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What you need, p.5
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       What You Need, p.5

         Part #1 of Need You series by Lorelei James
 

  especially after Maggie had gone out of her way for the thankless girl.

  “Brady,” my uncle Monte boomed. “Come and meet some associates from Texas.”

  Warily, I eyed their Texans jerseys. At least they weren’t Cowboys fans. We exchanged pleasantries and Monte let me drift away because I could tell he was in business mode.

  I snagged a beer and wandered over to the window, watching as the stadium filled in with a sea of purple and gold.

  Only a few minutes passed before my brother Walker stood next to me. “Oddsmakers are saying this game will be too close to call.”

  “It’ll be interesting to see if Jensen plays.”

  “Second half, I’m betting.”

  “Did you talk to him this morning?”

  “Briefly. He said they’re confident they’ll win this one.”

  I snorted. “PR. He always says that. Their record of one and three doesn’t back up that statement.”

  “No shit.”

  An arm snaked around my waist. Another one snaked around Walker as our sister Annika inserted herself between us. “Hey, thing one. Hey, thing two.”

  “Hey, brat. What’s up? Where are all your hangers-on?”

  “Why is everyone saying that? I don’t always surround myself with a million people.”

  Walker and I exchanged a look over her blond head and we both laughed. “Right.”

  “Can’t a girl just spend quality time with her family without being grilled about it?”

  “In this family? No.”

  She faced us, putting her back to the window.

  Our little sister took after Mom—she was undeniably gorgeous. Annika had done some modeling in the Twin Cities, mostly to appease our mother. For being raised the daughter of a fashionista, Annika didn’t always present a flawless appearance. Oh, she could. When she was on, the girl was on fire. But when she wasn’t running PR for Lund Industries, she took the term “dressing down” farther than our flannel-shirt-and-faded-jeans-loving brother Walker did.

  Walker said, “Want a beer, sis?”

  “Sure. Leinie Bock if there are any left.”

  “Brady?”

  “Sure.” I kept my focus on Annika, because something clearly troubled her.

  After Walker left, I said, “What’s on your mind?”

  “I’m tired of Mom harassing me.”

  “What’s she harassing you about?”

  “You name it, I’ve screwed it up somehow. That’s why I didn’t bring anyone today. With the rate she’s been going the last week, she’d tear into me in front of my friends.”

  “You know Mom wouldn’t do that.” My gaze searched her face. She looked more tired than usual. “What’s this really about?”

  She shot a look over to where our parents stood. “Not here. It actually has to do with work. Can we go to lunch next week?”

  “Sure, but since it’s your idea, you’re buying.”

  That got me a quick smile. “Deal. I also pick the place.”

  That meant I’d be eating quinoa salad or quiche or some girly shit. “On second thought . . .”

  Walker returned with beer.

  “Three minutes to kickoff,” Dad announced.

  We took our seats.

  At the end of the first quarter the Vikings were up three to zero. Jensen hadn’t played.

  A wild second quarter put the Vikings ahead seventeen to ten.

  My cousin Nolan finally appeared at the start of the second half with a skinny blonde. But since Jensen played the third quarter, I paid attention to the game, ignoring Nolan when he motioned me over.

  When the fourth quarter started and the Texans had possession, Nolan approached me where I stood at the bar by myself. “Brady. Got a second?”

  I faced him. “Sure.” I angled my head toward the blonde. “You got her to wear a jersey? I’m impressed.”

  “Just had to show her firsthand how much fun it was for both of us when I put in on her.” He grinned. “She’s something, huh?”

  “Yeah. Where’d you meet her?”

  “Out and about.”

  His standard response. For once, I didn’t give him shit about it.

  Nolan leaned in. “Look, I’m going to do something that I swore I never would.”

  “That’s a short list, cuz,” I said before taking a sip of my cocktail. “What are you going to do?”

  “Offer you my help.”

  “With what?”

  “With showing you how to cut loose, find some loose chicks, and demonstrating how to have a life outside of work. It’s time. Actually, it’s past time.”

  I wasn’t expecting that at all. Then I knew. My face heated. “Goddamn Selka said something to you about what happened to me last night, didn’t she?”

  He nodded. “I thought maybe you’d come to me long before this. But you haven’t and your mom is worried, Brady.”

  Fucking awesome.

  “I’m worried too. So are your brothers and Ash. It’s been going on for too long. Now you’re working seven days a week.”

  I raised a brow. “I’m here at the game, aren’t I?”

  Nolan poked me in the chest. “Because Selka would skin you alive if you weren’t. And you’d be talking business if we didn’t have the ‘no work talk’ rule at family things. It just reminds me that you weren’t always all about work all the time. It changed—you changed—when you set your sights on the CFO position.” He swirled the ice cubes around in his glass as he studied me. “But you were—what, twenty-eight?—when you started down that path.”

  Wrong. I’d made that decision at age eighteen after a particularly nasty conversation with Grandpa Lund. “Around thereabouts.”

  “You’re thirty-two. You’ve been CFO two years. I don’t gotta tell you what a bang-up job you’re doing. You hear that every damn day from your dad, my dad and Uncle Monte. But that doesn’t mean you should work even harder. That means you should take the time to enjoy the station you’ve reached at your young age.” He pointed at our cousin Ash. “Between us, Ash had this same kind of crisis situation two years into his stint as COO too.”

  “It’s not a crisis situation,” I said with an edge. “And this has nothing to do with a woman. He was messed up during that time about Veronica.” My cousin’s ex had been a real piece of work. No one had been sorry to see the ass end of her except for Ash.

  “But it’s a woman—a blind date who ditched you—that has you here looking like a pathetic bum and drinking. But I suppose that’s better than you working.” Nolan plucked the half-finished drink from my hand and passed it to the bartender. “I’m done watching you wallow. Your life is about to change, my friend. Friday night you, me, Walker and Ash are going out.”

  I opened my mouth.

  Nolan shook his head. “You don’t get to know where we’re going. You don’t get to know what we’re doing. And you will spend time with Andres, my personal shopper this week so it doesn’t look like we’re taking a homeless guy out on the town.”

  I tempered my The fuck I look like a homeless guy response to “Fine” after I caught sight of my reflection in the glass. Hell, I did look like a bum. Had I even combed my hair? I hadn’t shaved and I still wore the sweat-soaked shorts and ratty running shoes I’d put on first thing this morning.

  “Whoa. No arguments? No conditions?”

  I saw my mother watching us very closely. Dammit, I was an adult and didn’t need Mommy meddling in my life. I’d pretend to go along with this “Brady needs a life intervention” thing while I followed my own agenda—not that I had an agenda; I just knew whatever I did would be the polar opposite of what she wanted. The smile I offered her had her eyes narrowing with suspicion.

  “Brady?” Nolan prompted.

  I faced my cousin and sighed. “Would you listen even if I demanded conditions?”

  “Nope.” Nolan grinned again. “This is gonna be so much fun.”

  Chapter Four

  Lennox

  ‡
r />   Monday mornings were the worst. Everyone needed something right away. Everything was crucial. As much as I wanted advancement in this company, I planned to work toward something more than what my boss Lola did—coordinating schedules.

  I spent the morning entering new templates for inner-office memos, which I considered ridiculous busywork. But Personnel wanted each department to have a uniquely colored memo so they could tell at a glance which department the correspondence was coming from. Just an easier way for Anita—aka Attila—to avoid those e-mails she didn’t want to deal with.

  I’d brought my lunch and ate with my coworker Sydney in the break room. She’d had a date this weekend with a guy she’d connected with through an online dating service. So I had to hear all the pros and cons about whether she should agree to a second date. What she told me about the man didn’t trip any warning bells, but I knew the guy wouldn’t trip my trigger either.

  “Lennox, you should totally join the service,” Sydney said for the hundredth time. “I bet you’d have hundreds of guys signing up to take you out.”

  “Syd, I’m happy that this is working out for you, but I’m just not the type to let a computer pick a match for me.”

  “That’s what it does. It finds your type. It really works!”

  “So I’ve heard, but I still have a problem meeting a guy who could’ve totally lied about who he is, just to get a hookup.”

  “You make it sound like an escort service.”

  I wiped my mouth. “No, with an escort service you know exactly what you’ve paid for going into it. With online dating? Not so much.”

  “You are impossible,” Sydney complained.

  “Wrong. I’m practical.”

  “So very glad to hear that, Lennox.”

  Thankfully, all I did was gasp with surprise at Brady Lund’s interruption. But he had scared me enough that I threw my bag of chips all over the table. My face flamed.

  “Didn’t mean to frighten you.”

  Yes, you did. “Then maybe you shouldn’t sneak up behind people.” Crap. Had I really said that to him? What was wrong with me? Why was I always as prickly as a cactus around him?

  He chuckled.

  I looked up at him. Mistake. Few men wore a suit as well as Mr. Perfect. My thoughts rolled back to how he’d dressed for his date on Saturday night. If I were dating him, I wouldn’t want him in casual attire. I’d want the hot-looking suit-and-tie-wearing guy.

  When he continued to stare at me, I said, “Was there something you needed, Mr. Lund?”

  “Yes. You’ll be assisting my admin today in the conference room since her secretary is out sick.” He held up his hand before I opened my mouth. “I know protocol, Lennox. I cleared this with your supervisor.”

  “And Lola sent the CFO of Lund Industries as the errand boy to tell me?” Dammit, mouth, do not engage before brain.

  “No. I came in here to get my lunch.”

  Now I really felt like an idiot. A sassy idiot. This was a large employee break room; it served the whole building—the entire company. Sometimes we even had catered lunches in here. But in the last year I’d never seen the CFO step foot in here, let alone admit that he brown-bagged it once in a while.

  “I’m sorry. I just assumed—”

  “That I don’t eat lunch?” He flashed his teeth in a predatory smile. “Or that I prefer raw meat tossed in my office rather than swimming around looking for chum?”

  I couldn’t help but smile. Of course he was aware of his reputation as a shark. And it was really hard for me not to make a crack about sushi.

  He walked over to the fridge—and I told myself not to gawk, but my greedy side ogled him: the way his suit pants rippled as he walked and how broad his shoulders looked in that perfectly cut suit jacket when he bent over.

  Sydney kicked me under the table so I was innocently picking up my chips when he turned around. And I might’ve peeked at what he had in his lunch—a takeout deli salad.

  Which he apologized for. “I was supposed to meet my sister for lunch, but she had some crisis in PR so she’s placating me with this.” He sighed. “I’d really hoped for something more substantial.”

  “Me too, but the lunch fairies are stingy today,” Sydney said.

  She always knew what to say.

  But the CFO paid no attention to her. He zeroed in on me. “You know where my office is?”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “Good. Jenna will see you up there in an hour.” Then he strode off.

  I crunched a chip.

  “Lennox.” Sydney leaned forward and whispered, “I think he likes you.”

  “Don’t be ridiculous. I always say the wrong thing around him.”

  “I’ll bet he asked for you specifically to assist his admin.”

  “Unlikely.”

  “I’m going to ask Lola if he requested you.”

  I grabbed her arm. “Don’t you dare. I don’t want Lola to think I’ve got a crush on him. And that’s exactly what she’d think if I ask her if he was asking about me.”

  “But it wouldn’t be you asking her. It’d be me.”

  “Same difference.”

  “Fine,” she huffed out. “But you have to tell me if he sticks around to flirt with you while you’re working.”

  “He’s a busy man. I doubt he’ll even be there.”

  So I could admit some disappointment when the hottie CFO with the killer smile and dreamy blue eyes was out of the office for the afternoon.

  Jenna, his admin, was great, though—everything I aspired to be. I marveled at her ability to do twenty-seven things at once while she answered her headset every thirty seconds.

  At one point she took the headset off and tossed it on the table. “Calls can go to voice mail for a bit so we can get this done.”

  We worked in silence for a while. Then I said, “It’s pretty cool that you’ve got a secretary.”

  “I haven’t always had one. When Mr. Lund became CFO, there was so much paperwork that no one had looked at in decades, but we still needed to archive it. It was a full-time job just sorting that out, so he had to rely on Anita to do the day-to-day secretarial stuff for him for a few months.”

  I bit my tongue to keep from blurting out a question about Attila.

  “Meanwhile,” Jenna continued, “an incoming CFO has twice as much work as a CEO because they have to justify spending across the board. Although this is a family business, no one cut him any slack. Not that he would’ve stood for it if they’d tried it. He is the most single-minded man I’ve ever met.” She peered at me over the top of her glasses. “And my husband is an engineer, so I don’t say that lightly.”

  I grinned. In addition to being a whirling dervish, Jenna had a great sense of humor.

  I definitely wanted to be her when I grew up.

  *

  Friday afternoon I was back on the forty-fourth floor helping Jenna compile more packets.

  I must’ve sighed loudly because I heard a deep male chuckle behind me. I whirled around and saw Mr. Lund lounging in the doorway, looking as if he’d just stepped off the cover of GQ.
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