TWO FOR THE SHREW
“Care to explain what happened to our agreement?” Trying to control her rage, Catherine Minola pressed her hands flat to the sleek, wooden surface of her desk and leaned toward her father.
“This new line is very important to the company,” he said.
“I’m aware.” Barely-leashed fury dripped from every syllable. She paused and stared at him. “I developed it.”
“Don’t you dare “Kitten” me. We agreed that this would be my project from beginning to end. From each, individual ingredient to every detail of the marketing campaign.”
The line of women’s-only vitamins and supplements for Minola Essentials had been painstakingly researched and developed. While she wasn’t a scientist, she’d carefully studied the material that had come from their labs and worked closely with the developers.
Charles Minola sighed. “I know, but when I met those two young men, they impressed me so much, I just had to offer them the job.”
Blood pounded through her veins and a headache began to throb in her left temple. Lifting a hand to her head, she massaged the ever-increasing ache. “Without even bothering to consult me first?”
“The party was just getting started, and—”
“The party?” she demanded¸ her tone bordering on shrill. “Where did you meet them?”
Her father seemed completely oblivious to her growing ire. “At the bachelor party for Bianca’s young man.”
Catherine sank into her chair, her legs suddenly too weak to hold her up. She racked her brain trying to remember when the party had taken place. “Let me get this straight. You met them less than a week ago and offered a multi-million dollar deal to a couple of yahoos you don’t know from Adam at the bachelor party for your son-in-law-to-be?”
“Cameron vouched for them, of course.”
“Of course, he did.”
“They own the firm he works for,” Charles volunteered.
“Of course they do.” Catherine yanked open her desk drawer and pulled out a bottle of ibuprofen, opened the container and shook two of the little brown tablets into the palm of her hand. Grabbing a bottle from her desk, she tossed back the pills and washed them down with a couple of swallows of water.
Hoping the meds would take effect quickly, she set down the bottle and looked at her father again. “So you just decided to deep-six everything I’ve been working on for the past eight months in a fit of misguided nepotism?”
“That’s enough! It’s not as bad as all that.”
“Actually, it is.” She pushed to her feet.
“You run the company. Isn’t that nepotism?”
“We both know I worked my way up from the bottom.” She sighed with frustration. “You’re willing to let me run it,” she spat, making air quotes around the word run. “But when it comes right down to it, you don’t trust me to do what needs to be done.”
“That’s not true.”
“Really? Because it certainly looks that way from here. And it’ll look that way to the rest of the employees, too. Not to mention the competition. Undermining me isn’t going to help the bottom line.”
He stood and dropped a kiss on her cheek. “Well, that settles it, then. I won’t tell anyone, and I know you won’t mention it, so problem solved.” He turned and walked to the door, twisting the handle before looking back at her. “I’m going to head back and see if Bianca needs any help before guests start arriving. In the meanwhile, I’ll send in Daphne with some fresh coffee for you. You look like you could use a cup before you talk to the ad agency. I told them to go ahead and set up in the conference room so they could show you what they’ve put together.”
Catherine stared at her father in open-mouthed amazement. She had no idea what had happened to the astute, capable businessman she’d always known. It was as if he’d vanished and an easily distracted toddler had taken over.
“You don’t even want to stay and see their presentation?” she finally choked out.
“You can handle it.” He left her office then stuck his head back in through the doorway. “Don’t forget, you need to be at the compound by two-thirty sharp. Bianca’s going to need your help.”
Without waiting for her answer, he pulled shut the door and left her alone in her office.
She didn’t know what to tackle first. The ad team that was apparently waiting for her in the conference room, Princess Perfect’s wedding or her own deep and abiding need for a latte. Despite taking the painkillers, the headache had grown exponentially.
For a brief moment, she fantasized about driving to the airport and getting on a plane. Perhaps, Yemin was nice this time of year. Or maybe the Ukraine. Anything seemed better than having to clean up other people’s messes. First, it would be her father’s advertising fiasco then whatever drama her sister had manufactured. With Bianca, it was always something.
Catherine looked up as the door to her office swung open. Her assistant, Daphne entered carrying two steaming cups of coffee, her tablet computer tucked under her arm.
“Are those both for me?”
“Not this time, babe.” Daphne grinned and passed Catherine a large mug then sank into the chair in front of the desk. “So, I assume you’ve heard about the two drop-dead gorgeous ad execs waiting for you in the conference room?”
Catherine groaned. “Unfortunately. Well, I heard that they’re here,” she amended. “Not that they’re hot. Honestly, I just want them to be competent. That’s not asking too much, right?”
Daphne waggled her eyebrows. “Depends on what you want them to be competent at.”
Catherine laughed for what felt like the first time in weeks. “I suppose we should get this over with.” She glanced at her watch. “I’ve got to be out at Dad’s in three hours, and I haven’t even started packing yet.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to let the PR department handle this?” Daphne asked.
Catherine shot a glance at her friend. “Do you not remember what happened with the children’s vitamin fiasco? That train wreck was supposed to be PR’s crowning achievement.”
Daphne frowned. “I remember. I was just thinking that with everything you have to do to get ready for this weekend, this is a lot of drama to cram into one very short workday.”
“Ugh. Drama—it’s what I do. Did I tell you she chose pink for the bridesmaids’ dresses?”
The other woman looked down at the blouse she wore—the pink blouse she wore—then back up at Catherine, raising her eyebrows.
Catherine shook her head, pretending not to be nearly as flustered as she was. “That’s different. You look good in pink. I look like I’ve got some kind of immune deficiency problem when I try to wear it.”
She sighed. This weekend would be endless. Three long days with the Prince and Princess of Perfection was enough to make anyone insane. But all she really wanted to do was get it over with.
Perhaps, no one would notice if the maid of honor anesthetized herself with vodka as soon as she got there. Her family’s home was huge. It had to be to support a weekend’s worth of wedding guests. Maybe, she could just find somewhere quiet to hide until the festivities were over. Maybe, she could just get hit over the head and be rendered unconscious until Monday morning. Or maybe, she could just put on her big girl panties and deal.
Catherine straightened in her chair. She needed to focus on one thing at a time. And right now, the one thing she needed to do was meet the advertising execs her father had hired and hear their marketing strategy. She just hoped it didn’t suck. The last guy who’d pitched to her had insisted that the best angle to sell the product line was to dress up models in superhero costumes and photograph them doing everyday tasks—all with the assistance of Minola Essentials new line of vitamins and supplements for women. Yeah. That wasn’t going to fly with her customer base.
She looked at Daphne. “Okay, let’s get this over with.”
Standing, the other woman picked up her coffee cup, lifting it toward Catherine in a mock toast. “That’s the entrepreneurial spirit.”
“I’m sure the guys from P & V Solutions will be overwhelmed by your enthusiasm,” Daphne deadpanned.
Catherine followed her assistant to the conference room, stopping suddenly as the occupants of the fishbowl style room came into view. Daphne hadn’t been exaggerating. They really were gorgeous. Both of them. Tall and dark, they looked as though they could be brothers. She studied them a moment longer. They also seemed familiar, but she couldn’t place them. She was sure she’d remember if they’d pitched to the company before. Who were they?
Though it was difficult to tell while they were wearing suits, they both appeared to be well built. They definitely had broad shoulders. She continued scanning their bodies as they moved about the room setting up their presentation. She mentally shook her head at herself. Lusting over them was the last thing she needed to do. She might be considered the bitch of the western world, but she was a professional bitch, damn it. Drooling over two guys, no matter how absolutely gorgeous they were, was the polar opposite of professional.
Daphne followed Catherine’s line of vision. “Told you they were absolutely delish. I’d do them,” she murmured quietly.
Catherine blinked at her friend. “Um…I thought you played for the home team.”
“Totally do,” the other woman said. “But that doesn’t mean that I can’t admire the art. Seriously, those two are worthy of a little fence jumping.”
Catherine stared at Daphne, her mouth dropping open.
She returned the stare. “What? I’m gay. Not dead. Besides, I totally think you should hit that.”
“Daphne!” Catherine glanced around the room, hoping no one else had heard, but the waiting room was empty and the receptionist was deep in conversation on the phone. A third guy was entering the room, but he didn’t give any sign of overhearing her friend’s ill-advised comment.
“Take one of them to your sister’s wedding,” Daphne urged, continuing her line of thought. “Hell, take them both.”
For a moment, Catherine let herself imagine stripping them down and—
“No.” She rubbed her eyes beneath her glasses and tried to banish thoughts of her favorite fantasy. “Just…no.”