Authors: Eden Summers
© 2016 by Eden Summers
Content Editing by Lori Whitwam
Copy Editing by L.M. Editing
Cover Art by R.B.A Designs
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the author.
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
o friendship and love
—without both in my life this book wouldn’t exist.
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y sweet Ms. Hamilton
, we’ve got a problem.” The deeply growled tone came from the office across the hall.
Savannah slumped over, resting her head on the elegantly polished wood of her desk and fought the need to bang her forehead. “What is it, Spencer? I’m kinda busy.”
As far as understatements went, hers was gargantuan. The To-Do List currently stapled to the back of her mind was growing with every disgruntled staff email that slid gracefully into her mailbox. She had property managers to call, PR issues to resolve, and profit reports to analyze that, at first glimpse, showed a lot of red, instead of soothing black.
“It’s important. Get your butt in here.
A hissed chastisement came from Spencer’s office and she cringed, knowing his father was also in there. Mr. Rydel,
Mr. Mathew Rydel from the Rydel hotel empire, was her boss. So was his charming son, Spencer. The former was a demanding man. He cracked the whip like an ancient Roman on a power trip, without apology or remorse. It was a challenge to work under his leadership, and she thrived in the role.
Spencer, however, had a different work ethic, one that revolved around flirtation and perfectly worded compliments. He’d seduced her into an eight-month relationship that ended six weeks ago, when he forgot to remain monogamous.
But she hadn’t been hurt. Crazy, huh? Eight months of companionship had come to an end and all she could think about was stocking up on AA batteries. Because that’s all their time together had been. One scripted sex scene after another. It was merely colleagues with benefits.
Only Spencer disagreed. Apparently, their future held the unmistakable sound of wedding bells and a honeymoon somewhere warm and exotic. Her reluctance to agree was merely stubborn pride because he’d slummed it with the manager of the Rydel Chicago property in a moment of weakness.
She actually felt sorry for his unrealistic perception. She could never love a man like Spencer. He was too pretty. Too perfect. He’d never worked a day in his life, he merely skated along the pristine path his father laid for him. He had no drive, no commitment.
In the last six weeks, his self-righteous attitude and love for himself had scrubbed away any aesthetic appeal, leaving her to see the egotistical man he hid beneath.
He was, however, a perfect asset in the bedroom. A woman couldn’t live on the company of battery operated products alone, and for a brief eight months he’d given her the opportunity to unsubscribe to her favorite sex toy website.
“My life is but to serve,” she muttered and pushed to her feet, shimmying her ass to lower the thigh-high skirt now hiked up her stocking-covered legs. As she shuffled around her desk, she swiped at her mug and stole the last dregs of coffee, placing it back down with a relieved gasp that spoke too much of her reliance on the heavenly liquid.
With a pasted on smile, she held her head high and strode across the hall. When she entered Spencer’s office, her footsteps faltered at the matching scowls etched across the faces of the father and son duo. “What’s wrong?”
“There’s problems in Seattle.” Mr. Rydel’s hazel eyes were a darkened shade of we’re-in-huge-fucking-trouble.
“Problems?” She frowned. “The paperwork for the sale has already been finalized. There’s less than three months until settlement. There shouldn’t be any problems.” Well, nothing worthy of the high level of concern focused her way.
Over time, the Seattle property had slowly become their profit decimator. The cause of their sinking bottom line. This year the decision had been made to cut and run, sacrificing their worst performer to benefit the rest of the portfolio. It was an emotional and stressful conclusion none of them liked to acknowledge. And as soon as the sale was complete and staff began working for their new employer, Savannah planned on kicking off her heels and dancing around her living room while simultaneously guzzling a bottle of merlot.
“Less than three months that will bring us to our knees if our employees continue to quit,” Spencer muttered. “They’re leaving in droves.”
“Why?” It didn’t make sense. “Our terms with Grandiosity were specific. They promised to take on incumbent staff. You told me that was non-negotiable.”
Spencer leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his immaculately tailored suit. “That’s what we agreed on with Patrick, but it looks like his team is playing dirty to get a better deal. If any more staff leave, we won’t be able to reach the minimum hotel occupancy we committed to in negotiations. Which means the fucking settlement figure will fall.”
” Mr. Rydel grated.
“What? You know it’s true. They also made it clear our staff are sub-par. Getting them out of the way means they can slide their own into place instead of wading through three-month probation periods and possible payouts for those who need to be fired.”
“Just show her the email.”
Spencer’s lips pressed tight as he slid a sheet of paper toward her. “We’ve been receiving information of unrest since we announced the upcoming sale, but this came from the shift manager this morning.”
Savannah picked up the email and skimmed over the text.
Dear Mr. Rydel
. Yadda yadda yadda.
Staff are seeking alternate employment in fear of the inevitable loss of work in the future.
Yadda yadda yadda.
They’re intimidated by the presence of future management.
Yadda yadda yadda.
Please advise how you would like me to proceed.
She slammed the paper back down on the desk. “This is a breach of contract. Their management can’t terrorize staff. They shouldn’t even be in the building.”
“No, they shouldn’t,” Mr. Rydel agreed. “But from the amount of concerned phone calls we’re receiving, someone certainly is.”
“Who?” She slid into one of Spencer’s hard leather seats beside his father. “Do we have a name?”
Spencer squinted at his computer screen. “It’s the assistant to the CEO. A Miss Penelope Augustine.”
Savannah’s stomach dropped. What was the chance of two women with the same extravagant name living in Seattle, Washington? “
Mr. Rydel stiffened, his gaze narrowing on her in concern. “Savannah…”
“Sorry.” Her composure was usually solid in the office, her profanity contained to the inner spheres of her mind. But this… This wasn’t good.
“Are you familiar with her?” Spencer’s expression was more impressed than distraught.
“You could say that.” They’d grown up sharing summers together. And a thinly veiled annoyance for one another.
Hope twinkled in Mr. Rydel’s eyes. A misplaced hope. One she wished he would wipe off his face, so she didn’t have to do it herself. “That’s perfect.”
No. No, it wasn’t. “We’re not close. We haven’t spoken since I was seventeen.” The same year Savannah kissed the guy Penny had been crushing on, sending her younger cousin into a rage that probably should’ve been calmed with pharmaceutical intervention.
“But familiarity will work in our favor.” He pushed from his chair, as if a conclusion to the problem had already been found.
She tracked his movements to the door and refused to bite her lip. “So you want me to place a call and gently ask her to back off?” Awkward wouldn’t come close to the way the conversation would pan out.
“No. I want you to go to Seattle and talk to her.” Mr. Rydel peered down at her, the faith in his expression weighing heavy on her shoulders. “I also want you to track down the staff who have resigned and convince them to return. And make sure all current employees are comfortable and familiar with how the changeover will occur. There’s a lot of miscommunication over there, and you’re the perfect person to clear it up.”
“Yes. You’re bubbly and approachable.”
She raised a disbelieving brow and stared at Spencer, hoping he was noticing his father’s rapid descent into psychosis. “I’m none of those things. The sarcastic wit and humorous charm is a front. I honestly despise people. I like to consider myself as more of a dictator that staff are confident in but scared to approach.”
Mr. Rydel laughed.
She wasn’t joking, goddamn it.
“You’ll get the job done, Savannah. I have faith in you.”
She blinked once, twice. “But…” What? What possible excuse could she use to get out of saving the company a large chunk of settlement money? “I’m entirely smothered with work. I can’t drop everything and leave for a few days.”
“We’ll figure something out.” He stood in the doorframe, an undeniable force. “And it won’t be for a few days. I want you to remain in Seattle until this is over.”
“It’s a big ask, I know.”
She sank into her chair and met Spencer’s focus, wordlessly pleading for him to say something to his father. Anything.
He shrugged. “We’ll give you a week to pack your things.”
“That’s much better.” She rolled her eyes. One less week wouldn’t make much difference. “What about the backlog of work I currently have? I’ll never catch up.”
“The staff here are capable of taking some of your duties for the duration. The rest you can do while you’re there,” Mr. Rydel’s voice was filled with confidence. Annoying, authoritative confidence. “I’m relying on you to fix this, Savannah.”
She turned to him, hoping her puppy dog eyes would work better on the aging Rydel man, but he was already gone. Deal done. No begging or pleading possible. She slumped into the chair and tried to ignore the growing list of tasks that made her brain throb.
“I’ll handle reporting while you’re gone,” Spencer offered.
She scoffed. He’d completely mess them up. The benefit of being the boss’s son was that you could fuck up absolutely anything and get someone else to deal with the fallout. “Thanks.”
“Think of it as an opportunity.” He eyed her, his lips twitching. “You can let your uptight hair down and start dating new people without me hovering over your shoulder. That’s what you claim to want, right?”
“It’s not a claim, Spencer.” She shoved to her feet, glaring. And she wasn’t uptight. She was a hard worker. The most efficient and forward thinker they’d ever had. Being with him had tainted the facts. New employees considered her merely a skirt that clung to Spencer’s coattails. They didn’t realize it was the other way around. “And I could start dating right here, right now, I just don’t have time.”
“It’s not time that you lack, sweetheart. It’s enthusiasm.” He grinned at her. “You know we’re meant for each other. You’ll quit being stubborn and forgive me soon enough, and when you do, I’ll be here waiting.”
“Spencer…” She sighed.
He needed to understand they would never ever get back together. Unless the powers of vodka and wine teamed up to create an undefeatable army against her resolve, she would forever be committed to keeping her thighs closed in his presence. The only problem was that she didn’t know how he would react when the information finally sank past his impenetrable ego.
“You need to move on.”
He inclined his head. “But that’s impossible when I see you all day, every day.”
Was that the first hint that her job was in jeopardy?
“You say you can live without me, so prove it. Go to Seattle,” he continued. “I promise you’ll be missing me within days.”
She held back the cloying need to roll her eyes into the back of her head and let them hibernate there until summer. “Fine.” It was a small price to pay. “I’ll take care of the settlement.” She didn’t have a choice anyway. “And when I return, everything between us will be laid to rest.”
“Okay.” He leaned back in his chair, the sparkle in his eyes gleaming at her. “If you last until settlement without needing me, I’ll pretend like we never happened.”
Her chest loosened with unmistakable relief. “Great.”
“Perfect,” he purred.
. So much for the reprieve. He was far too confident of her failure. He practically stripped her and took inventory with his eyes. “While I’m gone, why don’t you take Rebecca out on a date?”
She was going to hell for throwing her assistant under the bus, but tough times and all that… “She thinks you’re gorgeous.” It wasn’t a lie. Rebecca remarked on his physical appeal all the time, she just always backed up the compliment with a comment on how much of an ass he was.
“Been there, done that.”
Her mouth gaped. “Are you kidding?”
“That’s why I know the two of us are perfect together. I’ve played the entire field. From the single mom in accounting, to your assistant, and any welcoming bed I’ve come across when I do the yearly reviews on each of our hotels. No one compares to you, babe.”
He chuckled. “You didn’t have a problem with me for all the months we were together.”
She whimpered. She didn’t have the patience to reiterate her perspective. They’d been over it more than once. He thought they were a match made in heaven because she didn’t hound him. She hadn’t questioned his fidelity. There were no conversations about the future, or whispers of love and commitment. They shared meals and sex and spoke about business tactics whenever words were necessary.
That was it.
He considered it a perfect relationship. A ball and chain, without the ball and chain.
She considered it enjoyable sex without emotional connection.
End of story.
“This has to stop,” she muttered and turned for the door. “I’m not going to put up with the bullshit once I return.”
“You know where the door is, Savannah. I’m pretty sure you know where the unemployment line is, too.”
And there it was, the unmistakable threat.
“Oh, and one last thing,” he called.
She stopped in the hall, refusing to face him.
“I should thank you for mentioning your connection with Penelope Augustine. My father was determined to send me to Seattle until you enlightened us. God knows I don’t want to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas in that hell hole. I appreciate you taking one for the team.”