Home > Bared to You (Crossfire #1)(5)

Bared to You (Crossfire #1)(5)
Author: Sylvia Day

I dropped my stuff in the bottom drawer of my desk and when I saw that Mark wasn't in yet, I grabbed a cup of coffee and returned to my cubicle to catch up on my new favorite ad-biz blogs.

"Eva!"

I jumped when he appeared beside me, his grin a flash of white against his smooth dark skin. "Good morning, Mark."

"Is it ever. You're my lucky charm, I think. Come into my office. Bring your tablet. Can you work late tonight?"

I followed him over, catching on to his excitement. "Sure."

"I'd hoped you'd say that." He sank into his chair.

I took the one I'd sat in the day before and quickly opened a notepad program.

"So," he began, "we've received an RFP for Kingsman Vodka and they mentioned me by name. First time that's ever happened."

"Congratulations!"

"I appreciate that, but let's save them for when we've actually landed the account. We'll still have to bid, if we get past the request for proposal stage, and they want to meet with me tomorrow evening."

"Wow. Is that timeline usual?"

"No. Usually they'd wait until we had the RFP finished before meeting with us, but Cross Industries recently acquired Kingsman and C.I. has dozens of subsidiaries. That's good business if we can get it. They know it and they're making us jump through hoops, the first of which is meeting with me."

"Usually there would be a team, right?"

"Yes, we'd present as a group. But they're familiar with the drill - they know they'll get the pitch from a senior executive, then end up working with a junior like me - so they picked me out and now they want to vet me. But to be fair, the RFP provides a lot more information than it asks for in return. It's as good as a brief, so I really can't accuse them of being unreasonably demanding, just meticulous. Par for the course when dealing with Cross Industries."

He ran a hand over his tight curls, betraying the pressure he felt. "What do you think of Kingsman vodka?"

"Uh...well...Honestly, I've never heard of it."

Mark fell back in his chair and laughed. "Thank God. I thought I was the only one. Well, the plus side is there's no bad press to get over. No news can be good news."

"What can I do to help? Besides research vodka and stay late?"

His lips pursed a moment as he thought about it. "Jot this down..."

We worked straight through lunch and long after the office had emptied, going over some initial data from the strategists. It was a little after seven when Mark's smartphone rang, startling me with its abrupt intrusion into the quiet.

Mark activated the speaker and kept working. "Hey, baby."

"Have you fed that poor girl yet?" demanded a warm masculine voice over the line.

Glancing at me through his glass office wall, Mark said, "Ah...I forgot."

I looked away quickly, biting my lower lip to hide my smile.

A snort came clearly across the line. "Only two days on the job, and you're already overworking her and starving her to death. She's going to quit."

"Shit. You're right. Steve, honey - "

"Don't 'Steve honey' me. Does she like Chinese?"

I gave Mark the thumbs-up.

He grinned. "Yes, she does."

"All right. I'll be there in twenty. Let security know I'm coming."

Almost exactly twenty minutes later, I buzzed Steven Ellison through the waiting area doors. He was a juggernaut of a fellow, dressed in dark jeans, scuffed work boots, and a neatly pressed button-down shirt. Red-haired with laughing blue eyes, he was as good-looking as his partner was, just in a very different way. The three of us sat around Mark's desk and dumped kung pao chicken and broccoli beef onto paper plates, added helpings of sticky white rice, and then dug in with chopsticks.

I discovered that Steven was a contractor, and that he and Mark had been a couple since college. I watched them interact and felt awe and a dash of envy. Their relationship was so beautifully functional that it was a joy to spend time with them.

"Damn, girl," Steven said with a whistle, as I went for a third helping. "You can put it away. Where does it go?"

I shrugged. "To the gym with me. Maybe that helps...?"

"Don't mind him," Mark said, grinning. "Steven's just jealous. He has to watch his girlish figure."

"Hell." Steven shot his partner a wry look. "I might have to take her out to lunch with the crew. I could win money betting on how much she can eat."

I smiled. "That could be fun."

"Ha. I knew you had a bit of a wild streak. It's in your smile."

Looking down at my food, I refused to let my mind wander into memories of just how wild I'd been in my rebellious, self-destructive phase.

Mark saved me. "Don't harass my assistant. And what do you know about wild women anyway?"

"I know some of them like hanging out with g*y men. They like our perspective." His grin flashed. "I know a few other things, too. Hey...don't look so shocked, you two. I wanted to see if hetero sex lived up to the hype."

Clearly this was news to Mark, but from the twitching of his lips, he was secure enough in their relationship to find the whole exchange amusing. "Oh?"

"How'd that work out for you?" I asked bravely.

Steven shrugged. "I don't want to say it's overrated, 'cause clearly I'm the wrong demographic and I had a very limited sampling, but I can do without."

I thought it was very telling that Steven could relate his story in terms Mark worked with. They shared their careers with each other and listened, even though their chosen fields were miles apart.

"Considering your present living arrangement," Mark said to him, catching up a stem of broccoli with his chopsticks, "I'd say that's a very good thing."

By the time we finished eating, it was eight and the cleaning crew had arrived. Mark insisted on calling me a cab.

"Should I come in early tomorrow?" I asked.

Steven bumped shoulders with Mark. "You must've done something good in a past life to score this one."

"I think putting up with you in this life qualifies," Mark said dryly.

"Hey," Steven protested, "I'm housebroken. I put the toilet seat down."

Mark shot me an exasperated look that was warm with affection for his partner. "And that's helpful how?"

Mark and I scrambled all day Thursday to get ready for his four o'clock with the team from Kingsman. We grabbed an information-packed lunch with the two creatives who would be participating in the pitch when it got to that point in the process; then we went over the notes on Kingsman's Web presence and existing social media outreach.

I got a little nervous when three thirty rolled around because I knew traffic would be a bitch, but Mark kept working after I pointed out the time. It was quarter to four before he bounded out of his office with a broad smile, still shrugging into his jacket. "Join me, Eva."

I blinked up at him from my desk. "Really?"

"Hey, you worked hard on helping me prep. Don't want you want to see how it goes?"

"Yes, absolutely." I pushed to my feet. Knowing my appearance would be a reflection on my boss, I smoothed my black pencil skirt and straightened the cuffs of my long-sleeved silk blouse. By a random twist of fate, my crimson shirt perfectly matched Mark's tie. "Thank you."

We headed out to the elevators and I was briefly startled when the car went up instead of down. When we reached the top floor, the waiting area we stepped into was considerably larger and more ornate than the one on the twentieth. Hanging baskets of ferns and lilies fragranced the air and a smoky glass security entrance was sandblasted with Cross Industries in a bold, masculine font.

We were buzzed in, and then asked to wait a moment. Both of us declined an offer of water or coffee, and less than five minutes after we arrived, we were directed to a closed conference room.

Mark looked at me with twinkling eyes as the receptionist reached for the door handle. "Ready?"

I smiled. "Ready."

The door opened and I was gestured in first. I made sure to smile brightly as I stepped inside...a smile that froze on my face at the sight of the man rising to his feet at my entrance.

Books
     Bared to You (Crossfire #1)
     Reflected in You (Crossfire #2)
     Entwined with You (Crossfire #3)
     Captivated by You (Crossfire #4)
     One with You (Crossfire #5)