“Then, ask it.”
Despite her attitude, he liked her. There was something about her straightforward manner that he admired very much. “Were you sleeping with my brother?”
As he looked into her simmering blue eyes, he suddenly and unexpectedly cared about the answer. He didn’t want her to be Dixon’s mistress.
He was relieved. “You’re sure?”
“That wouldn’t be something I’d forget. My car keys, maybe. To pick up cat food, yes. But, oops, having sex with my boss just slipped my mind?” Her tone went flat. “Yes, Tuck. I’m sure.”
He wanted to kiss her. He was suddenly seized by an overwhelming desire to pull her close and taste those sassy lips.
“You have a cat?” he asked instead.
“Focus, Tuck. Dixon’s not coming back. At least not for a while. I know you’ve had a cushy run here, but that’s over and done with. You’ve got work to do now, and I am not letting you duck and weave.”
Now he really wanted to kiss her. “How’re you going to do that?”
“Persuasion, persistence and coercion.”
“You think you can coerce me?”
“What I think is that somewhere deep down inside you must be a man who wants to succeed, a man who actually wants to impress his father.”
She was wrong, but he was curious.
“Why do you think that?” he asked.
“You strike me as the type.”
“I never imagined I was a type.”
Truth was he didn’t want to impress his father. But he did want to impress Amber, more than he’d wanted to impress a woman in a very long time.
Unfortunately for him, she wasn’t about to observe him in the part of suave, worldly, wealthy Tuck Tucker. She was about to watch him fumbling around the helm of a multimillion corporation. He couldn’t have dreamed of a less flattering circumstance.
Amber was torn between annoyance and sympathy.
For the past week, Tuck had arrived at the office promptly at eight. He seemed a little groggy for the first hour, and she’d fallen into the habit of having a large coffee on his desk waiting for him. She could only guess that he hadn’t yet modified his playboy nights to fit his workday schedule.
She’d moved from her desk near Dixon’s office to the desk outside Tuck’s office. Tuck didn’t have his own assistant, since he was so rarely there, but now he was taking on Dixon’s work. He was also taking on Jamison’s. Margaret had been out sick most days since Jamison’s heart attack, so Amber was keeping in communication with directors and managers and all of their assistants, trying to be sure nothing fell through the cracks.
This morning, voices were raised behind Tuck’s closed door. He was meeting with Zachary Ingles, the marketing director. They were two weeks from the New York trade show and deadlines were rapidly piling up.
“You were tasked with approving the final branding,” Zachary was shouting. “I sent three options. It’s all in the email.”
“I have two thousand emails in my in-basket,” Tuck returned.
“Your disorganization is not my problem. We’ve missed the print deadline on everything—signs, banners and all the swag.”
“You need to tell me when there’s a critical deadline.”
“I did tell you.”
“In an email that I didn’t read.”
“Here’s a tip,” said Zachary. But then he went silent.
Amber found herself picturing Tuck’s glare. Tuck might be out of his depth, but he wasn’t stupid, and he wasn’t a pushover.
A minute later, Tuck’s office door was thrown open and Zachary stormed past her desk, tossing a glare her way. “Tell your boss he can pay rush penalties on every damn item for all I care.”
Amber didn’t bother to respond. She’d never warmed up to Zachary. He was demanding and entitled, always running roughshod over his staff and anyone else below him in the corporate hierarchy. Dixon put up with him because he was favored by Jamison, and because he did seem to have a knack for knowing how to appeal to big clients with expensive shipping needs.
Tuck appeared in the office doorway.
“Lucas will be here at ten,” she told him. “But your schedule is clear for the next half hour.”
“Maybe I can read a few hundred emails.”