Jessica just landed the job of a lifetime, working as the second-in-command to Scott Michaels. The only problem is Spencer Michaels, the other CEO—and the man she was hired to replace. When he finds out about her, Spencer stops at nothing to make sure she knows her place… And even though he’s blind, going through a divorce, and a total dick, Jessica can’t help but fall for him.
Age Rating: 18+ (BDSM, Roleplay)
I squinted down at a press release alert on my phone: “MICHAELS HOTEL SYNDICATE REVEALS PLANS TO RENOVATE PROPERTY IN TUSCANY.” Underneath the headline was a photo of Scott and Spencer Micheals, the handsome pair spearheading the decision. Those brothers who were staring up at me from my phone also happened to be my bosses.
I studied their smiling faces, internally screaming, “Shit, shit, SHIT.” The news had been released too early—it wasn’t scheduled to be posted until next week. Scott was going to have a meltdown when he saw it.
I didn’t have time to think about that right now. I pulled open the door to the boardroom and saw a table surrounded by men. They were all middle-aged, armed in Armani, and watching my every move with disbelief. Scott Michaels was an imposing man, and I looked a little young to be his Second-in-Command.
Since Spencer was taking time off from helping his brother run their successful family hotel business, Scott had brought me on to handle anything he couldn’t. Getting hired for this job was as much of a shock to me as it did to everyone else.
Granted, I did graduate with honors from a top-tier university with a master’s degree in business and an impressive resume, but that’s not what the men at this boardroom table saw when they looked at me. No, these men saw a pretty twenty-five-year-old with vibrant red hair and a picture-perfect smile.
My looks were a disadvantage here. I had to work harder, speak louder, and think smarter than everyone else in the room just to be heard. I want to be liked, sure, but here, that meant letting people walk all over me. One wrong move, and everyone would assume I made my way up the corporate ladder the hard way.
“Good morning, gentlemen.” I nodded at them as I took my seat at the table. “Scott’s sorry he couldn’t make it. He’s tied up at the office, but I promise I’ll pass along a comprehensive overview of your presentation.”
“You’re the only one he sent?” Mr. Wallace, a man wearing a charcoal grey suit, asked, clicking his tongue.
“I’m his business analyst, Mr. Wallace. So yes, I’ll be here to analyze your proposal.” The man was clearly annoyed he’d be presenting his million-dollar proposal to a girl young enough to be his daughter, but that wasn’t my problem. “Whenever you’re ready.”
The man sighed and slid a folder toward me. I opened it, seeing a bunch of documents with figures inside. I glanced through them as he began to speak.
“Tropic Relaxation is a brand known for its spas around the world. Today, we propose a partnership with the Michaels Hotel Group as a mutually profitable venture for both companies. If you look at the figures on the first sheet, you’ll find our last month’s profit margins at a hotel similar in size and location to your Delilah Estate.”
The Delilah Estate was the hotel in Tuscany that we were currently looking to revamp. One of the bigger projects included adding a state-of-the-art luxury spa, which is why I was in this boardroom. Tropic Relaxation was one of many spa companies looking to win the bid to construct and operate facilities on the property.
I closed the folder in front of me and looked Mr. Wallace in the eye. “Tell me, what’s the most profitable spa service you provide at that hotel?” As an analyst, it was easy to read numbers, but that never got you the full picture. The reason I stood out in university, the reason why I got this job, was because I’m good at reading more than just numbers—I read people.
Mr. Wallace blinked back at me. “Our most profitable service? Our signature facial, of course. It attracts every kind of client—male, female, young, and old. We’ve never had a shortage of requests for one at any of our spas.”
I nodded, pushing back my chair and getting to my feet. “Thank you, gentlemen,” I said, smiling at them. “I’ll take this back to—”
“What, that’s it?” Mr. Wallace’s right-hand man hollered from his chair. “You ask us one question and walk out? You haven’t been here ten minutes!”
“I’ve gotten a good read on your proposal and—”
“Are you even twenty yet? You’ve barely been alive long enough to get a good read on anything!”
I stopped moving, looking right at him. “I’ve been alive long enough to know your business is run on convention, not on innovation. Your staff looks at what’s on the page, not what’s between the lines.”
I saw Mr. Wallace’s eyes narrow, but I continued anyway. “The Swedish massage is your most profitable service, Mr. Wallace. One look at the figures told me that. Sure, the numbers for the custom facial are impressive—but they don’t figure in cost. The cost of all the materials needed.”
“You think you can do my job better than me?” Mr. Wallace seethed, slowly rising from his chair.
Oh, I know I can.
I didn’t say that. Instead, I said, “You run a great, steady business. I can see that Tropic Relaxation is conducting its traditional operations safely, the same way it always has. Scott’s looking for something innovative with this project. Something fresh. But like I said, I’ll show him your proposal.”
I took the folder off the table and turned to leave. “Good day, gentlemen,” I said as I headed out of the boardroom. As I walked out into the hall, I was pretty sure I heard one of them refer to me as a bitch.
Shaking my head, I wondered why Scott had sent me here at all. Tropic Relaxation had a reputation for being old and stuck in their ways, which was the opposite of what our brand wanted. Beyond that, it was incredibly out of character for my boss to send me to a proposal meeting on my own.
Scott Michaels might have been born and bred for his job, but that didn’t mean he took it for granted. Scott lived and breathed for his company. He oversaw every decision personally, no matter how small, which was why things felt more than a little off when he sent me a last-minute email this morning about taking this meeting by myself.
Whatever the reason, this had been a wasted half an hour of my morning, and I was eager to get back to work. When the cab pulled up to the towering office building of the Michaels Hotel Syndicate, I jumped out and hurried through the doors into the lobby. I spent my time on the elevator up to the top floor, where Scott and my offices were, checking my emails on my phone—forty-four new emails since I’d last checked.
‘Great,’ I muttered to myself. I strode rapidly across the floor, about to turn into my office, when I heard loud voices echoing from inside Scott’s office across the hall. So, that must be the meeting that had Scott all tied up this morning. The door was ajar, but only Scott’s back was visible inside.
“What gives you the fucking nerve…” a man’s voice thundered from inside.
I heard Scott’s sigh. “If you would just relax for one moment, I can explain…”
“Explain what? How you went behind my goddamn back and did the one thing we agreed you wouldn’t do?”
“You’re making it sound like I committed treason, Spencer.”
Spencer? As in, Spencer Michaels? Scott’s older brother and my other boss?
“It’s not like I did it out of spite. Come on, you know me—I’d never betray you. But I can’t take care of it all, not alone!”
“Who are you?” a small voice said from below me. I snapped out of my eavesdropping to find a young girl, maybe five years old, dressed in a tutu and pigtails and staring up at me. I looked around to see who she belonged to but came up empty.
“I’m Jessica. Where are your parents?” I asked, crouching down.
Instead of responding, the girl just grabbed my hand and pulled me across the hall into Scott’s office. She let go only when I was standing in the middle of the room.
Both the men stopped talking, and I looked at Scott first, giving him a sorry-to-interrupt-glance before turning to his brother.
I had never seen Spencer Michaels in person before. Everything about him, from his ruffled dirty blonde hair and that square jawline to those thick arms bulging against his button-down shirtsleeves, left me drooling. The man was a goddamn Greek god come to life.
“Who is this?” the little girl asked again, pointing up at me.
“Leila, this is Jessica,” Scott answered. Then he looked at me. “Jessica, this is Leila, Spencer’s daughter,” he offered to me, but before I could respond, Spencer started up again.
“This is her?” he raged on. “This is the twenty-five-year-old you hired to take over my job?”
It hit me then that the argument I had overheard was regarding me.
“She’s not replacing you, Spencer.”
“I can come back later,” I tried, but Spencer ignored the offer.
“Leila, go get a snack from the kitchen, please,” he instructed his daughter.
“But I’m not hungry!”
“Leila,” he repeated. I watched as she crossed her arms over her chest and stomped out of the room. Then Spencer turned to me.
“Tell me, what makes you think you’re even remotely qualified to help run a company that has been in my family for sixty-five years? Tell me why you think you’re so entitled,” he practically spat at me.
He wasn’t really looking at me, though. His emerald-green eyes were stuck about two inches to the left of where I stood. I knew Spencer Michaels was blind—it was no secret. Everyone who read any of the tabloids knew.
He had gone in for brain surgery to remove a tumor last year, and when he woke up, he couldn’t see a thing. The surgery had been risky, he’d known that going in, but he’d wanted to be around for his daughter. He’d survived, but learning to adjust to a life without his sight took time. That was why he’d taken time away from the company. It was tragic, of course, especially given the fact his wife had filed for divorce less than three months later. But I didn’t feel that much pity for him at the moment.
“Excuse me?” I scoffed, not about to let him walk all over me.
“Was I unclear? You’ve taken my job—a career I spent a decade building. You’re using my relationships, my reputation, my family’s name. This is ~my~ family’s goddamn company. What gives you the right?”
“Well, I’m sorry my being hired came as a surprise to you, but I was under the impression you knew,” I said, shooting Scott a pointed look. “But just because I wasn’t handed a silver spoon and we don’t share your family name does not mean I’m incapable. I’ve worked my ass off to get here, and I’m good at what I do.”
Scott nodded. “Jessica’s been a huge help around here. With you gone, I need someone to help me handle the workload.”
“I’ve only been gone a few months,” he snapped.
“Six months, Spencer. And you know I’m good with you taking all the time you need. But I can’t do it all alone anymore.”
Spencer sighed loudly, and then he did something I wasn’t expecting. He stepped toward me until there was maybe an inch between us. Instead of anger, I suddenly felt like I was on fire.
This time, his eyes locked on me, not an inch to either side. It felt like he was studying me, even though I knew that was impossible. The current between us felt electric.
“Jess, was it?” he asked, his breath hot on my cheeks, a smirk on his lips. Was this a challenge or a come-on?
“Jessica,” I responded, unwilling to back down. The fantasies flitting through my head right now were beyond inappropriate as my eyes locked on his lips.
“Well, Jess, proceed with caution because I will be watching your every move from now on, and I’m not as nice a boss as my little brother.”
With that, Spencer left the office, and I heard him call for his daughter to follow as he walked down the hall. I exhaled the breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding.
“About that press release…” Scott started talking, but I couldn’t focus. My mind was still on Spencer Michaels and those intense green eyes.