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Taylor brushed a rebellious wisp of hair out of her eyes for the umpteenth time and sighed. Why her CEO insisted on having the entire staff out on his yacht for these little shindigs, she didn't know. Better to be behind her glass-and-mahogany desk, working the numbers.
Numbers had a nice way of adding up.
Ah, and there was J. C. Worthington himself. Taylor squared her shoulders, plastered on a smile and strolled over to her beckoning boss. She'd feel more confident in her usual suit, but Worthington had decreed cocktail attire for this celebration. Nothing that "smells of the office." Ha-ha.
"Taylor." He smiled in his grandfatherly way that fooled no one. "You look like you're still at work. This is supposed to be fun!"
"I'm having fun," she assured him, tugging the hair out of her eyes. "Your yacht is lovely, as always."
"So is the sunset and the view." Worthington gestured at a tuxedoed server and pressed a flute of champagne into her hand. "And we're celebrating tonight."
"Oh, I don't really"
"Do I have to tell you to relax and enjoy yourself?" Worthington gave her a mock stern look, then laughed. "You worked hard for this contract. Live it up a littleI'll make it an order if I have to."
She smiled, but it felt thin. She gave the orders in her life and she liked it that way. But she also knew how to play the corporate game. She tipped her glass to Worthington and sipped, the champagne sliding cool and sparkling down her throat. He smiled his approval.
"That's better. Now where's Kirliss? Ah, there." Worthington beckoned to the long-legged man in black lounging by the rail. With his sleek dark hair and the impeccable lines of his suit, probably Armani, he reminded her of a jungle cat. "Adam, I'd like to raise a toast to you and Taylor. You two make an excellent team. To a bright and lucrative future!"
They obediently raised their glasses and clinked. Adam Kirliss sipped at what looked like whiskey, watching her over the sharp crystal rim with eyes nearly the same color. She'd become accustomed to his steady regard. The man negotiated like a predator, which she understood and appreciated. He'd hit on her once but had taken her cool refusal on the grounds of business well. She respected that too. Not every guy managed to be gracious about it.
"We're also celebrating Taylor's promotion tonight." Worthington slipped a brass strip out of his jacket pocket and displayed it with a broad smile. The new doorplate gleamed in the late evening light. M. Taylor Hamilton, Vice President of Development. "I'm hoping this might hold you off from taking my job for a few years."
"That, and the comfortable raise that goes with it." Taylor raised her eyebrows. Of course, becoming CEO was on her ten-year plan. At year eight, to be precise.
"Well done, Taylor." Kirliss shook her hand in congratulations. He held it just a bit too long, his long fingers strong and strangely hot against her skin. "You know, I've been wonderingwhat does the M stand for?"
"Mad Dog," Worthington inserted with crowing laugh.
Taylor returned the grin easily at the company joke. The guys all found it funny and she figured it only added to the image she wanted to project. Plus, she had no intention of ever revealing that the M stood for Molly. Her mother had named her Molly Taylor, so she could choose either an earth-mother image or go with M. Taylor for a more businesslike name.
She'd been Molly until third grade. Then she ditched the name, along with pigtails, dirty dresses and the naïve hope that her mother would change. M. Taylor she'd been ever since.