ALL THE RIGHT PLACES EXCERPT
Derrière. Ass. Back porch. Badonkadonk. Rump. No matter what you called it, the butt was Quinn O’Brien’s favorite part of the human body.
Yes, he had the typical male appreciation for the female form, but truly, most of his interest was professional. In fact, some would say it was part of his DNA. He was the fifth generation of O’Brien to be involved in the family business, Riley O’Brien & Co., proud designers and manufacturers of blue jeans since 1845.
“Pay attention to how our jeans conform to the wearer’s body, especially the butt,” his father had schooled him and his younger brother when they were kids. At the time, Quinn hadn’t realized scoping out every backside within sight might cause problems, especially when he stared just a bit too long at a crooked seam on a stranger’s rear.
And right now, that’s exactly what he was doing—staring at a stranger’s ass hard enough to make his eyes cross. Who could blame him, though, since it was right at eye level above him on the escalator? And oh, what an ass it was—high and tight, yet still nicely rounded.
He sighed. The woman in front of him might have a great ass, but she wasn’t wearing Rileys. That was a big mark against her in his book.
Shifting his gaze from her curvy backside, he reviewed the brown leather belt encircling her slender waist. Embellished with beads and intricate stitching, it was eye-catching, not gaudy at all.
But it wasn’t nearly as eye-catching as the red corkscrews of hair that fell down her back almost to her waist. They glinted with gold and amber from the early morning sun shining through the skyscraper’s windows. Her hair was so curly it kinked in some places, creating sharp angles that made him want to pull on a strand just to see how quickly it would recoil.
The woman stepped off the escalator into the reception area of Riley O’Brien & Co.’s global headquarters, cutting his perusal short. Unlike most high-rises in downtown San Francisco, Riley Plaza’s first floor was filled with retail space, including the requisite Starbucks and a small shop that sold Riley merchandise. From the first floor, an escalator brought visitors and employees to the mezzanine level, where they checked in with reception or headed to their offices.
He pulled his gaze from the woman in just enough time to avoid tripping over the escalator lip and crashing onto the floor. Yeah, ogling asses could be hazardous.
As the redhead made her way to the reception desk, Quinn held up a hand and called out a greeting to the security guard posted by the double doors that led to the executive offices.
“Hey, Frank, did you see the new commercial last night?”
Riley O’Brien & Co. had recently launched a new advertising campaign featuring several well-known male athletes. The first commercial highlighting Quinn’s best friend, Nick Priest, had debuted last night during Sunday night football.
Priest and Quinn had played football together at the University of Southern California. While Quinn’s football career had ended when he graduated from USC, Priest had gone pro. He was one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, and his talent transformed every team he joined.
“Yeah, I saw it,” Frank answered. “If you wanted to make women all over America lust after Priest even more than they do now, you succeeded.”
Quinn laughed. “So, you thought Priest looked hot?”
“Hell, no,” Frank barked. “But the wife couldn’t take her eyes off the TV while he was on-screen.”
“Who can blame her? She’s had to look at your ugly face for more than thirty years. She needs a break.”
Frank grinned and shot him the bird. “Get to work, son.”
Quinn pulled open one of the heavy wood doors to the executive wing, and as he did every morning, he took some time to enjoy the walk along the polished concrete floors to his office.
A timeline highlighting the major milestones in Riley O’Brien & Co.’s history stretched from one end of the hallway to the other. It started with the founding of the company prior to the California Gold Rush, and old sepia images, black-and-white pictures, and a handful of color photos brought it to life.
He could see glimmers of himself in some of the images on the wall. All the men in his family had hair so dark it was almost black. And like his grandfather’s, Quinn’s hair was slightly wavy.
It was hard to tell from the early pictures what color his ancestor’s eyes were, but legend had it that Riley O’Brien’s eyes were so cold a glare from him could stop even the roughest of gold prospectors in their tracks. No doubt, he must have been one mean son of a bitch to build a successful business at a time when California was nothing but a territory full of wild and avaricious men.
Quinn turned his attention from the timeline and entered his office. Before he could sit down, a sharp knock sounded on his door, and his sister’s dark head poked around it.
“Do you have a minute?” Teagan asked, slightly breathless. Her blue eyes were wide behind the black-framed glasses she wore.
“Sure. What’s up, T?”
She slipped inside his office, shutting the door behind her. Her black dress crossed over the front of her body and tied on the side. Dotted with big red cherries, it was a perfectly nice piece of clothing, but he was immediately pissed off she wore it.
“Why are you always wearing a damn dress?” he growled.
“You don’t like it?” she asked, feigning confusion.
“Our family fortune was built on jeans,” he reminded her. “Can’t you put on a pair once in a while?”
It was a discussion they’d had many times, and her answer was always the same. He could have repeated it verbatim, and now he got to hear it again.
“Riley’s look good on you. They look good on most men. But they do not look good on most women. They especially don’t look good on short women. Or women with big butts, big thighs, or big anythings. Ergo, they don’t look good on me.”
Quinn held up his hands, sorry he’d brought up the subject. “I don’t want to get into another argument about the women’s division,” he backtracked hastily. “Your dress is fine. You look very pretty.”
Ignoring Teagan’s rude snort, he settled in his chair and propped his feet on his desk. “What did you need?” he prompted her as he inspected his new boots.
She eyed him for a few moments before answering. “Amelia Winger has agreed to design our new line of accessories.”
He dropped his feet to the floor and sat up. The accessories were all Teagan’s idea, and the little sneak had gone behind his back to make them happen.
She had wanted to revamp the entire women’s division, and when Quinn refused, she had persuaded their dad to give his stamp of approval for the line of accessories. Now Quinn had to suck it up and play nice with the new designer until their dad officially resigned and handed the reins over to him.
“So she’s definitely going to do it?” he asked.
“I think so. She requested a meeting with you, since you’re going to head up the project, but as long as you don’t blow it, I think she’s on board.”
He huffed out a breath in annoyance. “Why would I blow it?”
“Quinn, you can be really intense about Rileys. It’s . . . well, it’s a turnoff to some people.”
He nodded, agreeing with Teagan’s assessment. He was intense. He was devoted to protecting the Riley O’Brien brand, and he never forgot every single pair of Rileys ever produced was branded with his last name.
He realized Teagan was still talking. “. . . knew you were going to be in the office today, so I told her it would be okay.”
“Wait, what did you say?”
Looking down, she tapped her fingers against her bottom lip. He tensed. She was a terrible liar and an even worse poker player because she always tapped her lips when she was nervous or unsure.
He stood. “Tell me,” he demanded when she stayed silent a beat too long.
“I told Amelia Winger you would be available to meet her this morning.”
“Shit, Teagan! You know I hate it when you ambush me with things like this. . . .”
She stopped tapping her lips and started tapping her toe, never a good sign for innocent or not-so-innocent males nearby.
“This is a priority, Quinn,” she shot back. “I’ve already worked out all the legal details with Amelia. All she wants is a meeting with you. So it’s not on your calendar. Deal with it.”
“When will she be here?”
“She’s already here.”
“Of course she is,” he said dryly. He ran a hand through his hair before smoothing the mess he had made. “Let’s go get her.”
With Teagan click-clacking alongside him, he made the trek down the hall. He wasn’t looking forward to this meeting, and not just because his sister had sprung it on him. The women’s division limped along like a three-legged dog, and he doubted some new belts and purses would make a difference.
“Are you sure Amelia Winger is the right person to design our accessories?” Quinn asked.
He’d reviewed the information Teagan had provided about the designer, but he still had his doubts, especially since Amelia Winger had no formal design training, and she’d never done any work for a company like Riley O’Brien.
“I’d never heard of her before you mentioned her,” he continued. “Just because her best friend is a country music star and wears her designs doesn’t mean Amelia has any real talent. It just means she’s smart enough to capitalize on Ava Grace Landy’s success.”
“Ava Grace doesn’t wear Amelia’s designs just because she’s her best friend. She wears them because they’re incredible.”
Pushing open the door to the reception area, he ushered his sister through it before following. Frank turned at the sound, winking at Teagan.
The security guard tilted his head toward the only person sitting in the reception area.
“There’s your girl,” he said with a smile.
Teagan hurried toward the woman with her arms outstretched. “Amelia, it’s so nice to see you again!” she exclaimed.
The woman dropped the magazine she’d been reading and quickly rose from her orange chair. It clashed horribly with her long red hair, and his heart kicked in his chest as Teagan gestured toward him.
“Amelia Winger, this is my brother, Quinn O’Brien. Quinn, this is the fabulous designer we talked about.”
Amelia released Teagan’s hands and stepped forward to greet him. “It’s nice to meet you,” she said, offering her hand to him. Her voice had a slight twang to it, betraying her Texas roots.
Clasping her hand, he gazed down at her. She couldn’t have been more than an inch or two above five feet tall because the top of her curly head didn’t even reach his shoulders. Her brown eyes crinkled as she smiled, and he noticed a slight gap between her top front teeth.
Her smile wobbled a bit as he stood there silently, staring into a face sprinkled with freckles that reminded him of brown sugar.
Finally, he spoke, but when he did, it wasn’t exactly what he had intended.
“Nice ass,” he said.
Damn. Did I really say that out loud?