Seduction And The Ceo

By: Barbara Dunlop

One




Journalist Brandon Langard’s blunder was the talk of the bullpen at Windy City Bizz. The odds-on favorite for a promotion to feature writer, he’d struck out in his attempt to get an interview with Jared Ryder.

Melissa Warner and the rest of the sixth-floor magazine staff watched the fallout with morbid fascination. The managing editor’s door was closed tight, but through the interior window, it was obvious Seth Strickland was shouting. His eyes snapped fire, and his face had turned a mottled purple. Brandon’s head was bent and still, his shoulders hunched.

“They’ve already designed the cover,” photographer Susan Alaric stage-whispered over the low barrier between her and Melissa’s desks.

“That’s because Brandon swore it was a done deal,” said Melissa, remembering his swagger last week when he’d announced the plum assignment.

“Nothing wrong with that man’s confidence,” Susan returned with an eye roll. Brandon’s habit of bragging, flirting and ogling the female staff had long since alienated them.

“I was sure he’d pull it off,” Melissa had to admit. Brandon might be obnoxious, but he was also driven and hardworking. And like all the journalists at the Bizz, he knew an in-depth article on Chicago’s most elusive entrepreneur and bachelor would clinch the promotion to feature writer.

That Jared Ryder had made a fortune in the Chicago real estate market fit Windy City Bizz’s mandate for business news. That he was the heartthrob of half the city’s female population suited the magazine’s new focus on circulation numbers.

Seth became even more animated, gesticulating with both arms as he rounded his cluttered desk to confront Brandon face-to-face. The occasional word filtered through the closed door. “…incompetent…unreliable…reckless…”

“Ouch.” Susan cringed.

Melissa experienced a fleeting twinge of pity for Brandon. But then she remembered how he’d eavesdropped on her conversation with the Women in Business organization last month and presented the story idea as his own. She still owed him for that one. Or rather, he still owed her.

She paused on that thought.

It was true. He did owe her one. And maybe it was time to collect.

It would serve him right if she swooped in on this particular story. And why not? Seth clearly needed the Jared Ryder interview. And Melissa would kill for a chance at that promotion.

Through the window, Seth stopped talking. His breathing went deep, his nostrils flared, as he set his jaw in a grim line. Brandon bolted for the office door, and Melissa saw her chance. She quickly came to her feet.

Susan glanced up quizzically, assessing the determined expression on Melissa’s face. She obviously came to the right conclusion.

“Do it,” she begged with a grin. “Oh, please do it.”

Melissa’s heart upped its rhythm. She swallowed hard, trying not to think about the career-limiting consequences of failure. If she promised the interview and didn’t deliver, she’d be in more trouble than Brandon.

Still, as Brandon yanked Seth’s door open, she tamped down her fear and made her move.

Her colleagues’ gazes hit her from all sides as she made a beeline for the editor’s office. Some probably guessed her plan. Others would be simply shocked to see her approaching Seth before he had a chance to calm down. His tirades were legendary. They normally sent the staff scurrying for cover.

Brandon peeled off to the right, studiously avoiding eye contact with anyone.

Melissa rapped on the still-open door. “Seth?”

“What?” he barked, without looking up, rustling through a pile of papers on his cluttered desk.

She took a couple of steps into the office, clicking the door shut behind her.

His round face was flushed all the way to his receding hairline. There was a sheen of sweat above his bushy brows. His white shirt was rumpled, sleeves rolled up. And his tie was loose and dangling in two sections over his protruding belly.

“I can get you the interview,” she stated outright, standing tall, her three-inch pumps giving her a slight height advantage. “What interview?”

“The Jared Ryder interview.”

“No. You can’t.”

“I can,” she insisted, voice firm with the confidence she’d learned facing down five older brothers. “I will. What’s the deadline?”

“Ryder left Chicago this morning.”

“No problem. Where’d he go?”

Seth glared at her without answering.

“I can do it, Seth.”

“He turned Langard down flat.”

“I’m not Langard.”

“You’re not,” Seth agreed in a tone that told her she’d never be as good as Brandon Langard. Then he picked up his phone and punched in a number.

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