Romantic Shorts™ readers will recognize our Summer 2021 Writers’ Competition 3rd Place winner as none other than our own Bonnie Wood. This fun entry is a great example of the quintessential romance story. We’re cheering for the good guy, booing the bad guy, and hoping everything works out for our incredibly lovable heroine. We chose this one simply because, aside from being a well-written narrative with a good dash of spice, we were still smiling long after it ended.

Welcome. And, enjoy!

Twice As Tempting

by Bonnie Wood

I am so excited, I have been with The Premier Marketing Firm for just under a year and today, Graham one of the Senior Executives informed Derrek Jacobson and myself that we will be working on an Ad campaign together. This isn’t just any account, it’s Pacific Coast Wine, one of the largest wineries in Washington State. Not only that, but I love their wine, and, given a choice, I would choose Pacific Coast Wine every time. There is another reason to be excited: I get to work with Derrek Jacobson. The man is so hot and so sweet; I have had a massive crush on him since I started at the firm.

On my way to the conference room to meet with Derrek for our first brainstorming session, I hear him talking to Jeff, one of the Account Managers. They have been friends since college.

“Dude, I told you that you would do well here.”

“I know, it’s crazy that it happened so fast,” Derrek replies in that sexy voice of his.

“Right? And you will be working with Autumn, she’s really cool.”

I freeze when I hear my name, smiling at Jeff’s comment.

“Yeah, she is,” and I feel warmth start to spread through my body, “too bad she’s fat, or she’d be perfect.”

“Derrek, that’s harsh man, that chick is really pretty and really cool.”

“I know you’re right man, I don’t mean to be a dick.” My guard drops a notch. “I’d probably go there if I was drunk.”

What the fuck did he just say? I breathe in a deep breath and get myself under control. I will not cry, I tell myself, I will not cry. Overhearing his dickish comments did do one thing for me. That crush I had? Gone. Just like that. A few careless words and he will never be the same to me again. I back up a few steps and make some noise, so they know I’m coming. When I turn the corner I smile at Jeff, more thankful than he will ever know for his kind words.

“Hi Jeff.” I say, “Are you ready to get started?” I ask turning toward Derrek, not looking him in the eyes.

He shoots a sheepish look at Jeff. “Yep,” he opens the door, “after you.”

“Oh my god, Jen, it was humiliating,” I tell my best friend over the phone later that night. “Jesus, I can’t believe he said that shit.”

Jen commiserates. “You know, you could go to HR.”

“That’s not who I am,” I sigh. “I overheard a conversation that I wasn’t part of. I’m not going to ruin his career over it. Besides, he’s right, I am fat.”

“Autumn,” Jen scolds me, “you are not fat, you are curvy and beautiful.”

I frown at the pint of Ben and Jerry’s in my hand, “You haven’t seen me since I moved to Seattle. Even my doctor says I need to lose thirty pounds. That’s a lot for someone my size.”

“Then lose it,” she says like it’s a piece of cake or something.

I snort. “Easy for you to say, you skinny bitch.” She knows I say that with all the love in the world. My best friend is tall, slender and beautiful. “I’m going to go. I love you like ten thousand coconut M’n’M’s.”

“I love you like ten thousand Oreo cookies,” she chuckles. “And Autumn, you are beautiful.”

“Sure, sure,” I sigh. “Bye.”

I go to the kitchen to put my three quarters full pint of ice cream away. When I open the freezer and see all the frozen snacks, instead of putting it away I turn and dump it into the garbage. I pull the rest of the crap out and toss it. Then do the same in the pantry. Shit, now I have no food, I let out a humorless laugh. No wonder I’m fat, all I eat is carbs and sugar. I grab my keys and head to the store for more healthy choices. I am going to lose it. I’m going to start with a healthy diet and taking advantage of my building’s gym.

* * * * * * *

It has been almost three months, and I have successfully lost twenty-five pounds. I feel great, I eat a healthy diet and work out every morning. I’ve had to buy new clothes, and I will probably have to again before I’m done. My double chin is gone, and my hour and a half figure is just an hour now. Our meeting with Bennett Evans, the owner and operator of Pacific Coast Wine is in a week and a half, I am ready, I’ve never felt so confident in my life.

Derrek the dick, as I have dubbed him in my head has started to look at me differently. He holds my gaze longer than necessary and sits a little closer than he did before. A few months ago, this would have thrilled me, but now all I can think of is him saying, ‘I’d probably go there if I was drunk.’ Well fuck him, or, not really.

We have an excellent campaign lined up but it’s not quite coming together because we haven’t found the hook. Thinking about Derrek’s dickhead comment brings me back to that first day and what I was thinking on the way to the conference room, then it hits me. Oh my god, I found the hook.

I hurry to Derrek’s office, “I got it!” I exclaim as I burst through the door.

My explosive entrance causes him to jolt, spilling his coffee, “What the hell Autumn.”

“Oh, damn I’m sorry.” I duck out to the coffee cart and grab some napkins, handing them to him, I apologize again. “I am so sorry Derrek.”

He’s dabbing at his crotch, and I imagine hot coffee in the lap must have been a bit uncomfortable, I try not to giggle, as I think, Karma strikes again.

He looks up and I school my features, or try too anyway, “It’s okay.” He narrows his eyes, “Are you trying not to laugh?”

I clear my throat, “No, I’m just excited.” “What did you get?”

“What?”

“You said you got it, what did you get?”

“Oh that,” picking up where I left off. “The hook, I got the hook.”

“Tell me.”

“Okay, Okay. ‘Pacific Coast Wine, We’d Choose It Every Time.’”

Derrek’s brows furrow, as he thinks about it, “Say it again.” He closes his eyes.

“Pacific Coast Wine, We’d Choose It Every time.”

He nods, grins, and jumps to his feet, “I love it!”

He picks me up spinning me. When he stops the circular motion, I slide down the front of him remembering that I hate this man. When my feet hit the floor, I take a full step back.

“Have dinner with me tonight.” It’s not a question.

I shake my head, “I don’t think so.”

“Oh, come on Autumn. We used to have fun, now it’s all business. Besides, we need to celebrate, you got the hook.”

I want to tell him that if he wasn’t such an industrial sized douche, we would still have fun. He’s right though it wouldn’t hurt to celebrate with dinner and some Pacific Coast Wine. “Okay,” I capitulate.

I insist we ask Jeff to go but, unfortunately he can’t, so I’m stuck with Derrek the dick. We decide on The Melting Pot because it’s close and it’s awesome.

As we are walking Derrek slings a companionable arm around my shoulder, I inwardly cringe, but rather than be a petulant child about it, I just let it sit there, its heavy weight oppressive and uncomfortable. After we order, I try to fill the awkward silence with campaign talk.

As we are finishing the last course, Derrek says. “Go out on a real date with me Autumn.”

“Uh, no. I don’t think so.”

“Why not? I think we would have a good time.”

I finish my dessert and stand. “Derrek, a few months ago I would have jumped at the chance to go out with you.” His eyes widen. “But now I’m going have to say no. Besides, you aren’t even drunk.”

Before I turn away, I see his mouth drop open and a look of abject horror come over his face. I get all the way to the door before I hear him call my name. Too late. I push through the door and thank god it’s down town Seattle and there are cabs everywhere. I grab the first one I see and slide onto the back seat. He bursts out of the restaurant as I’m closing the cab door.

“Autumn, wait.” He calls.

I just stick my hand out the window and wave, resisting the urge to flip him off.

* * * * * * *

The next few days are awkward, and I wish I hadn’t let on that I knew about his asshattish remarks to Jeff. I have to tell him repeatedly that I’m not interested in his explanations, and that we are fine.

It’s only a couple of days until our meeting with Bennett Evans, and Derrek has finally stopped trying to make amends to me. I’m not sure if he’s given up or what. I don’t really care; I’m just glad. We get all the details finalized by seven o’clock Wednesday night, which is good since the meeting is tomorrow morning. I expected to be working far later, but I’m pleased I’ll get a good night’s sleep.

“Want to go get dinner?” Derrek asks hesitantly.

I smile at him to show I’m not just being bitchy. “Not tonight, I want to go home and get a good night’s sleep.”

“Okay,” he sighs. “I should do the same. Goodnight Autumn.”

“Goodnight Derrek.” I endure his peck on my cheek.

When I get home, I find I’m too edgy to go to bed, so I go downstairs to the gym and get on the treadmill. I try to imagine dating Derrek, when I think about sleeping with him, my stomach flips – and not in a good way. I know I can never date him because every time we were naked together, I would wonder if he thought I looked fat. When I’m good and worn out I trudge to my apartment, shower and slide into bed falling asleep almost immediately.

Derrek and I had decided to ride together to the meeting since the winery’s offices are on the outskirts of the city and it just made sense. We meet at the office, pack up and drive to PCW’s building arriving a half hour early. We set up in fifteen and are chatting when Bennett Evans walks in five minutes later. I don’t hear anything else Derrek says.

Now, I’ve seen photos of Bennett, and I knew he was nice looking, but let me tell you the pictures did not do him justice. Nice looking? Please… He is smoking hot. He is wearing a black tailored suit and emerald, green tie. As my gaze follows the tie up, the first thing I notice about his face are his eyes. They are a bright green that I have never seen before. I’m not sure if the tie is setting them off or if they are always like that. Then I notice the rest of him, his dark blonde hair is cut short almost military on the sides and back, slightly longer on the top. Those longer locks look as if he has recently run his fingers through it. For some crazy reason, my fingers itch to see if it’s as soft as it looks. His chiseled features look like they were carved by the gods to be worshipped by women the world over. I realize that I’m frozen in place staring at him, mouth open, letting my eyes rove all over him, and he’s staring back at me, the corner of his luscious mouth tipped up in a half grin.

I shake my head a little to clear it. Jesus, get a grip, Autumn. What are you a freaking teenager?

I extend my hand “Mr. Evans, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” I’m sure my face is the color of a tomato. “I’m Autumn O’Brien, and this is Derrek Jacobson.”

Bennett grasps my hand in a firm shake, “Ms. O’Brien.”

“Please, call me Autumn.” Please.

“Autumn, it is. And you can call me Bennett.” He says lifting my hand to brush a kiss on my knuckles. I’m pretty sure butterflies just took flight in my stomach.

He holds my hand a little longer than necessary then turns to Derrek. “Mr. Jacobson.”

Derrek shakes Bennett’s hand, “Call me Derrek.”

Bennett inclines his head and lets Derrek’s hand go. I can’t help but notice he doesn’t tell Derrek to call him Bennett.

Throughout the meeting, when I’m not presenting, my eyes keep straying to Bennett. Damn, he is hot as hell. I’m daydreaming about what he probably looks like under that suit when Derrek’s words filter through. He is saying ‘I…,’ a lot. ‘When I got this assignment.’  ‘All the research I did.’ As I listen, I realize that this fucker is taking credit for the whole campaign. You have got to be kidding me. I worked my ass off for this and he knows it. He was right there.

The meeting is over, and we are packing up. I know my movements are probably a little jerky from holding in the anger and betrayal that Derrek just dealt me. He’s not looking at me; he knows he’s a dick.

We carry our equipment into the parking garage, I put it in the car and slam the door. “I’ll get an Uber back to the office.”

“Wait, what?” Derrek seems confused. “Why?”

“Because you are credit stealing asshole,” I blurt.

“What?” He asks, like he doesn’t know what the fuck he did.

“You made it sound like you did all the work on this project.”  I was just going to walk away but I’m so damn mad I have to get this off my chest.

“Come on Autumn,” he starts. “I’m the lead. It’s supposed to sound like that.”

“I’m not stupid, Derrek,” I am seething now, “We are supposed to be a team. When I found the hook, I told Graham, we found it.”

“I’m not leaving you here.” He decides.

“You don’t have a choice.” I whirl to storm away and slam into a hard body.

Hands come to my shoulders to steady me, and I look up. Shit! Bennet fricking, Evans. He’s scowling at Derrek behind me.

“I’ll take her back,” he tells Derrek. It’s more of a warning than a statement.

I shake my head. “No, you don’t have to.”

Bennett smiles down at me, “It’s fine, we can get a bite.”

“We have to get back to the office,” Derrek insists. “Graham is expecting us.”

“I’ll text Graham.” Bennett’s tone is that of a man in charge.

I look at him, puzzled. “Do you know Graham?”

“Yeah, we play racquet ball weekly.”

Derrek doesn’t say another word, and Bennett steers me to a gorgeous black Lexus.

Once we are back downtown, we park and walk a block or so to a cute little place called Bluwater Bistro.

“I should have asked, is this, okay?” Bennett asks, holding the door open for me.

“Sure,” I smile. “It smells great in here.”

After we are seated, Bennett levels a look at me. “What?” I say suddenly self-conscious.

“I plan to tell Graham I want Derrek off the campaign.”

My stomach flips, “No! Please don’t do that.”

He cocks his head, “Why are you defending him?”

“I’m not. If you go to Graham, Derrek will have it all over the office that I got him kicked off the campaign.” I look at him pleading, “He will make me look like the bad guy; everyone loves Derrek.”

“That’s shitty that he would do that. Are you sure?” At my relieved look he holds up a finger, “But, if he so much as says I instead of we, I will kick him off. I also plan to tell Graham how great you are.”

This makes me blush. “What if I suck?”

At the heated look he gives me I hastily add, “at my job.”

His grin is mischievous and flirty. “I don’t think that will be the case. The hook you came up with is great, and I’m sure you had a lot more input than that.”

Once the project is underway, I find that Bennett is very hands on with his company’s ventures. He is in the design meetings almost every day. It has become a habit for us to go to lunch when he is around at that time.

A few weeks into the campaign, we are sitting in a bistro having lunch, and I notice that Bennett is unusually quiet.

“Is everything okay?” I ask.

“Go out to dinner with me.” It’s not a question.

“Um, what?” I stammer, somehow more surprised than I think I should be.

“Dinner. You and me. Tomorrow night?” This time it’s kind of a question.

“Like a date?” I ask feeling like my eyebrows are in my hair line.

He grins, melting my insides, “Yes Autumn, exactly like a date.”

“Okay.” I say, a bit in shock I was not expecting this.

* * * * * * *

“Holy shit, Jen!” I practically shout into the phone. “I’m going on a date with Bennett fricking Evans.”

“Damn girl, warn me before you go shouting into the phone,” Jen says, “give me a chance to hold it away from my ear.”

“Shit, sorry.” I apologize, “But what am I going to wear?” I exclaim, “Oh, you haven’t seen my new clothes.”

“No, I haven’t,” Jen says with a chuckle. “I’m sure they are all great and very professional. But… Maybe you should do a little shopping tomorrow before your date, pick out something sexy that will have him salivating all night.”

“I don’t know about salivating, but shopping is never a bad idea.”

“Okay. When you have something picked out, facetime me so I can make sure you are not buying a new work outfit.”

“You got no faith in me.”

She’s right though, I’m likely to do just that.

The next day, after three facetimes, I finally pick an outfit that Jen deems appropriate for the occasion, even if it doesn’t show as much cleavage as she thinks is necessary. I miss my friend, one of us is going to have to travel soon.

After my shower I pull out my new outfit, I love it. It’s a red fifty’s style halter dress with black polka dots. I purchased a short black leather jacket with lots of zippers to bring in case it gets chilly tonight. I dry and curl my hair and pin part of it up with a black sparkly flower. At five minutes to six my intercom crackles to life.

It’s Bennett so I buzz him up. When I hear the knock at the door, I open it to find a huge bouquet of roses in all the colors blocking most of my view of Bennett. When he hands them to me, I get my first look at him.

He’s dressed in charcoal grey slacks and jacket, a white shirt with that green tie again. It wasn’t my imagination, that tie makes his eyes look almost otherworldly. Of course, he’s hot as sin and twice as tempting. After my blatant perusal of him, I look up and see he is doing some perusing of his own.

“You are stunning.” He tells me, with just enough moan between the words.

I feel my face heat, “Thank you, you look great, too.”

We arrive at The Purple Café and Wine Bar. “I’ve never been here. Have you?” I ask.

“Nope,” he replies, “but they serve Pacific Coast Wine, and your favorite color is purple.”

I startle, “How do you know that?”

“I listen.”

I don’t remember telling him that, but we have talked so much over the past few weeks, there’s no telling what I’ve said.

“Well, they must be good.” I say haughtily.

“Why is that?”

“Because they serve my favorite wine.” I smile at him.

“Then that’s points for them.” He flashes his own smile.

Once we’re seated, I ask him, “How do you think the campaign is going?”

“You are there more than I am, Autumn.”

“I know but I want to hear what the owner thinks.”

“The owner thinks you are brilliant. And gorgeous.”

“What does that have to do with the campaign, Bennett?”

“What, I said you are brilliant, if you weren’t the whole thing would fall apart.”

I can feel my cheeks flush, “I’m not the only one working on it.”

“I know.The campaign is going great. I still wish you would let me boot Derrek, though,” he says with a mock scowl.

I’m about to answer with a witty comeback when I hear the voice of the devil himself. This is also when I realize that Bennet had taken my hand in his at some point.

“Autumn?” I turn slowly toward Derrek.

Shit, what are the odds that he would be at this fricking café at this fricking time on this fricking night?

I paste a smile on my face, “Hi Derrek.”

He looks between us, “What are you two up to?”

“Just having dinner.” Bennett answers.

Derrek gives me a knowing look, “I’ll leave you to it then.”

As he walks away, I feel my eyes roll up to the ceiling. “Great.” 

“What?” Bennett asks.

“He’s going to think I’m here trying to get ahead by giving you head or something.” Realizing what I said, I slap my hand over my mouth.

He barks out a laugh. “I can only hope! No expectations though.”

“You are not helping,” I admonish him.

His smile falls a little, “I don’t think it’s an accident he is here.”

“What do you mean?”

 “When I asked my assistant to make a reservation, he came around the corner into my outer office.” He squints as he thinks about what he’s saying.

“That’s weird.”

The rest of the evening we make small talk and I laugh a lot. Bennett is sweet, and funny. Add his ridiculous good looks and it’s a heady combination. Really, it’s a wonder I don’t crawl under the table and do exactly what Derrek thinks I’m already doing.

When dinner is done and Bennett takes me home, I ask him in. “I have wine, it’s even Pacific Coast.”

“I would love to,” he smiles.

My hands are shaking as I put the key in the lock. Bennett isn’t touching me, but he is close enough that I can feel the heat of his body behind me. Finally, after what seems like ten years, I push the door open and step inside my condo.

Bennett puts an arm around my waist and pulls my back to his front. He bends down kissing up my neck to my ear and whispers “I want to kiss you Autumn, would that be, okay?”

I nod my head and whisper back, “Yes, that would definitely be okay.”

He spins me around and crushes his mouth to mine. It’s like a band snapped, and he has lost control. He pulls me close, and one hand slides down to cup my ass pulling me even closer, I can feel his erection between us, and it makes me want to rub against him shamelessly. Tangling my fingers in his hair I have a second to realize that it is indeed as soft as it looks, before he pulls away.

“Shit, I have wanted to do that all night,” he admits, breathlessly.

“That was an amazing kiss but, I’m glad you didn’t do that in the restaurant.” I giggle, my voice sounding as breathy as his.

Bennett chuckles, “Yeah, that would have really given Derrek something to talk about.”

The thought of what Derrek must be thinking and what he might say to my co-workers makes my stomach turn and I furrow my brow.

Lifting my chin so I meet his eye’s, Bennett asks, “What? I’m sorry I shouldn’t have brought him up.”

“It’s okay,” I tell him. “I’m just a little worried what he may tell people at the firm.”

“If he so much as tarnishes your initials,” Derrek starts.

Confused I ask, “Initials?”

“Yeah, you know, it’s less than your name.”

I giggle, “That is such a Bennet thing to say.”

He’s still holding me close, and I ask him if he wants something to drink?

 He shakes his head, “Not now, later. I’m really not expecting anything, Autumn. Do you want me to stay or have that drink and leave.”

I pull him down by his loosened tie and attach my mouth to his, backing up toward my bedroom. All these weeks of playful banter, flirting and inuendo has got me to a flash point. I wasn’t sure before if he was just having a bit of platonic fun with me or if he actually wanted me. Now that I know he does, I’m all in.

I elbow my bedroom door open and lead us in. His gaze is so hot, I think I can feel it heat my skin, “The answer I was hoping for.”

I giggle again but it’s short lived and ends on a little moan when he runs his lips down my neck, turns me around, and pushes my jacket off my shoulders.

He places his hands at the back of my neck, “Can I?” He wants permission to untie my dress.

 I let out a sigh of nerves and heat, “Yes, please.”

He quickly unties the dress and the front falls to my waist, I’m not wearing a bra because well, halter dress. Bennett lets out a growl when he sees my bare breasts, and he immediately cups them, caressing my nipples and continuing to kiss and lick my neck and shoulder. I press back feeling his hard length against my lower back. He lets one of my breasts go and starts to pull the skirt of my dress up. When it’s at my waist, he pushes his hand between my legs and slides his fingers over my panties. My hips push forward seeking more contact, this seems to make him more frantic, he growls and he slips his hand inside my panties, finding my clit and rubbing in circles. It’s not long before I’m chanting his name about to come.

“Come for me baby,” he growls in my ear, and that’s what I do, flying over the edge, my world breaking apart and coming back together.

When I come back to earth, I realize Bennett has me bent over the side of my bed, the skirt of my dress still up around my waist.

“Need to be inside you baby,” he pants. “You coming was the sexiest thing I have ever seen.”

I hear him open a foil wrapper and internally thank god he had a condom. The next thing I know he is pushing inside me, filling me. He starts a slow steady rhythm, telling me how good I feel and how he has wanted to do this since he first saw me. His motion inside me and his sweet words have me on the verge of another orgasm. He reads my cues and reaches around and begins that circle motion on my clit while still riding me but picking up the pace. I start the name chanting again and he gives one aggressive push inside me as the orgasm takes me, my body pulsing around him. He groans and with one last thrust, releases, holding himself inside me.

Later, after a couple more rounds of the best sex I have ever had, when we are both sated and content, he covers us and pulls me across his chest.

“That was,” he starts, “so much better than my fantasies.”

“Have you been fantasizing about me Mr. Evans?’ I ask playfully.

 “Only since the moment I saw you,” he replies with a chuckle I can feel.

I wake the next morning and try to move but a heavy arm pulls me in to a hard body. I have a moment of panic until last night’s events come back to me and I smile. I still try to wiggle out of his hold because I really need the bathroom.

“Where do you think you’re going?” He asks in a sleepy sexy voice.

“I have to pee,” I reply with some urgency.

“Are you going to come back?” he asks, “I want to snuggle.” 

“Yes, I will now let me go.”

I can hear him smiling. “Okay, okay.”

I run to the bathroom and scare myself a little when I glance in the mirror. My hair looks like forest creatures have made a home in it. When I’m finished, I wash my hands and try to tame the nest on top of my head, I make it a little better and head back to the hottest man alive, who happens to be in my bed.

We spend the morning snuggling and having more play time. When my stomach growls, we decide to get some breakfast. After the sexiest shower of my life, we head to a diner down the street.

* * * * * * *

Seated at the restaurant looking over the menu I find the healthiest option since I splurged last night at dinner.

“Did you choose the lowest calorie meal on purpose?” Bennett asks surprising me.

“Oh,” I say awkwardly. “You noticed that?”

“Yes, so it was on purpose.”

“Well, yeah,” I explain, “I splurged at dinner with the amazing meal and wine.”

“Are you on a diet?” he asks. “Because you do not need to be.”

I feel my face flush, “Not really a diet, I recently changed how I eat.”

“Why?”

“Because I needed to lose weight.”

He looks surprised, “Why did you think you needed to lose weight?”

“I don’t want to talk about this.”

Now he looks hurt, “Okay, but you will tell me someday.”

I sigh. “I overheard someone make a comment a few months ago, and it spurred me into action. I started eating better and I lost thirty pounds.”

“Who made a comment?” He looks pissed.

My face must give it away because he says, “It was Derrek wasn’t it.”

“How did you?…”

“What did he say?”

I put my face in my hands, so humiliated but I decide to be honest. “He said he would probably, go there, if he was drunk.”

At first Bennett looks confused like he doesn’t get it, but I see when understanding hits and his eyes burn, and not in a good way like last night.

“I will kick his ass.”

“No,” I beg. “Please Bennett, don’t. It’s so humiliating.”

“Why the fuck should you be humiliated?” he growls. “I won’t say anything, but I won’t be nice to the prick either.”

I want to remind him that he’s not very nice to Derrek as it is, but decide not to mention it.

* * * * * * *

I’m feeling amazing Monday morning. Bennett spent the whole weekend with me, we had lots of great sex, but we also talked a lot. Learning about each other and just being together. He didn’t want to get out of bed this morning and almost made me late for work.

My mood starts to sour as I walk through the office. No one will make eye contact with me. When I get to my office, Derrek is leaning on the wall and follows me in when I open the door.

“Good morning Derrek, what can I do for you?” 

“How was your weekend?” He asks with a slimy smile.

“It was fine.” I answer.

“Just fine huh?” He grins. “So, you’re taking one for the team?”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” 

“Now I understand why Bennett is always telling Graham what a great job you’re doing.”

“Bennett says I’m doing a great job because I work my ass off.” I’m about to lose my shit. “Did you say something to someone here? Is that why no one spoke to me when I came in this morning?”

He smirks, “I may have mentioned that I saw you cozied up to the owner of Pacific Coast Wine this weekend.”

“Did you happen to make it sound like I was trying to get something out of my time with Bennett?” I seethe.

“Aren’t you?” he asks, one eyebrow cocked.

“Not that is any of your business,” how could he think this of me, “but Bennett and I like each other and enjoy spending time together.”

He laughs, “Right, he just wants in your pants. He’ll drop you like a bad habit when he’s done.”

 “Do you think so?” I hear. Oh fuck, Bennett is here.

Derrek’s face turns white, “Mr Evans, it’s not what you think.”

“Really?” Bennett asks, “Because it sounds like you are trying to make my girl feel insecure about my interest in her.”

“No, I…” Derrek starts but Bennett holds up a hand.

I can see people gathering outside my door and I want to sink into the ground.

“Don’t bother,” Bennet shakes his head, “I have seen your little jabs at her confidence, the only reason I didn’t step in sooner is because Autumn is tough as hell, and she just lets your bullshit roll off her.” He continues, “Plus she would have been pissed if I had interfered.” He smiles at me.

“You are right, I would have been pissed.” I grin back.

“You try to take all the credit for the work on the campaign, even though we all know Autumn works her ass off.” Bennett isn’t finished. “The only reason I haven’t kicked you off this project is because Autumn has continually asked me not to. I find it fascinating, that she has done nothing but save your ass and you have done nothing but try to sabotage her.”

“That’s not what I have done,” Derrek tries again.

“Save it,” Bennett says to him. “You’re off the PCW project. I will not let you manipulate Autumn or my other people anymore.”

“Fuck you, Mr. Evans.” Derrek sneers, “You can’t kick me off. Only Graham can. Fuck you too, Autumn. You set this all up.”

Bennett starts toward Derrek, but I hold his arm, “He’s not worth it.”

“He cannot talk to you like that!” 

“No worries Bennett,” Graham says entering the room. “Derrek, you are done here, can’t have you talking to clients or co-workers like that.”

“What? This is bullshit.” Derrek yells, “She is fucking the client and I get fired?”

“What Autumn does in her personal life is none of your business,” Graham tells him. “Now go clean out your office and get out. Jeff, please escort Derrek out of the building.”

Jeff glares at Derrek, “No problem Graham.”

“Bennett turns to me; I came by to tell Graham I wanted that asshat off the team. That woman he was with last night was Gabby from my staff, I didn’t see her face so I didn’t recognize her. He was trying to get her to sabotage your work and get you kicked off the project.”

When everyone except Bennett is gone, I close the door and slump in my chair, head in my hands.

“You know what he said is bullshit, right?” Bennett asks.

 “I know,” I assure him, “He’s the douche, not you.”

“That’s good, Autumn,” he starts. “Because I have completely fallen in love with you.”

My head whips up and my eyes meet his, I can see the sincerity in them.

I smile, stand and wrap my arms around his waist. I look up into his eyes and tell him the honest truth. “I love you too Bennett.”

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