USA Today Bestselling Author
As the CTO of Steele Conglomerate, I work hard, and play harder, if you catch my meaning. I – and the ladies – like it that way.
My mother has other ideas.
For the last six years, she’s been trying to marry me off – because it’s time for grandchildren. She’s even started dropping by my office with prospects — on a daily basis.
But I’m going to beat her at her own game. Not only am I going to convince her I’m getting married, I’m going to pick the last woman my mother would ever choose for me… my crazy, inappropriate-for-me-in-every-way assistant, Penelope Fischer — Penny.
What could possibly go wrong?
I am So. Over. Stockton Ford.
Just because he’s the hottest bachelor in Kansas City with the biggest wallet does not make him all that.
I should know. Not only do I spend night and day helping him fight cyber bad guys and generally being his Girl Friday, I’m tasked with managing his personal life – his mother, his girlfriends… you get the picture.
So yeah, I’m done. Done giving into that megawatt smile, the mischievous twinkle in his eye, and the pleading tone in his voice that somehow I can’t resist.
Until he makes me an offer I can’t refuse, and I say yes for all the wrong reasons.
It’s been four years since Penny became part of Steele Conglomerate and she plans on quitting, today. She’s done with Stockton and his women and his mother interrupting the work day. She has an offer in California and she’s taking it. At least that’s what she thinks…
We learn how she came to be an employee which in itself is unusual, but with her skills and intelligence totally understandable. We learn of Stockton’s involvement with that and also he’d been attracted to her even then.
Stockton has mother problems, she keeps showing up at the office with ‘acceptable’ woman for him to take to lunch. He needs a break from the string of women he isn’t interested in. The idea he has seems perfect but the way he does it leaves much to be desired. His mother with a new woman in tow, the woman he’s been seeing all collected in the reception area get to hear his announcement at the same time as Penny. They are engaged, and while she’s fuming she plays along until they leave. Then the negotiations begin, they were awesome. However the event they need to attend and the ring he buys for her that fills the bill on expensive and gaudy is priceless.
This is just one of my favorite scenes.
She turns to me, eyes filled with concern. “This is bad, isn’t it? That we can’t talk about anything besides work?”
“Relax, Penny. We’re not dating. And we like our work.”
A shadow flickers across her pale features. “But we are… dating, I mean. We’re supposed to be engaged. Which means I should know what color your underwear is, and what order you eat your breakfast, and whether or not you hate mustard on your hotdog at the ballpark.”
“You know that one,” I remind her dryly.
“Right. Everything. Like a Chicago dog. But the rest?” She eyes me with something close to panic. “What kind of coffee maker do you have?” Her brows knit together and she skewers me with a wild-eyed glare. “Don’t you dare leave me alone with your mother until we’ve discussed all this.”
I reach over and cover her hand. “You’ll do just fine, Penny.” Touching her like this takes me back to the only other night we’ve ever been together socially. My heart lurches at the memory. That night… changed everything. “I promise, I won’t abandon you.”
She sucks in a shaky breath and squeezes my hand. I like it. Far too much. The car slows and pulls into a long line of vehicles waiting to drop off their VIPs at the front of the building. I reach into my suit pocket. “I almost forgot. Will this do?” I pull out a small velvet box and open it so she can see the ring inside.
Her gasp dissolves into a giggle. “Ohmygod, you didn’t.”
My answering grin is all the confirmation she needs.
“Oh my god that is hideous and glorious. I love it.” She reaches for the ring, and my chest puffs at her reaction. More than it should, because this is just a transaction.
I pull the ring from the case. “Hold out your hand,” I say, voice suddenly rough.
It’s just pretend.
This is all just pretend.
But it feels strangely normal, putting a ring that by any other standards would be considered ugly as fuck on Penny’s hand. And when I slide it on her third finger, my chest pulls tight. But before I can think too much about it, she pulls her hand back and surveys the way the facets catch the light. The center stone is a one-and-a-half carat pink heart-shaped diamond, flanked by clear diamonds and set in rose gold. The band is titanium inlaid with alternating pink and white diamonds. It’s expensive enough she should have security but gaudy enough it looks like vintage costume jewelry. And on Penny’s hand, it’s apropos.
Her husky laugh ripples through the space. “This is perfect. I love it.”
Our car rolls to a stop, and I wait for Edward to come around and open our door. I step out, then turn around to help Penny. Touching her hand sends electricity racing up my arm and my heart pounds a little harder. I lace my fingers through hers and lean down. “I only drink coffee at the office. I drink an energy shake on the way to our team’s early morning workouts. And I don’t cook.”
At the top of the stairs, we step into the line of guests waiting to enter and I pull the invitation from my jacket pocket. I can feel the tension radiating off Penny, and I give her hand a squeeze. “There’s a photographer from Kansas City Magazine just inside, taking pictures of the guests. Then we can grab drinks and go find my mother.”
Penny’s smile tightens. “Oh joy.”
“It will only be for a few minutes. She’ll want to circulate before the dinner portion.”
“What’s this all for again?”
“Every year the Forde Family Foundation sponsors a class of debutantes-“
“You’re kidding me.” I huff out a quiet laugh. “Not at all. It’s a tradition that goes back to the fifties. You’re marrying into old money, Penny.”
She wrinkles her nose, scowling. “Isn’t this a lot like dressing up sheep before they’re led to the slaughter? I mean, where are the male debutantes? This is all about parading pretty young women around so they can catch wealthy older husbands.”
“Maybe that’s what it used to be, but every woman here is headed off to college and will receive a four-year scholarship from us.”
“And how many of them actually need it?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean just that. How many of these women come from single-parent households? Or wouldn’t make it to college except with the help of your family’s scholarships? How many of these women attended Lincoln Prep?”
I open my mouth to protest, then promptly shut it. She’s absolutely right and I don’t like how it sits with me. The young women who will be honored here tonight come from the most prestigious high schools across the metro. Their families can afford to send them anywhere. “It’s not like that,” I finish lamely, knowing that’s exactly how it is.
Her scowl turns into a glare. “You’re throwing money at young women who don’t need it. Way to go, big guy. Pat yourself on the shoulder.” She shakes her head in disgust but before I can formulate a strong counter-argument, we step onto the red carpet.
Tessa Layne. O Magnet: A Titans of Tech Novel (Kindle Locations 661-702). Shady Layne Media.
The shock value of her ring combined with the snooty friends of Stockton’s mother, has the snark just oozing from Penny.
The thing that these two take a lot of time to realize is they are perfect for each other. They might deny it but they have been flirting since day one. We get some glimpses into the past and learn much about Penny and her mother as well.
I laughed through much of this book, although I did breakdown into tears as well. The chemistry between Stockton and Penny is palpable and the heat between them sizzles off the pages.
I’m looking forward to the next book in this series ‘Baby Magnet’!
5 Contented Purrs for Tessa!
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Tessa Layne writes smokin’ hot contemporary cowboy and military romances filled with tenderhearted tough guys and sassy strong women who capture their hearts.She grew up in Colorado in the mountains at the edge of the Great Plains. There, she met her own smokin’ hot Cowboy and they had a whirlwind romance to rival any novel. She believes in Happily Ever Afters, loves fireflies, horses, and breathing clean country air. Her favorite thing to do is to sit on the porch swing with a glass of Rose, listening to her Cowboy pluck his guitar!
Feel free to drop her a line (links below) – She loves to hear from her readers!