“I need you back. Now.”
I can’t believe I’m letting my ex-boss talk me into working for him again. He’s arrogant. Domineering. He gets under my skin in ways I don’t want to admit. When I quit, it felt great! But now, seeing the big, bad billionaire rendered helpless by a baby, I give in to his demand. And I’m worried it won’t be the last time…
* * *
Thank you so much for picking up BIG SHOT! There’s something so irresistible about a sexy bachelor with a baby, even more so when a sexy bachelor (with a baby) is brought to his knees by love. William Walker is a workaholic with a difficult personality, but when a baby comes into the picture, other facets of his personality start to shine through. Enough for our heroine, India, who truly believes that she hates him, to start to desire, admire and want him more than she ever thought possible. I just couldn’t wait to share William and India’s story and hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
“What game are you playing with me, India?”
I breathe a little faster.
I don’t reply for a long moment, and William’s gaze intently searches my face.
“Kiss me,” I suddenly breathe. Just blurting it out.
It comes from somewhere very hidden, somewhere I never care to visit. But it’s out in the open now. William’s blue eyes widen slightly in shock, and my own lips part as the realization of what I just asked of him hits me.
He narrows his eyes, his nostrils flaring as his gaze dips to my mouth.
I hear him curse softly as he shifts his hold on me and drives his fingers into the fall of my hair. He leans closer and pulls me forward with one quick, strong jerk.
And just like that, our lips crash. Just like that, William crushes my mouth beneath his. His breath is hot. His skin is hotter.
He’s kissing me like he’s dying for it.
I’m kissing him back like it’s the only chance I’ll ever get.
But suddenly it’s not enough.
There are three things in life that really bug me. The first is having a natural sleep cycle that wakes me up every day at 5:00 a.m. without fail, even on the weekends. The second is the fact that this rule doesn’t apply to everyone: watching my roommate, Montana, glide into the kitchen for breakfast at 8:00 a.m. every morning, fresh-faced and ready for the day, while I’ve already been awake for three hours, never fails to make me groan. But my third and final pet peeve is by far the worst.
I hate my boss.
My demanding, stone-hearted, arrogant bastard boss.
You know those people in an elevator who click the close button repeatedly when they see someone coming just to avoid human contact? You know what?
That’s my boss. But worse.
It’s just past 5:00 a.m.
I’ve been awake for several minutes and I haven’t yet attempted to get out of bed. All I can think about is the fact that I have to spend my day in the presence of the pompous pretty boy, William Walker. Ever since I became his assistant a year back, he’s made my life hell. Now I wake up each morning at this ungodly hour and try to think of ways to get out of work and not get fired.
Call in sick?
Paint a bruise on my forehead and say I fell?
Say that my dog didn’t eat just my homework, but ate me?
Tough. I don’t have a dog. And it’s not college anymore.
And William Walker is worse than any college professor I ever had to face.
Worse than anyone I ever had to face.
Voldemort, but very hot.
The minutes tick by. I sigh and get out of bed, dressing in my usual gray pantsuit for the day ahead. It’s my standard work uniform at Walker Industries. It’s not like I want to impress my boss with my clothes anyway. I want to impress him with my work ethic—or at least I did. Until I realized he was oblivious.
After dressing, washing my face and brushing my hair, I head to the kitchen and start up the coffee maker. The kitchen is the nicest part of the apartment because my roomie, Montana, loves baking. I glance wistfully at her bedroom door with a smile, wishing she was up so she’d bake something delicious.
Knowing she won’t be out for hours yet, I grab my coffee and settle on a bar stool with my laptop. I’ve spent countless mornings in this kitchen with my laptop, sipping coffee and getting sucked into writing my novel. It’s a blessing and a curse to be up this early. It might be a lonely hour, but it’s the perfect time to write.
I am pulled into my story almost right away. My creative juices are flowing this morning, to say the least. My fingers have a mind of their own, flying over the keyboard at high speed. Before I know it, I have five hundred new words on my screen.
I have no idea if any of what I’ve written is good, and the perfectionist in me is desperately tempted to go back and correct my mistakes, but I learned long ago to ignore the nagging voices in my head. If I ever want to finish my novel, I know I have to let the words flow. I can go back later and make everything perfect.
It’s part of what I love about the whole process.
It’s easy to forget work and nightmare bosses while I’m writing. But the second I hear Montana’s alarm clock, I know my time of peace and quiet is over. I’ve gotten a lot done this morning, but I ache to be able to continue. The last thing I want is a reminder that I have to see William Walker today.
“Morning, sunshine,” Montana says to me as she breezes into the kitchen, heading straight to the fridge to gather ingredients for a pre-workout smoothie. Her black hair is slicked back in a neat ponytail and her face is fresh, with her golden skin untainted by makeup. She looks flawless, even though she’s just tumbled out of bed.
“Morning, Beautiful Unicorn Morning Person,” I say with a smile, closing my laptop. Montana laughs, glancing over her shoulder at me.
“Get any words in?” she asks hopefully.
“Tons. I’m happy it’s flowing, just sad I need to stop. Are you going for a run?”
She checks her watch. “If I can squeeze it in. I have to be at the bakery at eight today.”
Montana has been working at the nicest bakery in town for just under a year. It’s not your average bread-and-pastry joint—it makes specialty patisserie items, wedding cakes and crazy showpieces like you’d see on a baking reality show. The food is expensive as hell, but the place is raking in money.
People in Chicago can’t get enough. Neither can I, now that she brings me stuff from there all of the time.
Montana has a career that she loves, the body of a goddess and the best personality of anyone I’ve ever met. It’s safe to say she’s the full package, and it’s still impossible to be jealous of her because she’s also super nice. She’s my sister from another mother, and she totally deserves the best.
“I’m sure your body would forgive you for missing one workout,” I tease, sticking my tongue out.
Montana laughs. “Oh, nooooo, I couldn’t. That attitude leads to laziness, right? If I don’t go now, I’ll go this evening. Do you want to come?”
I immediately raise my hands, palms out. “No, thanks. I’ll get my exercise running to the coffee machine.”
Montana laughs and piles a bunch of ingredients into the blender. “You know I hate the idea of you sticking around that job with the monster you work for. ‘Man of Stone.’ I mean that was the title of the magazine profile I just read in Business Insider. Does the guy even smile?”
I snort. “Never.”
Montana laughs, then squirms a little. “India, you know I love you. I just think this job is really hard on you. I mean just two nights ago the guy was calling you at—what? What time was it when I heard your cell phone ring all the way in my room? 3:00 a.m.?”
“William’s a workaholic. He doesn’t know when to stop. He thinks nobody sleeps when he isn’t sleeping,” I say, wondering why I’m defending him when I hate the guy’s guts. Intensely.
“I just thought maybe… Well, I don’t want to see those circles under your eyes anymore, Indy.”
I smile wanly, tucking my laptop away. “Trust me, I don’t like it either. But this job is my lifeline. It’s the reason I can still afford to feed myself while I write my novel. It’s the reason I haven’t become completely miserable, even if I hate my job.” I frown at Montana.
“Look, we can’t all love our job. I appreciate the thought, but I’m just fine. Anyway, I’ll be out of there in no time because this book is going to be big,” I say optimistically.
Montana returns my smile as she switches on the blender. “You know, if you want something different, I could try and get you a job at the bakery.”
I groan. “Montana, we both know that’s not going to happen. I can barely toast bread, let alone fancy cakes.” I shake my head, picking up my shoes. “Just forget we had this conversation, okay? I’m fine. Everyone has to work a shitty job at some point in their life.”
Montana nods absently, but we both end up laughing because we know she can’t really relate.
Before the bakery, she worked as a personal trainer at the local gym. Before that she helped out in her mother’s dance studio, teaching kids dance routines to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and Disney Channel theme songs. She’s never worked in a café, washing pots and pans, or as a house cleaner or cashier. She’s always liked her jobs, and once admitted to me how she hadn’t realized how lucky she was until she heard from others—like me—who didn’t have it as easy.
Montana is in the process of carefully pouring her smoothie into a glass, biting her lip in concentration. “Okay. But if you’re staying there, don’t take any more shit from the guy. Give him hell if he deserves it and remember who is the ultimate boss of you, Indy. It’s you.”
I nod, forcing a smile so fake that I’m surprised my roomie doesn’t notice.
“Well, that’s some great advice, Mon,” I say, eager to stop talking about work. “Thanks for that. I’ll see you later, okay?”
Montana beams at me, sipping her smoothie through a pink straw and waving with her free hand. “All right, sweetie. Have a great day at the office. Love you!”
“Love you too!” I leave the room, acutely aware that each step I take to my front door takes me closer to the office. Closer to William Walker, the man they say has a heart of stone. Oh, yes. Every inch of that guy is rock-hard, heart included.
I almost shiver at the thought of the way he looks in his suits. Shiver from dread, that is.
Yes. Yes, it’s definitely dread. I could not be so masochistic that I’d shiver for other reasons.
So I force myself to leave the apartment and head for the train station. The commute to work is short—too short. It gets me to hell far too fast.
Want to know something funny?
I usually spend it thinking of ways that I can wind my boss up and still keep my job. It’s not easy, but I can be subtle. I have nothing better to do with my time between filing papers, answering the phone and making sure everything is perfect for a man who’s impossible to please.
Sometimes, in the few free minutes I have each day, I daydream about putting a pinch of salt in his coffee or putting all of his files in the wrong place, though the perfectionist in me would never actually perform this prank. In fact I never carry out any of these fantasies. I do have some regard for my job and how lucky I am to have it. But on mornings such as this, a girl can dream.
My mother has often grilled me about my job. When I describe William’s abuses, she always seems to think that I’m overreacting. She drones on about how she saw him in Business Insider and how handsome he looked. She tells me that his stern attitude is the sign of a good boss. I half wish I could drag her to work with me, like a bring-your-parent-to-work day. Then she’d see. Then she’d understand.
Though she’d probably still say he’s husband material.
It’s pretty funny.
I pity the woman who ever gets saddled with him.
He may be a billionaire, but he’s got a billion walls up around him, and a girl would pass out and die before scaling the first few.
I emerge from the Chicago “L” station to the usual windy morning in the city, and there it is. The building I spend all day in. The home of Walker Industries, one of the biggest online-game companies in the country. Mom says I should feel proud to work for such a prestigious company. I should be proud to have been picked from hundreds of other hopeful women to be William Walker’s assistant. But as I stare at the gargantuan building, I think I’d rather be cleaning toilets than walking inside right now.
Why? What’s happened to me?
I was so excited when I was first hired by Walker Industries’ human resources department. I wanted to learn, and in my opinion I would be learning from the very best if I got to work with William Walker. True, he had a reputation for being an ass, but he was a genius in every way that counted. He’d single-handedly built his company from the ground up. But the moment I turned up for my first day of work and I saw him seated at his desk, my knees went a little weak. The blue-eyed stare he gave me almost made me trip. I guess it wasn’t the best way to make a good impression.
Trying to save face, I said good morning, and my voice came out shaky and nervous because I was intimidated by him. He just stared at me, his eyebrows drawing closer together as I spoke. His jaw clenched. His eyes slimmed to slits. He’s been a dick to me ever since, and I’ve hated my job more and more each day, for years.
Still, my feet carry me forward. I put on my brave face and nod to the workers gathered at the front desk. They shoot me smiles that are tainted with sympathy. They know what my job is and whom I work for. They return to their conversations, happy in the knowledge that they’re not me.
I head for the elevator. There’s no one else waiting—everyone here thinks they get bonus points for taking the stairs. But not me. Not when I’m thirty-two stories up, on the top floor. In the executive suite, with the owner and CEO. The big cheese. Top dog. Head honcho. Biggest asshole, aka Man of Stone.
Well, at least William isn’t waiting for the elevator today. If he calmly pushes the close button one more time when he sees me approaching the elevator, running like crazy to make it on time, I just might kill him.
The top floor is relatively quiet. All of the most important people get stuck up here, and if they know what’s good for them, they stay as quiet as possible. William hates to be disturbed. It makes it all the more tempting to create a disturbance, but I head to my office silently, not in the mood to cause trouble. I settle in my room, which is essentially a glass box. I’ve gotten used to my sleek computer, my ultramodern desk and my breathtaking view of Chicago. In any other job, I’d probably appreciate these perks. But now it’s just a reminder that I’m stuck here for the next eight hours.
As I settle in, I notice that William isn’t around. He’s the kind of person who turns up early to work for no good reason. It’s probably because he has no social life—he’s a lone wolf, according to my mother, but to me that translates as he’s an asshole with no friends. Despite the lackeys who follow him around everywhere, I know he doesn’t have any real friends. After all, I control his calendar for personal appointments, and in truth there aren’t many.
But where is he today? Not being early is like being late for him. Until he arrives there’s little I can do, so I meander to the coffee machine and make a cup for myself. As the machine is churning up coffee beans, the elevator dings and William appears.
I’ll admit, something about his presence always knocks the breath from me. He stalks forward, with three people following in his wake. His hair is perfectly slicked, his stubble trimmed close to his sharp jaw. His eyes are a shocking blue. I can picture him now on the front cover of Business Insider, his piercing eyes radiating confidence from the page. But today his eyes are clouded by anger.
He spots me waiting at the coffee machine. The whole office is watching as he stalks toward me with a bunch of papers in his arms. His colleagues struggle to keep up, and I discard my coffee, suddenly fearful of his glare. Did I do something wrong?
“Good morning, Mr. Walker—”
“Ah, but it’s not really a good morning, is it, India,” he growls.
He shoves the papers into my arms and I almost topple over in surprise. “I need you to sort out this paperwork mess and I don’t want to hear another word from you until it’s done.” When he stalks away without so much as a smile, I notice I’ve been holding my breath.
And this is why, despite his beauty, despite his money, despite his drive, I can’t stand the man.