Diamond Dreams. Zuri Day
from Italy to France and Spain to Northern California. He’s just a man, flesh and blood. His presence is affecting me this way only because I’m sex-deprived, Diamond thought, rationalizing the crazy attraction she was feeling for the man walking beside her. That reality—not his good looks, bulging muscles or the way his butt fills out a pair of jeans—is why Jackson Wright is affecting me so. She shifted the purse that was over her left shoulder, deftly removing her skin from his touch.
Beside her, Jackson’s thoughts followed a similar path…the one involving butts and bodies, that is. He marveled at the magnetism between them, thinking of how quickly he could palm the booty that had grabbed his attention as soon as Diamond had turned to speak with the designer. It was her perfectly curved derriere that had caused him to cut off his foreman in midsentence and make a beeline for the attractive woman across the way. Unfortunately, what he’d heard coming out of her mouth as she addressed the workers wasn’t nearly as attractive as her round backside. But Jackson wasn’t deterred. He could handle a strong woman because he was a strong man. And once he got her in bed, he determined, he’d show her a different kind of power altogether.
“Hold on, let me get you a hard-on, I mean, a hard hat. Hat,” he emphasized before quickly walking away. He walked toward a group of men huddled over a floor plan laid out on a truck hood. Diamond pondered how to deal with her uncanny attraction to someone she’d obviously be working with from here on out, even as she noticed how the men seemed to stand at attention as Jackson approached. They listened intently as he spoke with them. Then one of them reached into a crate and pulled out a hard hat. Jackson nodded his thanks and returned to Diamond’s side.
“You seem to command a lot of respect,” Diamond said as they continued walking toward the tall building. “Are you the supervisor or the foreman?”
“I’m in charge” was Jackson’s noncommittal answer. “Put this on,” he continued as they stepped inside the massive doorway and into a large, airy foyer.
“Is this really necessary? Most of the foundation and walks look almost complete.”
“But they’re not. Besides, everybody on-site wears a hard hat. That’s the rule.”
“You’re not wearing one,” Diamond responded sarcastically.
Jackson winked, blessing her with a smile. “I’m a rule breaker.”
Diamond ignored the squiggle that went directly through her core in no time flat and refused to acknowledge the long, curly lashes that framed the dark brown eye that had winked at her, or the straight white teeth behind thick, cushy lips. She thought of those lips touching hers and used unresolved anger to push desire away. “We need to get something straight,” she said, stopping as soon as they were out of sight of the men. “Don’t ever question my word in front of your workers. And don’t ever speak to me again in a tone of disrespect.”
“Respect is earned,” Jackson instantly retorted, rising up to his full six feet five inches. “And it’s reciprocal. You respect me and my men, and we’ll respect you.”
“I beg your pardon?” Diamond was incredulous.
“You don’t have to beg, Diamond. Just listen.” His tone was so authoritative that she stopped talking in spite of herself. “The guys out there are men, not boys. This is work, not school. They were on their lunch hour, not recess. When they tried to explain this, you shut them up with a wave of your hand. Now, I don’t know how you do it in the executive offices, but out here that’s not how we get down.” He stared at her without flinching, his eyes cool, unblinking.
Diamond stared back—and blinked first. “Perhaps I did jump to conclusions. But with the kind of money we’re spending, we have the right to expect hard work and get it.”
“You are getting what you’re paying for,” Jackson said, his tone softer as he once again touched Diamond’s arm and guided her farther inside the structure. “And more. Come on in, and you’ll see what I mean.”
They walked through the foyer and into what would become the restaurant. “This is gorgeous,” she gushed, shifting her eyes and thoughts from the brawn beside her to the beauty of the building, and once again removed her arm from his touch.
“Yes,” Jackson replied, eyeing Diamond. “It is.”
Diamond ignored the obvious come-on and stepped inside the main dining area. “The natural light from those large windows makes this space seem even bigger.” Her tone was sharp, almost curt, and strictly business. “But they’re going to allow in a lot of heat, as well. It gets very hot here in the summer, especially August and September. Even with stellar air-conditioning that might be a problem.”
“These are special windows,” Jackson explained, relaxing as he settled into his element. “They become tinted in extreme sunlight and temper the heat. Diners will still be able to take in the magnificent view yet not experience discomfort due to extreme heat or cold. The heating and cooling system that we’ve installed is state-of-the-art and will continually adjust to maintain whatever temperature is programmed into the computer. And these,” Jackson continued, running his hands along the smooth, stone walls, “will also serve to both keep out the cold and…bring in the heat.” Jackson made no move to hide his desire as his gaze openly raked Diamond’s physique.
Diamond spun around, her chin lifting along with her ire. “Are you always this impertinent when speaking to a client? Or have you forgotten that that is who I am, a client, not some piece of meat to ogle like a rabid dog!”
Bow wow wow, yippee yo, yippee yay, baby! Her haughty nature turned him on, not off, and stimulated that part of him that liked a good challenge. He raised a brow as he stared back at her, noting how her ample chest heaved with her deep, calming breaths. He wanted to experience this spunkiness in a totally different way. Jackson’s resolve to do so strengthened, even as his tactics changed. “I’m sorry. You’re right. I’m out of line. But you’re a very beautiful, desirable woman. I’d have to be blind not to find you attractive and dead not to react. It was just a little harmless flirtation, but again, I apologize.”
“How harmless would it be if I reported you to the owner? I am here in a professional capacity, and I expect to be treated in a professional manner. Is that understood?”
“Completely,” Jackson responded. Still, his eyes smoldered as he answered, and his wide-legged, crossed-arms stance suggested that he wasn’t in the least bit afraid of being reprimanded. “Shall we continue, or would you prefer to do the tour with someone less intimidating?”
Diamond was not known for being a neck-rolling, hand-on-hip kind of sistah, but his comment almost provoked both actions. “What did you say?”
Throwing her off guard by changing courses yet again, Jackson reverted to a trait that more than once had saved his life—bravado. “You heard me. You’re as attracted to me as I am to you. And that attraction, not my flirtation, is what’s upsetting you.”
“You have got to be kidding,” Diamond countered, less angry with his insubordination than the fact that he’d hit the nail on the proverbial head. “Obviously someone has told you that you’re God’s gift to women…and you believed them.”
Jackson’s grin was cocky yet genuine. “I’ve been considered a present a time or two.”
“Well, the only thing that’s a wrap right now is this conversation. You might want to brush off your résumé because after I have a little chat with the owner you’ll probably be unemployed.” Diamond turned and headed for the door.
“Wait,” Jackson said, reaching out and stopping her. She looked down at the hand squeezing her arm and up into pleading eyes. “Please,” he continued, releasing her, while imagining the confusion and laughter that would ensue among his men if she went out there demanding to speak to the owner. “I promise to behave.” Now it was Diamond’s turn to cross her arms. Her look showed that she didn’t believe him. “I need this job,” he finished.
“Then you need to climb