“Or that he’d never come,” I said grimly, although I couldn’t really wish it.

“He’s always around. It’s all I can do to smile and say good morning like my mama taught me,” Lindsay said with a huff.

“I know it’s hard with all our jobs on the line,” I said to her, “You coming to the game tomorrow? We could use you to cheer.”

“You bet I am. I’m calling it self-care. It’ll cheer me up to talk some trash at that other team. Those wimps over at the fish stick plant won’t know what hit them.”

“Great, I’ll see you there,” I said.

I loved going to cheer at the softball games. Sarah Jo sometimes came, and Layla and Lindsay were always there to holler with me. We weren’t official cheerleaders and we sure as hell didn’t do cartwheels, but we could pump up our players and intimidate the visiting team like nobody else. I’d have to be sure my team shirt was clean tonight.

I went up to the staff lounge on the top floor to post some more fliers. On the way up, I ran into Jeremiah. He had on a hardhat. That man had no right to look that hot in a hardhat. Not when he was here to shut down our plant and bring our town to its knees. Bastard. Sexy bastard who had his tongue in my mouth a couple nights ago. Fuck.

“Good morning, Maggie,” he said. “How are you?”

“I’m good. New program down at the Fun Factory, I’m just here putting up fliers,” I said brightly.

“Fun Factory?” he said. “Oh. You named your daycare after the factory. That’s clever.” He didn’t sound like he thought it was clever at all.

“Yeah, you know how we all depend on each other in a small community, we’re in this together,” I said, malice in my voice.

“I know it’s important to you.”

“Then fix this. So we don’t all lose our jobs. You can do that, right? You have the authority to decide this.”

“No, I’m here to evaluate things and make a recommendation in my report.”

“Then do that. Say how impressed you are with the facility and the workers and the whole community, and how we’re exactly the kind of people you want consumers to think of when they see the Hadley name,” I said.

“You’re very persuasive,” he said, “but I have to make an accurate report and submit it for the good of the corporation. Not a heartwarming sound bite. You’re asking me to lie for you.”

“I’m asking you to tell the truth. The workers here are dedicated, and the manager treats everybody like an important member of the team. Tomorrow’s the first softball game of the season. You should come see it. It’s the factory team, of course. Same factory that sponsors the Little League teams around here and does the biggest float in the homecoming parade. It’s the heart of our town, Jeremiah,” I said, impassioned, my face flushed.

“I see,” he said, nodding, his expression grim, but his eyes flashing heat at me.

“You come to that game tomorrow at one and see if the spirit moves you. You see what this place means to us as a community. Eat a snow cone, cheer with us. Decide what’s really important—this town or your boss’s bottom line,” I challenged.

“You’re on. Where and when?”

“It’s at one, out at the high school baseball field. I’d tell you how to get there, but I hear city boys just use their GPS,” I said.

It was a cheap shot, but I felt resentful. Because I wanted him so much. Because I was furious at the threat to everything I held dear, and more furious that the threat came in the form of Jeremiah Leeds, the hottest man ever to put his hands on me. And I wanted his hands on me now. I couldn’t help it. I could scatter those red papers on the floor and drag him into the supply closet down the hall. We could do it right up against the wall, or he could have me bent over the sink, watching me in the mirror the whole time. I felt almost sick with want.

He stood there looking so cool, so at ease with himself, the hardhat that should have looked stupid on him looking incredible instead.

“What are you thinking? You have the craziest look in your eyes right now.”

“That you don’t have any right to look that hot in a hardhat,” I grumbled irritably.

He laughed, “Thank you.”

“Maybe when you’ve shut down all the factories you can go model safety gear for a catalog.”

“If I shut down all the factories, no one would need the safety gear. So I doubt I’d get hired to model it,” he said, smirking, “And I can tell what you’re thinking now. ‘That I’m an asshole.”

“You got it in one,” I said with an eye roll.

Tags: Natasha L. Black Romance
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