In Bed With The Competition (Book 1, Bad Boy Bosses)
This rivalry is too hot for the tropics…
Elizabeth Carlson and Ben Harrison used to be friends, coworkers... and almost lovers. But that was before Ben proposed mixing business with pleasure. Elizabeth refuses to lose her heart to a hotshot tycoon with a cutthroat, take-no-prisoners attitude. Not with the prospect of starting her own company at stake.
Driven to succeed in all areas of his life, Ben couldn’t resist the temptation to make Liz his. But then she walked away, igniting a bitter rivalry. Competing for the same contract at a Caribbean conference ignites sparks too hot to ignore, and Ben’s determined to finish what they started, even if it’ll only last a few steamy, tropical nights.
Elizabeth’s resolve begins to crumble under Ben’s blatant seduction. Can she walk away from a hot island fling with the sexiest man she’s ever known with her heart intact, or will losing herself in Ben destroy everything she’s fought to achieve?
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Ben Harrison had seen his fair share of women in bikinis, but this one seemed different. For one, she wasn’t model thin with toothpicks for limbs, but had killer curves and legs that went for miles. His mouth went dry as he took it all in. A wide straw hat. The thin ribbon ties of her top coming together in the middle of her back. The ends trailing down a few inches, drawing the eye to the curve of her waist and then lower, to bright red bottoms.
He felt guilty for staring and averted his gaze, but Nolan’s low whistle of appreciation reflected Ben’s sentiments exactly.
He turned to his friend with a raised brow. “What are you looking at?”
Nolan leaned up on one elbow and tilted his sunglasses down the bridge of his nose. “The same thing as you, I’m thinking.”
“Well, you can just lie back down and forget about it. We might be here a couple of days early, but there’s still a lot to do to get ready for the convention.” Ben enjoyed the occasional break, which is why he and his business partner Steve Nolan had come to Antigua two days before this convention was scheduled to begin. But no matter where he went, he never left the work entirely behind, because he still hadn’t achieved his goals.
“Not for me,” Nolan protested with a grin. “And not for you, either. We got this nailed, Harrison. Everyone will be lining up to hand over their money. And you have to admit, if you look at any more reports, you’re going to go blind. Trust me, nobody likes a squinting playboy without a tan, no matter how innovative he is.”
Ben frowned. A year ago he’d been a nobody, fighting tooth and nail to make his mark along with all the rest, but after appearing at a few gala events with heiress and model-turned-CEO Meredith Stone, someone had decided to run a story on him, and suddenly he was considered a playboy. “It’s bad enough I get that shit from the media. I don’t need to hear it from you, too.”
“What? You don’t appreciate the attention?” Nolan smirked.
It was disconcerting and inconvenient, but Nolan was of the opinion that a little media attention of any kind was a good thing. It had the potential to translate into the kind of corporate interest they desperately needed, and that made it worth putting up with for a while. Both of them had sunk everything they had into their cutting-edge software development company, but it just wasn’t enough. They needed more capital, and they needed it now.
That’s what had brought them to Antigua. The Artificial Intelligence world was a small one, all the industry players would be at this convention, and they would all be looking for the next big Internet money-maker—that’s where Optimus Inc. came in.
Nolan grinned. “If you ask me, the fact that the media hounds have locked onto someone else’s scent for a while is fucking fantastic.”
“Yeah, I’m sure you’re ecstatic,” Ben answered with a shake of his head.
The reporters might suddenly consider Ben Harrison’s life fodder for their pages, but they practically wet themselves over any chance to photograph brilliant mathematician and bad boy Steve Nolan, whose family had been the stuff of society legend until it all fell apart in a public scandal a few years ago…and who was now having too damn much fun at Ben’s expense.
Ben’s attention shifted back to the woman on the pool deck. She faced away from them, having arranged herself on an available deck chair in front of the sparkling pool. She was applying lotion to her legs and thighs. Her motions were slow and smooth, the sun bouncing off her perfect, slick skin. It didn’t take much for him to start imagining those legs wrapped around him…
Maybe he had been staring at reports too long. After all, he’d left New York early to scratch his itch for adventure…and a reckless island fling could be exactly the thing he needed.
Nolan moved to get out of his chair. “Well, since you’re not going over there, I think I’ll introduce myself—”
“No way.” Ben shoved him back. He stood and grabbed his shirt, flinging it over his shoulder. “You’ve got your wish. I’ll clock out for the rest of the day, but that means you have to check in with Clarissa in New York.”
Nolan groaned good-naturedly. “Where are you going?”
“Don’t worry about me.” He glanced over his shoulder. “With any luck, I’ll soon be sufficiently distracted for the rest of the night.”
Ben walked away, but having escaped Nolan, he quickly changed his mind, deciding he was going back to his room after all. He didn’t want to intrude on the woman’s privacy. There was going to be a preponderance of a certain type of person at the resort this week: execs and programmers specializing in programming initiatives, and the marketing bottom feeders who were just looking to capitalize on someone else’s innovation. The facilities had been completely booked by the convention, so while he couldn’t picture many software engineers who looked like her, it stood to reason she was another early arrival taking advantage of an opportunity for some time to relax before the hordes descended, and he didn’t want to encroach on that.
As he passed her chair, though, he couldn’t help but slow. A large beach bag rested on the ground beside her, a colorful towel spilling out of it. He wondered if she planned to take a dip in the pool later. That was something he didn’t think he’d want to miss out on.
Right now, she lounged back in the reclined deck chair. Her drop dead gorgeous body was presented to the sun like an offering, and the front of her was equally as stunning as the rest. The round globes of her breasts teased him from behind smallish triangles of bright red Lycra. Her skin was smooth and creamy, gleaming with the layer of sunscreen she’d just applied, but pale, as if she took vacation about as often as he did. Then again, after a few days in that tiny bikini, she’d be golden in no time.
She’d taken out a book, presumably from the depths of the large bag, but it lay closed in her lap. He raised his brows. That was some dense, technical subject matter. His first instinct had been correct; she was obviously here for the convention. That put a different spin on his interest, and he stopped walking altogether, trying to decide if he recognized her. He thought he might, but oversize dark glasses covered her eyes.
She wore a thick gold band on her thumb that looked better suited to a man, but no rings on any of her other fingers, including the third finger of her left hand. Not that such an absence meant as much these days as it used to. The band gave him pause, though. He used to know someone who wore a thumb ring like that.
Looking closer, he tried to see past the floppy straw hat. It covered her face and hair, with a red ribbon that matched her bikini. Thick curls escaped from beneath it and fell to her shoulders. He used to know someone with tight curls like that, too.
“Um, excuse me. You’re in my sun.”
He was startled by her relaxed, husky voice, as if she’d just been through a long night of steamy sex, and he was the man who’d awakened her with kisses to do it all over again. That voice was familiar, too.
He cleared his throat and inclined his head with his most approachable smile. “My apologies. You caught me daydreaming.”
“Oh, is that what you were doing? Not staring at my…uh…hat?” Her lips were coated with some kind of clear gloss that made them look wet and full. A cocked eyebrow rose above the rim of her sunglasses. The way she did that, the tilt of her head as she looked up at him…
He laughed, but his gut tightened. “Ah, maybe you’re right, and that’s what got me daydreaming. You have a very lovely…hat after all.”
The hair was different. Her body was different…or maybe he’d just never seen so much of it before. If only he could look into her eyes to know for sure.
He readjusted the shirt he’d thrown over his shoulder and stepped closer. “Would you and your hat care to meet me in the bar tonight for a drink?”
That eyebrow went up again at his boldness, and her hand clenched on the book in her lap like a shield.
“I don’t mean to intrude on your holiday,” he added quickly. “But if you’re here alone and you’d like some company…”
She pressed her lips together, and he felt the weight of her assessing gaze travelling down the length of him, even though he couldn’t see past the barrier of her dark sunglasses.
After a long moment, she reached up and slid the glasses down the bridge of her nose, revealing deep green eyes. Green like the tropical water surrounding the island.
Her gaze was the same as a physical touch to his skin. Hot and unexpectedly jarring. Those eyes.
Yes. He knew those eyes.
He knew her.
In the time it took for him to verify his suspicion about her identity, her smile turned brittle, and her expression hardened. “It’s only been a little over a year, Harrison. Don’t tell me I was that forgettable.”