The-Last-Plus-One

Release Date: June 13, 2016

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You are cordially invited to the wedding of the summer…

Do you have your plus one on speed dial?

Senator and Mrs. Ramsey’s youngest daughter is sure to be the loveliest June bride that the exclusive New England compound at Virtue Cove, Maine, has ever seen. But first, there’s a barrage of Wedding Week festivities to --e-n-d-u-r-e-- enjoy. And dogs. So many dogs.

While the bride and groom are basking in their Happily Ever After, behind the scenes are one b*tch of a wedding planner with an old flame that never burned out, a “quid pro quo” business arrangement in serious jeopardy of becoming a more personal partnership, and two best friends who might discover they’re a perfect match.

During bonfires on the beach, sunset yacht cruises, and tortuous wedding toasts, will the wedding magic rub off on the guests and turn someone’s “Mr. Plus One” into “Mr. Right”?

RSVP for three romantic novellas from USA Today Bestselling Author Ophelia London, Lindsay Emory, and Alexandra Haughton.

About Bringing Home the Boss

Margaret Kennedy (no, not that one) grew up in an idyllic little town in Maine (no, not that one) as the daughter of the caretakers for a very important family’s compound (okay, maybe that one). And now she’s caught the eye of a billionaire. She’s been Cruz Griffin’s right hand woman since a group project in the grad school venture lab turned into a hugely successful startup. But when he invites himself along to her family friend’s wedding, her two worlds collide leaving her trapped in the middle and feeling betrayed by both. 

Cruz is no stranger to schmoozing. The head of Sierra Delta 9 and son of a glam rock star, he has a wealth of connections in his portfolio. When he finds himself at the Ramsey compound in the middle of their youngest daughter’s wedding week, it’s the perfect opportunity to grab some face time with the elusive senator. But doing so will jeopardize the one relationship he’s ever made work—even if it’s always been strictly business with Maggie. 

 

Excerpt from Bringing Home the Boss

A big male thigh appeared in her peripheral vision. Hard to miss in that electric-blue woven he was sporting. 

Hard to miss even in khakis or dress pants, she supposed. The man had nice thighs. 

Unfortunately, at the moment, she wanted to stab that never-miss-a-leg-day thigh with her favorite mechanical pencil. He knew better. Maggie had her don’t-bother-me headphones on. And while he hadn’t technically bothered her (yet), she was distracted. Between the lazy blink of the cursor on her screen and the provoking thigh next to her desk, the crux of the memo she’d been drafting just vanished from her brain. 

She really needed to talk to him about that electric-blue jogging pant—the men’s line couldn’t sustain it through next spring’s collection—but that wasn’t part of the memo either.

Rolling her chair back a fraction, she crossed her legs and begrudgingly tipped the headphones off one ear. 

“Oh, good. I caught you on a break.” Cruz gestured to her triple-monitor setup and the reams of papers in file folders all over her desk, knowing full well she’d only pushed back because he’d been hovering. 

When he half sat on her desk, heedless of the piles he was disturbing, she gave in to temptation and poked him with her retracted pencil. It did no good. He just stood—or, rather, sat—his ground. 

This didn’t bode well. 

“I was looking over some things while you were out,” he said. “With Estrella’s Club soft-launching in the Business Journal article, there will be lots of press, and I need your brain, so it’s just not going to work for you to take that week off in June.”

“You can’t be serious. That week has been blocked off my calendar for a year.” Maggie moved the stapler out of his reach. He was so handsy, always in motion, and she hated when he messed with her stuff. But that was the least of her worries at the moment. 

He shrugged a “sorry” and she fought for the calm she was reputedly known for.

“The launch has been pushed back three times.” She smiled and held up three fingers for good measure. “Because someone is a perfectionist. And I have nothing more to do with the Business Journal article.”

“Doesn’t matter. Need you here.”

She almost sprained her eyeballs rolling them. “No. You want me here. You don’t need me to hold your hand when you push the button on the project. That’s part of your foundation, not SD9. Besides, you have volunteers. I’m sure some fancy little blond will be happy to help.” 

“Maggie—”

“Don’t Maggie me in that tone. I’m immune to your masculine wiles.” Mostly. 

Sometimes, she regretted her managing tendencies and the way she worked hand-in-glove with her CEO. They’d built Sierra Delta Nine from the basement up back in the grad school venture lab. Each step of the way, they’d been a team—an unlikely one, but a team nevertheless. Cruz was absolutely capable of running SD9 blindfolded and without the use of his extremities. Possibly while unconscious. They had an amazing staff in place. But if a COO couldn’t take a week off, there was something rotten in the state of Denmark.

He was just nervous about his project. And with good reason: the club would honor his late grandmother, giving girls and young women financial education—and later, microloans—to encourage entrepreneurship. They both wanted it to be successful, but that was no reason for him to lay down the law about Maggie’s vacation time. Especially since she almost never took any.

She smiled, knowing she’d already back-scheduled from her departure date and had a plan in place to get him through the launch remotely. “Estrella’s Club is nothing to worry about. Your vision is sound, and once it launches, you’ll have more applicants than you know what to do with.”

“But…” His dark brown eyes were soft—totally at odds with the slashing eyebrows and sharp cheekbones that went on for days—before he turned their full power on Maggie. 

“But nothing.” Maggie didn’t blink. Their little stare-down wouldn’t end until her eyeballs fell out. Ha! She had to bite back a smile when he looked out the window then back at her. 

“That’s just not going to work. You’re needed here,” he said imperiously. 

She stared back. Could do this all day if she had to. 

“Listen,” he said, taking a different tack. As if she didn’t know all of his tricks. “I’ll give you two weeks off the following week. Hell, I’ll even pay to change your reservations and upgrade your airline seat. But that week in June is out.”

“Seriously? You’ll give me two weeks?” She shoved at his big thigh, trying to dislodge him from her desk, paperwork be damned. “You can go fly a kite for patronizing me.”

“Patro—”

“Also, your negotiation strategy blows. I’m already flying first, so if you wanna upgrade me, you’re going to have to spring for a rocket ship.” 

“I might know a guy.”

She ignored his quip. And the half-smile that made crinkles form at the edge of his brown, brown eyes. And the way those fathomless eyes somehow managed to twinkle. “Look. Bottom line. I’m out that week—it’s on the schedule.”

“What’s more important than—”

“Hello, work-life balance? My childhood friend is getting married. It’s been in production longer than Estrella’s Club.” And believe me, it is a production

“Where?”

“Where what?” He was too close and too looming, and that intimidation-closer tactic wouldn’t work on her. There was no need for him to invade her space like this; they’d had several talks about it over the years—especially once Maggie had agreed they should continue to share an office after moving into the new building. After years of working closely, they were kind of afraid they’d lose their magic if they officed in separate suites. 

“Where’s the wedding, Maggie?” His question zapped her back to the problem at hand. 

“New England.”

If he leaned forward any more, he was going to be sitting in her lap. “More specific.”

“My hometown,” she hedged. But she knew his game. He was going to wear her down with questions. Try. She would play it her way. With silence. 

Cruz pushed back from the desk, and, miracle of miracles, even had a care to not scatter papers everywhere. “Okay. Fine.” 

“Fine.” Somehow she kept her corporate ice princess façade firmly in place and only mentally screamed the word with a shouty question mark. 

Well, that was easy. 

She popped her headphones back on and got back to work, unpacking the numbers again so maybe she’d have a clear thought—

An instant message popped up on her screen: 

Call Carol to book me through. Looks like I’ll be your plus one.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” She turned around to his desk behind her, almost strangling herself with the headphone’s cord, but he wasn’t there. 

Cruz was at the treadmill along the long wall of their office suite, big surprise. The screen in front of his machine was lit up with a blitz of numbers and charts, and, since it was after four, he was voice-dictating a memo while running at a pace and incline setting that made her own thighs tremble just thinking about it. And he wasn’t even breathing heavily into his mic.

“I said, you’ve got to be kidding me.” She got up and zapped off the monitor when he didn’t respond. 

“Hey!”

“You are seriously delusional, Cruz Griffin.”

“About what?” He clicked the monitor back on.

She clicked it back off. “I’m not calling your assistant to do a damned thing. Call her yourself. Better yet. Don’t. Because you are not—I repeat, N-O-T—going to be my plus one to this wedding.”

“Oh, you already have one?”

Maggie couldn’t decide if he was being a snot or not. 

No, his smirk said it all. Decidedly snotty. So she fought fire with fire. 

“Yeah. A hot one. Everything is all settled.”

“Well, unsettle it. Call off weak-chinned Charlie or whoever your escort du jour is and give him your regrets. This way, we both get what we want.”

He was kidding, right? He had to be. Going to a wedding stag was pretty bad, but what he was proposing…no.

“I’m not bringing my boss as my plus one.” 

“Don’t think of me as your boss,” he said, still running at that furious pace. “Think of me as your best friend.”

“Nope. Sorry. I don’t make out with my best friends, and everybody knows that’s the sole responsibility of the plus one.”

He gave her a serious look. A seriously confusing look. The kind that made her want to simultaneously squirm in her three-inch heels and fluff out her hair. Instead, she just stood her ground. “It was a joke, Cruz.” 

She swore, working with him was like working with a solipsistic toddler sometimes. Except he was a big, hulking mass of me-me-me-me. No, that wasn’t really fair. He was a tremendous CEO with a vision for SD9 and a heart for his employees. If only he’d get a freaking clue and cut her some slack on this. 

The minute she’d said she was heading home, he should have known to back off. It was one of her hot-button issues.

It was hard enough thinking about going back to Maine—and even worse, to the Cove—after she’d managed to avoid it for so long. She was already on her parents’ list for dodging holidays. Being guilted into standing up at Laurel’s wedding was her penance, she guessed, for being the worst daughter ever. 

Maggie wasn’t about to cap that off with a fake plus one. Her boss, of all people! And a late addition at that. She’d learned at her mother’s knee the battle plan for seating arrangements was not to be messed with. But Cruz Griffin would never understand that; he was used to the world being hypnotized by his charm and cheekbones, stumbling over themselves in the rush to bend and give. 

So here she was, having another stare-down with him. Ridiculous. Maggie wished she had her corporate armor on today, so she could button her suit jacket and let that shore up her confidence. Damned Ladies’ League luncheon ruined everything. She was even wearing the strand of pearls she’d received for high school graduation. Nobody (least of all Maggie herself) took her seriously when she was wearing her fancy-lady costume. 

Fine. She’d blink first this time. “It’s out of the question, Cruz. I’m staying with my parents. There is no room for you even if I wanted you there. Which I do not.”

“I’ll book a hotel.” He was seriously never going to back down. She shouldn’t have come at him guns blazing. He could out-stubborn a terrier. 

Thump. Thump. Thump. His lazy nine-minute mile pace matched the speed at which her head was going to explode. 

“Okay, I’ll have Carol book one this afternoon,” he amended with a wink. “What’s the name of your quaint hometown again? Bearded Clam Bottom Something…”

She refused to correct him. Growing up in a place called Virtue Cove was about as terrible as somewhere called Bearded Clam’s Bottom. 

Perhaps a little less charming.

“The only way you’d get a hotel room in the area is if you bought one. And there’s no way I’m signing off on that deal,” she added when he got that billionaire badass gleam in his eye. “I’m serious. Everything in every surrounding town and village is already booked up for the wedding. I doubt you could even scrounge a summer rental at this point.”

“Fine. Then I’ll stay with you.” The eyebrow waggle in his voice was clear as day. 

She could throttle him—she really could. Wait. She probably couldn’t get her hands around that thick neck attached to that fat head of his. 

“Are you even listening to anything I say?” Her voice was bordering on shrill. So much for the calm, cool Boardroom Ice Queen persona she’d perfected over the years. But, oh, the man knew how to push her buttons. “You’ve got some serious personal and professional boundary issues going on here. Shall I call HR?”

She watched as he ripped off his earpiece and punched at the controls. He hopped on the rails of the still-treading treadmill and took a big gulp of fruit-infused water, then pointed the bottle at her. 

“But I won’t be attending as your boss. I’ll be attending as your longtime friend and plus one. You want to make out all sloppy on the dance floor while some white guys sing Sam Cooke standards, we’ll make out all sloppy on the dance floor. I’ll be there that week in June.”

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