Love Affair to Remember
After Office Hours, Book 2
© 2016 Jennifer Skully
All After Office Hours books are standalone but connected romances.
Get set for another installment of the sexy Office Romance series by New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author, Jennifer Skully.
Anything can happen After Office Hours…
What if one night ruined your whole life?
In one sizzling night of forbidden passion, Gloria King set fire to her comfortable life and watched it be consumed in the conflagration. The man who lit the match—Parker Hunt.
Now Parker is back.
More than five years have passed since Parker has seen Gloria, but the passion between them is undeniable. And he’ll do anything to have a new chance to get it right, if only he can convince Gloria to trust her heart.
Gloria has pieced her life back together after their forbidden night. But Parker is still the only man in the world with whom Gloria can never look for happiness, no matter how badly she might want it. If only she could resist his magnetism, forget the delicious taste of his kiss and the sweetness of his caress…
Can a single night of passion born in shame become a lifetime of love?
More in the series…
Love Affair to Remember
Pretty in Pink Slip
Love Affair To Remember
After Office Hours, Book 2
© 2016 Jennifer Skully
He was gorgeous. As perfect as the day they’d first met, as the day she’d last seen him. As gorgeous as he was that night.
His hair had been all dark then, but the few strands of gray now peppered through the earthy brown made him seasoned, more desirable, even mouthwatering. But it was his eyes she remembered the most, a penetrating sapphire as deep as the ocean seen through a cloudless sky from a plane thirty thousand feet high. Looking in them had sometimes made her dizzy. Beneath the black suit, white dress shirt, and red tie, he still wore the same toned body, without an ounce of fat gained in the more than five years since they’d worked together.
Since she’d made that one terrible mistake and her life had changed utterly.
With only the width of her desk separating them, Parker Hunt was too much. Too handsome, too sexy.Too much history, too many memories.Just too everything.
“Gloria King.” He said it as if he was finally getting over the shock of seeing her on his interview agenda. “It’s been a long time.” His whisky-smooth voice was as potent as ever.
How on earth had she thought she could handle working with him again? But the company had moved too far along the interview chain to put a stop to it. Besides, they were both different people now. She was different. Scarred by her own guilt and by everything she’d lost. She would never allow anything like that to happen again. Not with anyone. Especially not with Parker Hunt.
Even if she hadn’t dated anyone in the five years since her divorce.
Even if she’d never forgotten Parker.
“I was very glad to see you on the interview list.” Gloria pushed back slightly from her desk, crossing her legs. She hadn’t dressed specifically for him. Three other interviews had been scheduled for the day. But Parker looked at her, and her feminine side was happy that she’d changed five times this morning and finally settled on a less businesslike skirt and blouse.
With another man, the appreciative look would have been a warning sign. You didn’t hire an executive who ogled a woman right there in her office. But Parker wasn’t just any executive. She might have ruined her life over him, but if he hadn’t given her a second glance, her forty-seven-year-old heart—forty-eight in October, only a few weeks away—would have stopped beating.
She put them cleanly on the business level by saying, “I’ve read through your resume.” Not that she’d needed to look at it. Parker would make a top-notch VP of Marketing. He worked outside the box, not just with new releases but in searching out alternate applications for current products. He would be an asset. “But I’d rather hear straight from you what you’ve been doing since you left Sunderland.”
Sunderland was the company they’d both worked for. Until Gloria couldn’t work there anymore.When she could no longer see Parker day in and day out without the crushing weight of her guilt.And the fear that she’d succumb to her own selfish passionsagain.
He smiled his too-gorgeous smile. “I didn’t move around much after Sunderland. Same company for the past five years.”
There was so much she wanted to ask him, especially about his bare ring finger and its lack of telltale tan line, indicating he hadn’t worn a wedding ring in quite some time. But she wouldn’t ask what had happened. Couldn’t. She noticed he hadn’t even looked at her hand.
“So why did you leave your last job?” She waggled her fingers at the resume on her desk. “Besides wanting to explore your opportunities.”Which was a meaningless artifact everyone added to their details so they didn’t have to say they’d been fired or hated their boss or they were bored out of their minds. With Parker, she assumed it was none of those reasons.
Putting his elbows on the arms of his chair, he steepled his fingers. “Do you want something Brett Baker will find palatable? Or the truth?”
Brett Baker was their CEO. The Silicon Valley startup was relatively large in employee headcount, considering that they wouldn’t begin shipping the final product for three and a half months, at the beginning of the new year. Their funding was decent, though Brett was always reviewing options. His greatest strengths were his integrity and his fair-mindedness. But he didn’t take anyone’s crap either.
“The truth would be good. And I know full well you’ll give Brett the same answer.”
He grinned. “With a little varnish.”
“All right, give me the totally unvarnished version.” She settled back, the sun falling on her head. She hadn’t closed the blinds and the office was small. None of the executives had sumptuous digs with massive furniture and plush décor. Her conference table supported four at most, and she’d borrowed a chair from that grouping for Parker. You were provided a space large enough to fit your needs, but they hadn’t skimped on the hardware. Her computer was state-of-the-art, her desk equipped with an ergonomic keyboard and her chair providing proper support.
It was nothing like Sunderland, but there she’d been only a controller and Parker was a marketing director. They’d both moved up in the ensuing years. Until their universes once again converged. It could be a cataclysm worse than the collision that wiped out the dinosaurs.
“Unvarnished it is.” His gaze tracked her face, from her eyes to her mouth, turning the word into something sexual with just a look.
Or maybe she was turning everything sexual because she was starved for male attention.
“Brett knows,” Parker went on, “that I didn’t see eye to eye with my former CEO.”
“And he didn’t think it was a warning sign?”
Parker splayed his hands in the air. “He appreciated the honesty. But in the unvarnished version, the guy was a dickhead.”
Her lips curled in a slight smile. Parker answered it just as slightly. They’d both known their share of dickheads at Sunderland, and they’d both had a tolerance for them. You couldn’t walk out every time you encountered a difficult boss or coworker or employee, or you’d never keep a job. “You were there for almost five years. So what changed?”
“Profits changed. Or should I say losses. About nine months ago, orders started falling off. People want product improvement, new bells and whistles, and we weren’t keeping up anymore.”
Nine months. Just when Gloria was changing jobs. Why did that seem like a portent for this moment, as if they’d been walking a path destined to bring them together again?
He shrugged, shook his head with feigned sadness. “I worked as well as I could with him. But you have to spend money to make money. And the product suffered even more. Until the quarter was so bad, he wanted me to pull orders in from the following month to make the numbers look better.”
“Robbing Peter to pay Paul. It’s happened before.” She’d been known to call customers to ask if they’d be willing to take an early shipment.
“Yeah,” he said on a sharp breath. “But the product was still in QC and wouldn’t make it out the door till the following week. He just wanted me to authorize my customer service group to do the invoicing.”
There was negligence, and then there was downright fraud. You just couldn’t bill for stuff you hadn’t shipped. “What did your CFO say?”
Parker blew out a disgusted pfft of air. “He was a yes man. Since the shipments were completed, even though not tested, he was okay with it.”
“Well, gee,” she said, dousing the words with sarcasm. “Why don’t we just invoice for everything that’s in the warehouse since it’s completed and will eventually ship on an order?”
He smiled with her. God, that smile. It turned her heart inside out just as it always had. She had to stop looking at him. “I refused to have my customer service people involved,” he said. “Told the bosses that if they wanted it, then Accounting would have to do the invoicing. They backed down but the writing was on the wall.”
She understood perfectly. “Why’d you leave Sunderland, though?” He’d enjoyed the job, and there was a good possibility he’d have made it to the executive staff in a short time.
The silence was as screeching as nails on a chalkboard. And the look he gave her scorched. “I left fairly soon after you did.”
She wouldn’t touch that one with a silicon oven mitt that handled up to five-hundred-degree temperatures. She’d cut all her ties with that job. She hadn’t returned friends’ calls. She’d pulled her blinds down over everything that had to do with Sunderland.
It hadn’t worked. She’d still ended up divorced. Alone.And guilty.
“Well,” she said with ridiculous brightness. “What can I tell you about us? You’d be a great fit. I know you’ll bring dynamic ideas to the mix. There’s a lot of opportunity here. And Brett’s a good man. You won’t get any of those invoicing shenanigans under his watch.” She sounded like a cheerleader on speed.
Parker didn’t seem to notice. Or he was too polite to mention it. “How’s your executive team? The unvarnished version.”
“Unvarnished,” she said softly, thinking about Rhonda Clark, VP of Human Resources. “What did you think of Rhonda?”
He smiled without curving his lips. “Is that a subliminal message?”
For a very short time, they talked without saying anything, with just a look. Gloria had always felt that if nothing was acknowledged, if it was never said aloud, you had the thing totally in hand.
Maybe that’s why her emotions had burned out of control so quickly. In that one single night.
And why everything had gone so wrong afterward. Because, while she thought she had control, she was kidding herself.
“Due to our…” She didn’t want to use the word past, or even history, because of everything it implied. What was the right word? She left the sentence hanging, which might have been even worse. “She can be annoying. Everyone else is cooperative, a team player, and all that business.”
“Rah-rah,” he said, and they both laughed.
He could always make her laugh. She’d noticed him the first time—had really seen him—because he made her laugh. But she didn’t want to think about any of that.
“The most important thing is that you’ll never be pushed into unethical practices. And Rhonda is manageable.” She shouldn’t say it, but it was the unvarnished truth. “You’ll charm her into agreeing with you on just about anything.”
He settled deeper into his chair, regarding her with an understated grin she’d call cheeky. “Thank you for that vote of confidence. I appreciate the good word you’ve put in with Brett.”
“I didn’t put in a good word. I haven’t even told him we worked together.”
He regarded her for a long moment, emotion in his eyes that she couldn’t decipher. “Why?”
“I didn’t want to influence the selection process.” She hadn’t been able to decide how much to say. In truth, she hadn’t known how she’d react to Parker after all these years. And now she’d reacted the same as she had the first time. And the last time. The difference was more than five years in between, and the fact that she wasn’t the same woman anymore. “I’ll tell him after this. And that you’ll be a good fit. There’s nothing else really to say.”
“Nothing that has any bearing on how well you do your job.”
His facial expression shifted, eyes slightly narrowed, a line across his brow. “Can you work with me again, Gloria?”
This was her out. The moment he’d entered her office, she’d wondered if she could handle seeing him day after day. But she wasn’t the same person she’d been. She was stronger because she’d paid for her mistakes. She wouldn’t let her emotions get the better of her. Not this time. Not ever again.
“Of course I can work with you, Parker. We’ve both moved on from Sunderland. We’re different people.” She smiled and rose to her feet. He joined her, and she held out her hand. “I’ll put my vote in for you. You’re the most qualified.”
But when he took her hand in his, the shake lasted far longer than formally necessary. With his touch, the ghost of the woman she’d been unfurled inside her, whispering that her emotions weren’t as dead as she wanted them to be.
* * *
He wasn’t worried about getting the job. His resume was solid, his qualifications impeccable, and just as Gloria had said, he was a good fit.
Everything had fallen into place. He’d found himself on the wrong side of an internal power struggle, and before he’d even updated his resume, he’d learned about this opportunity.
Silicon Valley was a small world with a big grapevine. You heard who went where, when they did it, and why, and he knew the paths Gloria had traveled. He’d learned about her promotion. He’d even heard about her divorce. And he knew her name would be on that agenda before the HR Manager, Jordan Davis, had even handed it to him.
He just hadn’t expected the impact the sight of her would have on him. Her beauty hit with a visceral reminder of everything they’d done, everything he’d felt. Back then, it had been a huge error in judgment. If he could change that, he would. But that was then.
And this was now. Everything was different. Their rings were gone, their debts paid after more than five hard years, and the past was simply that, past. If there were new lines around her eyes, he didn’t see them. She was as luscious as she’d been back then. A couple of years older than him, she hadn’t suffered the fate of physics that many people did as they entered their late forties.
He’d told only one lie throughout the whole interview process.
Because he hadn’t come here for the new job. He hadn’t come to get away from an unethical situation. He hadn’t come for the pre-IPO stock options.
He’d come for Gloria.