Reporting to Him (MF)
Career driven to a fault, Sydney Grayson has forged a path up the corporate ladder at a NYC newsmagazine. When she learns about a potential rung opening, she takes a shot with dreams of the big office. Unfortunately, a corporate merger nearly pushes her out the front door instead.
Once she learns she’s not getting the job, a night of excesses ends up with her tied in a sexy stranger’s bed. He drives her past the quiet control she has on her life and demands more than one night.
Jensen Archer had flown into town on his father’s orders—close the barely profitable magazine arm of their new acquisition and do it quickly. But when he realizes his sexy one night stand is also an editor for the magazine, he knows he has to touch and taste her again.
Jensen’s in for a battle, pitting himself against his embittered father and the woman he can’t seem to get enough of.
“Well, I’ll be damned.” Sydney slammed her glass to the table, shaking everything on it, trying to drag herself out of whatever craziness she’d just felt. Suds from the new beers slipped over the edges of the glasses and slid down the frosty sides. “The last thing I need tonight is that man getting in my face.”
Emma looked the guy over, waving flirtatiously as she stared. “He’s kinda cute.”
“He’s all yours.” No, he’s not. He’s mine. Mine, all mine. Sydney shook her head to get the errant thoughts from her brain.
“What do you mean by that man?” Emma turned to her, and Sydney felt Emma’s stare boring into her. A light began to glitter in Emma’s eyes as she quietly observed Sydney. “That’s him, isn’t it? The guy from the airport?”
There was no point avoiding it. Emma would just keep prodding if Sydney didn’t fess up. “Yeah, that’s him. But I’m in no mood to be social tonight.”
“No, Sydney, this is exactly what you need. A night with a sexy man to make you forget all about what’s going on at work. It’ll be cathartic. Wipe away the bad memories of the day with some great sex with a guy you’re obviously attracted to, since you haven’t stopped staring at him since you looked over there.”
“You really didn’t suggest I go home with a random guy.” Her whole body tightened at the thought of his hands on her, and she didn’t even know his name.
“I did. I’m sure it’s the beer talking, but damn if it doesn’t sound like a fine idea right now. Plus, he’s not random. You’ve run into this guy three times in a week. Fate is trying to tell you something here, so you better wake up and listen. And there is our bet. You lost. I won. Now it’s time for you to turn on the charm and make your move.”
Somewhere in the back of Sydney’s brain, she knew what Emma was saying was ridiculous, but at that moment she had to agree with her. It didn’t sound like such a bad idea. Sydney took another long gulp from her glass, draining half the drink before her gaze settled on Hugh. “Clear out the cobwebs.”
“Just one night, get your freak on, and then it’ll clear your head a little. Allow you to focus on what needs to be done. And who knows? Maybe he’s worth more than one night.”
“I don’t know if I can do it.” Sydney lowered her beer. “And if I did, it would only be one night.”
“Drink more.” Emma emptied her drink and picked up the fresh one. She placed the new one on the cardboard coaster, nodding and smiling at Hugh. It pulled Sydney’s attention back to him. Once he saw Sydney turn to look at him, his stare flashed to hers, and he smiled even more.
“Did you see that? Sydney, he’s into you. You need to go for it.”
Sydney finished her beer, took the fresh one, and lifted it in the air as a salute to Hugh. He lifted his pint as well, and they both drank.
“Should I wave him over?”
Sydney nearly spit out her beer. “No!”
Emma didn’t listen to a word, signaling him over anyway, her bangle bracelets tinkling loudly even in the raucous bar. As he picked up his drink and sauntered over, Sydney glared at Emma. “Thanks.” Sydney saw him walking toward them, and her body was very happy the closer he came.
“Don’t mention it.” Emma giggled and began to scoot out of the booth. “I think I need to pee.”
Sydney grasped Emma’s wrist, scowling at her. “If you leave this table, I’ll kill you.”
“I have to pee! I promise to come right back. But you’ll have to entertain him for a moment alone, won’t you? No ignoring him.” Emma giggled again before unsteadily moving through the bar to the back. She passed Hugh on the way and said something to him before pointing him toward their booth. Sydney downed a gulp of beer as he neared.
“Hallo! Mind if I join you?”
“Sure, have a seat, Hugh.” Sydney scooted over a bit to give him room.
He paused for a fraction of a second as he stared at her, laughter written into the lines of his face. “Hugh?”
“Yep, that’s your name since you won’t give me your real one.”
“I’ve been called worse, I assure you.” His eyes twinkled with mirth. He moved into the half round seat, settling too close to her for comfort. Sydney got a whiff of his expensive cologne mixed with the scent of hot male body. It was heady and made parts of her throb, parts that had no business throbbing from just the sight and smell of him.
“You smell good.” She bit her lip, pissed off that had come out unbidden. Heat suffused her face as she looked away.
She turned back to the table, taking a swig of the beer. “No, no. Thank you…for the drink.”
“Oh, that was nothing. I can’t have the two most attractive ladies in here thirsty.”
Sydney smiled, not about to let his flattery get under her skin. He gave her another flash of his pearly whites. Hugh did have a great smile. It should be registered as a lethal weapon.
“So, Hugh, what brings you in here tonight? Following me again?”
“I came in for some dinner, a pint or two, and to people watch. My hotel is right across the street.”
Her brain took his last statement and twisted it into something wickedly sexual, and she buttoned her lip to prevent her mouth from spitting it out. Sydney’s brain was a little fuzzy, so she had to think about something else to say next. Nothing witty or humorous would come to mind, especially with him too close to allow conscious thought. “What brings you here to the city?” Boring.
“Work, unfortunately. I’m relocating, so I’m going to be here for quite a while. I’m hoping to find time for some pleasure as well. All work and no play makes me a very cranky boy.”
No matter how much beer was in her system, she hadn’t missed the emphasis he had put on the word pleasure. Hugh hoped to get lucky tonight, she was sure of it. Wasn’t that original? But then she was considering letting him get lucky, so she needed to relax. “And just what kind of pleasure are you looking for, Hugh?”
He chuckled at her, leaning into the table and closer to her. “I don’t know. It’s a big city, and I’m all alone here. I don’t like feeling lonely. Some company would be nice.”
Sydney heard the humor in his voice but couldn’t ignore the look of lonesomeness that fell over his face. She was touched by the stark honesty on his face. Perhaps she’d assumed too much with Hugh, as she was wont to do with many people. It was usually easier to believe the worst, which was a bad habit indeed. Maybe he wasn’t such a bad guy.
Loneliness. It had been a constant companion in her life. First she’d lost her parents in her senior year of high school, then her grandparents a few years later. She’d moved to New York right after graduating college, the intern position Oliver had offered too good to pass up. In a city of several million souls, a city that never slept, no one should ever be lonely. Or so she’d thought when she’d moved here five years ago. She’d soon learned that one could be lonelier in the Big Apple than anywhere else on the planet.
Sydney had known loneliness. She couldn’t remember the last time she hadn’t sensed the longing for more. A connection. A feeling of belonging that she could never quite grasp.
Hugh looked at her, his gaze grabbing hers and not letting go. She saw a spark of something akin to her own feelings. Ripping her stare from his, she shook her head, trying to get rid of her maudlin thoughts. Tonight was about forgetting her misery, not getting stuck in some kind of self-induced limbo roller coaster of pain by dredging up her past.
“There’s plenty of people in the city to ensure you’ll never feel lonely, Hugh.”
He watched her a moment, taking a sip of his pint before a smile came to his lips, the twinkle back in his eye. “It is a big city. I find myself in need of a tour guide. I don’t suppose you’re free this weekend?”
“I don’t know you well enough to offer my services as tour guide.”
“Of course you do. I’m Hugh, remember?” He chuckled and rested his hand on her knee. It shouldn’t have felt so good. He was much too familiar already, and she really needed to have him remove his hand from her body, but the warmth radiating from him fed her somehow. Her head even more woozy, Sydney couldn’t understand. She wasn’t here for this. She was here to forget her ills.
Sydney looked into his pale eyes. In the low lighting, she couldn’t see their color, but she remembered the frosty blue from their past meetings. Large honest eyes that radiated such sincerity. Or maybe that was the beer too. She felt dizzy and hyperaware at the same moment, and she wondered if her mind was twisting reality.
Emma returned to the table, scooting in to the other side of Sydney. She offered Hugh a palm, a slight frown playing against the smile on her face. “I’m Emma, and you are…?”
He took Emma’s hand. “You can call me Hugh.”
Sydney giggled. She couldn’t recall the last time she’d giggled. It felt magnificent. “Doesn’t he look like a mix between Hugh Jackman and Hugh Grant? I’ve dubbed him Hugh Squared.”
Emma shook her head. “Yeah, sure, Sydney.”
“Sydney, is it?” He glanced at Sydney. “It’s very nice to meet you, Sydney.”
Emma gasped. “You hadn’t even told him your name?”
The band for the night began warming up in the background. The sound of them testing their equipment made Sydney cringe. “Forgot, but then he hasn’t told me his, so we were even until you screwed it all up. Now I’m no longer mysterious.” Sydney took another drink, draining the last of her pint. She didn’t remember drinking it all.
“I think there are plenty of mysteries left to be solved with a woman like you.”