Only with You (The Best Mistake #1) - Page 6

Well…more wary, anyway.

“Yes,” he replied stiffly. “Laura was supposed to start tomorrow, but her fiancé received a job offer in Atlanta that they couldn’t pass up.”

“So you’re short a staff member,” Brynn pressed. “Going to be pretty tough to be CEO if you’re trying to answer your own phone.”

Oh no. No no no. Fire alarms started blaring in Sophie’s head.

“Brynn,” she began in a warning tone.

But her sister ignored her and remained fixed on Gray. “Well, I was just thinking…you’re short an assistant, and Sophie’s short a job.”

Sophie saw the moment Gray realized what Brynn was up to. His eyes widened in horror.

Yeah. Exactly.

“Brynn…” she said again.

Again, her sister ignored her plea. “Sophie can easily adapt to the professional world. Sure she’s done mostly restaurant stuff for a few years, but back in college she spent a couple years as a temp receptionist, and she had a great internship during law school.”

Gray’s eyes flew to hers. “You went to law school?”

“Dropout,” Sophie said sweetly.

“But still,” Brynn pressed. “She would be a fantastic assistant.”

Gray continued to look a little dazed by Brynn’s suggestion. Even Sophie’s parents were staring at their oldest daughter in puzzlement, no doubt wondering why Brynn was trying to push Sophie’s mediocrity onto her new perfect boyfriend.

“You’re being a control freak,” Will told Brynn.

“I’m being helpful,” Brynn corrected, before leaning expectantly toward Gray. “So what do you think? You can at least give her a chance, right?”

“I, um…I don’t think…I suppose…”

Sophie realized in sudden horror what was about to happen. This man’s complete social ineptitude was about to land them both in an intolerable situation.

The pinched expression on Gray’s face said that having Sophie for an employee was the last thing he wanted. But the fumbling look of panic in his eyes was even more alarming; he didn’t know how to say no. He was about to make things worse.

“I am not working for your boyfriend,” Sophie said harshly, cutting off Gray’s babbling. “And I’m not working in a godforsaken office.”

“Now, Sophie,” her mother said, apparently coming around to the idea, “it could be a great opportunity…”

“An opportunity to what, learn how to staple?”

“You don’t know how to staple?” Will asked.

“It could get your foot in the door, Soph,” Chris said, looking thoughtful.

Great. Just great. Now her whole family was warming up to this ridiculous plot. Sophie looked at Will in desperation, but he just shrugged and rubbed his fingers together meaningfully.

Right.

Money.

Something she had none of. And something she’d need soon if she wanted to be able to pay her bills and eat something other than rice cakes. Shoulda thought of that before giving your two weeks’ notice, she reminded herself.

Gray cleared his throat roughly. “Ms. Dalton, it doesn’t sound like a career in hotel hospitality holds much interest for you, but I’d be happy to discuss the possibility of employment with you should you change your mind.”

Sophie was so startled to hear Gray addressing her directly that it took a few moments for the actual words to sink in.

She stared at him. “You want me to come work for you?”

His wince said it all. No.

“If you would like,” he replied, giving her an intent look with a hidden message.

Ah. There it was. He wanted her to get them out of this mess so he could save face. Here the perfect CEO was, throwing a bone at the pathetic, loser sister.

And his expression made it clear that as the poor loser sister, Sophie was supposed to do what her family was expecting her to do: refuse the responsible option.

For once, they were in agreement. Refusal had been on the tip of her tongue from the moment she’d realized where Brynn was going with her well-meaning interference.

The whole point of quitting Stump’s was to regain some self-respect. And working for a man who despised her was not the path to emotional validation.

Except…

“I accept,” she heard herself say.

Five pairs of startled eyes stared at her. Even Brynn looked surprised, and she was the one who’d engineered this whole disaster.

“Are you sure, Soph?” Will asked, looking uncharacteristically somber.

Not at all.

“Mr. Wyatt here offered me a great opportunity,” she said with a calm she didn’t feel. “As my parents so gently pointed out, I’d be a fool not to take it.”

She met Gray’s eyes as she said this, and the stormy disbelief she read there made her realize exactly why she’d done it.

Revenge.

CHAPTER FOUR

Gray told himself he wasn’t watching the clock.

But when the knock came at his door, he was prepared.

Hell, he should be prepared. He’d been up half the night trying to decide exactly how to play this moment.

“Come in,” he called, only after carefully schooling his face into a mask of cool indifference. No doubt his new “assistant” thought she could stroll in whenever she pleased because her sister was dating the boss.

Gray knew women like Sophie Dalton. Women whose middle names were “manipulation.” They manipulated the system, their careers. Men.

Especially men.

And Gray had no intention of being played. Certainly not by a troublesome ditz who dressed like a hooker in her spare time and went out of her way to stand out like a sore thumb in an otherwise impeccably mannered family.

He needed to put distance between them. Immediately.

But the woman standing at his doorway was not the too-sexy blonde he’d been waiting for.

It was Ms. Jennings, the company’s HR manager. He stifled a groan. Not that there was anything wrong with her. It was just employees in general. Not exactly his strong suit.

Ms. Jennings…Beth, if he remembered correctly…was not a particularly attractive woman. She didn’t try to be. He liked that about her. It kept everything simpler. Her ink-black hair was too dark against pale skin, and the choppy, chin-length cut did nothing to soften her broad features.

Like most men, Gray knew little about women’s fashion, but it was obvious that her army-green slacks and boxy blue blazer would never be featured in any fashion magazine.

But all interactions with Ms. Jennings so far had pointed to efficiency. And that was all he cared about.

Gray realized he’d been staring at her, and as a result her welcoming smile had faded slightly as she shuffled her feet nervously.

“Ms. Jennings, come in,” he said, realizing that they’d been working together for a few days now and he’d barely spoken to her. He racked his brain for idle chatter. The book he’d bought on being a relatable manager had said something about expressing interest in employees themselves, as well as in their work.

Which really was just another way of promoting small talk. His Achilles’ heel.

Gray desperately grasped for a topic that would say I’m interested rather than I’m prying.

Are you married? Any children?

No way. Too personal.

Any cats?

Too stereotyping.

Can you recommend a dentist?

Ugh. Then she’d think he’d been studying her teeth.

“How was traffic?” he asked finally. He immediately winced. Was this the best he could do? There were probably species of ferns that would make better company than him.

“Traffic was fine, thanks,” she said, her brow furrowing.

“For me too,” he said with a curt nod. Jesus, Gray.

Ms. Jennings’ face relaxed slightly at his awkward response. Clearly she’d realized he wasn’t intimidating so much as pathetic. He wasn’t sure which was worse.

“I made a fresh pot of coffee,” she said, approaching his desk and extending a cup toward him. “I took a guess. Black?”

He preferred a splash of cream, actually. And he’d already gotten his coffee. But he surreptitiously passed his old cup aside and accepted the company mug with a curt thank-you.

“Ms. Jennings, do you happen to know anything about the…” Gray broke off and gestured at the walls surrounding his desk.

“Ah yes,” she said with a resigned sigh. “The trophies.”

“Is that what you call them?”

“It’s what Martin called them. I call them atrocities.”

Gray was inclined to agree with Ms. Jennings’ assessment. His successor had failed to mention that he’d be leaving his wall decorations behind. The CEO office of Brayburn Luxuries looked like a menagerie. No matter which direction he looked, Gray found himself staring at an elk, a moose, a bear, and some animal he didn’t even recognize.

Between the hunting trophies, the rocking chair–style desk chair, and the fact that he was pretty certain there were occasional safari noises coming from somewhere, Gray’s nerves were starting to fray.

The first day on a new job was stressful enough without having to

work in the middle of a zoo in an unfamiliar city.

With an assistant he’d accused of being a damn streetwalker.

As if reading his thoughts, Ms. Jennings brightened. “Perhaps your new assistant can take care removing Martin’s decor and finding something more your style. She starts today, right?”

“Yes.”

“Well I’m just glad you were able to find someone else so quickly! It’s a shame about Laura not working out—we all liked her when she came in for interviews.”

Gray might not be great with people, but he didn’t miss the slight censure in the HR manager’s tone. She hadn’t been happy about having to do rush paperwork for an employee she’d never even met. Apparently Martin Brayburn had been a fan of “group hiring” to make sure everyone had good rapport.

Gray wasn’t even sure he knew what “good rapport” meant.

“I appreciate you helping establish Sophie into the system so quickly. I know it’s not common procedure.”

He tried for a grateful smile and was relieved when she softened slightly. “No problem. I’m sure she’s wonderful if you hired her on the fly.”

Wonderful?

Sophie was definitely not wonderful. She was more like…

Well, there really wasn’t a word for Sophie Dalton.

When he’d seen her that night in Las Vegas, she’d just been so damn inappropriate. The hair, the sparkly eyelashes, the endless display of creamy skin. Those friggin’ thigh-high boots that practically begged to be wrapped around a man’s waist…

And the not-so-minor fact that she’d been the spitting image of the woman who’d broken his heart.

You stomped all over a stranger’s dignity because of a woman you haven’t seen in over a year. Well done, sir.

So Vegas had been a disaster.

And the train wreck that was the Dalton family dinner hadn’t been much better. Gray had already been annoyed at himself for letting himself get talked into joining Brynn at her parents’ house. He’d been having a brief wave of loneliness and she’d caught him at a bad time.

But he would have endured a lifetime of solitary evenings not to have to seen the horror on Sophie’s face when she’d walked into the room and seen him.

Hell, he should have been feeling horror as well. Instead he’d felt dismay.

Dismay that the Las Vegas showgirl he’d been fantasizing about for the past two weeks was really an all-American girl next door. And sister to the woman he was seeing.

Not that he and Brynn were serious. Not even close. Hell, when she’d called to invite him to dinner, he’d barely been able to picture her face.

But that didn’t mean he was okay with being attracted to her little sister. And he was definitely attracted.

There would be no more of that.

He’d learned the hard way that charming, manipulative women like Sophie were not for him.

Grayson Wyatt did not repeat mistakes.

“How’d you find her?” Ms. Jennings asked curiously. “Did she come recommended?”

Gray nearly snorted. The only person likely to recommend Sophie Dalton would be a gigolo or one of her patrons at that bar where she’d worked. Surely nobody in the professional world would want a piece of aimless fluff wandering around the office.

Then why did you offer her the job? his mind nagged.

He clenched his coffee mug in irritation at his own misstep. She wasn’t supposed to accept. In fact, he’d been certain that she wouldn’t. She’d made it perfectly clear that she couldn’t stand the sight of him.

And yet, he’d misread her. No surprise there, but it didn’t make the situation any less…dire. They’d barely been able to make it through dinner without suffocating each other with hostile tension. At least, he thought it was hostility. It was possible the tension was slightly more…sexual.

Either way, working in close proximity was a singularly bad idea.

Where is the wretched minx?

He glanced down at his watch with a scowl. “She’s supposed to start today.”

It had been nearly a week since the disastrous dinner at the Dalton household, but it had taken a few days for all the paperwork to go through. A few days in which he’d been certain she’d reconsider. A few days in which to order himself to grow some balls and back out of the arrangement.

But he hadn’t. Backing out before she’d even had a chance to start felt petty.

Didn’t mean he had to be happy about it.