With everything else that’s been going on with the release of the first few episodes of The Brynthwaite Boys, I totally haven’t had time to share another project with you! I am honored to be a part of a sizzling contemporary romance trilogy, The Fabulous Dalton Boys. (Yep, it’s all about the boys for me this summer 😉 ) My contribution to this trilogy about three Texas oil billionaires trying to keep their family on the straight and narrow is The Advisor. Here’s a little peek….
Archer Dalton had never been late to work a day in his life. He had to floor it in his restored ’78 Ford Ranger across the Texas highways to get to Dalton Enterprises on time now and then, but he was always through the door and in his office by the time the clock struck nine. It was 8:58am now, and as he hopped out of his truck, his cell phone rang.
“What the….” No one called him this early. No one called him at all, unless it was….
He pulled his phone out and checked. Yep.
“Barrett,” he greeted his brother with a grunt.
“Don’t turn on the TV this morning,” Barrett blurted.
Archer winced and pinched the bridge of his nose. A pair of his younger employees walked past. The two had their heads together and were giggling over something on one of their cell phones. The moment they noticed Archer, they blushed and bolted for the office’s front door, laughing harder than ever.
“What now?” he asked Barrett.
“Take your pick,” Barrett said. “There’s Cage getting into a bar fight in Dallas over those twin blond barmaids—”
“What?” Archer clenched his jaw. “Is that what he was doing in Dallas over the weekend?”
“Or we’ve got the chick who’s kissing and telling about your trip to San Antonio last week.”
Archer huffed, blushing like a schoolgirl messing up her first piano recital. “She told me she represented that children’s hospital and they were looking for corporate sponsorship for a new wing. How was I to know what she was really after?”
“Is that how you were dumb enough to end up in the hotel’s Jacuzzi with her, wearing nothing but—”
“What was I supposed to do?”
“Um, say no?”
“All right, all right, that was a lapse of judgment,” he growled.
It didn’t mean he was stupid. He wasn’t stupid now, and he wasn’t stupid when his daddy used to call him the family moron either. He just didn’t always ‘get’ women.
He checked his watch. 9:01. Damn. He pushed away from the truck, double-timing it into the shiny office building, keeping Barrett on the line.
“Good morning, Mr. Dalton,” Renee, the receptionist, greeted him with a smile. She had a friend hanging around her desk, Dennis from customer service. The two of them were checking something out on Renee’s computer screen. That and trying hard to keep straight faces. Perfect.
“So besides Cage’s adventure in fisticuffs and my misunderstanding in San Antonio,” Archer went on, forcing a smile and nodding to Renee and Dennis, “Why shouldn’t I turn on the TV today?”
“Well,” Barrett went on, not quite so smug now. “It’s Dalton. Baby D.”
Archer sighed, making a last-minute lunge for the elevator door as it slipped shut. He just barely managed to squeeze his way in, which left him standing between two of his employees. He was a big man to begin with, tall, with broad shoulders and arms and thighs that saw their fair share of the gym and the great outdoors. The elevator was cramped, and Archer felt bad for taking up so much space.
“Okay, lay it on me,” he said to Barrett, bracing himself for the worst.
“It’s Marybeth,” Barrett told him, stone and steel in his voice. “She’s done another tell-all interview with one of those rag mags, all about how heartless and unfeeling I’ve been, about how irresponsible the whole lot of us are. We look like damn fools.”
Archer couldn’t say he was surprised. Things had been bad for more than a month now, ever since baby Dalton Dalton Dalton showed up on the doorstep. Barrett could rib him about being thick as a whale omelet when it came to the ladies, but Archer wasn’t the one left holding the bassinet.
Then again, he might as well be. It was open season on the Dalton family. Not one of the brothers could turn around without a tabloid blowing a story about an old girlfriend here or an entertainment show speculating whether there were Nalton Daltons, Palton Daltons, or Zalton Daltons out there.
Archer scowled as the elevator dinged and the doors opened. The two employees rushed out.
“I’m sure it’ll all blow over, Mr. Dalton,” one of them said. “I’ll have those reports for you by the end of the day.”
The elevator door swooshed shut, leaving Archer alone for a second. He and his brothers had worked damned hard since their deadbeat dad had died three years ago. Dad ran Dalton Enterprises into the ground when they were kids. If the tabloids got hold of the story that they’d grown up eating generic boxed cheesy-mac from the church pantry and wearing cast-offs, and that in spite of that, they’d still managed to grow up into functioning adults who ran a billion-dollar corporation, well, that’d be a whole other story.
“Look,” Archer told Barrett as the elevator opened onto the executive floor. “That PR advisor lady who’s been sending us all those emails is supposed to be coming into the office today.”
“Is she now?” Barrett sounded like he wanted to give her a piece of his mind about the orders she’d already issued.
“Yeah. I’ll tell her that we’re not interested in being told to take a bath and buy new clothes or any of that hoo-hah, but that what we really need is someone to go out there and silence Marybeth and these other gold-diggers who think they can get their hands on the family jewels.”
He stopped mid-step and cocked his head to the side. That didn’t sound right at all.
“Didn’t think you minded when the ladies got ahold of the family jewels,” Barrett sniggered.
“You know what I mean.” Archer walked on, frown darker than ever. “We worked for this company. We went out there and got our hands dirty finding and drilling that oil.”
“You got your hands dirty,” Barrett corrected him. “I secured the mineral rights and reformed Dalton Enterprises. And Cage, well, Cage looks pretty on the brochures.”
“We’re identical triplets,” Archer growled, turning the corner to his office. As soon as his secretary, Arlene, spotted him, she stood from her desk. “We all look the same.”
“Says the man with the hillbilly beard,” Barrett shot back.
Archer rubbed his chin, stroking his beard. Maybe it had gotten a little scraggly. He hadn’t had time to notice or care for weeks. Besides, he liked the beard. Men had beards, and he was a man. A strong man. A competent man. Not the village idiot.
“I’m at the office now,” Archer finished. “Let me talk to this advisor lady when she comes in.”
“Good,” Barrett said. “’cuz I’ve got a son to think of now.”
“Give him a kiss for me.” Archer softened up as he ended the call. “And keep your nose clean.”
He hung up. Arlene charged around the edge of her desk with that mother-hen, no-nonsense look she wore when there was work to be done.
“I know, I know, I’m late.” Archer tucked his cell phone into the back pocket of his jeans. “Blame Barrett.”
Arlene came to stop in front of him. She blinked. “It’s only just nine o’clock, sweetie.”
“It’s 9:06,” he corrected her. “I’m late.” His daddy would have gotten out the strap already. If he could find it through his hangover.
Arlene brushed his comment aside. “Now, you’ve got a busy day ahead of you. The specs for phase three of the oil field came in late last night. You’ve got a meeting with MacArthur Foley to discuss tax laws at eleven. There’s that webinar about corporate giving at two. And Kalee Hathaway is waiting in your office.”
Archer nodded at each item Arlene ticked off, but flinched and frowned at the last one. “Who?” he asked.
Arlene tsked, reaching up to brush something on the front of his shirt.
“Miss Kalee Hathaway,” she repeated. “You now, your PR advisor?”
“Oh. Right.” Come to think of it, that was the name at the end of all those long, nagging emails. Archer frowned. “She’s early.”
“She means business,” Arlene told him with a pointed look.
Archer could see her now. She’d probably be a bony old biddy—like Miss Hurst, his high school English teacher. She’d have perfect posture, her hair would be tied back in one of those tight buns, and she’d be wearing a suit so severe you could cut rock with it.
“Thanks for the warning.”
He started across Arlene’s office to the closed door leading to his executive suite.
“Oh, and sweetie, you’ve got something on your shirt,” Arlene added, rounding her desk to get back to work.
He glanced down, picking at the light fabric of his flannel as it hung over the white t-shirt underneath. It was old and faded, and the collar was frayed in one spot, but at least it was clean. Sort of. Sure enough, though, there was an orange juice stain across his chest. Too late to do anything about it now.
Letting his shirt go, he turned the doorknob and walked into his office. He liked his office. He’d found most of the furnishings at yard sales and the like and restored them himself. There was a bookshelf stuffed with business books, a pair of mismatched, overstuffed chairs he’d reupholstered on either side of a coffee table, and his desk, a hundred-year-old mahogany thing that had sat in the office of his great-great-granddaddy, Walton Dalton, when the original family ranch grew so big they formed it into the first Dalton Enterprises.
None of that was what caught Archer’s eye, though. Standing to the side of the room near the built-in kitchenette, arms crossed, staring out the window, was the most beautiful woman Archer had ever seen. She wore spiky heels and a slim, grey suit, and had her hair pulled back in a bun. But there wasn’t a thing about her that screamed biddy. That bun of hers begged a man to pull out the pins to let her dark hair spill down her back, and that severe suit highlighted every feminine curve and hollow.
It was when she turned to Archer that he was really in trouble. The advisor’s big, brown eyes widened as she took in the sight of him. Yep, she made him feel just as scrutinized as old Miss Hurst had, but instead of shrinking him into a ball of nerves, this advisor’s look had the potential to make parts of him expand.
“You must be Archer Dalton,” she said once she finished her initial perusal. Golly-day, he hoped he’d made the grade.
“Yes, ma’am,” he said. He took a step toward her and held out his hand. “And you must be Katie Haa….” Shoot, what had Arlene said her last name was again?
“Kalee. Kalee Hathaway. Miss Hathaway,” she said, taking Archer’s hand. She had a strong grip, but let go of the shake before Archer was ready. “Mr. Dalton, are you always late? Because I won’t stand for lateness.”
The Advisor is available now, exclusively at Amazon! Click here to be taken right to it.
But I strongly advise reading The Nanny, by Kirsten Osbourne and The Maid, by Ava Catori, books one and two in the series, first.