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BE MY (OFFICE) VALENTINE
Wes Robinson may be part of the lost Fortune family, but he's more concerned with the fortunes of Robinson Tech. On Valentine's Day, his company will be rolling out a new computer app that will—allegedly—fix users up with their ideal mate. Wes has nothing against amour; he just has no faith in the perfect, lasting kind. He'll take a passionate fling any day.
Tell that to Vivian Blair, however. Wes's longtime employee with the earnest heart has complete faith that her app will work. So when she and Wes are challenged to use My Perfect Match themselves, it's game on. What follows is a series of dating debacles—and Viv's horrifying suspicion that her Mr. RIght might be her curmudgeonly boss in the cubicle next door...
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The author of over seventy-five titles for Harlequin, Stella Bagwell writes about familes, the West, strong, silent men of honor and the women who love them. She credits her loyal readers and hopes her stories have brightened their lives in some small way. A cowgirl through and through, she recently learned how to rope a steer. Her days begin and end helping her husband on their south Texas ranch. In between she works on her next tale of love. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.orgExcerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
So this little square picture of a key opening a heart is going to change the dating habits of the entire nation. I tap it with my fingertip and magically it will lead me to my true love." With a mocking snort, Wesley Robinson pushed the smartphone aside. "What a crock of crap."
Vivian Blair scowled at the man sitting behind the wide mahogany desk. At this moment, it didn't matter that he was her boss, who also happened to be Vice President of Research and Development at Robinson Tech. Nor did it matter that he happened to be the sexiest man she'd ever laid eyes on. This project was her baby and she had no intentions of letting him make a mockery of her hard work.
"I beg your pardon?" she asked, her voice rising along with her irritation. "This little button you're calling a crock of crap just happens to be a product of your company. A company owned and operated by your family, I might add. Have you forgotten that you approved this idea months ago?"
Ignoring her outburst, he calmly answered, "I've not forgotten anything, Vivian."
Throughout the six years she'd worked for Wes Robinson, he'd rarely called her by her given name, and on each occasion it had never failed to rattle her senses. Her boss was always strictly business. So having her name roll off his tongue was the closest he ever got to acknowledging she was a flesh-and-blood woman.
Vivian shifted on the edge of the wingback chair and did her best to refocus her jolted thoughts on their debate. "Then why are you so intent on degrading the product? I thought you were convinced it was going to make the company a pile of money."
With confident ease, he leaned back in the oxblood leather chair. After slipping a pair of tortoise-framed glasses from his nose, he leveled a somewhat smug gaze on her face. Vivian had the very unprofessional urge to stick her tongue out at him.
"I still believe the app is going to make money. And probably lots of it," he agreed. "But that doesn't mean I believe the theory behind the dating site will hold up. In fact, I'm willing to bet that after a few months the app's popularity will sink, simply because the public is going to realize that My Perfect Match won't fulfill its promise. Still, I'm willing to gamble the initial sales of the app will outweigh its short lifespan."
It was hard enough for Vivian to deal with having his eyes sliding leisurely over her face, but hearing him discount her hard work was even worse.
Leaning forward, she said briskly, "Forgive my bluntness, Mr. Robinson, but you're wrong. Completely wrong. My Perfect Match will work. My scientific research assures me that compatibility is the key to finding a perfect mate. The app will lead the consumer to a list of questions that follows strict criteria of the most important issues and topics in a person's private life. If they're answered truthfully, the computer will be able to match you with the perfect person based on corresponding answers."
His short laugh was weighted with sarcasm. "Sorry, but you just spouted a bunch of hooey. When a man sidles up to a woman at the bar, you think he has a list of questions on his mind?" Not waiting for her to answer, he plowed on, "There's only one question on his mind. And that's whether she'll say yes or no. He doesn't give a damn whether she eats fish twice a week, walks a mile a day or has a cat for a pet."
Vivian's back teeth clamped together as she fought to hold on to her dignity and her temper. "I might remind you that this app isn't an instrument for locating a one-night stand!" She tapped the screen of her phone. "This is a social aid to help lonely people find a perfect partner—one to spend the rest of their lives with happily. Or have you heard of that concept before?"
A wry expression crossed his face, and Vivian allowed her gaze to take a slow survey of his rugged features. At thirty-three years old, he was definitely coming into his prime, she decided. Piercing blue eyes sat beneath an unyielding line of dark brows, while a wide nose led down to a set of thin, chiseled lips. She couldn't remember a time she'd seen his strong, angled jaw without a dark shadow of day-old stubble or his short, coffee-brown hair in a style other than rumpled disarray. Yet she had to admit it was that touch of edginess that often pushed her thoughts in a naughty direction.
Many of Vivian's coworkers at Robinson Tech had trouble telling Wes apart from his identical twin, Ben, who was the newly appointed COO of the company. But Vivian could truthfully say she never got the two men mixed up. Unlike his brother Ben, Wes was rarely ever spotted in a suit and tie. Instead he usually arrived each morning for work in khakis or jeans. Yet it wasn't exactly their fashion choices that set the two men apart. Wes's quiet, reserved manner was totally opposite his brash twin's demeanor.
Clearly bored, he said, "I suppose you're talking about marriage now. I've heard enough on that subject this past month to last me a lifetime."
Since his brother Ben's wedding was taking place in about two weeks, on Valentine's Day, Vivian could only assume he was referring to that marriage. As far as she knew, Wes had never had a long-term girlfriend, much less been engaged. But then, she hardly knew what the man did outside this massive office building. She was only an employee, one of many who worked for the Robinson family.
Moving her gaze to a point just over his shoulder, she studied the skyline of downtown Austin. The capital of Texas had always been her home, yet she doubted that beyond this building, her footsteps had ever crossed Wes's path. Or, for that matter, the path of any other member of his wealthy family. That was just one of the reasons she never allowed herself to look at him as anything more than a boss, rather than a man with enough sex appeal to make a woman swoon.
Giving herself a hard mental shake, she countered his statement with a question. "What else? If a person finds their perfect mate, the natural progression is marriage."
Vivian's gaze slipped back to his face just in time to see the corners of his mouth turn downward, and she realized this conversation was giving her more peeks into the man's private feelings than she'd ever expected to see. But then she'd never planned for this meeting to turn into a debate about dating or love or sex. Vivian hardly discussed such things with any man, much less her boss. Awkward couldn't begin to describe the turmoil she was feeling.
"Marriage is hardly the reason consumers will purchase the app," he said wryly. "But regardless of their motives, the concept won't work. The connection between a man and a woman is all about chemistry. It's the sparks—the fire—that fuse two people together. Not whether their likes and dislikes are the same."
Sparks? Fire? Maybe it would be nice to have a man take her into his arms and set a torch to her senses. But that sort of mindless passion didn't last. She had only to look at her own parents to see what happened between a man and a woman once the heat died and reality set in. Her mother had struggled to raise three children while her father had moved on to a younger woman. Now her mother lived alone, too disenchanted even to try to find a man to love her.
"Maybe attraction does initially pull two people together, but it hardly keeps them together," she argued. "And that's the problem My Perfect Match will fix. That's why it's going to be a huge success. Lasting relationships will eventually prove our product works."
The faint smile on his face was etched with amusement and was far too patronizing for her taste.
"I admire your enthusiasm, Ms. Blair."
He clearly didn't agree with her, and that notion bothered her far more than it should have. Vivian understood that this project had nothing to do with personal viewpoints. It was about producing a product that would ultimately make money for the company. Still, hearing his jaded ideas on the subject of relationships between men and women was maddening to her.
"But you think I'm wrong," she ventured. "If you're so sure this concept is going to be a bust, then why did you agree to it in the first place? In two weeks, on Valentine's Day, the app is scheduled to make its grand debut to the public. Don't you think it's rather late in the day to consider axing it?"
He cocked a brow at her. "What gave you the idea I want to ax it? Just because I don't believe in the concept? Look, Ms. Blair, I'm a businessman first and foremost, and I happen to believe consumers are just gullible enough to fall for this sort of baloney. As far as I'm concerned, whether it works or not is a moot point."
Wes watched as Vivian Blair's spine stiffened and her fingers fluttered to the top button of her crisp white shirt. Clearly he'd flustered the woman, which surprised him somewhat. He'd never seen her any way but cool and professional. During her six years as one of a team of computer developers employed by Robinson Tech, she'd proved herself to be dedicated, innovative and smart. She'd never failed to impress him with her work, but as a woman, she'd never really drawn a second look from him. Until this morning, when she'd snatched off her black-rimmed glasses and glared at him.
Her hazel eyes had thrown heated daggers straight at him, and her fiery reaction had caught him by complete surprise. All at once, he'd forgotten she was an employee. Instead, his mind had taken a momentary detour from work and started a subtle survey of her appearance.
He'd never thought of Vivian Blair as anything more than a coworker, a brainy, no-nonsense developer. She dressed neatly but primly in blouses and skirts that covered her slender frame with enough fabric to make even the strictest father nod with approval. What little jewelry she wore usually amounted to no more than a modest string of pearls or a fine gold chain and cross. Her pumps were low-heeled and pedestrian. And though her brown, honey-streaked hair was shiny and long enough to brush her shoulders, she rarely wore it loose. Instead she favored pulling it back into a bun or some sort of conservative twist.
No. Vivian Blair's appearance wasn't one that caught a man's attention. But seeing all that life sparking in her eyes had shown Wes a different side of her. And now, as her wide, full lips pressed into a tight line, he could only wonder what it might feel like to press his mouth to hers, to make those hard, cherry-colored lips yield softly to his.
Leaning slightly forward, he rested his forearms on the desktop and forced her gaze to meet his.
"Do you have a problem with that?" he asked.
If possible, the line of her lips grew even tighter, while her nostrils flared with disdain.
"Why should I?" she countered stiffly. "Your job is to make money. Mine is to create products. With My Perfect Match, we've both succeeded. Or, at least, we will succeed once the app goes on the market."
She was obviously trying to get her emotions under control, and for a moment Wes considered shooting a remark at her that would stir her temper all over again.
It would be fun to see, he thought. But she wasn't in his office for fun, and he hardly had time for it. Not with his twin brother, the COO of Robinson Tech, expecting Wes to put some new innovative idea on his desk every other day.
"You're on track now, Ms. Blair."
Her expression rigid, she reached for the small notepad and pen she'd placed on the edge of the desk when she'd first sat down for their meeting.
"So is the live remote still on for tomorrow?" she asked.
"I've already spoken with the producer of Hey, USA this morning. Our segment is set to be broadcast at nine fifteen central tomorrow. So I expect you to be ready well before that time."
She nodded. "And where do they plan to shoot this remote? The conference room?"
Wes shook his head. "Right here in my office." He jerked his thumb toward the window behind him. "We'll sit in front of the plate glass so the backdrop will be the skyline of the city. I think the producer—she wants an urban feel to the segment. You know, the image of city people hurrying and scurrying—too busy to find a date, so they rely on an app to find them one," he added drily.
"My Perfect Match is more than finding a person a date. It's—"
He held up a hand before she could slip into another sermon about compatibility and long-term relationships. Wes didn't want anything long-term. And he sure as hell wasn't looking to make any woman his wife. He'd seen his mother suffer through too many years of a loveless marriage to want the same for himself.
"Save it for the camera tomorrow," he told her. "The public is who you need to convince, not me."
She clutched the notebook to her chest, and Wes found himself wondering if she'd ever held a man to herself in that manner. He couldn't imagine it. But then, he didn't have a clue about her social life. Could be that once she was away from the Robinson Tech building, she tore off her professional demeanor and turned into a little wildcat. The idea very nearly put a smile on his face.
"Do you have any idea what sort of questions the interviewer will be asking? I'd like to be prepared."
"You've had plenty to say on the subject during our meeting this morning," he told her. "And I'm sure you won't have any problem speaking your mind tomorrow. You'll simply explain the product and how it works. I'll speak for Robinson Tech and what the company stands for. The national exposure will be great."
She dropped the notepad to her lap, but Wes's gaze lingered on the subtle curves of her breasts beneath the white shirt. Damn it, what was wrong with him? He didn't need to be ogling this woman. There were always plenty of women in his little black book who were ready to go out on a date with him. He certainly didn't need to start having romantic notions about Vivian.
"Yes, the publicity is just what the app needs," she said primly. "I only hope everything goes smoothly."
Annoyed at his straying thoughts, he frowned at her.
"Why should it not?"
Clearing her throat, she said, "I've never been on television before."
He leveled a pointed look at her. "I'm sure there are plenty of things you've never done before, Ms. Blair. And there's always a first time for everything."
She straightened her shoulders, and once again Wes spotted a flash of anger in her eyes.
"You're very reassuring," she said. "I'm not your caretaker, Ms. Blair."
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Book Description Harlequin, 2016. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110373659377
Book Description Harlequin, 2016. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0373659377