|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Jenna Bayley-Burke finds writing bio blurbs strange. Should she mention the blueberry-eyed kids or the high-school sweetheart husband or the category romance for Mills & Boon or the romance novels for Samhain or the obsession with wine and chocolate? She’s never sure when to stop, so best to leave it at that. If you’re still unbearably curious, you can catch up with what’s new at www.jennabayleyburke.com
Read an Excerpt
"You need to put some clothes on."
Breeze Cohen waved her hand dismissively at her department manager. Perched atop a ladder, she stretched her petite frame to reach the third spotlight.
"Is it hitting the red stripe of the shirt?" she yelled down. She had eleven minutes until even the earliest of the early birds arrived for the regional best-set, where store managers from all over the Northwest expected to see the entire department store set for the back-to-school season, still two months away. Breeze intended to use all eleven of those precious minutes to make her departments beyond perfect.
"Yes," Anthony said, "but I'm more worried about you breaking your neck on that ladder than getting perfect lighting on the signature fixture."
"It's all about the color story this set, Anthony. If we don't tell the color story, then we have nothing to say."
Anthony Hale was the best department manager in the company, thanks in part to her molding him from a jewelry salesman to a manager, but he still lacked merchandising finesse. This was fine while she was in charge, but she'd been pushing to have him promoted. Both because of his abilities, and because he was the closest thing she had to a personal friend.
"Red, white and blue on every lead fixture, gotcha." He laid the sarcasm on thick, which she liked so long as things got done.
"We'll need to check the back stock and make sure we've worked every pair of shorts to the sales floor. We only have a week until the fall merchandise starts to flow heavily. We need to move our shorts or they will be a clearance nightmare."
Breeze stayed atop the ladder for a moment, surveying the sales floor from men's to jewelry and accessories, and smiled. She'd made it through her mental to-do list and her areas sparkled.
She wished her grandmother were coming to the set. Since retiring as regional vice president, she hadn't set foot in a Mendelssohn's. Breeze missed her public assessments and private praise.
Checking her watch, she saw she had just ten minutes to make sure everything was perfect and morph into someone else.
Someone more like her grandmother.
The real Breeze came in most mornings before five, much too early for blazers and heels. Standards of dress did not apply before the doors opened, and made it much easier to wrestle fixtures, process freight and climb ladders.
Her black yoga pants hung loosely on her hips and a tiny powder-blue tank top barely kissed her navel. Each day she traded nine extra minutes of sleep for letting her long chocolate brown hair air-dry into tight ringlets.
Mascara and lip-gloss were applied later, when she rolled her hair into a twist, donned the latest business fashion and transformed herself into a manager in high heels.
As she backed down the ladder, she missed the last step and tumbled back into Anthony. Only it wasn't him. Her rib cage tightened and adrenaline rushed through her body. These were not Anthony's hands on her waist. Not at all.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
"Yes, of course," s he found herself replying. Her mind fixated on him. The slight curl in his sun-kissed golden hair, the bronzed skin, caramel-brown eyes, square shoulders. And that smile. My God, that smile.
"I've never had a woman fall for me in quite this way." The smile turned into a grin.
"Breeze, I think we have —" Anthony began, breaking the spell. They both looked in his direction. "Sorry," he said, glancing from the stranger to Breeze, then back. "You must be here for the Regional set?" he asked.
"Yes." The stranger turned to Breeze and flashed that smile. "I'm —"
"Everyone is meeting in the break room," Anthony interrupted. Breeze shook her head, needing to think clearly. She had no time to be getting dreamy-eyed. "Just up the escalator and through the children's section."
"I'd like to look at the layout of the shoe department," he spoke to her.
"No problem." Anthony pointed down the aisle. "Just past the dress shirts on your left."
"Right," he said with a nod, blinking hard. "Right."
Breeze turned and watched how his worn jeans clung to his backside as he walked away. Okay, he was officially fantasy guy number one. Cute face, incredible smile and a butt like that. Fantastic.
"Do you know him?" Anthony asked once he was out of earshot.
"Who?" Breeze snapped her head back, storing the image away for future reference. She had no time for men or relationships, but she did like to fantasize before drifting to sleep each night.
"I don't know." She racked her brain, trying to think if she'd seen him before. "Probably one of the new assistants, hired from outside so the brass can promote him in six months. And I nearly toppled him coming off the ladder. Where were you?"
"Checking the storeroom for shorts. You wanted to make sure they were all on the floor."
"And?" She smoothed her hands on her pants. Why were her palms damp? Why was her heart racing?
"All shorts are on the floor. But let's talk about something more interesting than back stock. I think he wants to get up to bat on your team."
"Please. How do you know he doesn't play for your team?" A smile twitched at her lips. "He's probably fast-tracked and will be my boss by next year. Moving me down even further on the roster. Besides, I don't have time to date, and having a relationship with someone who worked here would be a career strikeout."
"Leave it to you to disqualify a player before he even makes it to the stadium. He won't get anywhere with upper management dressed in jeans and sneakers." Anthony smirked. "Speaking of looking professional, you'd better get to it. And doll yourself up, just in case."
She shook her head and turned to go.
"Sling-back heels and the short skirt. It will make your legs look longer."
"Are you my dresser now?" she tossed over her shoulder as she made her way to the office she shared with the other assistant manager. No doubt Anthony had selected a few new items from last night's freight for her to try. He had an eye for what worked for her, and she loved it, except when Christy, her office partner, made snarky comments.
She couldn't wait to get her own store and her own office. She knew the promotion was coming soon, but every time she thought she had it in the bag, an older candidate entered the picture. She'd worked for Mendelssohn's for eight years now, but she knew being only twenty-six and having an even more youthful face held her back. It was too easy for upper management to say she needed more experience, a stronger track record. Still, she was a hairsbreadth away from becoming the youngest store manager in Mendelssohn's history.
It was all part of the retail game, and retail was in her blood. She'd known it was for her when she'd come to one of her grandmother's stores as a little girl and watched the respect the older woman garnered from the staff. The staff would dote on Breeze, bringing clothes for her to try on. It made her feel like a princess.
Coordinated ribbons and patent leather shoes made her mother cringe. Rachel Cohen lectured on consumerism and encouraged her children to follow her frugal, bohemian lifestyle. But her grandmother understood how important it was to look like the other kids.
She closed herself in the tiny office and surveyed her options. Lifting two hangers from the hook hanging above the mirror on the back of the door, she held them up, trying to decide. The black pantsuit looked stifling. Even though the climate control kept the store cool, it was still the middle of summer. The other outfit had a skirt and was part of the fall collection, so she opted for it.
In seconds, she stood before the mirror and checked her appearance. The pressed-pleat pink corduroy skirt hit mid-thigh, a dainty pink satin bow secured the boucle blazer. Professional, but cuter than she would have liked. She checked her watch. No time to change. She slipped into the shoes Anthony claimed were meant for the outfit — leather sling-back heels trimmed in velvet and crowned with a tiny bow. Sometimes having a gay assistant made her feel like a Barbie doll.
She twisted up her hair and secured it with a clip, then made a beeline for the door. She needed to get to the break room and make sure she took an active role in this walkthrough. The district managers for the entire region would be here, and all of them had the power to request her for a store-manager position.
Spinning out of her office like Superman from a phone booth, she ran smack dab into a body that sent hers on red alert. Her mystery man stood in the lobby of the back office, ready to catch her yet again. He gifted her with one of his smiles and she froze. In response, his gaze drifted over her head and his face marred into a scowl.
"I fell on the Kicks brand manager," Breeze whispered as she pulled Anthony between twelve-foot-high shelves of jeans in the storeroom.
"Fell on him, fell for him. It's almost the same thing. Did he ask you out?" His blond eyebrows waggled.
"Would you pull your mind out of the gutter for two seconds and help me?" She wrapped her hands around her middle, trying to cage the panic inside. "How do I recover from this?"
"From meeting a man who isn't a rival, shopper or employee? You recover by giving him your number."
She stomped her foot so hard she worried for a split second about breaking the heel. "He wasn't here to see the back-to-school best set. He was here to evaluate store readiness for the exclusive Kicks roll out. Remember how I told Glen we should set for it to show the brand marketing?"
Anthony nodded. "And you were overruled."
"Now Logan wants to see every detail of our plans, and if he's not satisfied, he's pulling the plug on the entire campaign."
"Yikes. But what does this have to do with you?"
She twisted her foot on the concrete floor. "I volunteered to show him how ready we are."
He gave a sinister chuckle. "You have to satisfy him?"
"Shut it. It's an amazing opportunity to show upper management that I work well under pressure, that I'm more than ready for my own store. It's just that it all hinges on a guy that I fell on top of."
"Any straight guy would love to have you on top of him. I'm sure this Logan is looking forward to the one-on-one attention you can give him."
Crossing her arms over her chest, she leveled her gaze at her best friend. Well, the best she could, considering he was a foot taller. "You know I don't behave that way."
"But you should, honey. You should."
"My grandmother didn't get to be the youngest store manager in Mendelssohn's history on her back. She did it by working hard and seizing opportunities, like this one. I have two years to break her record, and this could do it for me."
"Your grandmother also had a husband and a child to keep her from turning herself into a robot who only cared about work. You haven't been on a date since I've known you."
"Don't change the subject. What do I say about falling on him? I have like two minutes before I have to take him to the Tanasbourne store."
He let out an exaggerated sigh. "You don't say a thing. Just move forward, business as usual. Sell him on the deal and the first impression won't matter."
That she could do. Confidence in her professional abilities, she had in spades. Confidence about how men's minds worked? Not so much.
"But this would be an easier sell if you'd flirt with him a little. More girl-next-door than ice princess. Friendly, not methodical."
"I'm friendly, and I don't need to flirt to make this happen."
"But you want to. You wouldn't be worried about your clumsy first impression if you didn't care what he thought of you."
"I'm not clumsy. He was just in my way." She stood taller, stretching to what had to be five foot three in the heels. "He's still in my way. I knocked him off his game when I fell on him this morning. This time he won't know what hit him. By the end of the day, he'll be singing my praises to top management."
"What is it you're looking to see?" Breeze asked Logan, sitting across from him at her desk. She knew a handful of upper management loomed just beyond the doorway.
"I have schematics of the three main layout styles, so I'd like to see each of those in person if possible."
"Not a problem." Breeze pulled a binder from her desk and flipped it open. "I have planning layouts of all the stores I've worked in. No store follows a schematic exactly, but you can see the similarities. Westside, Tanasbourne and Galleria are examples of each layout."
"This is great. Can I get copies of these?"
"No problem. I could e-mail them to you, if you prefer."
"Thanks." He let out a deep breath and leaned back in his chair. "I don't want you to take it personally if I still need to pull the agreement."
"Business is business," she said with a confident smile. She only had to convince him Mendelssohn's could pull this off and she'd be promoted for sure.
"I have more invested in this brand than just wanting good sales. Kellen Jackson has been my best friend since high school, and this is only the second shoe he's endorsing. Soccer players don't get the opportunities other athletes do. Nitrous wanted to build demand for the new Kicks sole by creating exclusivity. I never thought it was a good idea to hand off marketing and sales training to another company."
Great. He'd come here expecting the promotion would fail. She couldn't let that happen. "But if you pull the agreement now, you'll risk bad publicity. People might think it has to do with the shoe design."
He shrugged. "Depends on who has the better PR team, I suppose."
"It won't come to that. Mendelssohn's is an asset to you in service and distribution. We'll make this happen, Logan."
He studied her for a moment and then gifted her with his amazing smile. "Would you mind driving since you know where all the stores are?"
"That's fine," Breeze replied. "I like driving."
Logan nodded and rose from his chair. When he walked away he seemed to favor his right leg for the first few steps, but then walked normally. Breeze took a deep breath to clear her mind as she gathered her things. She had to spend the whole day with him. Ogling was not an option.
Six managers stood just outside her office door. They surrounded Logan like shoppers around a clearance rack. From the look in his brown eyes she could tell he needed rescuing. "We'd better get going. There's likely to be a lot of traffic this time of the morning."
"I was just telling Logan I'll accompany the two of you today," Nancy said, forcing the closest thing to a smile in her repertoire. Breeze had thought she'd find an ally in the newly transferred district manager, but Nancy seemed to only want to promote men. So much for sisterhood.
"Okay." Breeze surrendered, not sure if the emotion she felt was reprieve or vexation. "But you'll have to drive. My car only seats two."
"Oh." Nancy's expression went blank. "I rode with Roger."
Relief was noticeable on Logan's face.
"I'm sure we'll meet up with you later," Breeze offered.
"Of course," Nancy said through pursed lips.
Breeze stepped to the door, aware Logan was following close on her heels. Once they were on the sales floor she began to outline their day, what he could expect to see at each store.
"Doesn't that woman scare you?" Logan asked once they made it to the parking garage adjacent to the store.
"Why?" Breeze asked, suddenly all too aware of her nervousness. She knew how to handle Nancy. It was Logan who made her uneasy. She hadn't had the best luck with men, downright rotten luck in fact, so she tended to avoid them whenever possible. Except Anthony, but he played for the other team.
"She's huge." Logan laughed, slowing his pace so he walked beside her. "She's taller than I am."
"Really?" Breeze turned to look at him. That smile. The man should do toothpaste commercials. "I hadn't noticed. Everyone is taller than me." She pushed the button on her key ring to deactivate her alarm with the gratuitous headlight flash.
"A BMW. Mendelssohn's must pay pretty well."
Hardly. A Z4 was the smallest and least expensive BMW on the market. "I commute to other stores a lot, so I decided I deserved a nice car to do it in."
"It suits you. It matches your eyes." He opened the door and slid in the passenger seat, cramming his legs inside.
She stood still, stunned for a minute. He'd noticed her eyes? She pushed the button on the keypad to put the top down. Don't flatter yourself, she thought. The icy blue color was exactly what had drawn her to the car. That and the convertible top.
She locked her purse in the trunk and then climbed into the driver's seat. Even with the top down the entire car smelled like him. Not cologne really, maybe soap? She'd be sniffing every cologne bottle in the store until she figured it out.
Excerpted from "For Kicks"
Copyright © 2012 Jenna Bayley-Burke.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
“This thoroughly enjoyable romantic comedy has likable characters and a smart, spitfire heroine... Bayley-Burke delivers a really fun read.”
—RT Book Reviews on Compromising Positions
“Compromising Positions would have to be one of the best contemporary romance novels I have read in a long time. Jenna Bayley-Burke delivers it all, romance, humor, and great chemistry between her hero and heroine.”
—Fallen Angels Reviews
“With sensual love scenes, flirty repartee, and a man and woman clearly meant to be together, you get everything you could ever want in a romance novel.”
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