*Released June 10, 2019*
Welcome to Monday’s world, where jokes about her name are plentiful and for some reason, she has a serious attraction to (what she thinks are) jerks…
Jake Anders looks like he should be on the cover of an Australian firefighters calendar;
instead he owns a winery that makes a fabulous rosé.
The first time I met him, he was a jerk.
And then he became my client.
And he started acting distinctly non-jerky.
So I set out to prove it was all a ruse.
My ploy didn’t work.
And now, we’ve slept together.
If this is nothing but a one-night stand, I am so screwed.
“Oh great, Monday’s here again. Never fails, every single week.”
Instead of rolling my eyes, I manage a tight-lipped smile as I stalk past my assistant’s desk. This game gets so old. “Good morning to you, too, Cheryl.”
“Are you ready to bring a little joy to one of the world’s most hated days?” she asks.
I pause and sigh. Cheryl loves routine—one of the reasons she makes a great assistant—but this teasing about my name, which, if you haven’t figured it out yet, is Monday, has got to stop.
Hell, I don’t even like Mondays.
“I’m going to rain on your Monday if you don’t find a new conversation topic,” I say with a sigh.
There’s a sound, not dissimilar to a cat hacking up a hairball. It came from the vicinity of my office. Did I schedule an appointment with a feline for first thing Monday morning?
“Your ten o’clock is here,” Cheryl explains with a nod at the partially open door.
I glance at the clock hanging on the wall above her head. “It’s 8:10.”
“He said he has an emergency and has to fly out as soon as possible, which is why he needed to meet before your scheduled appointment time. I told him it shouldn’t be a problem, since your calendar was open.”
“My calendar was open because it’s Monday morning.” I like my routine, too, and mine involves sitting in my office alone, sorting through my emails and prepping for my meetings, all while enjoying the caramel brulée latte clutched in my right hand. Including this particular meeting. I can’t even recall the guy’s name, let alone why he was on my calendar in the first place.
“Trust me,” Cheryl says with lifted brows. “You’re going to be happy about this one. Definitely the right way to start a Monday morning.” She proceeds to waggle those perfectly shaped brows, and I’m left wondering what the hell she’s implying. Did a second caramel brulée latte make that hacking sound? Because I cannot think of anything else I’d be willing to deal with so early on the first day back to the workweek.
“I’m not quite getting what you’re insinuating, Cheryl.”
She taps a long, red fingernail against her lips. “You know that Australian firefighters calendar I get you every year for Christmas?”
Of course I do. I’ll never admit this out loud, but there have been plenty of years since we started working together when that was my favorite of all the gifts I received.
“Got an image in your head?”
I glance at the door again. Is she trying to tell me there’s an Australian firefighter sitting in my office? Okay, yes, that would be better than a second caramel brulée latte. “Um, okay.”
“Now, imagine him speaking.” She closes her eyes and her facial features transform. I almost swear she’s having an orgasm. Right now, this minute. Jesus, this is uncomfortable.
“Can you just spit it out, please?”
There’s another cough, closer this time. I lift my gaze as my office door gently swings open and a man steps into view, taking up all the space in the doorway and, consequently, sucking all the air out of the room.
That takes talent. Or simply damn good looks. Well, and splash in a healthy dose of cringe-worthy memories from last Monday evening.
It’s him. The jerk from the restaurant. The sexy Australian guy with the dark hair, stunning blue eyes, a lot of stubble, and a god’s body wrapped in fitted suit pants and a pale blue button-down shirt. With the cuffs rolled up over his biceps, of course. Biceps with muscles so corded and sharply defined, my very first thought is, He wouldn’t even need the wall for leverage; he could easily fuck me while holding me in his arms with my legs wrapped around his hips.
It’s that thought, I suspect, that causes my mouth to fall open while I subsequently lose my grip on the precious fancy coffee in my hand. It hits the floor and the lid pops off, spewing hot coffee and sticky caramel at my legs, which are exposed beneath the hem of my emerald-green sheath dress.
I yelp and try to dance away from the scalding liquid while Cheryl shrieks and practically dives over her desk like she’s attempting to save the coffee or maybe act heroic in front of the Australian god standing there watching with straight-up amusement in those gorgeous orbs.
He crosses his arms, and I swear he makes them flex on purpose. “Well, I suppose at least now I don’t have to worry about you tossing that drink in my face.” One side of his mouth lifts.
Shit. My face flames. This man is a potential new client. Assuming Cheryl is correct and he’s my ten o’clock, he represents a winery from Australia that is currently all the rage here in the States. Restaurant chains from Miami to New York and even California—a place that is notoriously difficult to sell wine to given their own status in that world—have been requesting we stock this label for months now.
Our lead sales rep, Darren, finally convinced them—this man—to consider using us as his U.S. distributor, and the first step in the process is for me, the auditor for Goode Spirits Distributor, to meet with him. My job is to ensure this new winery is doing everything aboveboard before we sign on the dotted line.
Given how much our sales director has stressed that we need to secure the account, this first impression—or rather, second—is not exactly a strike in the positive column for Goode Spirits.
Cheryl tosses a wad of paper napkins at me and then fawns over our guest, offering to inspect his pants for coffee splatters and …dear God, did she just tell him she’d launder them?
“I’m perfectly fine,” he says, pushing Cheryl’s hand away when she tries to brush it against his groin. “Her drink missed me. This time.”
I close my eyes and take a moment to get the heat in my face and my scattered thoughts under control. Jerk not withstanding, this is not at all how I envisioned this meeting would go. The sales team did its research, provided me with a pipeline spreadsheet showing that landing this account could increase our annual revenue by forty percent.
Hell, I’m surprised they’re actually letting me audit this man’s company. We have a precarious relationship, the sales team and I. I’m necessary to ensure we don’t get fined or, worse, shut down, yet I can also cripple their estimated quarterly revenue if I discover unethical or illegal dealings occurring with clients we’re considering taking on. Trust me, in this industry, it’s more common than you like to think.
Lord, please don’t let this man have crooked business dealings tucked away in his files. And if he does, make them really, really hard to find. I mean super difficult, because you know how good I am at this shit. And the sales team really wants this account. We may be the best and the biggest US distributor, but there are plenty of other places this guy can go, and the size of his business means we won’t be the biggest for long if he chooses someone else to distribute his product in this wine-obsessed country.
Finally, I open my eyes. Cheryl and our latest potential client—I still can’t recall the name noted on my calendar—are both staring at me.
“She does that sometimes,” Cheryl says to the Australian Adonis. “You never know. Sometimes prayer works.”
Wait. I didn’t say that out loud. Did I?
Cheryl shakes her head. “We could read your lips. At least, I could. Could you, too?” She looks imploringly at our guest.
“I got the gist of it,” he says. “So you really want me—”
“No,” I say far more shrilly than is probably necessary. “I don’t. I mean, our sales team does. Your business, I mean.”
“I want you,” Cheryl adds.
Jesus. “Why don’t we step into my office?” I suggest in a desperate bid to wrangle this meeting under control.
He quirks his brow, and I expect him to step back so I can walk in first, but instead he turns and strides away, leaving both Cheryl and I to gape at the way his abnormally perfect ass shifts and moves under the smooth fabric of his slacks.
“I want to bite him,” Cheryl says, not whispering. His body freezes for a split second.
“Get a grip,” I whisper harshly, and then I hurry after him, smartly closing the door in my admin’s face when she tries to chase after us.
“Okay,” I say, stepping around behind my desk and quickly pulling my laptop out of its case. “Give me just a second to boot up my computer.”
My desk phone rings. Cheryl. I grind my teeth. “What?” I bark into the receiver.
“Since your coffee is all over the rug in front of my desk, do you want me to get you another?”
I squeeze the receiver so hard a lesser device would have cracked under the pressure. “That would be great, Cheryl. Although a cup from the break room is fine instead of running downstairs to the café.” It will be quicker, which is the only reason I suggest it. The break room coffee is atrocious at best, but at this point, I just need the infusion of caffeine.
“Yeah, that’s all I planned to do,” she says before disconnecting the call.
I give my guest a tight smile as I type in the password to unlock my computer screen. I cannot for the life of me recall this guy’s name or the company he’s representing.
“So, are you one of the owners?” I ask, stalling while my computer wakes up painfully slowly.
He nods and sits in the reasonably comfortable chair in front of my desk.
“Oh.” Crap, the lack of caffeine has not only taken away my ability to speak rationally but also my manners. “I didn’t think to offer you coffee. Sorry. Would you like a cup?”
“Don’t touch the stuff,” he says, and all I can do for long moments is stare at him.
“Who doesn’t drink coffee?” I blurt. Probably rudely, but seriously. Who doesn’t need an infusion of caffeine to get them started on Monday morning?
I clear my throat and click open my calendar. Cheryl bursts into the room, carrying a tray with two mugs filled with steaming liquid, along with a pile of sugar packets and a variety of single-serving creamer flavors. Her lipstick and the blush dusted onto her cheeks both look freshly applied, and she’s undone a couple of the buttons on her blouse.
She places the tray on my desk, then bends over in front of my guest and says, “How would you like your coffee?”
“I wouldn’t,” he says. No apologies or explanation. Wow. I admit, I was hoping my experience from last week was a fluke, but I’m going to be disappointed.
“Oh,” Cheryl says, blinking rapidly. She clearly has no idea how to respond.
“It’s fine,” I say. “I’ll drink both.” God knows I’ll need the infusion of energy and, hopefully, brain power.
“Okay,” Cheryl says, still bent over in front of our guest. “Can I do anything else for you?” I swear, her gaze drops to his groin as she asks.
Holy crap, the guy is rude. Cheryl is a bit much to take, but this is uncalled for. Abandoning my computer, I hurry to her side, wrapping my arm around her back and encouraging her to stand upright instead of flashing her tits at a guy who clearly doesn’t give a shit. I keep my arm around her waist as I guide her to the door.
“Thanks so much, Cheryl. I’ll let you know if I need anything else.” And I give her a little push over the threshold and close the door.
I return to my desk and doctor both cups of coffee.
“You aren’t going to throw one of those at me, are you?”
If you keep being a jerk, I might. I manage—barely—not to say those words out loud. Or, I’m pretty sure, silently moving my lips. Instead, I clear my throat and take my first sip and then I moan, even though it tastes like shit. But it’s caffeinated shit, and that’s all I really need right now.
“I don’t suppose you have anything else to drink.”
Kind of annoying that he didn’t think to ask this question until after Cheryl left. But then again, I didn’t offer, either. Although when I suggested coffee, instead of being so abrupt, he could have said, “No thanks, but I’ll take a water instead.”
“Would you like a bottled water?”
“Does it come with two fingers of whiskey?”
“It’s eight-thirty in the morning.”
“It’s heading toward midnight where I’m from. Which is exactly where I’m off to, just as soon as we can get this meeting over with. Are you telling me you don’t enjoy a cocktail before you fly?”
Okay, let’s get something straight. I work for a liquor distributor. So yeah, there’s liquor in my office. And yes, sometimes our internal meetings involve sampling the product lines we’re considering carrying. And of course, it isn’t unheard of to shut down the office early on a Friday and meet in the boardroom for our own private happy hour.
Working in this industry does have its perks.
With that said, I can say with absolute certainty that I have never imbibed in an alcoholic beverage in my office at eight o’clock in the morning. On a Monday, no less.
In an effort to not say something scathing, I take a few moments to sip more coffee. “Unfortunately, no, I do not have any whiskey.”
He leans back in his chair. “Too bad.”
“Okay.” I tap a few keys on my keyboard and the details from this appointment pop onto my screen. “Jake Anders.”
“Jake Anders,” I repeat louder.
“No, I mean…holy shit.” I’m staring at my computer screen, at the information the sales team sent me about this meeting. “Anders Valley Vineyard.”
The same winery that produces that absolutely, utterly divine rosé I drank last Monday. The same rosé I tossed into his face before storming out of the restaurant.
Has he ever had his own wine tossed into his face before?
“Jake Anders, part owner of Anders Valley Vineyard. Yes. I think we’ve more than clearly established that at this point.”
Even when he’s being a snarky asshole, that accent is sexy—and distracting—as hell. Also, I now understand his impressive knowledge of wine.
“I’d say I’m confident you already know I make good wine, but the fact that you wasted an entire glass by drenching me in it belies that.”
“It was good. Really good. Amazing good. The wine wasn’t the problem.”
“It never is.”
“Right.” I use my mouse to open one of the documents attached to the appointment reminder. It’s a list of wines Anders currently produces, with expected quantities available to sell to us should we choose to be their distributor. At the bottom of the document, in shouty caps and red font, is a message from the sales director: “WE CAN’T LOSE THIS ACCOUNT.” If he were saying that to my face, I’d respond with, “We don’t yet have it to lose.”
Not until I’ve completed my audit.
I tuck a strand of hair behind my ear. “Okay, well, I’m Monday Bloom, lead auditor for Goode Spirits Distributor.”
“I’m aware,” he says.
“Right. So anyway, my job is to meet with you, take a look at your information, basically check to make sure your company is operating legally and ethically. I’m sure you’re aware of how highly regulated our industry is.”
The man is the king of short, abrupt answers.
“Do you have any questions before we begin?”
“How long is this going to take?” He glances at his watch, the universal signal for hurry the fuck up.
“Is this a bad time?” I say with saccharine sweetness. “We can always wait and meet at the time we were actually scheduled to do so.”
He looks genuinely confused. “Why would we do that?”
I wave at the thick, silver watch on his wrist. “You appear to be in a hurry.”
“Well, yeah. I told your admin I was hoping to catch a flight this morning so I can get home as soon as possible. I need thirty minutes minimum to get to the airport. Another hour to get through security. Probably longer, since Monday is a heavy travel day. Plus, I’m flying international so there’s customs to deal with. And, frankly, I’m annoyed that I even have to be here in the first place.”
“Wow. That was a lot of information.”
“So you’re annoyed that you have to meet with the auditor. Why is that?”
He scowls. “I didn’t say I was annoyed because I have to meet with the auditor. Tell me what you need and I’ll supply documentation. Just do it quickly, so I can get the hell on the road.”
Damn. This guy is practically begging for another spotlight on my No Jerks on Monday blog.