I just re-released what was my very first MM romance, Hard-Ass Is Here. It was originally published in 2013 and I still remember how exciting it was to get that acceptance email. Honestly, that thrill never wears off no matter how many books I write. Evey time I get an acceptance letter, it’s amazing. But there’s something about that first time. That first ‘yes’ we want your story.
The storyline of Hard-Ass Is Here is about, Taylor, who’s just gotten out of a bad relationship where he lost his cool and got himself arrested. Enter the new hard-ass boss, Phillip, who’s investigating a theft at Peterton Financial, where Taylor works. Unfortunately, the account being pilfered is Taylor’s responsibility.
Phillip suspects Taylor might be the thief, but he’s hugely drawn to him too. Things get more complicated when the men give in to their mutual attraction, but the stealing continues.
“What the hell is this?” I scowled as Randy dumped a huge, sloppy pile of files and data sheets onto my desk.
“The new hard-ass is here.” Randy’s voice had the usual respect he afforded the higher-ups. None. “He wants us to go through all of these, ASAP,” Randy said.
“He’s here already?” I swiveled my chair and peeked out of my office to see a man standing with the bigwigs in front of the shimmering Christmas tree in the lobby. The new guy was about forty, black hair, at least six feet tall, with broad shoulders impeccably encased in what was probably a two-thousand-dollar designer jacket. His jaw was tense, belying the air of relaxed confidence he was doing his best to sell.
The guy allowed a polite smile as Sally, the receptionist, pulled a piece of shiny silver tinsel from his shoulder. Knowing Sally, she’d be positioning him under the mistletoe first chance she got.
“Where did he come from?” I asked.
“Why didn’t anyone tell me he was already here?” I asked, ignoring Randy’s sarcasm.
“I am telling you.”
“I mean sooner. Why didn’t you tell me sooner? Did you explain to him we’ve compiled this already?”
“I tried. He’s good-looking, but he might be lacking in smarts.”
I exhaled impatiently. “It makes no sense to go through these again. We have it all in digital files already,” I grumbled, flipping through the sheets. “What is this, 1984?”
“You can take it up with Pretty Boy yourself. Looks like he’s making the rounds, and he’s coming this way.”
Great. This was who they sent? The guy looked like maybe he’d be an expert on hair products, but not necessarily business theft. We had a crook here at Peterton Financial and we needed someone who really knew their shit so we could catch the culprit. We’d been hemorrhaging buckets of money due to theft. Reviewing data printouts of losses we’d already gone over a hundred times was a waste of energy. My energy.
But the higher ups didn’t always care what I thought. Peterton Financial was a large, well-oiled machine, which meant it took a lot of busywork from little guys like me to justify the big bonuses the guys at the top raked in. I guess I’d have to shut up and let the new boss take a stab at fixing our branch’s problems. And when he failed and left, like the last two, I could get some actual work done.
“Ten bucks says he doesn’t last the week,” Randy whispered, waving a bill in front of my nose.
I eyed the new guy’s perfect haircut and aquiline nose. Maybe he was tougher than he looked? Probably not, but it was only ten bucks.
“Like taking candy from a baby,” Randy said, tucking the money back in his pocket.
Lucinda Mercy, the office manager, stopped at my door with Mr. Haircut.
“Taylor Williams, I’d like to introduce our new regional manager, Phillip Daniels.” She smiled at me, lipstick on her teeth. “Taylor is the senior financial analyst for the New York project.”
“Nice to meet you, Taylor.” Daniels took the lead. His shake was firm, the skin of his manicured hand smooth. I got a whiff of grapefruit, lavender, and lemongrass. He smelled terrific, I wasn’t going to deny he was enticing, but he wasn’t nearly as impressed with me since his gaze appeared tepid at best.
It had been a long time since I’d met someone as good-looking as Phillip Daniels up close and personal. In fact, I hadn’t been up close and personal with anyone in quite a while. I assumed that was why my pulse sped up and I felt a little flustered standing so near to him.
“I look forward to grabbing some alone-time with you.” My face warmed as I realized I sounded like I was hitting on him. “I mean… you know to do work.” I grimaced.
His lips twitched. “I assumed.”
I laughed a little too loudly. “Right.” Pull it together.
He cleared his throat and said in a velvety tone, “I see Randy dropped off the files I want you to comb through.”
“Yeah.” I shifted uneasily. “About that, we’ve got all this on the computer. I don’t need to go through the hard copies.” I met his cool stare and hoped I didn’t sound as annoyed as I felt.
“I’m afraid I’m going to have to insist.” He lifted his chin.
I gave a surprised laugh. “No, I mean it’s been done several times already in hard copy and on the computer.”
He leaned toward me pointedly. “Then one more time going over the physical paperwork won’t hurt anybody, will it?”
I hesitated. Did he have bad hearing or something? “Seems a little silly to pay me to do something I’ve already done many times.” I spoke through gritted teeth, but I attempted to keep my expression pleasant.
“Why don’t you let me worry about the man hours?”
“Looking at the same thing thirty times isn’t going to change the outcome.”
“I guess we’ll see.” He narrowed his gaze.
Angry heat filled my face. “I’m happy to look over the computer stuff again if you really want me to. But I’m not inclined to go through all those paper files when it’s not necessary.”
“How about you get inclined?” His eyes flashed with irritation.
I sucked in a calming breath and counted to twenty. Ten wasn’t good enough. “I’ll see if I can get to it.”
A muscle in his jaw hardened. “On the contrary, I want you to make this a top priority.”
Apparently, we were now soundly engaged in a pissing contest. He might be gorgeous, but he was either dumb or an arrogant prick. “Maybe I’m not making myself clear. Let me try this one last time; these have already been gone through and saved to the computer. Everything piled on my desk right now is already scanned into the computer.” I spoke slowly, in case he was having trouble understanding the big words.
“Look, Taylor, is it? We need to get something straight right off the bat. I’m your boss, and I’m giving you a direct order.”
“I understand that, but I have a lot of work and this is a waste of my valuable time.”
Until Lucinda gasped, I’d forgotten she was there. She looked nervously between Phillip and me. “Um… Taylor what can it hurt to look the stuff over?”
I held up my hand. “With all due respect, Lucinda, I don’t think Mr. Daniels quite grasps my point.”
“Do you actually want to catch the thief, Taylor?” Phillip snapped.
“Of course I do, but—”
“Then you should be willing to do whatever it takes. Since you’re so familiar with the data, it shouldn’t take you long.”
“It’s not as simple as that. Going over all this is extremely time-consuming,” I said. “I have other things I need to get to. I have other deadlines.”
“I’m sure you’ll work it out. I expect a report ASAP.”
He turned his back on me and walked to the next cubicle, perhaps to spread his good cheer elsewhere. I stared after him feeling embarrassed and irritable at his abrupt dismissal.
“Wow, you like the rough stuff.” Randy snickered.
“Fuck off.” Warmth crept under my skin, and I kept my gaze as far from the frustrating Phillip Daniels as possible.