envelope as though he half expected it to be booby trapped. He opened the clasp then slid the contents from inside and gave it a glance. ‘Wait a minute. This is a file on Dee Henning. You can’t be serious. You want a head hunter to take over running half of Pneuma Inc?’

‘Don’t be such a snob, Ellis. It’s not like she’ll be taking over tomorrow. I’ll be here to train her up to suit your persnickety standards.’

‘Then why not promote Tally Barnes? I don’t see what you have against her. She always seems fine to me.’ He nodded to the top file in the stack Dee had brought in. ‘She already works for Pneuma Inc, and she’s a lot more qualified. You could train her up.’

‘Oh she’s already convinced she’s a shoo-in. Hell she’s already planning to redecorate my office. Wouldn’t be too surprised if she has plans for you too. Don’t give me that snooty smirk. She’s a trouble-maker, Ellis. Oh she’s great at ass-kissing, and that’s why Tally Barnes always seems fine to you. I don’t like her and I don’t trust her. You know I’m a good judge of character. Trust me on this; she’s not right for my job no matter what her resume says.’

‘Suit yourself.’ He returned his attention to Dee Henning’s details. ‘How did you get this information anyway?’ The file was too thick for a simple resume, and some of the pages looked like hand-written notes photocopied. Others were odd sizes, some were written on post-it notes, and the whole packaged smacked of Beverly’s scheming.

‘Portland’s a small city.’ Suddenly she seemed particularly interested in the leaves of a thriving Christmas cactus sitting on the edge of her desk.

‘Beverly?’

‘I’m friends with Irv McDowell, okay? At least I think we’re still friends.’ The look of driven-snow innocence gave way to something just slightly this side of devious.

‘You’ve been head-hunting from the head head hunter? Dee Henning’s Jasper and McDowell’s star recruiter. Surely Irv didn’t give you this willingly.’

Beverly ignored the question and nodded at the photo he now held in his hand.

‘She’s exactly what you need on all counts. Though it’s true she’s only a few years out of grad school, what impresses me is her accomplishments during that time. She reminds me of you back in the early days – young, hungry, dedicated… And pretty. Don’t give me that look, Ellis, you’d blush if you heard some of the juicy conversations about you I overhear in the ladies’ room.’

He pretended to ignore the photo. ‘Your delusions aside, it doesn’t matter — that she’s good looking, I mean.’

‘And that’s why you’re drooling over the photo? I may be old, Ellis, but there’s nothing wrong with my eyesight.’

He put the picture of Dee aside and flipped through the file. ‘What all do you have in here anyway?’ He read out loud from the photocopied pages. ‘Classically trained, voice and piano? Oh, that’ll come in really handy here at Pneuma Inc. In fact, I was just thinking of requiring it for all new employees.’

‘Stop being an asshole. It’s just background information, just stuff that’s good to know.’

TE_teaserA hand-written note stated that both of Dee’s parents were musicians. Her father had sung in the chorus for the Paris Opera. Her mother was a soprano, who went to Paris on some summer program, and nine months later Dee came along. Ellis suddenly felt like a voyeur. ‘This is none of our business.’ He tried to shove the file back at Beverly, but she refused it.

‘Oh for chrissake, Ellis, there’s nothing in there I haven’t already wheedled out of the girl over coffee or drinks. Don’t be such a wuss.’

‘I’m sure she didn’t give you the copy of her finances over coffee and drinks.’

‘Oh that. Just tells us that we can’t appeal to her with money alone.’

‘Clearly she doesn’t need it,’ he said. He was surprised to find someone so young had such a good portfolio. She obviously knew how to make money work for her. She wasn’t exactly rich, but give her a few more years, and she would be.

‘My point exactly. Musicians tend to be poor, and I think our Dee has taken it upon herself not to follow in her parents’ footsteps.’

‘If the need ever actually arises for me to interview her, what makes you think she’s even interested in working for me? She’s got a growing career with Jasper and McDowell, and as you said, she’s making very good money.’

Beverly frowned. ‘Jasper and McDowell is a means to an end. Surely you don’t expect someone with her talent to settle in there permanently, do you? It’s the experience of working here with you that’ll appeal to her. She’s a perfectionist, never does anything half-assed. She’s always striving to be the best. She’s driven, just like you are. Remember that when you interview her.’

He shuffled pages. ‘What did you have to do to get this stuff, tie Irv to a chair and beat him with a tire iron?’

‘It’s amazing what a man will tell you over a couple of drinks.’

‘You got him drunk.’

‘It wasn’t that hard. He never could hold his booze. I can’t believe I didn’t figure it out sooner. She’s perfect for my job.’

Ellis looked down at the resume. ‘She’s not perfect for your job, Beverly. She’s too young, too inexperienced, and this is not even her area of expertise.’

‘The woman’s a head hunter, Ellis. She has to be competent in lots of areas. Besides, we’ve always been risk-takers at Pneuma Inc, and those risks have always paid off. I’ll train her myself, and you’ll see, within a few months she’ll be able to run this place on her own.’

‘An opportunity she’ll never get because you’ll never retire.’

‘Forget about my retirement, Ellis. It’s time. You know it is. We need someone in training for when the inevitable happens.’

Wade_teaserHe gave up pretending to ignore the photo, which was definitely the nicest thing he’d looked at all day. Short, dark hair framed blue eyes, a straight Roman nose, and a full-lipped smile that suggested competence, with a touch of mischief. So this was what Dee Henning looked like. He’d often wondered.

‘Hire her, Ellis. It’s not just that I’m retiring, but I’m old. Hell I could drop dead anytime, then what?’

‘Oh for chrissakes, Beverly, we both know you’re too damned ornery to die. You’ll outlive me. But I tell you what, if and when you do drop dead, I’ll hire her. Hell, when you drop dead, I’ll give her your job on a silver platter and train her myself, I promise. Now can we get back to running the business here?’

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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