Libby Dumont couldn't believe Mr. Smooth Operator, Neil O'Rourke, was now her boss. Even though Neil was as handsome as ever, he was also absolutely off-limits. But then they were forced to work together on a project. Now was it possible that this bachelor might just be willing to budge and give her his heart?
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The Bachelor Boss
By Julianna Morris
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Well, if it isn't Miss Dumont," said a voice from the open office door.
Libby groaned silently.
Her least favorite person in the world. Until now she'd been having a really good day. What made it worse was that her first instinct was to check her appearance in a mirror - Neil had that effect on women, being as revoltingly handsome as he was obnoxious.
"Did you need something, Mr. O'Rourke?" she asked politely. As much as she didn't like him, he was Kane O'Rourke's brother, and Kane was the owner and founder of the company, so it didn't make sense to be rude.
"Yes. And don't you think it's time you dropped the 'Mr. O'Rourke' routine?" Neil asked.
Libby's eyes narrowed. "No. We barely know each other."
His smile irritated her even more, mostly because it was Neil. "I wouldn't exactly say that," he said.
Drat the man.
Yet even as Libby fumed, she squirmed at the reminder of a long ago night when she'd been young and foolishly flattered that a man like Neil O'Rourke had asked her out on a date. She'd never forget breaking away from their out-of-control kiss, pulling her clothes together ... her heart pounding because she wasn't certain that pulling her clothes together was what she really wanted. Fighting the urge to be just a little bad.
Yeah, that pretty much covered it.
He'd gotten his arrogant masculine nose out of joint, she'd acted like a prig, and everything went downhill from there.
Of course, the only reason he remembered that evening was because she was probably one of the few members of the female sex who'd ever said no to him. She'd seen happily married women blush and sigh at his careless smile.
"I have a lot of work to do," Libby said pointedly, hoping he'd take the hint and leave.
"So do I, but Kane wants to see us both in his office. Maybe he's going on a second honeymoon and wants us to work together again."
She wrinkled her nose. When Kane had met Beth and gotten married he'd asked Neil to run the company during his absence - much to her consternation. The man was impossible. She'd heaved a sigh of relief when he returned to the international branch, because she didn't have to see or think about him there.
"I'm not Kane's executive assistant any longer."
His grin was faintly wicked. "That's right. I keep forgetting you're the administrative officer now."
Neil never forgot anything, especially how to annoy the living daylights out of her. Of course, being annoying must be a natural talent since he didn't know her well enough to understand which buttons to push.
"Shall we go?" he murmured.
Libby stayed silent as they walked the short distance to the CEO's office, resisting the urge to smooth her hair and make sure her blouse was tucked into the waistband of her skirt. Feminine vanity had a habit of rearing its head around Neil, no matter how hard she fought it.
"Hey, bro," Neil said as they walked into Kane's inner sanctum.
"Hey." Kane smiled and waited until they were seated, then leaned forward. "Libby, you're aware that I'm delegating authority in the company so I have more time to spend with Beth." He beamed at his wife's name. "As part of the reorganization I've named Neil as the president of the New Business Developments division. I told him about it earlier."
"That's ... nice," she murmured.
"Yes, but what he hasn't heard is that I'm appointing you as his vice president. I wanted you both to be here for the news."
Libby's heart lodged in her throat.
"What?" she demanded in unison with Neil. She looked at him and was glad to see he appeared as thunderstruck as she felt.
Kane lifted his shoulders in a small shrug. "I realize you haven't always gotten along, but you have skills that complement each other, and you managed to work together earlier this year." He shot a look at his brother. "You'll find Libby's abilities are just what you need."
She blinked, torn between shock and hysteria.
This couldn't be happening. She couldn't possibly be Neil O'Rourke's vice president. He was too ... everything. The two brothers were nearly identical in appearance, though Neil had cool gray eyes in contrast to Kane's blue. Both were high-powered and driven for success, but Kane managed to be kind and friendly, while Neil was distant and impatient.
Darn it all. She'd just gotten rid of the man and now he was back. Wasn't a few weeks working with him enough punishment for one lifetime? It wasn't that she didn't want the new position. Being promoted so quickly might be a little unconventional, but Kane never did things in the usual way. And since he'd built O'Rourke Enterprises into a multibillion-dollar corporation, people usually had the good sense to agree with his wishes.
Still, how could she work with someone so impossible?
Libby sneaked a glance at the impossible man in question and saw he didn't look any happier than she felt.
Let him be the one to tell Kane it was out of the question.
"Libby?" Kane prompted.
"Uh ... that's wonderful," she said, lying through her teeth.
"You've earned it. I'm still working out the final details, but I've decided to have each of my division presidents and vice presidents directly involved in a project together in order to build teamwork."
Neil cleared his throat. "That's an interesting idea, but we'll be busy with our own duties."
"And one of those duties will be cooperating on a project together."
Libby recognized the expression on her boss's face, even if his brother didn't. Kane had mentioned his plans, but she hadn't thought much about it other than sparing a moment of sympathy for the poor sap who ended up working with Neil O'Rourke. Before his short stint in the CEO's office she'd avoided Neil for nebulous reasons she'd never really thought about. Now she actively disliked him.
"What project are you thinking about?" she asked.
"The bed-and-breakfast inn proposal." Kane handed her the file. "You were particularly interested in it, so I thought it would be the perfect place to start your collaboration."
Lord, Kane should never have picked something so homey and small scale if he hoped to get Neil excited. Neil loved glitz and glamour, the fast pace of international wheeling and dealing and high finance. He was a brilliant maverick. Developing a line of historic bed-and-breakfast inns was the last thing he'd want to do.
"B and B's?" Neil sounded predictably appalled, as if he'd just been asked to work on a line of brothels. "I think that's a project Libby could handle on her own."
Kane shook his head. "I want both of you involved. This is Beth's idea, and it goes at the top of the list."
Excerpted from The Bachelor Boss by Julianna Morris Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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