His to Keep (Beauty and the Brit)(5)

By: Terri Austin

Not that this was about Brynn, he told himself. He had a goal. He was going to stay focused on that goal—she was just a bloody bonus.

“It feels wrong,” Marc said, “using this girl to get to her relatives. Seedy, yeah?”

“It’s called networking. No different than glad-handing at a cocktail party or going to a charity dinner in order to meet serious players. It’s just business. You know we’ve tried every other avenue. Blake’s lawyer won’t return our calls. I even tried to play up the expat angle with him, but I couldn’t get a meeting. Trevor Blake is a bloody fortress.”

Marc stopped treading over the hand-loomed rug. “While I’m not convinced that this is our best solution, the course she’s teaching might actually do you some good. Your leadership skills are a bit lacking, aren’t they?”

Iain paused, the cup midway to his lips. “What the bloody hell are you on about?” Iain was leadership personified. He had the portfolio and bank balance to prove it. “There’s nothing wrong with the way I lead, mate. I get results.”

“You do,” Marc agreed. “But you also hack off a lot of people. And those you don’t offend are scared shitless of you.”

“Good.” He didn’t give a damn if people feared him, as long as they did their jobs properly. This wasn’t a popularity contest. No one got a prize for congeniality. “If they don’t like working here, they’re free to quit.”

“Which explains our high turnover rate. You could stand to be a little nicer to people. Wouldn’t kill you none, would it?”

“I expect people to show up and do their jobs. In return, we pay them very well at the end of each week. I’m not their mate. End of.”

“The accounting department nearly piss themselves every time you walk into the room,” Marc said.

“And?” Nothing wrong with that—at least his employees respected him.

“My gran used to say you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

“That’s daft. Why would I want to catch flies?” Strolling to his chair, Iain carefully set the cup and saucer on his desk, then tugged on the bottom of his waistcoat before resuming his seat. “This scheme is going to work. Brynn Campbell will give me a pointless lesson, I’ll be charming, she’ll be charmed, and in turn, I’ll ask her for an introduction to Trevor Blake. In the meantime, you make sure our proposal is sorted, yeah?”

“I’m on it, but I still say your management style could use an overhaul.”

“Bugger off. By the way, how’s Melanie? Haven’t seen her in weeks.”

“Fine.” Marc combed his fingers through his hair, leaving it more disheveled than before. “Things are fine.”

Something was definitely going on there, but if Marc didn’t want to talk about it, Iain wouldn’t pry—it was none of his concern as long as it didn’t interfere with business. “We can’t afford to have you distracted right now. I need you focused on this project.”

Marc’s blue eyes turned glacial. “Since when have I ever cocked-up on a project? I’ll do my bit, you do your part. But if we’re relying on your charm, we could be in real trouble.”

“Funny,” Iain said to Marc’s retreating back. The door shut with a click behind him.

Management training nonsense—Iain couldn’t think of anything more useless. And his management style didn’t need an overhaul. He and Marc had built this company from nothing, in spite of a crap economy. Fine, Iain was sometimes harsh with his employees, but if they couldn’t handle it, they probably didn’t belong there. Besides, he didn’t get his jollies from being cruel. Everything he did, every decision he made, was for the benefit of Blue Moon.

A few moments later, Amelia knocked on the door and slipped into the room. “Iain, your appointment’s here.” Ames was a lovely woman—professional-looking in a conservative black dress. No one would have ever guessed that they’d met in a strip club.

Iain had been a bouncer, Ames a bartender. When the business started taking off, he’d brought her on board full time—steady hours, full bennies. With her disarming warmth and bright smile, Amelia made his visitors feel welcomed. In fact, they were so comfortable by the time they entered his office, they’d lowered their guard. And Iain took advantage of it. She was the honey, and he was the vinegar. Flies, indeed.

Until now, he hadn’t realized he’d been fondling the dice once again. Shoving them into his pocket, he stood and donned his jacket. Then he smoothed his lapels and straightened his tie. When Amelia didn’t move, he glanced up at her. “What’s the problem?”