A workplace connection gets murky when the heir to the company is involved.
Leah Carson’s four-year relationship exploded on New Year’s Day and soured her toward all holiday-related activities. She no longer excessively decorated her home and office for Christmas, choosing the grinchy path instead. Working for a media outlet forces her into some semblance of holiday cheer, especially when the up-and-coming channel sets its sights on making a mark with a New Year’s Eve special to rival all the standard offerings—something thrown into question when the host of the broadcast is put in jail, and Leah and her team are scrambling to fill the slot.
Brendan Lanza is heir to the throne of Lanza Broadcasting, but he has to earn his seat by learning every department within the company at his father’s orders. His term with the marketing team offers the unexpected bonus of getting to know Leah better. The respect his father holds for the woman becomes an understatement once Brendan sees how her clever brain easily handles issues, something only rivaled by the temptations her body creates in him.
But her less-than-festive spirit and the threat of losing their highly anticipated special lead Brendan to appoint himself as her Secret Santa, sending twelve anonymous gifts to Leah. Their office flirtation ramps up as Leah begins to receive presents from a secret admirer, creating a bit of conflict as she believes that she is torn between two men, and Brendan is left to decide if he’s betraying their blossoming bond by withholding the truth behind the packages she finds on her doorstep each night.
General Release Date: 13th December 2022
Bryce Ramone, arguably the most sought-after film star of the past five years, was arrested for tax evasion and fraud in an early morning raid led by the FBI. Mr. Ramone is currently being held in federal custody awaiting a bail hearing.
“You have got to be kidding me.” I shot out of my seat, gripping my phone tightly in my hand as I read the news report that had popped up as an alert on the device. The wheeled office chair rolled a couple of feet behind me until it collided with the wall in the shared space.
Brendan lifted one eyebrow that was far more perfectly shaped than my own neglected ones. “Hot sale on those overpriced shoes you love so much?” His rich, teasing baritone seeped through my skin more than I was willing to admit.
When my boss Emilio, founder and CEO of Lanza Broadcasting, had first announced that his son would be working with me, I had been irritated at the prospect. However, the younger Lanza—who had graced the covers of both GQ and Business Insider as the next ruler of the communications world with stunning good looks to complete the package—was actually less of an asshole than I’d expected. We’d even managed to form a fairly congenial working relationship. I’d almost call him a friend. Almost.
The churning of my stomach as I read and reread the paragraph, hoping against hope that it would somehow change, kept me from offering a pithy response or a cutting glare, either of which would be standard for me. I swallowed back the acidic bile threatening to rise up the back of my throat and shook my head. Words refused to form in either my brain or my mouth, so I simply turned my phone toward Brendan and waited as he absorbed the same information that had thrown me into a mental freefall.
His gaze narrowed in on the article and his eyes widened as he scanned back and forth across the screen. The speech that had failed me seemed to have no problem forming for Brendan as a long string of epithets burst from him. He stood and walked laps in the minimal open space, running his fingers through his just-a-little-too-long golden-brown locks. “We’ve already released a shit ton of announcements that he was supposed to be hosting the first New Year’s Eve special Lanza Broadcasting has ever produced. Half of our sponsors only signed on because he was the main event.”
Every cell in my body tingled, and I wondered absently what a stroke felt like. Brendan stopped his pacing right next to me, and I blinked up at him. “Is it too early to start drinking?”
“After this? I feel like it isn’t early enough.” He curled his lips into a small smile, but the concerned creases in his forehead didn’t fade.
I bit back the question burning on my tongue as to whether he was serious or not, because nothing sounded better at that exact moment in time than a skinny margarita, heavy on the salt, but there were still a couple of hours left in the workday, not to mention the added load of this mini crisis. “New Year’s Eve is such a cursed holiday anyway. It comes on the heels of Christmas and doesn’t actually have any meaning other than you need to change your calendar.”
At my assertion, Brendan’s smile grew into a broad grin, and a fraction of the tension melted from his face. “Sounds like someone is a little jaded. I feel like you’re just a little too young to be that way.”
I sighed and sat back in the chair at my desk which, for the past three months, had been arranged to be right across from his so that when I looked up I was faced with warm eyes that seemed to change color nearly every time I tried to pin down their exact shade. Normally they ranged from green to a hazel tone nearly dark enough to be called brown, but always with glittering specks of amber that glowed with mischief—not at all what I’d expected from the next communications overlord.
Tipping my ‘Let me drop everything and work on your problem’ mug toward me, I sighed at the solitary drop remaining at the bottom. “I definitely do not have enough tea to deal with this. This calls for a fresh cup.”
I’d barely reached the door of our joint office when Brendan fell into step behind me and let out a low, moderated whistle. “Isn’t that your fourth or fifth cup today? Better slow down there, Chief.”
I snorted and flicked on the tab for the electric kettle as I set my mug down on the counter and began rummaging through the overhead cabinet in the break room for my Assam black tea. Without a doubt, I needed the bold, strong flavor to perk me up and get my brain firing on all cylinders to attack the issue at hand. “Sorry… Did I miss the memo handing over the reins of this operation to me instead of you?” I added a wink to my semi-snarky rhetorical question to make it clear I was teasing. “Pretty sure you’re the chief-to-be here, Golden Boy.”
He bumped his hip into mine as he poured coffee into his own cup. Over the past several weeks, something had changed. I’d begun to notice warmth blossoming within me when he was just a little closer than normal or when his hand would graze over mine. And that same heat didn’t fail to wash over me again, no matter how unwelcome and unwanted it might be.
Brendan leaned down until his mouth was close enough that his breath tickled my cheek when he spoke. “You and I both know that you’re one hundred percent in charge. But I sure do like that nickname.” He took a long draw of the black liquid, and my tastebuds recoiled just watching him. I had no idea how anyone drank that stuff.
The bubbling kettle clicked off, and I reminded myself of the thousands of reasons that nothing—absolutely nothing—would ever happen between us, not the least of which was that he was the owner’s son. And I was still nursing a broken heart…even if it had been nearly twenty-four months since the rat bastard that I’d thought I loved had decided our four-year-long relationship was disposable as soon as he’d found a better option.
And definitely the fact that Brendan hummed Christmas carols every morning when he sauntered into work since the day after Thanksgiving. My heart ached a little as I stirred a splash of milk into my tea and made my way back to the proverbial and literal drawing board in my office.
Once upon a time, Christmas had been my favorite holiday, as the mountains of color-coded and carefully labeled totes of décor in my basement could attest. But two years prior, everything changed. It had been the first year after my father had retired and my parents decided to start traveling for the holidays—the first year I wasn’t with my family and the year that Aaron had so happily gifted me a Crock-Pot instead of the engagement ring I’d been expecting.
It was also exactly one week before he confessed to falling for the new personal trainer at his gym and packed every single belonging he had in our home to move in with the other woman.
I settled into the black fake-leather chair and squared my shoulders. None of that mattered at the moment, and whatever stupid attraction I was suddenly feeling for the man who took his seat across from me definitely didn’t belong anywhere on my priority list. I folded my forearms across the smooth oak surface and stared into the eyes that were decidedly green today. “So, what the hell are we going to do to fix this?”
The polar opposite of me, Brendan leaned back, rolling his chair just far enough away from his desk that he could prop his feet on top, and clasped his hands across his flat midsection. “The first step is pretty obvious. Pull all ads featuring Bryce in any way immediately until we can construct a solution.”
I clicked my mouse a few times to bring up a new email on my laptop. I sent out a blast to the entire team to pull any and all future promotions that included Bryce for the New Year’s Eve special and limiting the ones that didn’t actually contain the guy. Within seconds of hitting Send, I had half a dozen messages from the various agents of performers who had been booked for the featured event.
Groaning, I cradled my head in my hands. “It’s started. I’m getting emails from agencies. These people are all going to pull out.” I peeked at him from between my fingers. “This is going to be a complete disaster.”
Brendan shook his head, straightened his lax posture and opened his own computer. “The Titanic was a complete disaster. This is way less impressive. And besides”—a broad, shit-eating grin spread across his face and managed to send a spark of something I couldn’t quite identify shooting through me—“it’s the holiday season. What better time for us to get a miracle?”
I waved my hand to encompass the minimalistic space around us, the only place in the entire building void of decorations, in stark contrast to previous years—something that had landed me in more than one ‘is everything okay?’ conversation. Luckily, my elf-like behaviors had all been before Brendan even knew I existed, much less what my ‘normal’ once had been.
“In case you haven’t noticed, Santa, I’m not exactly the holly, jolly type.” Not anymore, I added only to myself. “And I’m pretty sure whatever angel has been following me around is drunk and fresh out of miracles.”
He tapped on his keyboard, falling into rhythm with me, before shooting me another smile. “Good thing you have your own personal golden boy then.”
Books, coffee, and chocolate make up both the heart and body mass that is better known as Amelia Foster. She has been a lifelong lover of the written word, both as a reader and an author, and completed her first manuscript at the ripe old age of five, complete with illustrations. Sadly, her art was a medium that never improved over time, although thankfully her writing has.
From sweet to salacious, the only requirement Amelia has in books she reads – and definitely in the ones she crafts – is an excessively satisfying happily ever after… and then a little bit more.
You can find Amelia at her website here