Here’s another great new to us author.
Last night, I’d instantly recognized the name of our client. Plack’s logo covered all of my moving boxes. They were a household name, big on packaging materials and distribution. It amazed me how the father of the person in front of me had started the company from scratch before it had grown into a multimillion-dollar corporation.
Mr. Plack took a sip of his coffee. “What do you need from us to get this moving?”
I moved to his line of sight, ready to fire off my questions. “Do you have your second-quarter financials with you? It looks like first quarter indicated a ten percent drop in sales from the previous year?”
“Yes, I do. We lost a client, but we have gained a few more to make up for that decline.” He shuffled through his papers, and as he handed me the financials, he spotted someone behind me.
“Kent!” he yelled over my shoulder.
When I twisted my head to see whom his attention was directed to, I almost had to hold my chin up to prevent my jaw from dropping to the ground. Over six feet of tall, dark, and handsome filled my eyes. I swore, he walked straight off the cover of GQ magazine. His eyes were the deepest golden brown, reminding me of chestnuts, which complemented his wavy dark brown hair that didn’t have a strand out of place.
When his eyes caught mine, I felt my cheeks warm because he’d caught me staring, and I immediately looked between Mr. Plack and Jim to avert my eyes. When I glanced up again, he was standing by our table.
“Kent, have lunch with us. We’re discussing business.” Mr. Plack gestured for him to sit down.
“Dad, all work and no play…” He laughed. “You should enjoy the weather and get out on the course.”
Mr. Plack stirred uncomfortably in his seat. “I’m booked with meetings all day. Come on, you should join us, son.”
I couldn’t help myself and stole another glance. When Kent caught my stare, I saw a small dimple emerge, and my temperature rose ten degrees. I wiped my hands on my skirt and looked to the bread to prevent myself from gawking any further.
“Well, I haven’t eaten, so maybe I will join you,” he replied.
Guys usually didn’t make me nervous, but I felt uneasy under his gaze, and fidgeted in my seat.
“Okay, good,” Mr. Plack said, sounding relieved.
“Dad, I’m just sitting for lunch,” he said, matter-of-factly. “I’m on my way to see Mother.”
Mr. Plack motioned for the waitress. She brought in an extra chair and positioned it right beside me.
“Jim, this is my son, Kent. Bethany, Kent.”
Jim shook Kent’s hand first as I wiped my hands on my skirt again before I stood and took his. His piercing eyes surveyed me, and I pulled my hand back and quickly sat down.
“Please, don’t let me interrupt your business meeting,” Kent said, taking a seat next to me. He selected a piece of bread and popped it into his mouth.
I watched him as he chewed. I lowered my head into my financial statements as I told myself not to gawk, but I couldn’t help it. I wasn’t used to seeing super fine men sauntering around in my small town of Bowlesville. Then again, I was no longer in my hometown.
“So, Kent, are you in the business of packaging and distribution with your father? Learning the ropes?” Jim reached for a piece of bread and swirled it in the olive oil.
“No, I don’t do anything actually. I don’t work.” Kent shrugged.
Jim was taken aback, and the whole table was silent for what seemed like forever even though it was only a couple of seconds. I peered up from my financials and studied Kent’s beautiful face. I was slightly disappointed. In the few seconds of silence, I mentally noted that his attractiveness had died down multiple notches because of his lack of ambition. The fact that he’d admitted it made him look like a spoiled brat. Bummer that the looker in front of me has brawn but no brains.
“Yes, all my son does is plays golf all day, goes to the beach, shops, gallivants with his women, and spends money that his grandfather and I have worked so hard to earn,” Mr. Plack said, sounding aggravated and not in the least bit amused.
At the tension in his voice, my head dipped lower into the financial statements as this was a conversation meant between two people and not for the whole table to hear.
“Not interested in succeeding your father in the business?” Jim pressed.
I wanted to kick Jim for prying any further and causing more awkwardness at the table.
“No, not at all—not even with my Ivy League college degree.”
My head perked up, and I caught Kent staring at me while chewing yet another piece of bread. Jim changed the subject by talking about the basketball playoffs, and I was happy that the conversation was steering into a normal, comfortable zone.
“Hey, sugar?” Kent asked.
“Huh?” My heartbeat doubled in my chest, and I blatantly stared at him, oblivious to the playoff talk around me.
“Can you please pass me the sugar?”
I blinked a couple of times before realizing what he just said. “Oh. Okay. Sorry,” I grabbed the sugar near me and passed it to him.
“So, what do you do for the bank?” he asked, spooning the sugar into his coffee.
I peered at him from under my eyelashes. “I’m an underwriter.”
“Interesting,” he noted.
“It is interesting. As an underwriter, we basically look at the company’s financials and the needs of the company, and based on their performance, we see if they can service the loan. If not, we build parameters around the loan to ensure that the client can repay us.” I noticed an increased pitch in my tone, and I pressed my hands on my lap to stop my fidgeting.
He smiled at me, and I immediately warmed.
“You know, you’re cute when you blush,” he whispered, leaning toward me.
That flush on my face started to burn up. I looked to the others and was glad they were engrossed in deep conversation about the Chicago Bulls, so they were oblivious to the comment he’d just made. The feeling of shyness dissipated as irritation inside me began to rise. I found myself annoyed that he had been trying to embarrass me and get a reaction out of me in front of my colleague and customer. I didn’t care that he looked like a model from GQ.
I glared at him, and the corners of his mouth lifted at the evil look I was giving him. The silence grew, and we were interrupted by our lunch being served. When the waitress dropped off our plates at our table, I noticed she was trying to catch Kent’s attention. I wondered if he was oblivious to her attention or if he got this everywhere and just didn’t care. When she put his plate down, her arm brushed against his and when he finally lifted his eyes to meet hers, her cheeks flushed pink.
Seeing this small interaction, I realized he must have this effect on all women. I suddenly wished my face hadn’t given me away and that his good looks hadn’t made me blush like a little schoolgirl. I mentally noted not to do it again.
Staring at my grilled chicken sandwich, I couldn’t eat. I loved food, yet sitting next to this man made me self-conscious. Aggravation was seeping into my skin because I couldn’t enjoy my sandwich in peace. Instead of grabbing the sandwich with both hands and stuffing my face like I normally would, I took my knife and fork and poked at the sandwich.
“So, continue and tell me more about the expansion of the Bowlesville plant,” Jim added before chewing a French fry.
Mr. Plack took a sip of water. “Yes, we will also be expanding our product line, so we will need more storage space. Bowlesville will be our test factory, and eventually, we want to renovate the rest of our distribution centers to mirror it. Jim, have you been to our Bowlesville plant? You would be able to see that it is in need of expansion.”
“No, not yet. Hey, Beth, isn’t that where you’re from?” Jim glanced my way, and everyone else’s eyes also shifted in my direction.
I widened my eyes before taking a big gulp of water. “Yes, I’m originally from Bowlesville. It’s a small town with lots of manufacturing companies, but Plack Industries is the biggest one,” I lifted my glass to my lips and kept drinking, hoping they’d continue on to the next subject.
“Have you ever been to the plant? I’d love to give you a tour sometime when you’re available,” Kent said.
It took all my energy to keep my face steady as I placed my glass back on the table.
“When would you like to go?” he asked.
Mr. Plack studied his son with an amused look on his face. “You haven’t been to the Bowlesville plant in years.” He paused, assessing his son, and then he turned to Jim and me. “Are you available next week for Kent to take you on a tour of our Bowlesville facility? I’ll be out of town, visiting our plant in California, so I won’t be able to make it.”
From what I knew, Kent was not involved in the company. Why he would want to take us on a tour, I had no idea.
As the waitress started to clear out our plates, Jim reached for his phone. “I will have to check my schedule, but I’m pretty booked next week. I’m sure if Beth is available, she can go.”
My mouth dropped at Jim’s comment, and I composed myself before he could catch me giving him a dirty look. I cleared my throat and tried to sound confident as I said, “I’ll check my schedule at the office, but I do believe Renee said I will be busy with meetings.” My hands were clenched under the table, my fingers digging ridges against the inside of my palms.
“Why don’t you check now? Don’t you have access through your smartphone?” Kent tried to suppress laughter as his dimple flashed on his cheek.
I had a sudden urge to kick him under the table to erase that smug look off his face. Before I gave him the satisfaction of my face turning redder than it already was, I picked up my phone, gritted my teeth and mustered up a smile. “Let’s see.”
Everyone stared at me as I fidgeted with my phone. It took all the control I had not to call Jim every expletive in the book. I didn’t care that Plack Industries was his biggest client in his portfolio.
“I’m free next Wednesday and Friday,” I said, steadying my voice.
I told the truth. I could have lied, but I hadn’t. Jim could have easily checked my calendar at the office since he had access.
“Friday it is then,” Kent said, casting me a satisfied look. He winked in my direction when no one was looking and it took all my energy not to flip him the finger.
“Fine. Since that is settled, I need to get back to the office.” Mr. Plack stood up, and everyone else followed.
Finally, we exchanged our good-byes, and as I turned to face Kent, he slowly shook my hand, holding it a little longer than I wanted.
“Hope you don’t mind, but I will be picking you up at your office. It’s quite a drive to Bowlesville,” he said.
Leaving her small town behind, Bethany Casse moves to Chicago in search of a new life. Working at a top financial bank brings her into contact with two men who are as different as night and day.
Kent Plack, heir to Plack Industries, has no interest in being with a woman for longer than one night. A spoiled and lazy man-whore, he is completely content with his playboy lifestyle, and Beth is surprised when they form an unlikely friendship.
Brian Burcham, a finance banker, is gorgeous and respectful. A man plucked from Beth’s dreams, he is definite husband material. Unfortunately, Beth has a hard rule against dating coworkers, but Brian is determined to change her mind.
When a deadbeat mother and money problems follow her to Chicago, Beth is offered a solution that could fix everything. Marrying for money seems simple enough, but when lines become blurred, Beth faces difficult choices, making her realize that the easy way out just made her life even harder than before.