EXCERPT: Not Planning on You by Sydney LandonTuesday, December 11, 2012 15:00
Now that you’ve met the sedate side of Sydney Landon‘s Davers crew, it’s time you jumped right into the fun, crazy side. Suzy is one of those gals who tells it like it is and breezes through life just the way she wants to. The kind of person we all wish we could be sometimes.
What is it that stops her in her tracks? Or rather who? Grayson Merimon, a man who does everything to get what he wants. And he wants Suzy.
It’s fun to be part of their banter, especially when they end up in such close quarters once Suzy gets her cast. Her cast? you ask. Well, that’s part of the fun, learning all those little tidbits as you read about this opposites-attract couple.
So here’s a teaser to get you started.
Suzy Denton thought she had it all: a great job as an event planner for Danvers International and a committed relationship to her high school sweetheart…
But now her life has gone to hell in a hand-basket. Not only did she discover her fiancé cheating, but a recent corporate merger is making her job very difficult—mostly due to Grayson Merimon, wealthy CEO. Gray is a man who goes after what he wants. And, after their first meeting, he wants Suzy.
Even though he looks like every fantasy she’s ever had, Suzy is wary of the powerful businessman. She likes her newfound independence, even if her best friend thinks it’s an excuse not to risk her heart again. Besides, she doesn’t think Gray could ever be interested in a relationship with someone like her. When he calls her bluff, Suzy agrees to one night together.
But when circumstances continue to throw them together—and with Gray determined to show her that two opposites can be a perfect fit—Suzy realizes that she might just have found the one man who can give her what she always needed….
“Crapple Dapple, are you kidding me?” Suzy looked at her best friend, Claire, in horror.
Waving her hand in a vague way, Suzy said, “Oh, yeah. I’m trying to stop cursing so much at work. The new receptionist crosses herself every time I roll out a four-letter word; it’s kind of creepy.” Suzy gave Claire a few moments to recover from the laughter shaking her body, and got back to the question she’d asked. “Claire—earth to Claire—come back.” Wiping the tears from her eyes, Claire finally composed herself enough to continue.
“Um, yeah, sorry, Suz, but you heard me correctly. Gray is going to take over daily operations at Danvers for the foreseeable future and Jason prefers that he relocate here to Myrtle Beach to do that. He trusts Gray, and although he will continue on as the CEO of Danvers, Gray will step up as the president of operations.”
Last year, Danvers International had become the largest communications company in the United States when it merged with Mericom. Grayson Merimon, whom everyone called Gray, was the CEO of Mericom, which had been based in Charleston, South Carolina. Much to Suzy’s chagrin, once the merger was completed, he’d been spending a lot of time at the Danvers headquarters in Myrtle Beach. Tall, dark, and handsome,Gray had it all. The man looked like sex on a stick and he’d made no secret of the fact that he was very interested in her. Suzy, however, wasn’t interested in Gray—or so she kept telling herself. Her high school sweetheart, the man she thought she’d be spending the rest of her life with, had cheated on her, and now men were only good for one thing. And that one thing was something she wanted to avoid in the workplace.
“It’s the kid isn’t it? It hasn’t even been born yet and already it’s turning my life upside down.” Suzy groaned.
“Well, Jason does want to be able to spend more time with me and the baby when it’s born so, yes, that has something to do with it.”
“I knew it!” Catching herself lest she offend Claire, Suzy tried to get control. She also tried to understand why she was suddenly terrified at the thought of seeing Gray daily. She’d spent a lot of time in his company since the merger. She was always careful to have someone else present, though, when meeting with Gray. The strong, gutsy person inside her wondered why that was necessary, but the woman inside her knew. There was something in Gray’s eyes that called to her, seemed to devour her soul every time she looked at him. He scared her; he made her want to run and do everything she could to save herself.
Suzy realized that Claire was watching her, a knowing look in her eyes. Quickly putting up her defenses, Suzy did what she did best: bluffed. “Ugh, well, no biggie I guess. Just another uptight geek to grace our presence here, right? I mean, why should it bother me? I haven’t given him a thought since he was here annoying me last time. Maybe he will actually buy himself a pair of jeans or something though. Those uptight, heavily starched suits are so depressing and he should really lay off the hair products. Do you think a hurricane could move that hair?” Suzy ended her tirade and grimaced as she looked at Claire. Okay, maybe she should have limited her comments to no more than two. She was rattled, and when that happened, the words kept flowing no matter how hard she tried to stop them. She was grateful that she was talking to Claire, someone who would never judge her or try to peel the layers back to see what all the protests were hiding. Claire didn’t have to, because she knew.
Years ago, Suzy had met Claire at Danvers International where they had both worked. Claire had been the personal assistant to the company president and CEO, Jason Danvers, while Suzy had handled all the many special events for Danvers. Two people couldn’t be more opposite than the two women were, but it worked. Suzy’s loud and outgoing to Claire’s quiet and thoughtful. Claire wore her long auburn hair loose around her shoulders; thank God, Suzy thought, she’d given up the ponytails and buns she used to wear. Suzy styled her long red hair to suit her mood. She also dressed to suit her moods, and leather and stiletto heels played a large role. Suzy and Claire both were blessed to be a little above-average height and, Suzy couldn’t lie, she loved her perky plump boobs. If you could take half of each, they would make the perfect person.
It was so hard to believe that the person in front of her now was married to Jason, the CEO of Danvers, and pregnant with his child. The fairy tale had come true for Claire and her Prince Charming had slayed all of her dragons. Suzy couldn’t think of anyone who deserved it more. After her sister and abusive father were killed in a car accident several years ago, Claire had struggled to support her ailing mother. When her mother suffered a stroke, her medication was altered and her recovery was miraculous. Now she lived next door to Claire in a house designed by Jason. Claire had given up the boring clothing and hairstyles she’d always favored and now she practically glowed. She was still Jason’s assistant, until after the baby was born. If Suzy were a person prone to crying, this story would certainly have her sobbing.
Claire reached over and covered Suzy’s hand with her own. “Suz, it’ll be fine. Gray really isn’t that bad when you get to know him. I’m actually quite fond of him. His brother Nicholas will also be moving here to assist with the daily operations.”
“Nicholas? Stuffed shirt has a brother? God, please don’t tell me he’s smoking hot, too!”
Laughing, Claire said, “Well, I don’t know what you consider ‘smoking’ but he looks similar to Gray in coloring and he’s quite good looking. Not as good looking as Jason, because no one looks that good, but well above average.”
Looking at Claire in horror, Suzy sputtered, “Geez, where do these guys come from? Jason, Gray, and Nicholas. If he looks even half as good, every woman here will stay in heat.”
“Every woman, Suz?”
“Um, well, not you, obviously. I mean, except for Jason. And not me; my head isn’t turned by a good piece of eye candy, but, for sure, every other woman here.”
Suzy knew that her friend wasn’t fooled for a minute by all of her protests so she wisely decided to change the subject. Even as she asked all the right questions about Claire’s new life, her mind was on a tall man with dark hair and compelling green eyes that seemed to look through all of her defenses. Suzy was deathly afraid that the battle to storm the walls to her heart had already begun.
Suzy stepped off the elevator at the fourteenth floor and the hub of the advertising department for Danvers International. Suzy’s focus on special events required her to work closely with the department, so it was beneficial that she had her office on the same floor, which saved her considerable time running between floors. It would be nice to be closer to her friend Claire, but she was just an elevator ride away.
Suzy cringed as she saw the new receptionist up ahead waving frantically at her. Ella was someone she tried to avoid as much as possible. She couldn’t possibly be more than thirty years old but had hair like a seventy-year-old church lady. Okay, not that there was anything wrong with that, but come on, this girl was never going to catch a man with that big old teased-up mullet hairstyle. If she could stand one second of extra time in her company, Suzy would insist on giving her a makeover.
“Ms. Denton, Ms. Denton, I didn’t think you’d ever come back.” Looking down at her watch in disapproval, Ella shook her head and stared at her as if waiting for an apology for being longer than an hour.
Just managing to keep from snapping at her, Suzy asked, “Was there something you needed, Ella?”
“Yes, I have a letter for you from Brittany.” Dropping her voice to almost a whisper, Ella handed her an envelope and said, “I don’t think you’re going to like this at all.”
Suzy, never one for patience, ripped the envelope open with Ella practically hanging over her shoulder and read the short paragraph inside. Feeling the smoke steam from her ears, Suzy yelled, “Fu—” but quickly substituted “Truck!” upon seeing Ella’s eyes widen. Truck, really? Where was the satisfaction in that particular word? Even Ella looked like she expected the mother of all curse words.
“Ms. Denton, what is it? I saw Brittany take all her stuff with her, even her stapler.” Ella seemed as repulsed as if she had mentioned that Brittany had stopped in the lobby and smoked a joint on her way out. “I knew she was up to something.”
“Ella, it’s nothing to concern yourself with. I’ll handle it.” Suzy gathered herself and walked toward her corner office at the end of the hallway. After she slammed the door behind her, Suzy let the curse words flow. Brittany had left her letter of resignation. She was going to elope with her boyfriend and would not be coming back. No notice, no nothing. She should have known better than to hire someone that popped bubble gum constantly and said, “like, you know” at least fifty times a day.
Under normal circumstances, replacing Brittany wouldn’t be a hardship; she’d been fed up with her for some time. Since getting involved with her boyfriend, who played in a band, Brittany had gotten more and more unreliable. She was late almost every morning and had been calling in sick at least once a month.
The problem here was that the timing sucked. They were in the middle of putting together Danvers’s formal gala for their customers. Suzy spent at least two months preparing and planning the annual event. Now, with only a month left before the gala, her assistant had decided to quit without notice. Finding someone that Suzy could work with—who understood her vague instructions and wasn’t offended by her artistic temperament—would be a challenge. Add in that she needed an assistant immediately and things were near impossible.
Taking a deep breath, Suzy called the personnel department to see if they had anyone they could send up right away. Yeah that’s about as likely to happen as Ella getting laid, but hell, stranger things have happened. “Personnel, this is Ruth.”
“Hey, Ruth, it’s Suzy in events. My assistant has decided to fly the coop today, and I needed someone, like, yesterday to replace her. What can you do for me?”
“Hi, Suzy. I’m sorry to hear about that. Let me see if we have anyone available.” Thumbing her fingers against her desk impatiently, Suzy waited to see what Ruth would find. “Oh, you’re in luck. We have someone who has already applied for the position, and it looks like she’s qualified.”
“Wait, how could someone have already applied for the job? I just found out myself ten minutes ago.”
“This young lady works in your section, so maybe Brittany let her know she was leaving. You’re familiar with Ella Webber aren’t you?”
“Oh, hell I, um, mean heck no! No way. That wouldn’t work, and I can’t believe she’d even apply. We would never get anything done; she’d spend her entire day crossing herself and reading me scripture.”
Suzy heard Ruth’s chuckle before she managed to cover it. “I’m sorry, Suzy, but I have no one else right now. With the expansion the merger created, we are still short-staffed. If you don’t feel that Ella would make a good permanent replacement, then I suggest you use her temporarily until we can have the employment agency send over some others to interview.”
“See what you can put together and I’ll get back to you,” Suzy said. Slamming the phone down in disgust, she laid her head on her desk. Just as she was considering throwing herself from her fourteenth-floor window, her cell phone rang. Suzy answered the call with a warm, “Yeah, what now?”
“Wow, please stop, all of this sentiment is making me uncomfortable,” Beth replied drily. Beth was Suzy’s younger sister by two years and was, up until recently, an elementary school teacher. Thanks to the constant cuts in the education budget, Beth had been laid off a month ago. Other than Claire, Beth was the only other person who truly seemed to get her, and Suzy loved her dearly.
“Ha-ha, very funny. It’s been a rough day. My ditzy assistant decided to walk out without any notice while I was at lunch, and now I’m screwed. The big gala is a month away, and I have no possibilities for replacing her other than the Holy Roller receptionist, and that will never happen.”
“Ah, I’m sorry, sis. Is there anything I can do to help?” Suddenly, it was as if a lightbulb flashed in Suzy’s head.
“Hey, there just may be. Has anything turned up on the job hunt yet?”
“Ugh, no, nothing.”
“How would you feel about being my assistant at least until after the gala is over? I know you’re a teacher and that’s what you love, but you’d be saving my life if you could help me just for a while.”
“You’d be great, Beth. You get me, and that’s half of the job. Please say you’ll do it. At least you’d earn a good salary while you’re job hunting.”
“Okay, I’m in! When do I start?”
“I’d say right now, but that’s probably a bit sudden, so how about tomorrow?”
“Sure. Um, sis, how would I need to dress? I know since we are sisters everyone will be shocked that we look nothing alike.”
Her heart squeezed at the insecurity she heard in Beth’s voice. Suzy said brightly, “Yeah they’re going to wonder why you got all the class in the family, and I dress like a street walker. Wear whatever you like, you always look great.” Before Beth could protest further, Suzy quickly ended the call.
Beth called herself a “former fatty.” Suzy had never liked that label and still didn’t. Yes, Beth had been overweight for most of her life, and Suzy knew that her life had been easy compared to what Beth had endured. Suzy had tried to protect her and had gotten into many fights at school defending her sister.
She’d always told Beth that she was beautiful, and she truly felt that way. Beth, however, hadn’t and decided to do something about it. After moving out of their parents’ house two years ago, Beth had taken control. She’d joined a gym and started counting calories. It took her almost a year, but the two sisters were now close to the same size.
Suzy was so proud of her. Beth looked like a model but seemed to have no idea how beautiful she truly was. She was a small person trapped in the mindset of her former self. She simply wasn’t capable yet of seeing herself as the rest of the world saw her. Suzy hoped that with time and maybe the right person in her life, Beth could finally open her eyes and see that the beauty on the inside was shining on the outside as well.
Maybe this job would be good for Beth. Her job as a teacher was a safe zone for her, but working at Danvers would require her to meet a lot of new people and leave her comfort zone, something that Beth almost never did. She gave Ruth in HR a quick call to let her know that she had someone coming in for the job tomorrow. Ruth seemed relieved that she had found someone on her own. Hasta la vista, Brittany! Suzy felt the smile spread across her face as she pondered putting Beth on the dating market.
“Now that’s the smile of a woman on a mission if I’ve ever seen one,” drawled an amused voice.
Suzy jerked around and was floored to see Gray standing in her doorway. “How . . . How did you get in?”
“I did knock and since I knew you were in here, I decided to peek in to make sure you were still upright after the flow of curse words I heard earlier.”
Suzy could feel color creep up her cheeks and was horrified at the display of emotion in front of Gray. “When did you get back in town?”
Still watching her, Gray allowed his gaze to leisurely run the length of her body. For once, she wished she’d worn something a little less attention-getting. When she was getting dressed this morning, the short black suede skirt, tights, and leopard-skin heels seemed to go well with the matching leopard-skin tank top. Now, under his heated gaze, Suzy had the uncomfortable desire to cross her arms over her chest.
Gray, as usual, looked perfect. He was wearing an obviously expensive dark-colored suit that only enhanced the trim, athletic body underneath. His thick, dark-brown hair was perfectly groomed, and his eyes were framed by long lashes that a girl would kill for. His strong jaw had just a hint of stubble beginning to appear. She tried not to think of how that rough texture would feel under her hands, and against her body. Gray was well over six feet tall and there wasn’t an ounce of fat on his superb body. Down, girl. Put your tongue back in your mouth and get control of your body.
“I just got in actually. You were my first stop.”
“Wow, goody for me. I feel so special.”
“You most definitely are Suzanna.”
“It’s Suzy, not Suzanna. Suzanna was who my mother hoped I’d be before I shattered that illusion. Suzy is who I am.”
“I know who you are, Suzanna, and it’s exactly who I want you to be; I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Knowing she was in serious danger of pulling him against the wall of her office and gripping that hot butt, Suzy turned toward the window and asked, “Was there something you needed, Gray?”
“Then you’re out of luck; I’m busy.”
“You’re lying but I’ll play along. When are you not busy?”
“For you, I’m always going to be busy. I’m not interested in starting something with you, Gray. Why can’t you accept that?”
Mocking laughter erupted as he said, “Because we both know it’s not true. You want it as much as I do.”
Feeling as if her soul were exposed, Suzy laughed his comment off and said, “Sure, whatever you say, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m not going out with you.”
“Well, since you only object to a relationship, let’s not have one of those. I’ll pick you up later for sex, just plain old sex. You can even leave as soon as it’s over.”
Suzy spun around in shock. She looked to see if he was joking but his expression looked perfectly serious. “You don’t have it in you, Gray; you’re too straitlaced to be someone’s sex buddy.”
“Oh, I think you’re wrong, Suzanna. I’m nowhere near as straitlaced as you seem to think I am. The question here is, are you a relationship girl or are you willing to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak? If you’re who you say you are, then you’ll jump at the opportunity for great sex with no strings.” After throwing the gauntlet down, Gray stood there waiting for a response.
Boy, was my mother right; my big mouth had finally gotten me into trouble of the oh-so-hot variety. So if I sleep with him and he’s lousy in bed, I can move on—perfect. Even as Suzy finished her thought, she wondered what in the world she was getting herself into. “Okay, Gray, you win. Let’s scratch the itch once and for all and get it out of our system. No clinging or crying when it’s over, though. I’m not going to make an honest man out of you or anything afterward.”