At the Billionaire's Beck and Call?(2)

By: Rachel Bailey

No. She would not be sidetracked by biological responses to a man. Especially not now. There was no way she’d miss the chance to be Chocolate Diva’s first Australian CEO.

She met his gaze. “Is there a problem with your screen, Mr. Bramson?”

He lifted his right eyebrow—the first reaction he’d revealed since arriving in the building thirty-five minutes earlier. “I haven’t crossed the Pacific to look at graphs and reports that I could have studied from the comfort of my own office, Ms. Ashley.”

Macy nodded, ignoring the unease in her stomach. Of course he hadn’t. She flicked a switch and the screens went blank. Time for a change of direction—she was nothing if not flexible. Adaptable. Promotable.

When he’d headhunted her from her previous position—working for the corporate raider Damon Blakely, overseeing acquisitions of small companies—Ryder had made her a promise. During their phone interview, he’d said if this two-month project went well, she’d be in the running for the top job at Chocolate Diva—the high-end chocolate and candy brand—as it opened its doors in Australia. A job she wanted badly. The sort of job she’d been working toward since she graduated top of her class in her business degree. A major step toward her career goal of running a company at least the size of her father’s.

So if the boss didn’t want to be bothered reading reports, she was more than fine with that option. “We’ve prepared some samples of possible product variations for your team to try.”

He’d been examining the other staff members at the table, and now turned his head in a slow, deliberate move to look at her again, his intense physical presence seeming to reach out and touch her from across the table.

She held his gaze, unwilling to blink or show the smallest sign of intimidation. “Perhaps you and your staff would like to take the afternoon to recover from jetlag, and we’ll resume first thing in the morning with the product tastings.”

His right brow again arched, as if Ryder Bramson never needed time to recover from any experience. He probably didn’t.

Macy waited. It was his move.

Finally Ryder dipped his chin in one slow, yet precise nod. “If the product samples are ready, I’ll try them now. The U.S. team can go back to the hotel and be back by 9:00 a.m. sharp.”

The men and women in suits began assembling their papers and lifting briefcases, but Ryder’s clear, deep voice carried across their noise. “Ms. Ashley, I have a phone call to make. I’ll meet you back in here in ten minutes.”

Macy nodded then resumed gathering the reports and folders off the table in front of her and stood.

Shaun, a lean, gray-haired American from Missouri, whispered on the way out the door, “Don’t let him put you off, it’s just his way. He’s a good boss, but at home, they call him The Machine.”

Macy nodded discreetly as Shaun peeled off in another direction. That was perfectly okay with her. She liked to focus on her work, do the best job she could. Faux friendships that often arose in workplaces were nothing more than a distraction, and she’d never been the gossip-at-the-water-cooler type.

In fact, it seemed Ryder Bramson might be the ideal boss…as long as she could contain her reactions to his gaze. Even now she could feel the pulse at her throat, the remnants of a warm shiver trailing down her spine.

Definitely a bad thing.

But she’d pandered to enough imaginings about her boss in the short time since they met. It was time to stop.

Ten minutes later, Macy looked around the meeting room, making sure everything was in place. She and her assistant, Tina, had collected ingredients yesterday to give Ryder’s team a general idea of how the products could be adapted.

Tina walked in with a bowl of fruit pieces and laid it on the table. “How do you want to run this?”

Macy had planned the exercise for a group but it shouldn’t be a problem to downscale. She moved a bowl of dried lychees an inch to the left to make everything line up more squarely. “While you make up the samples and hand them to Mr. Bramson, I’ll explain the choices.”

“Sounds good,” Tina said as she turned on the chocolate fountain they’d filled with their own brand’s imported rich, dark chocolate.

Movement in the corner of her eye caught her attention, and Macy turned. She took in Ryder Bramson filling the doorway—he’d removed both the charcoal business jacket and tie, and rolled up the sleeves of his teal-blue shirt. The dark hair on his strong forearms covered tanned skin, leading down to large, square hands with long fingers. Unbidden, the image of those hands roaming her skin filled her mind, those arms wrapped around her, pulling her close. Her gaze traveled up to his face, his full bottom lip, then to his eyes, which were regarding her with a lazy appraisal of their own.

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