The Fix Up210
The Fix Up210
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|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.48(d)|
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The Fix Up
By Tawna Fenske, Stephen Morgan
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Tawna Fenske
All rights reserved.
"As you can see, this is impressively sturdy."
The saleswoman smiled at Ben, then turned and presented her backside. Or the hand-carved headboard. Really, it was tough to tell what she was presenting as she leaned across the mattress in a short gray skirt.
Ben wasn't sure where to direct his gaze, so he settled for looking around the furniture warehouse at endless rows of tables and armoires and bookshelves. This whole shopping trip was baffling. He was exhausted and jet-lagged and not entirely sure what was going on. He'd been in this store less than ten minutes, and already the saleswoman had touched his arm a dozen times.
Normally, a woman being so aggressive might be a welcome surprise for Ben, but this one just didn't do it for him. Not that she seemed to notice. She subtly raised her backside a little higher for his viewing pleasure.
"You see that?" she said. "That's quality craftsmanship."
"Er, yes. Indeed."
She gripped the slats of the headboard with both hands and gave it a firm shake.
"Notice the sturdiness?" she asked, turning to peer at him over her shoulder. "No jiggling at all. That's solid wood."
"Er, yes." Ben took a step back and folded his hands behind his back. "No jiggling. Oak, is it?"
He swallowed and glanced around, trying to look anywhere but at the pert posterior wiggling in the air. Now wasn't the time to get distracted. He had a lot of work to do, and none of it involved staring at a sales clerk's rear end. It was his first week on the job as CEO of Langley Enterprises, and his father had handed him a corporate credit card and instructions to purchase new furniture for Ben's new "primo office" and "primo penthouse." His dad's words, not his. His father's only requirement for what furniture to buy was "none of that bachelor pad shit you usually get."
So here he was, doing his best to look like a refined CEO, instead of like a geeky engineer trying not to notice the saleswoman's ass waving like a flag in front of him. She turned and slithered off the bed, reaching out to touch his arm again.
"You see anything you like so far?"
"Uh, yes," Ben said, nodding. "That credenza over there is very nice."
She frowned, then followed the direction he pointed. "Of course. That's one of our newest models. Would you like to take a closer look?"
"Sure," Ben said.
She turned with a dramatic pivot and began to strut in that direction. He followed, stooping down a little as he ducked past a froofy canopy covering a king-sized bed. At six-foot-three, he was accustomed to slouching to avoid hitting his head or intimidating people who expected a guy with a PhD in engineering to be a scrawny pencil pusher with glasses.
You've got the glasses, he told himself, shoving them up his nose as he followed the saleswoman across the floor. He stepped past a slender brunette standing on the other side of the bed studying the tags on a pillow.
"Pardon me," he said.
The woman glanced up as he passed and reached up to tuck a strand of sleek, espresso-colored hair behind one ear. Her eyes were a remarkable shade of violet-gray, and she flashed him a smile he could have sworn seemed sympathetic.
He gave a small shrug in return — if only you could help me — but then the moment was over as the saleswoman grabbed his arm and towed him to the front of the credenza.
"As you can see, this piece is manufactured to the highest quality standards with French dovetailing, adjustable glass shelves, and a one-of-a-kind, patented touch-lighting system that's unique to this design."
"I know," Ben said, stroking a hand over the surface. "I hold the patent."
"I beg your pardon?"
"I developed that lighting system. I engineered specialized thermoplastics using phenolic resins crosslinked with fiberglass aramids to produce a unique design that —"
He stopped talking, realizing the saleswoman's eyes had gone surprisingly wide. He felt a faint swell of pride at the thought she might be admiring his workmanship, then realized she was staring at his left hand.
What the hell? He didn't have any scrapes or bruises or rings or tattoos or anything besides five fingers and a palm.
"That's incredibly interesting," she cooed. "Maybe we could get together later and you could tell me all about —"
"There you are!"
He turned to see the woman with the sleek black hair striding toward him. She wore a broad smile and a sparkly ring on the hand that reached out to slide around his waist. Before he could say a word, she snuggled up close to him and extended a handshake to the saleswoman.
"Thank you so much for taking care of my husband while I was busy over there," she said, giving the saleswoman's hand a hearty shake. "He's a little clueless when it comes to furniture, I'm afraid."
Ben blinked down at her. Husband?
"Er, your husband?" The saleswoman took a step back, casting a nervous look at the woman with the strangely beautiful eyes.
"Yep! We've been married for — gosh, almost five years now, honey?"
The saleswoman glanced at Ben's hand again, and he understood what she'd been looking for. A ring. Which he didn't have.
Fortunately, his patron saint was well ahead of the saleswoman.
"His ring's at the jeweler having a little repair work done, but the bonds of matrimony are stronger than gold. Isn't that right, baby?" The brunette cuddled tighter against him, and Ben found himself instinctively putting an arm around her. She felt nice there. Warm and soft and —
"Of course," Ben agreed. "Uh, sweetie — weren't you saying you wanted to check out some of the items from the new catalog?"
"Absolutely! Their fall line is always so spectacular." She smiled up at him like he'd offered her diamond earrings wrapped in bacon, and he wondered what she was wearing under that silky black top.
"I'm sorry, will you excuse me a moment?" the saleswoman said, taking another step back as she folded her hands together. "I need to — uh — check something."
"No problem," Ben's fake wife said, beaming up at him. "We'll be right here talking about where this will fit in our living room."
The saleswoman turned and scurried away, leaving Ben to stare down at the wife now affixed to his arm. She tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear and glanced in the direction the saleswoman had retreated.
"I hope I read that right." The brunette scooted out from under his arm, and he instantly missed her softness. She looked up at him with those odd violet-gray eyes and smiled. "You looked like you were being eaten alive there, but too polite to tell her to back off."
"Eaten alive," he repeated, a little mesmerized by the woman's eyes. "I'm not entirely sure."
"Seemed like that's what was going on. Salesgirl sees a big guy with a big budget and big —" She paused, then gave a small shrug. "Well, sometimes it brings out the worst in women."
"Thank you," he said, meaning it. "I've been flying back and forth between cities all week, so I'm a little jet-lagged and distracted. I guess I wasn't even a hundred percent sure I was being — uh —"
"Hit on? Ogled? Mentally undressed?"
"Right." He cleared his throat. "Not until you pointed it out. Thanks for the rescue."
"No problem. Pay it forward sometime."
"Is that real? It's huge."
She blinked, then glanced down at the paperweight-sized rock adorning her ring finger. "Nah, I keep it in my purse for when I want to avoid getting hit on at ladies' night."
"Does it work?"
"Not with the real jackasses, which probably defeats the purpose, huh?" He nodded, not sure what to say to that. "I'm sorry, what was your name again?"
"Holly. Holly Colvin. I'm the owner of First Impressions."
"We're a public relations and branding firm that specializes in creating and remaking corporate identities." She fished into her purse to pull out a business card. She held it out to him and Ben started to reach for it, but Holly withdrew her hand.
"Shit. Vampira the Sales Queen is headed back here."
Before he could say anything, Holly was sliding her hand around to cup his ass. For a few beats, he thought she was copping a feel, and he hoped like hell she kept doing it. Then he realized she was tucking her card into his back pocket. She grinned and tilted her head back to look up at him.
"Gotta commit to the role, right?"
"Right," he murmured, staring down into those slate-speckled eyes. "We certainly do."
"I suppose we could throw in a little something extra if you really want her to buy it."
Her lips parted slightly, almost like she was braced for a kiss. Or was that his imagination? It seemed hot in here, and he was getting dizzy, and now all he could think about was claiming those perfect lips.
"I'm sure you'll come up with something," she murmured.
Her mouth looked so soft, so inviting, and he could have sworn her lashes fluttered low the way they might if she were waiting for him to make a move. A big move.
He knew what he needed to do. What he wanted to do.
And with that, he bent and kissed her.
Holy mother of hard-ons.
Okay, Holly couldn't actually detect a hard-on, but she was feeling every other inch of this luscious man with the enormous hands and the sexy-geek vibe and the magical mouth that was kissing her silly in the middle of the damn furniture store.
Had she started it, or had he? Did it matter?
She pulled back, dizzy and breathless. She turned to see the saleswoman standing a few feet away with her arms crossed and an expression that suggested Holly was close to getting kicked out of the store. Fine by her. This place gave her the creeps. Everything was ridiculously expensive and high-polished. Furniture aside, what kind of store let its employees blatantly hit on customers who were either too polite or too clueless to beat them away with a stick?
Can't say I blame her, Holly mused, looking up at the towering figure beside her, whose tortoiseshell glasses brought out the amber flecks in his brown eyes. His shoulders were broad and muscular beneath a dress shirt that looked expensive, outdated, and in need of some serious ironing.
Who the hell is this guy?
Holly tucked her hair behind her ear and smiled at the saleswoman. "Sorry about that. Credenzas get me hot."
Her fake husband nodded. "I think I'll take one for my office. Well, one for my office at the Langley headquarters, and one for my home office. So that would be two." He cleared his throat and glanced at Holly. "Two credenzas."
"You said you own Langley Enterprises?" the saleswoman asked, and Holly blinked in surprise. Magic Hands here owned the largest manufacturing firm in the country?
"No, not the owner," he said. "I'm the new CEO. I've been on the engineering side of things for the last decade, but my father's looking to step away from domestic management and into international relations, and anyway —" He shrugged. "Here I am."
"Here you are," the saleswoman agreed, looking decidedly less pleased about that than she had before Holly stepped in. "With orders to fill up a whole penthouse and an office. Here, I brought you a few catalogs with some of the newest items that aren't on our sales floor yet."
She thrust the glossy pages at them, and the guy reached out to take them with a nod. "Thanks. I'll take a look."
"Wonderful," the saleswoman said. "I'll leave you two alone to browse. If you need anything, I'll be right over there."
"Thank you," Holly said. "It's been a pleasure."
The saleswoman turned and flounced away, leaving Holly alone with the guy whose handprints were probably still on her butt. She turned to look at him and saw his warm brown eyes were studying her with an odd mix of curiosity and intrigue.
"Thanks again," he said, holding up the catalogs. "This is how I'd prefer to shop anyway. This, or online."
"Not one for the in-person contact?"
He gave a funny snort and shook his head. "As my father would be the first to tell you, I'd sooner gnaw off my own foot than deal with people."
"And you're a CEO?"
He shrugged. "I am now, but I spent the last decade in the trenches of the company doing product development. This is — uh, new territory for me."
"You don't say." She bit her lip, hoping she hadn't sounded too judgmental. "Well, look, I have to run. I just came in to look for some new pillows on my lunch break, but I had no idea there were this many to choose from. Antimicrobial buckwheat? Spine alignment memory foam? Who the hell comes up with this stuff?"
"Probably those marketing and branding types," he said, giving her a small smile that left her tingling all the way down to her kneecaps.
She smiled back, wondering if anyone had ever told him he ought to smile more. It did wonders for his features, which weren't bad to start with. He could use a haircut, maybe, and a shirt that was a bit more tailored for those impressive biceps, and maybe —
"It was lovely meeting you, Holly Colvin," he said. "Thanks for saving me from Vampira the Sales Queen."
She laughed. "Thanks for making this the most interesting lunch break I've had all week. If Vampira comes back, just tell her I had a family emergency."
"Of course. I'll explain that one of the twins threw up at daycare."
He nodded. "We're married, right? Might as well toss a couple kids into the mix to make it believable."
A chill raced through her body, and Holly fought to keep the smile pasted in place. "Right. The all-American dream with the kids and the power-hungry career man and the subservient, stay-at-home mommy in an apron. Just text me with whatever you want for dinner, sweetums."
He blinked. "What?"
"Nothing." She grinned to show him she wasn't crazy, even though the jury was still out on that one. "It was great meeting you, buddy. Good luck with the new job."
She turned and walked away, feeling his eyes on her and kinda enjoying the sensation. It wasn't until she got halfway to her car that she realized she hadn't even asked his name.
Just as well, she told herself, shrugging her leather tote higher onto her shoulder. The last thing you need is another career-driven workaholic looking for a wifey to chain to his stove. Been there, done that, burned the ill-fitting T-shirt.
She slung herself into the driver's seat of her red Volkswagen Beetle and clicked her iPod until she found something suitably loud and upbeat. She listened to Foster the People on high volume for the twenty-minute drive back to the office, enjoying the sunny fall weather and the spicy smell of leaves blowing through her open car windows.
It was almost enough to make her forget the meeting she'd been dreading all day. The meeting she'd dreaded for two years, come to think of it.
But the closer she got to her office, Holly felt herself shifting back into career mode. She had two hours until the appointment with her loan officer. There was a lot to get done between now and then.
By the time she walked through the door of First Impressions, the warmth she'd felt from her encounter with Magic Hands had all but faded. She had real business to deal with here, and today sure as hell wasn't the day to get distracted by a sexy geek. If things didn't go well with the bank, it wasn't just her business that might fall apart. For Holly, this business was her whole life.
She ran a hand over the stylized purple reception desk, its retro chrome legs gleaming against the mosaic tile floor that lined the reception area. She'd picked this table out herself, along with all the rest of the furnishings. She and her best friend, Miriam, had worked hard to build First Impressions from the ground up, and not a day went by that Holly didn't feel ridiculously proud about it.
Proud and lucky. There was still a risk she could lose it. Hell, she'd nearly lost it all two years ago.
How was she supposed to know her husband would go from sweet and supportive to resentful of her career before the ink had dried on the marriage license?
But she'd kept moving along these last two years, adding clients and employees and figuring out how to pay all the bills along the way. They were on the brink of becoming the largest PR and branding firm in the whole city, with a wall full of awards for their work.
Excerpted from The Fix Up by Tawna Fenske, Stephen Morgan. Copyright © 2015 Tawna Fenske. 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.
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