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  • Alexis Winter

**Beg For It Sneak Peek**





Chapter 1-Brontë

“Congratulations to my daughter, Brontë, on her graduation from grad school. Your stepmother and I are incredibly proud of you.”

My father, Jonas Ramsay, lifts his champagne flute toward the sky as he toasts to me. The room fills with cheers and echoes of congratulations as I smile shyly and nod my thanks.

I’m still not used to this kind of wealth. The kind of wealth where spending probably fifty thousand on a graduation party at one of the most exclusive restaurants in Chicago is merely a gesture.

“Come here, sweetie.” My dad approaches and wraps his arm around my shoulders. “Have you thought any more about my offer to join Ramsay Consulting?”

I look down at my glass of champagne and shrug.

My dad is one of the most, if not the most, powerful billionaires in Chicago but he’s only been a part of my life for the last year. He and my mother met when they were young and had me at only twenty-five, something I later learned was unplanned and a source of contention between them. As expected, they divorced when I was seven after Dad was unfaithful and Mom moved us to the suburbs where we lived a quiet, normal middle-class life away from the glitz and glam of the world’s elite.

“I’ve thought about it a little but I’m still just—unsure.”

“Well, that’s why I think it’s a great idea. You can come in at an entry level position, feel it out, see if finance and business are what you want. I can tell you for sure though that they’re in your blood.” He squeezes my shoulder and I look over at him. He’s referring to my mother.

My mom, Nadia Spencer, was an accountant for as long as I can remember and she loved it. That’s how she met my father. In college they were both finance majors and they hit it off. After I was born, Mom stopped working to raise me, but once she and Dad divorced, she went back to work to support us. Dad wasn’t yet the billionaire tycoon he is now but I do know she received child support and alimony payments every month; however, she always said she refused to be beholden to a man and wanted to show me that a single mom could do it on her own.

She was fierce and incredibly brave. It’s been almost three years now since she’s been gone and not a day goes by that I don’t miss her. It’s because of her actually that I’m working on my relationship with my father… or that I even have a relationship with him. On her deathbed she made me promise that I’d forgive him and try to get to know him and my half-siblings. I put if off for about two years, but now here I am, having this elaborate graduation party thrown by him in my honor.

“That’s part of the problem though. I know everyone will just assume I’m working there because you’re my father which will probably lend to some resentment by my peers because they’ll assume I can get away with anything or they’ll just wonder why I’m working in the first place, like I’m trying too hard to prove myself to everyone.”

I gulp down the half a glass of champagne I’ve been nursing and grab a fresh one off a waiter’s tray as they pass by. Even talking about my future instantly stresses me out. I feel like an asshole, like I’m complaining about my gold shoes being too tight with the amount of opportunity that’s sitting in my lap, but I want to be fulfilled with my career, like my mom was.

I want to know that I’m making a difference in the world.

“I think you nipped that fear in the bud when you took your mother’s last name.” He doesn’t have to tell me that it disappoints him that I’m not proudly a Ramsay.

“Oh, trust me, with social media nowadays, everyone will know who I am the second I get hired on at your company.” He nods once, giving a half-hearted smile before looking down at his shoes. I feel guilty. “I’m not ashamed of you, Dad; that’s not it.” I reach my hand out and touch his arm. “I’m just feeling a little lost is all. You know how it is to be twenty-four.”

I give him a smile and his eyes brighten, his own lips curling into a smile. The truth is I am ashamed of the Ramsay name. For years my dad didn’t have a great reputation. I know he’s changed, or that’s what his new wife Chantelle says, along with a few others, but it’s hard to trust that when the only version you’ve known of him was an angry, cheating liar who walked out on you when you were seven and barely showed back up, only to drop off a check or make a half-hearted attempt to celebrate a birthday or milestone too late.

“Okay, this is my last resort. My good friend, Beckham Archer, owns Archer Financial just across the street from my building. He’s looking for an admin immediately. His last one left unexpectedly. I could send him your resume and set up a meeting, if you’d like?”

“Now you’re pawning me off onto your friends who need assistants?” I crook an eyebrow at him. “Dad, I appreciate the offer, but I’m just not sure.”

“Okay, just promise me you’ll think about it.”

“I promise.”

“Come on.” He motions with a quick nod of his head.

“Where?”

“To your gift.” He smiles and grabs my hand, leading me toward the center of the room.

“Dad,” I groan, feeling like I’m that young girl all over again who just wants to spend time with her dad, instead of being showered with elaborate gifts. “I told you I didn’t need or want any gifts besides donations being made to the Chicago Boys and Girls Club.”

“Oh, pish.” He waves away my suggestion in classic Jonas Ramsay fashion. Sure, he gives to charity—what billionaire doesn’t donate more money in a year than most of us will see in a lifetime to various causes—but do they care about them?

My dad doesn’t. Which is why I haven’t told him that for the last several years, I’ve volunteered at a few different nonprofits in the city for underprivileged children, something that has become such a passion of mine I can’t help but keep going back to the idea that maybe I should start my own nonprofit.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s gift time!” He grabs a spoon off a table and clinks it against his glass, the guests turning to listen to his announcement.

“I cannot wait to see what he got you for a gift.” My best friend Sylvia stands next to me along with our mutual friend Taylor, who are both giggling.

“Stop it.” I give them both a glare, but it only eggs them on.

They’ve been by my side for this entire journey with my father and they’ve been in the room with me while he’s on the phone trying to talk me into letting him buy me a new house in the suburbs, a penthouse downtown, or even a flat in London or Paris.

“I wanted to do something special for my baby girl because she not only deserves it, but she’s always wanted one.” My dad smiles at me and motions for us to head outside.

I’m so confused as to what might be on the other side of these walls. I walk next to him as the host walks ahead of us and dramatically opens both doors of the restaurant in a sweeping gesture.

I gasp when I see it.

Parked on the street in front of the restaurant with a giant bow on top is a brand-new cherry-red Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriole.

“Dad, this is too much.”

“Nonsense.” He walks me over to the car and slides the key in my hand. “Remember when you were just a little girl and you’d beg me to take you driving in mine with the top down? You couldn’t get enough of that car.”

He smiles so proudly as he looks at it and for a second I think I almost see a tear in his eye. I’m not sure if it’s a tear about my childhood or if it’s because he loved that car so damn much. He conveniently doesn’t mention when I accidentally crashed my bike into the rear fender and he screamed at me like I did it on purpose. I remember sobbing in my room for hours, my mom coming to rub my back and comfort me, but my dad pulling her out of my room because I needed to think about what I did.

“It’s a hundred-thousand-dollar car, Dad. I don’t have anywhere to put it.”

“We can sell your old car.”

“I like my car,” I say nervously. “And it’s only three years old.”

I feel guilty for not being super excited about a gift I not only didn’t want, but one I don’t need. I like the fact that I saved up and worked hard, busting my ass doing double shifts at the restaurant I worked at to buy my Kia. I was so proud when I did buy it since it was not only new, but had cooled and heated seats, plus a moonroof.

“Chantelle enjoys having a few different cars. She says it’s nice to have one as a daily driver and one when the weather isn’t so great.”

“Yes, well, you two have a ten-thousand-square-foot garage. I have a single parking spot.”

I can see his smile fade again as he leans in to plant a kiss on my cheek.

“Tell you what,” he says, taking the key from my hand, “you can keep it parked at my house. When you come over to our neighborhood, we can drop the top and take her out for a spin; how about that?”

“Sounds good, Dad.”

I stand there staring at the car along with two valet guys who are admiring her from every angle.

“That’s what he enjoys doing, you know?” I turn to my right where Chantelle, my stepmother, has sidled up beside me. “Giving gifts is one of his love languages.”

“Or maybe that’s an excuse that rich people give instead of actually taking the time to think out something thoughtful or meaningful or just respect the person’s wishes when they said no gifts?” Her lips form into a thin smile and I shake my head. “Sorry, that was rude. You’re just being kind.”

Chantelle is clearly a lot younger than my father, but she’s also probably one of the best things that has ever happened to him. I still struggle with the notion that people can really, fully change who they are at their core, but I also feel like a hypocrite when I see the way my father has changed because of her. When I heard that he was forty, marrying a woman who was my now age, I laughed. I didn’t think for a second that it would last; it was merely a cliché life crisis move. But here they are, ten years and two kids later and he couldn’t be happier.

“He’s working on it, Brontë. I know it’s practically a slap in the face to ask for your patience and understanding with him, but I promise you,” she says softly, reaching her perfectly manicured hand out to rest on my arm, “he wants a genuine relationship with you. He talks about it all the time.”

“I know. Sometimes it’s just hard to forgive and forget.”

“I have no doubt. You’re justified in those feelings, Brontë. The boys were upset they couldn’t come tonight by the way, Silas in particular. He and Jenson made this for you.” She reaches into her clutch and pulls out a hand-drawn card that brings a huge smile to my face.

Silas and Jenson are the two little gems that came out of my family’s toxic breakup. From the first day I got to meet them, it’s like I’ve always been their big sister. And one thing that Chantelle always makes sure they know is that we are brother and sister, no half this or half that.

“Aw, those boys. I need to come see them this weekend.”

“They would love that and your father would love it too, so he can take you out in your new car.” She winks at me. “I better go find him, but I want to throw a fun little family cookout in the next few weeks, kick off summer right and celebrate your birthday. The boys will want to show you all their new flips and tricks they learned in swim lessons over the winter.”

“That sounds lovely, Chantelle.” I pull her in for a tight hug. “Tell the boys I missed them and I’ll see them soon.”

I head back inside to find my friends. “Hey, you guys want to go grab a drink somewhere else? I’m feeling a little celebrated out.”

“Oh yes, please!” Taylor says, grabbing her clutch and hopping down from her stool.

“Just a second,” I say, looking around for my dad. I spot him and head over to let him know we’re leaving.

“Thanks again, Dad.” I give him a hug and he squeezes me so tight, like he’s trying to make up for years lost.

“I’m so proud of you, Brontë. Your mother would be too.”

This time I can clearly see the tears and for some reason, maybe because I don’t want to disappoint him or maybe because I’m tired of feeling guilty, I agree to the meeting with his friend.

“I’ll do it. I’ll meet with Beckham Archer for an interview.”

A few moments later, Sylvia, Taylor, and I are making our way into a dimly lit speakeasy type bar in The Loop. This isn’t our usual neighborhood and the bars here are filled with finance bros in overpriced suits and clearly veneered teeth, all trying to shout over each other about their “big win.”

“You sure you want to stay here?” Sylvia asks, looking around, and I shrug, grabbing a high-top table. “Doesn’t seem like our vibe.”

“Yeah, but it’s close by. I don’t feel like Ubering anywhere. I just need something stronger than the glasses of champagne I downed.”

“Did your dad manage to talk you into working at his company?” Taylor asks.

“No, but I did something stupid.” I roll my eyes. “I agreed to take an interview at his fellow billionaire friend’s company, Archer Financial. I guess he needs an admin or something. Ugh, I’m so disappointed in myself that I didn’t just tell him I want to work in nonprofit and maybe start my own someday.”

“Honestly, Brontë, I think it’s a smart idea.” Sylvia shrugs and I look at her sideways. “Remember when you met me in undergrad? I was the teacher’s assistant and I told you that I was unsure about getting my master’s in education? Well, I didn’t listen to that gut feeling and now I’m a teacher and honestly, I kind of hate it.”

“You hate it?” Taylor’s ears perk up.

“I don’t hate it all the time, but it just doesn’t feel like it was my passion, what I’m meant to do; it’s something I’m good at so I convinced myself it was my dream. Sometimes I don’t think I’ve even figured out what my dream is yet, but I know it’s not in the education world.”

“So you think taking this job, if I get it, would be a way for me to try out the financial world before I either fully commit or walk away?”

“Exactly!” She slaps the table dramatically. “And if you think there’s an interest there, I’m sure you could move into a financial position within the company. With your forensic accounting master’s, you’ll be able to find work at any financial firm. Fraud is always going on. You know what they say, scammers are the new serial killers.”

“True,” I say, laughing at her comment. I’m feeling better already about my decision.

“But first,” Taylor says, looking around the bar, “we need to get you laid because it’s been over two years now and you’ve graduated so no more excuses.”

I duck my head in embarrassment. “Okay, maybe yell it a little louder next time so the bartender can hear you?”

I slide off my stool, flipping her the bird as they both fall into a fit of giggles.

“I’m getting a round of old-fashioneds.”

I walk to the bar and wait for the bartender to notice me when a shadowy figure to my right catches my eye. This guy is not your average twenty-something frat boy. His suit looks expensive, bespoke like it was made for him. It hugs his arms and shoulders, accentuating a very toned physique. A lock of his dirty-blond hair has fallen over one eye as he reads something on his phone.

I take the advantage of going unnoticed by him to really look him over. His jaw is rough with stubble, but it’s cut and angular. His lips full. He reaches for his cocktail, bringing it to his mouth to take a sip before placing it back on the bar top without looking away from his phone.

“What’s with you finance guys?” A burst of confidence surges through me as I make small talk with the stranger. “Always working.” I shake my head and place my order as the man turns to look at me.

He glances over his shoulder to make sure I’m speaking to him before sliding his phone in his pocket and turning on his stool to look at me. He doesn’t hide his gaze as it slowly travels down my body, then back up again before he replies.

“Guilty.” He smirks.

The dim light catches his icy-blue eyes and makes my stomach do a little flip. Maybe that champagne hit me harder than I realize because this man is so sexy I feel my mouth grow dry.

“Married to the job?” I say coyly, dragging my teeth over my bottom lip seductively like I’m in a cheesy rom-com. I brush my hair back in a flirty manner, leaning a bit forward on the bar top so it presses my breasts together.

Who the hell am I right now?

“Afraid so. She’s my wife, mistress, and lover.” He tosses back the rest of the amber liquid in his tumbler and places it on the bar top.

“Shame.” I smile as the bartender places my drinks down in front of me and I go to hand him my credit card.

“Allow me, please?” he says, nodding toward my card.

“Thank you.” I pull my card back and place it in my wallet. I gather the three tumblers between my fingers, and then I set them back down on the bar, not yet ready to break up this little flirt fest.

“So what brings a beautiful young woman like you to a place like this?” The way he looks at me has my stomach doing all sorts of little flip-flops.

“You mean to a bar in The Loop filled with young finance gurus foaming at the mouth to be the next Wolf of Wall Street?” He chuckles and I shrug. “Just something in the way they all brag about how they can really see Jordan Belfort in themselves gets me going. Like it’s going to make a woman’s panties drop that they can resonate with a selfish, narcissistic scam artist like they really are Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie.”

“You’re fiery. Funny as hell too.” His eyes do that lazy perusal of my body again and it sends my stomach into somersaults. “Please tell me a woman as gorgeous as you hasn’t been lured into the soul-crushing world of finance?”

“You mean because I’m pretty it would be a shame?”

He nods. “Not a shame, we need more women like you that call it like it is, but you’re young. Seems like there’s probably more fun and exciting things to fill your time than long hours and hanging out at bars with men like me.”

“Men like you, huh?” I cock my head, bringing back my flirty demeanor. “And what kind of man are you?”

“The kind your dad wouldn’t want you talking to.” His voice is deep and a little ragged as he leans back in his seat, running his hand through his hair as his eyes drop down to my lips. I stare at him, debating on my next move when I notice the sexy lines at the corner of his eyes. It was obvious he wasn’t a fresh graduate when I first saw him, but it’s only now that I can see he definitely has a few years on me.

Damn, an older man—my kryptonite.

“Look, I don’t normally do this.” He laughs at my statement. “Right. Cliché, I know, especially after your little ominous warning but…” I rummage through my wallet for an old receipt and grab a pen from the bar, scribbling down my first name, last initial, and my phone number and hand it to him.

“Is that an initial?” He looks at the paper, then to me.

“Yes, I figure a man who looks like you must have at least twenty different I don’t normally do this women’s numbers in his phone. So, with a last initial, maybe I’ll stand out.”

“Only twenty?” He hooks an eyebrow at me, making me laugh. “Why only the initial? Scared to give me your last name?”

I grab the paper and write out the rest of my last name before handing it back to him.

“There.”

He looks at it, then his smile falters a little. “Brontë Spencer?”

“Yes, that’s me. I guess you probably don’t have a lot of Brontës in your phone so the last name is a little redundant now that I think about it.”

“Yeah,” he says almost nervously as he runs his hand over his jaw. “That’s for certain.”

“I’ll be right back. The ladies are frothing at the mouth over there for these,” I say as I look over at my friends who are giving me ridiculous hand signals and eye gestures, thinking they’re being subtle.

I walk the drinks over to the table and place them down.

“Holy shit, you guys. I just met the finest man I have ever seen in my life. I think I almost blacked out and peed myself talking to him,” I whisper as if he could hear me over the loud ruckus the frat boys are causing in the center of the bar.

“And of course he’s older.” Taylor bounces her eyebrows. “Daddy issues coming in stroooong.” They both laugh. They’ve always teased me about my affinity for older men.

Is it daddy issues? I’m ninety-nine percent sure it is. We can thank Jonas for that.

“I gave him my number!” I shriek just as both of their faces fall. “What?”

“Uh, I think he just left?”

“What?” I spin around and sure enough, he’s nowhere to be found. I walk back up to the bar and look around. “Where did that guy go?” I ask the bartender who shrugs and turns to help someone else.

And then that’s when I see it, the crumpled-up piece of paper left on the bar top with my name and number.

***

I groan and stretch my arms overhead, trudging to the kitchen to make a much-needed espresso before getting ready for my interview at Archer Financial… a decision I’m now regretting giving in to.

Instead of taking time to learn about the company, I’ve spent far too long thinking about the rejection from a total stranger this weekend.

I make myself a latte and open my iPad to do a little research, but my mind keeps drifting to that sexy smirk from Mr. Daddy Issues at the bar.

“Ugh.” I shut my iPad and march to the bathroom for a shower, hoping if I get my day going it will take my mind off Taylor’s all-too-true comment that I haven’t been laid in over two years and if I’m not careful, my virginity will grow back at any second.

I finish applying my makeup and pull my long hair up into a professional high ponytail. I slide my feet into a sensible pair of black pumps and do a quick spin in front of my floor-length mirror to double-check my pencil skirt isn’t tucked into my panties or there isn’t a hole in my white blouse.

After this weekend’s rejection, I really don’t need a double dose of embarrassment for my self-esteem. I look polished and professional.

“I’d hire me.” I smile at my reflection before grabbing my portfolio and heading to Archer Financial.

I stop outside the reflective building and stare up at the towering skyscraper. My dad was right, it’s literally across the street from his building. I feel my chest tighten as I watch several people walking into the building, their heads turned down as they stare at their phones, completely oblivious to the world around them.

Is this really the life I want?

I square my shoulders and march into the building, reminding myself that this is a good opportunity and like my dad and my friends mentioned, a way to feel out if a life in finance is really want I want.

“Hi, I have an interview with Mr. Beckham Archer at nine thirty.”

I smile at the man sitting behind the front desk, but he doesn’t reciprocate.

“Name.” He doesn’t even look up from his computer screen.

“Brontë Spencer.”

“It’s the fortieth floor. Take the elevator bank behind me to your left. Here’s your visitor’s badge. Make sure it’s visible on your person.”

“Thank you.”

I walk timidly around the massive desk, my heels echoing against the marble floor as several others rush past me to enter the elevator. When I arrive on the floor, there’s a second reception desk with two women smiling at me. I repeat the process of introducing myself.

“Mr. Archer is ready for you.” One of the ladies smiles as she stands and walks around the desk. “I’ll show you the way.”

She brings me to two massive wooden doors that she opens and ushers me inside before turning to walk back down the hallway.

I step inside the office, nervously looking around when I spot him. His back is to me as he faces the floor-to-ceiling windows. He’s clearly typing furiously on his phone but finishes and slides it into his pocket to turn around and face me, a casual smirk on his face as he speaks.

“Thanks for meeting me, Miss Spencer.”

Holy fucking shit, you have to be kidding me. This cannot be real.

I almost want to pinch myself, convinced I’m having a nightmare right now. Before I can stop myself, the words fall from my lips in a somewhat whisper.

“Mr. Daddy Issues?”

Chapter 2-Beckham

Her face says it all and it’s fucking priceless. “Pardon?”

I watch her delicate throat constrict as she attempts to swallow down the realization that the man she tried to pick up last night, is not only her dad’s best friend, but I very well could be her new boss.

“Uh, nice to meet you,” she says, clutching the folder to her chest, her cheeks flaming.

“Brontë Spencer then, I presume?” I take her hand in mine.

“Ye—yes, that’s me.” She smiles nervously, shifting her folder and purse to shake my hand. “Pleasure to meet you, sir. And thank you.”

“Pleasure’s all mine.” Her hand is thin and soft, and I’m tempted to hold on to her fingers longer than professional or necessary. I gesture for her to take a seat in the chair across from my desk and she does. Crossing one slim ankle over the other, she smooths out her black pencil skirt.

“I’ve heard a lot about you from your father, all good things of course.” I offer her a genuine smile to ease her tension but it doesn’t work. In fact, it seems to have the opposite effect. Her shoulders lift as she hugs the folder in her arms a little tighter.

“So why don’t you tell me about yourself, Brontë, what your background looks like, what interests you, what line of work you think you want to end up in.”

I lean back in my chair and fold my hands in my lap.

“Well, honestly, I’m a little unsure what I want to do with my life which is why I’m here. My father suggested I come work for you till I figure out what I actually want to do.” I chuckle and she nervously tries to backpedal. “Not that I don’t think that this is a real job or anything; I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity and for you even taking the time to speak with me.”

“No explanation needed.” I hold up my hand. “I’ve been in your shoes before and I think it’s a smart plan. Too often we’re pushed into specific careers based on what we decided to study when we were eighteen years old. A lot can happen between now and then.”

“I studied finance and accounting in undergrad and just graduated from grad school with my master’s in forensic accounting. My mom was an accountant and she loved her job so I followed in her footsteps.”

“But now you’re unsure about that path for yourself?”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

I lean forward in my chair and intertwine my fingers. “What is it that excites you? When you picture yourself twenty years from now, what career do you see yourself in?”

Her shoulders finally drop as she chews on the corner of her lip.

“Helping people. I like volunteering and I think nonprofit is something I could see myself in long term.”

“Well, that’s good news. We have some great relationships with a few here in Chicago. In fact, we have a foundation. The Archer Foundation focuses on single mothers or women in need of prenatal care… basically families in need. We do fundraisers and group volunteering throughout the company. We also offer five paid days off per month for volunteering.”

Her eyes grow wide as I explain about our efforts here at Archer Financial to give back to our community and help those in need.

“That sounds wonderful. My mom was big into volunteering and took me even before I can remember. Anyway, I do like finance as well. I enjoy solving problems and finding errors. I just—it’s a big commitment to choose a career and jump in when you’re not one hundred percent certain.”

Gone is the bold, flirty woman from last night who shamelessly approached me at the bar—replaced with an almost timid and nervous little creature. Her eyes dart from mine to the floor and back again as she speaks. They sparkle when the sun hits them through the blinds behind me. Her lips are full, almost too large for her delicate features, yet they fit her perfectly. Everything about her seems ethereal, like she could be a Disney princess locked away in a tower by an evil witch… a far cry from her commanding and at times tyrannical father.

“Tell you what, Brontë. If you were to accept the position here at Archer, you would be hired on as my assistant. I am in desperate need of someone who can help me manage my calendar and gate-keep my time, also someone who can attend meetings with me, book travel, manage my emails and messages. Basically, my right arm. I’m not looking for someone to work twelve-hour days or pick up my dry cleaning. I’m pretty easygoing and approachable. I do—”

“I’m really sorry about last night,” she interrupts me, blurting out her apology nervously. “I had no idea who you were and I never”—she gestures with her arms like she’s an umpire calling a runner safe—“do that. I had some champagne at my graduation party; that’s why we were there, we were celebrating. I don’t know what came over me, but I wanted to be bold and felt confident and I just… I’m so sorry.”

She shakes her head and I can see the shame on her face but it doesn’t stop me from chuckling.

“Absolutely no need to apologize about it, Brontë. We are two adults and asking someone out is part of life. I, uh, I feel like I owe you an apology actually. When you said your name, I recognized it immediately and because of who your father is… and because he’s one of my closest friends, I removed myself from the situation.”

“My ego appreciates the explanation.” She looks down as she says it, a sly smile on her face and it feels like her nervousness is melting.

“I should have offered you an explanation, but I panicked. I think I was just in shock at the coincidence considering you were on my calendar this morning. Guess I should have just explained that right then but felt it might have been embarrassing… Then again, showing up to find me behind this desk today probably wasn’t any better.” She shrugs and we both laugh again. “So, water under the bridge on both our parts?”

“Deal.” She smiles.

“Great. So back to the job, how does all that sound? And for the record, I am fully aware that if you took this job, you could realize in a month that you hate it and want to leave. That is completely fine and won’t be an issue. I just wanted to extend the offer to you if it was in any way something you feel you would be interested in.”

“I appreciate it. I think it sounds perfectly manageable on my part. When do I need to give an answer?”

“How about the end of the week? Give you enough time to think things over?”

“Yes.”

“Perfect. Here…” I grab my business card and scribble down my personal cell number on it. “This has my email and work phone, but this is my personal cell. If you have any questions or need more time to make the decision, just shoot me a text.”

My fingers graze hers as she takes it from my hand. The touch is quick and subtle, but it instantly sets my nerves ablaze. Her fire-red nail polish isn’t helping the matter because all I see when I look down at them is having them wrapped around my cock.

“Looks like I got your number after all.” She giggles, that blush spreading up her neck and over her cheeks again. “Sorry, that wasn’t professional. I don’t know why I said that.”

It makes me laugh again. “Don’t apologize; we’re not that uptight here.” She looks up at me from where she’s still sitting in her chair. I’m towering over and for some stupid reason, I take it a step further. I reach out and tip her chin upward so she’s looking up at me. “I promise I don’t bite, Brontë. You can relax.”

The tension in this second is palpable, but just as quickly it vanishes when she clears her throat and stuffs the card into her purse as she gathers her things to stand up.

“Thanks again for your time, Mr. Archer. I will be in touch with you shortly.”

“Beckham,” I correct her.

“Beckham.” She nods and heads toward my office door. She stops just before she reaches it and slowly turns back around to face me. “Just one other thing.”

“Hmm?”

“Could we keep last night between us? As in, don’t tell my father.”

I want to say I wouldn’t dream of it because if your father knew that I even contemplated for one second taking his daughter home, he’d cut my balls off and feed them to his dogs.

“Of course, it’ll be our little secret.” And just to make things even more tense, I throw in a wink for good measure.

***

I’m not proud of it, but I’ve spent the last three days thinking of very little but Brontë.

Something about her, beyond her obvious beauty, is so compelling to me. The way she seems to hold herself back, the way she presents so innocently, yet lurking beneath that surface I sense a curious woman begging for a man to coax out her naughty side.

I grip my golf club tighter as I imagine being that man. It excites me to imagine helping her find that confidence again she displayed the other night in the bar. To see her ask for what she wants, to demand it from me.

“Something on your mind? You’re awfully quiet today,” her father, Jonas, asks me, snapping me back to reality.

Is it fucked up beyond measure that I’m standing fifteen feet away from Brontë’s father, imagining doing all sorts of debase things to her? Yeah, I’d say that’s about as fucked as you can get, but maybe that’s part of the allure.

The forbidden fruit.

“Heard anything from Brontë about the job?” I ask as I take my position at the tee.

“No, haven’t spoken to her since the graduation party. I can give her a call if you want?” He holds his cell phone up, but I shake my head no.

“That’s okay. I don’t want her feeling pressured. I told her let me know by Friday. I’m sure she will.”

“She’s a very bright woman, just like her mother. I just worry she’ll end up wasting her aptitude for finance and problem solving on some silly do-good endeavor in nonprofit. Now I know,” he says, lifting his gloved hands, “others need help and don’t have the opportunity like I had but still, she’s got something and it would be a shame to toss that aside. Even her professors have said as much, that she’s gifted.”

I smile, not surprised at all that she’s whip smart. I could tell just from our short interaction she’s the kind of woman who has it all.

I’m trying to play it cool but I’m hoping she takes the job. I don’t know why because I know that no matter how much I want to, no matter how much she wants me to… I can’t touch her.

I won’t touch her.

I tee off, the ball sailing down the fairway.

“Not a bad shot but still won’t be enough to beat me. Get that checkbook ready.” He laughs as we climb inside the golf cart.

We’ve had a long-standing bet between us when we play golf. Loser has to donate winner’s chosen amount to winner’s chosen charity.

“We’ll see about that.”

“Wouldn’t bet money on a shot like that.”

I turn when I hear the grating voice of Mitchell Reardon, a joke of a man, pulling up beside me in his golf cart. I look to his left and see my ex, socialite Venus Davenport’s father Miles sitting shotgun.

“I see Miles has you being his little bi—I mean caddy today, Mitchell. I’m sure he’ll tip you well.” I give him a hearty grin and his freckled face flushes.

“Beckham, Jonas,” Miles says dismissively as if we’re bothering him.

We both tip our heads toward him and Mitchell drives off, flipping me the bird behind Miles’ back.

“What an arrogant little shit,” Jonas says. “What’s his deal? Why does he hate you?”

“He’s always had something against me. I think it has something to do with my dating Venus, but I don’t know for sure.”

I know for a fact it’s because of my relationship with Venus. Mitchell’s always had it bad for her and she’s always said he wasn’t her type but toward the end of our relationship, there were a few clues that she might have stepped out on me with him. Nothing I could prove or even cared to prove since I moved on.

“So any more thoughts about Pierce Investments? With almost twenty nationwide locations, it’s only upside for Archer if you guys acquire them from Ramsay Consulting.”

“I think you’re right. I’m actually going to be meeting with them in the next few weeks. They want to come to Chicago and see how we do things here. If they end up not wanting to go through with the acquisition, will you keep them?”

Jonas shakes his head as he reaches for his beer. “They’ve been on the chopping block for a while with us. I think there’s a lot of potential with them, could easily triple their locations nationwide, but in the last few years I’ve backed away from investment firms. I think it would be right up your alley to acquire them and rebrand them as Archer. Already have the overhead and infrastructure in place.”

He’s right. I’ve been looking to do a major expansion with Archer Financial and acquiring an already established company is the best way to do it.

“Bottom line,” he says, “they want to expand their portfolio and footprint but they need the capital from somewhere and they know they’re not going to get it from me.”

We finish our game and I head back home to try and relax and push the ever-present thoughts of my best friend’s daughter from my mind.

I’m just stepping out of the shower when my phone chirps at me from the counter. I look down to see a text from a number that’s not in my phone. It just reads: I’ll take the job.

I smile and add Brontë’s name to my contacts.

Brontë: Sorry. I said I would email, didn’t I? Will send an email now so it’s official.

Me: No need for the email, Brontë. Thank you for letting me know and for taking the job.

And because I clearly can’t seem to not fan the flames, I send another text.

Me: I was actually just talking about you.

Brontë: Oh?

Me: With your father.

Brontë: Oh.

I want to read into her response. Was it disappointment that I didn’t say I was telling a friend about a sexy little thing I met at the bar this weekend that has my brain doing all sorts of fucked-up backflips trying to justify wanting to fuck my best friend’s daughter?

Me: He’ll be happy to hear you took the job. Have a good night, Brontë. See you Monday.

Brontë: Thanks again. See you Monday, Mr. Archer.

She doesn’t correct it to Beckham and I don’t want her to because standing here butt-ass naked out of the shower, my cock growing harder by the second, all I want is to see her on her knees in front of me calling me Mr. Archer in that slightly breathy voice of hers.

I look back over my shoulder at the shower, my cock throbbing, begging for release at the images in my head right now.

I know I shouldn’t. It’s fucked up. It’s so wrong on so many levels that I’m pretty sure even Freud would have a field day with me.

“Fuck it.” I reach back into the shower and turn on the water as I step in and begin to slowly stroke myself.


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