Authors: Desiree Holt
Second in the Erector Set series.
Alex McMann is putting his MBA to
good use running the business end of the construction company he owns with his
brothers. He’s flown high and wide through the female segment of every
geographic area in which the company has a presence, and now he’s ready at last
to settle down. When he meets Olivia D’Angelo, CFO of one of their client
companies, he’s sure he’s found The One.
Olivia is sharp, she’s smart, she’s
sassy and she challenges him both in and out of the bedroom, where the sex is
hot and plentiful. Just one problem. She has her own issues and isn’t looking
for anything permanent. Alex has to convince her that he’s enough to satisfy
her for the rest of her life!
The elevator pinged softly, the doors whooshed open and Alex
McMann stepped out into the plush reception area for Concordia. Just the one
name. Concordia. But everyone recognized it and the villages it built. He tried
not to be impressed—after all, he’d been in some pretty fancy offices—but this
one outdid all of them. Quiet, understated elegance that shrieked money. No
muddy shoes in here.
A woman with stylishly upswept blonde hair, who looked as if
she been dressed at Saks Fifth Avenue, was working at a semicircular desk made
of polished cherrywood, head bent over what she was doing. But the sound of the
elevator registered belatedly, she lifted her head and gave him a smile he bet she
spent hours practicing in front of a mirror.
He forced himself not to run his finger around his collar or
brush a hand over his hair, habits that denoted nerves. McMann Brothers
Development was no penny ante company and after all,
been asked to
a meeting here. He hadn’t come begging for an appointment. Still, hammering out
a contract with Concordia would move them into a whole new class of developers.
This was the giant step they’d been working toward. If it panned out.
“Do not fuck this up,” his brothers told him when he left
the office. “Whatever they want, if we get the contract it will push us into a
whole new level.”
“Do you want to wipe my nose and check behind my ears?” he
asked with a sarcastic edge.
“Just go,” Josh told him.
“And call the minute you’re out of the building,” Tyler
“Sure, sure, sure,” he called grumpily over his shoulder.
So now here he was, hoping he was thoroughly prepared for
this meeting. He knew—they
knew—that Concordia was famed for the
award-winning villages they built all over the world. A portfolio the McMann
brothers hungered to be included in.
“You’re Mr. McMann, right?” The woman’s voice was soft,
Ma’am? Was he a schoolboy?
She picked up the receiver on her desk and spoke softly into
it, then smiled at him again. “Jennifer will be right out to get you,” she told
Okay. Jennifer. He stood with his briefcase, trying to wait
without fidgeting. Then a door opened at the far end of the hall and the woman
of his dreams walked toward him. If this was Jennifer he might hang around
after hours. It wasn’t just his cock that wanted to stand at attention. He felt
his heart drop to the bottom of his feet then bounce back up into his throat.
Jesus, Alex. Get your shit together.
She was of medium height, but that was the only thing medium
about her. Hair the color of deep auburn hung to her shoulders in loose waves.
And though she was dressed in a tailored blouse and straight skirt, the
material of both was soft and did little to hide curves that made his mouth
water. Her heels added three inches to her height but she didn’t teeter on them
as many women did. She had an air of supreme confidence and he wondered exactly
what Jennifer did that she exuded such poise and assurance.
When she reached him, she extended a graceful hand. “Mr.
McMann? Jennifer was handling something for us so I came to fetch you myself.
“Alex McMann.” He grinned. “But then you know that.” When he
shook hands with her electricity zinged between them. She felt it, too, her
eyes narrowing just a tiny bit. He held on to her hand a millimeter of a second
too long, loving both the strength of her grip and the soft skin of her palm.
“Indeed I do.” She eased her hand from his, her lips curving
in a tiny but mischievous smile and lights dancing in her hazel eyes.
Oh yes. This woman was temptation on a plate. He wondered
what she looked like without those clothes, hair spread out on a pillow—
“Mr. McMann?” Her words shook him out of the erotic reverie
he had momentarily fallen into. “Let’s go. Everyone’s waiting for you.”
What was the matter with him? He was supposed to be here on
business—and very important business—not pleasure. He held his briefcase in
front of him, just in case his stupid dick decided to intrude and tried to
control the sudden heavy thudding of his heartbeat. But as he followed her down
the hallway he was mesmerized by the sway of her hips as she walked. Oh yeah,
he was in very big trouble here. And about to enter what could be the most
important meeting of his life.
Nice going, dickhead.
She opened a heavy oak door and ushered him into a
conference room where nine men and women waited for him, studying him
curiously. Some were dressed in business attire, others more casually. Alex
figured those were the ones who checked on job sites. Construction and
electrical engineers. He didn’t let their casual attire fool him. To sit at
this table you had to be sharper than a tack.
A man at the closest end of the table rose and held out a
hand to him.
“Alex? I’m Frank Vincent, president of Concordia.” Vincent
was a broad, muscular man of medium height, in a suit Alex estimated cost him
close to three thousand bucks. His salt and pepper hair and matching moustache
set off the deep green of his eyes. Shrewd eyes that Alex was sure missed
He waved a hand to indicate the assembled group. “This is my
executive staff. And your guide, Olivia, is my chief financial officer.” He
smiled. “Don’t let the fact that she’s a woman give you false idea. She’s a
shark with numbers and eats people for lunch at the negotiating table.”
Chief financial officer? A shark? Alex hoped he did a good
job masking the shock that jolted through him. He didn’t know which part of his
body she affected more—his brains or his balls. But he took the vacant seat
Vincent indicated, removed a pen, yellow pad and brochure from his briefcase
and waited for the man to proceed.
Leaning forward on his forearms he gave Alex a businesslike
smile. “I’m sure you boned up on the history of Concordia before this meeting.
If you didn’t then you’re not the man I want to talk to.”
“I did my homework,” Alex acknowledged, working to keep his
voice as noncommittal as the other man’s. He had come here prepared for
anything, he thought. Except Miss CFO. She was sitting directly across from him
and he worked hard not to let her distract him. But he was completely, acutely
aware of her presence.
“So you know we build worldwide and our signature is the
concept of the villages we build.”
“Yes. I’ve read up on several of them.” He shifted in his
chair. “Forgive me but you’ve worked exclusively with Montgomery Associates and
Lifetime Concepts up until now. It isn’t that I’m not flattered but where do
I—we—McMann Brothers Development—fit into the equation?”
Vincent’s posture was that of a man totally at ease but Alex
was sure there wasn’t a relaxed cell in the man’s body.
“I’ve had a good working relationship with both firms but
sometimes people get too comfortable in a situation. We want to try some new
ideas, maybe even something outrageous but that presented us with a couple of
“And they would be?”
“I think Lifetime Concepts has gotten a little too, how
shall I say it, complacent in their designs. You have to change with the times.
People’s tastes change. They want something new. Something different. We’ve
been discussing the situation from all angles.” He waved a hand to indicate the
people at the table. “We’ve decided it would be more advantageous for us to
have both design and construction in one house. The kind of thing McMann
“Dan Tuturo. Vice president of current projects,” spoke one
of the men at the table. “I was the one who recommended you to Frank. I played
golf with three of your very satisfied clients and what they had to say piques
“So Dan and I took a tour of some of the properties you’ve
developed, big and small, and we agreed we’d like you to take a crack at what
we’ve got in mind,” said Frank Vincent.
Every muscle in Alex’s body tightened and his nerves tried
to crawl up the inside of his skin. Ever since he’d gotten the call to meet
with Concordia he’d asked himself a million questions. Why them? Why now? How
had they come to Concordia’s attention? McMann Development was no small
potatoes but they were David to Concordia’s Goliath. And everyone in the
business knew not to bid on their projects because they’d been in bed with two
other companies forever.
But here it was, the way into the promised land.
He cleared his throat, trying not to break into song and
dance. After all there was a long way to go yet from discussion to contract.
“Thank you. My brothers and I appreciate it.”
“We’ve all read your brochure and discussed your background.
But I think we’d like to hear how and why you all got into the development business
and what your goals are.”
For the next hour Alex gave them chapter and verse about
himself, his brothers and their company. They grilled him about everything
except what kind of underwear he wore before they were finally satisfied. There
was no question about the fact that these people got where they were by being
thorough with every tiny detail. There was a pitcher of ice water in front of
him and he refilled his glass often. He wished for a double shot of bourbon
instead but that was for later.
At last they were finished. He had a hard time not releasing
a breath of relief.
“I think we’ve got what we need here for now,” Frank Vincent
told him. “What I’d like you to do is set up meetings with Dan so he can
explain fully what we want on this next project and with Livy so she can
explain how the accounting works and how we like things costed out. That okay
“Of course. I’ll do it before I leave. And thank you for
Everyone rose and, as they left, shook hands with Alex. Said
they looked forward to working with him if everything played out right.
“Come on by my office,” Dan told him. He nodded at the space
next to Alex. “Livy can point you in the right direction.”
“Thank you. I’ll do that.”
Then it was just him and Olivia. No, Livy. When he looked at
her she was grinning at him.
“Well, you made it through the first meeting without too
many scars,” she chuckled. “What did you think?”
“I think Concordia is an excellent company that knows
exactly what it’s doing.”
Now she laughed out loud. “How very politically correct of
you. Well, come on. Let’s get you to Dan’s office before he gets his shorts in
a wad. And I’ll show you where I am at the same time.”
So,” he said as they walked along, “you’re really the CFO
for all of Concordia?”
He could have smacked himself. What a stupid thing to say.
And totally un-PC. But she’d mesmerized him from the moment she came out to
greet him. He felt like a tongue-tied teenager.
Beside him he sensed her stiffen.
“Olivia, I’m sorry.”
“Think nothing of it. I get asked that a lot. Yes, the
company lets me oversee all its financial operations. I have the right to vote,
too.” She stopped in front of an open door. “Here we are. I’m sure Dan’s
waiting for you. I’m three doors down across the hall. I’ll see you when you’re
She walked away from him, her hips still swaying but her
back ramrod stiff. He had to force himself not to follow her.
Dan Tuturo spent most of an hour outlining the next concept
Concordia wanted to build. It would be a complete village like the others, only
this one would blend the history of the West with contemporary living. Even the
commercial centers would have appropriate architecture. He gave him the specs
on what percentage would be residential, what commercial, what open space,
everything they would need to do a preliminary proposal. Alex took notes the
entire time, his fingers nearly cramping from writing.
“Well,” Dan said, rising from his chair, “I think that
should do it for now. You’ve done villages before so you know what’s expected.
This is just a little larger is all. Let’s set up an appointment for a month
from now. Will that give you enough time to get some preliminary ideas down?”
“Of course.” They’d do it or kill themselves trying.
“All right, then. Livy show you where her office is?”
Tuturo grinned. “Good luck.”
“Is that a warning?”
The other man nodded. “She may look like a piece of fluff
but don’t be fooled. She’s more cutthroat than a pirate. Especially when it
comes to guarding someone else’s money.
“Thanks. I’ll heed your words.”
At Olivia’s office he introduced himself to her assistant,
the gatekeeper in the outer office.
“Oh yes. She’s expecting you. Right this way.”
She knocked once on the closed door to the interior office
then pushed it open. “Mr. McMann’s here. He looks a little shell-shocked after
an hour with Dan so be gentle with him.”
He heard her musical laugh. “Oh, I’m sure Mr. McMann’s a
tough survivor. Bring him on in.”
He stood in her doorway. “Is it safe to come in? I’ll
apologize again for my stupid remark if you’d like.”
“Not necessary.” Her mischievous smile was back in place.
“Come in and sit down.”
As he seated himself in the plush chair in front of her desk
he wondered if she wore that look like a mask, sort of a defense against the
world that saw her as either a hardass bitch or a pushover. Or maybe coming
across as a playful imp disarmed the people she discussed finances with. Well,
forewarned was forearmed.
If only he didn’t feel that emotional tug that had
blindsided him, the last thing he’d expected.
He crossed his legs, resting one ankle on the opposite knee,
unbuttoned his jacket and leaned back in the chair. He normally was the soul of
propriety in these meetings, but Livy D’Angelo broke the mold for CFOs and he
needed to be one step ahead of her. So he let his eyes roam slowly over what he
could see of her above the desk, stopping at full breasts caressed by the silk
of her blouse. His gaze traveled slowly upward, taking in the slender neck, the
trim shoulders, the rich auburn hair framing an oval face with eyes the color
of emeralds. Dark lashes casting shadows on creamy skin. The light scent of her
perfume floated past his nostrils and he had to stop himself from taking a deep