Read Change of Heart (The Flanagan Sisters, #2) Online
Authors: Claire Boston
Tags: #interracial romance, #hispanic romance, #latino romance, #competent heroine, #modern romance, #romance series
“Low enough,” Carly admitted, trying not to smile. Hayden loved to be sassy, but he was also a damned hard worker and she appreciated him. “How was your weekend?”
“A group of us went out for drinks. You should have come with us.”
The tug on her heart was easy to ignore. She couldn’t possibly socialize with the people she worked with. She was the boss, they didn’t really want her there. She’d just cramp their style. Plus, she’d had a dinner to go to. “How was it?”
“Great. I met a gorgeous guy and we’re going to dinner tonight. Cross your fingers for me.”
“Good luck.” As he turned to go, she said, “I’ve moved the requests I’ve received to the normal folders and flagged the ones I’m interested in.”
He scowled at her. “Seriously, Carolina, I don’t know why you hired me. You’re efficient enough as it is.”
She shrugged. “I was checking out something else last night and thought I might as well,” she lied.
“You need to get yourself a social life.” His tone was exasperated and there was pity on his face as he walked away.
Her body tightened. There was nothing wrong with her social life. She was out almost every day at dinners or lunches, and she always made time to go to her mother’s every other week.
A little voice in her head reminded her those events were business, not social, but she shut it down. She was the CEO of her own company. She was busy.
She didn’t have time for a social life.
’m heading down to the hub,” Carly told Hayden as she walked past his desk later that day.
“Roger that. I’ll hold all calls.”
“Thanks.” She needed to get away from all the nonsense she’d been dealing with today. Her executives had been squabbling about the direction the company should take. She’d had to firmly tell Lisa, her chief financial officer, that they were not going to increase the rental rates on the hub, and they weren’t going to start charging for add-ons to Comunidad. Lisa wanted to increase the company’s revenue, her eye firmly on profit, but that had never been Carly’s goal. She didn’t deny that it was a very nice benefit, but she was more interested in helping the community by providing opportunities she hadn’t had. Plus, the company was making plenty of money from their software applications and from advertising revenue. She’d get Hayden to arrange a meeting with Lisa one on one. If the woman didn’t agree with the company’s ethos, then it would be better if they parted ways.
The elevator dinged and the doors slid open. Carly took a deep breath and tried to leave her stress behind. Here she was focused on helping others, not on building a business. As she stepped onto the floor, she waved to a couple of the developers who leased permanent space. It was all open plan, with desks covering most of the floor space, and the occasional divider to give people a bit of privacy.
She spotted Basil, the developer she’d told Evan about, and wandered over.
“Hey, Carolina. What’s new?” Basil was of Italian descent with thick dark hair and dark eyes.
“I gave your name to an artist I met over the weekend,” said Carly. “I thought he might suit your game.”
“Evan, right? He called me last night and is coming in this afternoon to show me his portfolio. Thanks for thinking of me.”
“No problem.” She’d have to make sure she wasn’t around when he arrived. “How’s the game going?” She’d invested in its development and couldn’t wait until it came out.
“I’ve got a couple of glitches I’m working through, but it’s still on track.”
She wanted to ask him if she could look at his code, see what he was doing, but knew it wouldn’t be welcome. No one wanted an investor to get too involved. Instead she walked over to the desk where the developers booked appointments with the Comunidad representative. It was a first come, first served system, and depending on the help required, Carly might get to one person or several. Reading the details of the first person on the list, she noted his desk number and went over to help.
van stepped out of the elevator and scanned the floor, looking for the desk numbers so he could find Basil. Instead, he saw Carly sitting next to a guy, pointing at the screen and speaking rapidly. Her face was animated, her eyes eager, and the guy next to her nodded and began to type. After a minute, Carly said something and he nodded again, his focus not leaving the screen. Then she got to her feet and walked to a desk in the middle of the room.
She looked completely out of place there. She wore a pale blue skirt suit with a white shirt, and another pair of those killer heels in a matching shade of blue. Her straight brown hair didn’t have a strand out of place, and she exuded confidence. Everyone else around her was wearing jeans and T-shirts, with the occasional person in a collared shirt. Carly was the rose amongst the weeds. She examined a piece of paper on the desk and then glanced around the room. Her eyes met his and she stiffened.
He’d definitely made an impression on her. It just wasn’t a good one.
That was a real shame.
Keeping his eyes on hers, he smiled and walked over. “I didn’t expect to see you here.” What was the CEO of a billion dollar company doing in their rental space?
“It’s my day to help,” she said. “You’re here to see Basil, aren’t you? He’s over there.” She pointed. “Excuse me.” And then she walked away.
Well, she was to the point. Evan watched her for a minute, amused. What did she mean it was her day to help? He’d have to find out later. Right now he needed to be in business mode. He smoothed out his expression and walked across to Basil to introduce himself.
“Thanks for coming by, man,” Basil said as he took the portfolio from Evan.
“After we spoke, I did a couple of preliminary sketches of what I thought you were after.”
He held his breath as Basil opened the portfolio. He’d left them on the top so Basil would see them straight away. He stared at the sketches, glancing between the three of them, his eyes wide and his mouth slightly agape.
Evan waited. He knew from experience there was no point asking for an opinion until Basil had the chance to absorb his work. It didn’t stop a few nerves jumping in his stomach, wondering if his efforts would be good enough. When he’d spoken with Basil the night before, he’d been so excited about the project. The game had sounded like a lot of fun and Evan was eager to try something new.
Finally, Basil shook his head. “These are perfect. Exactly what I had in mind.”
The nerves danced a jig of celebration and settled. “I’m glad.”
“We need to talk costs.” He named a figure. “Does that suit?”
Calculating the time it would take, Evan hesitated. It was a little less than he would have liked, but the game concept was interesting, and if it was successful it could lead to other opportunities. He had to find all the income streams he could as an artist. “What’s the timeframe?”
“I’ve got a twelve-month plan. Each week I’ll let you know what I’m working on and you can do the artwork. I’m working from here at the moment because Carolina is sponsoring the project.”
That was interesting. “Is that why she’s down here today?”
“No. It’s her turn to be support.”
“What do you mean?”
“This is the indie hub. Comunidad leases the space to indie developers and sends one of their experts downstairs every day for an hour to help. We generally help each other anyway, but if it’s a tough one, sometimes they’re the best people to solve it. Carolina is here at least once a week.”
Carly was big into supporting the community. Evan liked that. She’d not lost sight of the average guy, despite her incredible success.
At the moment Carly was helping a young woman. She pulled the keyboard toward her and typed rapidly, her eyes fixed on the screen. Then she clicked the mouse and sat back. The woman grinned and hugged her. Carly beamed, looking younger and more carefree for a moment. It kicked him right in the gut.
“She must be good,” Evan said.
“Who, Carolina? She’s the best. There’s something in her brain that picks up mistakes none of us can see, and the way she codes is like she was brought up speaking it.” The admiration was clear in Basil’s voice.
It was obvious Carly loved it. How much time did she get to do it these days?
“Often there’s a glitch no one can solve. It stays on the sign-up list and ninety percent of the time it’s Carolina who fixes it.”
Evan knew there had to be a reason why her company had become so successful, and he guessed her technical skills were part of it. Her intelligence was quite a turn on.
Basil cleared his throat and Evan realized he was staring. He turned back to the man. He could watch Carly all day, but that wasn’t being productive. “Do you want to develop a schedule?”
Working on a game was going to be fun.
n alarm beeped loudly, echoing through the room and Evan looked up as Carly sighed and pressed a button on her phone.
“I’ve got to get back,” she said to the guy she was helping. “If you send me that code, I’ll go over it tonight.”
“Thanks.” He pressed a few keys on the computer.
Evan stood. “I’ll be right back,” he told Basil. He wanted to speak with Carly before she left.
He caught her at the elevator. “Thanks for giving me the tip. Basil’s hired me to do the artwork.”
She stepped back, away from him, but gave him a small smile. “That’s great. It’s a wonderful project.”
“You’re sponsoring it, aren’t you?”
She nodded. “It’s an interesting concept.”
The elevator arrived. He was going to lose his opportunity. “Do you want to go out to dinner with me?” he blurted.
Her eyes widened and her lips parted.
“Tomorrow night, seven o’clock?” he suggested. He held his breath.
She looked a little unsure. “I’ve got plans.” She hesitated. “This week is fully booked.” She stepped into the elevator.
“How about I call and arrange a time next week?” He hoped he didn’t sound desperate, but he didn’t want her to get away. No other woman had intrigued him like she did, or understood his painting the way she had.
“Sure,” she said. Her eyes widened and the elevator doors slid to a close.
He grinned. She’d seemed a little bit surprised by her answer. He might not have an exact date, but it was a step in the right direction.
“Holy shit,” someone said near him. “He got a yes.”
As Evan walked back to Basil’s desk, a few people stared at him. He frowned. “What’s going on?” he asked Basil, who was also staring at him.
“You asked Carolina out!”
He nodded. “So?”
“She’s never said yes to anyone who’s asked, and most of us have tried.”
Evan gazed around the room at the shocked faces and then chuckled. “Well, aren’t I the lucky one?”
he elevator doors closed and Carly shut her eyes. What the hell had she done? What in the world possessed her to say yes to Evan? She didn’t do dates. The men who asked her out weren’t really interested in her. She
that. She hugged herself, her body stiff. But there was something in Evan’s eyes that dared her to accept, and the “sure” had slipped out before she could stop herself. It was Hayden’s fault. She was still hurting from his earlier comment about needing a social life. That had to be it. That was the only reason she’d said yes.
She’d have to tell Hayden to delay Evan when he called. Her schedule was pretty full anyway, so Evan would eventually give up.
The elevator doors opened and Carly stepped out, stopping briefly by Hayden’s desk.
“How did it go?” he asked.
“Solved a few issues,” she said, and hesitated. How could she phrase this? “You might get a call from an Evan Hayes. He wants to arrange dinner. Delay him, will you?”
Hayden made a note. “Which company is he from?”
“No company,” she said and continued into her office before he could ask anything else.
Hayden followed her in. “What do you mean no company?”
She sighed. She should have known he wasn’t going to give up. She sat behind her desk to give herself the position of power. “No company. He’s an artist who’s working with Basil.”
“So why does he want a dinner meeting?”
Carly didn’t look at him. “It’s not a meeting.”
The absolute silence made her glance up.
Hayden stared at her, his mouth open, before he shook his head. “You agreed to go on a date with someone?”
She shrugged. “He caught me as I was leaving. I’ve changed my mind.” She turned to her computer, hoping he would leave.
Hayden sat down. “Sugar, you’ve got to tell me more. Is he cute? What does he paint?”
She hated scrutiny, Hayden knew that. It was one of the reasons why she never dated. “Google him,” she suggested. “Now I really have to get back to work.” Her tone was sharper than normal, as was the stab of guilt. Hayden didn’t deserve to be spoken to like that, even if he was being nosy.
“Sure thing.” He got to his feet, his eyes a little hurt.
She sighed, on the verge of apologizing, but he was already out the door. It was for the best. She was his boss. They could be friendly, but they could never be friends. It would only complicate matters. It was far better if she kept the roles clear and defined. Far less messy that way.
But the guilt hung over her for the rest of the day.
van spent the afternoon nutting out the details with Basil and doing some preliminary sketches. He was fascinated by the game and had a much better sense of what was needed. He was packing up when a tall, slim, African American man walked over to the desk.
“Hey, Hayden,” Basil said. “What’s up?”
“Nothing much. I thought I’d drop in on my way past and find out how everything is going.”
Basil frowned. “Carolina not happy with something?”
“Nothing like that. I haven’t stopped by the hub in a while and wanted to check things out.”
Evan waited patiently for an introduction. He wasn’t buying Hayden’s excuse. There was something overly casual about it.
“Sorry, we haven’t met. I’m Hayden.” He held out his hand and Evan shook it.