This excerpt contains sexual innuendo
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Submitting to the Boss
West Coast Series, Book 2
Copyright 2012 Jasmine Haynes
“Ruby, in my office, now,” Holt Montgomery barked over the intercom.
Ruby Williams pressed her lips together, staring at the offending device. It was just before five on Thursday, and Ruby always left at five. But she pushed the Talk button obediently. “Yes, Holt.”
She hadn’t found a decent apartment and had been living in a hotel for over a week, since the day Clay kicked her out of his house. All the rumors being bandied about last week had been squashed, and the demise of her three-year relationship with the CFO hadn’t yet made it to West Coast Manufacturing’s gossip mill, but her boss, Holt Montgomery, knew. She couldn’t be sure if Clay had told him the specific reasons why, but they’d been friends and coworkers for twenty years, the last ten at West Coast, where Clay was CFO to Holt’s CEO. It stood to reason Clay had told Holt. And Holt had been treating her...differently. There was a new hardness in his tone when he spoke to her. Like now. Before, Holt would have asked if she had a minute. It was a subtle difference, true, but there were other signs. He hadn’t joked with her. He’d rarely smiled at her. Holt had always been an easy-going boss from the day she’d started as his executive admin a little over four years ago. Now, it seemed that not only had she screwed up her living arrangements, she’d screwed over her job as well.
There was nothing to do but pick up her pad and pencil and go into his office the way he demanded.
Behind his big mahogany desk, surround by report folders and his two computer monitors with which he effectively multitasked, Holt Montgomery looked like a captain at the helm of his battle ship. At fifty-two with a head of thick steel gray hair and the fit, muscular body of a man fifteen years younger, his bearing inspired respect, awe, and even fear.
Ruby had always felt the respect and awe, but today, there was also a smidgen of fear.
“Close the door,” he ordered, his voice deep and hard-edged.
Ruby jumped to do his bidding. Her smaller office was an annex to his much larger one. In many respects, she was his guard dog, vetting all his calls and his visitors. She had to admit she liked the power in that, but with the door closed and the scowl on his face, she wasn’t feeling particularly powerful.
She’d lost so much more than she could have imagined when Clay kicked her out.
“Sit.” Holt pointed at the chair dead center before his desk.
It was one of the conference chairs, and that wasn’t its normal place. His office was spacious with a six-man conference table, coffee service trolley, and a sofa grouping by the large window, all this in addition to his massive mahogany desk. He conducted meetings, entertained customers, and signed multimillion dollar deals in this domain.
But that chair was out of place, and Ruby’s tension ratcheted higher. Clay was paying for the hotel, but he wouldn’t do that forever. She had to find a new place, and she needed a job in order to sign a lease.
Holt wouldn’t fire her because of what happened with Clay. Would he?
She sat, wishing she’d worn something more circumspect. But Ruby didn’t own anything circumspect. Her skirts were short, and her tops had plunging necklines. Holt had never complained.
He stared at her silently. He didn’t even seem to blink, just regarded her with piercing eyes so dark they were almost black. Holt was the only man in the world who made Ruby’s palms sweat. Most men she could wrap around her little finger, even Clay—at least until last week. But never Holt. She’d always felt subordinate to Holt, and funnily enough—probably because of her respect for him—it had never been an unpleasant feeling. Until now.
“What can I do for you, Holt?” Her voice seemed to crack and her mouth was dry.
Finally, he spoke. “You’ve been a very bad girl.”
Ruby swallowed; it hurt going down. “You mean about Clay?” She wasn’t about to admit to anything until she knew exactly what Clay had told him.
“Yes,” he said. “You fucked around behind his back.”
Okay, she could explain. She had to explain. “It wasn’t behind his back. He knew. In fact—”
Holt held up his hand, and she didn’t dare go on. That was another thing about Holt: he was the only man Ruby would shut up for. “Don’t prevaricate. I know all about your arrangement with Clay.”
Her face flushed. Ruby wasn’t the type to get embarrassed, yet there was something about knowing that Clay had told Holt her faults. But she wouldn’t cave by asking how much he knew. She waited him out.
It didn’t take Holt long to come back at her. “You had sex with a coworker in Clay’s office.”
All right, yes, she’d done that. She hoped that was the only thing Clay had revealed. “Clay and I have a special relationship where he enjoys my being with other men.” She allowed herself a slight smirk. “And he loves to hear all about it.”
Holt gave her the silent treatment again. Maybe the smirk was ill-advised. Then Ruby just couldn’t shut up despite herself. “That’s what he wanted from the beginning. That’s always been our relationship. I love sex, and he likes to hear about it. The more the better. It’s what gets him off. He...” Her voice died into the echo of her own words. A car drove by on the road visible Holt’s window, a big, rumbling diesel engine that set her nerves on edge.
“You didn’t mention the little matter of rules,” he said. His handsome face was granite hard.
She couldn’t believe Clay had told him everything. He couldn’t be so vindictive as to want to ruin her job as well. Her only course of action was to tell the truth. “He liked it when I broke certain rules, so I didn’t think he’d mind if I broke others.”
“But Bradley Palmer?” For the first time, Holt made a face, one of distaste.
She’d been a total idiot. She fully admitted that. “Having sex with him on Clay’s desk was a mistake.” Bradley was young, twenty-nine. His desire had stroked her ego. Not that she didn’t have a healthy ego. At forty, she was hot, and she wasn’t ashamed to say that. But every woman sometimes had a little niggling of doubt, and Bradley had caught her at that weak moment. Still, she hadn’t thought Clay would get riled up. She’d truly thought he’d get off on it.
“And what about the other places you fucked him, Ruby? Not to mention the rumors.”
She felt herself blanch. God. Clay really had told him all. “I didn’t start those rumors, and I made sure they were put to an end.”
“Damage done, Ruby.”
She almost snorted, then thought better of it. “No one ever believed any of that.” Because she’d taken things in hand. And really, five days later, it was just a blip on the rumor-mill horizon. They’d weathered the whole debacle.
Holt merely stared. It was completely unnerving. And again, she couldn’t shut up. “Why are you doing this? When I moved in with Clay, you told us business was business and personal was personal.”
“It is. But you brought it here. And against his wishes.”
She pursed her lips and puffed out a breath. If she wanted to keep her job, she was going to have to grovel. She wasn’t good at it, but she simply couldn’t afford to be fired. Besides, she actually liked working for Holt. He was fair-minded. Usually. “I made a mistake and I’m very sorry. I told Clay it would never happen again, and I’m telling you it won’t.”
If he was silent again after that, she’d have to scream.
Thank God he wasn’t. “There’s only one solution,” he said softly. Holt could be dangerous when he spoke that softly. She’d heard that deadly tone in meetings. And seen the results.
“What?” she asked, her heart racing.
“You’re going to have to be punished.” He waited a beat. “Severely.”
Then Holt rose, strode to the door. And locked it.
Ruby’s pulse began to beat against her eardrums.