Chapter One One
My father always said the way to learn the job you want is to spend every second watching someone do it.
“To get the job at the top, you’ve got to start at the bottom,” he told me. “Become the person the CEO can’t live without. Be their right-hand man. Learn their world, and they’ll snatch you up the second you finish your degree.”
I had become irreplaceable. And I’d definitely become the Right Hand. It just so happened that in this case, I was the right hand that most days wanted to slap the damn face.
My boss, Mr. Bennett Ryan. Beautiful Bastard.
My stomach clenched tightly at the thought of him: tall, gorgeous, and entirely evil. He was the most self-righteous, pompous prick I’d ever met. I’d hear all of the other women in the office gossip about his escapades and wonder if a nice face was all it took. But my father also said, “You realize early in life that beauty is only skin-deep, and ugly goes straight to the bone.” I’d had my fair share of unpleasant men in the past few years, dated a few in high school and college. But this one took the cake.
“Well, hello Miss Mills!” Mr. Ryan stood in the doorway to my office that served as an anteroom to his. His voice was laced with honey, but it was all wrong… like honey left to freeze and crack on ice.
After spilling water on my phone, dropping my earrings into the garbage disposal, being rear-ended on the interstate, and having to wait for the cops to come and tell us what we both already knew—that it was the other guy’s fault—the last thing I needed this morning was a grumpy Mr. Ryan.
Too bad for me he didn’t come in any other flavor.
I gave him my usual. “Good morning, Mr. Ryan,” hoping he would give me his usual curt nod in return.
But when I tried to slip past him, he murmured, “Indeed? ‘Morning,’ Miss Mills? What time is it in your little world?”
I stopped and met his cold stare. He was a good eight inches taller than me, and before working for him I’d never felt so small. I’d worked for Ryan Media Group for six years. But since his return to the family business nine months ago, I’d taken to wearing heels I used to consider circus height just so I could approach him near eye level. Even so, I still had to tilt my head to look up at him, and he clearly relished it, hazel eyes flashing.
“I had a bit of a disaster morning. It won’t happen again,” I said, relieved that my voice came out steady. I had never been late, not once, but leave it to him to make a thing of it the first time it happened. I managed to slip past him, put my purse and coat in my closet, and power up my computer. I tried to act like he wasn’t standing in the doorway, watching every move I made.
“?‘Disaster morning’ is quite an apt description for what I’ve had to deal with in your absence. I spoke to Alex Schaffer personally to smooth over the fact that he didn’t get the signed contracts when promised: nine a.m., East Coast time. I had to call Madeline Beaumont personally to let her know we were, in fact, going to proceed with the proposal as written. In other words, I’ve done your job and mine this morning. Surely, even with a ‘disaster morning’ you can manage eight a.m.? Some of us get up and start working before the brunch hour.”
I glanced up at him, antagonizing me, glaring, arms crossed over his broad chest—and all because I was an hour late. I blinked away, very deliberately not staring at the way his dark tailored suit stretched across his shoulders. I had made the mistake of visiting the hotel gym during a convention the first month we worked together and walked in to find him sweaty and shirtless next to the treadmill. He had a face that any male model would kill for and the most incredible hair I’ve ever seen on a man. Freshly fucked hair. That’s what the girls downstairs called it, and according to them, it earned its title. The image of him wiping his chest with his shirt was forever burned into my brain.
Of course, he’d had to ruin it by opening his mouth: “It’s nice to see you finally taking an interest in your physical fitness, Miss Mills.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Ryan,” I said with just a hint of bite. “I understand the burden I placed on you by making you manage a fax machine and pick up a telephone. As I mentioned, it won’t happen again.”
“You’re right, it won’t,” he replied, cocky smile firmly in place.
If only he would keep his mouth shut, he’d be perfect. A piece of duct tape would do the trick. I had some in my desk that I’d occasionally pull out and fondle, hoping someday I could put it to good use.
“And just so you don’t allow this incident to slip your memory, I’d like to see the full status tables for the Schaffer, Colton, and Beaumont projects on my desk by five. And then you’re going to make up the hour lost this morning by doing a mock board presentation of the Papadakis account for me in the conference room at six. If you’re going to manage this account, you’re going to prove to me that you know what the hell you’re doing.”
My eyes widened as I watched him turn away, slamming his office door behind him. He knew damn well that I was ahead of schedule with this project, which also served as my MBA thesis. I still had months to finish my slides once the contracts were signed… which they weren’t—they hadn’t even been fully drafted. Now, with everything else on my plate, he wanted me to put together a mock board presentation in… I looked at my watch. Great, seven and a half hours, if I skipped lunch. I opened the Papadakis file and got down to it.
As everyone began filtering out for lunch, I remained glued to my desk with my coffee and a bag of trail mix I’d bought from the vending machine. Normally I’d bring leftovers or leave with the other interns to grab something, but time was not on my side today. I heard the outer office door open and looked up, smiling as Sara Dillon walked in. Sara was in the same MBA internship program at Ryan Media Group that I was, though she worked in accounting.
“Ready for lunch?” she asked.
“I’m going to have to skip it. This is the day from hell.” I looked at her apologetically, and her smile turned into a smirk.
“Day from hell, or boss from hell?” She took a seat on the edge of my desk. “I heard he was on a bit of a rampage this morning.”
I gave her a knowing look. Sara didn’t work for him, but she knew all about Bennett Ryan. As the youngest son of company founder Elliott Ryan, and with a notoriously short fuse, he was a living legend in the building. “Even if there were two of me, I wouldn’t be able to get this finished in time.”
“You sure you don’t want me to bring you back something?” Her eyes moved in the direction of his office. “A hit man? Some holy water?”
I laughed. “I’m good.”
Sara smiled and left the office. I’d just finished off the last of my coffee when I bent down, noting a run in my stockings. “And on top of everything else,” I began, hearing Sara return, “I’ve already snagged these. Actually, if you’re going somewhere there’s chocolate, bring me back fifty pounds, so I can eat my feelings later.”
I glanced up and saw that it wasn’t Sara standing there. My cheeks flushed red and I pulled my skirt back down.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Ryan, I—”
“Miss Mills, since you and the other office girls have plenty of time to discuss problematic lingerie, in addition to putting together the Papadakis presentation, I need you to also run down to the Willis office and retrieve the market analysis and segmentation for Beaumont.” He straightened his tie, looking at his reflection in my window. “Do you think you can manage that?”
Did he just call me an “office girl”? Sure, as part of my internship I often did some basic assistant work for him, but he knew damn well I had worked for this company for years before receiving a JT Miller scholarship to Northwestern. I was four months away from getting my business degree.
Getting my degree and getting the hell out from under you, I thought. I looked up to meet his blazing eyes. “I’ll be happy to ask Sam if she—”
“It wasn’t a suggestion,” he cut me off. “I’d like you to pick them up.” He gazed at me for a moment with a clenched jaw before turning on his heel and storming back to his office, pulling the door closed roughly behind him.
What the fuck was his problem? Was slamming doors like a teenager really necessary? I grabbed my blazer from the back of the chair and began making my way to our satellite office a few buildings down.
When I returned, I knocked on his door but there was no response. I tried the knob. Locked. He was probably having a late-afternoon quickie with some trust fund princess while I ran around Chicago like an insane person. I shoved the manila folder through the mail slot, hoping the papers scattered everywhere and he’d have to get down and sort them himself. Would serve him right. I rather liked the image of him on his knees on the floor, gathering scattered documents. Then again, knowing him, he would call me into that sterile hellhole to clean it up while he watched.
Four hours later I had the status updates complete, my slides mostly in order, and I was almost hysterically laughing with how awful this day was. I found myself plotting a very bloody and drawn-out murder of the kid at The Copy Stop. A simple job, that’s all I had asked. Make some copies, bind some things. Should have been a piece of cake. In and out. But no. It had taken two hours.
I raced down the darkened hall of the now-empty building, the presentation materials clutched haphazardly in my arms, and glanced at my watch. Six twenty. Mr. Ryan was going to have my ass. I was twenty minutes late. As I experienced this morning, he hated late. “Late” was a word not found in the Bennett Ryan Dickhead Dictionary. Along with “heart,” “kindness,” “compassion,” “lunch break,” or “thank you.”
So there I was, running through the empty halls in my stilt-like Italian pumps, racing to the executioner.
Breathe, Chloe. He can smell fear.
As I neared the conference room, I tried to calm my breathing and slowed to a walk. Soft light shone from beneath the closed door. He was definitely in there, waiting for me. Carefully, I attempted to smooth my hair and clothing while tidying the bundle of documents in my arms. Taking a deep breath, I knocked on the door.
I walked into the warmly lit space. The conference room was huge; one wall was filled with floor-to-ceiling windows that gave a beautiful view of the Chicago cityscape from eighteen stories up. Dusk darkened the sky outside, and skyscrapers speckled the horizon with their lighted windows. In the center of the room stood a large heavy wood conference table, and facing me from the head of the table was Mr. Ryan.
He sat there, suit jacket hanging on the chair behind him, tie loosened, crisp white shirtsleeves rolled up to his elbows, and chin resting on his steepled fingers. His eyes were boring into mine, but he said nothing.
“I apologize, Mr. Ryan,” I said, my voice wavering with my still labored breathing, “The print job took—” I stopped. Excuses wouldn’t help my situation. And besides, I wasn’t going to let him blame me for something I had no control over. He could kiss my ass. With my newfound bravery in place, I lifted my chin and walked over to where he sat.
Without meeting his gaze, I sorted through my papers and placed a copy of the presentation on the table before us. “Are you ready for me to begin?”
He didn’t respond aloud, his eyes piercing my brave front. This would be a lot easier if he wasn’t so gorgeous. Instead, he gestured toward the materials before him, urging me to continue.
I cleared my throat and began my presentation. As I moved through the different aspects of the proposal, he stayed silent, staring directly at his copy. Why was he so calm? His temper tantrums I could handle. But the eerie silence? It was unnerving.
I was leaning over the table, gesturing toward a set of graphs, when it happened.
“Their timeline for the first milestone is a little ambi—” I stopped midsentence, my breath caught in my throat. His hand pressed gently into my lower back before sliding down, settling on the curve of my ass. In the nine months I had worked for him, he had never intentionally touched me.
This was most definitely intentional.
The heat from his hand burned through my skirt and into my skin. Every muscle in my body tensed, and it felt like my insides were liquefying. What the hell was he doing? My brain screamed at me to push his hand off, to tell him to never touch me again, but my body had other ideas. My nipples hardened, and I clenched my jaw in response. Traitor nipples.
While my heart pounded in my chest, at least half a minute passed, and neither of us said anything as his hand moved down to my thigh, caressing. Our breathing and the muted noise of the city below were the only sounds in the still air of the conference room.
“Turn around, Miss Mills.” His quiet voice broke the silence and I straightened my back, eyes facing forward. Slowly I turned, his hand skimming across me and sliding to my hip. I could feel the way his hand spread from his fingertips on my lower back all the way to where his thumb pressed against the soft skin just in front of my hipbone. I looked down to meet his eyes, which looked intently back at me.
I could see his chest rising and falling, each breath deeper than the last. A muscle twitched in his sharp jaw as his thumb began to move, slowly sliding back and forth, his eyes never leaving mine. He was waiting for me to stop him; there had been plenty of time for me to shove him away, or simply turn and leave. But I had too many feelings to sort out before I could react. I had never felt this way, and I had never expected to feel this about him. I wanted to slap him, and then pull him up by his shirt and lick his neck.
“What are you thinking?” he whispered, eyes somehow both mocking and anxious.
“I’m still trying to figure that out.”
With those eyes still locked to mine, he began to slide his hand lower. His fingers ran down my thigh, to the hem of my skirt. He moved it up so his fingertips traced the strap of my garter belt, the lace edge of one thigh-high stocking. A long finger slipped beneath the thin fabric and pulled it down slightly. I sucked in a sharp breath, feeling suddenly like I was melting from the outside in.
How could I let my body react like this? I still wanted to slap him, but now, more than that, I wanted him to keep going. The heavy ache between my legs was building. He reached the edge of my panties and slipped his fingers under the fabric. I felt him slide against my skin and graze my clit before pushing his finger inside me, and I bit my lip trying, unsuccessfully, to stifle my groan. When I looked down at him, beads of sweat were forming on his brow.
“Fuck,” he growled quietly. “You’re wet.” His eyes fell closed and he seemed to be waging the same internal battle I was. I glanced down at his lap and could see him straining against the smooth fabric of his pants. Without opening his eyes, he withdrew his finger and fisted the thin lace of my panties in his hand. He was shaking as he looked up at me, fury clear in his expression. In one quick movement he tore them off, the rip of the fabric echoing in the silence.
He pulled my hips roughly, lifting me up onto the cold table and spreading my legs in front of him. I gave an involuntary groan as his fingers returned, sliding between my legs and pushing into me again. I despised this man in a singularly sharp way, but my body was betraying me; I craved more of what he was doing. Damn if he wasn’t good at this. His weren’t the gentle loving touches I was accustomed to. Here was a man used to getting what he wanted, and it turned out that right now, what he wanted was me. My head fell to the side as I leaned back on my elbows, feeling my impending orgasm approaching fast.
To my absolute horror I actually whimpered, “Oh, please.”
He stopped moving, pulling his fingers back and holding them in a fist before him. I sat up, grabbing his silk tie and pulling his mouth roughly against mine. His lips felt as perfect as they looked, firm and smooth. I’d never been kissed by someone who clearly knew every single angle and dip and teasing move to make me almost completely lose my mind.
I bit his lower lip as my hands made quick work down to the front of his pants, whipping his belt free of the loops. “You better be ready to finish what you started.”
He made a low, angry noise deep in his throat and took my blouse in his hands, ripping it open, the silver buttons skittering across the long conference table.
He slid his hands up my ribs and over my breasts, thumbs slipping back and forth across my taut nipples, his dark stare fixated on my expression the entire time. His hands were big, and rough almost to the point of pain, but instead of wincing or backing off, I pushed into his palms wanting more, and harder.
He growled, fingers tightening. It occurred to me I might bruise, and for a sick moment I hoped I did. I wanted a way to remember this feeling, of being completely sure of what my body wanted, entirely unleashed.
He leaned close enough to bite my shoulder, whispering, “You fucking tease.”
Unable to get close enough, I quickened my pace on his zipper, shoving his pants and his boxers to the floor. I gave his cock a hard squeeze, feeling him pulse against my palm.
The way he hissed my last name—“Mills”—should have sent a rush of fury through me, but I only felt one thing right now: pure, unadulterated lust. He forced my skirt up my thighs and pushed me back on the conference table. Before I could utter a single word, he took hold of my ankles, grabbed his cock, and took a step forward, thrusting deep inside me.
I couldn’t even be horrified by the loud moan I let out—he felt better than anything.
“What’s that?” he hissed through clenched teeth, his hips slapping against my thighs, driving him deep inside. “Never been fucked like this before, have you? You wouldn’t be such a tease if you were being properly fucked.”
Who did he think he was? And why the hell did it turn me on so much that he was right? I had never had sex anywhere but on a bed, and it never felt like this.
“I’ve had better,” I taunted.
He laughed, a quiet mocking sound. “Look at me.”
He pulled out just as I was about to come. At first I thought he was actually going to leave me this way, until he grabbed my arms and yanked me up off the table, lips and tongue pressing against mine.
“Look at me,” he said again. And, finally, with him no longer inside me, I could. He blinked once, slowly, long dark lashes brushing against his cheek, and then said, “Ask me to make you come.”
His tone was all wrong. It was almost a question, but his words were just like him—all bastard. I did want him to make me come. More than anything. But I’d be damned if I’d ever ask him for anything.
I dropped my voice and stared back at him. “You’re an asshole, Mr. Ryan.”
His smile told me that whatever he’d needed from me, he got. I wanted to slam my knees up into his balls, but then I wouldn’t get more of what I really wanted.
“Say please, Miss Mills.”
“Please, go fuck yourself.”
The next thing I felt was the cold window against my breasts, and I groaned at the intense contrast in temperature between it and his skin. I was on fire; every part of me wanted to feel his rough touch.
“At least you’re consistent,” he snarled into my ear before biting my shoulder. He kicked at my feet. “Spread your legs.”
I parted my legs and without hesitation he pulled my hips back and reached between us before thrusting forward into me.
“You like the cold?”
“Devious, filthy girl. You like being watched, don’t you?” he murmured, taking my earlobe between his teeth. “You love that all of Chicago can look up here and see you getting fucked, and you loving every minute of it with your pretty tits pressed against the glass.”
“Stop talking, you’re ruining it.” Though he wasn’t. Not even close. His gravelly voice was doing wicked things to me.
But he just laughed in my ear and probably noticed the way I shivered at the sound. “You want them to see you come?”
I groaned in response, unable to form words with each repeated thrust into me, pressing me further against the glass.
“Say it. You want to come, Miss Mills? Answer me or I’ll stop and make you suck me off instead,” he hissed, driving himself deeper and deeper inside me with every thrust.
The part of me that hated him was dissolving like sugar on my tongue, and the part that wanted everything he had to give me was growing, hot and demanding.
“Just tell me.” He leaned forward, sucked my earlobe between his lips and then gave it a sharp bite. “I promise I’ll give it to you.”
“Please,” I said, closing my eyes to shut out everything else and just feel him. “Please. Yes.”
He reached around, moving his fingertips across my clit with the perfect pressure, the perfect rhythm. I could feel his smile press into the back of my neck, and when he opened his mouth and pressed his teeth to my skin, I was done for. Warmth spread down my spine, around my hips, and between my legs, jerking me back into him. My hands slammed against the glass, my entire body quaking from the orgasm that was rushing over me, leaving me gasping for air. When it finally subsided, he pulled out and spun me around to face him, ducking his head to suck my neck, my jaw, my lower lip.
“Say thank you,” he whispered.
I dug my hands into his hair and tugged hard, hoping I could get some reaction out of him, wanting to see if he was in control or delusional. What are we doing?
He groaned, leaning into my hands and kissing up and down my neck, pressing his erection into my stomach. “Now make me feel good.”
I released one hand and brought it down to his cock and began stroking him. He was heavy, and long, and perfect in my palm. I wanted to tell him, but I’d be damned if I ever let him know how amazing he felt. Instead, I pulled away from his lips, staring at him with hooded eyes.
“I’m going to make you come so hard you forget that you’re supposed to be the world’s biggest asshole,” I growled, sliding down the glass before slowly taking his entire cock in my mouth and back against my throat. He tensed and let out a deep moan. I looked up at him, his palms and forehead resting on the glass, his eyes closed tight. He looked vulnerable, and he looked gorgeous in his abandon.
But he wasn’t vulnerable. He was the biggest jerk on the planet and I was on my knees in front of him. No fucking way.
So instead of giving him what I knew he wanted, I stood up, pulled my skirt back down, and met his eyes. It was easier now, without him touching me and making me feel things he had no business doing.
The seconds ticked by, neither of us looking away.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” he rasped. “Get on your knees and open your mouth.”
“Not a chance.”
I pulled the front of my buttonless shirt together and walked out, praying my shaky legs wouldn’t betray me.
Grabbing my purse from my desk, I threw my blazer on, trying desperately to fasten the button with my trembling fingers. Mr. Ryan still hadn’t come out, and I ran to the elevator praying to God it would get there before I had to face him again.
I couldn’t even let myself think about what happened until I was out of there. I’d let him fuck me, give me the most amazing orgasm of my life, and then I’d left him with his pants around his ankles in the company conference room with the worst case of blue balls known to any man. If this was someone else’s life I would be high-fiving them so hard. Too bad it wasn’t.
The doors opened and I entered, quickly pushing the button and watching as each floor counted down. As soon as the elevator reached the lobby I raced out and down the hall. I briefly heard the security guard say something about working late, but I just waved and sped past him.
With each step the ache between my legs reminded me of the events of the last hour. As I reached my car I unlocked it with the remote, pulled open the door, and collapsed into the safety of the leather seats. I looked up at myself in the rearview mirror.
What in the fuck was that?