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A Baby for the Boss

By´╝ÜMaureen Child

One

“I don’t trust her.” Mike Ryan drummed his fingertips on his desktop and glared at his younger brother.

“Yeah,” Sean said on a laugh. “You’ve made that clear for months. What isn’t clear is why. She’s a terrific artist, meets her deadlines, is easy to get along with and a hell of a baker—she’s always bringing goodies in for everyone. So how about you tell me what Jenny Marshall ever did that you’re so against her.”

Scowling, Mike gritted his teeth and shifted his gaze to the view out his office window. Even in Southern California, January gardens looked a little grim. The backyard of the Victorian mansion that served as Celtic Knot Gaming’s office boasted dry, brown grass, leafless trees and empty flower beds. The sky was studded with gray clouds and a cold wind swept in off the ocean to rattle those bare tree limbs.

Still, looking at that dismal view was better than drawing up a mental image of Jenny Marshall. As unwilling as he was, though, that picture of her flashed across his brain. She was a damn munchkin, only standing about five foot two, but that tiny body was really packed well. She had curves that made Mike’s mouth water every time he saw her—especially since he already knew just what those curves looked like naked. One more reason he tried to avoid running into her.

Her short blond hair was a mass of curls that ended at her jawline, stirring up a grown man’s idle daydreams into fantasies of hot, sweaty nights. Instantly, he forced his mind away from the images of naked Jenny and instead thought of her eyes. As blue as the sky, bright with lies—and once, glazed with passion—for him.

Okay, that’s enough of that, he told himself firmly.

“I’ve got my reasons,” he muttered, not bothering to look at his brother again.

Sean had no clue that Mike and Jenny had met long before she was hired at Celtic Knot and there was no reason for that to change.

“Fine.” Sean blew out a breath. “Always were a hardhead. Anyway, doesn’t matter what the reasons are. You, me and Brady already decided this.”

“Brady’s in Ireland.”

“Yep,” Sean said, then added, “ain’t technology great? You do remember the meeting we had over webcam? The one where we all decided who would do which hotel?”

“I remember.”

“Good. Because Jenny’s in her office right now, working on the designs for the River Haunt hotel.” Sean met his brother’s gaze. “She’s already coming up with some great stuff. If we switch designers at this stage, it’s going to slow down everything. Besides, Jenny’s good. She earned this.”

Mike scowled and bit back any further argument because it just wouldn’t do any good. Sean was right: the plans had been made. He couldn’t change them now. All of the artists for the company had already been assigned their work schedules. Most of them were finishing up the graphics for the next game to be released in the coming summer. So Jenny was the only logical choice.

Didn’t mean he had to like it.

But there were deadlines to meet and no one knew that better than Mike. He, his brother and their friend Brady Finn had begun this gaming company when they were still in college. Their first game had been short on art and long on mystery and action. It had taken off faster than any of them had hoped and by the time they graduated from college, they were all millionaires.

They’d plowed their money back into the company they called Celtic Knot and within six months had released a bigger, more sophisticated game. They built a reputation for action games based on ancient Irish legends and superstitions, and their fan base swelled.

They’d bought this old Victorian in Long Beach, California, as their home base and hired the very best computer programmers, and digital and graphic artists.

They’d won awards and had legions of fans waiting for the release of their next game. And now, they were growing in another direction.

They were buying three hotels and revamping them into perfect role-playing venues for guests. Each hotel would be modeled after one of their top-selling games. The first, Fate Castle, was in Ireland. The modifications had just recently been completed and the hotel would be open and welcoming guests in March. The second, River Haunt, was in Nevada on the Colorado River and was just waiting for Mike to step up and get the renovations moving forward.

But how the hell could he do that while working one-on-one with Jenny Marshall? Answer: he couldn’t. But he wasn’t prepared to go into all of the reasons why with Sean. Instead, he’d simply go to Jenny. Convince her to back off this project. She was probably in no more hurry to work with him than he was with her. If she went to Sean herself and asked to be replaced, there wouldn’t be a problem. Mike would offer her a raise. Or a bonus. A woman like her would jump at a chance for that—and he’d be able to get on with the hotel transformation.

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