The next standalone book in my contemporary New Adult series,
TOO HARD TO RESIST!
I love this book so much and can’t wait to share Elliot and Madison’s story with you!
This is how I picture Elliot.
Gah. I am seriously in love with him!
One rookie assistant + one demanding executive = flirting that is too hot to handle.
Have you ever wished for the perfect job? Me, too. So when I land a temporary gig with a worthwhile and exemplary startup, I’m determined to make it permanent. That my boss is the gorgeous, clever Elliot Sax is nothing I can’t handle. We may steal glances at each other and straddle the line of playing it safe, but our partnership is too important for complications. Not to mention workplace hookups are against the rules.
But when our attraction flames hotter, our best efforts are put to the test. I never imagined having to fight my feelings for him on a daily basis and keeping my hands to myself is absolutely killing me.
Until I can’t. Until we can’t. And what’s at stake becomes more than our jobs. What’s at risk is our hearts.
I race into the bakery on Washington even though I’m short on time. It took forever to find a parking spot that didn’t require a permit, and the thought of being late to my first day on the job stresses me out, but some things are more important than punctuality.
I’m barely inside the door when I come to a screeching halt inches before I bump into the man in front of me. Damn it. With a line this long, so much for a quick grab-and-go. Glancing back down at my phone, I read the group texts from my friends Teague and Harper. Good luck today! Kick some ass! Meet for dinner later to discuss? I grin at their supportive words. I’d be lost without these two girls. I send a text back. Can’t tonight. I’ve got a date. Rain check! xoxo
I tuck my phone back in my purse, then close my eyes for a quick wish. Please let tonight’s date be better than last week’s. One more creep and I may never go out again. Which, come to think of it, might not be a bad thing. I could stay home, read, and spend time with book boyfriends. They never let me down.
My leg starts to bounce as I take a look around the trendy café. The sprawling, sophisticated eatery is all stainless steel, glass, and pastries. The smell of coffee and fresh-baked bread fills the space. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into a chocolate croissant, or for this line to move faster. When my eyes come back to rest on the guy in front of me, he’s taken a step forward and I’m able to better appreciate the view. From the back, he’s definitely hot. A light-blue dress shirt stretches across broad shoulders that taper down to a trim waist. The shirt is tucked into black dress pants and holy moly, his ass is tight and round and the most attractive rear end I’ve ever stood this close to. His legs are long, making him well over six feet. In my heels I’m five eight, and I only reach the tops of his shoulders.
“Je serai en contact.”
At the sound of his voice, I raise my head. He’s talking to someone on his cell. His accent is deep, rich, masculine ear candy. I maybe swoon a little. The sleeve of his shirt is rolled up to reveal a strong forearm and a thick silver watch on his wrist. His black hair curls at the back of his neck, just inside his shirt collar. It’s untidy, sexy, and seems out of character for a man dressed so impeccably. He’s probably so busy with whatever work he does that he hasn’t had time for a haircut.
He inches forward. I inch forward. Maybe closer than what is acceptable for maintaining personal space, but it’s hard not to. He smells good, too, and I wouldn’t mind hearing more of that accent. It’s not eavesdropping if I can’t understand what he’s saying.
“Merci pour votre temps,” he says next.
The extent of my French is merci beaucoup, au revoir, and the line from the song “Lady Marmalade,” voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir. Oh! And croissant. That’s French, right?
He ends his call and slides the phone into the front pocket of his pants. We’re almost to the front of the line now, so I pull my attention to what’s inside the glass display case. I spy two chocolate croissants on a round decorative plate. Perfect. I’m never going to get rid of the ten pounds I’ve gained these past few months by continuing to indulge my carb cravings, but whatever. I’m hungry.
“I love your handbag.”
I turn to the woman behind me dressed in workout gear and holding a toddler in her arms. “Thank you.” I love my handmade black suede bag with three stitched organza roses. It goes perfectly with my black pencil skirt and bell sleeve pale-pink sweater. The temp agency told me casual dress would be fine for the office I’m headed to this morning, but I want to make a strong first impression.
“It’s been so long since I’ve dressed up,” the woman says.
“How old is he?” I smile at her adorable little boy. He’s wearing T. rex pajamas and holding a sippy cup under his chin.
“He was two last week. I’ve also got a four, six, and eight-year-old.”
“Wow.” I don’t know what else to say, except to maybe recommend birth control. I glance over my shoulder. Mr. Tight Buns is placing his order, so I move up. And wait a second. He’s taking the last two chocolate croissants? I should tell him that’s no way to maintain his “Buns of Steel” and to please leave them for me.
Ha! I would never say something like that out loud.
“Today it’s just this little guy and me,” the woman says affectionately.
I quickly wish her a good day before focusing back on the croissant thief. Ask him to compromise, toss out a “Hey, think you could leave one of those for me?” But he doesn’t stop there. Without a word, the girl behind the counter loads up a box filled with the remaining plain croissants, too.
That’s taking it too far, buddy. Yes, the café is probably baking more as I stand here, but I need to hurry or be late to my first day at ZipMeds. This is my sixth temp job in as many months, and I’m crossing my fingers this one sticks. I desperately need a steady paycheck. Like yesterday. If I don’t save enough money to move out of my parents’ house soon, I’m going to go insane.
Okay, Madison. Speak up. I’m not concerned about myself so much as the woman outside waiting on me. “Excuse me?” I say.
He’s about to turn when a tall, stunning woman with enough cleavage to distract the Pope bounces up to the register and snags his attention. He immediately forgets about me—the jerk—and while I know this man is a complete stranger and I shouldn’t take his slight personally, I do, because once again I’m reminded of my cheating ex-fiancé. I may have left Henry at the altar, but he left me with a damaged soul.
Stunning Woman’s big, bright smile blocks out the image of my ex, and I imagine the guy in front of me smiles back. Heck, everyone around us is suddenly smiling at her.
She giggles at something he whispers to her—right before she orders a coffee! I hate people who cut in line. I’m about to tap the guy on the shoulder to negotiate pastries (and remind him there is a line of people who did not cheat—I mean cut) when the little boy behind me lets out a bloodcurdling cry. I twist around to make sure everything is okay when I’m sprayed with chocolate milk as he pulls the lid off his cup and swings his little arms.
“Oh my God! I’m so sorry,” his mom says.
I look down at my sweater dripping in chocolate milk and let out a deep breath. “It’s okay.” Absolutely nothing is going my way lately. I twist back around in search of napkins.
“Good morning! What can I get you?” the chipper girl behind the counter asks, oblivious to my predicament. Probably because her eyes are glued to the ass walking off with all the croissants. “Miss?” Oh, right. I need to drag my eyes away, too, and place my order.
“Two cinnamon buns, please,” I say without thought. Then feel myself blush. Buns.
“For here or to go?”
“To go, please. And could you put them in separate bags?”
“Sure.” While she grabs the buns, I snag some napkins. They don’t help the blotchy disaster that is my sweater. If only my boobs were on display to garner a distraction. I sigh. Would it be weird if I grabbed a newspaper and clutched it to my chest all day? I could probably get away with a legal-size notepad. The thought makes me feel better.
I pay for my runner-up pastries and say goodbye to the mom and her son. Outside, it’s a chilly February L.A. morning. Clouds hide the blue sky, and if I don’t hurry to my destination, the Pacific Coast air will turn my soft curls into crazy frizzy ones.
“Ma’am?” I kneel down to the homeless woman sitting hunched over against the side of the building, a threadbare gray blanket in her lap and a big black garbage bag beside her. She’d asked me for money when I walked by on my way to ZipMeds. I gave her a five and asked if she was hungry. She requested a chocolate croissant. “They ran out of croissants, so I got you something else.”
She lifts her head and I’m so stunned I almost fall backward. She’s finishing a chocolate croissant. Mr. Tight Buns gave her one! I take back my jerk comment.
“Thank you,” she says, her voice rough like sandpaper. She gives me a thin-lipped smile and wraps dirty fingers around the small brown to-go bag.
My heart goes out to her. “You’re welcome.”
With less than five minutes to spare before I’m officially late, I scarf down my cinnamon bun as I hurry toward the next block. Turning right, a sleek, modern building comes into view. ZipMeds.
I open the front glass door with no idea what to expect. The previous places I’ve worked have all been in run-of-the-mill office buildings. At each job, one thing or another happened to prevent me from gaining permanent employment. For the best, I’ve tried to tell myself. The job I’m meant to have is still out there.
Going by looks alone, I hope ZipMeds is that job. The warehouse-like interior is amazing with polished cement flooring, a towering ceiling, beautiful large-framed landscape photographs, couches, and, get this, a two-story, grass-covered hill. Stairs lead to an open-air second floor. My heels click-clack on the way to the reception desk. A pretty brunette around my age sits behind the sophisticated wood counter. She watches me approach with friendly eyes.
“Good morning. I’m Madison Hastings, the temp hired for the finance department.”
“Madison! Hi. Welcome to ZipMeds.”
“Okay, quit being more chipper than me, Auggie,” a thirtysomething woman says, striding up to the desk. I didn’t hear her approach because she’s wearing cute white athletic shoes with her cute black cotton pants and collared long-sleeve T-shirt. “You already have a job. Don’t add reception goals to your list of achievements,” she says with obvious affection, and I immediately like both these women.
“Sorry, boss.” Auggie puts her hand over her mouth and mock whispers, “She knows everything that goes on around here, so if you need anything, she’s the person to ask.”
“Hi. I’m Hazel.” Hazel scoots Auggie out of her chair in order to look down at a planner on her desk. “It’s nice to meet you, Madison. Thanks for coming. You’ll be working as the assistant to our finance manager.” She and Auggie exchange wary glances. Uh-oh.
“I’ll show her around and get her situated,” Auggie offers. She’s also dressed in stylish athletic shoes with sporty pants and a fitted shirt. But while Hazel is Nordstrom-chic, Auggie is more Urban Outfitter-trendy with her rainbow-thread friendship bracelet with beads that say dont worry, followed by a bumblebee and a smiley face. Peeking out of the collar of her shirt is a colorful tattoo that looks like part of a butterfly.
I guess I should have taken the temp agency’s advice on dress attire. “Is there a restroom I can use first?” I’m hoping a little soap and water helps my sweater situation.
“Of course. Come on.”
“That’s not real grass, is it?” I ask, nodding toward the indoor hill.
“No. It’s eco-friendly, UltraLush artificial. Every Friday we do a picnic and team- building activities or rolling contests. If you’re…”
“If I’m dressed appropriately?” I tease.
Auggie chuckles, then looks around as if making sure we’re alone. “I was going to say if you’re still here. Lately, our finance manager can’t seem to keep an assistant for longer than three days.”
I reach up to twirl a piece of hair behind my neck. I appreciate her honesty but really don’t need to know that. The terrible insecurity of failing once again and being stuck living at home forever crowds my chest. I love my parents, but I can’t take much more of their smothering. It’s time I made something of myself on my own. “Is he awful?”
Auggie pulls me into the bathroom and locks the steel door. “Madison. I like you. I liked you the minute you walked in the door dressed for success with a big stain on your sweater.”
I scrunch up my nose in embarrassment. “I was hoping it wasn’t that noticeable.”
She turns on the water faucet with one hand while grabbing some paper towels with the other.
“We’ll fix it.” She proceeds to soap up a towel and dab at my sweater, completely comfortable with her actions and me. I stop playing with my hair. “So, here’s the thing. Our FM is demanding, meticulous, a little intense, and super busy. He needs an assistant who doesn’t require directions every ten minutes and who understands numbers. You were an accounting major, right?”
“How did you know that?” I ask incredulously.
“We were at Loyola together. I remember seeing you in class.”
I study her more closely. “Sorry. I don’t—”
She waves away my apology. “I flew way under the radar back then. I’m Abigail August. Everyone calls me Auggie.”
“It’s nice to meet you.”
“There,” she says with a proud smile, standing taller and tossing the paper towels into the trash, “it’s not perfect, but better.”
“Much better. Thank you. Do you work in the finance department, too?”
“I’m the assistant to the CEO, so I pretty much have my fingers in all the departments. Come on, I better give you a quick tour and get you to your desk before the meeting ends.”
“Meeting?” I fall in step beside her. The sound of my heels echoes, and I’m tempted to take them off so as not to draw attention to myself. Instead, I do my best to step lightly.
“Monday morning exec meeting.”
“Got it.” Yesterday, I did a quick Google search of ZipMeds. The company builds drones that transport lifesaving drugs and medical supplies to countries where poor roads and poverty-stricken healthcare infrastructure make it difficult to reach patients. The start-up is only in its sophomore year and its worthwhile and important focus is admirable. I cross my fingers in silent hope I can outlast the previous temp.
Auggie shows me the kitchen, a gorgeous space with stainless steel appliances, a chalkboard wall, and an oversize weathered hardwood table with white wooden chairs, and a break room with a Ping Pong table, foosball table, bunk beds, and bookshelves.
“Most of our brilliant technology team is in the building next door, and here we do everything else,” she says, taking me upstairs. The second floor is also open and airy, with side-by-side workstations. I count seven people typing on laptops. Auggie gives them a wave before she leads me down a wide hallway. A glass wall takes up the right side, cubicles occupy the left. The first office we come to is a conference room, where it looks like the exec meeting is taking place. Several people sit in swivel chairs around a large metal table. The room is stark, but with floor-to-ceiling windows that offer a view of the ocean in the distance, nothing else is needed.
We’ve almost passed the room when my gaze catches on broad shoulders in a light-blue shirt, black hair curling at his nape. No freaking way. The box of croissants sits on the table. My pulse quickens, a mixture of excitement and nervousness over the thought of seeing the bakery shop guy.
“This is you,” Auggie says, stopping at a cubicle. “I’m two down, so if you need anything, don’t hesitate to ask.”
The space is modern with clean lines. There’s a computer, printer, and bookshelf. On the desk sits a temporary parking permit. At the very least I’ll be back tomorrow.
“There’s one more stop on our tour.” Auggie motions for me to follow her farther down the hall, pointing out her colorful workspace as we pass. She opens a door to a stairwell. About a dozen steps later, we open another door and walk outside onto a rooftop garden.
“This is amazing.”
“Right?” Auggie says. “We’ve got permission to fly our drones out here. The flight pattern is specific, but it goes all the way to the beach.”
“That’s so cool.” I notice a fancy tent set up on the other side of the rooftop. There’s a freestanding swing between two large tree planters, too.
“If you ever need a few minutes by yourself to decompress, feel free to pop up here.”
“I will. Thanks.” I appreciate that her tone suggests I’m here for the long haul. Now to prove to my new boss I’m indispensable—because I like it here. It already feels way more comfortable than my previous temporary assignments.
Auggie’s phone is ringing when we get back downstairs. “I need to grab that. You good?”
I nod. “Oh, wait…” I’m too late. She’s picked up the call and settled in at her desk. I forgot to ask what the finance manager’s name is.
Sitting down in my cubicle, I swivel my chair to check out his office. The door is shut, but gray curtains are drawn open, giving me an easy view through the glass. Which means he’ll have an easy view of me, too, unless I press myself against my workspace so I’m hidden behind the slight partition.
There’s a large glass desk, two upholstered chairs, a side table, and several brown moving boxes stacked in the corner. A remote-control car is parked in the middle of the room. The toy seems out of character, given Auggie’s description of the man.
Voices puncture the silence, startling me into action. I put my purse away (with the parking permit) and turn on the computer. A man in dark dress pants and a beige sweater walks past. “Auggie?” he says.
I don’t hear her reply because I’m stuck on the backside of the man opening the finance manager’s door. I’ve got a couple of names for him, but “Boss” is not one of them. Until now. Which means I cannot freaking look at his ass ever again. I raise my eyes just as he must sense my presence because he turns around.
Holy shit, I can’t believe I didn’t recognize Elliot Sax. He’s one of my oldest friends’ best friends, and our paths have crossed for years. I’ve always considered him extremely attractive, but I can think of several other guys I feel the same way about. So the fact that he’s my new boss at a company I really want to work for is no big deal.
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