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What you need, p.15
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       What You Need, p.15

         Part #1 of Need You series by Lorelei James
 

  change, while constantly parroting to her bosses that change is necessary—and then never changing a damn thing. I suspected she was the reason LI didn’t even have casual Fridays and still maintained a dress code.

  Inside the conference room, I noticed the entire temp staff, including Lola, in addition to two people I didn’t recognize, as well as Anita.

  Hooray.

  Lola sat at the head of the table. She’d seen a lot of changes in the forty years she had worked as a secretary. She constantly reminded us that technology evolved but people skills were still the most important ones in our arsenal.

  Anita took over the meeting. “None of you are in trouble, so relax,” she said with a brittle smile. “These people are envoys from Finance and Operations. They’re here to iron out a few wrinkles that have appeared. Or at least pinpoint the source of the wrinkles.”

  “Finance” kicked off my warning bells.

  Don’t be ridiculous. This has nothing to do with you. Or your weekend with Brady Lund.

  “Renee and Zach are the oversight committee that will meet with each of you individually over the next two weeks at various times, so please cooperate with them in whatever manner they require.”

  No one looked around the room at anyone else. We all seemed to be looking at the conference table, hoping this wasn’t a bad portent.

  Screw this. If our jobs were on the line, we had a right to know. “Ms. Mohr?”

  “Yes, Lennox?”

  “Is this a performance review for the department? Or individual performance reviews?”

  “Departmental review. It’s been several years since this subdivision of Personnel has been subjected to the checks and balances the other departments are required to comply with yearly. When the oversight was discovered, I decided to rectify it at once.”

  The way she said “subdivision” sounded like “subpar.”

  Why couldn’t I leave this alone? “Thank you for the clarification. Will we be accompanied to our temp jobs during the course of this review?”

  I felt Sydney nudge my knee under the table.

  “Yes.”

  “To all aspects of that job?”

  “Of course. This seems to trouble you. But if you’ve got nothing to hide, then their presence shouldn’t be an issue.”

  “I am only speaking for myself, that I have nothing to hide, but it’s not me that I’m worried about. Sometimes we deal with personnel matters for other departments and those managers expect discretion and privacy, which allows them to be honest in their assessments. The same with legal matters that can contain sensitive information. I imagine having another person in the room judging us on how we perform our job won’t give an accurate assessment of how we perform anyway, or where these wrinkles might be starting.”

  I could feel Anita’s eyes burning into me, but I could also feel the silent gratitude from my coworkers that one of us had spoken up.

  “Lennox has a valid point,” Lola said. “Since this department is an arm of Personnel, the managers expect confidentiality. That’s not to suggest that either of these two would talk out of turn, but many times my office staff are called in specifically because they’ve got no stake in interdepartmental politics.”

  “What are you suggesting, Lola?”

  “That assessments be done after the fact. Say Lennox is asked to draft a letter for Mr. X. They don’t need to be in Mr. X’s office with her. She doesn’t have to disclose to the oversight committee the nature of the correspondence, just that she did it and the amount of time it took her, and have the supervisor in that department sign off on it. That way we keep the privacy that Lund Industries has always strived to maintain for their employees.”

  I wanted to stand and clap for Lola’s sarcastic response to this PC bullshit. Basically Anita wanted to justify looking at all our records. If word of that got out, none of the departments would request our services, meaning we wouldn’t do some of the more delicate aspects of our job, which in turn would make it appear that we had fewer responsibilities than we actually did.

  “Fine. We will discuss adjusting the parameters.” Anita and her minions stood. “I wasn’t expecting this much resistance, Lola.”

  Not until they were out of the room did Lola say, “Right. You were expecting us to roll over.”

  I laughed. But my laughter died when they all looked at me.

  Lola cocked her head. “Thank you for speaking up, Lennox. For once I’m grateful that you’re not the ‘eyes forward, don’t rock the boat’ type of employee.”

  My cheeks heated. “I don’t like bullies. And that’s what this feels like. We know our worth. It isn’t that I resent us having to prove it, but no one in Legal, Acquisitions or Finance would allow those parameters.”

  “True.” Lola looked around the room. “No external gossip on this. If I’m taking a stand on the privacy side, I’d better not hear a whisper that this was discussed elsewhere. Understood?”

  Nods of agreement around the room.

  “Good. Individual schedules are in your in-box. If you need me, I’ll be at the drugstore loading up on antacids and aspirin.”

  I’d been there one hour and it was already looking to be a very long week.

  *

  My heart raced when I saw Brady enter the employee break room on Wednesday just after noon. The man wore a suit like no other. His hair wasn’t as styled as usual and I wondered if it was an incidental side effect from running his hand through it.

  He scanned the room—I had the foolish hope he was looking for me. I hadn’t seen him since Saturday night. When his gaze landed on me, his lips curled into a knowing smile before he grabbed something out of the industrial fridge. Then his cousin Ash strolled in and a collective silence filled the space.

  Two Lund corporate officers breaking bread with the lowest-level employees?

  Brady handed Ash a plastic container and they made their way to a table by the windows.

  “That’s odd, isn’t it? The CFO has deigned to eat in here. Think the catering company quit? Or maybe just his personal chef?”

  “He doesn’t have a personal chef,” I said without thinking. I felt Sydney staring at me.

  “And you know that how?”

  “Something about that came up when I was in his office last week,” I said offhandedly.

  Sydney speared a chunk of her salad. “Whatever happened with that project?”

  “It’s ongoing.” I changed the subject.

  And it worked for fifteen minutes . . . until Brady wandered over. He shoved his hands in his pockets and made a point of looking at Sydney first. Then me. “So how’re things in the secretarial pool?”

  I knew he said that to get a rise out of me. So I didn’t disappoint him. “‘Secretarial pool’ is an antiquated term, Mr. Lund.”

  “As I’m aware, Miss Greene. But the term floater isn’t appealing. What the office temps need is a cool moniker like the IT or HR departments have.”

  “Maybe HR should run a contest. The person who creates the cleverest name wins a paid day off from work.”

  “Excellent suggestion. I’ll bring it up at our next staff meeting.” Brady smiled at me and I got that funny tickle in my belly. “Perhaps even I’ll submit something.”

  “Make sure you do it anonymously. We wouldn’t want to end up with a stu—” Crap. I couldn’t say that. “Stuck with a name HR chose as a winner only because the CFO suggested it and they felt pressure to choose your entry by default.”

  Brady raised that one eyebrow at me and my face heated. Not from embarrassment, but the last time he did that I ended up plastered body to body with him, my mouth fused to his.

  Sydney, apparently oblivious to the sexual tension winging between us, leaned in to get his attention. “I, for one, would be happy if you submitted a suggestion, since that indicates upper-level management is aware of the necessity of our department.”

  Dammit, Syd. Don’t go there.

  Brady broke his gaze and focused on
Sydney. “I realize I initially misunderstood the wide range of responsibilities the office temps undertake, but I assure you, I’m fully aware of the importance of the department now.”

  “Does Anita Mohr know that?”

  “Pardon?”

  “Are you fully aware that Ms. Mohr has mounted an internal investigation of what we office temps ‘do’ on a daily basis? And each one of us has to report to the assigned two-person oversight committee every day?”

  I watched as the mask that he wore as CFO slipped back into place. “Yes, it’s standard procedure and that’s all I can say.” He smiled at Sydney. “But thank you for the reminder.” Then Brady’s gaze moved to me and pinned me in place. “Miss Greene. Please speak to my admin about scheduling a brief meeting at the end of the day today regarding that project we’re working on.”

  “Of course, sir. I’ll do it as soon as I finish my lunch.”

  “Thank you. Enjoy your day, ladies.” After that, he walked off.

  *

  One benefit of being a floater was that even with the daily schedule changes, we spent the last half hour of our workday back in our department. Today, it allowed me time to gather my thoughts before dealing with the CFO.

  None of my coworkers were back at their desks, since some departments at Lund worked from seven to four or from nine to six, not just the eight-to-five shift. I e-mailed Lola my report, gathered my things and headed up the nearly forty floors into the lion’s den.

  Jenna smiled at me warmly and indicated I should wait while she finished her phone conversation.

  “Yes, sir. Mr. Lund will accept the invitation. Please forward all the information to me at the e-mail address that’s listed on the letterhead and we’ll coordinate his schedule from there. Thank you.” Jenna touched her earpiece and used the stylus to scribble on her tablet. Then she looked up at me. “Lennox. I’ll let Mr. Lund know you’re here.”

  “Thank you.”

  I’d barely started to pace in the reception area—which was a misnomer, because this was his executive assistant’s space; she was the second person one had to go through to get to the CFO—when Jenna said, “You’re welcome to head on back.”

  I nodded, squared my shoulders and forced myself to keep my steps slow and steady. A set of gigantic double doors loomed in front of me. I palmed the handle, inhaled one deep, calming breath and opened the door.

  Brady wasn’t sitting behind his enormous desk in his oversized leather chair with his back to me. No, he was resting his behind on the front edge of the desk, directly in front of the chair he expected me to sit in.

  I moved behind the chair, placed my hands on the top of it, putting the piece of furniture between us. “It’s not five o’clock yet.”

  “And that concerns you . . . why?”

  “I just need to clarify whether I’m here as your employee or your—?”

  “You are not my direct employee, Lennox. You don’t answer to me.” The muscles in his jaw bunched as he clenched his teeth. “Is it so hard for you to admit we’re involved?”

  “Are we?”

  He made a growling noise. “Come here.”

  I was such a sucker; that imperious tone did it for me in a bad way. I liked it when he showed me his commanding male side that had driven him to become the youngest CFO in Lund Industries history.

  Skirting the chair, I stood in front of him. My mouth had gone dry and I’d started to sweat just from the determined look in his eyes.

  Brady’s gaze never left mine. “You’re off the clock.” Then his hands clamped onto my hips and he tugged me between his legs. Despite the advantage of my high heels, I didn’t loom over him. But even if I had, he’d still retain control. He slid his hand away from my left hip, stopping between my hip bones. Then he made a leisurely pass up the center of my torso until he could curl his hand around the back of my neck. He pulled my head down and kissed the living shit out of me.

  His mouth . . . God, the way the man used his tongue had me imagining where else he’d expertly tease, stroke and swirl it like that. He kissed me with urgency and a hunger that caught me off guard, because I’d assumed he’d be controlled even in passion.

  I had never been happier to be proven wrong.

  I sifted my fingers through his hair, loving the soft groan he made when my nails scored his scalp. I kissed him back with equal voracity. The heat from his body intensified the scent of his cologne. I couldn’t take a breath without the warm scent of his skin filling my lungs. I swallowed and his taste permeated my mouth from my lips to the back of my tongue.

  By the time Brady slowed the kiss, I was surprised to still be standing.

  He nuzzled my cleavage, his breath coming hard and fast across my damp skin, his hands squeezing and releasing my hips. “Fuck, I want you. Earlier in the break room I imagined hauling you to your feet and kissing you so everyone would know that we are involved.” He lightly bit my neck, sending a delicious shiver through me. “Intimately involved.”

  Part of me wanted to demand, Then why didn’t you? But the smarter part prevailed and said, “Thank you for your restraint.”

  He pushed me back a step so he could stand and loom over me. “Since we’re off the clock, I can admit I wasn’t aware that Anita had mounted a full-scale investigation of your department. I’ll add a disclaimer that rarely do department heads share that type of information with me.”

  “I figured that might be the case after that first meeting when you were surprised by the size and workload of our department.”

  Brady dropped his hands and sidestepped me to walk to the window. Several long moments passed before he spoke. “I’m trying to find a balance here, Lennox, between being pissed off that you didn’t talk to me about this and being grateful that you didn’t bring it up.”

  Say what?

  “After lunch I did some checking. The oversight committee has marked off two weeks for a thorough”—was it my imagination or had he sneered that word?—“investigation of the office temps department. I understand why you’d prefer to keep our involvement out of the spotlight.” He looked over his shoulder at me. “But fair warning. I don’t give a damn. We’re not keeping this in the closet. This weekend I’m introducing you to my family as my girlfriend.”

  “You are?”

  “Yes. The Vikings have a home game and we’ve got a private box, so the whole family will be there.”

  A case of nerves hit me so hard that I felt dizzy and had to sit down. But I drew the line at dropping my head between my knees.

  Then Brady was right there. His hand beneath my chin, tipping my head back. That too handsome face too close to mine. “Lennox, baby, why are you as white as a sheet?”

  Because the thought of meeting your mother—who the employees secretly refer to as the “Vicious Valkyrie”—scares the life out of me. She’ll never accept me—the girl with the unwed mother and the roadie for a father, who ran away from home at age sixteen and spent years running wild.

  Yeah. I could just imagine the look on her face if I showed up on Brady’s arm as his date at one of those fancy charity functions that the Lund family sponsors.

  When he said, “Talk to me,” I realized I hadn’t responded to his question.

  “I’m a little freaked out, okay? And just because you’re used to moving in the upper echelon of Twin Cities society, that doesn’t mean I’d be comfortable with it. In the Lund family private skybox I’d be rubbing elbows with the Lund Industries CEO; your cousin Nolan, who’s being groomed as the next CEO; your cousin Ash, the COO; as well as your siblings—Annika the PR whiz and Jensen, a football phenomenon. Oh, and there’s your cousin Jaxson, the hockey star; your mom, who was a former model; your dad, who heads up corporate relations; your other uncle, who is president of the board of directors. And your aunts, who are responsible for several of the biggest charities and charity events in the city.” I paused to take a breath.

  “You done?” Brady asked in a frosty tone.

  “No. I d
on’t even know what your brother Walker does, but I’m sure it’s equally amazing.”

  “He’s a carpenter.”

  “I bet he’s more than a carpenter. He probably owns a construction business.”

  “Yes, but that’s beside the point.”

  “It’s not! You don’t—”

  He closed his mouth over mine and I lost all coherent thought as he kissed me mindless. When he’d erased my will to protest, he eased back only far enough to look into my eyes when he murmured, “That’s what matters to me, Lennox. What anyone else thinks of you is immaterial, because I like you. Say you’ll meet my family.”

  Stupid, sweet man. “Okay.”

 
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