It’s just business…Until it becomes deliciously personal
In college, Rebecca Daniels and Brett Collins had a hot rivalry – with sexy benefits. Brett’s company has competed with the Daniels family business for years. And with Rebecca back in town as CEO, Brett has initiated a hostile takeover…just after they share a seriously naughty encounter! Now the battlefield is both the boardroom and the bedroom. But sometimes the line between love and hate is thinner than you think…
Brett Collins was bored.
He looked past his circle of friends as they talked among themselves, barely hearing what they were discussing, and he scanned the large room. He’d grown up in rooms like this, attending parties like this. As the only son of one of the most influential businessmen in Las Vegas, he’d gotten to know all the players at a young age. But as he sipped his glass of soda water, he almost sighed out loud. The same faces, the same discussions, the same deals.
He was restless. He wanted—needed—a challenge. Something new.
Collins/Fischer—the real estate development company he’d started with his friend Alex, the linchpin of their other operations—had seen great success in the past years, and they’d maintained a comfortable spot near the top. But he wanted more. He wanted to be number one. And as he looked across the room for inspiration, a sign of what would be next for him, he found nothing.
Inherently, Brett hated schmoozing parties, preferring instead to meet with people in a less manufactured setting. But they did serve their purpose: talking to people, finding out the local gossip—who had been fired, who had been hired, who’d signed what deals, who was under indictment, who was sleeping with whom. And that was why he and The Brotherhood—his closest friends and business partners since college—had gone to Mayor Thompson’s party. To look for their next opportunity to strike, to make another splash on the local scene. At only thirty, they’d all done quite well for themselves, and while many in the room hated and feared them, were jealous of and intimidated by the business acumen of the group, they all still wanted a piece of them. Everyone in the room would benefit from a close relationship with the members of The Brotherhood.
There was Alex, his business partner in real estate; Gabe, one of the top lawyers in the city; Rafael, a Las Vegas city councillor; and Alana, the only woman in their circle, who was a talented interior designer, but she’d become the manager of the group’s restaurants and exclusive club. Together they made up The Brotherhood—and together they planned to use their expertise and influence to run the city.
Needless to say, they weren’t at the party for social purposes. They’d secured for themselves a quiet corner of the room, near the bar, to establish their game plan for the evening. Whom they each needed to talk to, what they hoped to accomplish and just when the hell they could get out of there. But Brett couldn’t manage to focus his tired mind. He’d had a rough couple of weeks, workwise, and it was all thanks to Rebecca Daniels, the devastatingly sexy CEO of Daniels International, a rival real estate development firm. She was a major threat currently, but he and Rebecca also had a fiery past.
Brett turned back to his friends and took another drink from his glass. The soda water, infused with lime and basil, was refreshing but didn’t improve his mood. His friends were listing the important people they wanted to approach and make connections with, but Brett could find no one in attendance whom he was interested in seeing. He couldn’t deal with another stuffed shirt or old cohort of his father’s coming up to him and asking about the elder Collins, instead of expressing interest in Brett’s endeavors. Brett loved and respected his father, but even in his years of running his own successful empire, he’d found it difficult to blaze his own trail in the shadow of Garrett Collins, one of the city’s most influential men.
“Did you see that the Heinrich brothers are here tonight?” Alana asked the group, gesturing to two men in the center of the room. “I might have to go introduce myself. They’re visiting from Sweden, looking to open a new hotel on the Strip, and I heard they may be looking for a design collaborator,” she said, turning on her most seductive smile, sauntering away and raising her hand in greeting.
“And Mayor Thompson is finally free,” Rafael said. “I’d better go put in an appearance, seeing as I’m trying to secure his endorsement before I announce I’m running for mayor.” He stepped away, as well.
Alex leaned in. “Brett, the guy from Permits is here and we need to talk to him. See if we can’t grease the wheels and get the paperwork quickly approved for the new subdivision.”
Brett nodded without much interest.
Alex didn’t miss it. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah. I’m just tired, I guess. I haven’t slept much this week. This messing around with Daniels International is starting to get to me.” It all started a few months ago when the other company had outmaneuvered Brett and Alex in scooping up and securing a huge deal out from under them, costing Collins/Fischer a small fortune. Brett and Alex had responded by buying out one of Daniels’s key suppliers and raising the prices. He could only imagine the scrambling that had gone on at DI that day. But then Rebecca had countered by poaching one of their VPs and giving him a place at Daniels International. Escalation had been quick, vicious, and he’d racked his brain trying to figure out his next step. But it had to be big. Nobody screwed with Collins/Fischer. Brett had to end the feud, and quick.
“You have to put it aside,” Alex told him. “We shouldn’t let this escalate too much. We need to focus on our own work and not worry about Rebecca Daniels or Daniels International.” Brett opened his mouth to speak, but Alex plowed over him. “I know you guys have history. But focus. What’s important now is our own success, not revenge.”
“Whatever history I may or may not have with Rebecca Daniels has nothing to do with the business.”
“You’ve been working day and night for the past couple of months. Why don’t you go on home? Get some sleep, go to the club and get laid, watch TV, whatever. I can handle things here. I’ll talk to the permits guy.”
Sex and sleep—hell, even crashing in front of the television—definitely sounded better than smooth talking anyone in attendance at the party, but he couldn’t make himself leave and take a night off. If he wasn’t working, or thinking about work, it felt like he was wasting his time. Work provided the necessary distraction from his thoughts and darker urges. “I know you can handle it. But you know me. I don’t do well with downtime,” Brett returned, grimacing. Downtime led to boredom, and boredom led to cravings. He sipped his water again.
“Yeah, but it isn’t healthy to spend every waking moment thinking about the business.”
“Are you really giving me this lecture? You’re just like me.”
Alex laughed, and Brett followed his friend’s gaze across the room, until it landed on a gorgeous blonde wearing a tight black dress. “Yeah, but I know how to take the night off to allow time for the finer things.” The blonde looked back and smiled, waving to Alex. “And that’s my cue,” he muttered and sauntered away to focus on the finer things, leaving Brett alone.
Brett knocked back the rest of his water and put his glass on the bar. Maybe he should leave, see what he could get up to at Di Terrestres. He scanned the crowd one more time, hoping to find inspiration for the next big project, the one that would make him and his friends, The Sin City Brotherhood, legends of Las Vegas. He watched the door to the ballroom open, and a beautiful, glamorous woman entered the party. And his eyes connected with the one face that made his blood boil with anger and lust—the blast from the past who was currently working tirelessly to ruin his life. The woman who plucked his memories, tore at his chest and stiffened his posture, not to mention his dick—Rebecca Daniels.
Rebecca smoothed a hand down the front of her black silk dress and straightened the hem that hit several inches above her knees. She accepted a glass of champagne from a server balancing a tray on his fingertips, and she sipped from it. She’d been attending events like Mayor Thompson’s party for years, and they were like second nature to her. She felt at ease, able to mingle her way through the crowds, shift in and out of conversations. But that night, she wanted no more than to go home and crash in her bed. She’d had a long few weeks—an even longer few months since her father had passed away six months ago and she’d taken the helm of Daniels International. She’d had time for little else than work lately.
Her father had excelled at functions like this; he’d made time for everyone and had had the ability to make everyone he interacted with feel like the most important person in the room, even when he was exhausted and overworked. And so could she. It was something he’d passed on to Rebecca, but though she was good at networking, her father had been legendary.
She sipped her champagne again, willing the alcohol to whisk away the melancholy. But it wasn’t working. Frowning, she realized that she shouldn’t have even come here, and she wouldn’t have if she hadn’t been personally invited by Mayor Thompson, who was a close family friend.
“My God, Rebecca.” She heard a pleasant greeting from her right. She turned and saw Ben Thompson, the city’s long-standing mayor, and his wife, Esther, coming toward her. She smiled as they each embraced her.
“How are you, dear?” Ben asked her. “I’m sorry we haven’t been in touch since the funeral. Your father is truly missed.”
“Thank you. I miss him, too.”
“Thank you for coming tonight,” Ben said, patting her hand with his. “I’m glad you were able to make it.”
Rebecca smiled, knowing that he meant it. She’d always had such great memories of Ben and Esther, of family barbecues and vacations. After Rebecca’s mother passed away when she was a baby, Esther had stepped in to be a sort of surrogate, providing love, support and guidance; and Ben had always been at her father’s side, avuncular, an uncle figure since her childhood.
“I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, and I’m well,” she said. “How are you both?”
“Things are good,” Ben answered. “I’m retiring this year and finally stepping down. I don’t think I have another campaign in me.”
“Oh, really?” Rebecca was surprised to hear it. “And then what will you do with your time?”
“I’m going to make him relax,” Esther answered. “Days filled with golf, traveling, arts and crafts—”
“Sounds awful,” Ben interrupted, and they all laughed. “Dear,” he said as he reached out for her hand, “we must move on, but let’s get together sometime soon.”
“Absolutely.” Rebecca smiled as the couple left to greet another set of guests.
Satisfied with her first social interaction of the evening, Rebecca took a deep breath and scanned the room. Sipping her champagne again, she felt her confidence bolster. Despite the size of her father’s enormous shoes, and how hard she’d been working to fill them, she knew she could do this. She could handle being the new face and CEO of Daniels International. This job was in her blood.
Rebecca’s gaze struck on one of the reasons for her increased workload. Brett Collins was arrogant, stubborn and probably looking for retribution after the recent series of events between their two companies.
But that didn’t mean she couldn’t be physically affected by him.
Every system in her body ran hot as she saw him casually lean an elbow against the bar. He was alone, but it didn’t seem to bother him as he lounged confidently like a king—or a god among men. His eyes roamed over the crowd, sharp and methodical as he scanned the room, until they connected with hers.
At that moment, time stopped for Rebecca as the rest of the room—the party, the revelers, the music—fell away. Her breath halted as he held her stare, transfixed, unable to turn away even if she wanted to. Just like what happened every time she faced him, she got lust-inspired tunnel vision. They had history, and she was brought back to her undergrad days in college. The thing between her and Brett had always been hot, heavy, intense. Since day one of freshman year in college, they’d butted heads, and now they were entangled in a rivalry between their firms—two of the biggest in Las Vegas—and eventually only one would survive.
Rebecca saw Brett’s eyes narrow, and he straightened to full height. His body was still similar to the one she’d known so intimately before as a younger woman, but in the past few years, she was pleased to see that he was even larger, stronger—a more grown version of her old enemy and lover. His broad shoulders and strong back were clad in the fine dark blue material of an immaculately tailored suit. Along with his dark blond hair and blue eyes, he still possessed Adonis-like traits—a strong jaw, straight nose and high cheekbones. But, she noticed, the deep dimples that she remembered at the edges of a youthful, cocky smile were absent these days, seemingly unable to coexist with the cold, hard stare of Brett Collins, the real estate mogul.
His gaze didn’t waver from her, and she returned his stare, matching the intensity, or at least trying to. Brett’s attention was powerful. He might have been compelling in his twenties. But at thirty the man was downright potent.
He smiled at her, looking just as arrogant and smug as ever. The deep breath she took to steady herself shuddered out of her as she exhaled. Even after five years, the pull of him was still as strong as a team of horses.
Everyone moved about them, oblivious to the tension that traveled across the room between her and Brett. Shaking her head, she forced herself to pull it together. Rebecca was a strong, grown woman who had made multimillion-dollar deals and stared down some of the top businessmen and women from Vegas to New York City. If she was going to be living in the same city as Brett, she was bound to run into him again. What could it hurt to talk to her former lover? She had to get it over with, and when she did, she could forget about him and get on with her life. So straightening her posture and flipping her hair behind her shoulders, she strode confidently in the direction of Brett Collins.