Cock & Bull #1
January 4, 2021
The last thing Alex Shepherd expects is to be attracted to his new boss, hotel-mogul Scout Turner. Being the man’s personal assistant means spending long hours with him in both public and private settings. The public side of things Alex can deal with. The private? Not so much. Knowing Scout had fired his last PA for being a jealous stalker, Alex is doing his best to hide his growing feelings for the man and maintain his professionalism. That is until Scout makes an unexpected confession that changes everything. Will Alex lose the job of his dreams or gain the love of his life?
Scout is the first book in a new, steamy, M/M romance novella series by Dallas James. It contains low angst and high heat with a guaranteed HEA. Each book is a standalone, but they are best read in order.
Scout Turner sighed in annoyance as he closed a file and added it to the rejection pile on his desk. He’d been looking for a new personal assistant and not a single candidate out of twenty-two had impressed him. Well, that wasn’t true. Alex Shepherd had been ideal, on paper, and Scout had been looking forward to seeing if he had the same impression when they met in person. But Shepherd hadn’t shown up for his interview, which had been scheduled to start ten minutes ago. Tardiness was something Scout refused to allow in his employees, unless there was a damn good reason for it. He hadn’t created a business empire by accommodating other people’s shortcomings. So, Shepherd’s file got tossed on top of the others that would be shredded in the near future. If the man couldn’t make it to the initial job interview on time, how could Scout expect anything more from him?
It’d been two weeks since he’d fired Evan Fisher, his PA for the past thirty months, after finding out the man was resentful of the men Scout saw socially. He’d been screwing around with his boss’s schedule, emails, and phone messages, deleting some and switching the times on others. Scout had missed several dates over the past six or eight months and had wondered why a few of the guys he’d been into had suddenly stopped making contact.
Apparently, Evan had decided he wanted much more from his employer than just a paycheck. Scout had made it a habit not to date anyone who worked for him or who he had business dealings with, not that he’d been attracted to Evan at all anyway. Yes, he’d been good-looking, in a metro-sexual kind of way, but Scout had experienced zero interest in the man on a personal level since the day he’d been hired. When he’d found out what Evan had been up to, sabotaging his private life, Scout had canned him on the spot and banned him from all his properties. And now, when he should be concentrating on the new hotel he was having built in Seattle, among other things, Scout was stuck without a PA and had to deal with finding one who suited him.
As president and CEO of Turner Continental, Scout owned several hotels, including the one he used as his home base—the Paradox Hotel & Residencies in San Francisco. The other hotels, along with a few restaurants, clubs, and condo complexes, were in various cities up and down the West Coast. One of his newest ventures, in which he’d agreed to be a silent partner, was the Cock & Bull, a pub that had just opened directly across the street from the Paradox. His longtime friend, Rico Demara, was the primary owner and manager. Scout was looking forward to seeing the man succeed—and not just from a financial standpoint either. The profits Scout was expecting from the C & B didn’t come close to those of any of his other properties. But Rico had overcome a lot in his life, and it was about time the guy was involved in something positive for a change.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Shepherd.” Delilah Webb’s no-nonsense voice filtered through the slightly open door separating his office from hers. She’d been Scout’s secretary for ten years, watching his company grow from one renovated hotel to the conglomerate it was now, and guarded him like a pit bull. More than once, he’d asked her to change positions and be his PA, but she’d turned him down each time, saying she was quite comfortable in her current job. That, and the PA’s position required a lot of travel and after-hours meetings and events, and Delilah preferred to spend that time with her husband, children, and grandchildren. “Your appointment was fifteen minutes ago. You were marked as a no-show, and there are no second chances with Mr. Turner. You should have called.”
“But, please. I really need this job. I didn’t mean to be late—” The rich, baritone voice caught Scout’s attention. Something about it had sent a delicious shiver down his spine. He brought his computer out of sleep mode and clicked on the program that was connected to the hotel’s security feeds. He quickly found the one for Delilah’s office and studied the man standing in front of her desk. Shepherd gave the phrase tall, dark, and handsome a new and intriguing meaning.
“And yet you are.”
“I know, and I’m really sorry. It was unavoidable. Please, is there any chance I can reschedule?” Through the camera lens, Scout could see genuine pleading and dismay on the man’s face, along with a chiseled jaw and slightly off-center nose as if it’d been broken once before. From Shepherd’s job application and résumé, Scout knew he was thirty-four and had a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management and an associate’s degree in business administration from New York University. Following that, he’d had an impressive career at the Four Seasons Hotel in NYC, climbing the ranks until he made junior executive. He’d recently relocated to California for undisclosed family reasons, and Scout found himself suddenly curious about what they were. While he could be a bitch of a boss to work for, he did have a heart when it came to the faithful employees of Turner Continental. Delilah and the managers of each of his properties kept him up to date on things like deaths, births, marriages, etc. in the families of his employees. He made sure Delilah sent each one an appropriate card and gift from him. It was something his father had done for years in his own real estate investment company.
Delilah shook her head. “The best I can do is to pass along your request to Mr. Turner, but, honestly, I don’t expect him to relent and give you another chance. The man runs a tight ship. He demands the best from his employees, and they respect him enough to give it to him.”
Letting out a heavy breath, Shepherd nodded his head in resignation. “I understand that, but I’d really appreciate it if he could give me another chance to prove myself. That’s all I’m asking for.”
“I’ll see that he gets the message.”
He glanced around before nodding again. “Thank you.”
Scout watched as the man’s shoulders slumped as he turned around and strode out the door. Delilah had been right. He didn’t give second chances, but there was a part of him that wanted to offer Shepherd one—and he had no clue why.
After shutting down his computer, he picked up the stack of personnel files and made sure he had his phone and keys before heading to the outer office. Delilah looked up at him as he approached then grinned and shook her head. “I’m still not used to you without the facial hair. You startle me every time I see you.”
“Startles me every time I look in the mirror too.” Two nights ago, he’d lost a bet with a friend and had to shave off the beard and mustache he’d been sporting for the past twelve years. While he’d always kept them short and neat, suddenly having bare skin on his face was disconcerting. His jaw and upper lip seemed ultra-sensitive to heat and cold, since losing the extra layer of protection, and it was a shock when he touched his face, having forgotten the coarse hair was gone. Unfortunately, the bet had also required him not to let the stubble grow back for one month, so he was stuck with shaving every freaking day, something he wasn’t looking forward to. Regardless of how much it sucked, Scout wasn’t one to renege on a bet or a deal he’d shaken on. But in the future, all wagers that required him to lose any hair on his body were out.
Delilah took the files from him and raised her eyebrows when he snatched the top one back. The wise woman hadn’t missed the name on the front of the folder. “You heard he showed up late?”
“He’d like to reschedule.”
“So he said.” Scout had no idea why he was even contemplating giving the man the second chance he’d begged for, but he wasn’t going to make any rash decisions. “I’ll think about it. He was the most qualified of all the applicants, at least on paper.”
She held out her hand. “I’ll put it back on your desk. Let me know if you want me to call him in for another interview.”
After passing the file to her, he asked, “Anything else I need to know about before I leave?”
“Not a thing. I’ll see you tomorrow. Have a good evening.”
His automatic response was cut short by the ringing of the phone on Delilah’s desk. He waited a moment while she answered, to make sure nothing had come up that needed his attention before he went home for the night to unwind.
“Yes, Phillipe, he’s still here.” She glanced up at him as she spoke to the maître d' of the hotel’s five-star restaurant, Sapphire’s. “Okay, I’ll let him know.” She hung up the phone. “The mayor, his wife, and two guests just walked in for dinner. Phillipe thought you might want to swing by and say hello.”
“Personally? No. Professionally . . .” He rolled his eyes which caused her to laugh. Scout hated politics more than anything in the world, but to be successful in a business like his, concessions had to be made at times. “After I play nice with the mayor and his guests, I’m calling it a night. See you tomorrow.”
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