“If you enjoy steamy romance, look no further than Jasmine Haynes—she is quite simply the best!”~ Amazon Reviewer “I consider Jasmine Haynes the finest writer of romance these days!” ~ Amazon Reviewer
The nerd meets his dream girl. And he wants his second chance.
She’s the high school bombshell cheerleader he lusted after. He’s the nerdy bookworm she never knew existed. Thirty years later, she’s about to discover exactly what she missed.
Lia Ferroni spent years climbing the corporate ladder, and she’s finally reached the top, achieving all she’s ever dreamed of. Until she meets the man who could cost her everything.
Nerdy teenager turned hunky engineer Finn Rafferty has come a long way since high school. VP of a Silicon Valley company that’s about to explode into the Fortune 500, he wants more than success. He wants the girl who got away all those years ago.
Passionate kisses break all the rules and exquisite pleasures tempt Lia to sacrifice everything. But when she learns who Finn actually is, she has to face the ugly truth she’s been running from for thirty years.
The truth is supposed to set you free. But what if it destroys everything Finn and Lia are trying to build?
Grab Finn and Lia’s second chance romance today!
For more about the characters you’ll meet in Show Me How to Tempt You, be sure to check out the crossover series Love After Hours!
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Show Me How to Tempt You
© 2020 Jasmine Haynes
The executive meeting in West Coast Manufacturing’s conference room, a cushy area with leather chairs and fine oak furniture, was in full swing.
Finn Rafferty, however, only had eyes for the VP of Human Resources.
Lia Ferroni was stunning, even more gorgeous than his high school memories of her. Thirty years ago, she’d worn her short, flirty cheerleader skirt with pride, and he’d drooled over her every jump, split, and high kick. Now he was a man, no longer the nerdy high school kid of his youth, and in the privacy of his mind, his thoughts went straight to her lush figure.
She was the full dazzling package, her dress suited to the warm May day outside, hugging her breasts, then flaring out to float just above her knees, circumspect and yet tantalizing. Her eyes were chocolate with a hint of merlot, and her hair a sun-tinted auburn, curlier than it had been in high school and cut in layers that framed her face, instead of flowing down to her shapely derriere. He wondered if she used to straighten her hair in high school, because now the locks looked natural, not permed. Or maybe the length of it back then had pulled out the curls.
He’d lusted after her when she was head of the cheerleading squad. He’d longed to wrap all that gorgeous, silky hair around his hands and pull her close to him. But he’d been a flunky, a water boy, never good enough to make the football team.
And nowhere near good enough for her.
But now he was a seasoned male, and she was a woman in her prime. Time had been good to her. Tiny smile lines fanned out from her eyes, but her skin was still smooth and her makeup flawless.
She’d been his teenage fantasy, his wet dream, his jerk-off poster girl. He’d dreamed about making the hot cheerleader his completely, stealing her away from her asshole jock boyfriend, the captain of the football team. But Finn hadn’t seen her since high school graduation. He hadn’t even Googled her when Google became a thing. He never looked for her on Facebook. He avoided Facebook.
But as the possibility of a joint venture between their two companies took root, he’d seen her on West Coast Manufacturing’s executive roster. She still went by her maiden name, and he wondered if, like him, she’d never married. She was too beautiful, too sexy, too seductive not to have been snapped up at least once, but she wore no ring on her left hand. These days, a lot of women didn’t change their names. But no name changeand no wedding ring? All things pointed to her being single.
He’d read her bio. She’d graduated with honors from a well-respected California State University. She’d made the rounds of San Francisco Bay Area high-tech firms, always climbing the ladder without excessive job hopping, always giving each company years of her life. Until West Coast had hired her as their head of Human Resources.
It was a perfect career choice for her. She’d always been good with people, popular in high school, a bubbly personality, lots of friends.
He hadn’t been one of them.
Though he’d seen her name on the website, he hadn’t expected her to attend today’s meeting. Yet every one of West Coast’s VPs had been invited to the conference room.
Or maybe they were all here for the lunch that would soon be served.
“Let me introduce our new vice president of Human Resources.” Holt Montgomery, CEO of West Coast, flourished his hand in Lia’s direction. “Lia Ferroni. She’s in charge of getting our employee handbook in shape. A trial by fire since she’s only been with us a few weeks.”
She smiled that same bone-melting smile Finn remembered so well. It made him hard beneath the table.
“Of course, I’m not a natural part of the R&D team,” she said. He closed his eyes briefly, letting her sexy, husky voice drizzle over his senses. “But if there’s any way I can help, please call on me.”
Oh, he wanted to call on her all right. In ways she could never imagine.
In his early fifties with steel gray hair and piercing gray eyes, Holt’s tone was that of a battle commander. “Since our team hasn’t met all of your team, let’s go round the table.” Holt had saved the introductions for the end of the meeting rather than the beginning, not that any of them really needed it. This was mere formality. “You all know me, CEO, Holt Montgomery.” He pointed at Brett. “Let’s start at the top.”
“Brett Baker. CEO of Silicon Valley Display Products. I’ve been with the firm since its inception. And I believe this joint venture is going to propel both our companies into the Fortune 500.” The two CEOs were of equal brand, both commanding, both fair, both the same approximate age.
SV Display, as they all shortened the name, had started shipping product in January, four months ago, and they were now expanding their R&D efforts. In Finn’s opinion, West Coast’s thin-film technology was the ideal candidate to take their line of display screens to the next level.
It was his turn. “Finn Rafferty, head of R&D at SV Display. I look forward to getting down to work with all of you. Like Brett said, this joint venture is historic.”
He looked at Lia for even a hint of name recognition.
She didn’t bat an eyelash, tip her head, or let her eyes rest more than a moment on him. And why should she recognize him? He’d been a nobody, a peon. Scorned. In high school, he hadn’t even had a crowd to run with, just a couple of friends.
Except for that one humiliating day he’d never forget, he wouldn’t have stood out to pretty, popular, proficient Lia Ferroni.
The introductions moved on. “Knox Turner, VP of Equipment Engineering. And I nailed this one the first time we saw your product. A marriage made in heaven,” Knox said like a football captain rallying the team. He looked the part, dark hair, toned muscles, cocksure. Although Finn had never considered Knox to be overly cocky, other people did.
Grady was up next. “Grady Masterson. You all know me. I’m extremely pleased we’ve signed this contract. Big things are ahead of us.” As VP of Business Development, Grady had brought them all together. He’d assessed a need and found West Coast Manufacturing to fill it. He was a handsome guy, and as Lia looked at him, Finn wondered if she were assessing the man for more than just business motives. But Grady was taken, big-time taken, madly in love and all that.
The fourth member of their team in attendance was Court Stevens. “Manufacturing,” he added after saying his name. “We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, but I see a great product in the future.”
It was all very rah-rah, just up Lia’s cheerleading alley.
They went around the conference table, introducing the rest of West Coast’s executive staff, most of whom Finn had already met. CFO Clay Blackwell, David Farris from Manufacturing, Marketing head Spence Benedict, who’d just become a first-time father a month or so ago. Then came Neal Thomas. Neal and Grady were the instigators of this new venture. After Neal, there was Ward Restin, R&D. He and Finn had been working closely for a couple of months. They had to make sure the product was even viable before signing any agreements.
The introductions made, Holt Montgomery rose. “With Lia’s permission, I’d like to pour champagne for a toast. Then lunch will be served.”
Finn was looking forward to lunch as he anticipated ways to corner Lia Ferroni for a chat.
Ruby Williams had entered the conference room to pour and pass out the champagne. Everyone else rose from their chairs, and smaller conversations broke out.
Lia didn’t jump into any discussions immediately, standing back to observe. She couldn’t say exactly what attracted her to their R&D guy. Yes, Finn Rafferty was tall and solidly built, as if he hiked twenty miles over rugged terrain every weekend. About her age, he was handsome, with clean-shaven features, long-lashed green eyes, and if he had any gray, it was hidden in the tawny shade of his hair. She’d always preferred the executive type, short hair and freshly shaved skin.
But every male executive in the room fit that bill. There was enough testosterone floating around to whisper sensually to her hormones. At forty-eight, when she thought her sex drive should be dropping off, her appetites were ramping up. Since her second divorce had been finalized a couple of years ago, her priority had been getting her career on track. The moment she’d accomplished that goal, her hormones began shouting at her.
But why Finn Rafferty?
She’d met plenty of attractive men at conferences or through well-meaning friends. Even her widowed mother played matchmaker. As Mom was fond of saying, the older Lia got, the smaller the pool of fish in the sea she’d have to choose from. Thanks for that, Mom.
But Lia was fast approaching fifty, the age where she would officially become part of the invisible older generation.
“Alone and childless,” her mother had bemoaned. “Who’s going to take care of you when you’re my age?”
“You don’t need taking care of,” Lia had assured her. Her mother liked to say she was a young seventy, but there would come a time in the not-so-distant future when she would need a lot more help. Since her dad’s passing ten years ago, Lia had handled Mom’s finances and taxes, and more recently she’d begun running errands for her.
But Lia was a long way from needing help. More likely what she needed was male companionship outside of work.
She studied Finn Rafferty. There was something about him. He made her heart beat faster, made her aware of her breath, of her skin heating slightly. As if she were getting ready for lovemaking. She didn’t believe in past lives or soulmates or any of that woo-woo stuff, but she could find no earthly explanation for this strange attraction to him. As if she knew him.
Of course, now that they were business associates, he was off limits.
With the champagne handed out, they all clinked glasses and toasted the new venture in a metaphorical huzzah. Lia still had a lot to learn about West Coast’s technology, but she understood enough to realize this product could revolutionize touchscreen technology.
The handbook wasn’t explicit about alcohol on the premises, and that was something she would have to address. Three martini lunches had gone out in the previous century, as had alcohol-fueled Christmas parties and company picnics. It was a different age. But when Holt had approached her, she felt a bottle of champagne to celebrate the joint venture wasn’t unreasonable. And no one drank more than half a glass.
As VP of Human Resources, she was probably the only one who cared.
At the sideboard housing the coffeemaker, minifridge, and champagne bucket, Ruby Williams, Holt’s ever-present administrative aide, stood next to him like a sentinel. She was his right arm, a brunette bombshell, wearing a skirt a skosh too short and a skosh too tight, nothing to be written up for, but not entirely appropriate for the workplace. But then she was also Holt’s wife, and they were a matching set, both gorgeous and eye-catching, the kind of couple people did a doubletake on.
There was nothing in the West Coast employee handbook that expressly forbid marriage, or even dating, and romance was certainly alive and well in this workforce, as well as in SV Display’s ranks. Gossip traveled faster than contracts, and Lia had heard their CFO and the Marketing VP were involved. Their CEO, Brett Baker, was engaged to an admin at the company. Not to mention Grady Masterson and their HR director. SV Display was a hotbed of romance on a scale even bigger than West Coast.
She had never seen a company—and now a joint venture—with so many romantic entanglements. The question was whether it caused any harm to the everyday workings of the company. Lia hadn’t seen any evidence of that.
Still, the employee handbook needed revamping. Completely.
Yet here she was eyeing SV Display’s R&D guru. Lia had a strict rule against dating a business colleague with any ties whatsoever to the company. A joint venture definitely counted.
She could look all she wanted. But the man was unavailable to her.
That didn’t stop her heart rapping triple time as Finn Rafferty worked the room, shaking hands, smiling, laughing, slapping backs. And relentlessly making his way closer to her.
She turned her attention to Spence Benedict beside her. “You know, Spence, even a VP is allowed twelve weeks of paternity leave.”
Spence smiled. His looks were on the rough side, his nose slightly bent as if it had been broken once upon a time. But when he spoke of his wife and son, his smile grew as big as if a cherub had sprouted on his face. “A month was long enough. Zoe was ready to throw me out of the house.”
His wife Zoe—they’d married shortly after their baby boy’s birth—had gone into labor in the middle of the party thrown to welcome Lia to the company. She’d never seen a man go so pale, as if the situation were life or death, instead of a new baby coming into the world. It was obvious that Spence Benedict was head over heels for his wife. And his son.
In her periphery, Finn Rafferty shook Ward Restin’s hand. Both he and Ward had worked hard to bring this deal together. But then he might also be congratulating Ward on his upcoming nuptials to Holt Montgomery’s daughter. Their wedding was planned for the end of August, four months away.
Without even looking, her body knew when Finn finally stood beside them. The fine hairs on her arms rose, and his scent intoxicated her, outdoorsy, fresh, and sexy.
“This venture’s going to be a winner,” Spence said.
Finn smiled, stuck out his hand, and the two men shook. “All the really hard work is still ahead.” His voice was low and smooth, touching something deep inside her, like a song with just the right notes to set all her endorphins free. “But I agree, we’ve got something spectacular.”
Across the room, Knox Turner held up his hand, signaling Spence. “Excuse me,” Spence said.
And Lia was alone with Finn Rafferty.
“We haven’t had much chance to talk.” His voice stroked her as if he’d raised his hand to caress her hair.
Why did this man attract her?
It was an unanswerable question. There was no logic to pheromones.
“I haven’t been with the company long,” she said, surprised her tone was even, unhurried, and calm, even as her pulse raced. “And I’m not sure what HR brings to this particular venture.” She finished with a smile to assure him she wasn’t putting a damper on the celebration.
“Every team member brings something to the table.”
He was handsome, but there was more. Maybe it was in his eyes, a mercurial shade of green, changing with the light as he moved. His eyes spoke of a deep understanding, about life, about hardships, an inner knowledge that she couldn’t label yet it called to her.
“I’d like to make a point of getting to know each of West Coast’s executives. I wondered if we could set up lunch plans for tomorrow?”
His invitation took her by surprise, and for moment, she couldn’t answer. There were her rules about fraternizing with anyone work-related.
“I’ve had lunches with the other execs,” he added as if he’d heard the word nobefore she even said it. “But if you feel like it puts you in a compromising position...” He let the sentence dangle, almost like a challenge.
The extra moment to think made her realize she was being silly. It was just a lunch. She’d lunched with both Holt and Clay, together and alone, no problem, no qualms.
Her hesitancy had everything to do with the way this man made her feel. The way he looked at her, the path of his gaze from her eyes to her cheeks to her mouth, made her think of herself as a woman instead of an executive, made her wonder if her hair was a mess or she had lipstick on her teeth, made her skin heat and her heart beat wildly.
But it was only a business lunch. It would seem odd if she didn’t accept. It might even look like fear.
“Of course,” she said, tamping down her perplexing emotions. “That would be great. I don’t know enough about your products and how our products will fit.” She smiled, though it felt a little false. “I have a lot to learn about our technology. Maybe you can give me a primer on it.”
“I’m still working my way through thin-film technology, so you’re not alone, but I can fill in some of the blanks for you.” The self-deprecation was probably meant to put her at ease; the man was an engineer, after all.
“I’d appreciate that.” She’d do some reading tonight so her questions didn’t sound too generic and uninformed.
When he smiled, she was struck by the laugh lines at his eyes and mouth, those of a man totally comfortable in his skin, capable of laughing at himself.
“It’s a date. Ward and I usually break a little before noon.” Most of his work right now was with Ward. “Will you be free by then?”
“I have a meeting at eleven, but it shouldn’t last more than forty-five minutes.”
“Do you have any preference on type of food?”
Her skin tingled as if he’d asked her preference in things that had nothing to do with business or lunch or primers on technology. “Anything you’d like is fine with me.”
She ignored the fact that her words could be mistaken for a sexual innuendo.