Love In Secrets (Love Distilled #3) by Scarlett Cole

She took a moment and calmed herself; there had to be a way to turn this into a positive.

“The situation as I see it is this: Your nephew has screwed up an important project, and despite me gaining the only exceptional rating amongst the project managers in this company at our semi-annual reviews, you want to take me off one of our premium projects, so I can fix this for your family, right?”

“You’re the only one whose own project is in good enough shape that I can take you off without too much risk, and I know you’ll do your best work and bring it back on track. I need a fucking ribbon cutting ceremony before the Christmas trees are put out on the curb in January. Now, we’re done here. Get with Brandon, figure out a handover, and I want an update from you by next Friday on where the project is at. That’s all, Cass.”

That’s all, Cass.

She glared at Elijah for long enough that he got the point, but not so long she’d put her job in jeopardy. Cassie had dealt with too many miserable projects, too many male co-workers who’d made skeevy comments about her that she’d turned a blind eye to. Even too many male peers at college who felt she hadn’t deserved her place on the construction course for her to blow it with an angry, ill-thought-out comment.

Some days she wished she could pick up the phone and ask her father for his guidance, but she knew what his advice would be. To come home and work for him at Cunningham Construction on smaller projects where he could protect her from the rough and tumble.

A piece of her knew Elijah was coming to respect her and rely on her too much to fire her out of the blue for insubordination, but given it was Friday the thirteenth, she didn’t want to test that theory.

Instead, she left his office and let the door close behind her with a whisper.

Jake Dyer, master distiller of Dyer’s Gin Distillery, stepped out into the parking lot of the company he ran with his two sisters, Marketing and Events Manager, Olivia, and CEO, Emerson.

For the first time in ten hours, he felt the hot Denver sun on his face as chaos roared around him. Concrete poured from the large, yellow mixer into the freshly dug foundation to the south face of the old events hall currently in the process of being renovated into a newly expanded distillery. A crane moved a large pallet of materials from the back of a flatbed truck to the rear of the building. Four men were on the roof, tearing down the mismatched panels of original glass, polycarbonate sheet, and rusted corrugated metal. He watched as they crashed over the edge of the building to the ground below.

The noise of it echoed loudly, due to the amount of asphalt and red brick around the existing distillery building. Across the lot, he could see Chris Cunningham, his father’s best friend, the man who had helped Jake carry his father’s coffin into the church a year earlier, and the owner of the construction firm currently managing the conversion. Chris pulled a handkerchief out of his back pocket and wiped his brow. It was hard to separate the man they knew and loved from the business professional who was holding them up and costing them money, thanks to one project delay after another.

Jake tugged his long, wavy brown hair back into a messy bun using the elastic around his wrist. It was still hotter than Hades for August, even though it was nearly six in the evening. In the heat of the summer, he always debated cutting all his hair off. He’d done it one year. Well, he’d let Cassie Cunningham, Chris’s daughter, chop it off for reasons he couldn’t remember, but it had involved dares with her brother and his sisters and stolen shots from Chris’s liquor stash. The next thing he knew, he’d woken up in his own bed with a hangover and hair shorter than his father’s lawn.

By the time it reached his shoulders again, Cassie had been in New York starting her degree in construction engineering and management. Like father, like daughter.

“Jake,” Chris shouted over the noise. His shirt was pulled tight around his middle, and Chris hitched his jeans up as he walked.

Affection for the man who’d stepped in as a surrogate parent since his father’s death filled him. Chris had done so much for them. The construction costs should be way higher, but he’d been flexible, allowing them to pay for the materials over time rather than with an up-front deposit.

Jake knew part of the reason Chris looked out for them was because he missed his own kids desperately and was perhaps starting to realize how much his choices had alienated them. As a child, Jake hadn’t given too much thought about Chris remarrying after his divorce, but as an adult, he saw Marianne, Chris’s new wife, for what she was. Someone who wanted to be looked after financially with zero responsibility for his kids.