Read A Bargain with the Boss Online

Authors: Barbara Dunlop

A Bargain with the Boss

With her boss, it's all work and all pleasure! Only from
New York Times
bestselling author Barbara Dunlop!

For years, Tuck Tucker has played the role of carefree billionaire. Yet when his brother goes MIA, Tuck takes over the family empire. He knows what he has to do—and who he needs. Getting his brother's dedicated assistant to help, however, is tricky. Amber Bowen is smart, sexy and determined to keep his brother's whereabouts a secret. But everyone has a weakness, and Tuck won't lose a fortune...or an opportunity with Amber. He's found the perfect way to tempt her into making a bargain with the boss.

“What would you do if you were mine?”

The question caught her off guard while her brain zipped off on a disorienting, romantic tangent. To be Tuck's. In his arms. In his life. In his bed.

“Sorry?” She scrambled to bring her thoughts back to the real world.

“If you were my confidential assistant, what would you do?”

“I'm not.” She wasn't his anything, and she had to remember that.

“But if you were?”

If she were Tuck's assistant, she'd be in the middle of making one colossal mistake. Eventually, she would kiss her boss. She was thinking about it right now. And if the dusky smoke in his eyes was anything to go by, he was thinking about it, too.

* * *

A Bargain with the Boss
is part of the Chicago Sons series—Men who work hard, love harder and live with their fathers' legacies...

Dear Reader,

Welcome to book three of the Chicago Sons series! I've worked in a lot of offices over the years and observed a lot of office romances. It's a great place to meet people, and an even better place to get to know their inner character—such as a love of animals, a flair for gourmet cooking, or a passion for shoes.

Tuck Tucker appeared in the first two Chicago Sons stories and quickly became one of my favorites for a future hero. He's been a public face for Tucker Transportation for many years, with his brother running the company. He's inept and intimidated by the day-to-day business. So, who better to throw in his path than Amber Bowen, office manager extraordinaire? She's smart, hardworking and buttoned-down—with the sexiest shoe collection in greater Chicago. She'll keep Tuck on the straight and narrow, or he'll pull her off.

Happy reading. I hope you enjoy
A Bargain with the Boss
!

Barbara

A BARGAIN WITH THE BOSS

Barbara Dunlop

Barbara Dunlop
writes romantic stories while curled up in a log cabin in Canada's far north, where bears outnumber people and it snows six months of the year. Fortunately she has a brawny husband and two teenage children to haul firewood and clear the driveway while she sips cocoa and muses about her upcoming chapters. Barbara loves to hear from readers. You can contact her through her website,
barbaradunlop.com
.

Books by Barbara Dunlop

Harlequin Desire

An After-Hours Affair
A Golden Betrayal
A Conflict of Interest
The Missing Heir
The Baby Contract

Colorado Cattle Barons

A Cowboy Comes Home
A Cowboy in Manhattan
An Intimate Bargain
Millionaire in a Stetson
A Cowboy's Temptation
The Last Cowboy Standing

Chicago Sons

Sex, Lies and the CEO
Seduced by the CEO
A Bargain with the Boss

Visit her Author Profile page at
Harlequin.com
, or
barbaradunlop.com
, for more titles!

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Thanks to Kieran Slobodin for the title.

And thanks to Shona Mostyn and Brittany Pearson for the shoes!

One

S
aturday night ended early for Lawrence “Tuck” Tucker. His date had not gone well.

Her name was Felicity. She had a bright smile, sunshine-blond hair, a body that could stop traffic and the IQ of a basset hound. But she also had a shrill, long-winded conversational style, and she was stridently against subsidized day care and team sports for children. Plus, she hated the Bulls. What self-respecting Chicagoan hated the Bulls? That was just disloyal.

By the time they'd finished dessert, Tuck was tired of being lectured in high C. He decided life was too short, so he'd dropped her off at her apartment with a fleeting good-night kiss.

Now he let himself into the expansive foyer of the Tucker family mansion, shifting his thoughts ahead to Sunday morning. He was meeting his friend Shane Colborn for, somewhat ironically, a pickup basketball game.

“That's just
reckless
.” The angry voice of his father, Jamison Tucker, rang clearly from the library.

“I'm not saying it'll be easy,” said Tuck's older brother, Dixon, his own voice tight with frustration.

Together the two men ran the family's multinational conglomerate, Tucker Transportation, and it was highly unusual for them to argue.

“Now,
that's
an understatement,” said Jamison. “Who could possibly step in? I'm tied up. And we're not sending some junior executive to Antwerp.”

“The operations director is not a junior executive.”

“We need a vice president to represent the company. We need you.”

“Then, send Tuck.”

“Tuck?”
Jamison scoffed.

The derision in his father's voice shouldn't have bothered Tuck. But it did. Even after all these years, he still felt the sting in his father's lack of faith and respect.

“He's a vice president,” said Dixon.

“In name only. And barely that.”

“Dad—”

“Don't you
Dad
me. You know your brother's shortcomings as well as I do. You want to take an extended vacation?
Now?

“I didn't choose the timing.”

Jamison's voice moderated. “She did you wrong, son. Everybody knows that.”

“My wife of ten years betrayed every promise we ever made to each other. Do you have any idea how that feels?”

Tuck's sympathies went out to Dixon. It had been a terrible few months since Dixon had caught Kassandra in bed with another man. The final divorce papers had arrived earlier this week. Dixon hadn't said much about them. In fact, he'd been unusually tight-lipped.

“And you're angry. And that's fine. But you bested her in the divorce. We held up the prenup and she's walking away with next to nothing.”

All emotion left Dixon's voice. “It's all about the money to you, isn't it?”

“It was to her,” said Jamison.

There was a break in the conversation, and Tuck realized they could easily emerge from the library and catch him eavesdropping. He took a silent step back toward the front door.

“Tuck deserves a chance,” said Dixon.

Tuck froze again to listen.

“Tuck had a chance,” said Jamison, his words stinging once again.

When?
Tuck wanted to shout. When had he had a chance to do anything but sit in his executive floor office and feel like an unwanted guest?

But as quickly as the emotion formed, he reminded himself that he didn't care. His only defense against his father was not to care about respect or recognition or making any meaningful contribution to the family business. Most people would kill for Tuck's lifestyle. He needed to shut up and enjoy it.

“I knew this was a bad idea,” said Dixon.

“It was a terrible idea,” said Jamison.

Tuck reached behind himself and opened the front door. Then he shut it hard, making a show of tromping his feet over the hardwood floor.

“Hello?” he called out as he walked toward the library, giving them ample time to pretend they'd been talking about something else.

“Hi, Tuck.” His brother greeted him as he entered the dark-hued, masculine room.

“I didn't see your car out front,” Tuck told him.

“I parked it in the garage.”

“So you're staying over?”

Dixon had a penthouse downtown, where he'd lived with Kassandra, but he occasionally spent a day or two at the family home.

“I'm staying over,” said Dixon. “I sold the penthouse today.”

From the expression on his father's face, Tuck could tell this was news to him, as well.

“So you'll be here for a while?” Tuck asked easily. He loosened his tie and pulled it off. “What are you drinking?”

“Glen Garron,” Jamison answered.

“Sounds good.” Tuck shrugged out of his jacket and tossed it onto one of the deep red leather wingback chairs.

With a perimeter of ceiling-high shelves, a stone fireplace, oversize leather chairs and ornately carved walnut tables, the library hadn't changed in seventy years. It had been built by Tuck's grandfather, Randal, as a gentleman's retreat, back in the days when gentlemen thought they had something to retreat from.

Tuck didn't fill the silence, but instead waited to see where his father and brother would take the conversation.

“How was your date?” his father asked.

“It was fine.”

Jamison looked pointedly at his heavy platinum watch.

“She wasn't exactly a rocket scientist,” Tuck said, answering the unspoken question.

“You've dated a rocket scientist?” asked Jamison.

Tuck frowned at his father's mocking tone.

The two men locked gazes for a moment before Jamison spoke. “I merely wondered how you had a basis for comparison.”

“First date?” Dixon queried, his tone much less judgmental.

Tuck crossed to the wet bar and flipped up a cut crystal glass. “Last date.”

Dixon gave a chopped laugh.

Tuck poured a measure of scotch. “Interested in the game with Shane tomorrow?” he asked his brother.

“Can't,” said Dixon.

“Work?” asked Tuck.

“Tying up loose ends.”

Tuck turned to face the other men. “With the penthouse?”

Dixon's expression was inscrutable. “And a few other things.”

Tuck got the distinct feeling Dixon was holding something back. But then the two brothers rarely spoke frankly in front of their father. Tuck would catch up with Dixon at some point tomorrow and ask him what was going on. Was he really looking at taking a lengthy vacation? Tuck would be impressed if he was.

Then again, their father was right. Tucker Transportation needed Dixon to keep the corporation running at full speed. And Tuck wasn't any kind of a substitute on that front.

* * *

Amber Bowen looked straight into the eyes of the president of Tucker Transportation and lied.

“No,” she said to Jamison Tucker. “Dixon didn't mention anything to me.”

Her loyalty was to her boss, Dixon Tucker. Five years ago, he'd given her a chance when nobody else would. She'd been straight out of high school, with no college education and no office experience. He'd put his faith in her then, and she wasn't going to let him down now.

“When was the last time you spoke to him?”

Jamison Tucker was an imposing figure behind his big desk in the corner office on the thirty-second floor of the Tucker Transportation building. His gray hair was neat, freshly cut every three weeks. His suit was custom-made to cover his barrel chest. He wasn't as tall as his two sons, but he more than made up for it in sturdiness. He was thick necked, like a bulldog. His brow was heavy and his face was square.

“Yesterday morning,” said Amber. This time she was telling the truth.

His eyes narrowed with what looked like suspicion. “You didn't see him last night, sometime after the office closed?”

The question took her aback. “I... Why?”

“It's a yes-or-no answer, Amber.”

“No.”

Why would Jamison ask that question, and why in such a suspicious tone?

“Are you sure?” Jamison asked her, skepticism in his pale blue eyes.

She hesitated before answering. “Do you have some reason to believe I saw him last night?”


Did
you see him last night?” There was a note of triumph in his voice.

She hadn't. But she did know where Dixon had been last night. He was at the airport, boarding a private jet for Arizona. She knew he'd left Chicago, and she knew he wouldn't be back for a very long time.

He'd told her he'd left a note for his family so they wouldn't worry. And he'd made her promise not to give anyone more information. And she was keeping that promise.

Dixon's family took shameless advantage of his good nature and his strong work ethic. The result was that he was overworked and exhausted. He'd been doing an increasing share of the senior management duties at Tucker Transportation over the past couple of years. And now his divorce had taken a huge toll on his mental and emotional state. If he didn't get some help soon, he was headed for a breakdown.

She knew he'd tried to explain it to his family. She also knew they refused to listen. He'd had no choice but to simply disappear. His father and his lazy, good-for-nothing younger brother, Tuck, were simply going to have to step up.

She squared her shoulders. “Are you implying that I have a personal relationship with Dixon?”

Jamison leaned slightly forward. “I don't imply.”

“Yes, you do. You did.” She knew she was skating on thin ice, but she was angry on her behalf and Dixon's. It was Dixon's wife who had cheated, not Dixon.

Jamison's tone went lower. “How dare you?”

“How dare you, sir. Have some faith in your own son.”

Then Jamison's eyes seemed to bulge. His complexion turned ruddy. “Why, you—”

Amber braced herself, gripping the arm of the chair, afraid she would be fired on the spot. She could only hope Dixon would hire her back when he returned.

But Jamison gasped instead and his hand went to his chest. His body stiffened in the big chair and he sucked in three short breaths.

Amber shot to her feet. “Mr. Tucker?”

There was genuine terror in his expression.

She grabbed the desk phone, calling out to his assistant as she dialed 911.

Jamison's assistant, Margaret Smithers, was through the door in a flash.

While Amber gave instructions to the emergency operator, Margaret called the company nurse.

Within minutes, the nurse had Jamison on his back on the floor of his office and was administering CPR.

Amber watched the scene in horror. Had his heart truly stopped? Was he going to die right here in the office?

She knew she should get word to his family. His wife needed to know what had happened. Then again, Mrs. Tucker probably shouldn't be alone when she heard. She probably shouldn't hear news like this from a company secretary.

“I need to call Tuck,” Amber said to Margaret.

All the blood had drained from Margaret's face. She dropped to her knees beside Jamison.

“Margaret?” Amber prompted. “Tuck?”

“On my desk,” Margaret whispered, as if it was painful for her to talk. “There's a phone list. His cell number is there.”

Amber left for Margaret's desk in the outer office.

While she punched Tuck's cell number, the paramedics rushed past with a stretcher. The commotion inside Jamison's office turned into a blur.

“Hello?” Tuck answered.

She cleared her throat, fighting to keep from looking through the office door, afraid of what she might see. She thought she could hear a defibrillator hum to life. Then the paramedics called, “Clear.”

“This is Amber Bowen,” she said into the phone, struggling to keep her voice from shaking.

There was silence, and she realized Tuck didn't recognize her name. It figured. But this wasn't the time to dwell on his lack of interest in the company that supported his playboy lifestyle.

“I'm Dixon's assistant,” she said.

“Oh, Amber. Right.” Tuck sounded distracted.

“You need to come to the office.” She stopped herself.

What Tuck really needed to do was to go to the hospital and meet the ambulance there. She searched for a way to phrase those words.

“Why?” he asked.

“It's your father.”

“My
father
wants me to come to the
office
?” His drawling tone dripped sarcasm.

“We had to call an ambulance.”

Tuck's voice became more alert. “Did he fall?”

“He, well, seems to have collapsed.”


What?
Why?”

“I don't know.” She was thinking it had to be a heart attack, but she didn't want to speculate.

“What do you mean you don't know?”

“The paramedics are putting him on a stretcher. I didn't want to call Mrs. Tucker and frighten her.”

“Right. Good decision.”

“You should probably meet them at Central Hospital.”

“Is he conscious?”

Amber looked at Jamison's closed eyes and pale skin. “I don't think so.”

“I'm on my way.”

“Good.”

The line went silent and she set down the phone.

The paramedics wheeled Jamison past. He was propped up on the stretcher, an oxygen mask over his face and an IV in his arm.

Amber sank down onto Margaret's chair, her knees wobbly and her legs weak.

Margaret and the nurse emerged from Jamison's office.

Margaret's eyes were red, tears marring her cheeks.

Amber rose to meet her. “It's going to be all right. He's getting the best of care.”

“How?” Margaret asked into the air. “How could this happen?”

The nurse excused herself to follow the paramedics.

“Do you think he has heart problems?” Amber asked quietly.

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