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Hostile Takeover

Joey W. Hill

Page 1

  Chapter One

  “Goddamn it, I don’t have time to nursemaid a damn baby. ” Ben snapped his phone closed. “I’m meeting with Senecorp at ten this fucking morning, and that contract was supposed to be ready. ”

  Peter gave him a sidelong glance as he made his coffee. Out of habit, he poured Ben’s, leaving it caffeine-coma black as he added sugar and cream to his own Colombian blend. “Janet hears you barking like that, she’ll wash your mouth out with soap. ”

  “I’ll shove Irish Spring dry up the ass of whatever moron in Personnel decided to send me an intern while Alice is on vacation. Christ. I would have come in this weekend if I’d known, but Alice said she had it handled. Fuck. ”

  “Alice doesn’t usually make mistakes. Whoever the intern is, she’s probably top of her class. ”

  “Great. She knows her way around a stack of books. Doesn’t mean a fucking thing in the real world. ”

  “Mr. O’Callahan?”

  Turning, Ben saw Janet, their CEO’s imperious admin, standing in the doorway of the office kitchen.

  “Since I and everyone else can hear you,” she said coolly, “your finished contract is on your desk. The baby intern scaled the walls of her crib and spent most of the weekend getting up to speed on the negotiations with Senecorp so you’d have it first thing this morning. You’ll find her sucking her thumb at Alice’s desk. I’ve given her a handful of Cheerios to keep her happy. I trust you’ll handle any diaper changing personally. ”

  Peter shot him a droll I-told-you-so look. Ben narrowed his gaze, but when he turned that irritated expression on Janet, she didn’t blink. She and Alice had worked for Kensington & Associates long enough to know they were utterly indispensable. Alice had been Matt’s admin before she took paralegal training, after which she became Ben’s assistant, but both women routinely handled the diverse personalities of the five men who comprised K&A’s executive management.

  That included Ben’s formidable Irish temper, which he knew had been rising to the top more often of late, enough that he’d had to suffer jokes about male menopause at the ripe old age of thirty-two. And send apology bouquets to both admins more than once.

  “Thank you, Janet,” he said. “I appreciate your excellent hearing. ”

  “Hmm. ” She gave him a reproving look and then vanished, her heels soundless on the carpeted hallway.

  “The contract will probably be fucked up five ways to Sunday,” he muttered. “Only thing worse than an intern who doesn’t know anything is one who thinks she does. ”

  “Maybe she’ll have a great rack and a nice ass. ”

  “I can get that from a Playboy centerfold. Doesn’t help me when Matt is tearing me a new one for sloppy prep work. ”

  “You’re way tougher on yourself than Matt could ever be. ” Peter gave him a thoughtful look. “You’re pretty grumpy these days. I know you’re getting plenty, so maybe you’re fucking the wrong type of women. ”

  “There is no such thing, Dr. Phil. Bite me. ”

  “Pass. Haven’t had my shots. I know where you’ve been. ”

  Ben snorted. “Places you can only dream about now, ball-and-chain. ”

  Taking his coffee, he headed for his corner office. He balanced the cup with his briefcase as his phone buzzed with several incoming messages. He had forty-five minutes to review and fix that contract, and then he had a meeting with Johnson in Matt’s office that would take up the hour before his ten o’clock. If the intern hadn’t totally screwed it up, he could have her run the contract over to Senecorp so they could digest it before he arrived.

  The desk where Alice was normally stationed, a few paces from the door of his office, was vacant. The baby intern had escaped from her high chair or the Cheerios hadn’t been sufficiently entertaining. Setting aside his briefcase, he took a seat at his desk, his eye on the contract sitting neatly in the middle of it.

  When he had a free weekend, he spent it immersed in sweet female ass and Irish whiskey, his reward for work weeks often eighty-plus hours long. He worked hard, played hard, with exacting demands in both areas of his life. Which was why Alice’s voicemail this morning had set him off.

  The revisions for the Senecorp contract will be done by the intern Personnel has hired. Don’t worry. She’s good. And don’t curse when you get this message.

  “I’ll fucking curse if I want to,” he muttered. Just not around Alice. Or Janet. Cognizant of her superhero hearing, he’d have toned it down in the kitchen, except he hadn’t realized she’d arrived as early as he had this morning.

  As he scanned the contract, his brow eased. Well, hell. The revisions were damn near perfect. Some of the points had even been tweaked for smoother language, keeping his original meaning intact. Not a typo to be found, not even a random crayon mark or a smudge from fingers stained with Juicy Juice. His lips quirked. Putting the document down, he rubbed a hand over his face.

  Hell, what was the matter with him these days? He didn’t used to get so worked up about shit like this. Yeah, he was an ogre on details, but in the past he’d had a scathing sense of humor about it. From Peter’s sidelong glances, he knew he and the others had ongoing theories about him, especially Jon, Mr. Touchy-Feely-Let’s-All-Hug. He gave them credit for sticking to the guy code, though, giving him room to steer the boat the way he needed to steer it for right now.

  Still, he had to push down resentment at Peter’s teasing. It was easy to be smug about the hollow state of a single guy’s sex life when you were married to the submissive of your wildest dreams, the way Peter was. Though Dana was blind, she had the courage and unbridled sensuality of a woman with all her senses intact. Ben knew it firsthand, because on one memorable night, Peter had enlisted his help to make one of her fantasies come true, to be taken by two men at once.

  All five members of Kensington & Associates executive management were hardcore sexual Dominants, and four of them had found their perfect submissive match. Soul mates, if you believed in that bullshit, and it was hard not to, looking at how they got along with one another. Ben remembered the aftermath of that night with Dana. He’d gone into the bathroom to clean up, and when he came out, he’d seen her curled inside the curve of Peter’s muscular body. His arms were wrapped around her like she was the beginning and end of everything, his lips cruising over her temple and cheek, his deep voice rumbling soft in her ear. Ben felt like an intruder. He’d slipped out without another word. He didn’t really do cuddling, anyhow.

  So here he was, four years later, still single. That didn’t bug him. If he wanted a more serious relationship, he could seek it. Yeah, maybe in his few off hours he’d started opting for whiskey and strolling through the Quarter, rather than seeking female companionship. No big deal. His tastes were the most extreme, so club submissives had been good enough for him for the past year or two. Dating was too much effort, always the wrong ingredients, a meal he had to eat to be polite, but couldn’t wait to finish and step away from the table.

  Things had changed, and much as he knew that was the way of the fucked-up world, it didn’t always sit so well. It stirred up shit he didn’t want stirred, and maybe that was what kept griping his bowels. Hell, maybe it was time to take a vacation, go somewhere tropical where he could seduce pretty women and get his boxers out of their permanent bunch. Except all he seemed to see when he imagined that vacation was a stretch of empty beach, nobody on it but him.

  Christ, was he lonely? He didn’t need down time. He needed more up time, juvenile sexual pun intended. He’d drive down to Baton Rouge, do an extra session at Club Surreal this week. In the past couple years, Surreal had opened a sister club here in New Orleans, appropriately called Club Progeny, but he preferred to go to Baton R
ouge when he didn’t want to run into one of the other guys. He’d find one of his regulars, or a new submissive looking for a club-only experience. Take her on one of his extreme roller-coaster rides, not letting her off until she was too shaky to walk.

  When he was breaking down her shields, opening her up to everything he demanded, getting the maximum level of response, far beyond what she imagined was possible, time stopped for him. It was all about that moment. It was the same feeling he’d had when he was doing trial lawyer work, earlier in his career. When he felt the steel jaws closing around his opponent, knowing he was the guy with his foot on that spring lever, it was almost as good as sex. Negotiations with Matt’s acquisitions gave him the same sensation, particularly when it was a hostile takeover.

  Jon had recently observed that Ben was Genghis Khan in a previous life, happy with nothing but conquering. Asshole. Their mechanical genius didn’t do barbed digs, though. If Jon said something like that, he was sending a message. Ben chose to ignore it.

  The light tap of heels moving from the carpet to the wood floor around the admin desk alerted him to the arrival of his intern. He bit back a sigh. He really wasn’t in the mood to be charming and welcoming, but he’d make the effort. He wasn’t in the habit of snarling at women even on his worst days, particularly young ones right out of school and wet behind their ears.

  Then he glanced out his doorway, and discovered another way time could stop, one he hadn’t experienced in a while. His gaze got stuck in full lock.

  She’d turned to the file cabinets, so he’d missed her face. Instead, he saw a classic Audrey Hepburn slim hourglass shape, complete with tailored skirt that nipped off above her knee. When she sat down, a hint of thigh would tease male senses. She was wearing those provocative nylons with the old-fashioned lines up the back, and they were perfectly straight. Following the contour of calf, the sweet valley behind the knee, they ran up the back of her thigh and disappeared beneath the snug hold of the skirt. Her pale yellow blouse was translucent silk that showed the impression of her bra in the same color, making him wonder if there were panties in that same butter color beneath the skirt.

  Her dark blonde hair would fall a little farther than her shoulder blades, but right now it was clipped shorter by a wide bronze barrette, a Celtic knot design with a tiny shamrock done in emerald rhinestones. As she put the files away, he saw well-kept nails, a French manicure with white tips that drew attention to capable, feminine grace. There was something familiar about the way she moved.