Diamond Dreams. Zuri Day
would rarely if ever be used to describe her. As a high-powered executive in the multimillion-dollar dynasty her dad had created, she was a woman used to being in control and demanding respect. Well, she wanted to demand something, all right, and didn’t care if it seemed the least bit disrespectful: a little rendezvous with Mr. Muscles. Private meeting. After hours. She’d even pay overtime.
Get it together, sistah! Why was she acting like she’d never seen a handsome man before? She had three of those in her immediate family. She’d grown up with fine men and dated them, too. Something about this construction worker unnerved her, and she wasn’t exactly sure how she felt about it. What she did know for sure was that nothing was going to take her focus off of making Drake Wines the chic, upscale resort she’d envisioned. And speaking of visions, the one just over Taylor’s shoulder was exactly what Diamond needed to bring her mind back to the singularly important task at hand—work.
With eyes still on the scene across what would become the resort courtyard, Diamond spoke to Taylor. “I’ll be right back.” Her long strides quickly ate up the distance between her and the group of men lounging on the ground. One was playing a video game, another two were checking out a sports magazine while a fourth was busy texting away. While still a couple yards away, she demanded, “What’s going on here?” The men looked up, but before any of them could speak she looked at her watch and continued. “It’s two o’clock in the afternoon, way past lunchtime. And you’re reading magazines and playing video games?” She pushed her sunglasses from her face to the top of her head. “Really? Are you serious?”
“Do I know you?” Diamond asked the man who’d been texting on his cell phone. “Because in the workplace, unless otherwise specifically indicated, I am addressed as Ms. Drake.”
Mr. Sports Illustrated tried next. “Ms. Drake, we—”
She held up her hand, deflecting further comment. “Never mind with the excuses. Where is your boss?”
Mr. Video Game pointed behind her. “He’s right there.”
Diamond turned, took one step and ran into a wall—otherwise known as the chest of Jackson Wright.
“Whoa!” Jackson reached out to steady a stumbling Diamond.
“Aw!” Diamond fell into Jackson’s arms. Is it me, or did the earth just quake?
Later, Diamond would wonder about the tangible jolt of electricity that raced up her spine before coursing through her nether parts. But she gave no thought to that as she quickly put distance between herself and Jackson.
“Is there a problem?” Jackson asked, removing the large hand from around the soft arm he’d just steadied and crossing his arms over a massive chest.
“I’d say that’s obvious,” Diamond answered, crossing her arms, as well. “Your men are slacking on the job, and that is totally unacceptable.”
“My men,” Jackson began, his voice low and firm, “are on their lunch hour.”
Diamond raised a skeptical brow. “At two in the afternoon?”
“That’s right. We knew that Taylor would be conducting a walk-through and wanted to get to a certain point in the work before we stopped. And since these men will also be working past their usual cutoff time, this later lunch will help them get through what for some will be a twelve-hour day.” Diamond’s chin rose a notch as she continued to look at one of the most amazing examples of mankind she’d ever seen in life.
“They work very hard.” Jackson’s eyes narrowed as he awaited an answer—correction: an apology.
Diamond offered a different point of view. “How hard they’ve worked will be determined during the walk-through. And late lunch or not, playing video games and reading magazines on the job is not a good look.”
“With all due respect, when on their lunch hour, my men can do whatever they want as long as it’s legal.”
When it came to the vineyard, it was a rare moment that someone challenged Diamond unless their last name was Drake. And when it came to nerve, Diamond realized that the man standing in front of her had plenty of it. And so did she, which was why he was going to get a serious piece of her mind. But realizing there was an avidly interested audience listening on, she decided now was not the time. Taking a deep, calming breath, she responded, “You may be over these men, but I am over this project. My name is—”
“I know who you are, Ms. Drake. And I also know California labor laws. That’s part of my job.” He extended his hand. “I’m Jackson Wright. The—”
“I know who you are,” Diamond interrupted, paying him back for not letting her finish. She knew it was childish, unprofessional and something she’d probably not even do with her irksome brothers, but she seemed unable to stop this man from pushing her buttons. “You’re the supervisor. Listen, I need to walk the site, but I’d like for you to call my assistant and set up a time to meet as soon as possible. There are some things we need to discuss.”
Diamond started to walk around Jackson, but he fell into step beside her. “We’ll make the appointment, but I’d actually like to handle the first part of the walk-through.”
Diamond stopped. “Why?”
“To explain some of the technical aspects of the electrical installations, as well as share some thoughts I have for the restaurant and lounge atriums.”
The last thing Diamond wanted was to spend additional time with Jackson Wright. His authoritative audacity intrigued her even as it irritated her. He had her thinking and feeling things she’d locked down deep.
And then fate intervened.
Taylor walked up to where Jackson and Diamond stood, her face a mask of worry as she talked into her cell. “Hold on,” she said into the phone before looking at Diamond. “This is my assistant designer with a crazy emergency. Can you give me ten minutes to deal with this before we begin?”
“No problem,” Jackson said, even though he hadn’t been the one addressed. “I’ll show Ms. Drake around.”
Diamond was two seconds from going off on this presumptuous jerk, but her professional persona appeared unruffled. She turned to Taylor. “No worries, Taylor. Join us when you’re done.”
She really doesn’t know who I am. This was Jackson’s thought as they walked toward the second largest building in the new architectural scheme. For now, Jackson felt it unimportant to enlighten her. Strange things often happened when women found out he was the owner of Boss Construction: visions of wedding bells and baby booties often began to dance in their heads. Too bad he wasn’t the marrying kind, because worse things could happen than having this feisty beauty in bed every night. But having her there for a night, a week, a few months even? It was a possibility, even with her headstrong personality. She was almost worth potentially losing a client over, but his uncle John had taught him nothing if not this one thing about business: don’t play where you eat.
And then he went on flirting as if he’d never known Uncle John. “I’ve been involved in this project from the beginning, pretty lady, and would love to show you around. Let’s start at the heart of the construction.” Without waiting for an answer, he gently captured Diamond’s elbow and steered her toward the large structure that when completed would be Temecula wine country’s newest hotel. The restaurant, bar, lounge, gift store and retail offices would make up the ground floor.
Diamond ignored both the flirtatious comment and the shiver that ran down her spine at Jackson’s touch. Instead, she lifted her chin and called on the age-old strength that was the Drake resolve: the power that had allowed her great-great-grandfather to not only participate in the Gold Rush but to become wealthy because of it; that had helped her great-grandfather stand his ground and keep hundreds of acres of land when those on both sides of the law tried to steal