In my latest novella, Auld Lang Sin, Lauren is an office worker who keeps to one hard and fast rule: Never date someone you work with.
Ross is determined to blur those lines, and he knows exactly how to make Lauren forget all those carefully crafted guidelines.
In this excerpt, set after their first steamy almost-went-there encounter, Ross is getting some digs in during a meeting…
“And so the projections are looking mostly positive…” Lauren clicked through to the next slide. “But the challenge will be in retaining our market share in Asia/Pacific after we’ve renegotiated the tenders for the existing brand.”
“And do you think you’re seeing the situation in its entirety?”
Ross’s voice curled around her, making her fingers twitch on the pointer, accidentally advancing to the next slide.
“Oops! Sorry!” She clicked back, then pulled herself together and addressed him. “What exactly are you referring to?”
“Challenges,” he said, and she could swear she saw his lips twitch.
She took a breath and pasted on a smile. “As I said…once we’ve renegotiated the tenders- ”
“Negotiation involves a give and take,” Ross said smoothly. “When only one side is doing most of the giving, it makes for an uneven playing field.”
“I get what you’re saying, Ross,” one of the senior directors chimed in. “We need to look at all these on a case-by-case basis, so we can’t really afford false optimism on these projections.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say it’s false optimism, necessarily,” Ross continued. “I just think we need to be sure both parties are…equally engaged.”
He said the last part of that with his eyes trained on Lauren. She felt the color rising to her face and her jaw tightened as she stared daggers back at Ross.
“If we can move on,” she said politely, “I’ve got a few more slides to cover before we all go to lunch.”
“By all means,” Ross countered. “We should definitely keep the forward momentum.”
Somehow, Lauren managed to get through the rest of her presentation without throwing her laser pointer at his smug face. Once they’d wrapped it up, she snapped her laptop closed and pushed her away around the others, grateful to see one of the directors talking to Ross.
It had been a week since the holiday party, and she’d made a real effort to keep Ross at arm’s length. Every time he’d started toward her desk she’d put her headset on and pretended to take a call, or just gotten up and left if she had the time to get clear, heading into someone’s office with a made-up question or issue. She hadn’t eaten lunch in the cafeteria, either.
A few days off for the holiday coupled with her new escape strategy, and things were on a much more even footing again. No more danger of a co-worker dalliance, oh no sir-ee. Ross was a one-time thing.
A really hot, really delicious one-time thing.
She stopped in the breakroom, feeling her thighs tighten and press together with the memory of those long tapered fingers…
That’ll keep you warm on a cold day…