Publisher: Cardinal Press, LLC
ISBN: Coming soon
A tender-hearted dog handler clashes with a brooding CEO—just like his grandmother planned.
A tender-hearted dog handler clashes with a brooding CEO—just like his grandmother planned.
Becca Taylor has finally found a fresh start caring for the dogs of a wealthy family. When the feisty matriarch asks her to partner on a business venture, all Becca has to do is convince her partner's grandson their plan is solid. Too bad he hates her on sight.
Caleb Fairchild will do anything to keep his heart and his family safe—which is why the beautiful Becca must go. Her eagerness to help his grandmother is suspicious, plus she's far too distracting to keep around.
Opposites attract and fireworks ensue as Becca and Caleb's attraction grows. Unfortunately, his lack of trust keeps getting in the way and her past reveals more than she’d like. Overcoming their differences and their pasts will take everything they’ve got.
Read an Excerpt
The sun’s rays warmed Becca Taylor’s cheeks. The sweet scent of roses floated on the air. She walked across the manicured lawn in Gertie’s backyard with Maurice, a Norwegian elkhound, and Snowy, a bichon frise.
The show dogs sniffed the ground, looking for any dropped treats or a place to do their business.
She tucked her cell phone into her shorts pocket. “Don’t get sidetracked, boys. Gertie is waiting for us on the patio.”
Becca had no idea what her boss wanted. She didn’t care.
Gertie had rescued Becca the same way she’d rescued the foster dogs living at the estate. This was only a temporary stopping place, but being here gave them hope of finding a forever home. Becca had a similar hope for herself.
Maurice’s ears perked.
“Do you hear Gertie?”
The two dogs ran toward the patio.
Becca quickened her pace. She rounded a corner.
Gertie and a man sat at the teak table underneath the shade of the umbrella. Five dogs vied for attention, paws pounding on the pavement. Gertie waved.
The man next to her turned around.
Whoa. Hello, Mr. Gorgeous.
Tingles skittered from Becca’s stomach to her fingertips.
None of the dogs growled or barked at the guy—points in his favor. Dogs were the best judges of character, much better than her.
She walked onto the patio.
Another wave of tingles made the rounds.
Most guys she knew didn’t stand. Didn’t open doors. Didn’t leave the toilet seat down. Someone had raised this man right.
He was attractive with classical features—high cheekbones, straight nose, strong jawline. The kind of handsome that women showed off to girlfriends.
The man stepped away from the table, angling his body toward her. His tailored navy pinstriped suit accentuated broad shoulders and tapered nicely at the hips. He moved with the grace of an athlete.
Very nice packaging.
Well, except for his hair.
His short, cookie-cutter, corporate hairstyle was typical of men walking out of every high-rise in downtown Boise. With such a gorgeous face, the man’s light brown hair should be longer, a little mussed, sexy, and carefree, instead of something so...businesslike.
Not that his hair mattered to Becca. Or anything else about him.
His top-of-the-line suit shouted one thing—Best in Show.
She might be a dog handler, but she didn’t handle his type.
They didn’t belong in the same ring. He was a champion with an endless pedigree while she was a mutt without a collar.
She’d tried playing with the top dogs, the wealthy dogs, once before and landed in the doghouse, aka jail.
But just looking never hurt anybody.
Gertie glanced up from the dogs. “Becca. There’s someone I want you to meet.”
He was tall, over six feet. The top of her head came to the tip of his nose.
Becca took two steps closer. “Hello.”
His green eyes reminded her of jade, a bit cool for her taste, but hey, no one was perfect. His eyelashes more than made up for whatever reserve reflected in his gaze. If she had thick, dark lashes like his, she would never need to buy mascara again.
She wiped her hand on her shorts and then extended her arm. “I’m Becca Taylor.”
His grip was firm, his skin warm.
A burst of heat shot up her hand and pulsed through her veins.
“Caleb Fairchild.” His deep voice reminded her of melted dark chocolate, rich and smooth and tasty.
Wait a minute. Fairchild. That meant he was...
“My grandson,” Gertie said.
The man who would make Becca’s dream of working as a full-time dog handler come true. If the dog products sold as well as Gertie expected, Becca would have the means to travel the dog show circuit without needing to work extra part-time jobs to cover living expenses.
She couldn’t believe he was here. That had to mean good news.
Uh-oh. Ogling him was the last thing she should be doing. He was the CEO of Fair Face and wealthy. Wealthy, as in she could win the lottery twice and not come close to his net worth.
“Nice to meet you.” Becca was still holding his hand. Oops. She released it. “Gertie’s told me lots about you.”
Caleb’s gaze slid over her as if he’d reviewed the evidence, passed judgment, and sentenced her to the not-worth-his-time crowd. “I haven’t heard about you until today.”
His formal demeanor made Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy seem downright provincial. No doubt, Mr. Fairchild thought he was too good for her.
He might be.
But she wouldn’t let it bother her.
Her career was not only at stake, but also in his hands.
“Tell me about yourself,” he said.
His stiff tone irritated her like a flea infestation in the middle of winter. But she wouldn’t allow her annoyance to show.
She met his gaze straight on, making sure she didn’t blink or appear weak. “I’m a dog person.”
“I thought you were a consultant.”
A what? Becca struggled for something to say and came up empty. Still, she had to try. “I...I—”
“Becca is a dog consultant,” Gertie said. “She’s a true dog whisperer. Her veterinary knowledge has been invaluable for product development. I don’t know what I’d do without her.”
If Becca wasn’t already indebted to Gertie Fairchild, she was now.
Gertie shot a pointed look at Caleb. “Perhaps if you dropped by more often, you’d know what’s going on.”
Caleb’s smile directed at his grandmother redefined the word charming.
Not that Becca was about to be charmed. The dogs might like him, but she was reserving judgment.
“I see you every Sunday for brunch at the club.” Caleb’s affection for his grandmother wrapped around Becca like a thick, warm comforter, weighing the scales in his favor. “But you never talk about yourself.”
Gertie shrugged, but hurt flashed in her eyes so fast Becca doubted if Caleb noticed. “Oh, it just seems like we end up talking about you and Courtney.”
“Well, I’m here now,” he said.
Gertie placed her hand over her heart and closed her eyes. “To dash all my hopes and dreams.”
Becca’s gaze bounced between the two. “What do you mean?”
Caleb touched Gertie’s arm. “My grandmother is being melodramatic.”
As she opened her eyes, Gertie pursed her lips. “I’m entitled to be a drama queen. You don’t want our pet products.”
No. No. No.
If that were true, it would ruin...everything. Gertie wouldn’t go forward with the products without her company backing them. Becca forced herself to breathe. “I don’t understand.”
Gertie shook her head. “My grandson, the CEO, and his closed-minded cronies at my company believe our dog skincare line will devalue their brand.”
“That’s stupid and shortsighted,” Becca said.
Caleb eyed her as if she were the bounty, a half-eaten mouse or bird, left on the porch by an outdoor cat. “That’s quite an opinion for a...consultant.”
“Not for a dog consultant.” The words came out more harshly than Becca intended, but if she couldn’t change his mind, she would be back to living in a single-wide behind Otto. Otto, her parents’ longtime trailer park manager, wore stiletto heels with his camouflage, and skinned squirrels for fun. “Do you know how much people spend annually on their pets?”
“Over fifty billion dollars. Food and vet costs are the largest portion, but analysts project over four billion will be spent on pet services. That includes grooming. Gertie’s products are amazing. Better than anything on the market.”
Gertie nodded. “If only my dear husband were still around. He’d jump on this opportunity.”
“Gramps would agree with me.” Caleb frowned, not a sad one, more of a do-we-have-to-go-through-this-again frown. “Fair Face is not being shortsighted. We have a strategic plan.”
Becca forced herself not to slump. “So, change your plan.”
“Where did you get your MBA?” he asked.
Try an AA degree. “I didn’t study business. I’m a certified veterinary technician, but my most valuable education came from The School of Hard Knocks.”
Aka the Idaho Women’s Correctional Center.
“As I explained to my grandmother, the decision about manufacturing the dog skincare line is out of my hands.”
Caleb’s polite tone surprised Becca but provided no comfort. Not after she’d poured her heart and soul into the dog products. “If the decision was all yours?”
His hard, cold gaze locked on hers. “I still wouldn’t manufacture them.”
The words slammed into Becca like a fist to her jaw. She took a step back, but she couldn’t retreat. Instead, her gaze narrowed. “How could you do this to your grandmother?”
Caleb opened his mouth to speak.
Gertie placed her hand on his shoulder. “I’ll help Becca understand.”
He muttered a thank-you.
“This decision is in the best interest of Fair Face.” Gertie sounded surprisingly calm. “It’s okay.”
But it wasn’t.
Becca had thought this time would be different. That she could be a part of something, something big and successful and special. That maybe, just maybe, dreams could come true.
She should have known better.
Things never worked out for girls—women—like Becca.
And never would.
Her heart in her throat, Becca walked to where the grass met the patio, so her back was to Gertie and Caleb. She picked up a ball and tossed it. One dog retrieved it, but the others panted with eagerness, waiting for the ball to be thrown again.
And again. And again.
If she kept playing fetch, Becca’s shoulders wouldn’t sag. She would rather curl up in the kennel with the dogs than be here. Dogs gave her so much—loyalty, companionship, and most importantly, love. Dogs loved unconditionally. They cared, no matter what. They accepted her for who she was with no explanations.
“Come sit with us,” Gertie said.
A sheen of sweat covered Becca’s skin from the warm temperature, but she shivered.
Caleb had multimillions, and Gertie had over a billion. Becca had $8,428.
She didn’t want much—a roof over her head, a dog to call her own, and the chance to prove herself as a professional handler. Not a lot to ask.
But those dreams had imploded, thanks to Caleb Fairchild.
Becca didn’t want to spend another minute with the man.
She glanced at her boss.
“Please, Becca.” The words were drawn out with the undertone of a plea. Gertie might be more upset about Fair Face not wanting to take on her new products than she acted.
Becca whipped around. Forced a smile. Took a step onto the patio. “Sure, I’ll sit for a few minutes.”
Caleb remained standing, a tall, dream-crushing force she never wanted to reckon with again.
As she walked to the table, she didn’t acknowledge his presence with a second glance or an “excuse me” as she passed.
Gertie had to be reeling, the same as Becca, after what he’d said.
I still wouldn’t manufacture them.
Her blood boiled. She touched Gertie’s thin shoulder, not knowing how else to comfort her employer, her friend. The luxurious silk beneath Becca’s palm would soon be a thing of the past. She wouldn’t miss the trappings of wealth. She would miss this amazing woman, the one who had almost made Becca believe anything was possible. Almost.
“I’m so sorry.” A lump burned in her throat. Her eyes stung. She blinked. “You’ve worked so hard and wasted so much time for nothing.”
Gertie waved her hand as if her arm were an enchanted wand that could make everything better. Diamonds sparkled beneath the sun. Prisms of lights danced. If only magic existed....
“None of this has been a waste, dear.” Gertie smiled up at Becca. Not the trying-hard-to-smile-and-not-cry of someone disappointed and reeling, but one full of light and hope. “The products are top-notch. You said so yourself. Nothing has changed, despite what my grandson thinks.”
He gave a barely perceptible shake of his head.
Obviously, he disagreed with his grandmother. Gertie didn’t appear deterred.
That made little sense to Becca because Caleb was the CEO and had the final say. She sat next to Gertie. “But if Fair Face doesn’t want the products...”
“You and I will start our own company.” Gertie spoke with a singsong voice. “We’ll manufacture the products without Fair Face.”
Our own company.
It wasn’t over.
Becca’s breath hitched, and her vision blurred. She touched her fingers to her lips.
The dream wasn’t dead. But she didn’t understand. Gertie had always spoken as if working with Fair Face on the products was a done deal. But if going into business was their only option, that would have to do. “O-kay.”
“Your consultant doesn’t sound very confident,” Caleb said to Gertie. “Face it. You’re a chemist, not a businesswoman.” His gaze traveled to Becca. “Please talk some sense into my grandmother about this crazy idea of hers.”
Becca clenched her hands. She might know nothing about business, but she didn’t like Caleb’s condescending attitude. The guy had some nerve discounting his grandmother.
Forget jade. The color of his eyes reminded her of cucumbers or fava beans. Not only cool but uninspiring.
Change and taking a risk weren’t part of his vocabulary. But they were hers. “Makes perfect sense to me. I’m in.”
“Wonderful.” Gertie clapped her hands together. “We’ll need an advisor. Caleb?”
A horrified expression distorted his face as if he’d been asked to battle the Zombie Apocalypse alone and empty-handed. He took a step back and bumped into a lounge chair. “Come on, Grams. You know better than anyone I don’t have the time, even if I wanted to.”
His words—or perhaps, an excuse—didn’t surprise her. The guy kept glancing at his watch. Becca would bet five bucks he had his life scheduled down to the minute with alarms on his phone set to ring, buzz, or whistle reminders.
“You wouldn’t leave us on our own to figure things out.” Gertie fluttered her eyelashes as if she were some helpless female—about as helpless as a charging rhino. “You must find the time.”
His chin jutted forward. No doubt walking across burning coals on his hands would be more appealing than helping them. “Sorry, Grams. I can’t.”
Good. Becca didn’t want his help any more than he wanted to give it. “We’ll find someone else to advise us.”
Gertie grinned, the kind of grin that scientists got when they made a discovery and were about to shout Eureka! “Or...”
“Or what?” Becca said at the same time as Caleb.
“We’ll see if another company is interested in partnering with us.” Gertie listed what Becca assumed to be Fair Face’s main competitors.
As Caleb’s lips tightened, his face reddened. His nostrils flared.
Well played, Gertie.
Becca bit back a smile. Not a scientific breakthrough, but a way to break Caleb. Gertie was not only intelligent but was also skilled in getting what she wanted. That was how Becca had ended up living at the estate. Caleb didn’t stand a chance against his grandmother.
“You wouldn’t,” he said.
“They’re my formulas. Developed with my money in my lab here at my house,” Gertie said. “I can do whatever I want with them.”
True. But Gertie owned the privately held Fair Face.
Becca didn’t need an MBA from a hallowed ivy-covered institute to understand Gertie’s actions might have repercussions.
Caleb rested his hands on the back of the chair. One by one, his fingers tightened around the wood until his knuckles turned white.
Becca didn’t want him to advise them. She would rather not see Caleb again. An unwelcome physical attraction kept her gaze returning to him. Strange. She preferred going out with a rough-around-the-edges and not-so-full-of-themselves type of guy. Working class, like her.
Any attraction to a man who had both money and power was stupid and dangerous. Men like that would ruin her plans. Her life. One had.
Of course, Caleb hadn’t shown the slightest interest in her. He wouldn’t. He would never lower his standards except for one night at best.
Becca wanted nothing to do with Caleb Fairchild.