IN DEBT TO THE DOM
Guilty Pleasures 1
Copyright © 2010
Keaton Rivers settled back in his executive chair and stared at the slowly darkening skyline. From his top floor office at Goldstein Rivers, he had an uninterrupted view. At this time of day with the lights just starting to come on, the city of Chicago looked stunning.
He chewed on his pencil and idly flicked through the personnel files once more. One of the managing directors was leaving in little more than a month’s time, and, as CEO, he always liked to have a hand in their replacement.
So far, he’d narrowed the field down to three candidates. All holding senior positions within the company, they could all bring their own personal skills to the job. He needed to wrap this up before he took his annual month-long vacation.
He flicked a switch on his intercom and spoke. “Leanne, please arrange working lunches with the following—Robert Kincade, Martin Scott, Joe Magnusson, and Maddie James.”
“Yes, Mr. Rivers. Anything else?”
“No. I’m gonna call it a night. You, too, Leanne.”
He turned to the bank of windows and stared once more into the night, seeing without seeing, his mind deep in thought.
So why had he asked the fourth candidate, Maddie James, to lunch? To get her hopes up? He knew he’d already decided against her. At the age of twenty-eight, Maddie James was far too young for such a senior position. Managing Directors were usually in their mid-thirties. Maybe she’d get her chance in a year or two when she’d gained a little more experience, but not now.
The fact was he’d seen Maddie James several times around the office. Those pale green eyes and that wild hair, cascading around her face in a cloud of blonde, intrigued him. He guessed he just wanted to take a closer look to see if she lived up to his expectations. An abuse of his position, he knew, but what was the point of having power if he couldn’t occasionally use it to his own advantage?
* * * *
Maddie James walked purposefully across the restaurant, the heels of her black court shoes sinking deliciously into the luxurious deep pile carpet. Every table she passed was exquisitely laid with cut crystal glass and fine bone china. Floating lilies were large centerpieces on each and every one.
This was fine dining in the extreme, and she took a deep breath to calm her nerves. Meeting her CEO for lunch had caused her one long sleepless night. His rise through the ranks of investment banking had been legendary. Although the son of the then-current CEO, when his father had died, he’d taken on the responsibility with aplomb, breathing new life into Goldstein Rivers.
Now, she needed to pull all her resources together in order to impress him. The position of Managing Director might be the answer to all her recent problems. She really needed this job.
Maybe a miracle might happen after all.
Adjusting the lapels on her dark gray business suit, she finally reached his table. Keaton Rivers was deep in conversation on his cell phone. With a strong jaw, he had deep creases running up to his eyes. Her heart flipped in her chest. Close up, he was extremely attractive, with broad shoulders and a fine physique.
Combing a hand through his jet-black hair, he looked up as she approached and ended the call.
“Maddie, good to see you. Thank you for coming.” He motioned to the seat opposite. “Please sit down.”
Deep blue eyes held her transfixed as she sank into the soft velvet dining chair.
“It’s good of you to consider me for the position of Managing Director, Mr. Rivers.”
He nodded, and then stared at her for what seemed an eternity. He cleared his throat. “What would you like to drink?”
Maddie desperately wanted a large gin and tonic, but said, “Just a sparkling mineral water, please.” It certainly wouldn’t impress him if she had a lunchtime drink, and she desperately needed this promotion. Like, yesterday.
A stray tendril of her willful hair fell across her forehead, and she pushed it nervously aside.
The waiter took their drinks order and then handed them each a menu. As she scanned the expensive card, he spoke. “So, Maddie, tell me what you feel you can bring to the position of Managing Director at Goldstein Rivers.”
Placing his menu down, he linked his fingers together under his chin and leaned on the table. His eyes silently took in every detail of her face as he stared intently at her.
Feeling under intense scrutiny, she smiled. Keaton Rivers was certainly business-like. This was probably his way of seeing if she could cope under pressure. Well, she had pressure coming from all sides. Her sister for one, the sale of her house another, the money she hadn’t quite got enough of, and now the head of Goldstein Rivers interrogating her over a job. Pressure visited her on a regular basis. She was used to it.
* * * *
As he listened to her deposition, he could see why she was on the short list. Confidence oozed from her. It was an ideal attribute when having face to face dealings with clients. In the investment banking world, it was a clear asset. They were dealing with large portfolios. Clients needed to have confidence in the people who managed their accounts.
As impressive as that was, he still couldn’t offer her the position. Clients would also question her lack of experience, too. No, he’d been right. Still, he’d seen her up close, and he felt an undeniable attraction toward her. He wondered if she felt it, too. Blonde hair cascaded about her oval-shaped face in tiny, unruly, corkscrew curls. He noticed she kept brushing them from her eyes. How he would love to just run his fingers through it. He imagined his body servicing hers, stroking her repeatedly with his cock so she mewed loudly beneath him. He shook the thought from his head. This was not the way to behave with an employee.
“So, Maddie, what do you do when you’re not working?”
“This and that. I’m sure it’s all in my personnel file.”
“True, but that’s what you want me to know. What does the real Maddie James do on an evening?”
She laughed. Her fingers idly fiddled with her glass of water. “Well, if you must know, I sit in front of the TV, sipping Chardonnay and eating Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.”
“Sounds very decadent.” He wondered if she had anyone else. According to her personnel files, she wasn’t married, but she was so attractive, surely she had a boyfriend. He let his gaze wander over her hands, noticing she didn’t wear an engagement ring.
“So, is there a special man in your life to share the ice cream and Chardonnay with?”
“Not really. There’s only me, and just for that hour before I go to bed, it’s nice to wind down.”
So she was unattached. He had a thousand questions he wanted to ask, but instead he said, “How does it feel having a supermodel for a sister?” The information was all in her personnel file. Recently, Simone had hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. She was similar in looks to Maddie, but the complete opposite in height. Where Maddie was small and petite, Simone was tall.
Taking a sip of mineral water, she spoke. “I don’t mix very often in her circle. Unfortunately, she’s fallen in with the wrong crowd.” She looked sad for a moment. “In fact, I’ve been meaning to call her to see if she’s all right. Not that I have much influence over her anymore.”
“Well, I wish you luck. I have a brother, and I’m damned fed up telling him to get it together.” He looked up as the waiter approached. “Now what would you like to order for lunch?”
* * * *
Often, Maddie would stay behind after work finalizing letters and contracts, and tonight was no exception. She loved her job with a passion. Maybe that was why she was still single. Her previous partners had all thought she gave far too much attention to her work. When you wanted a successful career, something had to give, and the men in her life had suffered.
Her mind whirled with the tasks she still had to do. A large portfolio of assets needed to be sold to pay death duties. Quickly, she flicked through the stocks. Good. All prime.
The door to her office was ajar, and she looked up as a shadow moved across her peripheral vision.
Keaton Rivers’ large frame stood in the open doorway. He had a smile on his face. “It’s Friday night and it’s late. I didn’t think you’d still be working, Maddie.”
She smiled back. Was it only yesterday when they’d had lunch together? Had he come to tell her about the position? Either way, she had to be pleased that he’d made a personal appearance, but then their lunch had been a very pleasant experience. There had been an easy, relaxed atmosphere between them.
“I usually work late, Mr. Rivers. Force of habit, I suppose, but I find it helps make the following day easier for me.”
Dressed in a dark gray suit, he sauntered across her office and perched on her desk. “Please, call me Keaton.”
“Very well.” Maddie sat back in her chair, her senses aware of the close proximity of him. His large masculine frame seemed to tower over her. With his hand splayed on the mahogany wood of her desk, her gaze traced the strong veins on the back of his hand and the smattering of dark masculine hair that disappeared into the white cuff at his wrist. A simple plain cufflink with the letters KR engraved on it held the white linen in place.
After realizing she was taking far too much interest in his physique, she raised her eyes to his. Big mistake. Keaton Rivers had been studying her the whole time. The breath caught in her throat. If she didn’t know any better, she might actually think he was coming on to her.
She cleared her throat. “Can I get you a coffee, Keaton?”
A faint smile brushed his lips. “For me, it’s too late in the evening for coffee. What else do you have?”
“Then water will do just fine.”
Maddie rose from her desk and walked out into the corridor and filled two Styrofoam cups from the cooler. When she returned, Keaton was still perched on her desk, his fingers idly flicking through her diary, until she handed him the cup.
“I don’t suppose you’ve a bottle of bourbon hidden away?”
She laughed. “No. Sorry to disappoint you.”
“Maddie, you don’t disappoint.” He smiled as he gazed at her. He reached out and took the cup from her hand, placing them both on the desk. “Look, Maddie, the reason I came here was to ask if you’d like to have dinner with me one evening.”
“Oh?” Maddie felt her brows rise in surprise. Had Keaton Rivers just asked her on a date? Was the boss of Goldstein Rivers interested in her? To say she was flattered was an understatement.
“I see you look lost for words, Maddie.”
“Just a little surprised,” she answered truthfully. “Is this business or—”
He pulled her into his arms and delivered a hot steamy kiss that left her in no doubt about his intentions. She couldn’t help but respond, enjoying the delicious male scent that seemed to swamp her senses. His hands wove into her hair, as he pulled her into his embrace.
“This is strictly personal, Maddie. I like you and feel that we have a lot in common. Surely you can tell that?”
She shook her head as her eyes connected with his. He seemed to stare right into her soul. “I’m afraid I’ve been out of circulation for a while. For the last few years, I’ve focused entirely on my career.”
“Hmm.” He smiled at her, his eyes flicking from her hands to her face. “Now, this promotion, Maddie. That’s another reason why I came in person. Upon reflection, you’re too young for the position of MD, but I’m sure we can come to some agreement about promoting you in the future.”
Immediately, she was transported back to the beginning of her career. At the tender age of twenty-one she remembered her first encounter with a so-called executive manager. His abuse of power had put her completely off men for a whole year.
“I see.” She pushed him away and moved around her desk, and then sank into her chair. Her whole life was unraveling around her. She really needed this job. It would solve all her financial problems. Now it looked like Keaton Rivers wanted something in exchange.
“So, Mr. Rivers. Let me get this straight. I go out with you, and…” She waved a hand in front of her in a dismissive manner. “And you’ll see that I get promoted. Isn’t that rather convenient?” She raised her chin, her mind made up. “Thank you for your dinner invitation, but I have to decline.”
He twisted around to meet her frosty gaze, an amused expression on his face. “Promotion was the last thing on my mind.”
“So I noticed, Mr. Rivers. I don’t care if you’re the CEO of Goldstein Rivers. I’m not sleeping my way to the top. I have my principles.”
“Then I admire your principles. There’s one thing you should also know about me. I don’t give away high-powered jobs to just anyone. They have to have some merit. They have to earn my respect.”
“I know all about the type of hoops that women are made to jump through in order to achieve success, and I’m not about to go down that route.”
“Everyone has a price, Maddie.” He held up his hands. “Now, please, let’s say no more. We have a genuine misunderstanding here. Let’s just leave it at that.” He stood and began walking from the office. Just as he got to the doorway he turned. “If you change—”
“Careful, Mr. Rivers, or you may find yourself looking at an indictment for sexual harassment.” Maddie held her breath. She knew she’d said too much, but the moment had just caught her off guard. Keaton Rivers had wanted her, and she’d just thrown it all back at him. Why? Just because she didn’t get the job? Was she crazy? He was an incredibly attractive man, and, truth be known, she wanted him, too. It was just how her life always worked out. One step forward, two steps back. Everything was unraveling around her. She still needed to sell her house before the bank foreclosed on her.
If she could just hold out for a month or two while the house sale went through, then this financial burden would finally be lifted. And if her sister asked for any more money, she would just have to be firm and say no.
Keaton’s gaze hardened as he stared at her. “Be assured that I won’t be bothering you again, Ms. James.”