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Exclusive Excerpt: Chapter One. Would you rather was Renner Bastion’s least favorite game. Scratch that. All games were his least favorite. He couldn’t help playing one, however, as he stared down at his factory floor. Security guard Milo Bautista flirted with one of the older female assembly line workers, twirling her by the hand as if they were on a cruise ship dancing to bongo music. Renner stood in an air-conditioned office, surrounded by silence. So. Would he rather be upstairs in his impeccably clean suit, or downstairs, covered by factory grease that seemed to ooze from every corner of his New Jersey manufacturing plant? Considering that Milo and the woman looked joyful while Renner was in a shitty mood, he didn’t have an answer. How you like them apples? Jesus. Thanks to Milo, he was even starting to think in a Boston accent. The man who’d ordained himself Renner’s personal one-man security detail without permission was more Boston than Mark Wahlberg at a fucking Red Sox game. Wearing Paul Revere’s hat. And yet here Renner was, kind of wishing the jerk would come upstairs where he belonged, instead of making the female population of Hook swoon. “There’s a good sign it’s time to go home,” Renner muttered, his breath creating condensation on the glass. He’d been saying the same thing for weeks now. It’s time to go home. Not to his two-bedroom in Hook, though. His apartment in Manhattan. Or his flat in China. Or any one of the homes he’d rented to keep an eye on his other ventures. The damage sustained by the factory explosion in Hook had been repaired weeks ago, the construction no longer requiring his daily supervision. God knew his employees were sick to death of his presence, turning their backs whenever he passed through their midst. Yet here he remained, in this town full of nosy people constantly wanting to grill meat and drink beer from cans, watching everyone else live from the other side of the glass. “What a cliché you’ve become.” Renner reached to his left, pouring whiskey from a glass decanter into a tumbler and lifting it to his lips for a long sip. “Resented boss. Spoiler of fun.” The liquor lit a path of fire on its way down. “The one who gets shit done and signs everyone’s paychecks. Don’t forget that part.” As if Renner had spoken into the intercom instead of to himself, Milo’s smooth movements snagged while dipping the enamored worker. His dark-haired head came up, his gaze finding Renner upstairs, that eyebrow tilting as if to say, want to take a picture, boss man? That was their relationship, if you could refer to it as such. Renner gave Milo orders, as he did to all of his employees, and Milo told him to shove it, going about following instructions in his own way. His signature loose-limbed, ready to rumble, swaggering way. Sometimes he even winked at Renner while following through, which in itself should have been grounds for firing. Even if winking didn’t break any codes of conduct per se, it certainly violated Renner’s own unwritten rule book. As did Milo’s walking into his office without knocking and throwing sarcasm Renner’s way at every available opportunity. Apparently Milo fell into some kind of gray area that allowed him to disrespect Renner’s authority and retain his job. The rugged Bostonian may have been hired several months ago by Vaughn, the head of factory security and an old army buddy of Milo’s, but Renner had the ultimate power to hire and fire. Putting up with the subtle jabs and sarcasm had nothing to do with Renner’s reluctant fascination with the security guard. Or the way a flame lit under his blood every time the man was close by. Nothing whatsoever. He had a strict set of rules when it came to other men, and Milo violated them all by being his employee. Not to mention being too young…and too straight. Like, chest bumps and beer koozies straight. In other words, Renner was doing his best to ignore how Milo’s security shirt had come unbuttoned halfway to his belt and sweat was beginning to catch the bright factory lights— “Right.” Renner swallowed the remaining inch of whiskey and turned away from the window. He needed to get some sleep. He’d been working on a new contract pitch for three days, and his common sense was beginning to blur. The account he was trying to land didn’t want to use their facilities, anyway. Despite Bastion Enterprises’ pristine track record, the rejections continued. Why was he trying so hard? Because that’s what Renner did. He worked until he collapsed. Late hours, red-eye flights, exhaustion, coffee, whiskey. Repeat. After being doubted by countless associates on his rise to the top, a fire burned in his gut, daring him to prove himself. It never, ever went away. Yes, work was his cruelest vice, and it kept him moving. Never settling. He certainly didn’t make habits of outstaying his welcome in one town. A place where he didn’t warrant so much as a wave when walking down the street. It was absurd that Milo, an employee who had about as much respect for Renner as a delinquent child for a school principal, should make him feel…welcome. For the love of God, he’d greeted Renner with a middle finger this morning and yet somehow, Renner had been looking forward to it. At least it was an acknowledgment. Time to go home. Seriously. Back to the city. Back to sanity. Back to dating men who were available to him. Why was there so little appeal to the latter? With an irritated curse, Renner went to his desk and began shoving files into his leather briefcase. If he went out the back door, he wouldn’t have to ruin everyone’s fun downstairs. His Mercedes was parked a few blocks over, despite Milo’s insistence that he “pahk in the freakin’ laht,” so he would avoid that argument as well. That was not a disappointed tug in his stomach; he’d just skipped dinner.
Tessa Bailey Bio: Author Bio: Tessa Bailey is originally from Carlsbad, California. The day after high school graduation, she packed her yearbook, ripped jeans and laptop, driving cross-country to New York City in under four days. Her most valuable life experiences were learned thereafter while waitressing at K-Dees, a Manhattan pub owned by her uncle. Inside those four walls, she met her husband, best friend and discovered the magic of classic rock, managing to put herself through Kingsborough Community College and the English program at Pace University at the same time. Several stunted attempts to enter the work force as a journalist followed, but romance writing continued to demand her attention. She now lives in Long Island, New York with her husband of nine years and four-year-old daughter. Although she is severely sleep-deprived, she is incredibly happy to be living her dream of writing about people falling in love. Connect with Tessa: Author Twitter: @mstessabailey Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TessaBaileyAuthor/ Author Street Team/Facebook Group: Bailey’s Babes https://www.facebook.com/groups/191945697620644/ Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tessabaileyisanauthor/ Newsletter: http://www.tessabailey.com/contact Enter Tessa’s Giveaway: a Rafflecopter giveaway