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One night with the ceo, p.1

One Night with the CEO, page 1

 

One Night with the CEO
 


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One Night with the CEO


  One Night with the CEO

  By Mia Sosa

  New York Boston

  Begin Reading

  Table of Contents

  An Excerpt from Unbuttoning the CEO

  Newsletters

  Copyright Page

  Hachette Book Group supports the right to free expression and the value of copyright. The purpose of copyright is to encourage writers and artists to produce the creative works that enrich our culture.

  The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book without permission is a theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like permission to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), please contact [email protected] Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.

  For Anika

  Acknowledgments

  I’m in awe of the many writers in the romance industry who continually elevate their craft and write stories that touch our hearts, stretch our minds, make us laugh, and inspire us to get our sexy on (ahem). You all deserve a slow clap, a standing ovation, and a fist bump. Thank you for showing me how it’s done.

  Speaking of how it’s done, Dana Hamilton is an editor extraordinaire, y’all. I went through some dark writing moments to get this book in readers’ hands. Dana helped me to see the light, and she did so with kindness. Instead of asking, “What is this crap?” Dana told me “This needs work,” and then she helped me tell a better story. I can’t thank you enough for your guidance, Dana. (Insert dancing baby gif here.)

  My new editor, Madeleine Colavita, has confirmed what I’d already suspected: The team at Grand Central is awesome. Thank you for being gracious and helpful, Madeleine. I’m looking forward to working with you!

  My agent, Sarah Younger, deserves many kudos, too. She helps to keep me centered—a significant task, I assure you—and she gives me more brilliant advice in a single phone call than any person should reasonably expect to receive in a lifetime. I’m so lucky to have you in my corner, Sarah.

  My friend and critique partner, Olivia Dade, has helped me to become a better writer and a better friend. We’ve stumbled through this writing journey together, and there’s no other writer I’d rather stumble with. Olivia, our long phone calls, sprints, and writing sessions fuel my creativity and keep me sane. I’m so proud of your success, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for you!

  My hubby and girls mean the world to me. Seriously. I cannot adequately express how blessed I feel to call them mine, and it would take an entire book to explain the many ways they supported me while I wrote this book. I heart you guys forever and ever.

  My mother’s always been proud of me, whether warranted or not, but I confess to being nervous about her reaction to the first book in this series. I needn’t have worried. After she read it, she told me, “I’m so proud of you—and this book is hot.” (Insert mortified daughter gif here.) Anyway, I hope you enjoy this one, too, Màe. And thank you for, well, everything.

  The rest of my family cheered me on, shared my news, and purchased my book. So in return, I promise to host all of the family’s major get-togethers for the next decade. Well, actually, let’s start with the ones in 2016 and see how it goes.

  Finally, a word about the others members of my “village.” I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone that I spend the bulk of my daytime hours either sitting or standing in front of a computer. Most of that time I’m writing. Too much of that time I’m surfing the Internet or trying to figure out the rules for running a Facebook ad. More times than I care to admit, I’m doubting myself and questioning whether my story makes sense or whether I have the “chops” to be a writer. Luckily for me, I have so many people in my life who know just what to say or do to kick those doubts to the curb. And I’m so thankful that my village now includes a host of writers and readers who have generously shared their time, wisdom, and experience with me (I’m looking at you, Soni Wolf, Kerri Carpenter, Sofia Tate, and Ana Coqui). My village is comprised of far too many people to list here, but I have to give a special shout-out to the Dragonflies, the Cackle Corner, my law school tribe, the Binders, and Team Sarah. Sending tackle-hugs to everyone!

  CHAPTER ONE

  The skin on the back of Karen Ramirez’s neck prickled, warning her of the ambush a second before it happened.

  Before she could do anything about it, her older sister, Gracie, suddenly appeared in front of Karen and thrust a tumbler in her hand. “Swallow it.”

  Her sister’s best friend, Mimi, erupted into a high-pitched cackle. “That’s what he said.” The petite blonde donned a coquettish smile and swayed to the music blasting through the club’s speakers.

  Buoyed by the steady beat of the unfamiliar pop song vibrating around her, Karen gripped the heavy base of the whiskey glass and lifted the drink to her lips. After spending the last four years chained to the desk in her dorm room, she had no clue what to make of the song or the strobe lights flashing through the upscale club in D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood. It all seemed…a bit much.

  She pursed her mouth in distaste at the offending liquid and stared at Gracie with pleading eyes. When that didn’t work, she shook her head in tepid refusal.

  “It’s whiskey, not mouthwash,” Mimi pointed out. “Stop swishing it around in your mouth like that.”

  Okay, might as well get this over with. Karen gulped a generous amount of the honey-colored liquid and thumped a fist over her heart as the burn sped down her chest and settled in her stomach. Disgusting. People drank that crap on purpose?

  Gracie, radiant as usual in a sleek black dress, patted Karen’s back and smiled. “C’mon, Karen. Relax. It’s not every day a Ramirez graduates from college. The books will be there in the morning.” Gracie swept her arms in the direction of the dance floor. “For tonight, you need to let loose. Throw caution to the wind.”

  “Release your inner hussy and screw a hot man,” Mimi added as she handed Karen more whiskey, this time in a shot glass.

  Gracie’s smile faded, and she pinned Mimi with a warning stare. “Whoa there, partner. Rein it in. This is my baby sis you’re talking to.”

  Mimi refused to shrink away. “Your baby sis is an adult. And she’s entitled to sex, too, Ms. Getting-It-Every-Day-and-Making-the-Rest-of-Us-Jealous.”

  Gracie covered her ears. “La, la, la. Next subject, please.”

  Karen waved a hand in front of the dynamic duo. “Hello? I’m here, you know. And while I might be out of practice, I do know how to have fun.” She tipped back her head and took another shot. Good lord. Would she grow hair on her chest tonight, too?

  Gracie dropped her hands and gave her sister a sheepish grin. “Sorry, Kar. Anyway, let’s find a spot on the dance floor. I want to dance before Ethan gets here.”

  Karen didn’t know her sister’s boyfriend well; she’d been so busy at school, most of what she knew about him came from her parents and Gracie. From all reports, he was a good guy, but if he had any possessive tendencies, she and Gracie would have a talk—and then she’d be calling her male cousins in New York to have a “talk” with him.

  Karen drew her sister to her side. “Why the rush? He doesn’t like you to dance?”

  Gracie scoffed. “No, nothing like that. The man has two left feet. I’m saving myself from the embarrassment.”

  Relieved, Karen took a last shot of whiskey—it went down easier the third time around—and let Gracie lead her to the dance floor, where Mimi had already managed to draw a semicircle of men around her.

  Karen’s heart rate quickened as strangers’ bodies pressed against her. Since she was someone who relished her personal space, this setting made her stomach queasy. Still, Gracie and Mimi were right. It wouldn’t hurt to celebrate a little before she buckled down for t
he road ahead. Four years of medical school. Four years during which she’d have no time for distractions. None. Rien. Nada. Tonight, though, she could afford to throw caution to the wind. How much trouble could she get into with her sister in tow anyway?

  * * *

  Karen groped the wall and tried not to trip as she made her way to the ladies’ room. Did the hall have to be so freakin’ dark? She pressed her face against the velvet-covered wall, sighing when the soft fabric touched her cheek. Mmmm. Nice.

  Speaking of which, whiskey was nice. She’d unfairly maligned the drink before experiencing the heady warmth that spiraled in her belly and radiated out to her limbs. Unfortunately, though, the whiskey also affected her in other, less welcome ways. Every step took more effort than she had energy for, as if she were swimming in a giant vat of chewing gum. And a sheen of perspiration coated her arms. Still, she’d convinced Gracie that she was sober enough to get to the restroom, and she was determined to get there. Otherwise, she’d pee on herself in this swank club.

  A few minutes later, after pressing a cool, wet paper towel to her forehead and reapplying her lipstick, Karen left the ladies’ room and slammed into a wall. Of chest. She sniffed the dress shirt that covered that chest and grinned. A woodsy scent with a hint of citrus filled her nostrils. Everything was so damn nice in this club.

  She might have hummed her approval. Maybe. And the ensuing silence forced her to realize what she was doing. “You’re going to be a gentleman and pretend I didn’t sniff you, right?”

  Strong hands helped her to remain upright. “Sure. You okay down there?”

  The man with the baritone voice didn’t bother to hide his amusement at her predicament. She lifted her head, wanting desperately to meet the owner of that voice. And sure enough, the owner did not disappoint. What she could see of him, at least.

  Dark hair. Dark eyes. Devilish smile. That smile triggered her sense of self-preservation. My owner is the mother of all distractions, it seemed to say. But she held her ground, because if she didn’t, she’d topple over in the stilettos Gracie had persuaded her to wear.

  She drew back a bit to survey him and experienced an inexplicable urge to snuggle into his massive chest. The shadows across his face highlighted certain features and hinted at others: strong jaw, angular cheekbones, and hair that flopped carelessly over one eyebrow.

  He’d asked her a question, but she struggled to remember it. Something about whether she was okay, maybe? Regaining her senses, she stepped out of his loose grasp. “Sorry about that. I’m fine. A celebration gone amuck. The uninitiated should never drink whiskey for the first time in a public place.”

  “Congratulations on whatever you’re celebrating. It looks good on you. You’re glowing.”

  Karen’s cheeks warmed. She hoped she wasn’t blushing. That would be embarrassing. Hell. Who was she kidding? This encounter had passed embarrassing and landed directly on awkwardly humiliating when she’d sniffed his shirt. Nevertheless, she managed to thank him, though her voice barely rose above a murmur.

  He simply watched her, a ghost of a smile drawing her into his orbit. Of its own volition, her body drifted closer to him.

  His eyes, attentive to her every move, narrowed as she came closer. “Are you here alone?”

  She must have frowned at the question, because he tripped over himself to explain.

  “I’m not trying to pick you up,” he said as he raised both hands in the air. “I promise. I don’t generally hang out in clubs to pick up women.”

  Karen focused on the one word that held her interest. “Generally?”

  His head rose just a fraction, as though he himself were surprised by his use of the word. “No, not generally. Anyway, I was asking because your…celebration might have affected your faculties, and I’d be an asshat if I didn’t make sure you were safe before I left you.”

  She didn’t bother to disagree with his assessment of her faculties, though in truth, the whiskey hadn’t completely decimated her senses. “That’s sweet.” She should have stopped there. But she didn’t. “It’s also disappointing. I had high hopes for you.”

  Had she said that out loud? Yes. She. Had. Karen laughed to cover her embarrassment, a weak sound that drifted in the air like a deflated balloon. The buzz from the whiskey had propelled her to act in ways that were foreign to her, erasing the lines she typically didn’t cross. Needing to move, she pressed her hand against the back of her neck and winced when a trickle of sweat made its way down her spine. So attractive. Whatever. Karen wanted to be daring for a change, sweaty or not. “That didn’t come out right. What I meant is, it’s a shame that you won’t be making a move on me. I’d like you to.”

  There. She’d said it.

  A gaggle of women chose that moment to stumble through the hall on their way to the restroom. He backed up, and when the women had passed, he directed his measured gaze from the top of her head to the toes that peeked out of her abominably painful shoes.

  Now that they were separated by a few feet, she surveyed him in his entirety. The business suit hugged his frame as though it had been tailored for him. And judging from its seemingly expensive fabric, it likely had been. Everything about his appearance screamed serious, broody businessman, from the silk tie he hadn’t bothered to loosen despite his relaxed surroundings, to the crease between his brows. That is, until you considered his hair, which appeared to follow the whim of his fingers, and the hint of a smile that begged for someone to draw it out completely.

  That smile widened when she began to smooth her hands over the front of her dress.

  He studied her face. “Nervous, are we?”

  “Out of sorts is all.”

  “A club isn’t the best place for a woman to be out of sorts. Be careful. Please.”

  She didn’t detect any censure in his tone, but his words reminded her she knew nothing about this man, and although she wasn’t drunk, she wasn’t one hundred percent lucid, either. “Thanks for the advice. You’re absolutely right.”

  His eyes went round when he realized she planned to leave, and he reached for her hand. “No. Wait. Stay a minute.”

  She ignored his hand and moved toward the main area of the club. “I should head back,” she said over her shoulder. “This isn’t me at all.”

  “I can tell.”

  Karen stopped moving and turned to face him. “That obvious, huh?”

  “It wasn’t meant as an insult, if that’s what you’re thinking. Just an observation.”

  “I’m not a specimen in a petri dish, thank you.”

  He lifted his brows in surprise, and his lips twitched. His face fascinated her. Right now, it said, I’m intrigued, but I’m not sure if I should engage. If she were the kind of woman who played strip poker, she would be wise to take advantage of that fact. Without any prompting from her, his face would reveal the strength of his hand, and she’d have him naked in minutes. Karen fanned herself at the thought, and his eyes darted to her jiggling breasts.

  He shook his head, as though he needed to clear it, and then his gaze swept across her face. “No, you’re not a specimen in a petri dish. Far from it.”

  Thank goodness he hadn’t focused on her breasts. Such blatant ogling would have garnered him a scowl and a first-class ticket to Jerklandia. Plus, she worried her nipples would poke his eyes out. And why was she itchy all of a sudden? For goodness’ sake, Karen, focus.

  He held up his hands. “May I approach?”

  She appreciated the question. Would have fled had he moved toward her without gauging her interest. But what was she doing? What did she expect to happen here if he came closer? And when would her sister come looking for her? Karen had been gone more than five minutes, and Gracie had promised to watch for her return. What good was a designated driver without a passenger?

  Unsure of his intentions, she nevertheless nodded. But as he walked toward her, her protective instincts kicked in and she changed her mind. “Stop,” she said as she raised her hand like a crossi
ng guard.

  He stopped mid-stride. “I just want to talk.”

  “Okay. Let’s start with your name.”

  “Mark.”

  “Nice to meet you, Mark. I’m Karen. What do you want to talk about?”

  “Do you want my gentlemanly response, or the truth?”

  She gave him a half smile. “There’s a difference?”

  He drew his lower lip between his teeth, and Karen nearly melted as she waited for his answer.

  “There is,” he said after a long pause.

  “Let’s hear the gentlemanly response first.”

  “Okay. I’d like to talk to you about your views on the next presidential election.”

  “Not bad. Now hit me with the truth. What do you really want to talk about?”

  “The things I’d do to you if I were free to. I find the idea of talking about them just as enticing as actually doing them.”

  She raised a single eyebrow and gave him a dubious look. “Really?”

  He grinned. “No, not really. But under the circumstances, talking will have to do.”

  Spurred by his words alone, Karen’s brain supplied a barrage of images of them “talking” through the night.

  He moved closer, until his breath skated over her ear. “You like that idea, don’t you?”

  On shaky legs, she tried to suppress her laughter. Dammit. She had to be the most ticklish person ever. If it weren’t for that ridiculous fact, the movement of his lips near her ear would have been hot. Instead, though, she struggled not to fall to the ground in a fit of giggles. “Yes, I…I like that idea a lot.”

  Activating his panty-dropping smile, he reached for her hand. “Come with me?”

  Um. Did he really mean that? “Too soon, stranger. We just met.”

  This time, he rewarded her with a full-blown grin. “I meant follow me.”

  So she did what any smart woman with too much whiskey in her system would do. She nodded her assent. And then she followed him. Down the hall. Past the emergency exit. Into an alcove with two chairs and a cocktail table nestled between them.

 
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