Tuesday, October 03, 2017

A Bit of My Latest Billionaire


* blog exclusive excerpt * 

Cameron Price preferred to sit on the sidelines at parties and watch everyone else show their colors. But tonight, he was the one on display, the one under everyone’s microscope. He’d barely unpacked his suitcases, could hardly make it into the office without getting lost, and he already had to put on a show for the team of people who probably all thought they should have been given his job.

He stood on the landing and leaned over the railing, taking in the view of the downstairs. Come For Dinner catering earned every penny, no matter what they charged him. The house looked better than he’d ever seen it. Sonja Anders had decorated everything in white. Sterile, stark, cold. Now the rooms were washed in warm light, red scarves covering the lampshades and adding to the ambiance.

It was intimate, without being romantic. Classic, without being feminine. Everything he needed it to be. A weight lifted from him as he descended the stairs. He liked that it looked different, not wanting to seem like junior filling in for the old man.

The change in lighting, red pillows and throws on the couches, lush green plants in shiny silver pots, and little vases overflowing with red roses lining the dining room table and scattered on every other open surface made a statement. Saying to all who entered he was here to make his mark on the company. He’d never let on it really meant he’d gotten lucky when he hired a caterer.

At the base of the staircase he checked his watch. Ten minutes until the party started, guests would be arriving any minute. He wiped his damp palms against the gray wool of his slacks and closed his eyes, enjoying the solitude while he could.

A warm force plowed into his chest, opening his eyes with a start. He gripped the whirlwind by her slim shoulders and looked into her large round eyes framed by long blonde eyelashes. He couldn’t help but grin at the startled look in that gold flecked green gaze. Without letting her go, he pulled back taking in the smattering of freckles crossing her button nose, the long strawberry blonde hair pulled tight into a braid, and the milky skin of her shoulders, bare but for the thin spaghetti straps of her gauzy black dress. He blinked hard, bringing himself out of shock and dropped his hands, running one through his hair.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize anyone had arrived yet.” Cameron looked about the room for her date, but saw no one. She looked vaguely familiar, but both of the female executives invited were old enough to be this woman’s mother. “Who did you come with?”

An impish grin played on her pouty pink lips. She held out her hand. “I’m Lauren Brody, with Come For Dinner catering.”

“Oh. I apologize for assuming.” Stupid ass. Caterers could be pretty and well dressed. “I just never expected…wait, have we met?”

Her head jerked back and she gasped, her hand pressing against her stomach. Then just as quickly as she reacted, she calmed. “No we haven’t been introduced. But I’ve catered parties for the Anders’.” Her voice was breathy, almost to the point of a whisper.

“Have you decorated this way before?” His stomach sank. He’d look like a Bob Anders clone, the king of suck-ups.

“No.” She shook her head. “Mrs. Anders had her own sense of style. But I assumed since you had so little time to organize the dinner, you wouldn’t have time to decorate as well. It’s a service we provide for many of our single male clients.”

He quirked an eyebrow. “How did you know I was single?” And did she care?

“I asked your assistant. I needed to know if you would have a date for the evening, for the seating arrangements.”

He nodded furiously. Right, seating arrangements. Couldn’t just tell people to plop down wherever at a formal dinner. Thank goodness Lauren had him covered on that end. For two years Sonja Anders had been gently reminding him he should have a wife, but lately her approach grew more direct. As in blatantly telling him he couldn’t handle his new position without a wife. As if he had the time or energy to devote to a relationship.

Sonja Anders was obviously wrong. He didn’t need a wife, just Come For Dinner catering.

“If you’d like,” Lauren began, “I could give you a run through of how the night will go.” She crossed the room, turning on the stereo and picking up butane lighter from an end table. Cameron had to smile as the sounds of Pink Martini filled the large room.

“Isn’t that a little loud?”

“You want it just a smidge to loud at the beginning. Nothing is worse than stepping into a silent house. Gets the social swirl moving. Do you like it? I have six CDs in the rotation if it’s not your style.”

“No, I’m a fan. The founder went to Harvard, so they’re pretty big back there.”

“You went to Harvard?” Cameron nodded. “Impressive. And a relief. I have two more of their albums in the rotation.”

Cameron liked her before, but with eclectic tastes in music mirroring his own, she was dancing in dangerous territory. If he had time, or cared to risk his reputation with trying a relationship, she’d be an option. But showing his vulnerability to the world was not.

“I’ll turn it down as we start serving cocktails. Raspberry martinis, and of course, Chivas for Mr. Anders. We’ll be serving potato crisps with a caviar dip.” She slid about the room lighting candles. Did she know he needed to romance the team into trusting him?

“For dinner I’ll lower the volume more. Anita Baker should get us through the salad, and beef filet. I’ll crank it when it comes round to Pink Martini again and serve a flourless chocolate cake with raspberries for dessert.”

He watched as she walked around the room like she owned the place, far more comfortable there than he was. But then, she knew how to throw a party. He was in uncharted territory.

“Thank you for putting all of this together tonight. It’s exactly what I needed.”

A gleaming smile lit her face, lifting her rosy cheeks. “I’m glad to hear that. I hope –”

The shrill peal of the phone interrupted her. Cameron held up a finger so she would hold that thought and stepped to the side table lifting the receiver. Before he got out so much as a hello, the doorbell chimed.

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