Read an Excerpt
It was the last place Gina Grady wanted to be.
But desperation was an unwelcome persuasion. And Gina was just that: desperate. Her pride and determination also played in the mix.
She needed this job.
She needed to stay in L.A.
Gina was ushered into an empty office. "Mr. Beaumont will be right with you," Mrs. Danner from Human Resources announced before exiting the office, leaving Gina alone with her thoughts.
She walked over to the massive floor–to–ceiling window and took in the view from the twelfth floor of the trendy Santa Monica high–rise, praying the interview would go well. She shouldn't be so worried.
Sam Beaumont had been her friend once. he'd always been kind. Yet, having to take him up on his offer of a job at the Triple B ranked with her top–ten most desperate acts of survival. The Beaumont name alone caused her insides to quake and she wondered at her own sanity in coming. However, it wasn't Sam but his younger brother, Wade, she hoped never to cross paths with again.
The Pacific Ocean loomed on the horizon, the pounding blue surf and white caps filling the view. She shuddered at the sight, and shook off her thoughts of Wade. She had enough to worry about without letting old fears get the better of her today.
She owed money to a whole lot of people and they didn't give a damn that she'd been swindled by a con man she had once trusted as her partner. GiGi Designs, the company she'd struggled to conceive hadn't been given a chance. Her lifelong dream had been destroyed in the blink of an eye. All that she'd worked so hard for had come crumbling down around her.
Now Gina was evenmore determined to rebuild her clothing design business—from the ground up, if need be.
But first, she needed to pay off her debts.
Gina tidied her long dark hair, making sure it hadn't fallen from the tight knot at the back of her head, straightened her black pinstriped suit and took a seat in front of the massive oak desk, setting her black knockoff Gucci handbag on her lap. She waited for Sam to enter his office.
She closed her eyes to steady her wayward nerves. Calmer, she took a deep breath before opening them again. But when she glanced down, she simply stared in disbelief at the nameplate outlined in solid brass on the desk:
Wade Beaumont, CEO. "No!" Her heart thudding against her chest, she rose abruptly. She couldn't bear to see Wade again, much less work for him. She couldn't possibly swallow that much pride. She set her purse strap on her shoulder and turned to leave.
"Running away again, Gina?"
Stunned, Gina stopped abruptly and stared into the dark–green eyes of Wade Beaumont. His head cocked to one side, he was leaning against the door where she'd hoped to make her escape. He stared back at her, his lips curled into a mocking smile.
"You do that so well."
Gina kept her head held high and tried to appear calm while her insides quivered uncontrollably. She'd foolishly hoped that Wade had nothing to do with Triple B, but now she'd seen the folly in that.
But she couldn't deny how handsome Wade was, standing there in a pair of black trousers and a crisp white shirt, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. He looked older, more mature and those bold green eyes—she'd never forget the way they use to soften when he looked at her. Or the way his strong body felt crushed up against hers.
Or the day, nine years ago, when she'd run away from him. "I…this is a mistake. I shouldn't have come," she said on a breath.
Wade ignored her comment. "You applied for a job."
"Yes, I, um assumed Sam would be running your father's company."
"Ah, so you didn't think you'd find me here?" Gina bolstered her courage as she recalled Wade's onetime contempt for the company his father seemed to love more than his own two sons. Triple B was all Blake Beaumont had ever cared about. When she'd known him back in El Paso, she'd understood Wade's retreat from both the company and his father. She'd never have guessed that he would be at the helm now. Never. "No, I didn't actually. As I said, this is a mistake."
Gina watched his mouth twitch. He walked around his desk and picked up her resume, reading it over carefully.
"I run Triple B now from the West Coast. My father's dead and my brother's remarried and living in Texas. The company fell into my hands some time ago." He stared directly into her eyes. "I suppose you thought I'd work all my life on Uncle Lee's ranch or wind up with a small place of my own back in El Paso?"
"Actually, I hadn't given it much thought," Gina said truthfully. She had thought of Wade countless times in the past—dreamed of him and wondered how his life had turned out—but she never cared what he did for a living. It had never mattered to her.
She'd met Wade while living with the Buckleys in El Paso for the summer. Sarah, her college roommate, had been there for her after her parents had died in a boating accident. Gina had been on the boat, narrowly escaping death that day. Sarah had seen to the funeral, making all the arrangements. She'd held Gina tight, when the caskets were lowered into the ground. And after, when Gina had been uncertain of her future, Sarah had taken her home to El Paso.
The Buckleys' place neighbored Wade's uncle's ranch and the four of them—Sam, Wade, Sarah and Gina—had been inseparable. She came to depend on their friendship and slowly began to heal from her terrible loss, until the day when her world had come crashing down upon her once again.
And now, Wade sat down at his desk and leaned back studying her, his eyes raking her over. She felt exposed and vulnerable, yet unable to draw herself away from his intense scrutiny.
"You hadn't thought about me? Of course, why would you? My father took care of that, didn't he?" He gestured for her to sit down, not expecting an answer. "Take a seat. We'll do this interview."
"No, I—I don't think that would be a good idea, Wade."
"I thought you needed a job?" he said, narrowing his eyes on her.
"I do need a job." She directed her gaze to his without apology. "Just not this one."
He looked down at her resume. "You're more than qualified."
Gina's legs wobbled, so she decided to take a seat, at least for the moment.
"You've got a degree in business. And then you went on to the Fashion Institute. Did my father's money finance that?"
He asked that question so casually that Gina had to rewind his words in her mind to make sure she'd heard him correctly. Wade believed that she'd taken his father's bribe—dirty money that she'd never wanted—to stay away from him.
He believed it because she'd never denied it. She'd let him think that she'd been enticed by a large sum of money to leave El Paso.
But that hadn't been the case at all.
She'd run out on Wade for an entirely different reason. And to have Wade believe she'd accepted his father's bribery had guaranteed that he wouldn't come after her.
She'd hated what he'd done to her.
Hated the high and mighty Blake Beaumont even more.
But if given the choice all over again, Gina wouldn't have changed anything about that summer. Except the night that they made love. Though the sweet memories of the intense passion they shared were always with her, she wished she could take that night back.
Slinging her purse on her shoulder and holding her anger in check, she stood to leave. "I'm sorry," she said, and his dark brows lifted, lining his forehead. "For wasting your time."
Wade stood and glared at her. "You didn't. You're hired." * * *
Wade watched Gina blink her gorgeous espresso eyes. Nine years had only added to her sultry beauty and it angered him that she could still make his heart race. All Wade had to do was look into those dark, deceitful eyes and admire that voluptuous body and he had trouble remembering the pain she'd caused him. he'd taken her virginity and it had been the highest of highs, claiming her as his own.
She'd run out on him then, leaving town, without so much as a goodbye. She'd gotten what she'd wanted—a load of money from his manipulative father. But if money had been her goal she should have waited. No longer the poor young man working on his uncle's ranch, Wade was floating in cash. But she'd been bought off long ago and had caused Wade enough steaming heartache to fill a Mississippi riverboat.
Gina straightened her pinstriped suit, her chest heaving, the structured material unable to hide the fullness of her breasts. Wade looked his fill, watching the rise and fall as she tried to hide her hot IrishItalian temper.
Rosy–lipped, with a full flush of color on her light–olive skin, Gina was still the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. From the moment she'd shown up in Aunt Dottie's kitchen with an offering of fresh Italian bread and homemade pasta sauce, Wade had been a goner. She'd knocked him to his knees. "No. But thank you."
She spoke the words carefully and instincts told Wade that she'd been tempted to take the job. Hell, one look at her and he knew he couldn't let her walk out of his office. Not until they finished what they'd started nine years ago.
"There's a big bonus involved," he said, catching her attention. Her brows lifted provocatively. He shrugged. "I'm in a bind. My personal assistant chose last month to get pregnant. She's down with acute morning sickness and took disability leave. The other qualified assistants are busy with their own projects."
"How big a bonus?" she asked. Wade knew he'd gotten her attention once again. Money, it seemed, spoke volumes with her. Why was he disappointed? he'd known the sort of woman she was, but he had to admit that back in his youth, she sure had him fooled. "It's a thousand dollars a week to start and once the project is settled, win or lose, you get a tenthousand–dollar bonus. But I'll warn you, you'll be working long hours. Take it or leave it, Gina."
He could almost see her mind working, calculating, figuring. She must need a job badly. Wade had the upper hand and he knew it. She was tempted.
He sat down at his desk and rifled through papers, coming up with information on the Catalina project. He had figures to check and hours of work to do before making a bid on the biggest contract Triple B might hope to gain.
He felt her presence, breathed in the heady scent of her exotic perfume. His better judgment told him to let her go. he'd be better off not complicating his life by choosing to work alongside the only woman he knew who could turn him on with just one look. he'd had to sit down to conceal an unwelcome yet healthy erection that pulsed from underneath the desk.
He must be crazy. "I must be crazy, but I accept," she said softly. Wade lifted his head and nodded, more satisfied than he wanted to be. "I expect a decent hard day's work from my employees. If you can manage that, you've got the job."
Her chin jutted up. "I can manage that. I always give one hundred percent."
Wade's mind drifted back to his uncle's barn that night so many years ago. She'd given one hundred percent of herself to him, generously offering up her body with passion and pleasure, but it had all been a trap.
This time, he'd have to be more careful.