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First in Series Part 3: An Executive Decision

Hi everyone! Reading any good series I should know about??? In the third week of the First in Series Series, I not only try my hand at contemporary romance, but I take off my KDG hat and don my Grace Marshall hat for The Executive Decision Series. As a testament to my love for series, The Executive Decisions series started out as a trilogy, but then readers insisted on knowing Wade’s story too, so Interviewing Wade became the fourth book in the trilogy. Today’s excerpt is from the first book in the series, An Executive Decision. And today I’m feeling generous, so you get one of my favourite excerpts from the novel. It’s long, it’s juicy, and it’s fun. Enjoy! And do let me know if you’re reading a great series you think I shouldn’t miss out on.

 

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.

 

 

 

I can handle it if you can

 

‘What the hell are you doing in Beverly’s office?’

A hard hand on her arm spun her around none too gently, and she found herself face to face with Ellison Thorne, who was clearly not pleased to see her. In fact, the powerful grip on her arm, the storm cloud look on his face made her knees weak and her voice difficult to find.

Just then, Beverly’s secretary burst in. ‘Ellis! That’s Dee Henning.’ She laid a gentle hand on the man’s arm. ‘Ellis, it’s all right. Dee had an appointment with Beverly. She doesn’t know.’

‘Doesn’t know what?’

The knot growing in her stomach suddenly tightened like a fist as the secretary turned her attention to Dee, her face drawn, her always square shoulders tight. ‘I’m sorry, Dee. I would have let you know, but we couldn’t get hold of you.’

‘Let me know what? I was out of the country. I told Beverly. What’s going on? Where is she?’ It was then she noticed Ellis was in khaki walking trousers and a rumpled matching shirt. The man, who had never looked anything other than pristine in his photos, wore several days’ growth of beard, and even from behind his glasses, she could tell he hadn’t slept. He still didn’t release her arm.

He held her gaze as though he were searching for something in her face, then he drew a breath that sounded like he’d just come up from the depths. ‘Beverly’s gone missing.’

The room spun slightly, and the buzzing in her ears made everything sound far off, even her own voice. She jerked her arm away, nearly toppling back into Beverly’s plants. ‘What do you mean she’s gone missing? How can she have? She was with the best. She assured me the people she was with were the best in their field. She said she’d be safe. She promised me she’d be safe.’

This time Ellis took her by the shoulders and gave a gentle shake. ‘She’s missing, Dee. That’s all. We’ve lost contact. That’s all. We’ll find her.’

She stepped back and ran a hand through her hair, a little embarrassed by her outburst, but it was Beverly they were talking about. ‘What happened?’

‘There was a tropical storm. Unseasonal. The outfitters lost contact with the expedition.’ He looked down at the clothes he wore. ‘The storm was supposed to break. I went down to look for her, but the weather got worse, and I had to come back.’

‘You went to look for her?’ Dee said. ‘Are you out of your mind?’

The secretary fidgeted uncomfortably, but Ellis offered her what might have almost been half a smile. ‘Probably, but I went anyway.’ Then he heaved a sigh. ‘Look I really need a shower. Sandra’s ordered Chinese. I need to eat, she says, and I know better than to argue with Sandra. I’m sure she’ll have ordered enough for a family of six.’ He nodded to the door. ‘If you’d like to join me, I’ll tell you everything.’

Ellis’s office was nothing like she expected. It was much more like an apartment than the lair of one of the most progressive businessmen in the US. He led her away from the big oak desk that sat, with its full complement of office furnishings and necessities, in front of a wall of glass looking out on to Mount Hood. He led her down a short hallway into a lounge that could have easily passed for a library in an Edwardian manor house. The blue leather furnishings were dwarfed by bookcases full to capacity, and the coffee table in front of it was strewn with an eclectic disarray of books from poetry of the English Romantics to modern theories of cosmology to Stephen King and everything in between.

It didn’t take him long to shower. He returned in jeans and blue cotton shirt open at the neck, sleeves rolled carelessly halfway up his forearms. He was once again clean shaven and his short hair was still damp. As Sandra arrived with the Chinese food, he shoved the books off onto the floor and made room for dinner. The secretary left for the day, and Dee silently helped him spread the meal, feeling shy and almost embarrassed to have seen beyond the man’s

façade, to be sharing such an intimate view of him, the man who, in her mind’s eye, was always so much larger than life. When the meal was spread, he smiled up at her, his glasses slipping down the bridge of his nose, and her stomach did a little somersault at the sight of him like this. She blushed. It embarrassed her that she did so, but she did.

She was taller than he had expected. In the black heels she almost stood nose to nose with him. And her eyes, her eyes were even bluer than they were in the photo. The contrast with her nearly black hair and her pale skin was stunning. And the way she talked; it wasn’t the antiseptic elocution he had grown used to hearing from women in the business world. There was something interesting about her barely perceptible accent. He wondered if she owed that to her French father. The last thing he wanted was to entertain. The last thing he wanted was to make nicey-nice, and yet he had invited her to join him, and when his arm brushed hers, when the silence between them seemed strangely comfortable, he wasn’t sorry for her company.

When at last they were seated, Dee spoke without preamble. ‘What happened?’ she said around a mouthful of spring roll, covering her lips daintily with one hand. Ellis could instantly see why Beverly was impressed. There was no nonsense about this woman. No subterfuge. But then to have earned such high praise and respect from Beverly, he would have expected nothing less. Even more importantly, she was Beverly’s friend. She must feel as gutted as he did right now.

‘The guides had taken her into the rainforest,’ he said by way of explanation. ‘Some really remote area, where there was a nest of harpy eagles.’

Dee nodded. ‘She told me she had her heart set on seeing harpy eagles.’

Ellis continued. ‘I knew they’d be out of contact while they were there. And she promised me it was no big deal, that this was a regular expedition for the outfitters. She promised that she was in the best possible hands. Then the storm came in. They were supposed to have been back before it hit. Damn it!’ He tossed down his chopsticks and stood to pace. ‘Why the hell couldn’t she just go to the zoo to see harpy eagles, or watch them on YouTube like everyone else does?’

‘You know why not.’ Dee nodded to his plate. ‘Sit down and eat.’

‘Jesus –’ he grumped ‘– you’re damn near as bossy as Beverly.’

She blushed – a beautiful pink blush – and fidgeted in her seat, no doubt remembering that this was his domain, and she was still trying to decide if she were here on business or not. When she squared her shoulders and nodded to the sofa, he figured she’d decided she wasn’t. He was glad.

He dropped down beside her, picked up the chopsticks, and stuffed his mouth full of Singapore noodles, more because he could tell it pleased her than because he had anything resembling an appetite right now.

He swallowed his noodles without chewing, and continued. ‘I waited until I got word that there was a lull in the storm, and I could actually fly in. I barely got there before things picked up again.’
Her full lips were a tight line, as though she were making every effort to keep her mouth shut, to keep her disapproval to herself. But she failed.

‘What did you expect you could do down there on your own besides put your life at risk along with Beverly’s?’

‘I wasn’t alone. And my team’s at least as good as Beverly’s. They know the area like the back of their hand. If anyone could have gone in and found her, they could.’

She raised an eyebrow. ‘And all that with the added responsibility of keeping the CEO of Pneuma Inc. safe. Nice.’

‘I happen to know a good bit about trekking in the rain forests, Dee. I would have been just fine.’

‘I know what an outdoorsman you are, Mr Thorne. Everyone in the Northwest knows that.’

‘It’s Ellis,’ he interrupted her.

She bit at a prawn as though it had somehow offended her. ‘The point is, Ellis, your team would have gone in level-headed and calm. They would have gone in without any personal feelings one way or the other. I doubt you’d have been able to do that. I know I wouldn’t have.’

He shrugged. ‘Anyway, it doesn’t matter because no one was going anywhere, and in the end I was lucky to get a flight out before the airport shut down again. I would have stayed, but Beverly has an important meeting tomorrow. She’ll tear me a new one if it gets cancelled.’ He felt helpless anger bubble up into his chest as though it would strangle him. ‘Damn it, I don’t have time to do her job and mine. The woman’s 63 years old. She shouldn’t be traipsing around in the rainforest out of contact with everyone like some stupid teenager.’

Dee studied him over the top of her chopsticks. ‘She deserved a vacation. Besides, she was doing what she wanted.’

‘I know that, but I need her here, and I need her safe. In spite of the woman’s bossy, crazy wackiness, I need her. I need her.’

‘I know,’ Dee said. ‘I need her too. My visits with her keep me sane, and the nuttier she is, the more sense everything makes.’ She laid down her chopsticks, folded her arms across her chest, and held herself as though she were suddenly cold. ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sound so airy-fairy. Beverly would laugh her ass off. She’s far more concerned with getting me laid than keeping me sane.’ She cocked her head to one side, her lips curving upward in a little quirk of a smile. ‘Though I suppose she probably wouldn’t see much difference in the two, really.’

‘Her Executive Sex Clause?’ he asked.

She nodded, and he thought he saw a whisper of a blush cross her cheeks. ‘Not likely to happen at Jasper and McDowell, though. In fact, the thought makes me a little queasy. But still, I won’t deny that it’s an intriguing idea under the right circumstances.’

He chuckled. ‘Believe me, I hear about it ad nauseum, along with all her other hair-brained schemes, and I won’t complain again about any of them once she’s back here safe and sound.’

‘Yes you will,’ Dee said. ‘It wouldn’t be nearly so much fun for either of you if you didn’t.’

Before he could agree with her, his phone rang and he grabbed it from the book shelf behind the sofa. ‘It’s from Brazil,’ he said, feeling the muscles in his shoulders tighten and his stomach clench. She was on the edge of the sofa next to him in an instant, her eyes locked on him. The call took less than ten seconds. It jump-started his brain back into the hyper-alert state it had been in since Beverly’s disappearance, the state it had only just come down from in Dee Henning’s comforting presence.

‘Storm’s breaking.’ He mouthed the words to her. She moved still closer, trying to overhear the conversation. He placed a finger to his lips and strained to hear. ‘All right,’ he said. ‘I’m on my way.’ He disconnected and all but catapulted off the sofa. ‘That’s the outfitters. I made them promise to call me the minute they knew anything.’

She was off the sofa too, following him to where his backpack leaned against a wing-backed chair. He’d had Harold prepare it and deliver it to the office just in case.

‘And?’

‘I’m going back. Jeffries is on standby with the limo. The plane is fuelled and ready. I figure we can be at PDX in 30 minutes, if traffic’s not too bad.’

She grabbed his arm and pulled him to a stop. ‘You can’t go back without at least a night’s rest, Ellis. You’re exhausted, and what about Beverly’s important meeting?’

He jerked away from her and hefted the pack onto one shoulder. ‘Fuck her meeting. I just want her safe.’

‘Ellis, be reasonable. As soon as things settle, you could get a phone call from Beverly laughing the whole thing off. Do you know how upset she’d be if she knew you’d put yourself in danger traipsing down there when there was no need? Please.’ She grabbed the backpack and wrestled it off his shoulder. ‘You know I’m right. Just rest. Just for tonight, and then tomorrow …’ She stepped into his personal space and placed a hand on his biceps. ‘Tomorrow I’ll go with you.’

‘Are you crazy?’ He jerked his arm away. ‘You can’t go with me, Dee. It’s awful down there, flooding, wind damage … It was bad where I was and I wasn’t anywhere near the worst of it.’

‘I’ve just spent a week in the Andes working for Sportwide Extreme Adventure. I can handle it if you can.’

He held her gaze. ‘And were there bodies floating in the streets where you were?’

She caught her breath, grabbed for the back of the chair, and nearly stumbled. All the beautiful colour went out of her face, and he was sorry he’d said anything.

‘Bodies, you didn’t say anything about bodies, Ellis. Why the hell didn’t you tell me there were bodies? Jesus!’ She ran a hand through her hair and looked around the room wildly. ‘Why the fuck didn’t you tell me?’

He took both her arms and steadied her, looking down into those deep, serious eyes. ‘I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to worry you. Christ, it’s bad enough for those pictures to be going through one of our brains, let alone both.’

She straightened her shoulders, nodded, and stepped back. ‘All right, but that’s in the towns, isn’t it? I mean we’re talking the rain forest; trees, tall trees, lots of them. That’s where Beverly’ll be. It’ll be better there, surely it will be. And no people. No bodies.’

‘I didn’t get that far. I don’t know what to expect, and we don’t know where Beverly was when the outfitters lost contact. I don’t want you there, Dee. And neither would she. Don’t you understand?’

But of course she didn’t understand, and he really didn’t expect her to. God, she was as stubborn and pig-headed as Beverly. She held him in a hard blue gaze. ‘She wouldn’t want you there either, damn it.’

‘Don’t tell me what she would want. I don’t care what she would want. I’m going, you’re staying. That’s final.’

Dee shoved both her hands onto her hips and glared at him, her eyes suddenly like raw heat. ‘You’re not my boss, and I do what I want, and right now I’m telling you you’re being an idiot.’

It came as a total shock when he grabbed her. He didn’t see it coming. He didn’t see any of it coming. Before she could do more than utter a gasp of surprise, he pulled her to him so hard that he feared he’d given her whiplash, then he did the unthinkable. He kissed her. He kissed her hard. His mouth was bruising and tyrannical against hers, like he’d forgotten how to be gentle, like he’d forgotten how to be civilised. He swallowed her breath even as she fought to swallow his. At first she pushed

him, pushed him as hard as she could, and he thought she was pushing him away, but her mouth sparred with his for still more contact. He only yielded enough to step back, pulling her with him, kissing her harder, holding her tighter, tight enough to crush her breasts against his chest. She bit and nipped at him like an angry wolf, with him yanking and shoving her jacket off her shoulders and going to work on her buttons while she pushed and shoved and clawed.

There was ripping and tearing. At least one button went flying. He wasn’t sure whose. He didn’t care. He’d fucking buy her a new suit if he had to.

With one hand he tugged and yanked her skirt up over her hips, with the other he shoved down the straps of her bra and kneaded and cupped until his thumb raked her nipples into heavy, responsive peaks.

She managed to force his trousers down over his hips as he figured out how to release the front catch on her bra. ‘Wait, wait,’ he said, struggling to breathe in the charged atmosphere, trying to keep his head clear. He nearly elbowed her as he tugged his wallet from his pocket.

In his distracted efforts, he stumbled backward over the backpack, pulling her down on top of him, forcing the breath from his lungs with a grunt.

‘Oh my God!’ she cried out. They landed in a heap sprawled across the soft carpet. With her sitting astraddle him, he yanked and tugged at his wallet, money, credit cards, and receipts falling like confetti until he found the silver foil packet, which he ripped open, launching the condom into the air in

his frenzied efforts.
‘Shit,’ they both cursed at the same time. She

was already tugging at his boxers as he grabbed up the rogue condom, rolled it down over his arcing erection, and thrust up into it, nearly bucking her off his thighs with the effort. He tugged the crotch of her panties aside. For a second he glimpsed the warm depths of her before they clawed and shifted and positioned to get what, until now, neither of them had known they needed so desperately.

Once he pushed into her, it was his turn to cry out. ‘Oh God, Dee! I can’t stand it!’ He grabbed her hips and held her tight. ‘Hold still. Don’t move. Give me a second.’

It had been a long time since he’d had any sex other than with his own fist, and his sensitivity was astounding, embarrassing actually. His chest rose and fell like bellows. Dee sat impaled, eyes closed, hands cupping her breasts, breathing like there was fire in her chest. She felt stretched exquisitely tight and warm and tetchy around his girth, and the few seconds he held her there seemed an eternity, suspended in the delicious agony of needing to thrust, but knowing to wait. Just a few more seconds until he felt in better control

When he was certain he wouldn’t embarrass himself, he gathered her to him, feeling the carpet abrade his elbows as he rolled on top of her, still buried to the hilt. And he began to thrust. She tightened her legs around his hips and rose in rhythm to meet his efforts, growling at him as he growled back, balling her fists against his back, straining upward onto her impaler, meeting strength

with strength. And her strength was impressive. She was all muscle and sinew, rounded and softened with delicious curves engulfing him in the feel and the power and the scent of femaleness, the tidal scent of steamy summer, the scent of lust tightly controlled. No doubt some of that was his own. And the blending of the two was intoxicating.

It was all over in a few minutes. They exploded into release like glass shattering on concrete. He came with a heavy groan and collapsed on top of her while she convulsed in orgasm. Surely he was dreaming. Surely he was asleep, and his psyche had fabricated the whole experience in an effort to relieve stress. Surely it couldn’t be real. He’d wake up soon.

They lay panting on the floor in a tangle of discarded clothing and trembling limbs, as his brain gradually regained control. In his fantasies, he always made it last, lingering to tease and pleasure Dee their first time together. And it was true; he actually had fantasised about her, about the woman he’d never met, the woman whose photo was in the dossier Beverly had put together. He’d fantasised about her from his first glance at Beverly’s wild concoction of a resume. And he had no doubt that had been a part of Beverly’s scheme.

But he was always a good lover in his fantasies; no awkward moments, no clumsy efforts. In his fantasies he always pleasured her like she’d never been pleasured before. He never imagined he’d take her with such force. He never imagined he’d take her at all, at least not in the real world. God, what must she think? He found himself remembering

Beverly’s Executive Sex Clause. No doubt this situation would meet with her approval, but at the moment, he wasn’t sure what he felt, other than dismayed that he’d lost control.

Finally he found the breath to speak. ‘Dee, are you all right? I’m so sorry. I don’t know what came over me; I don’t know what I was thinking. I didn’t mean to be such an animal.’

‘I like animals.’ She spoke around laboured breath.

The sting her nails had left across his shoulders and back convinced him she might be a bit of an animal herself, a thought that brought with it a new wave of arousal, which he tried to suppress. ‘Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. I want you to know that I never, that I wouldn’t –’

‘I know. Me neither,’ she said.

Neither of them made any effort to get up or to move out of each other’s arms. In fact, the feel of her so close was worth hanging on to. He’d rest for a little while with her so nicely wrapped around him. Just for a few minutes, then he’d call Jeffries to take him to the airport. Just a little while longer, close to her warmth. That was all he needed. Just a few more delicious minutes.

 

The Executive Decisions Boxed Set

 

 

 

 

The Executive Decision Trilogy Now Available in a Box Set!

Exec Box setI’m very excited to announce that the entire Executive Decision Trilogy is now available in a box set! An Executive Decision, Identity Crisis & The Exhibition are all three now available in one intense, sizzling, yummy package from Amazon. If you liked Interviewing Wade, you’ll love The Executive Decision Box Set. Go ahead, indulge yourself with the rest of the story, and what a story it is! Here’s your chance to meet the rest of the Pneuma Inc inner circle and indulge in the sometimes funny, sometimes hair-raising, always steamy adventures of Dee & Ellis, Kendra & Garrett, Stacie & Harris as they battle their way to success, happiness and, of course love. The Executive Decision Box Set is a binge reading must for those who like an intense, fast-paced story with hot romance between characters who are more than up for the task.

 

 

 

Here’s what you get:

 

An Executive Decision – Book One in The Executive Decision Series

 

Overworked CEO Ellison Thorne has no time for sex, let alone romance. The only answer, at least where his retiring AED new coverbusiness partner Beverly is concerned, is a no-strings sex clause in her replacement’s contract, designed to make Ellis’
busy life easier – and hotter. But she’s joking, right?

When Dee Henning takes over Beverly’s job, sparks fly between her and Ellis, but work takes priority in driven Dee’s life too. Can one night of passion in a Paris hotel room prove Beverly’s Sex Clause is their secret to success in the boardroom and the bedroom, and what will happen if that private clause becomes public knowledge?

 

Identity Crisis – Book Two in The Executive Decision Series

 

This romantic suspense novel is recommended to hopeless romantics who know love triumphs over all.

IC new coverTess Delaney is the hottest property in romantic fiction, but the reclusive Tess has a secret – she’s really the alter ego of Garrett Thorne, bad boy brother of business tycoon Ellison Thorne. When Tess is nominated for the Golden Kiss Award, Garrett recruits PR specialist, Kendra Davis, to keep his secret and be Tess for the awards despite their mutual animosity.

Hatred turns to scorching passion, but when Tess is stalked by a rabid fan, an identity crisis is eclipsed by a battle for survival. It seems Tess, the woman who doesn’t exist, just might understand Kendra and Garrett’s hearts better than they do.

 

The Exhibition – Book Three in The Executive Decision Series

 

TE new coverSuccessful 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?

 

Buy The Executive Decision Box Set Here:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

 

Excerpt from The Exhibition:

 

Outside someone shouted, ‘Hastings, check the crappers.’

Before Harris knew what hit him, Stacie pulled him into the cubicle at the other end of the row and locked the door behind him talking in a fast whisper. ‘Sorry about this. Not very professional, I know, but I promised to do my best to keep us out of jail, and I’m thinking groping in the ladies’ room’s not what this raid’s all about.’ The words were barely out of her mouth before she launched herself at him lips first. Damn it; he wanted to be mad at her. They were about to go to jail, for fuck sake! But instead of giving her a piece of his mind, he kissed her right back, hard, and felt her yield and open, and his tongue was in heaven sparing with hers, tasting, testing, thrusting. He found himself hoping that the inevitable arrest would wait until after he got his fill of Stacie Emerson, and that could take a while. She felt way better than she had even in his fantasies, and when his badly-behaving hands moved down to cup her magnificent bottom and pull her closer, she returned the favour and gave his ass a good grope. As though that gave him permission to explore, he slid anxious fingers inside her trousers wriggling down past a miniscule thong to cup an impossibly soft, impossibly firm buttock that gave a muscular clench in his hand, forcing her hips forward until she couldn’t possibly miss the press of his appreciative hard-on straining his jeans to get closer to her.
In the hall the noise got louder and the door burst open.

She had just managed a good firm stroke to the front of his trousers that had his full attention and then some, when a heavy-handed knock on the door caused her to yelp, and he nearly fell back onto the commode.
‘All right, you two, tuck it in, and come on out.’

 

 

‘Grace has this amazing knack of creating sexual tension not just through a few pages, but the whole damn book… ending in incredible sex.’ – Midnight Boudoir

 

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?’

 

End of Summer Beginnings: An Executive Decision Chapter 1

Welcome to the beginning of my End of Summer Beginnings Posts! As everyone is frantically trying to fit in one last dose of the summer sun and a smidge more holiday before autumn is upon us, I thought it was time for a bit of temptation. One of the best parts of summer holidays is a good read to match the summer sizzle, so with that in mind, for the next two weeks, I’m sharing First Chapters of all my novels. I’m beginning with a bit of hot romance, Grace Marshall style and chapter 1 from An Executive Decision, book one of the Executive Decisions Trilogy. Enjoy!  (Follow hyper-links to learn more and to find buy-links)

 

AED new coverBlurb An Executive Decision:

Book One of the Executive Decision Trilogy (Click here for Book Two | Book Three )

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.

 

Chapter 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.

Just 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.’newgmbutton

‘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?’

‘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.’

A 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.’

He 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.

Xcite FB campagne for Exec Dec trilogy‘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?’

 

 

An Executive Decision is FREE and it’s Number One!

AED number 1 An Executive Decision, book one of the Executive Decisions Trilogy, went free on Amazon yesterday and by last night it was number one on the Amazon.com free Kindle downloads chart in Romantic Erotica! Dee and Ellis are known for working hard, and they must have been working all night, because as of 10:30 this morning, they’re still holding the number one position in Romantic Erotica and are now number one in Erotica as well. They’re holding their own in the UK chart as well, hanging in there at number 8.  Excited much!?!?

Of course that’s totally fabulous news for me! I couldn’t be happier! But it’s also great news for those of you who haven’t yet sunk your teeth into the trilogy. Now is your chance to get the first book for FREE!

And here’s a little teaser for you enjoy while you’re downloading.

An Executive Decision Blurb:

Book 1 of The Executive Decisions Trilogy

Overworked CEO Ellison Thorne has no time for sex, let alone romance. The only answer, at least where his retiring business partner Beverly is concerned, is a no-strings sex clause in her replacement’s contract, designed to make Ellis’ busy life easier – and hotter. But she’s joking, right?

When Dee Henning takes over Beverly’s job, sparks fly between her and Ellis, but work takes priority in driven Dee’s life too. Can one night of passio
n in a Paris hotel room prove Beverly’s Sex Clause is their secret to success in the boardroom and the bedroom, and what will happen if that private clause becomes public knowledge?

An Executive Decision Excerpt:

‘Storm’s breaking.’ He mouthed the words to her, and she moved still closer, trying to overhear the conversation. He placed a finger to his lips and strained to hear. ‘Alright,’ he said. ‘I’m on my way.’ He disconnected and practically catapulted off the sofa. ‘That’s the outfitters. I made them promise to call me the minute they knew anything.’

She was off the sofa too, following him to where his backpack leaned against a wingback chair. He’d had Harold prepare it and deliver it to the office just in case.

‘And?’

‘I’m going back. Jeffries is on standby with the limo. The plane is fueled and ready. I figure we can be at PDX in thirty minutes, if traffic’s not too bad.’

She grabbed his arm and pulled him to a stop. ‘You can’t go back without at least one night’s rest, Ellis. You’re exhausted, and what about Beverly’s important meeting?’

He jerked away from her and hefted the pack onto one shoulder. ‘Fuck her meeting. I just want her safe.’

AED new cover‘Ellis, be reasonable. As soon as things settle, you could get a phone call from Beverly laughing the whole thing off. Do you know how upset she’d be if she knew you’d put yourself in danger traipsing down there when there was no need? Please,’ she grabbed the backpack and wrestled it off his shoulder. ‘You know I’m right. Just rest. Just for tonight, and then tomorrow…’ She stepped into his personal space and placed a hand on his bicep. ‘Tomorrow I’ll go with you.’

‘Are you crazy?’ he jerked his arm away. ‘You can’t go with me. It’s awful down there, flooding, wind damage, it was bad where I was and I wasn’t anywhere near the worst of it.’

*****

‘I don’t know what to expect, and we don’t know where Beverly was when the outfitters lost contact. I don’t want you there, Dee. And neither would she. Don’t you understand?’

But of course she didn’t understand, and he really didn’t expect her to. God, she was as stubborn and pigheaded as Beverly was. She held him in a hard blue gaze. ‘She wouldn’t want you there either, damn it.’

‘Don’t tell me what she would want. I don’t care what she would want. I’m going and you’re staying. That’s final.’

Dee shoved both her hands onto her hips and glared at him, her eyes suddenly like raw heat. ‘You’re not my boss, and I do what I want, and right now I’m telling you you’re being an idiot.’

It came as a total shock when he grabbed her. He didn’t see it coming. He didn’t see any of it coming. Before she could do more than utter a gasp of surprise, he pulled her to him so hard that he feared he’d given her whiplash, then he did the unthinkable. He kissed her. He kissed her hard. His mouth was bruising and tyrannical against hers, like he’d forgotten how to be gentle, like he’d forgotten how to be civilized. He swallowed her breath even as she fought to swallow his. At first she pushed him, pushed him as hard as she could, and he thought she was pushing him away, but her mouth sparred with his for still more contact. He only yielded enough to step back, pulling her with him, kissing her harder, holding her tighter, tight enough to crush her breasts against his chest. She bit and nipped at him like an angry wolf, with him yanking and shoving her jacket off her shoulders and going to work on her buttons while she pushed and shoved and clawed.

There was ripping and tearing. At least one button went flying. He wasn’t sure whose. He didn’t care. He’d fucking buy her a new suit if he had to.

With one hand he tugged and yanked her skirt up over her hips, with the other he shoved down the straps of her bra and kneaded and cupped until his thumb raked her nipples into heavy, responsive peaks.

She managed to force his trousers down over his hips as he figured out how to release the front catch on her bra. ‘Wait, wait,’ he said, struggling to breathe in the charged atmosphere, trying to keep his head clear. He nearly elbowed her as he tugged his wallet from his pocket.

In his distracted efforts, he stumbled backward over the backpack, pulling her down on top of him, forcing the breath from his lungs with a grunt.

‘Oh my god!’ she cried out. They landed in a heap sprawled across the soft carpet. With her sitting astraddle him he yanked and tugged at his wallet, money, credit cards and receipts falling like confetti until he found the silver foil packet, which he ripped open, launching the condom into the air in his frenzied efforts.

‘Shit,’ they both cursed at the same time. She was already tugging at his boxers as he grabbed up the rogue condom, rolled it down over his arcing erection and thrust up into it nearly bucking her off his thighs with the effort. He tugged the crotch of her panties aside. For a second he glimpsed the warm depths of her before they clawed and shifted and positioned to get what, until now, neither of them had known they both needed so desperately.

Once he pushed into her, it was his turn to cry out. ‘Oh god, Dee! I can’t stand it!’ He grabbed her hips and held her tight. ‘Hold still. Don’t move. Give me a second.’ It had been a long time since he’d had any real sex, and his sensitivity was astounding, embarrassing actually. His chest rose and fell like bellows. Dee sat impaled, eyes closed, hands cupping her breasts, breathing like there was fire in her chest. She felt stretched exquisitely tight and warm and tetchy around his girth, and the few seconds he held her there seemed forever, suspended in the delicious agony of needing to thrust, but knowing to wait. Just a few more seconds until he felt in better control

Then when he was certain he wouldn’t embarrass himself, he gathered her to him, feeling the carpet abrade his elbows as he rolled on top of her, still buried to the hilt. And he began to thrust. She tightened her legs around his hips and rose in rhythm to meet his efforts, growling at him, as he growled back, balling her fists against his back, straining upward onto him as he impaled her, meeting strength with strength. And her strength was impressive. She was muscle and sinew, rounded and softened with delicious curves engulfing him in the feel and the power and the scent of femaleness, the tidal scent of steamy summer, the scent of lust tightly controlled. No doubt some of that was his own scent. And the blending of the two was intoxicating.

It was all over in a few minutes. They exploded into release together like glass shattering on concrete. He came with a heavy groan and collapsed on top of her while she convulsed in orgasm. Surely he was dreaming. Surely he was asleep, and his psyche had fabricated the whole experience in an effort to relieve stress. Surely it couldn’t be real. He’d wake up soon.

They lay panting on the floor in a tangle of discarded clothing and trembling arms and legs, as his brain gradually regained control. In his fantasies, he always made it last, lingering to tease and pleasure Dee their first time together. And it was true; he actually had fantasized about her, about the woman he’d never met, about the woman whose photo was in the dossier Beverly had put together. He’d fantasized about her from his first glance at Beverly’s wild concoction of a resume. And he had no doubt that had been a part of Beverly’s scheme.

But he was always a good lover in his fantasies, no awkward moments, no clumsy efforts. In his fantasies he always pleasured her like she’d never been pleasured before. He never imagined he’d take her with such force. He never imagined he’d take her at all, at least not in the real world. God, what must she think? He found himself remembering Beverly’s Executive Sex Clause. No doubt this situation would meet with her approval, but at the moment, he wasn’t sure what he felt, other than embarrassed that he’d lost control.

Finally he found the breath to speak. ‘Dee, are you alright? I’m so sorry. I don’t know what came over me; I don’t know what I was thinking. I didn’t mean to be such an animal.’

‘I like animals.’ She spoke around labored breath.

The sting her nails had left across his shoulders and back convinced him she might be a bit of an animal herself.

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The Romance Reviews

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