Contemporary Romance Book Recommendations
Start And Stop With
‘No Denying You’

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Contemporary Romance Book Recommendations are spreading across the internet like wildfire due to the genre’s mass Kindle appeal …But one novel has been attracting a download flurry.

With just the right amount of angst, sass, sexiness, humor, and of course romance, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Sydney Landon pens another Kindle Fire storm with her red-hot page-turner,  No Denying You.  

Five star reviews are quickly mounting up, while loyal book fans and new readers move through each book of the Danvers series.

We appreciate the fact that Sydney has taken the time to bless our Black Caviar readers with a mouthwatering first chapter.

You know what to do…Run, grab a coffee and pull up a chair for this wholesome sweetness.

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After Emma Davis’s first week at Danvers International, she’s convinced her boss will drive her crazy…

Being the assistant to uptight workaholic Brant Stone is more than Emma can bear. But in her weaker moments, she can’t help but admit that the sexy control freak can turn her on with an insult more than any man she’s ever met...

So when Emma gains an unexpected advantage, she blackmails Brant into accompanying her to her high school reunion. After all, the enemy she knows is preferable to a blind date arranged by her meddling mother.

But before they realize what’s happening, they are doing more than acting the part…they’re living it. The war that has been raging between them shifts playing fields to the bedroom, as hate turns to lust and then to something so much more... 

Contemporary Romance Book Recommendations Start And Stop With ‘No Denying You’

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Copyright © 2014 Sydney Landon

Chapter One

“Honey, have you given any more thought to getting some bigger tits?”

Emma rolled her eyes and dropped her head onto her desk. Why couldn’t her mother bake cookies, knit sweaters or do any of that other Betty Crocker shit? No-o-o, she couldn’t be that lucky. Katrina Davis—or Kat, as she liked to be called—had always wanted to be the cool mom on the block. Heck, most of Emma’s childhood friends still called her mother for advice. The woman didn’t pull any punches. “God, Mom, can we please not talk about my tits today? Or lack of them?”

“Em, it’s for your own good. You’re too attractive to sit at home all the time. Men are visual creatures so maybe a new rack is exactly what you need. Your father can’t keep his hands off mine. And you’re not getting any younger. You don’t want to wake up one day and have them fall out of bed before you do.”

“Gross, Mom. This whole conversation is really gross. I don’t want to hear anything about your sex life with Daddy. Ever. I’d like to be able to look him in the eyes just once without the constant stream of images in my head of the things you feel the need to confide to me. Maybe you should just go Catholic—then you could confess to someone with a more professional opinion.”

“Oh, Em, get over it. I’m just trying to help. You know what? I’ll even pay if I can pick them out. I’ll e-mail you some information and you can let me know what you think.”

“Mom, for the last time, I like my tits just fine!” As soon as she shouted that last bit, Emma froze at the sound of a throat clearing behind her. Please tell me that the asswipe isn’t behind me, ple-e-ease. As she swiveled slowly in her chair, she groaned. Fate definitely wasn’t on her side. Her boss, Brant Stone, stood behind her with his usual condescending smirk. She quickly said her good-byes to her mother although she could hear her still speaking as she gingerly placed the receiver back in the cradle. Determined not to give him the satisfaction of seeing her rattled, she raised a brow, asking as politely as she could manage, “Did you need something?”

“Apparently not as badly as you do, Emma.”

Oh great, here it comes, another jab at my work performance. I wonder how much jail time I would get if I choked him with the paisley tie he’s wearing? Turning her back to nonchalantly pick up her coffee cup, she said, “Pardon?”

“I am positively riveted by your plight,” he replied.

More obscure code to unravel. She spent half of her time trying to figure out what in the hell he was talking about. She knew he did it on purpose, the sneaky bastard. “I bet you are considering you cause most of my misery.” She knew it was unprofessional as well as career suicide to talk to her boss this way, but she kept hoping he would have her transferred to another department so that he could find someone more suitable for his assistant. So far, that hadn’t happened. She had even started dropping hints, but, like every suggestion she made, he seemed to completely ignore it.

“That’s flattering, Emma, but I don’t think I can accept responsibility for your . . . shortcomings.”

Her coffee cup fell from her suddenly limp fingers and crashed to the floor. Then she plowed into him as she jumped back to avoid the hot liquid. “Shit!” The carnage continued as they both fell backward like dominoes. When she managed to get her bearings, she was horrified to realize that Brant was laid out on the floor underneath her, and her butt was nestled firmly near his crotch. Coffee stains were splattered all over his perfectly creased slacks, and it took her a moment to realize why her legs seemed so bare as they lay tangled with his. Her short skirt had blown up during their fall and was now resting well above the level considered legal in most states. Was that . . . ? No, it couldn’t be. . . .

Without thinking, she wiggled around experimentally. No way! Her boss, the spawn from hell, was not growing hard against her bottom. Oh my God, he was!

“I didn’t realize that ruining my clothing also came with a lap dance.” When she froze, he chuckled. “Oh, by all means, don’t stop now. Even someone with small tits is a turn-on when she’s grinding against your lap.”

Emma jumped up as if she were on fire. “You are such an asshole. I should file sexual harassment charges against you. I’m pretty sure there are rules in the Danvers Handbook against discussing my tits.”

Brant snorted as he rose to his feet. “I’m pretty sure there are also rules in there about talking about said tits on a company telephone on company time, and I’m even more sure there is a section about job performance.”

If she didn’t hate the man so much, she would be impressed by the way he excelled at sarcasm. She had worked for Brant Stone for about six months at the communications company Danvers International. Jason Danvers, owner of the company, had bought out the family company that was previously run by Brant and his sister Ava. They had both come to work at Danvers in vice presidential roles after the merger.

Brant’s younger brother, Declan, also worked for Danvers, although he hadn’t been involved in the Stone family business. He had recently married Ella Webber, a receptionist on the fourth floor who had become a good friend of Emma’s. It was the most recent wedding in a string of couplings at the company. Jason had married his secretary, Claire, and the Merimon brothers, Grayson and Nick, had also settled down. Gray was married to Suzy who handled the special events for Danvers; Nick was married to Beth, Suzy’s sister and assistant. They had recently had a new baby.

As far as romance was concerned, Danvers seemed to be the place to work if you were looking to find a significant other. So far it hadn’t helped her, though. Instead, she was stuck with a shit-head for a boss and a vibrator for date night. Life sucked in that area.

When Brant snapped his fingers in front of her face to get her attention, she stuck her tongue out at him. She simply couldn’t resist, although she did refrain from giving him the verbal slapdown he so richly deserved. She settled for muttering, “Yeah, yeah, whatever.” He actually looked disappointed before he turned and stalked off to his office.

When her phone rang yet again, she groaned, praying it wasn’t her mother. “Brant Stone’s office.”

“You sound like someone pissed in your corn flakes.”

Emma released a sigh of relief as she heard her friend Suzy’s voice on the other line. They may not have known each other for very long, but recognizing fellow smart-asses in each other, they had bonded pretty quickly. “Ugh . . . just the usual kind of morning nonsense with Mr. Sunshine. Maybe a little worse than usual.”

“You’ll have to tell me more; I could use a laugh. How about lunch today? Claire, Beth and Ella are going to the mall for some baby stuff and I’d really like to pass on that.”

“I hear you, girl,” Emma agreed. “I’ll meet you downstairs around noon if that works for you?”

“Sounds good; stay out of trouble.”

Emma did manage to work with Brant the rest of the morning without incident until he came out of his office as she was preparing to go to lunch. “Where are you eating? You don’t mind if I go, do you?”

For a minute Emma stood there gaping at him. “Are you kidding?”

“Actually, yes. Going to Taco Bell and watching you drip your taco fixings all over the table isn’t my idea of a relaxing lunch. I would like you to pick me up something at the deli around the corner, though, on your way back in.”

Emma huffed in dramatic fashion. She didn’t bother telling him that she was having lunch with Suzy there. “I guess it’s asking too much that you get your own lunch? Who runs all of your errands in the evening? Do you have a maid that you keep chained up in your kitchen?”

Brant perched on the corner of her desk, grinning. “What a great idea; are you looking for a second job? If you were on the clock for twenty-four hours, I might be able to get eight hours of actual work out of you.”

She gave him a sympathetic look before saying, “You’ve really got it bad. You deserve so much better than me.”

Brant gave her a wary look before saying, “True.”

“How about I bring you back a nice lunch and then we fill out the paperwork to have me transferred to another department. Somewhere in this building is the uptight assistant of your dreams. Just think, by Monday you could both be boring each other to death. Just say the word.”

He was already shaking his head before she finished speaking. “I don’t think so, Miss Davis. If you would like to quit, that is your choice, but I won’t be transferring you. If you’re going to work at Danvers, then you are going to be working here.”

Emma looked at him, truly puzzled. “I really don’t get it, you know. You hate everything about me. Our personalities don’t mesh at all and you’d be much happier with someone else in this position, but you won’t sign the transfer request. Why? Are you like one of those guys who enjoy being tortured? Do you have mommy issues? What gives?”

He gave her that superior look that he did so well and said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Walking straight back into his office, he tossed out, “Don’t forget my lunch,” before he shut the door behind him.

She knew it was childish, but she flipped the bird toward his door before going to meet Suzy for lunch.

If there was one person at Danvers who made her feel normal, it was Suzy. She was brash, loud and irreverent, but those qualities were tempered with an eye-catching beauty that basically gave her a free pass. Emma found her standing in the lobby waiting for her. Her long, red hair was loose and she was twirling a lock around her finger as she stood on impossibly high heels that matched her black leather skirt.

Emma had always felt her long brown hair was unremarkable, and it resurfaced every time she admired Suzy’s hair. She had started having blond highlights added to it a few years back, which had helped. Her fashion sense was similar to Suzy’s, although Suzy probably carried it off better. They both preferred trendy clothes over the tailored business professional look. Today Emma was wearing a short plaid skirt with black chunky heels and a black blouse. She and Suzy both seemed to veer toward black.

They headed out the door and around the corner to the deli. Suzy rolled her eyes as they passed by a crew of workers patching a hole in the road. The wolf whistles from the men continued until they were inside. Apparently, the lack of encouragement wasn’t a deterrent. Once they were seated, Suzy took a sip of her water with lemon while Emma tried to keep herself from drinking her entire sweet tea in one gulp. “So how are things with Mr. Sunshine today?” Suzy smirked.

Scowling, Emma shook her head. “You know, every day I promise myself I’ll do better, but within a few hours, I’ve blown that promise all to hell and lost my religion along the way. Even I’m horrified over some of the things that come out of my mouth when I’m around him—but I can’t seem to stop. If Claire or Jason really knew what we said to each other every day, I’d be fired for sure.”

“Well, it takes two and from what you’ve told me, Brant gives as good as he gets. I don’t see him waving the white flag and getting rid of you, so maybe he gets off on it. Some guys like a little verbal spanking.”

Emma shuddered. “Please don’t say the words spanking and Brant together; it gives me hives. Even Ajax couldn’t scrub that image from my mind.”

Suzy snickered at the look of distaste Emma was sure she was sporting. “Don’t knock the spanking part. Gray loves it when I’ve been a bad girl. I would never have thought that someone as seemingly straitlaced as my hubby could be such a freak when he wants to be.” Sighing, she added, “God, I love that man.”

“All right, no more. I already hate you for having a husband that sexy. Telling me he’s some kind of sex god only makes me want to unfriend you on Facebook and walk away when I see you at the office.” Anyone else might have been offended by her statement, but Suzy only threw her head back and laughed.

“That’s pretty good. Maybe you should apply that ambition to your boss.”

“You’re just mean,” Emma said. “Can’t you pull some strings and have me moved?”

“Sorry, chick, no can do. I don’t think your strategy is working for you, though. Maybe you should try crying when he says something mean. You’ve tried the incompetence approach and so far, nada. Have you thought about the emotional wreck approach instead?”

Sticking her finger to her chin, Emma said, “Hmmm, no I haven’t. My first inclination is violence when he says something snarky, so crying hasn’t even entered my mind. I don’t know if I could pull off full-fledged tears, but I could at least hang my head and look upset. I might not even feel as guilty about that as I do about snapping back at him, which just goes against everything I’ve ever been taught about respecting authority.”

“Yeah, that’s rough when you don’t jive with someone. I don’t know why he’s so resistant to transferring you. Somewhere out there must be someone more . . . suited to his particular personality?”

“You mean, like a Mrs. Sunshine?” Emma laughed.

“Exactly!”

“He needs someone more like Mrs. Doubtfire. She would kick his ass.” Their food arrived as they were both throwing out ideas for new assistants for Brant. When she ran out of ideas, Emma asked, “So the others were doing baby shopping today, huh?”

Suzy visibly winced before saying, “I didn’t think I could take that again. I love little Hermie and all, but with Claire and Beth both having babies and Ella pregnant, that’s all they talk about.”

Emma had to smile over Suzy’s refusal to call her sister Beth’s baby Henry. She was sticking with Hermie. When Beth had found out she was having a boy, Nick, her husband, had insisted on naming their baby after his grandfather who had died while he was a child. Apparently, his nickname was Herman and that’s what the kids had always called him. Beth had freaked out about it, at which point Nick’s mother had finally admitted that her father’s real name was actually Henry. Suzy liked the original name better. “It is a little strange. We seem to be the only ones in our group now who don’t have babies on the brain.”

When Suzy looked away, an awkward silence settled over their table. Emma was afraid that she had offended her. “Suzy, I didn’t mean anything bad by that. You know I love Beth, Claire and Ella.”

Suzy took a deep breath and then ran a hand through her long hair. “It’s not that,” she said quietly. “It’s just . . . I do . . . have babies on the brain.”

Shocked, Emma sat back in her seat with a thud. “Are you pregnant?” That question only seemed to upset her friend further, and she was clueless as to what was going on. Was this an unwanted pregnancy?

“I’m not pregnant. Please don’t mention this to the others.”

Emma took her hand and said, “You can talk to me. I would never repeat anything you tell me in confidence.”

“Gray and I have been trying to get pregnant for a while now. I know I don’t seem like much of a kid person, but you have to understand that was how I was raised.” Emma knew from previous conversations that Suzy and Beth were not particularly close to their parents, who were more committed to their jobs than to their daughters. They had been particularly critical of Beth due to the weight problem she had fought for years.

“I think you’ll be a great mother. You would have the coolest kid on the block for sure.”

“I thought it would be so easy,” Suzy continued. “Everyone around us seemed to get pregnant at the drop of a hat. But each month I stare at that white stick, waiting to see two pink lines. I have grown to hate that damned thing as month after month, there is only one freaking pink line.”

Emma squeezed her friend’s hand tighter. “Oh Suzy, I’m so sorry, I had no idea. All of these babies and pregnancies around you must be hell for you right now.”

“Yeah, and I feel like shit over it. I just let them assume I don’t like or want kids because it’s easier than explaining that I can’t get pregnant. I’m happy for everyone, but I feel like such a failure. Why is it easy for them and not for me? The worst part is seeing the disappointment on Gray’s face every month. He tries to hide it, and he’s always encouraging, saying just the right thing, but I know he wonders the same thing. Why not us? Don’t we deserve to be parents?”

The longing in Suzy’s voice made Emma’s own eyes fill with tears. “Of course you deserve it. Have you talked to your doctor? Aren’t there some medications that you can take to, you know, jump-start things?”

“Yes, there are other things we can try. We have another appointment next week with the reproductive doctor. They say that medically there is no reason that we aren’t, you know, making a baby. Next we’re going to try a procedure called an intrauterine insemination. That’s a fancy way of saying they are going to help the swimmers in case they are blind or lazy. Poor Gray just got over the anxiety of worrying about his sperm count when they mentioned the term ‘lazy swimmers.’ He looked at me when we came out of the appointment and said, ‘My boys are getting fucked over.’”

Emma laughed. It was hard to imagine a man like Gray worrying about anything concerning his body, much less his sperm potency, but hey, everyone had problems. “I guess you guys have tried all of those different baby-making positions, right?”

Suzy shuddered. “Ugh, we’ve had so much sex in the last six months that my vagina is threatening to strike if we don’t take a day off. We’ve even gone home during lunch to do the mambo when I’m ovulating.”

Impressed, Emma asked, “You know when you’re ovulating?”

“Oh, honey, they make a test to tell you everything now. When that sucker gives us the green light, we go at it like jackrabbits for the next several days. Some men might crack under that kind of pressure, but Gray can perform anytime, anywhere, without fail.”

“I already hate you, bitch; must you keep making it worse?” Emma tried to joke to lighten the mood.

“You know, you’re kind of cranky today,” Suzy said. “Are the batteries dead in your vibrator again? One word, rechargeables.”

“My batteries are fine. I just have a wicked case of PMS, and my boss is a turd.” Emma was happy to see Suzy joking around after looking so upset earlier.

“You know,” Suzy began, “I hate to be the one to point this out again, but Brant is kind of a stud. I’ll grant you, he’s all over the place personality-wise, but in the ass department, he has got it going on. You could bounce a quarter off those firm cheeks of his.”

“My God, Suzy, no! Stay away from the light! Just hang on; I’ll call 911 and get help for you right away. Do you feel dizzy? How do you treat a stroke brought on by bad taste in men?”

Suzy roared, causing heads all around the deli to turn in their direction. “Honey, my taste is just fine. Everyone else agrees with me. If you guys would just have angry office sex, you would both feel better. He works so much that I bet he hasn’t gotten laid in ages. A bad case of blue balls will make a man cranky as hell.”

Emma dropped her head in her hands. “You did not just say that. My lunch is about to climb back up my throat. Ugh! It’s hard enough to work with Mr. Sunshine without thinking of him with ball issues or even worse, having sex with him. NEVER GONNA HAPPEN!”

Suzy raised an eyebrow, clearly skeptical over her denial. “Never say never, my friend. I pretty much said the same thing about Gray, and then I went and married him. He seemed just as uptight as Brant in the beginning, but nothing could be further from the truth.”

“That’s not the only problem Brant has, though,” Emma protested. “He annoys me in so many ways that I spend part of every day fantasizing about ways to kill him and dispose of his body so I don’t get caught. This is bad, but I’ve even wished he didn’t have a brother or sister so there would be no one to miss him if he did disappear.”

Suzy gave her an admiring look. “You’re kind of a scary person sometimes, Em, but I like it. I had a few thoughts of choking Gray in the beginning, too, but never seriously pondered ways to hide his body.” Pointing to the to-go box on their table, she added, “That’s probably cold and soggy by now. I told you to order it after we were finished.”

Emma gave her friend an evil smile and said, “People who don’t get their own lunch don’t have much say in how their food arrives. He’ll just send me down the hall to the microwave anyway.”

“Knock, knock.” Looking up, Brant was surprised to see his sister, Ava, standing in the doorway. “Where’s Emma? You didn’t run her off, did you?”

“No such luck. She’s gone on one of her usual long lunches. She should be back in about three hours, give or take a few minutes.” When Ava settled into one of the chairs facing him, he knew this wasn’t just casual chitchat. Ava was more of a pacer and she generally got right to the point. The fact that she seemed nervous made his stomach roll. It was his job as her older brother to worry about her.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, unable to hide the concern in his voice.

Ava sighed. “It’s Alexia.”

He looked at her blankly for a moment. There hadn’t been any mention of that name in a couple of years, and it hit him hard to hear it now. Had something happened to her? Almost afraid to ask, he said, “What about her?”

“She’s getting married, Brant.”

For a moment, he was back to that day two years ago when his world was rocked to its foundation. Alexia Shaw had been the daughter of a business associate. They had met at a party, and he had immediately been drawn to the shy beauty. After spending years avoiding any serious involvement with the opposite sex, he was officially smitten. Alexia had been homeschooled and a naive twenty-one-year-old when they met. They had started out as friends, but after the first few months things had progressed quickly and they had sex for the first time.

Alexia had brought out a softer, more relaxed side of him that he showed very few people. After dating for a year, he had proposed and she had tearfully accepted. Their wedding was three months away when she made a new friend at the office, Josie. At first, he was glad. Her family had been so protective that she didn’t have any close friends, and he thought it would be good for her.

Things had started off innocently enough: a movie here and there or a shopping trip. Unfortunately, under Josie’s tutelage, things progressed into trips to clubs, bars and God knows what else. Suddenly, his sweet Alexia was staying out all night or coming to his apartment drunk so that her parents wouldn’t know. Sometimes he would go for days without hearing from her. She stopped returning calls and when he did catch her, she was vague and distant. Of course he had tried talking to her, but she didn’t seem to care about his feelings.

Things came to a head one evening. Several times during dinner, she had texted someone. When he asked, she said that it was Josie. She excused herself near the end of the meal to use the restroom. He quickly paid the check, more than ready to leave. He saw Alexia propped against the wall outside the bathroom talking on her phone. As he approached her quietly from behind, he heard enough to know that she was talking to a man. The sexual elements of the conversation were still seared in his head to this day. She finished the call and turned around. He saw a momentary flash of guilt before her expression turned defiant. He motioned her in front of him and they walked outside. When they neared his car, she whirled around, almost shouting, “Go ahead, say something!” When he just looked at her in shock over the scene unfolding, she sneered, “Ohhh no, Brant Stone would never air his dirty laundry in public. What would it take, honey, for you to lose control?”

He had put his hand on her shoulder, trying to calm her down. But her eyes were wild and her movements jerky. “Alexia, take it easy.”

Her laughter was shrill enough to make his hair stand on end. “I think you’re calm enough for both of us. I’ve had to live like that my whole life, and I don’t want to do it anymore.” Brant was even more unnerved that her manic behavior had settled into something almost sad but resigned.

When he protested, trying to convince her to get in the car so that they could return home to talk, she had put her hand on his cheek and smiled at him affectionately. Her anger had evaporated in the blink of an eye, leaving only sadness in its wake. “It never will be the place.” She took off her engagement ring and handed it back to him. “You’re a good man, Brant, a much better one than I deserve. I never would have gotten out from under my father’s thumb without you. Because of you, I can finally be me.”

He’d felt his world collapsing when Josie’s car pulled up beside of them and, ignoring his pleas, she simply shook her head and opened the passenger door to her friend’s car. He’d stood rooted to the spot long after the taillights had faded away. In the days to come, he had tried to reach her, but she had officially severed ties with him. It appeared that she had cut her family out of her life as well. In the blink of an eye, his entire future had changed—and he had had no idea what had caused the landslide.

From then on, he kept to himself and licked his wounds in private. After all, Alexia was right—he did not lose control . . . ever. His grandfather had drummed that into them from an early age. Always control the situation and those involved.

Maybe it was a lesson he had learned too well, but he didn’t know how to change now . . . it seemed safer not to. He ended his business relationship with her father, which was a relief to them both, and moved on. He was a survivor; he always had been.

“Brant . . . Brant, did you hear me?”

He jerked, shaking off the memories that Alexia’s name had brought rushing back. “I . . . how do you know that?”

Ava gave him a wry smile. “How do I know everything? Mac, of course. His company still handles security for her father’s company. I guess Alexia is back in the family fold again and getting married. Word is that her parents approve of her choice. I just didn’t want you to be caught by surprise if the announcement shows up in the paper.”

His head was spinning and his sister knew him well enough to recognize it. Hell, he, Ava, and Declan were all masters at hiding their feelings. When their parents had been killed in a plane crash, they had been raised by their grandfather. It wasn’t that he was unkind to them; he was just rather indifferent for the most part. His business was his life and if you were looking for affection, you were out of luck.

Wearily, he ran a hand through his hair. “Thanks for letting me know, but it was a long time ago. Of course Alexia would have moved on, just as I have.” Ava gave him a look and he knew she was dying to comment on his last statement, but she let it go. She was never one to press the point on past pain because she damn sure didn’t want anyone doing that to her.

“All right, just letting you know.” Looking at her watch, she stood up. “I’ve got to get back to work. I’m watching Evan tonight for Declan and I have a ton of work to get out of the way before I go over there.”

Brant looked at her in surprise. “You’re babysitting?” Not that he thought Ava wasn’t capable, she just had a tendency to distance herself from long interactions with anyone, even family.

He had expected an insult in return but was surprised when she said, “It’s the closest I’ll ever get to having a child.” With that, she turned and left his office as quickly as she had entered.

What a day. It was barely lunchtime and he had already been hit by two things. His ex was getting married, and his sister was still being ruled by her painful past. The first was a sucker punch to the gut; the second was disheartening but not surprising. He knew he needed to talk to Declan about Ava. As for Alexia, he resolved to bury the information that his sister had given him down deep inside. After all, what had really changed? She didn’t want him then and she didn’t now. He refused to be ruled by his heart again. That part of his life was over.

With a grimace, Brant threw his half-eaten sandwich in the trash. He had no doubt that Emma had made sure it was as inedible as possible. He opened his bottom desk drawer and looked at his junk food collection. His snack consumption had gone through the roof since Emma had started working for him. He wasn’t sure why he continued to ask her to bring him lunch every day when he rarely ever ate it. He suspected it was just his perverse need to see those plump lips tighten in annoyance and to watch her green eyes roll dramatically as she snapped off a reply. She was a spitfire, and he had grown to enjoy getting burned by her. It was the liveliest part of his day.

Since he had a few minutes left between calls, he decided to get her blood pumping for the afternoon. Ignoring the phone, he yelled for her to come into his office. He knew she hated that. She never failed to mention it. When she walked into his office, he felt his physical response to her almost immediately. No matter how much he hated to admit it, his cock jumped to attention anytime she was near.

“You wanted to see me?”

Pointing to his lunch in the trash, he asked, “Did you just leave that sitting somewhere while you read Cosmopolitan or did you also drag the sandwich over the sidewalk on your way back to the office?” Settling back in his chair, he waited for the verbal tongue-lashing. Hell, yeah, he got off on it; there was no reason anymore to admit that he didn’t. He was momentarily speechless, then horrified when her bottom lip started to tremble and something that looked suspiciously like tears glistened on her thick lashes. Uncertain, he asked, “Emma?” When she turned and rushed from his office, he sat there a moment longer, stunned. What in the hell had just happened?

He hesitated before going to find her. Her desk was vacant and the door was ajar leading to the hallway. As he walked farther down the hall, he couldn’t believe that he was actually considering going into the ladies’ restroom. He had truly lost his mind. Even as he thought it, he was lightly knocking on the door. “Emma? Are you in there?”

Brant heard a muffled, “Go away.”

He took a deep breath and wondered why it was so hard for him to apologize to her. “Emma, I’m . . . sorry. I . . . didn’t mean to upset you.” When she didn’t answer, he felt compelled to add, “My lunch was good, and I was just kidding, really.” A woman a few doors down stuck her head out to see what was going on and then gave him a look of disgust. Okay, now everyone in the surrounding area knew he was an asshole.

Finally, Emma said, “I need a little time. I’ll be back at my desk soon.”

Brant was so grateful to hear her speaking that he said, “Take all the time you need, no rush at all, and, Emma . . . I really am sorry.” When she didn’t reply, he turned and walked back into his office, shaking his head in confusion.

When Emma had first started as his assistant, he had been desperate to replace her by the end of the first week. She had shattered his perfectly organized routine, and he was a disheveled wreck as a result. She messed up his papers, had some strange, color-coded filing system instead of an alphabetical one, booked him on the wrong flights, and almost killed him by putting dairy in his coffee. At times he couldn’t believe he was still alive or employed. Yet as much as he had wanted to throttle her, there was also something about her that he connected with. Even when his brother had teased him about getting rid of Emma, he had been determined not to. There was something about her that he enjoyed, no matter how much she constantly got on his nerves.

He had no idea what he had said today to upset her so much. He had said far worse to her before and it had never seemed to faze her. Something else must have happened during lunch. Maybe a fight with a boyfriend? Wait, did she even have one? He wasn’t sure why it bothered him to think of her with a man. It was probably just pity for the poor bastard. He might enjoy her antics at the office most of the time now, but he couldn’t imagine being romantically involved with such a pain in the ass. Fuck, this day just kept getting better and better.

Emma tried desperately to smother her laughter until she was certain that Brant had walked away. I can’t believe that shit actually worked. Who would have ever imagined that the asswipe could be brought to his knees by a few well-placed tears and a couple of sniffles—unbelievable! When Suzy had suggested the crying approach, she had been completely skeptical. She figured that every assistant Brant had ever had must have ended up in tears more often than not, and he probably got a big kick out of it. So she was in shock that he had completely dissolved after her first whimper. When he followed her to the bathroom, she had been floored. Luckily, some nice soul who apparently spent a great deal more time in the restroom than she did had left a copy of Star magazine. She settled back on the countertop and ignored the few people who had knocked on the door trying to get in. She thought about updating her Facebook status, but decided that might be going overboard.

When thirty minutes had passed, she figured she had drawn it out long enough. Someone was getting really anxious to use the bathroom, and she was tired of hearing the handle jiggle. She threw some water on her face and rubbed her eyes a few times. Yep, she looked suitably wiped out. As she walked down the hall back to her office, she wondered how long she could pull this off. The chances of her not snapping Brant’s head off when he made another stupid remark were slim to none. She’d give it at best the rest of the day, maybe two if he was out of the office a lot.

When she walked back inside, she saw a Starbucks Frappuccino on her desk. She found herself circling it like a bomb-sniffing dog. Someone cleared his throat behind her, and she turned to find Brant standing there looking unusually nervous. “I . . . I got your favorite.”

It was on the tip of her tongue to ask him how he knew her favorite when he was never the one getting the coffee, but she managed to rein it in at the last second. Look pathetic. Just imagine yourself married to the man. “Thank you, it looks great. I’m sorry for running out like that.” Oh hell, there is no way I can carry this off all day, no matter how amusing. I’m dying already.

Raising a hand to rub her temple, she added, “I think it’s just this headache I’ve had all day. Maybe I’m coming down with something.” A few moments later, Brant had gathered her purse and ushered her through the door, assuring her that things would be fine there until she felt better. It was amazing—she probably could even push this fake illness to a couple of days if she wanted to because the guilt monkey was riding him heavily. If she had gone home sick any other time, he would have bitched and moaned like the world was coming to an end. Having an afternoon off with his blessing was a rare treat and one she intended to enjoy. She would go home, grab her bikini, and spend the rest of the day at the beach. Life was good. . . .

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