69 Million Things I Hate About You(7)

By: Kira Archer

She was no-nonsense. Dressed almost exclusively in pencil skirts and buttoned shirts, her blond hair usually slicked back into a bun or ponytail. But the more prim and proper she behaved, the more Cole was tempted to break his anti office romance rule and rile her up just to see if she had any passion in her for anything other than spreadsheets and color-coded files. The woman was wound so tightly he was afraid that one of these days she’d come apart at the seams.

“Can I get anything for you, Mr. Larson?” she asked Brooks.

He shook his head. “No, thanks. I’m good for now.” He winked at Kiersten, and she smiled, her cheeks flushing slightly. Cole frowned as she went back to her office.

“Quit flirting with my assistant,” Cole said.

“Why? Someone should. That woman is like a champagne bottle someone shook up.”

“And you will not be popping any corks.”

“You calling dibs?”

Cole’s frown deepened. “You are so juvenile.”

Brooks shrugged, completely unfazed by Cole’s bad mood. “Someone needs to be around here. You are more than uptight enough for the both of us.”

“Just because I prefer working to fucking every female that crosses my path doesn’t mean I’m uptight.”

Brooks slapped a hand to his chest in mock offense. “You make me sound like such a nympho.”

“You are a nympho. What are you doing here anyway? You’re”—Cole glanced at his watch—“an hour and a half early.”

“I’m starving. And since Kiersten has to practically force food down your throat, I know you haven’t eaten. I thought maybe we could grab something before the game tonight.”

Cole glanced at his watch again. He, Brooks, and two buddies they’d met through their various ventures had a regular poker game every Thursday night. Brooks claimed it helped them practice their poker faces for business meetings. Cole was fairly sure it was an excuse to drink his best scotch and legally take money from all his friends. If Brooks wasn’t a genuine card shark, he was damn close.

“I’ve got a few more files I need to go over first. I can have Kiersten order something up.”

Brooks groaned. “Come on, Cole. Get your ass out of the office for once.”

Cole sighed and pushed away from his desk. Brooks wasn’t going to leave him alone until he agreed to go. And he had a point. Cole hadn’t left the office all day. It would be nice to get out for a minute.

“Fine. Let me just…” Before he could call Kiersten in, she poked her head back in the door.

“I’m going to head out, Mr. Harrington. Is there anything else you need before I go?”

He’d given up on getting her to call him Cole after the first week. Stubborn woman. “Yes.” A slight tightening of her lips was the only indication she gave that he might have shattered her hopes for the night. He pointed to a stack of about fifteen thick file folders. “Take those home and have a quick look over them.”

She gathered them up, jaw clenched, and he found himself waiting to see if she’d argue. Refuse to do it. Yell at him for ruining her weekend even more than he already had. Stick her tongue out at him when she thought he wasn’t watching. Something.

Instead, she quickly flipped through them. “Certainly, sir. What are they?” she asked.

“Background information for a new project. I need you to tell me if anything in there is useful.”

“Are you looking for something specific?”

He sighed and sat back in his chair. “I don’t know what I’m looking for as I haven’t gone through them yet. That’s what you are here for.”

“Yes, sir,” she said, her voice tight, but still controlled. He had no doubt she was seething, but she hid it well. “I’ll see if I can find anything useful.”

“Thank you, Crustin. That’ll be all.”

Kiersten’s eyes flashed, and for a moment, Cole thought the moment had finally come. He could practically see the ass-chewing trembling on her lips.

“Anytime, sir,” she said, her tone cool. Impressive restraint, he had to admit. Had their roles been reversed, he’d have definitely lost his temper by now.