Authors: Holley Trent
Accounting for Cole
Oil and water, or yin and yang?
Jerry Rouse lacks the three basic things Trinity Jordan requires to consider him her equal: education, class, and ambition. What he does have are piercings, bawdy tats, and a head full of blond dreads. All those things make the tech guy stick out like a sore thumb in conservative Eastern North Carolina.
Jerry lives life to the beat of his own drummer, and couldn’t care less what his bossy coworker thinks of him. In fact, he loves to rile the straight-laced preppy up just to see her blush.
When the cosmetics company they’ve helped build is rocked by sabotage attempts that threaten to delay the launch of the brand’s nail polish line, the two have little choice but to call a truce until the culprit is uncovered. That’s not all they uncover.
Being thrown together makes the two realize that perhaps they’re not so incompatible. But, who can think about love when their livelihoods are on the line?
***This book contains scenes of explicit sensuality and adult language.***
Other Contemporary Romances by Holley Trent
About Holley Trent
Trinity Jordan counted the rise and fall of her boss’s chest seven times as the irascible leader took long, deep breaths through her nose.
If Nikki made it to ten, they’d all be safe. Just three more breaths, and maybe they could mark this down as being the most uneventful meeting in five months.
Nikki pushed her oversized sunglasses up on to her nose’s bridge, and laced her fingers atop the large, unfinished pine conference table. Her jaw scraped left, then right, then back as she ground her teeth.
What had done it this time?
The Natural by Nicolette staff had grown used to Nikki’s fickle, pregnancy-induced moods swings, but that made them no less terrible when they came. Scanning the table around her, Trinity could tell they all awaited the eruption with their usual wide-eyed expressions of horror. Stephen King didn’t have what little Nikki Stacy-Mitchell had. She could vacillate between sweet as pie to rampaging harpy in thirty seconds or less. Trinity wouldn’t have believed it if she wasn’t there to see it, but Nikki had once been pulled over for “speeding” by a highway patrolman, and before the officer could get a word out edgewise, he took one look at Nikki’s face, and backed away with a “Drive safe, ma’am.”
Trinity smoothed her face into what she hoped was a blank. Any little twitch could pull Nikki’s attention, and Trinity didn’t especially want to be the one at the brunt of the woman’s furor that day. Trinity was tired. She’d been working so many hours as of late that she could barely formulate complete sentences. Good thing she was paid to formulate
, and not talk.
Looking across the table, she noted with some malice that the company tech guy, Jerry Rouse, did blank face better than anyone. Nothing could rattle that man, and Trinity had her suspicions that his cool demeanor was a side effect of some un-prescribed drug. Perhaps a smokeable one.
When no tirade came, Trinity let out a quiet breath and cut her gaze to the right to observe the staff’s collective confusion.
Good. I’m not the only one waiting for her to explode.
“I’m trying very hard not to get my blood pressure up,” Nikki said in an unusually flat voice. The delivery was especially eerie, because with Nikki’s dark shades, Trinity couldn’t tell whom Nikki was directing her gaze at.
“The doctor told me being upset all the time is stressful for the baby, so I’m going to be calm and cool.”
“Just like that, huh?” Gramma Stacy asked her granddaughter with a chuckle before returning her focus to her knitting project.
Trinity clamped a hand over her mouth and turned her face to the right, hiding the unsuppressed giggle.
Nikki wasn’t renowned for her calm. She was a perpetual motion machine, and even when she was sitting still, the green glint of her eyes gave evidence of her internal machinating.
She continued in the monotone alto voice that reminded Trinity so much of a Gregorian dirge, and Trinity stole a glance across the table at the suspected pothead.
He blew ragged breaths through his lips and rubbed his eyes with the heels of his palms.
That won’t get the red out, bud.
Nikki cleared her throat, drawing Trinity’s attention back to the table head. “Natural by Nicolette has a lot of big things in the pipeline for the next few weeks.” Idly, she placed a hand in the hollow between her round belly and the bottom edge of her right ribs, and pressed.
The baby must have been stretching again. At a smidgen over five feet tall and equipped with the compact torso to go with her height, she probably felt every little hiccup and shudder from her unborn boy.
“We’re shooting catalog images for the tinted balms starting tomorrow, so models will be coming in and out to change and whatnot. Will someone be a team player and clean the bathrooms?”
No one volunteered. No one ever volunteered.
Trinity squashed the sigh her lungs threatened to exhale, and raised her hand. “I’ll do it.”
“Bless you, my love.”
Trinity managed to smile, though she dreaded the task. How hard was it for the male staff members to learn to
? She could probably train a monkey to pull the lever in less time.
Nikki droned on. “The web commercials for the make-up remover, simulated sun lotion, and SPF moisturizer are slated to shoot Wednesday through Friday.” She swallowed, and stared at the sparse notes she’d revealed on her tablet computer.
Nikki sniffled, and suddenly, Trinity realized the woman must have had her head over the toilet again before the meeting. She’d finally managed to wean herself off IV bags onto actual food at around thirty weeks, but had the occasional rough spot. Anyone would be in a bad mood under the same circumstances, but Nikki was naturally a bit crusty to start with. Being sick had only made her rages less predictable. They all hoped she’d get back to her usual self after the chunk was born, because when she screamed she could wake the newly dead. She was like a siren, and not the sexy kind.
Well, except for the case of Trinity. Nikki never really yelled at Trinity…or Jerry, the more Trinity thought about it, but she didn’t know what was up with that. Maybe they’d been a couple in the past or something, because who the hell else would hire a guy who couldn’t be assed to perform the small chore of combing his hair? It was a basic life skill, the way she figured it.
At that thought, she shifted her gaze to Jerry, and rolled her eyes at his left profile.
“Big order going out to the Atlanta distributor on Monday. Is it close to being filled?” Nikki turned her head microscopically toward Jerry, who sat at her left hand at the table.
Jerry coded the website, managed the inventory system, talked to folks on the Natural by Nicolette social media accounts, and handled customer service issues. He often worked from home, which annoyed the shit out of Trinity, but her desire to stab him in the eye with a pipette at such was tempered by the knowledge that he probably worked
than her. Of course, it was all just busy work. He wasn’t doing anything that monkey she’d train to flush the men’s room toilet couldn’t do. Wasn’t like he was mixing chemicals and running test groups like Trinity did every day. Anyone could do his job.
He flipped open the lid of his laptop, and studied the screen. “It’s about time for the Atlanta Flower Show.” He scratched the skin beneath his labret spike, and Trinity cringed.
He had five piercings that could be seen. Besides the lip, he had a barbell bisecting his right eyebrow, there was a septum hoop, and he had both ears plugged with these odd, winding expanders. At the age of twenty-five, she’d somehow managed to have
piercings, much to her very girly grandmother’s dismay.
Her grandmother had bought Trinity pearl earrings last Christmas. They were lovely, but she wasn’t sure what her grandmother expected her to do with them. To Trinity, the gift was an undisguised sort of bribery. Grandmother hadn’t gotten her a gift for graduating college at the top of her class, so naturally Trinity’s suspicion was piqued that Christmas morning. The pearls had come with a note that read:
“Do you remember Josh Boylan? He asked about you. Also, you might consider growing out your hair, dear. You looked a little butch in that last picture.”
Trinity had scoffed and tossed the note. The pearls lived at the bottom of her underwear drawer.
Jerry droned on. “They placed an oversized order of Shake Well in anticipation of the show, thinking it would be a good tie-in for all the gardeners. We’re short six cases as a result.” He looked up at Nikki warily.
She tented her fingers and tapped the ends together impatiently. “I can’t mix that shit right now. The smell makes me nauseous.”
Trinity broke free of her piercing reverie. Shake Well was the company’s award-winning natural insect repellant. Only two people knew the repellant formulation, so she capitalized on Nikki’s discomfort for her personal gain and felt not a lick of shame about it. This was a chance to step up and prove her mettle. Again. One could never have enough mettle.
“I’ll get the batches done, Nikki, if I can swap out the overtime for some days off next month. I want to spend some time at the beach before we close the house up for the fall.”
“Fine.” Nikki toggled off her tablet screen off, and Trinity blew out a relieved exhale.
“Last item of Monday business.” Nikki’s voice had gone about half an octave deeper.
“Uh-oh,” one of the men mumbled low.
Trinity guessed it was Juan.
Jerry may have had a job a dumb-dumb could do, but he was nothing if not careful.
She snuck a glance at him across the table and found him staring back at her with the side of his face propped against his fist.
He didn’t look amused.
She hid her burning cheeks behind a convenient stack of paperwork. How did he always manage to raise her temperature with just one flat look? The man’s intensity scared her.
“As you all know, I’ve been working with Beth on finalizing the palette for the nail polish launch. But, every time I get the test colors mixed, something happens.” Nikki paced, wringing her hands. “I’ll come into the barn in the morning and find the mixing bottles shattered on the floor, or there’ll be some weird shit inside making the base formula clump.” Her voice’s pitch careened upward as she turned to face them, her olive skin now florid. “I can’t afford fuck-ups. We’ve been putting in too many work hours for this, so someone needs to figure out who’s behind it, and why. And I mean now.”