Everything Changes (Creek Canyon #3) by Catherine Bybee

Yet here Richard was snarling about her involvement as if it was a girl problem he couldn’t understand.

“Fine.” She glared at the file. “You can close the . . .” She was talking to herself. Richard was gone.

“Two hours,” she muttered.

She crossed her office to close the door and knew her entire plan for the day had just flown out the window.

Only after she sat back down did she realize she’d just been completely manipulated into taking on more work. Not that she had much of a say in things. But this time, Richard practically made her ask for it. Which meant when she wanted to leave the office at five like most of the staff, he would use that against her.

She opened the file and started skimming the highlights.

“Tell me why it is you’re here again? I can do this without you.”

Dameon stared out the picture window that had a ground floor view of one of the busiest streets in the city. It was much more congested than he expected it to be on a Monday.

“Because small towns want to know who they’re doing business with. They don’t like working with corporate entities. They like working with people.”

“Santa Clarita isn’t that small.”

No, it wasn’t. He’d spent the weekend driving around and getting a feel for the place. Less than forty miles from the center of Los Angeles, the Santa Clarita Valley boasted a suburban atmosphere with a large dose of country living. The outlying boundaries of the city were filled with small family ranches complete with horses and other barnyard animals. The old west atmosphere was felt in the heart of the older sections of the city. He’d purposely booked a room for the weekend just so he could come to the meeting armed with knowledge of the area you couldn’t find in a scouting report or online.

He’d driven through the Santa Clarita Valley several times in the past year and a half while the properties were being purchased. Now was when the work began. And a good relationship with the city and the people who approve things . . . was key.

“No. It’s not small. But it has everything to make this project work. We’ll get things off on the right foot today and I’ll leave you to it.” He finished talking at the same time the door of the conference room opened and a man walked in.

“Hello, gentlemen. Sorry to keep you waiting.” He looked between the two of them. “I’m Richard Frasier. I believe I spoke to you on the phone.”

Dameon stepped up and offered his hand. “You spoke with me. Dameon Locke.”

Firm handshake. Always a good sign.

“Pleasure to meet you.”

“This is Tyler Jennings, my project manager.”

Richard smiled, shook hands, and looked over his shoulder. “We’re just waiting on Hudson. Hold on.” He glanced out the door and looked both ways before leaving the door open and pulling out a seat. “Please sit.”

Dameon took the man’s lead and made himself comfortable. No sooner did his butt hit the chair than he heard the distinctive sound of a woman’s heels clicking their way through the door.

“Sorry to keep you wait . . .”

It was her.

The petite spitfire who had pretended she hadn’t noticed him gawking through the window of the hotel. The lady who needed an IV of sugar after a night of drinking. The woman who made every single nerve ending in his body stand at attention and make him perfectly aware that he was a healthy, able, heterosexual male.

He lifted his ass out of the chair as she hesitated just inside the doorway.

Tyler shot to his feet.

Grace placed the folder she was carrying on the table and stared.

“It’s just Hudson. You don’t have to stand,” Richard said as he remained seated.

“Thank you, but Richard is right. Please, have a seat.” Her voice wavered.

If Dameon hadn’t been on the other side of the table, he would have pulled out her chair. He realized in the workplace, that wasn’t expected, and in fact, was often frowned upon. But with his libido drumming in his chest, all the lessons his mother taught him rushed forward.

“It’s Grace, right?”

“Have you two met?” Richard asked.

Grace looked directly at him, her cheeks filled with color.

“At the coffee shop,” he explained.

Silence sat in the room with both of them staring at each other until Tyler broke it. “Well, we haven’t met. I’m Tyler Jennings. Mr. Locke’s project manager.”