Read an Excerpt
Copyright © Liz Crowe 2017. All Rights Reserved, Totally Entwined Group Limited, T/A Totally Bound Publishing.
The man must be out of his ever-loving mind.
Evelyn tried hard not to yell, or otherwise overreact, ever aware of her reputation as one of the sole females in this testosterone-soaked world of beer sales. But she simply could not stand for this sort of manipulation.
She rose to her feet. “I won’t do it.”
From his position behind the desk, her boss, Grant Taylor, president of Tri-City Distribution, tipped back in his chair and appraised her from head to toe. “He asked for you specifically. And I am certain I don’t have to remind a professional such as yourself that Fitzgerald is our best craft beer brand—one of our only craft beer brands and the one I hope to use to build a better beer portfolio.” He feigned a pitiful look.
“You look like a constipated crocodile when you do that.” Even as she accepted that her day had just grown that much worse, if it were cosmically possible, she slumped back into the chair on the other side of his desk.
“Evelyn, honey, it’s not that bad. He’s a good guy, really.”
The foul liquid that passed for coffee at the Tri-City offices polluted her throat, giving her a few seconds to think. After only two years in the beer and wine sales business, she’d found her niche, and she even had an incentive trip to Barbados from the Corona guys nearly within her grasp. A day spent—more like wasted—trying to shove hipster beer down the throats of savvy buyers at her best stores would not get her any closer to that goal. Evelyn stared out of the window at the annoyingly perfect blue sky.
“Grant, you know I need a heads-up longer than an hour. Seriously, I have to shuffle the whole sales day. Jesus. I don’t even know where—”
Grant held up a hand. “Spare me, please. I know you’ve already committed where Fitzgerald products are placed to that gorgeous, top-selling brain of yours. You sold more of their amber, IPA and Winter Spice bullshit than anybody. Don’t kid a kidder.” He grinned at her.
Stress bloomed in her chest and spread, bringing a familiar anxious mantra to the forefront of her mind.
This stupid job is the only thing between me and the homeless shelter.
Nothing would make her jeopardize what she’d built out of, essentially, nothing. A two-year associate’s degree was all she’d been able to afford before she’d started working in a trendy downtown craft beer and cocktail bar. When a Tri-City sales rep had mentioned they were hiring and how much she could make in commission, she’d jumped at it.
Who knew she’d be a sales star?
“Fine. But if you think I’m gonna suck up to the Chosen Son of the Fitzgerald fortune, you are sadly mistaken. He can ride in my car and go on calls with me, but he’d better understand that I have a full day already set and I won’t be giving him any special attention.” She drained the last of the caffeine then set the mug down on Grant’s desk with what she hoped sounded like a decisive bang. A sudden puff of air blew past her, ruffling the papers on Grant’s desk.
Her boss’s eyes widened. He pointed to something behind her and started to open his mouth.
“No,” she cut him off. “Don’t say another word. You know I’m right. Everybody knows he’s just a trust-fund baby, opening a brewery with his daddy’s money, then gallivanting around the world, getting his degree”—she hooked her fingers in the air around the word—“in brewing science. Jesus. Who needs a degree in that? He should just stick to improving his golf handicap and deflowering debutantes.”
The petulant sound of her own voice annoyed her, but stories like Austin Fitzgerald’s made her the maddest. She’d been raised by a single mother who’d waitressed by day and, she’d later learned, turned tricks at night while the young Evelyn had done homework and watched TV at her aunt’s house. Her mother had died during Evelyn’s second year of college, forcing her to quit after she’d figured out that the modest funeral would eat up every cent her mother had managed to save.
Grant cleared his throat and stood, buttoning his suit coat. She watched him, her brain still on fire with helpless frustration. Even if she’d agreed to haul Fitzgerald around, she had no plans to sell craft beer that day.
“I need to schmooze my wine buyers today, Grant. I can’t be babysitting this guy.” The back of her neck tingled when the ends of her hair fluttered in another sudden breeze. She frowned, observing her boss stick his hand out as if about to shake hers, a big smile pasted on his face.
“Well, if I weren’t deathly allergic to both golf and debutantes, that might have been a career choice,” came a low, raspy voice from right behind her.
Evelyn’s entire body broke out in goosebumps.
“Grant, good to see you again,” the voice continued.
She gritted her teeth and rose, giving Grant what she hoped was a sufficiently withering look before turning around. Deep green eyes met hers. She was struck dumb by their depth and humorous sparkle. Dark jeans and a simple navy blue crew-neck—undoubtedly cashmere—sweater, brown box-toe loafers and a camel-colored dress jacket completed the look. He would have been at home on a GQ model as easily as he navigated a brewery floor. Close-cut dark-brown hair topped a clean-shaven, angular face.
A face that seemed pretty amused by her at that moment.
“And you must be Evelyn Benedict, saleswoman extraordinaire.” His smile lit up the room, rendering Evelyn speechless. Grant nudged her arm until she stuck out her hand. Austin’s warm, firm grip lingered long enough to make her uncomfortable.
“I see she’s mesmerized by the size of my…trust fund already.” He glanced over her shoulder at Grant then at her, pinning her in place again with that intense, still amused gaze. “Austin Fitzgerald, the albatross around your neck for the day.” He gave her palm a friendly squeeze before letting go. “At your service.”
Austin’s gaze remained squarely on hers. She had on her best thrift store designer suit over a silk blouse open at the neck. Used to men eyeballing her from tip to toe, she found it refreshing for one not to automatically zero in on her cleavage.
“Never had such a lovely babysitter before, Grant. Thanks.”
She swallowed when his eyes narrowed, then frowned as he gazed quickly up and down her front, lighting an unwanted and unexpected fire in her belly. Since when did she like it when some guy checked her out in such an obvious way?
He shrugged, sidestepping as if to get out of her way, the moment between them over. “Ready to go when you are. Rumor has it you have a big day ahead,” he said, the expression on his handsome face suddenly neutral.
“Yes. I do.” She strode past him, needing to regain her composure. Loud, masculine laughter echoed in her ears all the way to the ladies’ room. She splashed water on her face and stared in the mirror while her heart took up a loud drumbeat in her ears.
He is nothing but a spoiled-rotten trust-fund brat. No matter if he wears it like a stockbroker-slash-daytime drama hero. I do not need this distraction right now.