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Dale Corbins has been in love with Liz from the moment he laid eyes on her. He knows time is running out, that one of these days she's going to come home and tell him she's fallen for someone else. When he finds out she's been sleeping with their boss, he decides it's time to take matters into his own hands. Unfortunately, winning Liz's heart isn't an easy game to play. It will take more than romantic gestures and sweet nothings to get the woman he loves. Thankfully, he's a very persistent man. But is this a game even he can't win?
"Becker's profits are falling at an alarming rate. Let's just say that it's bad enough they've decided to outsource the marketing to another firm--hopefully us. People, this is our chance. Opportunities like this don't fall from trees. This could be the deal of a lifetime. What team wants to tackle this one? Simthe, your team's loaded down enough with the Flickerton account. I can't spare you. How about you, Rogers, Jacks, or Walters?"
Tapping my ball point pen on the edge of the cherry table, I barely noticed the buzz of the week's staff meeting in my ear. The majority of it was always a recap anyway and the first time around with it bored me to tears. Subjecting myself to it twice was insane. Instead, thoughts of my weekend plans ran through my head. It had been close to five months since I'd been out on the town with the girls and my withdrawal was now full-blown. One of my best friends, Lauren, was convinced that my employer, Baum Marketing, was holding me hostage. She'd threatened twice to send in the marines if I didn't get a day off soon. In my current state of mind, I'd let her.
Besides, a room full of uniformed, armed men who had been trained to use their bodies as weapons couldn't be that bad, right?
I understood where Lauren was coming from. It wasn't like I was purposely avoiding her. I needed a break too but accounts were up. Striking while the iron's hot is a must in the world of marketing. And the iron had been hot for months now. Seeing any sort of out of the workplace activities would be a pleasant welcome to staring at the same four, pale grey, walls another minute. Just a week ago I'd found myself holding an interior decorator's cardin my hand wondering what my boss would say if I spruced my office up and brought my bed in.
He probably wouldn't care much for that. Then again, the bed might be a welcome change from his hard desk. My luck, a fellow employee would walk in on us and I'd either end up in a workplace orgy or the butt of even more jokes.
Work had become all consuming and as much as I loved what I did, I enjoyed a social life too. Or at least I think it was called a social life. If memory served it was one of those things where you go out with your friends and enjoy yourself. The idea was fast becoming foreign to me.
Hearing my name, I looked up from my mindless task to find the entire boardroom full of people staring at me. It is always so wonderful to find myself on the receiving end of ten pairs of questioning eyes. The next worst thing would be having a piece of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of my black suede Alisonia pumps. As sexy as that sounded, it just isn't what I think the designer had in mind to pair them with.
This fall's latest craze--three sheets instead of two. Not.
"Elizabeth, are you okay?"
I glanced towards the head of the firm, Charles Baum and forced a smile onto my face.
Smile pretty and pretend you were following along. It might work.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Baum, you were saying?"
Charles adjusted his diagonally striped silk tie while he avoided looking at me and cleared his throat. The navy in his suit brought out his light blue eyes, making him look younger than he really was. At forty-five he was prime pickings. He still had a full head of natural hair that he wore short in the back and on the sides but let spike about a half inch up on top. Granted, where it once had been varying shades of light brown, it was now laced with white as well. In my opinion it gave him more character as did the tiny lines around his eyes. But having always liked older men, I was biased.
Women flocked to Charles and he adored the attention. He also enjoyed the thrill of the pursuit. I figured that out from the moment I started working for him. My normal standoffishness suited me well when it came to him. For years I resisted his advances, the entire time secretly wanting to sample what he had to offer. Now, I almost regretted not giving in sooner.
"If everyone would please excuse us," Charles said, his tone dry, warning.
I stood, collected my paperwork and went to leave. If he wanted to cut the meeting short it was fine by me. That just meant I'd be heading home an hour earlier--for once.
"Not you, Elizabeth."
Oh, yippee. Apparently, smiling pretty and hoping for the best didn't work. I should have tried unbuttoning a button or two. Perhaps my cleavage could have won me safe passage.
Charles was polite enough to wait until the oversized oak doors to the boardroom were closed before giving me his famous "you are in for it" look. "Elizabeth, what in the hell is going on with you lately?"
"You've been walking around half-here and half-not. Your head certainly isn't in the game. And the moment someone points it out to you, you snap. Did you know that two of your interns asked to be moved off your team? I have never had one request a transfer before, let alone two at the same time."
My jaw dropped. There was no possible way I'd chased two interns off my team. When I found out which sniveling, whiny, little nineteen-year-old went to Charles, I'd wring their necks.
"Have you anything to offer, honey?"
I narrowed my gaze on him, letting it go hard. "Don't call me honey when you're implying I'm being the wicked bitch of the west branch."
Working his tie off, he walked towards me. The instant he started on the baby-blue and navy cross-hatched shirt beneath it, I knew what he wanted. And it wasn't to reprimand me for my behavior. Oh, there might be some light spankings involved, but they were ones I'd certainly enjoy. "Elizabeth, would I ever call you a bitch?"
"You called me one twice last night."
The smile that ran over his face could melt almost anyone, even me. "Now, honey, I think we both know why I said that." He walked over to me, placed his well manicured hands on my hips and pulled me to him. "You didn't seem to mind me calling you that when you were bent on your hands and knees. Bedroom play aside, I respect your work too much to think ill of you. You've put out some amazing promotions and you're our youngest team leader."
"Is that supposed to make me feel better?" It did, but I wasn't about to admit that to him. Knowing he'd squirm was much more fun.
"No. It's supposed to keep me out of the doghouse."
"Don't you mean, keep you out of your own house?"
It was no secret. Charles had a live-in girlfriend that he'd never gotten around to breaking up with. No part of me believed he ever would. Belinda spent a great deal of her time away for photo shoots and fashion shows. The processed blonde woman was model material for sure but spent her time behind the scenes as a "hands on" agent. She prided herself on how tight of a hold she had on Charles. If she only knew.
At no point did I enter into a sexual arrangement with Charles under the pretense I could change his wicked ways. Charles wasn't a man to make a commitment and that was fine. I wasn't fond of the idea myself. No part of me wanted to settle down and spend my life in some cookie cutter suburb anyway. A set of pearls and an apron didn't just turn me off--they scared the living hell out of me.
Visions of turning into my mother plagued me every time a man wanted more. Being married to someone who was as screwed up as me when it came to relationships would only lead to disaster. Finding a man who was the complete opposite of me wouldn't be any better. Hell, he'd head for the hills before the honeymoon was over.
No thanks. I'll pass.
"Mmm, I like this," Charles murmured, pulling my white georgette blouse out of the top of my short grey and black patterned skirt. "Tell me you have the little lace bra on. You know, the one with the matching crotchless panties and I might forgive your behavior at work lately. I should warn you that if you are wearing those, you will be good and thoroughly fucked before you set foot out of this room. And don't think I'm joking. I've had dreams about you spread out on this very table, with your hair fanned out around you, your skirt up over your waist ... mmm, I'm sure you get the picture."
Apparently not as clearly as he did.
I held my grin back as best I could. Charles' dream sounded more than fun to me. The urge to climb onto the table and spread myself wide for him was great. Somehow, I held back. That could be an after work hours game. Besides, we'd already decided to tone back our 'little sessions' and acting that fantasy out was far from restraining ourselves.
"Sorry. As much as I'd love to be off the hook with you, I opted for underwear with a crotch. Better luck next time."
Not wasting any time, Charles reached around me, grabbed my butt and gave it a good squeeze. "Elizabeth, you scared me. For a minute there I thought you'd changed your thong wearing ways. Don't do that to me. My heart isn't what it used to be."
"The way you carry on in the bedroom you'd still want me even if I wore a paper bag and there's not a damn thing wrong with your heart. You're ego is a bit on the over inflated side, but there's really no cure for that."