His by Design(10)By: Dani Wade
After a moment of silence, Ziara peeked around the door. “Do you need me for anything this morning, Mr. Creighton?”
Oh, honey, I need you for something really bad. Even though it was totally inappropriate, he couldn’t tame the thought. Once again Ziara was wrapped in a narrow skirt and suit jacket, although this one was a dark chocolate-brown that complemented her eyes, bringing out the golden flecks with a glimpse of a silky gold camisole. A little better, though seeing her abundant hair pinned to the nape of her neck just made his hands itch to let it all loose.
He shifted in his seat. “I’ve got a full agenda today. Where do we stand so far?”
Ziara’s efficiency impressed him. Not only had she started contacting people and places yesterday, she’d made a detailed list of the facts so he could compare easily and make decisions.
Old business out of the way, he straightened his shoulders, preparing to face the hardest part of the day. “Let’s take a trip down to the design floor and see what’s what with the Old Brigade.”
The Old Brigade was the employees’ term for the two main designers who headed and vetted all the dress designs for the company. Though by no means original, they’d each been with the company for over fifteen years.
Ziara hesitated, frozen for a moment like a deer caught in headlights at dusk; then she gathered her tablet and smoothed down her skirt.
He let her maintain her silence as they crossed into the hall, but he couldn’t afford for her to hold back. Everything might as well be out in the open.
He stopped in the middle of the deserted hallway. “Look, Ziara,” he said, turning to face her. “One of the reasons you’re here is to help me with intercompany relations, schedules, procedures, et cetera. Right?”
“Yes, Mr. Creighton.”
The prim purse of her full mouth had his brows rising, a grin tugging at his lips. “Didn’t we decide on Sloan? After all, over the next three months, we’re going to be spending a helluva lot of time together.”
Her lips tightened a touch more before she conceded. “Yes, Sloan.”
Teasing her out of that “strictly business” attitude was way too much fun. “Now, I can’t do my job if you don’t do your job—”
A weighty protest formed in her eyes, though her face remained calm. This woman’s responses were seriously under wraps. He had to look very closely to catch the signals, but they told him some genuinely hot emotions hid beneath the surface. “Don’t get me wrong, you’ve been very helpful. But I need an honest rundown of what I’m facing on the design floor today.”
“Honesty. Right now. Got it?”
“Why do you need my opinion? You said you’d been here often as a child.”
“And as a child I noticed the person most important to me—my father, and the place I spent the most time—his office. The rest? Not so much. I haven’t set foot on the design floor since I was ten.”
Her gaze zeroed in on his face for a moment, then she spoke. “Anthony and Robert are very talented designers.”
Keeping his irritation from showing proved a little easier beneath her disapproving glare.
“The trouble will come from Robert—he’s ruled the design floor through talent and overpowering personality for years. Anthony’s a sweetheart, but don’t take his lack of attitude for subservience. He’s soaking it all in, processing it in his own time and making his own decisions.”
He grinned. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”
The low growl from her throat surprised him, sending a shock of sensation right where he didn’t need it. Keep it light. Best to just move on. “Let’s go.” But he was getting a really good idea how to provoke her into an honest response.
Just irritate her beyond measure.
The elevator took them down to the third floor and they stepped out onto the observation deck. The design department occupied most of the second floor, but the large exhibition space below could be viewed and accessed from the open walkway they now occupied.
As he and Ziara made their way down the spiral staircase, Ziara’s heels clicking on the metal steps, the designers appeared to be gearing up for the day.
“Ziara,” Robert exclaimed as she descended the last two steps. “What brings you to our little kingdom?”
Anthony simply smiled and wrapped her in a half hug. Her smile was natural and easy, but she didn’t return the touch. Interesting.
“I wanted to introduce y’all to Mrs. Creighton’s stepson, Sloan Creighton.”
The designers exchanged a look, but it didn’t display as much alarm as Sloan had anticipated. Nor resignation, either. His Spidey senses started to tingle.