Page 1 of Unexpectedly Yours

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Caroline Rossi needed a new life.

Sure, the one she had was fine, but as she looked around the crowded and very trendy Midtown Manhattan bar, she wanted to do better than fine. Shedeservedbetter than ‘fine.’ Once again, she’d been passed over for a project at work, and once again she was spending a Friday night dateless because she couldn’t seem to attract a decent guy. Things had to change.

But the universe wasn’t cooperating and her heart just wasn’t into this whole scene.

“Don’t you think you should give Mark a chance?”

Caroline’s attention snapped back to the people buzzing around her, and specifically to the woman standing next to her.

“Excuse me?” Caroline asked.

“Mark? Strickland? Remember him? He’s not a bad guy.” Her friend Melanie was championing a man in her office who was completely off limits. He was her boss. This wasn’t the kind of change she was talking about.

The damn universe could be a real bitch sometimes.

“No. It’s not a good idea, Mel.”

“Caroline, really? You haven’t been on a date in over a year. You’ve been in a serious drought and it’s time to make some rain.” That analogy was just bizarre, especially considering what she was proposing.

And, honestly, how would Mel know if she’d dated? They were work “friends” in the loosest sense of the word. They stuck together because they were two of three women engineers in a firm with over sixty men and a toxic bro culture. Mel wasn’t a bad person, but she was single-minded. Looking across the bar, Caroline saw Mark lift his glass and smile. She cringed. This had disaster written all over it.

She shook her head. This wasn’t about her being picky or cold. He was the worst kind of person, the kind who was all about power. Bottom line—Mark couldn’t be trusted. In the past he’d wielded the information he gleaned about people like a weapon, taking out anyone who got in his way without a second thought.

And he was her boss. Yep. That.

So, successful and handsome, or power-hungry jerk…neither one mattered. The boss thing was the deal breaker.

“Caroline? Mark’s waiting for an answer.”

Her friend was tapping her finger against the stem of her martini glass, and Caroline processed what she’d just said. He’swaiting.Waiting?

“Did you give him a reason to think I’d say yes?”

Mel squirmed a little on her stool and tilted her head toward the end of the bar. When Caroline glanced in Mark’s direction she saw he’d been joined by one of the new associate architects. What was his name? Cole? Chase?

Both of the men raised their glasses in salute.Again.Turning on Mel, Caroline was now beyond pissed. “This thing you’re trying to arrange, has nothing to do with me. You need me so you can go onyourdate. A date where you get to ogle the new architect.”

“And you get the guy with the corner office and the big, fat bank account! Come on, Caroline, take a chance for once.”

“There are so many things wrong with this scenario, Mel, I don’t have time to list them. But let’s start with the obvious: he’s my boss. That he’s using you to get to me is beyond inappropriate.”

Caroline shook her head and Mel looked away, annoyed that her plan was falling apart. She wasn’t even a little bit sorry, which told Caroline exactly where she stood.

“You won’t come? Mark is really hot for you and making this kind of connection with him could help your position at the firm. Do you want to be in a cubicle your whole career?”

Of course she didn’t, but Caroline stupidly thought she could advance without putting out. Imagine that? Of all the engineering firms in Manhattan, she had to land at the place where the boys club mentality ruled the day. It was construction’s version ofMad Men.

“You just need to give him someattention, and he’d do anything you asked.”

Caroline’s temper was edging toward eruption. Rolling the cool glass that held her wine between her palms bought her a little time to figure out how she might respond. Not that she didn’t think Mel deserved a full takedown it, but Caroline still had to work with her. Unfortunately, she still had to work with all of them.

Ready to feign a headache and leave, Caroline heard a deep, rich voice break through the noise and snap her back to reality.

“Who’s Mark and what’s he going to do to you?”

“Mark’s not doing anything to me!” Caroline said, aggravated and not wanting to know who from her department had been eavesdropping. When she turned, however, she got her answer. Instead of a colleague, she was face-to-face with the man of her dreams, the subject of every bad love poem she’d written in her adolescence. Josh Campbell.