His by Design(5)By: Dani Wade
“I’ll do what I have to in order to save Eternity.”
“Except call in the one man whose skills would provide the lifeline? Did you honestly think I’d sit back, mouth shut, while you let Eternity go out of the family?” He straightened, the hardball negotiator stepping onto the court. “You know me better than that, Vivian.”
With a blink, uncertainty leaked into Vivian’s eyes. “I truly don’t understand why you’d care.”
He shook his head slowly, sorrow over the state of his relationship with his late father leaking underneath the anger. “That right there proves how little you know me…or knew my father. This place was his life—” in the end more than even his son “—I want nothing more than for his life’s work to continue, to prove to his memory I’m more than you made me out to be. A hard worker, capable of contributing to the family dream, instead of a slacker who cares about nothing but myself. You’re still looking at me as a grieving kid, Vivian. Not the man I’ve actually become, the man my father saw in me before he died.”
But the tightening around her mouth told him she’d never see it that way. After years of convincing her husband that his only son was impulsive and undependable, repeatedly citing his teenage antics, his father had left her with the majority ownership of Eternity Designs. That’s all she cared about.
“Sloan, I would prefer to keep this inside family lines, such as they are. So I’ll stand by my word and give you a chance. But in the meantime, I’ll be working on a backup plan.”
It wasn’t much of a compromise, as they went, but he’d take what he could get. He needed carte blanche over the fall line. Because if Vivian knew the plans gathering mass in his mind, she’d shut him down in a heartbeat.
Her mouth pulled into a strained smile. “Just don’t go forgetting who is in charge around here.”
“I won’t. We’ll pretend you’re in charge while I become the linchpin holding everything together.”
It was a low blow, but he was beyond caring. Vivian straightened, her shoulders squaring as the pinching around her mouth deepened. Then a calculating look slid across her face, warning him he was about to pay for his disrespect.
“I have a caveat of my own. If you should happen to walk away before the fall line is presented—” her tone said she could happily run him off with a shotgun “—then Eternity Designs will become solely mine.”
Nothing like a new challenge and a gorgeous woman to work with.
Sloan listened to Ziara’s movements in the outer office as he sat at his desk. He’d wondered whether she’d postpone coming in until the last minute, but here she was thirty minutes early, moving into her new office.
Yesterday she’d both confounded and fascinated him. Her exotic, Indian beauty stirred many un-bosslike urges. Her attempts to keep that beauty under wraps teased his senses. Did she think pulling her luxurious dark hair tight into a bun and covering those shapely legs made her a better employee? It probably did in Vivian’s eyes, but Sloan was a whole other matter.
Something she’d learn soon enough, and hopefully enjoy. Though he’d never seduced any of his employees—he spent more time running from than running after—he wasn’t above using this mutual attraction as one more tool to secure control of Eternity Designs. He would need her help to understand how things worked around here, to facilitate his relationships with the other employees after being shut out in the cold since his father’s death. If tempting her loyalty in his direction meant the reports to Vivian became fewer and further between, or even stopped, all the better.
Crossing the room with a heightened sense of anticipation, he eased through without alerting her to his entrance. She stood behind the desk, the chair pushed aside to give her room to reallocate her personal stuff. Her movements were elegant but efficient as she placed pens and papers in the desk drawers. Her careful concentration told him she had a precise way she wanted things and she’d find a way to create order in this new space.
He barely held back laughter as he sized her up. He was a red-blooded male and his body naturally heated despite her choice of clothes. She’d opted for a longer skirt and boxier jacket, as if that would hide the curvy shape of her hips and ass. But it was the scarf he found most amusing. From the back, he could see the curl of material around her neck. Did it merely cover her throat in the front, or had she gone all out to hide every single hint of bare skin, tucking the ends into her jacket?
Didn’t she realize that don’t touch me attitude set her up as his own personal challenge?