An Executive Decision by Grace Marshall (aka KD Grace)
An Executive Decision, the first in a trilogy by Romance author Grace Marshall, is simply a very hot story.
Unlike the majority of books I review on this site, this is a romance with lots of wonderfully written sex scenes, rather than an erotic book with wonderfully written romance.
Overworked CEO Ellison Thorne has no time for sex, let alone romance. The only answer, at least where his retiring business partner Beverly is concerned, is a no-strings sex clause in her replacement’s contract, designed to make Ellis’ busy life easier – and hotter. But she’s joking, right?
When Dee Henning takes over Beverly’s job, sparks fly between her and Ellis, but work takes priority in driven Dee’s life too. Can one night of passion in a Paris hotel room prove Beverly’s Sex Clause is their secret to success in the boardroom and the bedroom, and what will happen if that private clause becomes public knowledge?
After the loss of his best friend and right hand woman, Beverly Newsham to the lure of an adventure in Brazil, Ellison (Ellis) Thorne, head man at Pnuma Inc, is totally lost. Beverly has been his rock within the highly successful, environmentally clean company for so long, that the thought of having to replace her seems unthinkable. Beverly however, had longed planned to retire, and although her leaving the company is hastened by unforeseen events, she has left very clear intentions as to who her replacement should be.
That replacement is Dee Henning, a hot shot head hunter, young, going places, and a life longer admirer of Ellis Thorne and his work.
Things in business are never simple however, and by carrying out Beverly’s wishes, Ellis is risking a great deal- for Dee, although brilliant, does not have anything like the experience needed to step into such a high profile position- especially as many deals within the company are at a critical point.
To add further complications, one of the existing workforce, Tally Barnes, has assumed she will take Beverly’s place- and is far from amused when she is usurped by Dee- instantly plotting revenge…
The key to this novel however is the relationship between Dee and Ellis- a relationship that Beverly has been very clever in manufacturing, all thanks to her invention- the Executive Sex Clause!
Let’s enjoy a taster from the very beginning of the novel…
Dee gave herself one last inspection in the mirrored walls of the elevator. No tell-tale trembling or sweating; the stage fright was all hidden beneath a well-polished exterior. How could she be this tense? She’d been in business with the big boys long enough to have nerves of steel. But this was Ellison Thorne she was meeting. The man was in a league of his own.
She’d waited three years for this opportunity, and she was determined he wouldn’t see the mass of quavering jelly beneath the calm.
But when she reached the executive suites of the Pneuma Building, Beverly Neumann beckoned Dee into her office. ‘Ellis is stuck in traffic. He figures it’ll be at least another half hour.’
‘That’s too bad.’ Dee tried her best to mask her disappointment. She had a meeting with a potential head of marketing for Sportwide Extreme Adventure right after this, so there’d be no lingering if Ellis didn’t arrive before her hour was up.
‘I know he’ll do his best to get here,’ Beverly said. ‘He’s dying to meet the woman who threw a drink in Terrance Jamison’s face at Jasper and McDowell’s big New Year bash last year.’
Dee blushed. ‘Not funny, Beverly. I nearly lost my job over that.’ She still couldn’t figure why Jamison hadn’t sued her ass off or had henchmen break the legs of her family and close friends. Even now it made her nervous that he’d taken it so graciously.
‘And if you had, there’d have been ten companies in line to hire you, including Pneuma Inc.,’ Beverly said. ‘It was so worth it. If only I’d had the presence of mind to record it all on my iPhone, you’d have been the queen of YouTube. You seldom get that calibre of entertainment at a corporate New Year’s party.’
Dee glanced at the front page of The Oregonian lying on Beverly’s desk. There was a photo of Ellis shaking hands with the governor. The caption read Ellison Thorne, a force of nature working for nature. She studied the image, one of many she’d seen of him. Though there was a warmth about him in photos, it was never blatant, always slightly distant. She was familiar with that distance. She’d been accused of it herself by colleagues who just didn’t understand her sense of focus.
She lingered over the photo, admiring again the strong geography of his face laid bare by short brown hair with its patina of bronze. The well-defined jaw and firm brow created a fortress of sorts, keeping his emotions and thoughts from the prying hordes. From it, he looked out on the world through dark amber eyes that never missed anything and never gave anything away. Heroes were like that, she thought, and she had idolised him and his company for a long time.
It was through Beverly that Dee occasionally caught more intimate glimpses of Ellison Thorne. That was a part of their meetings Dee looked forward to.
Beverly nodded to the seat in front of her desk. ‘Might as well relax. He’ll get here when he gets here.’ She turned her attention to the forest of plants behind her desk and began misting the broad leaves of something that must have come straight from The Little Shop of Horrors. Thanks to Beverly’s insistence that a green workplace actually be green, the whole ten-storey, cantilevered edifice of the Pneuma Building was one colossal hanging garden. It was healthier that way, she’d said.
Dee sat down a safe distance from the sinister-looking foliage. ‘Is Ellis still giving you a hard time about your trip to Brazil?’
‘Yep,’ Beverly said. ‘One minute he’s treating me like an old lady, saying it’s too dangerous for someone my age to go trekking through the jungle, and the next he’s telling me I’m too young to retire and he absolutely can’t run the place without me for at least five more years.’ She brushed pollen from the jacket of her power suit. ‘Five more years! Do you have any idea how much life a person can miss out on in five years?’
‘So what will you do?’ Dee asked.
‘Well –’ Beverly rearranged the leaves of a large fern as though it was her favourite child ‘– first I’m going to Brazil. I haven’t had a real vacation in longer than I care to remember. And when I get back, if he doesn’t find someone to replace me while I’m still here to help train them, that’s just too damned bad, because in exactly one year, I’m out of here.’
‘Good for you,’ Dee said. ‘Life’s too short not to go for it when you get the chance.’
‘Yes it is, isn’t it? And speaking of going for it –’ Beverly sat down in her chair and leaned conspiratorially across her desk ‘– I hear there’s an accountant over at Ab Con – what’s his name, the one with the dark hair that always looks like someone’s been running their fingers through it? I hear he sent you flowers.’
‘I recruited the best finance manager in the history of finance managers for Ab Con, Beverly. I earned every one of those flowers.’
‘Earned the flowers?’ Beverly frowned at her and clucked her tongue. ‘What part of the man being hot for you did you not understand, sweetie?’ Before Dee could cut her off at the pass, Beverly was on a roll. ‘Honestly, you’re hopeless, Dee Henning. I understand your focus, your drive to succeed, really I do, but I gotta wonder how you can even call it success when you’re so wrapped up in your work that the only way you’ll ever get laid is if they put it in the job description. And frankly, if I had my way and I was running the business world, sex would be a contract requirement.’
Dee rolled her eyes, but Beverly clasped her hands on top of her desk, doing a fair imitation of a psychoanalyst. ‘I worry about you, Dee. I really do. Not having time for sex just isn’t healthy.’
‘You’re probably right, it probably isn’t –’ Shoving half a dozen files across the desk at Beverly, Dee changed the subject. ‘But it’s also not healthy for Ellis not to have a replacement for his retiring executive assistant.’ The title “executive assistant” was entirely misleading. Dee knew that Beverly, not Ellis, had chosen it. And though technically she was his equal in the business the two of them, along with Wade Crittenden, had begun 13 years ago, Beverly preferred to work quietly with no pompous moniker to live up to. She wore the title proudly and carried the incredible burden it entailed with panache and enthusiasm. Dee was certain that whoever took up Beverly’s weighty mantle would inherit the humble title as well as its prodigious responsibilities.
Just then Beverly’s BlackBerry buzzed. ‘Damn!’ She punched in a quick reply. ‘Ellis says the traffic’s at a standstill. I was really hoping the two of you would finally meet before I head off to Brazil.’
Dee buried her disappointment. Meeting Thorne was not the real reason she was here, she reminded herself. She still had work to do. She nodded down at the files of resumes of Beverly’s prospective replacements. ‘Best get to it then, hadn’t we?’
But Beverly pushed the files to one side and picked up right where she’d left off. God, the woman was tenacious! ‘Seems to me the obvious solution is to include sex in certain job descriptions, like for an executive assistant, or a secretary, or any position where two people work closely. That’d be a good start, don’t you think?’
‘Great idea. Maybe I’ll find a nice male secretary for myself.’ Dee gave the door a quick glance, certain she’d heard someone approaching. There was no one, but even if there had been, she was sure that wouldn’t have stopped Beverly.
‘I think that would be a wise decision for any busy executive,’ Beverly said. ‘And I doubt you’d have any shortage of applicants. Ellis wouldn’t either, and the benefits to both of you – well, I think you’d be amazed. I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I personally can’t see a downside.’ Beverly continued her speculations. ‘Just think of how much more relaxed the two of you would be if you and Ellis had a reliable source of stress-free sex available when you needed it. Imagine how much more focused you’d both be if your junk wasn’t interfering with your brain.’
Dee straightened in her chair. ‘My – junk does not interfere with my brain.’
Beverly leaned over the desk like an accusing lawyer. ‘Ah, but how do you really know that, since you’re not getting any?’
‘The Executive Sex Clause could reduce sick days.’
‘I’m never sick.’
Beverly came around the desk and laid an unsolicited hand on her forehead. ‘I’ve been thinking you look a little pale, and you feel a bit warm to me.’
Dee brushed her hand aside. ‘I’m fine. I don’t need the sick days I’ve got, and I bet Ellis doesn’t either.’
‘A good thing, since you wouldn’t have time to take them if you did. Forget sick days, think of the increase in productivity, the boost to creativity. Think of the serenity in the workplace. That alone’s gotta be worth something.’
‘My productivity’s fine and I’m very creative. Plus I work at Jasper and McDowell. Serenity isn’t part of the package.’ This conversation had gone far enough, farther than Dee wanted, and she really didn’t have time to wait any longer for Ellis. It looked like the long-awaited meeting with the force of nature would have to wait for yet another time. Dee nodded to the folders on Beverly’s desk. ‘As interesting as the idea of a Sex Clause might be, if you insist on deserting Ellis, I need to do my job and find someone who can take your place, which won’t be an easy task.’
When the meeting finished, Beverly walked Dee to the door, glancing down at her watch. ‘Sorry you missed Ellis. But you know how it is with busy executives; it’s catch as catch can, isn’t it?’
Dee had the distinct feeling the woman wasn’t talking about work. She said her goodbyes, promising they’d get together over drinks when Beverly returned from Brazil…
The tension between the leading characters in An Executive Decision is almost palpable as the story line unfurls- and I confess to reading each page faster and faster in order to find out what was going to happen next!
The sex scenes are brilliantly written- my particular favourite being, what I shall always think of as ‘the lift scene’- although as the novel is set in the US, it is really an elevator! I am so tempted to give you an extract from that episode- but it would ruin it, so I will be strong!
If you like a really good romance, with a plot that twists and turns, with tension and sizzling sex scenes, then An Executive Decision is a must read.
Oh, and don’t forget to look out for Part 2 (Identity Crisis) and Part 3 (Exhibition), which are coming soon!!
An Executive Decision is currently available as an e-book, but will be out in paperback in Feb 2013.