Authors: Rebecca Gilise
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
BID ME NOW
Copyright © 2013 by Rebecca Gilise
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All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the author.
Coming here was a mistake.
Miri knew it as surely as the man striding toward her with the “do not disturb” expression knew it. Probably twenty seconds at most before he would tell her to get lost. And right now, she’d happily get lost. Climb back into her car and hit the gas hard.
Except it was too late. Besides, Miri reassured herself, she was fully prepared for this. Her outfit screamed “business smart”: white shirt, charcoal-gray pencil skirt, and black pumps. She’d rehearsed her spiel and had the letter from Wilkins and Davies Realtors in her purse as a reference. Brannagh Enterprises had won the sealed bid for the Charmford Mill, it said. One of the fastest growing demolition and salvage companies in the world. Why a big company would buy a 1920s abandoned textile mill in a small East Coast town two hours north of New York, no one could say — least of all Wilkins and Davies when she’d asked. But presumably the company had demolition in mind, so surely it wouldn’t matter to them if they sold it to her for a profit?
So here she was in the mill’s parking lot, ready to do business. If life changes came down to a few critical moments, this had to be one of them. Providing of course, she survived this man. He looked lethal.
By the time he was in front of her, Miri was ready to run more than do business. Tall, powerfully built, and from the way his brow was pulled low, not a man to mess with. Her whole idea of just turning up and hoping for the best was never going to work. She’d be lucky to get five words out of her mouth before he evicted her from the place.
“Are you Nick Brannagh?”
“Yeah, that’s me. Can I help you?”
Help? He seemed more interested in helping himself to her outfit. He was looking her up and down. Slowly.
Miri took a deep breath to calm herself, aware that her heels were anything but steady on the lumpy asphalt. “I’d like to talk to you about buying the mill.”
The word came out of his mouth like a rifle shot. Well at least she’d pulled his attention upward, even if it was only for a moment. His eyes were back inside her shirt. But then, she had left a few buttons undone as part of the whole business-sexy look, so what did she expect? Not that she had ever tried business-sexy before, but this man appeared to appreciate her efforts. For an eternity, it seemed.
He finally looked up and watched her for a moment. “Well, in that case you’d better come in.”
Miri blinked, startled by the unexpected invitation. He might be the rudest man in living memory and she might be a total idiot, but at least she’d made it past the twenty-second mark. “Thank you. I really appreciate you sparing me the time. I’m Marisa Jamieson, by the way.”
He nodded and strode off toward the entrance, leaving Miri to totter along in his wake, cursing her heels and every brutal pothole in her way.
He was three long strides ahead of her by the time she reached the mill’s steps, but Miri had no complaints. She hadn’t exactly achieved a business-sexy, hip-swaying walk. Her four-inch pumps were killing her, and her long hair was already sticking to the back of her neck in the heat.
And then there was his ass to look at. Maybe it was a proximity thing or just her sex-starved body sending out a mayday for attention. Whatever it was, Miri couldn’t stop herself from ogling it. Or the rest of him, for that matter. Powerful shoulders, heavily muscled arms, a broad back and thick, muscular thighs outlined under his jeans.
He turned just as she flicked her eyes upward. “Would you like some water? You look hot.”
Oh, God, the man’s got some sort of butt-staring-detection radar, Miri thought inanely. Surely he hadn’t just caught her staring at his ass? Yeah, that knowing look said she’d been caught. Crap. From now on his butt and every other eye-tempting part of him would have to be strictly off limits, which meant she’d need to look at the floor for the whole time. Lord, and if the situation wasn’t bad enough, she was about to giggle. “Yes, water would be nice,” she told the floorboards. “It is warm today.”
Warm, indeed. She skimmed a glance at his chest. He had to be well over six feet tall.
“Okay. There’s no water cooler here, but I’ll get some from the tap in the old cafeteria. Wait in here.” He jabbed a finger to his left, then strode off down the hallway, leaving Miri to find her own way into his office.
She knew the room. Only a month ago, she had walked the whole building with a contractor to estimate renovation costs. Fortunately, most of the building’s original fixtures were still intact and the wooden floors hadn’t been ripped up, so the original style of the building could be preserved. The whole place was perfect, and if things went to plan, it would be hers in the next few minutes. That is, if she could persuade him to sell.
Crossing to the large ornamental casement window that overlooked the parking lot, she watched a black pickup drive out. Apart from her new red Volkswagen and a black BMW that presumably belonged to Nick Brannagh, the building and grounds appeared to be deserted. Of course, she mulled, the whole parking lot was far too big for her needs, but by converting half the area into lawn and trees, it could be made nice. Perhaps white camellias flanking the front steps…
“Here you are, Ms. Jamieson.”
The deep rumble two feet behind her made Miri spin around so fast, she felt a heel slip. Another reminder of her bad decision to wear stilettos.
“Careful. These floors aren’t made for shoes like those.”
“Oh, right. Thank you.” He sounded friendlier now, so Miri broke her new rule and looked up to his face. He was very good-looking in a hard-cut, ultra-masculine kind of way, that was for sure. Thirtyish. Definitely not the preening gym-junky type. That body could only come from the necessity of heavy physical work. Dark hair in a buzz cut and striking dark gray eyes under a straight brow, or at least it was probably straight when it wasn’t frowning. A man used to being in control. Scarily so.
He gestured to a chair in front of him. “This one’s probably best — the other needs fixing.”
“I really appreciate you sparing me the time.” Miri dropped her shoulder bag on the floor and sank gratefully into the seat, taking a moment to put her thoughts in order, although the way her heart was thumping, a hundred moments would come up short. She was an idiot for sure. Nick Brannagh had known it from the moment he’d walked out his front door. Coming here was all wrong. She was all wrong. Her reliable jeans, casual shirt, and heat-alleviating ponytail would have worked much better. Still, she was fully invested now, and she wasn’t the cowardly type who turned tail and ran. No, it was time to mobilize her dignity and get down to business. She knew what she wanted. She wanted this building.
Miri swallowed her nerves, crossed her legs, and waited for him to sit down. It took her far too many seconds to realize that he hadn’t moved, and endless more for her to look down and her brain to snap-freeze in shock. Her daring new skirt with the front off-center slit had decided this was the moment to live up to its sexy promise.
It’s just leg
, Miri reasoned, staring helplessly down at the seemingly endless expanse of thigh on display. It was more than she’d planned on showing, but so what? But even as she thought the words, Miri couldn’t get past the terrifyingly obvious. He would think this was all for his benefit. A deliberate distraction to tempt him to sell. She might as well as have Magic Markered the fact up her leg.
She was about to stand to close the slit when he walked around his desk, dropped into his chair, and looked her straight in the eyes. Miri found herself unable to move under that intense, mesmerizing stare.
She stayed put.
“What can I do for you, Ms. Jamieson?”
Find her a cliff, she was dying from embarrassment anyway. “Oh, yes, well… please call me Miri. That’s what everyone calls me.” She groaned inside at her fresh stupidity. He wasn’t interested in what she was called. His eyes were exploring her leg again. Lord, this was so not what she’d planned.
He looked up and rested his forearms on the desk. Miri’s gaze, which she seemed to have lost all control over, along with her common sense, began to inspect every inch of them, right down to his hands. Hands were her favorite drawing subject. Shape, size, skin texture. Nick Brannagh’s were large and work-roughened and experienced-looking. She shivered at the thought of experiencing those hands.
Dragging her eyes upward, she realized with a sick thud that he was waiting for her to pay attention.
“Okay, Miri. Well, everyone calls me Nick. What do you want to say?”
Miri cleared her throat twice while she rummaged through her mind for words. She was completely off track, and he knew it. “Oh… um, well, you see…
…I put in a bid for this mill and…well, I found out this morning…um, that you were the successful bidder and now own the property.” Miri swung a glance around the room as if it might support her cause.
“I know it might seem strange just turning up like this, but I had hoped to open…well, an art studio here.” That sounded better, even coherent.
A flicker of surprise passed across his face. “You’re an artist?”
“Yes, a sculptor. I’ve been looking for a place to open a studio and art gallery…and other things.”
“And now you can’t.”
He smiled for the first time, and Miri tried to ignore the pleasantness of it. She plunged on before it ruined her train of thought. “Yes, no, that is, I thought that you might consider an offer to sell.”
“Seriously,” she continued, forcing a confidence that was fast becoming history, “I really would like to buy the mill.” Miri paused, thinking of how much to tell him. He obviously wasn’t the sympathetic type, but he hadn’t rejected her offer outright. “You see,” she pressed on, “I really need this building. I expected my bid to be the highest, as it was fifty thousand over the market valuation. But…well, you…I mean, Brannagh Enterprises won the sealed bid. The thing is, I can offer you twenty thousand more than what you paid for the mill.”
He frowned at that, so Miri worked her bottom lip between her teeth and chewed for comfort. One of her habits that had always driven her mother crazy.
For a few moments his gaze dropped to her mouth before looking up to her eyes. “You understand that I bought the mill to make a profit. The demolition plus the salvage and sale of the land will make a lot more money than you can offer.”
She unsnagged her lip. “I know I’m asking a lot, but under the circumstances, would you consider selling to me?”
“There are no circumstances. This is a straightforward business decision.”
His tone held a finality that should have been warning enough, but Miri had never been any good with warnings. “What if I offered you thirty thousand?”
He shook his head a fraction, his eyes steady on hers. He didn’t look pleased. “I’m afraid not.”
Miri tried not to let her rising panic show. “Can we not come to an agreement over this? There’s nowhere else in Charmford that’s suitable, and it’s such a beautiful old building. I can raise my offer even further. Say, forty thousand dollars?” Surely he would accept forty thousand dollars. Only an idiot would turn down forty thousand easy dollars. This man looked like anything but an idiot.
“The building is fixed for demolition in the next two weeks. Now, I have work to do, so please see yourself out.”