Board Resolution, Page 1Joey W. Hill
Savannahput down her briefcase in the immaculate powder room of Kensington & Associates and straightened before the mirror. When meeting with piranhas, it was important to look appetizing but not attainable. She wanted the hunger to be there, but restrained, her opponents recognizing the attractive armor for what it was. A mask for a predator as scary as themselves.
A necessary step when the piranhas were Matthew Lord Kensington and his management team, and the subject of the meeting had yet to be disclosed. He’d simply issued an invitation to discuss a business opportunity over drinks at his office on Friday night. Knowing Matt, that meant glasses of water evenly spaced around the formal conference room table.
She checked her makeup, the arrangement of her streaked blonde hair, the smooth fit of her mid-thigh skirt and the blazer over it. While her father hadn’t believed in using blatant sex to close a deal, he’d had no problem with strategically using the arsenal one had at hand, and that included one’s looks or charm.
She had been blessed with an abundance of the former and he’d encouraged her to use it, though always sparingly.
Geoffrey Tennyson’s Rule Twelve: People keep class and elegance around them. Trash gets thrown away after it serves its purpose. The lace of her bra was faintly visible through her white silk blouse if one looked hard enough, and she’d enjoy seeing Matt strain his eyes.
Their negotiations had always been cordial and lucrative, but she’d seen the flare in his gaze when he thought he’d pressed an advantage on her, the tightening of his sensual lips when she’d proved him wrong. She knew he loved it, how they sparred at a table and never could come away claiming anything other than a mutual victory. He craved that, she suspected, hungered to take something from her she wasn’t willing to give. It made things flutter inside her to play the game, to fence and win a draw. Often she went home aching for something nameless, something she was afraid was the desire for him to outsmart her just once, to make her surrender.
If she was totally honest, her interactions with Matt were as close to having sex as she ever got.
Savannah shook herself out of the odd direction of her thoughts, and was appalled to find the crotch of her panties damp. Appalled, but not surprised. He might be surprised though, if he knew how often she’d curled into a fetal ball between her expensive sheets, her thighs squeezed together as she thought of that hard body between her legs, pounding into her, his hands clamped on her wrists, mouth ravaging her neck.
Perhaps it was the time of night making her think this way. A meeting at eight in the evening on a Friday turned her mind to frivolous thoughts, though she didn’t know why. It wasn’t as if she’d be doing frivolous things. While she might have planned an outing with a carefully chosen escort to a gallery showing or movie premiere, that would have been to further the interests of Tennyson Industries.
Otherwise, she’d have been home, reviewing the upcoming week’s schedule and analyzing her recent decisions for flaws or holes.
Another of the twelve rules her father had drilled into her to guide every action and reaction. They’d been posted on her bedroom wall like the Ten Commandments, ever since she was old enough to read.
Tennyson Rule Eight: A good captain never stops going over every inch of the ship. Every once in a long while she might give herself a Friday night off to watch a movie she’d rented. She’d view it from the couch in her father’s study…her study, now that he was gone.
This might have been such a night. It had been a hard week and she was feeling a bit…well, the armor was a little thin.
Even her disciplined soul wasn’t immune to the flood of anticipation that infused this Friday night with the sense of possibilities. The whole weekend stretched ahead like an adventure.
Mardi Gras had happened this week, and this corporate tower was still feeling the powerful vibrations from the celebration as much as the streets of New Orleans. Several strands of colorful beads and a feathered mask were placed as decoration on the vanity counter. It always bemused her why her father chose to keep their corporate headquarters here, versus New York or Chicago, but whenever she asked, he’d only said that New Orleans was a place where anything was possible. He’d met her mother here, and she suspected the truth was to be found in that. She had died shortly after Savannah was born, of a virulent cancer that had been discovered while she was pregnant.
Refusing treatment to protect her unborn child, Portia Tennyson had died nearly six months after the birth of her daughter. She left Savannah a locket containing a curl of her hair and a tiny folded piece of paper, with the scent of lavender and a short message.
You were worth it.
Her father had never liked her wearing the necklace, so until his death she kept it in her bedside table.
She took a deep breath, closing her eyes. Yes, a wise captain would have chosen tonight to stay on the ship, fight the battle Monday when there were fewer titillating portents in the air. The wild desires and dreams that Mardi Gras madness stirred up like a fairy dust storm could impair her judgment seriously.
Especially with this particular man.
Regardless, she’d accepted the invitation and chosen to come alone.
She always negotiated with Matt and his Intimidation Team by herself, as if underscoring that she had no fear of any of them. Having spent most of her teen years apprenticing in Tennyson’s corporate and manufacturing offices, she had no apprehensions about discussing any aspect of the business on her own. She’d been accepted a year early to a prestigious Ivy League school, finished the coursework and passed the bar a year before her classmates. Serving the four subsequent years as a trial lawyer with a ruthlessly aggressive Washington firm her father had chosen had seasoned her enough to serve as his CFO. She’d had five years at his side in that capacity before he’d died, leaving her a relatively young but extremely capable CEO of a Fortune 500 company whose wealth and power was based in the male-dominated world of steel manufacturing.
Plus, if the desolate truth was known, she’d become attached to working with Matt’s team on their many mutual interests. She wanted to keep them to herself. As though she’d adopted them as her family.
Or not so much like a family as something more, something even stranger.
She choked on a laugh. She was definitely off her game tonight.
Maybe Matt knew that Friday night, when the empty weekend yawned before her, was her most vulnerable time. The bastard seemed to know everything else. Their buildings, corporate high-rises, were just across the street from one another, and she wouldn’t put it past him to have planted spies in her ranks.
Well, it was her challenge to show him he wasn’t as smart as he thought he was. Then she could fill her weekend with victorious gloating.
Savannah gave herself one last appraising look. The jacket of the pale tan suit followed the shallow curve of her back, nipping in at the waist to flare out in two layers, like a modest bustle of an old-fashioned Victorian dress. The snug linen skirt revealed a teasing picture of the back of her thigh with the slit in back.
Modest and professional, even to the faint whiff of perfume, the outfit was perfectly appropriate for a woman to be wearing after five in the evening.
She’d left her hair clipped up on her head, but had loosened a few tendrils, giving her a softer look. She wanted to tease.
“Boys, you’re goners,” she decided, but she knew there was only one man who mattered.
She clipped down the hall in her slender heels, the echo loud in the quiet building. Other evidence of the festivities that had occurred earlier in the week caught her attention as she passed open office doors.
Sparkling beads hanging
on doorknobs or left across a desktop.
The inexpensive plastic masks.
The security guard had indicated they were waiting for her on the top floor.
When she rounded the corner and saw the conference room door open, she had to suppress a smile. While there were no water glasses on the table, a crystal pitcher and a tray of tumblers were within easy reach on a side credenza.
Then her attention flickered to the man sitting at the head of the table, and her amusement was swept away by something entirely different.
Matt Kensington was a powerful man on Wall Street, even from the distance of New Orleans. But what made him even more potent was that he was a physically dominating man.
Over six feet tall, he had dark eyes, raven hair and a swarthy Italian complexion provided by his mother.
However, his father’s Texas roots ensured he had none of the prettiness of Italian men that could suggest weakness. Just all of their sexual charisma.
Her blood hammered harder in her arteries when she saw he was alone, not flanked by his usual four-man management team. Though, regardless of who was in attendance, Matt always overwhelmed a room with his presence. Or maybe he just overwhelmed her.
Tennyson’s Rule Two: Always be brutally honest with yourself.
Otherwise, you won’t know the difference between the truth and a lie from anyone else.
Every detail of Matt spoke of power and discipline. From his charcoal gray suit that fit his broad shoulders to perfection, to the white line of his cuffs and the gleam of his Yale class ring. Even his manicured nails in no way diminished the capable strength evident in those hands. His bent knee, visible over the edge of the table, hinted he had his foot braced on a leg of the table so he could lean his chair back. The pose was casual.
Disarmingly so. She couldn’t help it that her gaze strayed over the column of his thigh.
He rose as he always did, an act of Southern courtesy she’d teased him about with appropriate feminist acidity. He did it for all women, but somehow the way he did it for her, with his gaze locked on hers as he rose, always set butterflies in her stomach into a tailspin. He didn’t smile, those firm lips and aristocratic nose an inspiration for a sculptor trying to depict a warrior king.
It was an apt comparison. The elegance of the board room was a façade. Strip it away, make it the walls of a tent, then prop armor, shields and swords against the wall, and its nature would not change. It was the domain of a conqueror, and every time she came here, she felt it.