Jennifer Blackwood is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance. She lives in Oregon with her husband, son, and poorly behaved black lab puppy. When not chasing after her toddler, you can find her binging on episodes of Gilmore Girls and Supernatural, and locking herself in her office to write.
Please give a warm welcome to Jennifer Blackwood. She's here today sharing an excerpt from her upcoming release of The Rule Maker.
“Mr. Covington.” I dropped my bottle of water, briefcase, and purse on my desk and smoothed my sweaty palms over my skirt before taking a seat. “As much as I’d love to design the resort, I think there is now a conflict of interest. I’d be more than happy to pass your project to another designer in the firm.” Anyone who could remember the exact detail of what I wore months ago crossed a professional line.
There. He couldn’t argue with that. I could avoid this whole mess from the start and still keep true to the code of conduct.
He shook his head. “That’s not going to be possible.”
“Jason said he would only work with you, no one else.”
“I’m sure he would be perfectly happy with Mr. Bass. His experience is unrivaled by anyone at this firm.”
“You really think dumping Jason as a client would make him happy?”
Lance’s words played in the back of my head. Do whatever it takes to keep the Covingtons happy.
Ryder’s voice lowered to that deep, gravelly tone that tugged at my gut. “Unless you’re worried you can’t keep things professional. Is that why you left so quickly on Saturday?” His gaze slid toward the curve of my neck, to where his mouth had been not even three days ago.
Gauntlet thrown down.
I eyed him. He had no right to throw shade when he’d done the same thing to me first. “I didn’t know I needed
your permission to leave a public place.”
I bit down on the side of my cheek until the ache in my mouth overpowered the ones in other spaces.
“You’re right,” he said.
Our gazes met and the energy between us crackled. This was quite possibly the worst idea I’d ever had, playing mind games with the man who had set the sexual satisfaction bar to Olympic heights.
I bristled. Game face. No freaking out allowed, not at work. And definitely not in front of him. Even if I wanted Ryder out this door in the next thirty seconds, I would not let him know that. “And to answer your other question, everyone at Bass and Goldstein embodies professionalism. Myself included.”
“Then I don’t see a problem. We need a resort renovated, and you are a design firm.”
You are a professional.
That had broken the thou-shalt-not-bone-thy-client commandment.
I cleared my throat, shifting in my seat. “You’re right. Not a problem at all.” I smoothed an invisible wrinkle on my skirt, stalling for a moment to focus. “Would you like to see the designs?”
Game plan: stay polite. Stay at arm’s length.
He shrugged. “Sure.”
I pulled the designs out of my briefcase and slid them across the surface, making sure not to come anywhere near his hands, splayed on the other end of the table. My body heated, pulled to his massive frame as if by a magnetic force. I cleared my throat.
Reality check, girl. He tapped you harder than a fraternity kegger and fled before he could even warm the other side of your bed. Not exactly job-losing-worthy material.
There. That put things into perspective.
He took one quick glance at the drafts, frowned, and pushed them back toward me.
“I have to be honest with you. I think this is the worst business decision my brother has ever made. This is nothing against you or your firm, but I fully plan on convincing him to sell the resort as soon as he’s feeling better. In the meantime, we can discuss new designs. For his sake.”
Oh-kay. A client who didn’t actually want my services might pose as a roadblock. A large one. “For his sake, you’d better give it proper consideration. We do charge by the hour.” If he thought I’d just roll over and take this, he was messing with the wrong person.
Lance expected me to make this project work. Ryder didn’t know who he was dealing with. What I lacked in experience, I more than made up for with my inherited determination. I’d change his mind, and we’d find something that would make this resort fantastic.
“Of course. But would you rather strong-arm me into liking these designs I’m not crazy about, or wait until you come up with something that’ll blow my mind?” His lips curved into a smile.
Oh! My vision hazed over, and it took everything in me not to reach across the table and throat-punch him. Using my own game against me. Despicable.
“I would never want you to ‘settle’ for something you don’t care for. I’ll rework the plans.”
“If you come up with anything new, I’m free Friday night to discuss it. Over dinner, if you prefer.”
“I-I don’t think that would be wise.”
“Why? You took me and Jason out to lunch.” He lifted a brow. He’d baited that hook with expert precision. Of course he knew that I took my clients out to eat. “Or do you need him as a referee?”
“Well, yes. I mean, no.”
“For someone who claims to be professional, I’d think you’d want to treat all of your clients equally. Unless working with me makes you nervous?” His gaze moved from my waist and slowly made its way to meet mine in a challenge.
I ignored the heat pooling in my cheeks, and other places much, much lower. We were walking a fine line. One I wasn’t comfortable toeing, not when it involved my job. Especially not when it involved him. So, for the sake of my career and personal sanity, I pushed all thoughts of Ryder to a far recess of my mind, the same place that held forgotten passwords and the whereabouts of the TV remote.
“Of course not. You’re right. If I come up with new plans before Friday, I will set up a company dinner.” Yeah, not a chance in hell.
We both stood at the same time, and I smoothed the wrinkles on my skirt before extending my hand. “I look forward to working with you, Mr. Covington.”
He took my hand, the pad of his calloused thumb sliding across my skin. “Same here. Good luck with the new designs.” He leaned down and pressed his lips to my fingers.
Oh boy. Oh crap.
They were soft and warm and something I should not be thinking about. “And for the record, I still think I’m more interesting than that duke of yours.” He smiled and grabbed the crutches propped against my desk, then made his way out of the office.
I didn’t know how he managed this, but even with a broken leg, he swaggered out of the room like something out of a Bond film. And of course, what was I looking at? How his pants fit snug against his supremely fine ass. Really, in terms of guy butts, his was up there with Charlie Hunnam. I mean, it’d be a crime against all women not to appreciate that sculpted beauty. Not like he could see me anyway, since he was facing the other way.
“If you stare any harder, I might burst into flames.” He turned around and shot me a smile before I could avert my eyes or even pretend I wasn’t ogling the shit out of him. “Looking forward to exploring our professional relationship.”
Boom. Battleship sunk. S.S. Lady Bits obliterated by enemy torpedo. “G-good-bye, Mr. Covington,” I stuttered.
What the hell just happened?
Ten Steps to Surviving a New Job:1. Don’t sleep with the client. It’ll get you fired. (Sounds easy enough.)2. Don’t blink when new client turns out to be former one-night stand.3. Don’t call same client a jerk for never texting you back.4. Don’t believe client when he says he really, really wanted to call.5. Remember, the client is always right—so you can’t junk punch him when he demands new design after new design.6. Ignore accelerated heartbeat every time sexy client walks into room.7. Definitely ignore client’s large hands. They just mean he wears big gloves.8. Don’t let client’s charm wear you down. Be strong.9. Whatever you do, don’t fall for the client. You’ll lose more than your job—maybe even your heart.10. If all else fails, see rule number one again.
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