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A Shameless Selfie for Food Philistines: Interviewing Wade

I’m visiting Grace Marshall’s back list for today’s Shameless Selfie. While the little piccie isn’t actually a selfie,  it certainly could be. I suppose I made Wade and Carla food philistines in Interviewing Wade because I’m a bit of one myself —  especially when I’m busy writing. When my head is down and I’m in the zone, anything that fills the void will get me there — though I try to make my choices a little healthier than Wade and Carla do.

That they find comeraderie in food that’s neither gourmet nor all that healthy is something that endeared me to them. That they both have the genes and the metabolism to not have to worry about what or how much they ate makes me more than a little envious.  They’re busy people, and they’re both a bit obsessive about their work. That being the case, they don’t really think about what they eat. An unexpected late-night breakfast turns out to be way more of a bonding experience than either of them expected.

Here’s a tasty little excerpt

 

 

Interviewing Wade is Book Four of The Executive Decision Series (Click Here for Book One | Book Two | Book Three)

 

Interviewing Wade Blurb:

The Executive Decisions Trilogy may be over, but the story continues. Intrepid reporter, Carla Flannery, wants to interview Wade Crittenden, the secretive creative genius behind Pneuma Inc. But when, against all odds, Wade actually agrees to the interview, Carla suspects ulterior motives.

Carla has made a lot of enemies in her work and when Wade discovers she’s being stalked, he agrees to the interview to keep her close and safe. As the situation turns deadly, lives and hearts are on the line, and the interview reveals far more about both than either ever expected.

 

Interviewing Wade Excerpt:

Carla nodded to the chair opposite her and Wade sat down cautiously. She offered a dry smile and spoke around a mouthful of toast. ‘Chair’s not booby-trapped, food’s not poisoned. My security system’s not that good.’

When he made no reply but savoured a forkful of eggs, she joined him in devouring the feast, satisfied that after the first bite, he shovelled it in with as much relish and lack of delicate table manners as she did. With her, eating was always done in a hurry to get on with what was always way more work than she had time for, unless she was settling in for a meal with her father. She suspected he cooked for her especially for that reason. And as she watched Wade stuff half a slice of toast into his mouth in one go, she figured he was probably the same, with no one to make sure he got a good meal from time to time. Though possibly Ellis invited him over occasionally, or maybe Harris Walker and his new wife, Stacie Emerson. Apparently her culinary skills were spoken about in hush tones. Strange, but it felt good to be able to offer something to Wade, even if the idiot did show up at three in the morning

‘Good,’ he said, at last, covering his full mouth with the paper towel she’d given him in lieu of the napkins she didn’t have.

‘Thanks. You think this is good, you should see me make Pop Tarts.

‘I like Pop Tarts,’ he said.

‘The secret is,’ she leaned across the table, ‘you’ve got to get the toaster set just right. And then afterwards,’ he leaned closer with wrapped attention, ‘afterwards I put butter on ‘em and stick ‘em in the microwave until it melts.’

Wade’s eyes were huge and very green in the kitchen lighting. He looked dead serious, as though she had just given him her secret for cold fusion. ‘I never thought about melting the butter on them in the microwave,’ he said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. ‘But I find that I do like mine so that the little pastry edges are just beginning to get almost too brown.’

Christ! Were they actually talking about Pop Tarts? She laughed. ‘I like ‘em almost burnt, but I know that’s a matter of personal taste. My Dad likes his just barely warm.’

He lowered his head and went back to shovelling eggs.

She popped the last of her bacon into her mouth and spoke around it. ‘So tell me, is Fort Flannery as unassailable as my father assured me, or are we in need of an upgrade?’

He drained his glass of orange juice and pushed back from the table. ‘Your father did a good job. I didn’t have to do hardly anything.’

‘He’ll be glad to hear that,’ she said. ‘Sorry you had to waste your valuable time in the wee hours. I know how busy you are.’

‘Yes, well, it was on my mind. If you’ll let me see your Android, I’ll give it a little upgrade too.’

‘Will I be able to watch Russian porn on it?’ she asked.

‘Japanese and Chinese porn as well, if you like.’ There was that quirk of a smile that she really would love to eat right off his face.

‘And I’ll assume you’ve given it a test-drive.’

To her delight, the smile didn’t disappear, even though the blush was hot on those chiselled cheeks. ‘I’m my own best guinea pig.’

‘Wade Crittenden, that borders on too much information, but in the interest of consumer protection and all, I thank you.’ The blush grew, but the smile stayed put as she offered him a salute and went into her bedroom to get the device.

She returned to find that he’d shed his hoodie and was filling the sink with soapy water, his broad back mantling the counter like a giant bird of prey. For a second her stomach bottomed at the sight of Wade Crittenden doing dishes at her sink. She stood, Android crushed to her chest, feeling flushed and slightly off-balance. His t-shirt was a loose fit, misshapen and short in the back from too many washings for something that should have migrated to the rag drawer some time ago, and when he reached across the sink to add still more soap, the shirt rode up to reveal the slim line of his back and the muscles where his hips joined his torso just above the swell of his buttocks. The baggy jeans gave enough of an intimation of that swelling to leave Carla breathless and hot enough to want to throw off her own hoodie and splash herself with the soapy water in which he was nearly elbow-deep.

As though he sensed her watching, he turned, slopped water down the front of his shirt and onto his jeans and uttered a surprised curse.

Without thinking she rushed to his side, dropping the device on the table. ‘You don’t have to do that,’ she managed, in a breathless gasp. ‘Sometimes I go for weeks without ever washing so much as a coffee cup.’ She stretched around him, grabbed for a dish towel and offered it to him instead of patting him dry herself, which was what she really wanted to do.

He reached for the towel, holding her gaze. ‘You cook for me, I do the clean-up for you. Fair’s fair.’ His hand slid into the cloth and around her fingers as he drew it to his chest. His breath caught, his lips parted as though to speak, and God help her, she couldn’t resist, she leaned into him on tippy-toe and planted a kiss firmly on his mouth. She only meant for it to be a friendly peck, a way of saying thanks for checking up on her and for doing the dishes, but his other hand, covered with soapy water, swooped in and grabbed the front of her hoodie reeling her to him. Then he curled his fingers in the tangle of her wild hair and cradled the back of her head, pulling her still further up on her toes. ‘Oh God,’ he whispered, his tongue darting deep, his lips, soft and hard and bruising all at the same time, meeting hers in a clash of wills and a heroic effort to get closer and deeper. ‘Oh God, Carla, why did you do that,’ he gasped against her mouth.

‘Just being friendly,’ she managed, before the tongue sparring got serious. He gave the towel a toss and yanked down the zipper of her hoodie, shoving it off onto the floor, his hands skimming her breasts in his efforts, thumbs lingering to rake her nipples that were already painful in their peaking. His jeans might have been loose, but they were not loose enough to disguise his erection, and he didn’t seem to care. Both hands slid to cup her bottom and he lifted her, settling her onto the kitchen table, pushing her legs apart with his knees and moving in between her thighs as she went to work on his fly.

‘I have lots of friends,’ he breathed. ‘None of them do that to me.’

‘How about this,’ she said biting his lower lip and sliding her hand down inside his boxers. ‘Do they do this?’

‘No,’ he returned the nip. ‘Never, none of them.’ For a second he faltered. ‘Carla, I –’

‘Shut up, Wade. I don’t wanna hear it.’ This time she bit his tongue before she took his hand and guided it down into her baggy sweat bottoms and into her own boxers.

 

 

 

Available from:

eBook:

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon AU
Amazon CA
Barnes & Noble
iBooks UK
iBooks US
Kobo

Print:
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA

 

 

 

 

 

Reviews:

“Take one part of tall, dark and reclusive millionaire who likes to go bowling alone on Monday mornings, stir in another part in-your-face intrepid female reporter who never gives up until she gets her story and shake it up with a killer who has a score or two to settle. The result is a steamy and suspenseful tale that takes you on a fast-paced ride and keeps you turning the pages. The suspense is well done and really kept my interest. The book is easy to recommend. You won’t want to put it down. Go and grab your copy.” 4.5 out of 5, Love Bites and Silk Ties

“The story is well paced, with only inklings of the stalker’s identity showing up, after all kinds of computer searching, and old-fashioned footwork. The climax is shivery scary, and I couldn’t put it down.” 5 out of 5, Manic Readers

 

I Make an Executive Decision to Interview Wade! Chapter 1

Aaaaand! One final Executive Decision on my part to round out the lot! Since Interviewing Wade is hot off the press, and you’ve now gotten a look at Wade’s friend’s and Wade’s world though the first chapters of An Executive Decision, Identity Crisis and The Exhibition, and it’s now time to give you a peek at the opening chapter of Interviewing Wade and give you an introduction to Carla Flannery and Wade Crittenden.

 

Happy Reading!

 

Interviewing Wade_edited-1Interviewing Wade

An Executive Decision follow up novel (Click Here for Book One | Book Two | Book Three)

The Executive Decisions Trilogy may be over, but the story continues. Intrepid reporter, Carla Flannery, wants to interview Wade Crittenden, the secretive creative genius behind Pneuma Inc. But when, against all odds, Wade actually agrees to the interview, Carla suspects ulterior motives.

Carla has made a lot of enemies in her work and when Wade discovers she’s being stalked, he agrees to the interview to keep her close and safe. As the situation turns deadly, lives and hearts are on the line, and the interview reveals far more about both than either ever expected.

 

Chapter 1

Carla Flannery took a large gulp of what that was supposed to be coffee, but she suspected was actually lubricant for heavy machinery. She made a heroic effort to swallow, and then shuddered at the after-bite. The cut on her face stung, but it had stopped bleeding, so she ignored it as she went over her notes on the rescue of Devon Melbourne and the arrest of his kidnappers – well some of his kidnappers, anyway. The police suspected that Rigby Eberhardt was only the flunky but, for whatever reason, he was taking the fall. She had a good rapport with most of the cops at the station, so she would eventually find out. They didn’t trust many reporters, but they trusted her, probably because of her father and her inadvertent association with Wade Crittenden. It actually wasn’t much of an association. For the most part, Wade ignored her. At the best of times he tolerated her – probably because she was Martin Flannery’s daughter. Well, being a good reporter was all about contacts, networking and being able to namedrop when necessary, so if Wade’s name got her into certain inner sanctums, she wasn’t above dropping it.

She glanced down at her watch and then at the closed door of the interrogation room. She knew Wade wasn’t inside, but was pretty sure he was watching the questioning of Eberhardt from the two-way mirror. She’d seen him go down the hall with Detective Meyers. They’d been back there forever. She’d sent off a quick story to her editor from the scene of the rescue, as soon as she’d gotten over the shakes. Flannery scoops it again, she thought with a smile. She supposed a high-five from Wade was too much to ask, but he’d glared at her like she’d just killed his cat. Still, Wade, and his cat – if he had one – weren’t the issue. Carla had all ready updated her story after she’d talked to the police, and she wanted to talk to Wade for the next update. She knew the night’s rescue and subsequent arrest wouldn’t have happened without Wade’s help, but it wouldn’t have happened without hers either. It hadn’t been her intention to still be in the vacant apartment building when the police raided. She was a journalist, not a cop, and she didn’t make a habit of hanging out at crime scenes – well unless you counted the illegal landfill over by John Day or the warehouse outside Gresham where stolen cars were being cannibalised for parts. And that horrible stalker who tried to kidnap Kendra Davis well it was hardly Carla’s fault that he decided he wanted her to have an exclusive on his creepy brilliance. Wade had played a major part in saving Kendra Davis’s life too, but so had her quick actions. She would hardly go so far as to think of them as a damn good team. He certainly didn’t think of her at all. Not that she wanted him to, of course. Not that she cared what Wade Crittenden thought of her.

Back to the present situation though, the truth was, the police wouldn’t have raided at all if she hadn’t put two and two together, gone to the building and realised what was going on. They wouldn’t have known where Rigby Eberhardt was holding the heir to the Melbourne empire if Carla hadn’t figured it out and called them in. It wasn’t her fault that she got caught out when Eberhardt and his cohort showed up unexpectedly. Then when it became clear that they were getting ready to move Melbourne somewhere else, namely the bottom of the Willamette River in a weighted-down garbage bag, what else could she do but text Wade and the cops from her hiding place in the closet?

She looked at her watch one more time. What the hell was Wade doing? She wanted to make sure he was all right. He was favouring his arm when he came out of the derelict building with the police and Devon Melbourne. No other civilian but Wade Crittenden would have been allowed access. She’d been severely reprimanded by Detective Meyers for her part in the incident – never mind that it was her part that got Devon Melbourne back alive. All she wanted was just a few quotes from Wade before he told her to fuck off, he was busy. That was the man’s standard answer to everyone. Go away, he was busy. He wasn’t known for his social skills, and he certainly hadn’t been happy to see her tonight.

AED_teaserShe nearly choked on the last of the lube-oil coffee as the door to the interrogation room burst open disgorging Detective Meyers, who was joined almost immediately by a very stern-looking Wade Crittenden. She had to do a double take. Wade wasn’t cloaked his usual baggy hoodie. He had given it to Devon Melbourne, who was wearing only a singlet and a pair of shorts when the kidnappers had taken him during his morning run along the river. She had never seen Wade without the baggy jacket, even in the heat of the summer. But Wow! The man clearly did more than just play with computers. He wore a faded black Portland State t-shirt that was not tight, but was definitely not baggy enough to hide broad well-muscled shoulders and that squared, ramrod upper body that had fit written all over it. His left bicep looked as though it might burst from a strip of gauze bandage wrapped carelessly around it several times. God, what the hell did the man do with himself when he wasn’t being Pneuma Inc’s genius nerd? She knew he bowled, but she’d never heard of anyone getting that ripped from bowling. He wore the shirt tucked into a pair of threadbare low-riding Levis settled over scuffed hiking boots that looked well past their sell-by date. And bed head! Wade Crittenden had bed head. His rich brown hair, sorely in need of a cut, had the just up from a romp between the sheets look prissy men moussed and blow-dried to get. But Wade Crittenden didn’t have a fashion-conscious bone in his body and try though she might, she couldn’t keep from thinking of the man just up out of bed. Preferably her bed. Nope, the look was most definitely not dress for success billionaire, and yet Carla couldn’t take her eyes off him, as he bent to talk to Meyers. The detective was a fireplug of a man, several inches shorter than Wade, who she figured to be about 6’2”. She strained to catch what they were saying, but could hear nothing over the hum of the air conditioning.

And then Wade looked up. Her stomach did a summersault, and her face flushed. Damn pale Flannery skin meant that, beneath the freckles, she glowed like a fire engine when she blushed. And why the fuck was she blushing? There was no need to blush. It was just Wade. But as his gaze came to rest on her she felt like a rabbit caught in the headlights of a Mack Truck. He nodded to Meyers and said something else before the detective turned down the hall, but Wade’s eyes never left Carla’s, and the shift of muscle along the square jaw now sporting the stubble of a very long night told her that he wasn’t happy. Her pulse jumped with a little shiver of fear. She’d never seen the man when he wasn’t totally focused on something that wasn’t her. He never got angry, never got happy, never got anything but slightly annoyed at being interrupted from whatever work of genius had his totally tunnel-visioned attention. That had never upset her, since she wasn’t sure any person was actually worth Wade Crittenden’s full attention when he had other things on his mind – which he always did. He’d never done more than offer her an acknowledging glance, and that grudgingly, as though her presence startled him slightly, but not enough to pay any real attention to.

She wiped hands, suddenly gone sweaty, against her own jeans and rose from the orange plastic chair. For a moment he didn’t move, only stood glaring at her so, like any good journalist, she took the initiative. She offered him her best Flannery smile and moved boldly toward him. ‘There you are. I was hoping we’d get a chance to talk. What happened,’ she said, nodding to his arm.

He looked down at is as though he hadn’t actually realised he was wounded, as though he hadn’t realised he had an arm there at all. Said arm was apparently far less obvious to him that it was to her. ‘It’s nothing. Just a scratch.’

‘Detective Brewster said it’s a knife wound, that Eberhardt tried to stab you.’ Even as she said it, her knees felt strangely weak. Knife wounds were often fatal. People died every day from stabbings.

‘It’s nothing,’ he repeated. ‘Eberhard’s not good with a knife.’ His hard gaze returned to her. His eyes weren’t exactly green, but they weren’t hazel either. They reminded her of moss or lichen or some mix of the two.

‘That’s good. I’m glad. I wonder if I could ask you a few questions,’ she ploughed on before he could shove past her and ignore her like he always did. ‘I’ve already talked to the police, but –’

‘What the hell were you doing?’ his voice was so soft, she almost didn’t hear the question.

‘Excuse me.’

‘Why the hell were you there? In the building?’

‘I had a lead from one of Eberhardt’s old school mates, and I … What are you doing? Wade?’

IC_teaserThe man grabbed her forearm in a bruising grip and half marched, half dragged her down the hall and into an empty interrogation room, where he slammed the door behind them and gave her a shove. She stumbled and steadied herself

‘Ouch! What the fuck to you think you’re doing?’ She turned to face him, feeling her cheeks heat up, but her stomach turn to ice at the angry mountain of a man that only a few minutes ago was mild-mannered nerd genius, Wade Crittenden.

‘You could have gotten yourself killed.’ He moved on her, forcing her back until she had to catch herself to keep from falling on top of the small table at the centre of the room.

‘You’re a fine one to talk,’ she said, skirting the table and shoving him with the flat of her hand in the centre of his hard chest. ‘Besides if I hadn’t texted it in, no one would have known Eberhardt was there and Devon Melbourne would be dead by now.’

‘Text it in! I got that. But text it in, Carla!’ He grabbed her by the lapels of her white shirt and gave her a shake that made her teeth rattle. Christ! She had never seen Wade like this before, and she could never remember him calling her by name. She was doubtful that he even knew it. He continued. ‘You don’t have to go into the goddamned building to text us the location.’

‘I wasn’t planning to stay!’ Her words came out high pitched and a lot less indignant that she intended. ‘I didn’t expect Eberhardt to show up while I was investigating.’

‘While you were investigating? While you were investigating!’ With his hands still on her lapels, he walked her backward in an urgent, cockeyed tango until her spine was up against the institution-green of the wall. ‘Christ, Carla, you could have been killed!’ He repeated.

‘I would have left if I could have, goddamn it, and don’t talk to me like I’m some stupid little kid. A man’s alive because of me, because of what I found out. You think I’m gonna stay safely locked up in my little apartment and let a man die because I’m a coward? And you? What about you? You’re not a cop. Eberhardt pulled a knife on you when you should have been back in the Dungeon safely calling the shots over your juiced-up Android.’ This time she gave him an elbow in the solar plexus and the bastard didn’t even budge. ‘I’m doing my job, damn it, Wade. I’m doing my job.’

‘They could have killed you!’ He shook her again. ‘They could have killed you.’ It was only as he brought his hand down to trace the wound along her cheekbone that she realised he was shaking. She barely had time to wonder if he could really be that angry at her before he pushed her again, then pulled her up on her toes, fists still curled in her shirt. And then … and then… he kissed her. Wade Crittenden, the epitome of obliviousness, the man who was always too busy doing important stuff to notice Martin Flannery’s daughter, suddenly had her mouth in a lip-lock that was so vicious and so demanding that if it had been a wrestling move, she would have very happily submitted.

She gave a little yelp that he took full advantage of, his tongue finding its way in to battle hers and to snake over her teeth and her hard pallet. Almost as though her arms had a mind of their own, they went around his neck and curled into fists in the back of his t-shirt. And his hands – well his hands were all over the place. One, fisted in her hair, held her so that there was no taking her mouth away from where he totally controlled it, not that she was very anxious to do so. The other hand slid down low onto her hip and then moved to cup her ass, bringing her up on her toes even further, as though he were trying to drag her up his body, and damned if she wasn’t doing her best to aid his efforts. Then he slid a knee in between hers, for support, she was sure, because her knees had turned to jelly at the first signs of mouth-to-mouth. And he was hot, like sitting too close to a campfire that felt so good you just couldn’t bring yourself to move away from the heat, even though it scorched you. Hard against soft, that was all she could think – that and how good it felt and how surprised she was at the hardness of Wade Crittenden’s body. At some remote control centre in her brain, some bit that had stayed marginally online in the wake of the kiss that would now and forevermore be known as The Kiss, she became aware that some parts of Wade Crittenden were harder than others. There had been major expansion in the general area of his fly, and her efforts to climb him, and his efforts to help her were an attempt to position said hardness for maximum effect.

‘Wade if you’ve got a minute – Oh shit! Sorry!’

TE_teaserIt all happened so fast. Detective Meyers shoved into the interrogation room and was already mid-sentence before he realised there was a very private interrogation going on. Wade jumped back from her as though she had given him an electrical shock, and she bit her tongue to keep from yelping. Whatever Wade said beneath his breath, Carla was certain it wasn’t nice.

‘I’ll be right there, Meyers,’ he said, without taking his eyes off Carla, who just stood there like a lump with her hand against her mouth, breathing like she’d run a marathon. The desperate rise and fall of Wade’s chest helped to keep her eyes above his waist and the fire of anger still in his eyes, kept her from moving until he stepped back and raked her with a gaze that would have scorched metal. ‘Go home, Carla, and don’t try to play dangerous games you don’t understand.’ Then he turned and left her in the interrogation room leaning heavily against the wall, one hand still pressed to her lips, the other clenched in a furious fist at her side. She would have run after him and given him a piece of her mind, but at the moment, she wasn’t entirely sure she could even walk. Come to think of it, she couldn’t imagine walking was too easy for him at the moment either. That at least brought a smirk of satisfaction to her kiss-bruised lips.

 

The Exhibition, Another First Chapter, Another Executive Decisions Novel

Interviewing Wade_edited-1Knowing that everyone is enjoying a long weekend, and for some people that will involve relaxing in the sunshine (provided you’re lucky enough to get some) 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. So 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. To date I’ve shared the first chapter of An Executive Decision and Identity Crisis and today I’m sharing the prologue and chapter 1 of The Exhibition

 

Happy Reading!

And be sure to check out all the Interviewing Wade Blog Tour and Giveaway sites and sign up for the Amazon Gift Card by following this link!

  

The ExhibitionThe Exhibition

Book Three of the Executive Decision Trilogy (Click Here for Book One, Book Two, Interviewing Wade)

Successful NYC gallery owner, Stacie Emerson, is ex-fiancée to one Thorne brother and ex-wife to the other. Though the three have made peace, Ellison Thorne’s friend, wildlife photographer, Harris Walker, still doesn’t like her. When Stacie convinces Harris to exhibit his work for the opening of her new gallery she never intended to include him in her other more hazardous plans. But when those plans draw the attention of dangerous business tycoon, Terrance Jamison, Harris comes to her aid. In the shadow of a threat only Stacie understands, can she dare let Harris into her life and make room for love?

 

The Exhibition:

Prologue

What she was about to ask was a terrible thing to ask of a friend. Stacie Emerson had ridden MAX in from Gresham, which had taken forever, but the long ride on public transport gave her time to think about it, to back out and turn the whole event into just two friends meeting for coffee. And then what? Where else could she turn? The two met in Pioneer Square just before the deluge began.

Kendra Davis gave her a fierce hug, and they hurried the few blocks to the coffee shop that looked up onto Raymond Kaskey’s colossal sculpture, Portlandia, which graced the third story of the Portland Building. Just as the downpour got serious, they shoved their way into the cafe and settled into a table near the window with a good view of the sculpture. It had always been one of Stacie’s favourite things about Portland. She never got tired of it, no matter how many times she looked up at Portlandia with her hair caught up in the artist’s imagined breeze, with her strong Amazon body leaning down from on high, trident in one hand while the other arm reached out to the world below. Stacie never got over the urge to lift her arms up to the sculpture in hopes of being drawn into her magnanimous, muscular embrace.

When both women had given Portlandia the homage she so richly deserved, they turned their attention to each other. ‘How’s Garrett?’ Stacie asked.

‘He’s recovering nicely, thanks. He’s a horrible patient though. I practically have to tie him to the bed to get him to rest.’

AED_teaserStacie offered her a wicked smile. ‘Somehow I can’t picture him really minding that too much, you tying him to the bed, I mean.’ Was she mistaken, or did Kendra actually blush? ‘And what about you? How are you doing? I mean recovering from what you’ve been through can’t be an easy task.’ Stacie shivered at the thought of the stalker and what might have happened if Kendra hadn’t been made of sterner stuff than just about anyone she’d ever met.

Kendra looked down at her hands folded around her cup and the smile she offered, though genuine, clearly took some effort. ‘I’m alright. The dreams are coming less and less often, and I’m seeing a psychologist. We both are. I won’t lie; sometimes it’s rough, but we have each other and…’ This time her face broke into a broad, easy smile. ‘God, I can’t get used to saying that … we have each other. It sounds do presumptuous, and yet I love it.’

‘It sounds just perfect,’ Stacie said, giving her arm a squeeze. ‘And you two deserve to be very, very happy together.’

Kendra reached up and patted her hand. ‘You should stop by for dinner some night. I don’t cook, but I’ve discovered Garrett makes a mean bolognaise.’

Stacie offered her a knowing smile. ‘He certainly does. Who do you think taught him how to make it?’ She waved a dismissive hand. ‘But honestly, to see the two of you so happy, I’d come for peanut butter sandwiches.’

‘That I think I could almost manage,’ Kendra said. Then the smile slipped from her face, and she held Stacie in a gaze that was all business. ‘Now that you know how Garrett and I are, I imagine it’s K. Ryde you really need to talk to, or you would have met me at Garrett’s or invited me for a look-see at the progress you’re making at the gallery.’

Kendra was dressed in a white t-shirt, faded jeans and a pair of black ankle boots. Her hair, once again golden-blond, was pulled back in a ponytail and she wore no make-up. No one would have ever imagined her to be the best in her field. In fact only a small handful of people knew anything about the mysterious P.R. guru, K. Ryde, and if they did, they’d certainly never met the legend in person. K. Ryde had worked for Stacie all this time, and it had only been during the horrible incident with the stalker, when K. Ryde was working for Garrett, that she’d actually discovered Ryde’s true identity.

‘When I hired the Ryde Agency,’ Stacie began, ‘it was a long term project, and then, well, then it was all so nebulous. I mean I had no idea who K. Ryde really was, and it didn’t matter. But now,’ she scooted closer to the table and leaned over it. ‘Now it does.’

Kendra laid down the spoon that she’d just used to scoop a mound of cinnamon-dusted foam from her cappuccino into her mouth. ‘Then you’re ready for the next phase.’

Stacie nodded, feeling the tremor of nerves in her belly as she thought about what the next phase would mean. To both of them. ‘And I need to know if I’ve been handed over to the agency or if you’re still in charge. I assume you were in charge.’

Kendra offered her a half-smile. ‘I was always in charge, and your … request intrigued me a lot so I took a personal interest. You’re one of the few clients I kept after I sold the agency, one of the few that I could continue working for on my own without anyone being the wiser for it. And I only did that because it interested me so much.’

‘Even after everything with Dee and Ellis?’ Stacie said. ‘I mean I know you blamed me, and rightfully so.’

Kendra studied her for a moment then nodded slowly. ‘K. Ryde’s business is business, Stacie. My personal feelings didn’t figure into it. K. Ryde never got involved personally … not until Garrett came into the picture, and that was … well that was something I could have never foreseen.’

Love was like that, Stacie thought. She released a shaky breath and wiped sweaty palms on her trousers. ‘I guess I need to know if I’ll be continuing to work with you, now that I’m ready to move forward with … my project, or if I’ll be working with someone I don’t know.’

Again Kendra studied her. ‘Do you want someone to take over?’

Stacie shook her head and stared down into her cup, trying to gather her thoughts. ‘It’s just that, well what happens next … what happens next you probably won’t like, and now that our situation has changed, I’m not sure I like having my friend involved. In fact, what I’m about to ask is a pretty terrible thing to do to a friend, if you want the truth.’

‘Stacie if you want me to hand you over to the agency, all you have to do is ask. But …’

‘But no one else could handle it like you could, if they could handle it at all, right?’

Kendra didn’t answer. She only held Stacie’s gaze.

‘I know that, and yet I also know what it’ll mean.’ Stacie looked out at the sculpture with its outstretched hand as though somehow it would offer her an easy answer for what she knew was ahead of her. But there were no easy answers. There could be none. She knew that. ‘It’s just that I … Well it’s complicated.’

‘Most of what K. Ryde deals with is complicated, Stacie. That’s why K. Ryde deals with it.’

There was a sudden flash of sunshine through the rainclouds bathing the sculpture in bright light and Stacie blinked back the after image, then turned her gaze back to Kendra, who sat for a second with Portlandia’s features super-imposed onto her own. Then Stacie blinked again and it was Kendra who sat across from her offering a sympathetic smile.

She knew how tough Kendra was, how much fire there was in that slender frame. But she also knew what the woman had already been through, and what she was about to ask her seemed cruel. ‘After everything that’s happened … to you, to Garrett, I don’t know …’

‘Stacie, Garrett and I are both struggling to put what happened with Edge behind us and move on. For me, that means finally being able to have my life back. Oh, I’m not moving back to California.’ She nodded up at the sculpture. ‘Portland is my home and I want to stay here – especially the way things are with Garrett and me now. But I have no intention of not working, and frankly, you know me well enough to know how bored I’d be with anything that wasn’t up to K. Ryde’s usual clientele.’

‘What about Garrett?’

Kendra raised a golden eyebrow. ‘What about Garrett? My love life most definitely doesn’t involve breaking client confidentiality. If you want me to finish what we started, Stacie, I will. In fact, I’ve always had every intention to.’

Stacie gripped her hands in her lap to keep them from shaking. ‘You won’t like it.’

‘Tell me, and let me decide,’ Kendra said.

Forty-five minutes and two more lattes and a Diet Pepsi later, Kendra blew out a sharp breath and scrubbed a hand over her face. ‘You’re right. I don’t like it.’

Stacie felt her stomach drop and the fear that all of her efforts, everything she had done so far had been for nothing threatened to overwhelm her. ‘Then I need to find someone else?’

Kendra shook her head slowly. ‘I didn’t say that. I said I didn’t like it. Besides, you wouldn’t find anyone else who’d do this for you, even if they could.’

‘I don’t want to … I never wanted to put you at risk.’

Kendra reached across the table and took Stacie’s hand in a strong grip. ‘Some things are worth the risk, Sweetie. But this is the last time we meet like this. From now on you only see Kendra Davis in person. K. Ryde will be in touch and inform you of what comes next.’ She squeezed her hand hard. ‘I mean it, Stacie. From this moment on, you’ve never met K. Ryde, and you won’t ever meet him again. Are we clear?’

Stacie squared her shoulders and nodded, unable to speak around the claw of nerves in her chest.

Kendra’s face softened to a warm smile and she released Stacie’s hand with a soft pat. ‘Good. Now the sun’s out and I’m dying for a walk along the river so that I can bore you beyond words with the latest about Garrett and me.’

And really, there was nothing in the whole world Stacie needed more at that moment.

 

Chapter 1

Stacie nearly fell off the chair behind her desk as she jerked to wakefulness. It took her a second to realize she was in her office at the gallery. A quick glance at her watch told her she had maybe a half hour before the workmen arrived. She yawned and stretched then shoved to her feet to open the utilitarian mini blinds. They would soon be replaced with lush spring green drapes at windows that would be flanked by plants from the same nursery that had furnished the greenery for Ellis when he’d opened the Pneuma Building.

IC_teaserEven unfinished as it was, she loved the feel of the place and what she was building it into. Stacie already owned a thriving gallery, and she had every intention of making the new West Coast gallery as successful as the one in New York. Two trips to Japan in as many months and the constant yo-yoing back and forth to New York until she could get her manager there trained and up to speed had pretty much guaranteed that she wasn’t getting enough rest. She was jetlagged as hell, so she tried to make the best of it and get some work done when she couldn’t sleep. That was all to be expected. It was a challenging time. It wouldn’t last forever. But the stress of opening the new gallery meant that the nightmare she had lived through in the early days of the New York gallery was bound to bubble up and kick her unconscious in the butt. It had been a bad dream that had woke her in the wee hours this morning. Even the pep talk she had given herself — that this time was different, that this time she was going in with her eyes open, that this time she knew what she was doing — didn’t lull her back to sleep, so here she was.

She glanced around her make-shift office with its folding chair and battered pine desk buried beneath shipping documents for the Japanese part of the exhibition and plans for the completion of the interior of the gallery. In her office, the walls were already painted, the floor was laid. The furniture would be delivered next week, and that included a comfy chair and a sofa for her to doze on when she was jet-lagged. It was coming together, she thought. It was coming together.

Just then her BlackBerry buzzed, and she scrabbled to find it beneath the stack of papers, nearly dropping it in the trash can when she finally unburied it and read the reminder to call Harris Walker. Again. She’d already rescheduled the call three times in the past twenty-four hours because she knew the drill. Either she’d get his voice mail and he wouldn’t return her call or he’d tell her he couldn’t talk right now, but he’d get back to her, and then he wouldn’t. But Harris Walker had no idea just how tenacious she was and how badly she wanted his work for the gallery’s opening exhibition. He’d have to personally tell her to fuck of and die before she would even begin to take the hint. And though Harris Walker didn’t much like her, she knew he was way too nice to tell her to fuck off and die.

The sunshine was just beginning to make a golden path onto the newly laid wood floor, and she had it on good authority that Harris would be up. In fact she had it on good authority that he had spent the past night in a hide photographing great horned owls. Owls slept in the daytime so she figured he’d just be finishing up, but not yet have had time to tuck up in his jammies for a nap. She’d invite him to breakfast. Surely he must be starving after spending the night in the woods. Of course, even if he were, he’d still tell her no. Then she’d invite him for coffee and work her way down from there. Maybe they could compromise on a glass of tepid water in her disaster of an office.

She really didn’t need to refresh her memory on Harris Walker’s work. She had studied his photographs in detail long before she knew him in person, back when she had no reason to believe that when they actually met he wouldn’t like her. But as she pulled up the Wilderness Vanguard Website, she told herself it was to give him time to get back to civilization before she became the unpleasant point in his morning. He was the editor of Wilderness Vanguard, and some of his work was in almost every issue. After she’d looked through the latest edition, she pulled up his own website and flipped through the photo galleries. She flipped past the photos of pristine Cascade scenery, past the photos of birds preening and elk rutting, past the photos of sunsets over the Pacific Ocean and sea lions lolling in the sand near Lincoln City. She even flipped past the gripping photo-diary he had done of his trip to the forests of Valderia with Ellis a few months ago. She flipped instead to the images of mining run-off and erosion-ravaged landscapes, to the photos of landfills, oil-slickened waterways and clear-cuts, to the photos of small dying communities that had lost their livelihood when the lumber industry went belly-up. As she studied them for the hundredth time, she wondered how he did it, how he could revel in such beauty as the Northwest was famous for, then immerse himself in landscapes from hell without somehow damaging his soul. She’d like to ask him if he’d ever consent to at least meet her for coffee.

TE_teaser2She really thought that of Dee Henning’s two best friends, Harris would be the easiest to win over. Stacie knew what men saw when they looked at her, and she seldom had to do much more than smile at a man to get his attention. Socially, she wasn’t even close to desperate. She was used to being able to date anyone she wanted whenever she wanted.

And though Harris Walker was definitely the stuff of sex dreams with his broad shoulders and outdoorsy good looks, all she wanted was the man’s photos. It was business, strictly business. At first she thought he simply couldn’t forgive her for her inadvertent role in her and Garrett’s bumbling attempt to get Dee and Ellis together, the attempt that had nearly had the opposite result. But Garrett, he seemed to have forgiven, so she suspected his less than warm feelings toward her had as much to do with her past relationship with Garrett and Ellis as anything. Ex fiancée to one, ex wife to the other. Okay, it wasn’t a shining resume, but she had only been eighteen, for fuck sake, and that horrible mistake had cost her way more than she could have ever imagined.

Anyway, it wasn’t like she was asking Harris to marry her or even to like her. What, could he possibly think she’d try to seduce him? There were at least five other wildlife photographers who were practically begging to be a part of her opening exhibition, but it was Harris she wanted. She flipped back through the pictures of devastation one last time, then grabbed the BlackBerry and pulled up his number.

It rang until it went to voice mail. She rolled her eyes, then put on her sweetest voice and asked him, for the hundredth time, if they could get together to talk about the exhibition. When she hung up, she left a text as well, all the while having visions of the man slapping a restraining order on her. Well, that’s what he’d have to do if he wanted her to give up. She’d beg, bargain and grovel if she had to. She’d try again a little later.

While she made herself coffee in the small kitchenette next to her office, she went down the mental list of questions she’d ask him, just in case today was the day when he actually gave in and returned her call.

Still thinking about the uncooperative Harris Walker, she started a second pot of coffee. The workmen would be here soon and the bakery around the corner would be delivering shortly. She had made special arrangements for a delivery daily as long as the workers were finishing up the gallery. She needed them happy and pleased to do things exactly the way she wanted, and nothing said do it my way quite as nicely as fresh pastries and quality French roast coffee.

That done, she took her own coffee and went back to her desk. She glanced through Harris’s photo galleries again, studying the horrendous detail of some of the scenes of destruction and environmental damage. She took a pen and a small pad of paper and scribbled notes about the ones she hoped to include in her exhibition. While she was at it, she made a note to call the young reporter, Carla Flannery, for more details about the illegal landfill she had uncovered in the John Day area. There was a whole series of photos on Harris’s site from that unfortunate incident.

While jotting down notes, she pulled up Harris’ number and tried again. Still no answer. She left another message and decided to let it go for the day. She could only do so much harassing before she had to give the poor guy a break. She had dinner plans with Dee and Ellis this evening before she took the red-eye to New York, and if he hadn’t gotten back to her by then, she would exercise her option to manipulate and get the two of them to talk to him. He’d probably like her less for it, but since she didn’t know him well enough to know how much less he was still capable of liking her, she supposed she could live with that. The man was just being stubborn. He’d exhibited his work all over the Northwest and beyond. She’d made it clear the proceeds from the exhibition would go to funding the Vigilant Trust, which Wilderness Vanguard and Ellis and his company had been instrumental in starting. The Vigilant Trust was money for reclaiming land that had been damaged and for helping communities that had suffered from job losses. Stacie was proud that her gallery would begin its life supporting such a good cause.

Into her silent reverie, her BlackBerry buzzed the arrival of a text causing her to jump and drop the notepad onto the floor. Maybe this was it then. Maybe Harris Walker was finally getting back to her. Her mind was already racing as she grabbed for it. She had no doubt she could convince him to allow her to exhibit his work if he’d just listen to her. She was sure he’d be intrigued.

She pulled up the text, and all thoughts of the exhibition, all thoughts of Harris Walker, all thoughts of the workmen she could now hear arriving, went out of her head. Her stomach rebelled, and for a second, she thought she would vomit her coffee. But she forced a deep breath, forced herself to calm and focus. After all, this was not unexpected. She had lived in the shadow of this moment for ten years, and she would never be more ready to face it than she was now. She took another deep breath, squared her shoulders and read:

Welcome to the West Coast, Stacie. It’s such a pleasure to have you close once again. Feels like old times. We must meet for drinks and dinner. I’m dying to catch up on all your news. I do hope the gallery renovations are going without a snag. So many unexpected, and expensive, glitches can happen when you’re on a tight deadline.

Yours always,

TJ

The BlackBerry slipped from her hands and disappeared in the mound of papers on her desk as she shoved back the chair and ran for the stairs.

‘What the fuck?’ She heard one of the workmen exclaim, and she nearly ran into Ted, the foreman who was racing up the stairs toward her. He caught her before she could lose her balance. His expression was hard; his voice tightly controlled. ‘Ms Emerson, you’d better come look at this.’

He kept a protective hand under her elbow as he led her into the main exhibition hall, and it was probably a good thing he did. The red paint was splashed over the newly laid wood floor and onto the freshly painted wall where it dried in thick spatters. Oxygen rushed from her lungs and everything else disappeared as the past forced its way into the void. ‘Zoe!’ Stacie could never remember if she had actually called out her friend’s name or if it were only in her head. She was no longer in the vandalized gallery. She was transported back to Zoe’s flat, back to the gunshot that shattered her world, back to the blood on the walls.

‘Everything was locked up just like we left it last night just like always,’ Ted was saying, but the rest of his words were drowned out by the ringing in her ears and the present fell further away.

When she allowed herself to think about that horrible time, it was always with thoughts of what might have been if she could have gotten Zoe away from him, if they could have gone somewhere, somewhere that he couldn’t find them. Strangely it was his scent that permeated all of her memories of him. Every time she had ever been with him it had surrounded her, practically drowned her; when he held her, when he stroked her hair, when he caressed her. He always smelled like the desert, with everything that was dangerous about it. Everything that was poisonous or desolate or sharp angled and deadly seemed to seep through his pores in a way that was both dark and compelling. How was it that something as simple as the way someone smelled could illicit such desire, such hope, such terror, such rage? How was it that the scent of the man was the first thing she remembered about him and the last thing that haunted her in her dreams?

When she came back to herself she was seated on a folding chair and Ted was offering her a glass of water. This is how it all begins, she reminded herself. And this was not the time to be squeamish. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t expected to hear from Terrance Jamison. That was inevitable. It was just that she hadn’t expected to hear from him quite so soon, and she had at least expected a little grace period before the harassing began.

‘Shall I call the police?’ Ted was saying.

She shook her head. ‘No.’ There was a shuffling and a mumble of surprise among the workers. She drank the water down and stood. ‘I know what this is all about, and I don’t have time to go through a police investigation, which will turn up nothing, not if this gallery’s going to open on schedule. How soon can you fix it?’ she asked Ted. Before he could respond, she added. ‘I don’t care how much it costs. I don’t care what it takes. I need it fixed immediately if not sooner.’

Wade_teaser2The foreman looked around at his crew. ‘Alright, I can call in some extra workers, we can arrange for an extra shift, work into the night if we have to, but are you sure you don’t want the police to check this out. This is vandalism, ma’am, and no doubt –’

She cut him off. ‘I know what it is, and I’m sure. Just do whatever it takes. I’ll be in my office if you need me.’ She turned on shaky legs and walked carefully back to the stairs. Already Ted was barking orders and the place erupted into action. Back in her office she forced herself to read the text through one more time and then again. She forced herself to remember, to remember all of it, all that she knew and all that she couldn’t prove, but she knew with a certainty that was unshakeable. She forced herself to remember every detail, every nuance, every injury suffered, and when it felt like a cold, hard stone in the pit of her stomach, she closed the text without answering it.

 

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?’

 

Touring Wade’s Dungeon — Going Down!

Interviewing WadeOnce lunch is over, I’m well fortified for the second half of my tour of Wade’s Dungeon. In fact, I’m so stuffed with burritos and nachos that I think Wade is being a proper sadist when he continues my tour of his Dungeon with a peek at his state of the art gym. ‘I hear you like to work out, K D,’ he says, and I can see his quirk of a smile threatening to break out as I scurry over to a space in front of a ceiling to floor mirror to fondle the most complete, most gorgeous set of kettle bells I’ve ever seen. I can tell they’re not just for looks. There are no pretty colors, just good, solid cast iron. ‘Thought you’d like those,’ he says.

I barely get a chance to run an appreciative hand over a proper stair machine, ogle a fantastic free-weights set up, a vicious-looking treadmill and ooh and awe over the Metrix machine before he’s herding me out the door.

From there he takes me into the Suite. I actually had breakfast in the kitchen area the other morning with Carla and Wade, but the Suite has been talked about in hushed tones for a while now. Carla calls it Wade’s fuck pad, but she knows, as do I that Wade keeps it for the rare guests he has. She has been one of the few people to take advantage of it. ‘It’s amazing!’ I say, trying to catch my breath as I stare at a marble bathtub and Jacuzzi the size of a small swimming pool, and an enormous wet room with more water sources that I can count before he’s herding me off again, blushing as we head past a bed big enough for half the employees of Pneuma Inc to have an orgy on. ‘Beverly Neumann did the decorating,’ he says still blushing. ‘She did this on purpose.’ He makes it sound like she put peanut butter in his boxers or something. ‘It’s lovely,’ I manage. ‘I’d say she did good.’

He mumbles something about overkill and herds me out of the room before I take up squatters rights as Interviewing Wade’s author and move in. I notice his pace slows considerably as we head back down the hall past several rooms that look like state of the art laboratories, spotlessly clean, well-equipped and seemingly deserted.

‘Does R&D use these?’ I ask.

He looks at me like I suddenly grew horns. ‘No. Why would they? They have their space.’

‘Then you work in them.’

He pauses mid-step to contemplate that idea. ‘I suppose I could if I wanted to, but they’re not as private as I’d like them to be. It’s too easy to be disturbed on this level. I do most of my work in the sub-basements.’

We move past a strange door that looks like the entrance to a train car.

‘What’s this,’ I ask.

‘Nothing yet,’ he answers. ‘Just an idea I have for a … space.’ He doesn’t clarify, and I’ve been around him enough to realize he won’t unless he wants to. His pace slows still further. At the end of the hall I can see a set of double doors that look like they could well belong in a hospital, but before I can ask, I realize he is standing in front of an open door, blocking my view.

‘You know what this is,’ he says, blushing furiously.

Book stacksI do, and I’m desperate to see it, but I know how sensitive Wade can be. ‘You’re room,’ I replay. ‘I don’t really like people in my bedroom either,’ I add, feeling his discomfort below my breastbone almost as though it is my own.

For a moment he has trouble meeting my gaze, then he looks up at me with dark green eyes. ‘It isn’t so much that it’s my sleeping room as it as that you know … you know what happened in there.’

I nod, not quite knowing how to reply, feeling a blush rise up my own cheeks as I think about what has happened between him and Carla in that space. But as I turn to walk away, he lays a strong hand on my arm to stop me, then steps aside and motions me in.

The room is small, much smaller than even I expected. Unlike the rest of the tiled floors of the Dungeon, Wade’s room is just concrete. The only piece of furniture is a fairly sturdy camp cot with an aging Star Trek duvet made up neatly over it. I notice immediately that the bedside table is really just stacks and stack of books. There’s a gooseneck lamp on top of them. A laptop, several tablets and more books, some open and marked with pens and pencils, some stuffed with paper scribbled full of notes. Next to the books I assume Wade’s reading is an empty Coke can. Around the rest of the room books are stacked three and four deep, in some places as high as my waist. The room smells of old paperbacks and I blush as I realize that the room smells of Wade Crittenden dreaming. He might sense my thought process because he’s blushing again, shuffling from foot to foot.

I quickly change the subject. ‘The books, have you read them all?’

‘All of them, yes. Some more than once,’ he replies.

‘Why do you keep them,’ I ask nodding to a pair of eReaders on the make-shift table.Aileanimages

‘Because they’re books. I like the feel of them, the smell – especially once they’ve been read a time or two.’

I run my fingers along a stack threatening to avalanche against my hip and am astonished to find there is no dust. ‘How do you find anything? Do you have a system?’

He looks around and shakes his head. ‘I thought about some kind of system for them, but then it seemed like a waste of my time when I know where they all are.’ He looks up at me and the blush is there again. ‘I don’t sleep much. Some nights not at all. I read a lot.’ He shrugs and this time the smile is one I can tell isn’t meant for me. ‘Well, I don’t have quite so much time to read now with Carla here. But I still don’t sleep much.’ Then he adds. ‘Besides, Carla loves to read too.’

Once again out in the hall, we push our way through the operating room doors and find ourselves standing in front of an elevator that looks like it might very well lead to an operating theater. The elevator opens and I nearly jump out of my skin, coming face to face with a life-size poster of the monster from Aliens. Wade smiles at my response and motions me in. With a series of taps against a blue buttoned console, the elevator begins a rapid descent. My heart is racing in my chest. I realize the sub-basements are off limits to everyone but Dee and Ellis, Carla, and possibly Martin Flannery. I know that the lowest level, level four is basically a no-go zone, with good reason, and my pulse goes into overdrive at the thought of going down there.

‘I do most of my work in the sub-basements,’ Wade speaks above the hushed whisper of the elevator. ‘I can work there undisturbed.’ We pass sub-level one and then two, and I wipe sweaty hands against my jeans. ‘I have a dozen or so projects going on at any given time, and I never know which one I’ll be inspired to work on,’ Wade says, ‘Best to have a space for each one and some extras too. I never know when the idea for something new will come. The lift stops on sub-level three and I find that I’ve been holding my breath as he motions me out.

This laboratory is nothing like the ones on the upper floors. It isn’t at all what I would expect a laboratory to be like. This one looks like a nerd’s dream basement. There’s a battered brown leather sofa against the wall. On the end table next to it is a lava lamp bubbling up hypnotic red blobs. There’s a kitchen unit that looks like it came out of the 1960s to one side. In the middle of the room on battered desks and metal tables there’s a hodgepodge of monitors and keyboards and on a free-standing metal framework above a section of work table is what looks like a very sophisticated robotic arm that could have come straight from a Terminator film. ‘You know about this,’ he says, nodding to it. He reaches out to touch it. ‘It’s not ready yet. The interface is still not sensitive enough.’ He smiles to himself, running a hand over lava lampthe slightly curved, nearly human looking fingers. ‘Shocked the hell out of myself the other day. Still can’t manage the electrical impulses so that they guide the operator but don’t knock him on his ass.’ He shrugs. I’ll figure it out.’

As we step back into the hall, he nods in both directions. ‘Three more laboratories on this floor,’ he says. ‘The projects in two of them are only in the conceptual stage and the other one is Nano-technology, not something I can easily show you.’ He herds me back into the elevator, and suddenly I’m having trouble breathing again as the door closes behind us and the blue buttons await Wade’s touch.

I can feel him studying me, and try though I might, I can’t meet his gaze. I can’t speak I feel frozen to the spot with the knowledge of what’s in the fourth sub-basement – no laboratories, no nerd’s hang-out. Nothing pretty, nothing sophisticated. I feel a sudden chill as he releases his breath and taps a code into the keypad. The elevator whirs to life and with the tiniest of judder … begins to ascend. I catch my breath in a little sigh.

At last he speaks. ‘I won’t take you down there,’ he says. His face is suddenly like a wall hiding so many things. His jaw is set and his eyes are nearly black in the subdued lighting. ‘You know … what it’s like down there. What I’m like when I go there.’ He swallows hard and closes his eyes, and I feel cold. When he looks back at me, I force myself to meet his gaze. ‘That you know is enough, K D.’ His voice is barely more than just a whisper. ‘Let it be enough.’

We ascend the rest of the way in silence. As we arrive in the main living area of the Dungeon, Carla meets us with two mugs of mocha – extra marshmallow cream. She kisses Wade gently on the mouth and guides him to the table, guidance which, at that moment, I can’t help but feel he needs.

‘All right?’ she speaks softly squeezing his arm after he’s had his first sip.

He nods and forces a smile. Then he reaches out and touches her cheek. ‘Fine. I’m fine.’

For a second I sip in silence, trying to figure out what I should say, under the circumstances. At last I look up at him. ‘Wade, I didn’t mean to –’

He stops me with a shake of his head. ‘If I hadn’t wanted you to see, I wouldn’t have shown you. But what’s on sub-level four, well, even though you know. I don’t like to go there. I … I only ever go there when I have no choice, when I need to. And right now, thankfully,’ he squeezes Carla’s hand, ‘I don’t need to.’

In the evening, Stacie Emerson and Carla’s father, Martin Flannery, take over the kitchen in the Suite. After toasts to the launch of Interviewing Wade, with Prosecco Stacie and Harris have brought back from a recent trip to Italy, there’s homemade spaghetti carbonara with the best tiramisu I’ve ever eaten for dessert. We end the tour and the day’s celebration in the Dungeon’s home cinema stuffing ourselves with buttered popcorn while we watch X-Men First Class.

It’s late when I get ready to leave. Carla and Wade give each other the eye and nod. Then Wade turns his attention to me. ‘It’s late, and you’ve had a busy few days, K D. Why don’t you stay in the Suite tonight.’

Carla nods her agreement, when she sees my uncertainty. ‘I’ve grown rather fond of Wade’s cot,’ she says with a wink. ‘Besides, we don’t need very much space, the two of us.’ As we say our good-nights at the door of the Suite, I watch them head down the hall arm and arm, and I figure Carla is probably right. They don’t need much space at all.

 

The Interviewing Wade Blog Tour and Giveaway continues throughout this week and the next. I’m over at the fabulous Lynelle Clark’s Do join us there!

 Wade_teaser2

For the next two weeks find Carla, Wade and me on these fabulous blogs!

 Mar 23   L. C. Wilkinson  http://lcwilkinson.com/

Mar 24   Jan Graham http://jangraham.blogspot.com/

Mar 25   Lynelle Clark http://lynelleclarkaspiredwriter.blogspot.com/

Mar 26   Nice Ladies, Naughty Books http://niceladiesnaughtybooks.com/

Mar 27   Love Bites & Silk Ties http://www.lovebitessilkties.co.uk/

Mar 30   Books and Banter   http://locglin.blogspot.com/

Mar 31   Case Sharidan   http://casesheridan.wordpress.com/

Apr 1   Lisabet Sarai http://lisabetsarai.blogspot.com

Ap 2   Gale Stanley http://galestanley.blogspot.com/

Ap 3   Illustrious Illusions http://www.illustriousillusions.com/

 

INTERVIEWING WADE Is An Executive Decision novel (Click Here for Book One | Book Two | Book Three)

Blurb:

The Executive Decisions Trilogy may be over, but the story continues. Intrepid reporter, Carla Flannery, wants to interview Wade Crittenden, the secretive creative genius behind Pneuma Inc. But when, against all odds, Wade actually agrees to the interview, Carla suspects ulterior motives.

Carla has made a lot of enemies in her work and when Wade discovers she’s being stalked, he agrees to the interview to keep her close and safe. As the situation turns deadly, lives and hearts are on the line, and the interview reveals far more about both than either ever expected.

 

Interviewing Wad is available from:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Amazon AU

Amazon CA

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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