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"That good, huh?" he asked, keeping his hand on her hip as he leaned forward, careful not to disturb her, and opened the manila folder that McGill sent over earlier.

When Rory settled herself more comfortably on his lap and threw her injured arm around his shoulders so that she could turn slightly and look over the files with him, he had to force his mind away from how good it felt to have her here like this with him. Granted, she was only doing this because he was blackmailing her, but that was just a minor detail and he chose to ignore it.

"Did you see this?" she asked, pausing mid-sip to nod in the direction of the file.

"No, I didn't get a chance to look at it yet," he said, pulling the file to the edge of the desk so that they could both get a better look and when he saw McGill's new request he forced himself to go back and read it again, sure that he was mistaken. "Are you f**king kidding me?"

"He wants us to rearrange the entire wine cellar again and-"

"Turn the subbasement room that you fell down into another storage room for wine," Connor finished for her, letting out a frustrated breath as he sat back in his chair.

"That's going to make things a little more difficult," Rory grumbled, taking another long sip of her cocoa.

"Just a little," he said, dryly, mentally calculating the time and cost this addition just added to the project. The materials would be covered by McGill, but this new request could kill this project.

"We're going to have to go overboard on the overtime just to meet the deadline," Rory said, worrying her bottom lip as she placed her mug, which he didn't need to check to know it was empty, on the desk.

With all the other things that needed to be done in under five months that was an understatement. Even with all the men their companies employed, they were already going to have to bust their asses to make that deadline. He already figured the amount of overtime that his company could afford on a weekly basis that would allow them to finish this project and not suffer a loss. With this added little project they'd be lucky to break even. They'd get paid more, that wasn't the problem. The problem was labor. That was if they managed to make the deadline.

If they missed the deadline.......

Hell, he didn't even want to think about that. They both had so much invested in this project. Not only would they lose the bonus, but they'd also lose their reputations. The only thing that would save his company's ass would be his plan to steal the James brothers. Even though he planned on running Rory out of business, he didn't want to do it this way.

If this project bankrupted her, she'd lose everything including her house and he wasn't about to let that happen. She'd probably hate him for the rest of her life once this project was over and her brothers left her to come work for him, but that didn't mean that he wanted her out of his life completely. Christ, he didn't even want to think about going a day without seeing her. He still planned on having her come work for him, but it wouldn't be the same if it was because she'd lost everything. There would also be no guarantee that she would come work for him or even stay in town if that happened.

That meant that he was going to have to figure out a way to finish this project so that they didn't end up losing everything they had and unfortunately for Rory, he knew exactly how to do it. She was going to argue it, but in the end she would see that this was the only way.

"We're not going to make the deadline with this new addition," he explained slowly, trying to figure out the best way to break the news to her.

"If you have any suggestions, I'm all ears," she said with a sigh as she removed her arm from around his neck, picked up the file and stood up. He almost stopped her, but decided that space would probably be for the best right now.

He waited a minute before he decided to just get it over with. "Rory?"

"Hmm?" she said, absently, never taking her eyes away from the file as she paced the length of the office.

"We're going to have to postpone building your suites," he explained, knowing that was the only way that they were going to cut back on overtime and supplies and be able to meet the deadline with the new project.

She paused mid-stride to shoot him a frown. "What are you talking about?"

"Your suites, Rory. They're going to have to wait until after we finish this project," he explained once again, getting to his feet. "We can't spare the men or equipment right now. Once we get the manor done, we'll complete the suites, Rory," he explained, knowing that it was going to cause a problem, but not really caring. They needed to finish this project and he knew that Rory would be understandably upset, but she'd pull it together and they'd focus on the manor. Once that was done they'd turn their attention to her project. He hated doing this to her, but there really was no other way.

"Let me get this straight," she said, tossing the file on the desk. "You want me to wait until after all the renovations are done to build my suites?"

"It's the only way that we're going to get this project done, Rory," he explained, again.

She met his gaze head on as she said, "No, it's not."

Chapter 20

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Connor demanded.

"What does it look like I'm doing?" she asked as she picked up her tool belt and dropped it on her desk.

"You're not working," Connor gritted out, from what sounded like clenched teeth, from behind her.

"It's not your choice," she pointed out as she walked around her desk and pulled off her shirt, revealing a black sports bra. She dropped the shirt on her desk chair and leaned down to open the bottom desk drawer to grab a grey tank top when she suddenly found herself swept off her feet. Before she could so much as gasp, she was plopped down on the edge of the desk with her legs hanging over the side and Connor standing between them.

"You really think that's true?" he asked as he slapped his hands down on either side of her h*ps and leaned in. She almost leaned back, but fought against the urge, reminding herself just who she was dealing with here. She would never back down from Connor. Okay, so she did that one time, but that didn't count.

She forced herself to ignore the hard glint in his eyes, the clenched jaw and the fact that he looked close to throttling her and moved into him. The move put their faces a few inches apart and heaven help her, but she wanted to close the distance and kiss that firm line away from the lips that she found herself thinking about more than she should.

This was just supposed to be a deal between them, just one more game. He shouldn't be affecting her like this. No, she should be royally pissed that he pulled this crap on her and part of her was, but there was another part of her that was glad to have the excuse to touch and kiss him. This whole thing was crazy. Only yesterday she was contemplating murder and now it was a struggle to stay mad at the man and not wrap her arms around his neck and pull him in for the kiss that she was craving.

There was no doubt in her mind that more than two decades worth of hate was responsible for this. They say there's a fine line between love and hate and for the first time in her life she truly understood what that meant. As much as she hated him, and she really did, she tried to tell herself, she also loved being close to him, touching him and kissing him. As long as they had this deal, she was free to do all those things and last night she decided that for the sake of her project and to put an end to the town drama that she would have to do just that. That didn't mean that she planned on allowing the man to call the shots.

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