She hands me a folder. “Today—lunch in the conference room. Your father’s introducing the new associate. You know how he is about these things.”
You ever see A Christmas Carol? Of course you have—some version of it’s on some channel, somewhere, every day before Christmas. Well, you know when the Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge back in time to when he was young and happy? And he had that boss, Fezziwig, the fat guy who threw the big parties? Yeah, that guy. That’s my father.
My dad loves this company and sees all his employees as extended family. He looks for any excuse to throw an office party. Birthday parties, baby showers, Thanksgiving luncheons, President’s Day buffets, Columbus Day dinners…need I go on?
It’s a miracle any actual work gets accomplished.
And Christmas? Forget about it. My father’s Christmas parties are legendary. Everybody goes home shitfaced. Some people don’t go home at all. Last year we caught ten employees from a rival bank trying to sneak in, just because the soirée is that frigging fantastic. And it’s all done to achieve the atmosphere—the vibe—my father wants in this firm.
He loves his employees, and they love him right back. Devotion, loyalty—we’ve got it in spades. That’s part of what makes us the best. Because the people who work here would pretty much sell their firstborn for my old man.
Still, there are days—days like today, when I need the time to romance a client—that his celebrations can be a royal pain in the ass. But it is what it is.
My Monday morning is packed, so I get to my desk and start working. Then, before I can blink, it’s one o’clock and I’m heading to the conference room. I spot a familiar head of bright orange hair attached to a short stocky-framed body. That would be Jack O’Shay. Jack started at the firm about six years ago, the same year I did. He’s a good guy and frequent weekend comrade. Next to him is Matthew, talking animatedly as he pushes a large hand through his sandy-colored hair.
I grab my food from the buffet and join them just as Matthew is recounting his Saturday night. “So then she breaks out handcuffs and a whip. A fucking whip! I thought I was going to lose it right there, I swear to Christ. I mean…she went to a convent…actually studied to be a goddamn nun, man!”
“I told you, the quiet ones are always into the kinky shit,” Jack adds with a laugh.
Matthew turns his hazel eyes to Steven and tells him, “Seriously, dude. You gotta come out with us. Just once, I’m begging you.”
I smirk at that because I know exactly what’s coming.
“I’m sorry, have you met my wife?” Steven asks, his brow wrinkled in confusion.
“Don’t be such a bitch,” Jack ribs him. “Tell her you’re going to play cards or something. Live a little.”
Steven takes off his glasses and wipes the lenses with a napkin as he appears to consider the idea.
“Riiiight. And when she finds out—and Alexandra will definitely find out, I assure you—she’ll serve me my balls on a silver platter. With a nice garlic butter dipping sauce on the side and a good Chianti.”
He makes a slurping sound à la Hannibal Lecter that has me laughing my ass off.
“Besides,” he gloats, replacing his spectacles and stretching his hands over his head, “I got filet mignon at home, boys. I’m not interested in Sloppy Joes.”
“Pussy,” Matthew coughs out, while Jack shakes his head at my brother-in-law and says, “Even a nice filet gets old if you eat it every day.”
“Not,” Steven defends suggestively, “if you cook it a different way every time. My baby knows how to keep my meals spicy.”
I put my hand up and plead, “Please. Please just stop there.” There are just some visuals I don’t want in my head. Ever.
“What about you, Drew? I saw you leave with those twins. Were they real redheads?” Jack asks me.
I feel the satisfied smile stretch over my lips. “Oh yeah. They were real.” And then I go on to describe my wild Saturday night in vivid, delicious detail.
Okay, let’s just stop right now because I can see that judgmental look on your face. And I can hear your high-pitched disapproval too: What a jerk. He had sex with a girl—well, in this case, two girls—and now he’s telling his friends all about it. That’s sooo disrespectful.
First of all, if a chick wants me to respect her, she needs to act like someone worth respecting. Second, I’m not trying to be a dick; I’m just being a guy. And all guys talk to their friends about sex.
Let me repeat that in case you missed it:
ALL GUYS TALK TO THEIR FRIENDS ABOUT SEX.
If a guy tells you he doesn’t? Dump him, because he’s lying to you.
And another thing—I’ve heard my sister and her little friends have their chats too. Some of the things that came out of their mouths could’ve made Larry fucking Flynt blush. So don’t act like women don’t talk just as much as us guys do…because I know for a fact they do.
After expounding on the finer points of my weekend, the talk at the table turns to football and the effectiveness of Manning’s offense. In the background, I hear my father’s voice as he stands at the front of the room, detailing the grand accomplishments of the newest associate, whose file I didn’t bother opening this morning. Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, first in her class, interned with Credit Suisse, blah…blah…blah.
The chatter fades away as my thoughts turn to the part of my Saturday night that I didn’t bother telling my friends about: the interaction with one brunette goddess, to be exact. I can still see those dark round eyes so clearly in my head. That luscious mouth, the luminous hair that could not have possibly been as soft as it looked.
It isn’t the first time her image has popped into my head, unbidden, in the last day and a half. In fact, it seems like every hour a picture of some part of her comes to me, and I find myself imagining what happened to her. Or, more to the point, what could have happened if I had stuck around and gone after her.
It’s strange. I’m not one to reminisce about the randoms I meet during my weekend adventures. Usually, they fade from my thoughts the moment I escape their bed. But there was just something about her. Maybe it’s because she turned me down. Maybe it’s because I didn’t get her name. Or maybe it was that sweetly toned ass that made me want to grab on and never let go.
As the images in my mind turn to focus on that particular feature, a familiar stirring begins in the southern region, if you catch my drift. I mentally shake myself. I haven’t gotten a spontaneous hard-on since I was twelve. What’s up with that?
Looks like I’m going to have to call that hottie who slipped me her number in the coffeehouse this morning. Normally I reserve those kinds of activities for weekends, but apparently my dick would like to make an exception.
By this time, I’ve made it toward the front of the room, in line for the customary handshake of welcome given to all new employees. As I near the head of the line, my father spots me and comes over to greet me with an affectionate slap on the back.
“Glad you made it, Drew. This new girl has some real potential. I want you to personally take her under your wing, help her get her feet wet. You do that, Son, and I guarantee you she’ll take off and do us all proud.”
“Sure, Dad. No problem.”
Great. Like I don’t have my own work to take care of. Now I have to hold a newbie’s hand as she navigates the dark, scary world of Corporate America. That’s just perfect.
Finally, my turn has come. Her back is to me as I step up. I take in her sleek dark hair pulled into a low bun, her tiny, petite frame. My eyes drift down her back as she speaks to someone in front of her. On instinct they fall to her ass and…wait.
Wait one goddamn minute.
I’ve seen that ass before.
No fucking way.
She turns around.
The smile on her face broadens as her eyes connect with mine. Endless, shining eyes that I didn’t remember dreaming about till just now. She raises a brow of recognition and holds out her hand. “Mr. Evans.”
I feel my mouth open and close, but no words come out. The shock of seeing her again—here of all places—must have momentarily frozen the part of my brain that controls speech. As the synapses start to function once more, I hear my father saying, “…Brooks. Katherine Brooks. She’s going places, Son, and with your help she’ll be taking us with her.”
The girl from the bar. The girl who I let get away. The girl whose mouth I’m still desperate to feel around my cock.
And she works here. In my office, where I have sworn to never…ever…screw around. Her warm, soft hand slides perfectly into mine, and two thoughts enter my head simultaneously.
The first is: God hates me. The second is: I have been a naughty, naughty boy for most of my life, and this is my payback. And you know what they say about payback, right?
Yep. She’s one hairy bitch.
I AM ALL ABOUT SELF-DETERMINATION. Will. Control. I determine my path in life. I decide my failures and successes. Screw fate. Destiny can kiss my ass. If I want something badly enough, I can have it. If I focus, sacrifice, there is nothing I can’t do.
What is the point of my posturing, you ask? Why do I sound like the featured speaker at a self-help convention? What exactly am I trying to say?
In a nutshell: I control my dick. My dick does not control me. At least, that’s what I’ve been telling myself for the last hour and a half.
See me there, at my desk, mumbling like a goddamn schizophrenic off his meds?
That’s me reminding myself of the tenets, the sacred beliefs that have gotten me this far in life. The ones that have made me an uncontested success in the bedroom and in the office. The ones that have never failed me before. The ones that I am dying to throw out the fucking window. All because of the woman in the office down the hall.
Katherine Everyone-Calls-Me-Kate Brooks.
Talk about a frigging curveball.
The way I see it, I could still go for the gold. Technically speaking, I didn’t meet Kate at work; I met her in a bar. That means she could forgo the label of “coworker” and retain the “random hook-up” status with which she was originally designated.
What? I’m a businessman; it’s my job to find loopholes.
So, in theory at least, I could definitely nail her and not undermine my own personal laws of nature. The problem with that strategy, of course, is what happens after.
The longing glances, the hopeful eyes, the pathetic attempts to make me jealous. The supposedly “accidental” meetings, the questions about my plans, the seemingly casual walks past my office door. All of which would inevitably escalate into disturbing semi-stalkerish behavior.
Some women can handle a one-night stand. Others can’t. And I have definitely been on the wrong end of those who can’t.
It ain’t pretty.
So, you see, no matter how badly I want to, no matter how hard the little head is trying to lead me down that road, it’s not the kind of thing I want to bring into my place of business. My sanctuary—my second home.
It’s not going to happen. Period.
That’s it. End of discussion.
Kate Brooks is officially scratched off my list of potentials. She is forbidden, untouchable, a no-way-never. Right next to my friends’ ex-girlfriends, the boss’s daughter, and my sister’s best friends.
Well, that last category is a bit of a gray area. When I was eighteen, Alexandra’s best friend, Cheryl Phillips, spent the summer at our house. God bless her—that girl had a mouth like a Hoover vacuum. Lucky for me, The Bitch never learned of her friend’s two a.m. visits to my room. There would have been hell to pay—I’m talking fire-and-brimstone-of-apocalyptic-proportions hell—if she had.