When Alex Gentry tossed out a smile like the one he sported now, Kelly Mancer knew there was no hope for her pounding heart. In fact, the distinct possibility that it could fly from her chest to land on the desk between them had her holding her breath.

“Once this acquisition is complete, you and I are going to have a detailed discussion on how distracting you’ve been to my work,” Alex said, softly. He hovered over the desk, over her. So close, she detected the faint spicy scent of a woodsy soap.

She found it somewhat aggravating that not one strand of his perfectly cut blond hair strayed out of place. Well, almost as a small lock fell across his brow. She looked away from his piercing gray eyes and the havoc it played with her normal ability to acquire oxygen. Was it her imagination, or had he leaned in closer stealing the air around her?

Kelly swallowed, hoping it didn’t sound as loud to him as it did to her. “Mr. Gentry,” she chastised, grimacing inwardly at her husky tone. She might as well invite him into her bed for all the firmness her voice lacked. She cleared her throat. “Mr. Gentry,” she tried again.


Kelly gave a guilty start. She closed her eyes hearing Gwen Thompson’s voice and its suspicious halt. Terrific.

She sensed Alex’s slight movement, and snuck a peek in time to see him smoothing one hand over his red power striped tie as he straightened away. She sucked in some air. At least now she could breathe.

“I’m sorry,” Gwen said. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything?” Light brows lifted with her imposing question. Her bright red, corkscrew curls and freckled face were not a welcome sight.

Kelly could already imagine the buzz around water cooler. It was bad enough her co-workers thought she carried an on-going affair with her boss, Samuel Streets, President and CEO of Wildcat Financial. But now talk was sure to fly that she coveted the head consultant who had recently stepped in as well. Someone more than likely bent on placing them all on the unemployment line in the next few weeks.

“We should be finished up here in a couple of minutes, Ms. Thompson,” Alex told her. Kelly winced at his proprietary tone and Gwen’s narrowed eyes. Gwen worked for Reese Wiley, the Vice President of Finance.

Someone needed to reign in control of the situation that would soon spiral of control. She cleared her throat and shot Alex Gentry a glare.

The games men and women played were way out of Kelly’s league. Working in the corporate world for four years, she still shied away from the innuendos tossed her way, pretending she had no idea what they were talking about.

“Of course,” Gwen said softly, backing through the doorway. “I’m headed out for the day, Kelly. I just thought to invite you for a quick drink. Happy hour, you know. I’ll catch you after the weekend.”

Alex chuckled at Gwen’s departing figure. “I think I just complicated your work life. Based on Ms. Thompson’s expression, the rumor mill should prove lively next week.”

Kelly groaned. And she was the one person Kelly considered slightly more than an acquaintance.

“First I’m having an affair with Samuel, now you,” she muttered, feeling the heat sear her cheeks. The whole subject disgusted her.

In the next instant Alex turned all business. “I’m leaving for Chicago this afternoon to meet with my father and the other Board members of the Acquisitions Committee. My hope is to wrap up several last minute issues before we close this deal.  Disasters withstanding, we’re looking at late next week.” He picked up the folder he’d placed on the corner of the desk before his outrageous flirtation moments before and glanced over his shoulder toward Samuel’s door. “I know its Friday and getting late, but if you can take care of a couple of things for me before you leave for the weekend, I would really appreciate it.”

“Of course,” Kelly assured him taking the file. She was hopelessly in love with him, of course. But then so was every other available woman at Wildcat. And some who weren’t available as well. She’d followed him through the office corridor. It was almost comical to see the variety of tricks initiated to garner his attentions. Proven by the innate clumsiness women seemed to have in holding onto their ink pens that dropped in his path, or the eight cups of coffee appearing on his desk every morning.

The chances of his returning her feelings were nil. She was much too young and inexperienced for the likes of him. The thought did nothing to stifle her fantasies, however.

Alex sighed, somewhat dramatically, slipped back into a jovial tone. “Have you nothing to say since I so gallantly laid my heart out for you to flay?”

More than used to his flippant manner, she willed her thrumming pulse to slow.  After all, she’d been assisting him with the merger now for over two months. It didn’t work.  “I assume you are talking marriage?” She shocked herself with the teasing question.

Something dark flickered in his gaze, but Kelly decided it had to be the lighting from the late afternoon sun seeping in through the blinds, and not desire that blanketed her own skin.

Lost in the depths of his stormy gaze, she felt her breath hitch. Alex was easily the most attractive man she’d ever met. She shook herself to sever the mesmerizing contact.

“I hesitate to break up this cozy rendezvous—” A flush of embarrassment singed her body, from the base of her neck to her forehead. She hadn’t heard Samuel’s approach. “When you have a spare moment, Kelly, we have work to do.” She frowned, glancing at the clock which showed a little after five.

The intimidation in Samuel’s tone affected Alex differently than it did her. He perched a hip on her desk and shot Samuel a cool look. From the corner of her eye she caught Samuel’s pointed stare on him. She wanted to groan.

“I’ll see you on Monday,” Alex told her. He took up his briefcase from a nearby chair and disappeared through the door, certain his leisurely pace was meant as a message.

Still fighting her embarrassment Kelly snatched up her steno pad and followed Samuel into his office. No telling what Alex thought of her now. Could she have been any more unsophisticated?

As luck would have it, that very distraction proved a vital mistake.