So, you see what I was saying about life?

Just like that, Kate Brooks has changed from a woman I couldn’t wait to do the nasty dance with to someone I can’t wait to crush under my boot. My adversary. My competition. My enemy.

It’s not her fault. I know. Now ask me if I care.

Nope—not even a little.

In full-out combat mode, I return to headquarters—otherwise known as my office. I give Erin a few orders and work the rest of the afternoon. Around six o’clock, I have Erin call Kate into my office.

Always keep the home-field advantage. Play on your own turf. Remember that.

She comes in and sits down, her expression unreadable.

“What’s up, Drew?”

Her hair is down, framing her face in a long glossy curtain. For a second, I imagine what it would feel like tickling my chest, draping across my thighs.

I shake my head. Focus, Evans, focus.

She’s wearing a dark burgundy suit with matching heels. Kate is into the high heels. I think because she’s naturally petite, the height advantage they give makes her feel more confident at the office.

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Guys love heels. We associate them with all kinds of fantastic sexual positions. If you want a man to notice you, you cannot go wrong with a pair of shiny four-inch stilettos, I swear.

As my eyes continue to roam over her from head to toe, a problem, shall we say, arises. Although my mind recognizes that Kate Brooks is now my rival, apparently my c*ck hasn’t gotten the memo.

And he, judging from his reaction, still wants to make friends.

So I picture Miss Gurgle, my fifth grade science teacher, in my mind. She was a beast of a woman. A retired female wrestler—not the bikini kind. She had a mole on her right cheek that was so big, we were sure it was the head of a twin that hadn’t separated in the womb. It was disgusting but strangely hypnotic at the same time—you couldn’t help but stare at it. It jiggled when she spoke, like a bowl full of Jell-O.

I shudder slightly, but it does the trick. All’s clear down below.

“Saul Anderson is coming to the city next month,” I say at last.

Her brows rise. “Saul Anderson? Really?”

“Really,” I tell her, all business. No more pleasure for her. “My father would like you to put together a mock presentation. A run-through, as if you were really going to pitch a client. He thinks it would be good practice for you.”

I know, I know…you think I’m a scumbag. I’m not even giving her a fair chance. Well, get over it. This is business. And in business—like war—all is fair.

I expect her to be excited. I expect her to be grateful. She isn’t either of these.

Her lips press together in a tight line, and her expression turns serious. “Practice, huh?”

“That’s right. It’s not a big deal; don’t put yourself out. Just throw something together for him. A hypothetical.”

She folds her arms in front of her chest and tilts her head to the side. “That’s interesting, Drew. Considering your father just told me he hasn’t decided who’s getting Anderson yet. That it would come down to you or me, whoever put together the more impressive strategy. The way he explained it, it sounds like a very big deal.”

Uh oh.

When I was twelve, Matthew and I snagged a Hustler magazine from a convenience store. My father caught me with it in my room before I’d had the chance to hide it under my mattress. The look on my face at this moment is very similar to the one I wore then.

Busted.

“Playing a little dirty, are we?” she asks, her eyes narrow with suspicion.

I shrug. “Don’t get ahead of yourself, sweetheart. Anderson’s coming to me. My father’s just throwing you a bone.”

“A bone?”

“Yeah. You’ve had your lips attached to his ass since you started. I’m surprised he can still stand up straight. He figures this will get you off his back for a little while.”

Always strike first—remember that too. The team who scores first? They’re almost always the team who wins. Look it up if you don’t believe me.

Yes, I’m trying to shake her confidence. Yes, I’m trying to throw her off her game.

Sue me.

I told you my history. I told you how I grew up. I never had to share my toys; I don’t plan on sharing my clients.

Ask any four-year-old—sharing sucks.

When she speaks, her tone is lethal, sharp as a f**king machete. “If we’re going to work together, Drew, I think we should get a few things straight. I’m not your sweetheart. My name is Kate—Katherine. Use it. And I’m not a kiss-ass. I don’t have to be. My work speaks for itself. My intelligence, my determination—that’s what got your father to notice me. And obviously he thinks you’re a bit lacking in those departments since he’s considering me for Anderson.”

Ouch. Certainly goes right for the jugular, doesn’t she?

“And I know women probably fall all over themselves to get your attention and one of your charming smiles,” she continues, “but that’s not going to happen with me. I don’t plan on being one of your groupies or a notch on your bedpost, so you can save your lines, your smile, and your bullshit for someone else.”

She rises to her feet and rests her hands on the edge of my desk, leaning over.

Hey, you know if I just sit up a little bit more, I could see right down her blouse. I love that spot on a woman. That valley just between her—

Stop it!

Mentally, I slap myself. And she goes on.

“You’re used to being number one around here. You’re used to being daddy’s special little man. Well, there’s a new player in town. Deal with it. I’ve worked damn hard to get this job, and I plan on making a name for myself. You don’t like sharing the spotlight? Too bad. You can either make room for me at the table, or I’ll step on you when you get in my way. Either way, you can bet your ass I’ll get there.”

She turns to go but then looks back at me, her lips curved into a saccharine smile. “Oh, and I would say good luck with Anderson, but I won’t bother. All the luck in Ireland isn’t going to help you. Saul Anderson is mine…sweetheart.”

And with that, she turns and stalks out of my office, right past Matthew and Jack, who stand in my doorway open-mouthed.

“Well…damn,” Matthew says.

“Okay, is anyone else turned on right now?” Jack asks. “Seriously, I got wood here ’cause that—” he points in the direction Kate just went “—that was f**king hot.”

It was hot. Kate Brooks is a beautiful woman. But when she’s pissed off, she’s spectacular.

Steven walks in with a cup of coffee in his hand. Seeing the looks on our faces, he asks, “What? What’d I miss?”

Matthew all too happily tells him, “Drew is losing his touch. He just got verbally bitch-slapped. By a girl.”

Steven nods grimly and says, “Welcome to my world, man.”

I ignore the Three Stooges. My attention is still focused on the challenge Kate just threw down. The testosterone pumping through my body screams for victory. Not just a win, but a shutout—nothing short of a full, uncontested knockout will do.

Chapter 5

AND SO IT BEGAN—the Olympic Games of investment banking. I’d like to say it was a mature contest between two professional and highly intelligent colleagues. I’d like to say it was friendly.

I’d like to…but I won’t. ’Cause I’d be lying.

Remember my father’s comment? The one about Kate being the first one in the office and the last to leave? It stuck in my mind that whole night.

See, getting Anderson wasn’t just about putting on the best presentation, coming up with the best ideas. That’s what Kate thought—but I knew better. The man is my father, after all; we share the same DNA. It was also about reward. Who was more dedicated. Who had earned it. And I was determined to show my father that I was that “who.”

So, the next day I come in an hour early. Later that morning when Kate arrives, I don’t look up from my desk, but I feel it when she walks past my door.

See the look on her face? The slight pause in her step as she sees me? The scowl that comes when she realizes she’s the second to come in? See the steel in her eyes?

Obviously, I’m not the only one playing for keeps.

On Wednesday, then, I arrive at the same time to find Kate typing away at her desk. She looks up when she sees me. She smiles cheerily. And waves.

I. Don’t. Think. So.

The day after that, I come in another half-hour earlier…and so on. Are you seeing the pattern here? By the time the next Friday rolls around, I find myself walking up to the front of the building at four thirty.

Four-f**king-thirty!

It’s still dark. And as I get to the door of the building, guess who I see across from me, arriving at the exact same time?

Kate.

Can you hear the hiss in my voice? I hope you can. We stand there looking each other in the eyes, clutching our extra-large caffeine-filled double-mocha cappuccinos in our hands.

Kind of reminds you of one of those old westerns, doesn’t it? You know the ones I’m talking about—where the two guys walk down the empty street at high noon for a shootout. If you listen hard, you can probably hear the lonely call of a vulture in the background.

At the same moment, Kate and I drop our beverages and make a mad dash for the door. In the lobby, she pushes the elevator button furiously while I head for the stairs. Genius that I am, I figure I can take them three at a time. I’m almost six-feet—long legs. The only problem with this, of course, is that my office is on the fortieth floor.

Idiot.

As I finally reach our floor, panting and sweating, I see Kate leisurely leaning against her office door, coat off, a glass of water in hand. She offers it to me, along with that breathtaking smile of hers.

It makes me want to kiss her and strangle her at the same time. I’ve never been into S&M. But I’m beginning to see its benefits.

“Here you go. You look like you could use this, Drew.” She hands me the glass and flounces away. “Have a nice day.”

Right.

Sure, I’ll do that.

’Cause it’s just starting out great so far.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll go over it again just so we’re clear. For me, work trumps sex. Every time. Always.

Except for Saturday nights. Saturday is club night. Guy night. Hook-up-with-gorgeous-girls-and-screw-their-brains-out night. Despite my renewed diligence at work as I vie against Kate for Anderson, my Saturday night does not change. It is sacred.

What? Do you want me to go frigging insane? All work and no play makes Drew a cranky boy.

So, that Saturday night I meet a brunette divorcee at a bar called Rendezvous. I’ve found myself gravitating toward brunettes for the last couple weeks.

You don’t need to be Sigmund Freud to figure that one out.

Anyway, it’s a great night. Divorced women have a lot of pent-up anger—a lot of buried frustration—which never fails to translate into a good, long, hard fuck. It’s exactly what I’m looking for and just what I need.