Bennett Fox walked into my life on one hell of a crappy Monday morning.
I was late for the first day at my new job—a job I’d now have to compete for even though I’d already worked eight years to earn it, because of an unexpected merger.
While I lugged my belongings up to my new office, a meter maid wrote me a parking summons.
She’d ticketed a long line of cars—except for the Audi parked in front of me, which happened to be the same make and model as mine.
Annoyed, I decided to regift my ticket to the car that had evaded a fine. Chances were, the owner would pay it and be none the wiser.
Except, I accidentally broke the windshield wiper while slipping the ticket onto the car’s window.
Seriously, my day couldn’t get any worse.
Things started to perk up when I ran into a gorgeous man in the elevator. We had one of those brief moments that only happened in movies.
You know the deal…your body lights up, fireworks go off, and the air around you crackles with electricity.
His heated stare left me flush when I stepped off the elevator.
Maybe things here wouldn’t be so bad after all.
Or so I thought.
Until I walked into my new boss’s office and met my competition.
The gorgeous man from the elevator was now my nemesis. His heated stare wasn’t because of any mutual attraction. It was because he’d saw me vandalize his car. And now he couldn’t wait to annihilate his rival.
There’s a fine line between love and hate—and we shouldn’t cross it.
We shouldn’t—but straddling that line could be so much fun.
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It was the gorgeous guy I’d seen in the elevator. And here I thought we’d had a little spark.
Bennett Fox grinned like he’d already been named my boss and extended his hand. “Welcome to Foster Burnett.”
Ugh. He wasn’t just good looking; he knew it, too.
“That would be Foster, Burnett and Wren, as of a few weeks ago, right?” I iced my subtle reminder that this was now our place of employment with a smile, suddenly thankful my parents had made me wear braces until I was nearly sixteen.
“Of course.” My new nemesis smiled just as brightly. Apparently his parents had sprung for orthodontic care, too.
Bennett Fox was also tall. I once read an article that said the average height of a man in the US was five-foot-nine-and-a-half inches; less than fifteen percent of men stood taller than six feet. Yet the average height of more than sixty-eight percent of Fortune 500 CEOs was over six feet. Subconsciously, we related size to power in more ways than just brawn.
Andrew was six foot two. I’d guess this guy was about the same.
Bennett pulled out the guest chair next to him. “Please, have a seat.”
Tall and with gentlemanly manners. I disliked him already.
During the ensuing twenty-minute pep talk given by Jonas Stern—in which he attempted to convince us we weren’t vying for the same position, but instead forging the way as leaders of the now-largest ad agency in the United States—I stole glances at Bennett Fox.
Shoes: definitely expensive. Conservative, oxford in style, but with a modern edge of topstitching. Ferragamo would be my guess. Big feet, too.
Suit: dark navy, tailored to fit his tall, broad frame. The kind of understated luxury that said he had money, but didn’t need to flaunt it to impress you.
He had one long leg casually crossed over the other knee, as if we were discussing the weather rather than being told everything we’d worked twelve hours a day, six days a week for was suddenly at risk of being in vain.
At one point, Jonas had said something we both agreed with, and we looked at each other, nodding. Given the opportunity for a closer inspection, my eyes roamed his handsome face. Strong jaw, daringly straight, perfect nose—the type of bone structure passed down from generation to generation that was better and more useful than any monetary inheritance. But his eyes were the showstopper: a deep, penetrating green that popped from his smooth, tanned skin. Those were currently staring right at me.
I looked away, returning my attention to Jonas. “So what happens at the end of the ninety-day integration period? Will there be two Creative Directors of West Coast Marketing?”
Jonas looked back and forth between us and sighed. “No. But no one is going to lose his or her job. I was just about to tell Bennett the news. Rob Gatts announced he’ll be retiring in a few months. So there will be a position opening up for a creative director to replace him.”
I had no idea what that meant. But apparently Bennett did.
“So one of us gets shipped off to Dallas to replace Rob in the southwest region?” he asked.
Jonas’s face told me Bennett wouldn’t be happy about the prospect of heading to Texas. “Yes.”
All three of us let that sink in for a moment. The possibility of having to relocate to Texas shifted my mind back into gear, though.
“Who will make the decision?” I asked. “Because obviously you’ve been working with Bennett…”
Jonas shook his head and waved off what I was beginning to question. “Decisions like this—where two senior management positions are being merged into one office—the board will oversee and make the final determination of who gets first pick.”
Bennett was just as confused as me. “The board members don’t work with us on a daily basis.”
“No, they don’t. So they’ve come up with a method of making their decision.”
“It’ll be based on three major client pitches. You’ll both come up with campaigns on your own and present them. The clients will pick which they like best.”
Bennett looked rattled for the first time. His perfect composure and self-assuredness took a hit as he leaned forward and raked long fingers through his hair.
“You’ve got to be kidding me. More than ten years, and my job here comes down to a few pitches? I’ve landed half-a-billion dollars of ad accounts for this company.”
“I’m sorry, Bennett. I really am. But one of the conditions of the Wren merger was that due consideration be given to the Wren employees in positions that might be eliminated because of duplicity. The deal almost didn’t go through because Mrs. Wren was so insistent that she not sell her husband’s company, only to have the new organization strip away all of Wren’s hard-working employees.”
That made me smile. Mr. Wren was taking care of his employees even after he was gone.
“I’m up for the challenge.” I looked at Bennett, who was clearly pissed off. “May the best woman win.”
He scowled. “You mean man.”
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Vi Keeland is a #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestselling author. With more than a million books sold, her titles have appeared in over fifty Bestseller lists and are currently translated in fourteen languages. She lives in New York with her husband and their three children where she is living out her own happily ever after with the boy she met at age six.