Connor McGregor is one helluva sexy man. He is handsome, smart, and richer than God. Everything he touches turns to gold. Best of all, he’s even a nice guy. The man really has no idea how perfect he is. The only flaw in this Prince Charming’s character is that he can’t see himself with just one woman, he has no intention of settling down. Why should he? His goal is to make as many women happy as possible. And so far, he’s succeeding.
Until one day…he accidentally kisses his partner.
His adorable, feisty, snarky little partner.
A kiss that changes everything.
Rey Cassidy is his right hand. The woman behind the man. Whatever he can envision, she can make happen. After the kiss, his focus begins to change. Business is not so important, playing the field is getting old. How did he overlook the amazing woman who was right under his nose?
But identifying her as his soulmate is just half the battle.
Rey knows him better than anyone.
Convincing her to trust him, to give him a chance, just might be impossible
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Tell Seymour to send up some champagne and caviar. We’ll be celebrating tonight.”
His rapid topic change didn’t surprise her, she was used to his ADD. Not that he’d admit to having the problem, but she thought that diagnosis might explain his inability to remain interested in any one woman for more than a couple of days. “No ‘we’ about it, unless you have a mouse in your pocket, I’m not working late.” Rey took a deep breath, then lied through her teeth. “I have a date.”
He stopped in his tracks. “A date? You?”
Connor’s surprise irritated Rey. So, what if her date was with a hot water bottle and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Her fierce leader didn’t need to know those details. “Yes, is that so hard to believe?”
She left him standing there with mouth agape, while she informed the concierge what to send up to the penthouse suite. Her presence wasn’t required for the celebration. To find companionship, all Connor would have to do was go through his Little Black Book app and select from a smorgasbord of willing women, or by the look of the crowd outside, he could just stand at the entrance of the Waterloo like Elvis at the gates of Graceland. She was sure any one of his admirers would be willing to spend a few hours with him – – celebrating.
After passing along Connor’s wishes, she made her way to the elevator, taking the first ten seconds of alone time she’d had all day to check her messages. With a few quick clicks, she solved several problems, made three appointments, and confirmed a half dozen meetings. Life in the fast lane made Rey’s blood fizz through her veins, as if it was carbonated. She loved it! The only fly in the ointment was the necessary inclusion of Connor himself. Again, Rey became amused at her own thought. She was being mean. There would be no McGregor Developments without McGregor. A real estate mogul who made money hand over fist, Connor was truly brilliant, he just wasn’t detail oriented.
Like the latest edition of Austin Monthly proclaimed, Connor was considered to be the city’s most eligible bachelor. Everything the man touched turned to gold. He’d turned a few waterfront acres near downtown Austin into the premier properties in the state. He had the vision and his team made it happen…and by ‘his team’ she meant her, Rey Cassidy.
She was the woman behind the man.
The very capable woman.
“Come on, slowpoke, my finger’s getting tired of holding this button.”
“What?” Rey jerked her head up, surprised he’d waited on her. “Sorry, I thought you’d already gone up.”
“Why would I do that?” He put a big hand over the opening where the doors emerged to insure they didn’t jump out and bump Rey while she boarded. “I need you.”
“Yes, you do,” she agreed with him. Her calm demeanor didn’t reveal the landslide of emotions Connor’s words released within her. She knew what he meant, he needed her business acumen.
His admission had nothing to do with her identity as a woman.
She fought back the irritation her summation called forth. This was a sore spot for her. Rey had fallen head over heels for her brilliant friend the day she met him.
Thank God, she’d come to her senses.
While she was absolutely loyal and completely committed to their interests – Rey Cassidy had no illusions about Connor McGregor’s suitability as a romantic interest. While he possessed many good qualities: a concern for the environment, a philanthropic heart, and a fondness for animals – his downfall was women, he couldn’t resist them. Connor loved women.
In all their time together, he’d never once made a pass at her, never made a risqué suggestion, or a lewd comment. Oh, he teased her. He was nice to her. He respected her highly. To Connor, she was a valuable asset, his path to success, his secret weapon, and yes, his friend.
But that was all.
And Rey was fine with it.
There was no way she would ever put up with Connor McGregor and his antics until the water got hot. If they were to ever attempt to be a couple, she’d kill the man dead in the first twenty-four hours.
But that wasn’t going to happen. He wasn’t attracted to her. Rey didn’t have what it took to please Connor McGregor.
If one were to ask him, and people had, what type of woman he preferred, his answer was always the same.
Connor liked to think he was an equal opportunity philanderer, but that wasn’t true. He definitely had a type – centerfolds – statuesque beauties with lush, long hair and surgically enhanced bust lines. Rey was none of those things.
As one member of the paparazzi phrased it in an article/expose of Connor a few years back, she didn’t seem to fit the picture. By all accounts, Miss Rey Cassidy appears to be an integral part of Connor McGregor’s success, but one can’t help but notice she looks out of place in his world. While Mr. McGregor’s masculine perfection is unquestioned, he certainly can’t be categorized as a swan, more a golden eagle perhaps. But Miss Cassidy plays the role of the Ugly Duckling quite well. We can’t claim to understand their dynamics, but we do applaud the results. McGregor Developments is changing the face of Central Texas for the better.
Rey remembered well how she’d tried to hide the periodical containing the humiliating article from Connor, but he’d eventually seen it. And when he did, she remembered how he demanded a retraction and threatened to have the magazine shut down. Rey had tried to explain to him that the retraction would be as embarrassing as the original piece, but he hadn’t listened.
Rey knew she wasn’t beautiful, her own mother and sister had pointed that fact out many times. But seeing it in print and knowing Connor saw it too…well, it had taken a long time for her to get over the humiliation. One good thing did come from the fiasco, however. Rey endeavored to improve herself, dressing more fashionably and getting a makeover. She might be a country girl, but if she was going to rub elbows with the rich and famous, it was time to start acting the part.
Once she was in the elevator with him and the doors closed, Rey adjusted her mask of indifference. “I think all we need to do tonight is prepare your comments for tomorrow’s televised announcement. Our partnership with the Earle brothers will be a landmark deal in this city. Luxury apartments, five-star restaurants, world class boutiques – the sky’s the limit.” Her tone was appropriately enthusiastic, yet professionally curtailed.
“Ah, not tonight. Tonight, I have a proposition for you.”
Rey’s heart skipped a beat. “What kind of a proposition?”
“Patience. Patience.” Connor wiggled a finger at her. “I need to ply you with champagne and get you in the mood first.”
In the mood? A surprised bark of laughter escaped Rey’s lips. “Champagne isn’t going to help.”
“We’ll see.” He looked entirely confident and too handsome for his own good – or Rey’s.
Trying not to look agitated, she leaned against the elevator wall and folded her arms over her nearly non-existent bosom. “What do you need for me to do, take a drug test for you? Provide a urine sample?”
Her sassy comment just made him smile. “Not hardly. I don’t do drugs, you know that.” He made a sweeping gesture down his body. “This is a temple.”
As the elevator dinged its arrival, she pushed off the wall toward the door. “I’d bow and scrape, but I think your temple gets a little too much worshipful attention as it is.”
Connor stuffed his hands in his front pocket, his stance wide, letting her precede him. “Negatory, my little Rey of sunshine. I give women what they want. I’m just spreading joy.”
Rey laughed, stepping out into the lavish suite. “Joy is not what you’re spreading. You’re a virus, McGregor.”
“Yet, you’re unaffected,” he stated, but with a questioning lilt to his voice.
“I’m immune.” Heading into the comfortable sitting room, Rey took her normal seat on the oversize leather couch, immediately pulling her tablet from her purse to check their schedules. “Now, what’s on your mind? What do you need from me? I’m way ahead of you on the contracts.” When he took a chair across from her, she met his eyes and immediately got snared in his compelling gaze.
“Rey, we need to talk. We’ve been friends since college.” He began, then hesitated, a decidedly guilty look coming over his face.
Uh-oh. What was this? She was not only his assistant, they also had a semi-partnership agreement where she earned stock options in his company when a deal performed above expectations. Rey intended to fight him for her fair share if she had to. “Connor, are you trying to break up with me, professionally speaking?”
Connor’s eyes widened. “Oh, hell no.” He barked out a laugh. “I do have my faults, but stupidity is not one of them.”
She gave him a pointed look. “Well, that’s debatable at times.” When he glared at her, she amended her statement. “Yes, we’ve been friends awhile. What’s on your mind?”
“Well…” Connor hesitated. “I need you to run interference for me with a woman.”
Rey didn’t know what she’d been expecting him to say, but this wasn’t it. She saw red. “What do you mean?”
He held up a hand defensively. “It’s no big deal, I just…uh…seem to have overbooked again.”
“Overbooked? If you wouldn’t juggle women like bean bags, you wouldn’t get yourself in a bind.” Yes, she’d done this before and she didn’t like it.
“I’m not that bad.” When she narrowed her eyes at him, he gave her a sheepish smile. “Well, maybe I am. But I don’t mean to be. I just want each one of my ladies to feel special, and sometimes I can’t be in two places at one time.”
“I don’t know how anyone can feel special when they’re just part of a herd,” Rey grumbled.
“Not a herd, I choose to think of them as a select group of lucky women,” he gave her a disarming grin.
Rey bristled, but she resigned herself to her boss’s predilection for the fairer sex. Some people had a weakness for chocolate, others for alcohol or gambling – Connor’s vice was women. At least he was honest, for the most part. He made no promises of a future or even exclusivity, all he tried to do was keep them separate.
For their own safety. And his.
And to avoid misunderstandings and the occasional cat fight.
“All right, all right. What do you need me to do and what do I get out of it?”
Connor snorted. “Bless your little mercenary heart.” When she rolled her eyes, he stood and strode to his desk near the window. “I need you to pick up Veronica at the airport tomorrow and in return I’ll sponsor that 5K run for your favorite charity. The whole thing – advertising, T-shirts, food, water, permits – the whole ball of wax. What is it called? Remind me.”
“Helping Hands, raising money to build housing for the homeless.” She narrowed her gaze at him. “I can’t believe you’re asking me to babysit one of your women in order to get your support for a worthy cause.”
“Why not? I scratch your back, you scratch mine.” Connor hid a grin. He wouldn’t tell Rey he’d already sent a check to cover the sponsorship.
“Couldn’t you have arranged for a taxi to meet Veronica?”
Connor frowned, which only served to emphasize the sexy cleft in his chin. “I’d rather you handle this. She knows you and I are close.”
“She does?” Rey knew this information was meant to make her feel better, but it didn’t. She felt…vulnerable. Connor’s romantic liaisons were usually something she tried to ignore. She knew they were happening, she just didn’t want to get involved.
“Sure.” He stood up and came to sit on the arm of the couch next to her. Much to her dismay, Connor ruffled her hair. “You’re my buddy.”
Rey growled softly, her lip lifting in a tiny snarl. “Don’t call me that.” Growing up, her neighbor’s dog had been named Buddy. She didn’t enjoy the connotation. Moving away from him, Rey rose and stalked to the wet bar. The doorbell rang as she was about to take a bottle of water out of the small fridge. Instead, she went to the door and opened it, allowing the waiter to push a cart into the room laden with a silver domed platter and a bottle of Dom Perignon chilling in a bucket of ice.
Connor jumped up to greet his employee. “Jerry, how’s your little girl? Did she enjoy the dance recital?”
“She did, sir, and thank you for sending the roses. She’ll never forget it and neither will we.”
“Not a problem.” Connor fished out a twenty. “You tell Stacy that I plan to watch her dance in the Nutcracker next year.”
“I’ll do it, Mr. McGregor.” Jerry nodded at Rey before leaving. “Just ring if you need anything else.”
Once the waiter was gone, Rey tried to hold onto her annoyance but it was impossible. When she saw the sweet side of Connor McGregor, the considerate way he treated people, she just couldn’t stay angry at him. “When is Veronica’s flight and what do you want me to do with her after I pick her up?” Her tone was one of pained resignation.
“Bring Veronica back here and see her to her room, spend a little time with her, maybe share a cup of coffee.”
“Why not bring her here to the penthouse?”
“Oh, no. I use other rooms in the hotel for my assignations. I don’t bring women to my private suite.”
What was she? Chopped liver? “I see.” She picked up the dome and checked out the food, finding an appetizing array of hors d’oeuvres. “So, what will you be doing while I’m entertaining Veronica?”
Taking the champagne bottle, he deftly uncorked it, pouring each of them some in a fluted glass. “Veronica is coming in a day earlier than we originally planned. I had a previous engagement with Serena that I just couldn’t cancel. She’s counting on me to be her date at her mother’s birthday party.”
“You’re just too kind, aren’t you?” Rey accepted the glass and took an overly large sip, then sputtered and coughed when the bubbles went straight up her nose.
“Hey, are you all right?” Connor came to Rey and handed her a napkin. “Take it slow, you don’t drink much alcohol.”
Rey felt completely gauche. Each time she heard about plans Connor made with one of his many women, she never failed to compare herself with his conquests. She always came up short.
“I’m fine.” She set the glass down. “I need to drive home anyway. Text me Veronica’s flight and room info and I’ll take care of her. I should be paid extra for dealing with your harem, you know.”
“You probably should. Thanks, Rey.”
Rey was looking down and when he moved close, she jerked her head up. “No problem…” What would’ve been a thank-you kiss to her cheek, turned into a helluva lot more when her mouth accidentally collided with his.
His mouth caressed hers and Rey’s heart stopped. Step back. Step back, she told herself. But her muscles refused to obey. Damnation! Why did this have to feel so good?
One second. Two seconds. Three. Caressing lips. The tease of a tongue.
Connor jerked back and Rey whirled around, making a grab for her purse, and heading out like a gazelle trying to outrun a hungry lion. Hmmm, maybe she did watch too much Animal Planet. “Getting late, I gotta go. Have a good night.”
“Yea, I forgot about your…date. You have a good time too.”
Rey just nodded, poking the elevator button thirty-odd times in just a few seconds. “Come on, come on,” she whispered.
“Rey…wait. I think we need to…” Connor called out, his voice getting closer with every word.
The doors opened and Rey rushed in, punching the down button just as Connor reached the door. “Rey!” Connor slammed his hand against the elevator door. “What the hell just happened?” He’d been minding his own business, working out a plan to make everybody happy – and Boom! His assistant’s soft, plump lips had just gotten in his way. And when he’d felt them, tasted them, Connor had momentarily lost focus. “Fuck,” he swore again, realizing she was already gone. And knowing Rey, she was already halfway to the parking garage by now. He could have Security stop her, but something told him that wouldn’t be a wise thing to do.
Reviewing the events of the last few minutes, he tried to ascertain if he’d done something wrong. If not…why did he feel like he’d made a big mistake?