Quinn sashayed out of Austin Prescott’s office, sweet curves encased in a tight black skirt with high fuck-me heels completing the outfit.
“Stop staring at your assistant’s ass, or at the very least, don’t be obvious about it.”
Austin cupped the back of his neck in his hand and let out a groan.
“You’re right,” he said to Marcus Powers, an agent in his office and a close friend. “It’s not cool.” Quinn was the best executive assistant ever and Austin didn’t want to lose her.
She’d proven herself to be extremely intelligent, could keep up with negotiations, handle the wise-ass players Austin represented, and on the times they went out for meals, make small talk with their fancy wives. Oh, and she tasted like the sweetest treat he’d ever had.
He knew because they’d had one slip. A slip he couldn’t get out of his head, even a year later. The fireworks that had exploded between them were vivid even now. But they’d never discussed that moment again.
Quinn was a different sort of woman than the groupies who used to chase him in his NFL days. Everything about her appealed to him, but he did his best to treat her with respect. When he wasn’t inadvertently staring at her ass, that is. It was dicey to have an affair with a co-worker, someone for whom he was directly in charge of her career. And she didn’t strike him as a one-and-done kind of woman, and that was his MO. Not that he thought one time with Quinn would be enough.
“Are you going to Allstars tonight?” Marcus asked of the exclusive sports and cigar bar in South Beach that catered to the elite athlete.
It was a place players and industry people could frequent without groupies and hangers-on bothering them. Which wasn’t to say Austin couldn’t find a woman to hook up with there. Just that there was a higher class of female to choose from than a run-of-the-mill establishment.
He ran a hand over his face. Maybe hanging out with friends and possibly going home with a woman was just what he needed to take the edge off this gnawing desire for Quinn. Since he’d put his rampant playboy days behind him, he was more discriminating and discreet, yet it had still been too long since he’d gotten laid.
“Sure. I’ll be there.”
“Awesome.” Marcus pulled out his phone to check his email.
Just then, Austin’s desk phone buzzed and he picked up the receiver. “Yes?”
“You’re needed in the conference room. You and Marcus both,” Quinn said in her normal voice. But he even found her husky tone arousing. “Can I let your sister know you’re coming?” she asked.
“Tell her we’ll be right there.”
Although she wasn’t a full partner, Bri had a definite say in how things ran around here. If something went wrong, she sorted out the issue.
“We’re wanted in the conference room. Apparently Bri’s called a meeting.” Austin pushed up from his chair.
“Any idea what she wants?” Marcus asked.
He shook his head. “Not a clue but we might as well go find out.”
He headed for the conference room, Marcus right behind him, stepped inside, and heard, “Surprise!”
Blinking into the bright room, he realized the entire staff was present, along with his family. In the corners, gold and white balloons decorated the room, and a large cake sat on the rectangular gleaming wood table.
“What is all this?” he asked, confused. It wasn’t his birthday.
Bri sidled up beside him, her long blonde hair pulled into a bun at the back of her head. “Today is one year since the kidney transplant. A year since you saved Uncle Paul’s life.”
Paul Dare walked up to him, looking healthy, his skin tanned, his eyes clear and gleaming. “Thank you … son.”
Everyone in this room knew the word son meant so much more to both than a random term of endearment. When Jesse Prescott, the man who’d raised them as his own, hadn’t been able to have children, Austin’s mother, Christine, had turned to her best friend since childhood to help her via sperm donation. Her gay best friend. The man she’d been in love with but couldn’t have. To say it had been a shock was an understatement.
“You’re welcome,” Austin said to Paul, who he still called uncle.
Austin pulled the older man into a brief hug before releasing him. “Any chance you and Ron will come to Allstars tonight? Marcus and I are going.”
“I’ll be there,” Bri chimed in.
“We’ll try. Ron’s been sick this week. I’ll see if he’s feeling up to it,” Paul said of his long-time partner, Ron Mayburn. Another Prescott family friend who’d been loyal to them for years.
“Give him my best and don’t push him if he’s not up to it. And let’s do dinner soon. The three of us,” Austin said.
“Sounds good.” Paul smiled. “So what about you? When are you going to settle down?”
Austin grimaced at the thought. “I like my life the way it is, thank you very much.”
“Really? You like going home alone at night to a house that echoes because it’s so big but empty? Ordering in dinner? Eating by yourself?” Paul lowered his voice so they wouldn’t be overheard.
“Whoa, what is with the third degree?” Austin asked, surprised.
“I just worry about all of you. Single. Alone. Even your mother seems open to a new relationship, but you kids?” He shook his head. “I just want the best for you.”
One look into his serious indigo eyes and Austin knew they were related. It was a miracle none of them had caught on sooner, but then no one ever had a reason to assume they weren’t Jesse Prescott’s children by blood.
“Well, trust me, I’m not always lonely.” Austin winked at his uncle, unwilling to admit that just maybe the truth hit a little close to home. But not enough to consider settling down any time soon. If anything, he was now even more determined to get laid and get rid of this annoying desire for someone he couldn’t admit to clawing at him inside.
“I’m always here if you need me,” Paul said before turning to talk to one of the agents in the office.
Letting out a breath, Austin took a minute to just be before he made the rounds as well, thanking everyone for showing up for this impromptu party.
Before he could begin, Quinn came up to him, a warm smile on her beautiful face. “I know I’ve said it before, but you did a wonderful thing for Paul and for your family,” she said, her green eyes shining with admiration.
Her approval meant something to him he couldn’t quite name, but her praise also made him uncomfortable. “I just did what anyone would do.” He shifted on his feet.
She shook her head, a wry smile lifting her lips. “That’s what makes what you did so special. You really believe it was no big deal.” She reached up and patted his cheek, obviously meaning it to be a friendly tap, but their eyes met and her touch lingered.
With her soft hand against his face, he wanted nothing more than to grab her wrist, pull her close, and kiss her … again. Since the yearning had been building for a year, and knowing he was no longer incapacitated by surgery, their union wouldn’t be soft and sweet, either.
A loud laugh broke the silence. Cheeks flushed, Quinn stepped back and turned away, walked to the table, and began cutting the cake, head down, not meeting his gaze.
Not well done of him, he thought and groaned. Time to focus on the gathering around him and his workers. He clapped his hands. “Okay, everyone, eat cake, be merry, and head home for the day. My way of showing my appreciation for the party.”
That pronouncement earned him a round of applause. Even if it was already four p.m. on a Friday, leaving early was leaving early, and cutting his employees some slack was good for morale.
He waited until he’d spoken to and thanked everyone, and made certain he was the last to leave the office before heading out, locking up behind him.
Then Austin, Bri, and Marcus met up for a steak dinner. Afterwards they settled in at Allstars for a drink and well-deserved relaxation. The dark oak walls of the bar, the low sconce lighting, and the comfortable club chairs settled him.
“Hello, Austin, long time no see.” Marnie, a cocktail waitress at the bar, sidled up close to him.
“Hi, yourself. How are you?” he asked.
She batted her lashes. “How do I look?” she asked flirtatiously.
He chuckled at the way she deliberately was fishing for compliments. They had history, he and Marnie, as in he’d fallen into bed with her once before.
With her auburn hair that hung long and wavy around her shoulders and a killer body, she was easy on the eyes. She didn’t do it for him like a certain green-eyed assistant, but she was off-limits. Marnie wasn’t.
He dragged his gaze up her long legs in black pants up to her silk camisole, also black. Her breasts were perky and her smile welcoming. “You look pretty damn fine from where I’m sitting,” he said.
Marnie grinned, gripping her round cocktail tray in her hands. “So what can I get for you?” she asked in a husky voice.
“The usual.” Actually it was his old usual as he didn’t drink often since his kidney donation. But a Don Julio would sit well right now.
“And maybe a little something later? My shift ends early tonight,” she offered, leaning down so he could see her lush cleavage.
Austin grinned because he’d just found his willing woman to take home for the night.
Quinnlyn Stone walked into Allstars with her brother, Matt, by her side. Although she’d wanted nothing more than to go home after work, he’d insisted they needed to meet and talk in person. Worried about him because she was the oldest of four siblings and it had always been her job to watch out for the others, she’d agreed but insisted on going someplace quiet. After the party at the office and being around people for an hour in a small room, she wanted some peace.
These days, crowds and loud noises made her a little anxious. She likened it to a mild form of PTSD, similar to her cousin who had been an extremely colicky baby. Even a decade later, she couldn’t listen to an infant crying without being transported back to the intense feelings of failure and frustration of those days.
Allstars was on the top level of an exclusive hotel, but she waited in the lobby for her brother because it was hot and humid in Miami in August. She hadn’t seen her brother in a while because he’d missed last month’s Sunday dinner at her parents’ house.
When he walked in, she grinned. “Matty!” She ran up and wrapped her arms around him, hugging him tight before releasing him and taking him in. His jet-black hair was combed, his glasses with black frames sat on his face, and his sport jacket was perfectly pressed. “Look at my baby brother in his college professor attire.”
He chuckled but rolled his eyes. “You’re twenty-eight. I’m two years younger than you. Jeffrey’s the baby.”
At twenty-one, yes, he was. But so was Matt. “As long as you’re younger, you’re the baby, so humor me.”
“I am humoring you. I’m letting you bring me to a place where jocks hang out, aren’t I?”
She wrinkled her nose. “That’s a snobby, elitist thing to say. Now, come. Let’s go have a drink and you can tell me why you wanted to see me.” She clasped his hand, led him to the elevator, and hit the button for the top floor.
They walked out, and as they waited for the hostess to lead them to a table, she heard a familiar laugh that sent tingles down her spine and a jolt of pure awareness through her veins. After hearing his voice all day, she should be immune to such a typical feminine reaction. Quinn always knew when Austin Prescott was nearby.
“Your table is ready,” an attractive waitress with blonde highlights in her hair said.
“Thank you.” They started for the table when Quinn heard her name. “We’ll be right there,” she said to the other woman.
“Matt, come say hello to Austin.”
“The jock boss,” he said low enough that only she could hear.
“What do you have against athletes?” she asked. The rest of the family loved sports. She came by her choice of job naturally. Her dad was a die-hard Miami Thunder fan.
“I know their social reputations. I just don’t want you to end up a notch in this guy’s bedpost.”
Her eyes opened wide. “Oh my God, Matt! He’s been nothing but professional since I started working for him.” If she ignored the one kiss that consumed her dreams.
She pulled her brother over to Austin’s table, where he sat with Bri and Marcus. “Matt, you’ve met Austin. This is his sister, Bri, who works PR at the firm, and Marcus, who is an agent. Guys, this is my brother, Matt.”
They all exchanged hellos.
“I didn’t know you’d be here tonight,” she said to Austin, who looked casual and relaxed. His white shirt was unbuttoned, showing a smattering of chest hair she had to drag her eyes away from. And right now those gorgeous unique-colored indigo eyes were hot on her face.
“I was dragged here by these two.” He gestured to the others at the table. “What brings you out tonight?”
She glanced at her sibling. “Matt wanted to talk. I figured this place was a good choice.”
Austin inclined his head. “So I don’t suppose I can convince you to join us?”
She smiled but shook her head. “I need to know what Matt wants.”
A low laugh sounded from beside her. “I want a drink.”
Quinn grinned. “And that’s my cue. I’ll see you Monday?” she asked.
Austin nodded. “See you Monday.”
Matt grasped her hand and led her to the table the hostess had indicated earlier, and a little while later, she sat with a glass of Chardonnay, while her brother drank a scotch and soda. They talked about home, their parents, their siblings, and their jobs, catching up. But all the while, she was acutely aware of Austin. And the waitress who was definitely flirting with him in ways that couldn’t be misconstrued.
Quinn ought to be used to the attention Austin garnered. From the first business lunch they’d attended, women ignored Quinn and threw themselves at Austin. He had cleavage lowered into in his face, boobs brushed against his arm, phone numbers slipped into his jacket pocket … and she could go on. He laughed it off to being an ex-NFL star.
But in the time Quinn had been working for him, he’d been discreet. He didn’t parade women in the office and never had he asked her to make a lunch or dinner reservation for a date. But the man wasn’t a monk, and he clearly had no intention of settling down.
“Quinnie-Boo, God, are you even listening to me?”
She blinked when Matt snapped his fingers in front of her face and even called her by that awful childhood nickname to get her attention. “I’m sorry. I was lost in thought. But I’m paying attention now.” She couldn’t spend time thinking about her boss and his strong, chiseled features and tanned skin. Or the muscled body beneath the suit. She needed to stop letting her mind wander there.
“I guess you want to know why I asked to see you in person?” Matt asked.
Finally, he got to the crux of things. “I take it you didn’t just want to see your sister?”
He shook his head. “I mean, of course I did, but I also wanted to tell you something.” Her brother looked like he was chewing glass, that what he had to reveal was that upsetting.
“What is it?” She put her hand on his.
“I ran into Daniel at a faculty meeting on campus.”
She startled at the mention of her ex-fiancé. “Oh. Okay?” She and Daniel Munroe had ended things on an awkward note.
Matt had introduced them because he and Daniel were colleagues at the smaller college where they both taught. She and Daniel had bonded over the notion that neither one of them wanted children. As the oldest of the family, she’d raised her siblings and was quite content with any nieces or nephews that might come along who she could spoil.
She’d thought they’d been on the same page. So when he’d asked her to marry him, it seemed like the right thing to do. They enjoyed each other’s company and could each focus on their careers. Until the day he revealed he really did want kids and had assumed she’d change her mind at some point in time.
When she assured him she hadn’t … wouldn’t … he’d asked her to at least agree to reconsider things down the road. But she knew better than to go into a marriage with something as fundamental as wanting children undecided. She’d ended things and hadn’t seen him over a year.
“And?” she asked into the silence.
Matt drummed his fingers against the table. “His wife is pregnant and I wanted you to hear it from me. In case you took it hard or had had second thoughts.” He stared at her with love and concern in his eyes, and she adored him for it, but she did not understand her family.
Her parents thought, after helping to raise their kids and her younger cousins, she’d want to be a nanny instead of having a career, and her brother believed she’d be hurt by her ex doing exactly what he’d told her he’d wanted. Or maybe the problem was her family just didn’t understand her.
“I’m fine. Why wouldn’t I be? I knew Daniel wanted kids. Well, eventually I knew, although it would have been nice if he’d told me from the beginning and not assumed I’d change my mind.”
She glanced at her sibling, who still looked worried. “I realized pretty quickly after we broke up that I didn’t love him the way I should or I would have been a lot more upset by the end of things.” She bit down on her lower lip, remembering that odd feeling of relief after things had ended.
“And by the way, same goes for him. He was engaged again within a year. It’s all good, Matt, but thank you for worrying about me.” She squeezed her brother’s hand and he let out a relieved breath.
From the corner of her eye, she saw the waitress approach Austin once more, lean down, and whisper in his ear. Whatever she said, it was an intimate action that had nothing to do with his drink order, and he placed his hand on her waist and squeezed once in reply, causing Quinn’s stomach to twist at the sight.
“Well, I’m glad to hear you’re okay,” her brother said, oblivious to her inner turmoil over Austin.
She forced a smile, still keeping an eye out as Austin reached inside his pants pocket for his wallet, handing the waitress his credit card. She strode off and brought the bill back for him to sign. And not five minutes later, Austin stood up, hugged his sister, shook hands with Marcus, and started for the door, meeting up with the woman who’d obviously just gotten off her shift. Together they walked out the door.
But not before Austin turned back and his gaze caught on Quinn’s. She hadn’t meant to continue staring. Hadn’t anticipated him turning back and looking her way. Something flashed in his expression before he shuttered it and quickly jerked his head back around and headed out the door.
Quinn sighed. As much as she hated to admit it, watching Austin with another woman hurt more than breaking up with her ex had. She’d grown close to Austin while working for him and had kept that kiss they’d shared close to her heart.
Until today, she hadn’t had to see him with one of his conquests, and reality was a bitter pill to swallow. The truth was, she had no business having feelings for her boss. Her job was too good to lose.
He had every right to do his thing and she’d do her own. Live and let live. And she’d move forward secure in the knowledge her heart wouldn’t get broken by her playboy boss.
Read Chapter 2 here.
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