Breathless on the Beach(9)

By: Wendy Etherington


“Want my opinion?”

“You ride horses and consult on corporate politics?”

His eyes darkened for an instant, and she knew the insult had hit home. She was unprepared when his reaction made her feel guilty, though.

When had she gotten so mean?

Victoria had never been particularly gentle, but her obsession with ambition had changed her. Tact was rare outside of landing a deal. Vulnerability was reserved for only a few. Was her desire to live up to her mother’s legacy so important? Was it really impossible to be successful and yet different from her?

“I watch people,” he said, his anger restrained, yet apparent. “Mostly people like you. You run around in circles, chasing each other, or the next big deal or trophies and promotions. Seems to me like a giant waste of time.”

What else is there? she almost asked. “And what do you do that’s so much better?”

“I chase adventure,” he said, his voice quiet and deep. “Wanna join me?”

She dismissed the spark of desire she felt. She had bigger things at stake than sex. And abandoning a lifetime of climbing the corporate ladder wasn’t an option. Hell, ambition was coded into her DNA. “Can’t,” she said, forcing strength into her voice that usually came naturally. “I need this promotion.”

“You probably deserve it.”

“I do.”

“So you surely realize why Richard invited you and your rival to the same party.”

“Do I?”

“Yeah. Richard likes to be the center of attention.”

“Of course he does, but how do you know—” She stopped as his intention became clear. “Richard wants us to fight for the contract.”

Jared nodded.

Victoria wanted to scream over the injustice. If Peter got the Rutherford contract instead of her, he’d likely get the senior VP position, too. Her grand plan was crumbling around her, and all before the weekend had even started.

“If it matters,” Jared said lightly, “I’m rooting for you.”

“Why?”

He shrugged. “I like winners.”

“And you think I’ll win.”

“Call it a hunch.”





3

WHILE THE SUN BURNED invitingly outside, Jared drank tea and learned tons of useless information.

The temperature was ninety-one, the traffic was murder, a local politician had been caught in an illicit affair with his assistant, and Richard and Peter had played golf earlier in the week, which led Rich to tell his buddy about the new safe and the impending PR campaign.

Jared didn’t consider chasing a little white ball across manicured lawns an actual sport, but he recognized that more deals were made during such mundane silliness than were negotiated in boardrooms.

Standing in the corner, since he didn’t trust the structural integrity of Rose’s antique furniture, he bit into a cookie and realized one positive thing—Chef Shelby could cook.

He had no doubt Victoria was mad enough to chew nails, but she held her teacup and smiled indulgently as the golfing buddies recounted their round.

“Are they going to tell us about every stroke on every hole?” he asked Shelby, who had approached him with an offer of more cookies, which he gratefully took.

“Apparently.” Watching the pair demonstrate teeing off at hole fifteen, she angled her head, seeming to feel the same confusion Jared did. “Guys at home in Georgia brag about shooting animals in the woods and drinking beer.”

“Guys in Montana are pretty much the same.”

“Richard isn’t really going to hire that goofy suck-up Peter over Victoria, is he?”

“I’m not sure management is his strong suit.”

Shelby focused on Jared, obviously suspicious about how a ski and scuba expert understood corporate hiring. “Oh?”

“Not my specialty, either,” he said casually. He was going to have to be more careful what he said if he planned to pull off his disguise as a mere employee. “’Course, I’ve made bad decisions myself. He once talked me into letting him parasail.”

“Sounds fun. How was that a bad idea?”

“He’s afraid of heights.”

“Which he discovered once he was a hundred feet in the air, I’ll bet.”

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