Read an Excerpt
Seducing the Boss
A Pulse Novel
By Mari Carr, Candace Havens
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Mari Carr
All rights reserved.
Kellan James leaned back in his chair and sighed. It had been a hell of a week at work, so he'd been only too happy to accept the invitation to kick back a few beers at the sports bar Score with his best friend Josh and a couple of colleagues from the hospital.
The Board of Directors for the hospital was breathing down his neck to cut costs, the local newspaper had done an exposé on the slow response times in the ER, and his Chief Nursing Officer had quit. That last problem wouldn't be such a big deal if he could talk his friend Sara Connelly into taking the damn job, but the woman had a bad attitude when it came to hospital administration. She'd told him in no uncertain terms she would never cross over to the dark side with him.
She was talented and bright and completely wasted in the emergency room. He'd tried — without success — to get her into better positions in the hospital, but she constantly dug in her heels. Told him she was happy where she was. Which meant she was going to be pissed as hell after the meeting he'd called for Monday with the ER staff. He'd tried for months to get that department into shape. Now it was time to play hardball. Some heads were going to roll if they didn't speed things up. Wait times were getting out of hand.
He rubbed his eyes wearily, glancing toward the pool table. Josh was in a pissing contest with one of the other guys about their skills, and they'd put twenty bucks on the game. Ordinarily Kellan would have taken them on as well, joining in the fun, but he wasn't in the mood tonight.
There was a cute blonde sitting at the bar who was giving him an inviting look. He considered going over and buying her a drink but his heart wasn't in it.
Shit. He really was in a funk. Usually he was better at leaving his work at the office. If he weren't, his job as CEO of Hampton General Hospital would have chewed him up and spit him out already. That was what it had done to his two predecessors.
However, tonight he was failing in the attempt.
He had just decided to call it a night when he caught a glimpse of Sara sitting in a corner booth alone. It wasn't unusual to run into her at Score. After all, the bar was located directly across from the hospital, so it was the watering hole of choice for most of the medical and administrative staff.
What struck him was that she was alone and looking hot as shit. Sara was a low maintenance girl. He never saw her in anything other than minimal makeup, ponytail, and scrubs at work. Even at their bimonthly dinner with their high school friends, the only thing she traded was the loose-fitting work attire for T-shirts and jeans.
Tonight she'd clearly gone to quite a bit of effort. Kellan tried to recall the last time he had seen her dark auburn hair down like that. Then he remembered — it had been at the holiday work social a couple of years ago. They ran in similar circles so they were always attending the same events — be it work or personal. The long, thick mass of waves curled over her shoulders in a way that made a man itch to run his fingers through it. Of course, he hadn't taken the time to appreciate it the night of that party as he'd been out with Monique Rossiter, a Victoria's Secret model.
It struck him as odd that the memory of Monique didn't distract him from the image of Sara right now. While he'd always thought his friend was passably pretty, she'd never really taken his breath away.
Tonight, she did.
Her bright, lively blue eyes were outlined with that black stuff women wore all the time, the thick lashes accentuating their pretty shape, making them sparkle.
Her porcelain skin stood out in contrast to her darkened eyes and the shiny pink gloss she'd tinted her lips with. He had never — not once in his life — pondered kissing those lips, but now that she'd drawn his attention to them, Kellan wondered what it would be like. He bet she tasted sweet.
All these years, he'd always seen Sara as a sister-type more than fuckable-type.
Unfortunately, his thoughts at the moment had nothing to do with brotherly interest. Jesus. He had a hard-on just looking at her. Josh would have a field day with that information, and he was glad his friend was still distracted at the pool table.
Kellan took a deep breath as he willed the attraction away. For one thing, he was her boss, and for another ... well, for another, this was freaking Sara. Sitting here undressing her with his eyes and imagining all the sounds he'd provoke from her between the sheets as he slid down her ... Shit. Clearly he was overtired. He closed his eyes and reconsidered approaching the blonde at the bar.
No. He knew how to set things straight.
Rising from his seat, he walked over to Sara. Once she started talking to him, he felt certain his dick would return to "down boy" mode. Though they were good friends, Sara had a tone — a mixture of annoyed and amused — that she reserved strictly for him. Of course, she'd probably accuse him of the same. Only his special tone for her would be equal parts condescending and playful.
He wolf-whistled as he approached her table. She glanced up and instantly rolled her eyes.
"What are you doing here?"
He grinned as he scooted into the booth. "It's Friday night. Thought I'd come unwind and check out the potential hook-up action."
With one eyebrow raised, she gave him a very pointed look. "I'm not the droid you're looking for. Move along."
He and Sara had very little in common, but on Star Wars they could agree.
Kellan laughed. "No worries there, Scrubs." He gestured toward the blonde at the bar, even though he had no intention of talking to the other woman. "I've spotted my prey for the evening."
He'd taken to calling her Scrubs shortly after she received her RN license, hoping to annoy her with the nickname until she traded in the damn uniform for professional attire and an administrative role. Unfortunately, the more he used it, the more she seemed to like it — and take it to heart.
Sara studied his choice and smirked. "Typical. What is it with you and blondes?"
"I'm not partial." If asked, he'd have to say he preferred her hair color tonight, the way the lighting in the bar brought out the million different shades of red in her auburn tresses. He swallowed heavily.
Sara. This was Sara. Stop looking at her damn hair.
"I'm sure all the bimbos on the planet will be relieved to hear that."
Kellan picked up a lock of her hair, unable to resist seeing if it was as soft as it looked. No one had ever accused him of being too practical. In fact, he was far too impulsive when it came to physical attraction. "What's up with the hair and makeup?"
She blushed, something Sara rarely did. The response sparked his interest even more.
"None of your business," she said, glancing toward the door.
"Waiting for someone?" he pressed, wishing he'd never touched her hair. God, it was like silk. And it smelled good, too.
"Again, none of your business."
"Who is he?"
"What will it take to get you to go away?"
He picked up her glass of wine and took a sip before she grabbed it from him. "Answer my questions."
"I'm meeting a man here for drinks."
"Must be quite a guy. Is that a new dress?" She was wearing a slinky red number that left little to the imagination. And Kellan had a very active imagination. The neckline plunged enough to give him a generous view of her cleavage, and as he glanced down, he confirmed it was short, revealing her very trim, tanned legs. Sara hid one hell of a package underneath those nursing scrubs. What a waste.
"Yes. Will you leave now? He'll be here any minute, and I really don't want you at the table when he shows up."
His curiosity was piqued. Typically, he stayed out of Sara's personal affairs, catching nothing more than the tidbits she dropped now and then. He'd liked David, her longtime boyfriend, and had been surprised when the two of them split. Though Sara said it was mutual, Kellan was pretty sure it was David who'd done the dumping. Especially when he married that other woman so soon after the breakup. Since then, he hadn't heard about Sara dating anyone. "So, who is this Prince Charming?"
"No one you know."
"That's interesting, considering we know all the same people. Where did you meet him?"
Sara glanced toward the door again and then down at her phone. "I would really prefer to be sitting here alone when he arrives. Go annoy the blonde."
Kellan chuckled as he rose. "I'll give you a reprieve. For now. Good night, Sara. Don't do anything I wouldn't do."
"That leaves my evening wide open," she muttered, prompting him to laugh.
He started to bail on the rest of the night, his gaze set on the exit, and then decided to return to his table. He was curious to see what type of man Sara was interested in. And what was even more unnerving was his even stronger need to make sure the guy was okay. He'd never felt overly protective of Sara before, but she hadn't dated in a while. Kellan could spot a shark from a mile away, and as a friend, he owed it to her to make sure she wasn't hanging out with the wrong sort of guy, the kind who was only looking to get laid.
He grinned as he realized most brothers and fathers probably considered him the wrong sort of guy. It was funny to find himself on the other side of the equation, looking out for the woman.
"Hey," Josh said, returning to the table. "There's Sara." As he said her name, she looked up, and the two of them exchanged a wave. "Let's invite her over."
Kellan put a hand on his friend's arm. "She's got a date meeting her here."
"Oh." Josh and the other guys reclaimed their seats, the four of them ordering another round, arguing over who was going to take the World Series, and engaging in an interesting discussion on craft beers.
An hour passed, but Sara's mystery date never arrived. She nursed the same glass of wine, and when it was gone, she motioned for the check.
She'd been stood up.
Josh had moved to the bar, chatting with the blonde woman, so Kellan threw some cash on the table and bid his other friends good night. He walked back to Sara. She was just about to rise, but closed her eyes and blew out an exasperated breath when he reclaimed his same spot in the booth.
"Please. Just don't," she said. She looked tired and upset.
"Tease me. I'm feeling like a big enough fool as it is. I just want to go home."
Kellan frowned. "God, Sara. I'm not an asshole. I actually stopped by for this guy's name. I wouldn't mind paying him a little visit. Teach him a lesson about what happens to the jerkoff who hurts one of my friends."
She smiled tremulously. "Wow. That was probably the nicest thing you've ever said to me."
He grinned. "You just caught me on an off night."
"He was someone I met online."
Kellan frowned. "Please tell me you didn't sign up for one of those online dating sites."
She crossed her arms. "Dating isn't exactly an easy gig."
He was perplexed. He never had any trouble meeting women. "Of course it is. Take Josh for instance. You go to a bar, strike up a conversation and — "
"I said dating, not hooking up," she interjected. "Big difference. Not that I'd expect you to understand that."
It was a jab, and he felt the sting. He let her have it. She was angry and looking for an outlet.
"Oh, God. That was rude, especially when ..." She stopped, leaving off whatever she was about it say, and started again. "You're being nice, and I'm acting like a bitch." Her gaze returned to Josh. "Thought you wanted the blonde."
He shook his head. "Changed my mind."
She reached for her purse. "I should go home. I'm not going to be very good company tonight."
Kellan reached for her wrist, halting her escape. He wasn't sure what prompted the action. Ordinarily, he would have just let her go. But there was something in her eyes, something so sad that he couldn't let her walk away.
Sara Connelly was hands down the toughest chick he knew. She was a no-nonsense ballbuster with a heart the size of Texas. And for his entire life, she'd been his conscience, the disapproving little voice in the back of his head that kept him somewhat honest.
He'd seen her pissed off, touched, happy, frustrated, annoyed, and drunk. What he hadn't seen was this — full of sadness and self-doubt. It bothered him. A lot.
"Stick around a little while. The night is still young."
"Kellan," she started to refuse, but he wasn't letting her go home. Not like this.
He tightened his grip on her wrist. "You want to figure out how to meet people? You've come to the right place. I happen to be an expert."
"It's not going to happen tonight."
"You're right. The date isn't going to happen, but you also said you wanted to meet eligible men. You want to figure out how to attract the attention of the opposite sex. I can help with that."
Sara glanced at the chesty blonde woman still sitting at the end of the bar with Josh. He'd clearly just bought her a drink, and chances were very good the two of them were going to go home together. "I'm never going to look like that."
Kellan studied the other woman, then Sara. "No one said you had to."
"Let me clarify. I don't want to pay a lot of money to look like that."
He looked at the blonde and narrowed his eyes. "Wait. Are you saying those aren't real?"
Sara laughed. "Seriously, Kellan? Given the amount of time you spend with those particular things, you would think you'd start to get a feel for real versus fake."
He lifted one shoulder. "Not sure it makes that much of a difference. They're fun either way."
"Yeah, well, there's no way I have enough money for boobs like that. Or even enough upper body strength to lug them around. So I guess I'm screwed."
He snorted. "Upper body strength?"
"Those things aren't exactly lightweight, you know."
"Do I want to know how you know that?"
She grinned. "Guys aren't the only ones who talk about boobs. I have plenty of well-endowed friends. One night, after a few glasses of wine, two girlfriends got into a contest to see whose weighed the most. I was the judge."
"Do me a favor. Invite me the next time you go out with those women."
Sara lightly punched him on the shoulder. "Perv."
He shook his head, wondering how she always managed to distract him from what he intended to say. It wasn't unusual for her to veer into these silly side conversations until he forgot what they were talking about. "My point is you look fine just the way you are. Hell, you look fucking hot tonight. With your hair down and" — he pointed at her breasts — "that dress, it's a wonder every guy in the place hasn't hit on you."
Sara leaned back in her seat, glancing down at her own cleavage. "I can't decide if that was an insult or a compliment."
Kellan bit back his laughter. "I meant it as a compliment."
"Yeah. I thought so. That's why I'm letting it slide. But the hard truth is I've been sitting here alone in an outfit I had hoped would spark some sort of attraction between my date and me. Instead, he's a no-show, and not one man has approached me in the last hour, not to chat or to buy me a drink or to make an indecent proposal."
Kellan considered her comments and realized she'd lied to him. "You said you weren't interested in a hookup. But it sounds like that's exactly why you're here."
She shrugged. "The reason I'm here doesn't matter. Apparently I'm not the kind of woman men want to take home for wild, kinky sex."
Kellan's cock woke up and took notice, going rock hard in record time. Tonight was the first time he'd ever considered what it would be like to take Sara to bed. Now that she'd said two of his favorite adjectives in the English language, he couldn't think of anything else.
A gentleman would have put those desires in a vault, locked them up, and melted the key. After all, they were friends. She'd been the girl next door when they were growing up, and now she was an employee. Hooking up with Sara would be a bad idea.
Unfortunately, he had never mastered the art of being a gentleman, and it wasn't uncommon for him to think with the wrong head.
He forced himself to concentrate on their conversation, to stop fixating on the word kinky. Or wild. Wild was a pretty distracting word, too.
Excerpted from Seducing the Boss by Mari Carr, Candace Havens. Copyright © 2016 Mari Carr. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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