There is something incredibly feel-good about every single L.H. Cosway novel I have ever read, and this one is no exception. It’s a workplace romance set at a private investigation firm between a cheery research assistant and the grumpy head investigator. It all starts with an office Christmas party, too many gin and tonics, and a one-night-stand that neither of them can forget, but the story soon turns into a heartwarming, delightful romance between two complete opposites that changes them both in ways they never expected. I adored it, read it in a single sitting, and didn’t stop smiling cover to cover. And today I have an excerpt for you!
As I scanned the party, I blinked and did a double take. On the other side of the bar sat Cameron Grant, who was our head investigator and a very intimidating individual. He was looking right at me. Had he witnessed my failed attempt to join the conversation? God, I hoped not. The only thing worse than being ignored was having someone else see it happening.
I looked away and tried to get the bartender’s attention, but I could still feel Cameron’s intent observation.
Every office had that one person you didn’t mess with. The one who glared at you with the disapproval of a thousand fiery suns when you so much as made a typo on a research document. At James & Peterson, Cameron was that person. He was grumpy, anti-social, and just slightly terrifying.
He was also darkly handsome and, well, quite sexy. It was seriously unfair for someone so cranky to be that gorgeous. Dark brown hair, greenish hazel eyes, a strong jaw, and thick, dark eyebrows.
Yep, Cameron Grant was quite the looker. It was a pity his attitude made me break out in hives. I rarely had the courage to broach a conversation with him for fear of his disdain. He didn’t do pleasantries, and he certainly wasn’t shy in letting you know when you were bothering him. I honestly didn’t get how someone could care so little about what others thought. And okay, perhaps a small part of me was impressed, because I was the opposite: I cared too much what people thought.
The bartender, who was wearing a bright-red reindeer jumper, finally gave me his attention, and I asked for a gin and tonic. Glancing at Cameron again, I was relieved to find he wasn’t watching me anymore. He was sitting alone, not talking to anyone. That wasn’t out of the ordinary. He never really made small talk.
What was out of the ordinary was the fact he was here at all. In the five years I’d worked at the firm, I’d never seen him attend the Christmas party. He didn’t partake in the yearly Secret Santa either, or accept the glass of mulled wine our accountant Terry shared with everyone on Christmas Eve. Basically, when it came to all things festive, Cameron was a Scrooge. Strike that. When it came to most things, festive or not, he was a Scrooge.
That hadn’t stopped me from having one or two (or several) sexy dreams about him over the years. I was thirty years old, single, and allergic to the idea of “putting myself out there.” In other words, I’d much rather stay home with a bottle of wine and a good book than re-enter the murky waters of modern dating.
So yes, Cameron Grant was perfect fantastic fodder for the likes of me, even if he did have a difficult personality. I’d witnessed a few women at the office, both clients and co-workers, try to flirt with him and get shot down. Even if he wasn’t such a curmudgeon, there was no way in hell I’d ever put myself in the firing line.
I was about to go join Lilah when the better angel of my nature took over. In that moment, I felt bad for Cameron sitting there all by himself. After all, I knew what it was like to be ignored. Maybe he’d decided to make an effort and attend the party, but no one was brave enough to talk to him. Squaring my shoulders, I approached and took the stool next to his.
“Hello, Mr. Grant. How are you?” Most people at the office addressed one another by their first names, but we all referred to Cameron as “Mr. Grant”. That was the extent to which people both feared and respected him.
He cast me a sideways glance. “I’m fine, thank you, Miss Wilkins. May I ask why you’re sitting there?”
I swallowed. “Just thought I’d c-come say hello. Are you waiting for anyone?”
He shook his head, eyeing me like a fly that just landed on his whiskey glass.
I endeavoured to keep my cool under his stern gaze. “Well then, you won’t mind if I sit with you awhile.”
“What if I do mind?”
I rested an elbow on the bar, feeling flustered. “Do you?”
He blew out an irritated breath. “Yes.”
It appeared it was true that no good deed goes unpunished. Here I was trying to be nice, and he was outright rejecting me. What a miserable bastard. I wanted to leave and pretend this awkward interaction had never started, but instead I soldiered on, laughing awkwardly and tucking some hair behind my ear. It was something I did when I felt self-conscious or uncomfortable. Why was I putting myself through this? Oh, right, because kindness was a virtue.
“So, you came to a party to sit by yourself and not talk to anyone? That sounds like a hoot,” I said with humour.
“No,” Cameron replied. “I came to a party because my boss said she’d make me take the new Glen Waters case if I didn’t. Blackmail is a favourite of Georgia Peterson.”
Hearing that, I couldn’t help a small grin. Our boss was an awesome lady. She was confident, worldly, and clever. She also had a work wardrobe that the cast of Suits would envy. She was one of the few people at the office who wasn’t intimidated by Cameron, which was why I got a chuckle out of her blackmailing him into coming to this party.
Glen Waters was a regular client of ours. The man had an inordinate amount of people in his life he wanted investigated. His paranoia was unmatched, and he was, well, I hated to admit it, but he wasn’t a very likeable person. I certainly understood why Cameron didn’t want to be assigned his case.
He noticed my grin. “Find blackmail funny, do you?”
I shrugged. “Georgia clearly wants you to get to know your co-workers better. Just putting this out there, but we’re not all completely awful.”
He appeared unconvinced. “Do you honestly believe that?”
“I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t.”
“So those imbeciles who just completely ignored you when you tried to enlighten them about their incorrect assumptions, you believe those are good people?”
“I speak too quietly sometimes. They didn’t hear me,” I said. My leg started to bounce restlessly.
“I heard you and I was sitting on the opposite side of the bar.”
I winced, because there was no arguing with that. “Okay, so maybe not everyone at the firm is particularly pleasant, but some of us are worth getting to know.”
Cameron considered me a moment. “I find the need to develop personal relationships here superfluous. We’re all work colleagues, not family or friends.”
His statement bothered me. “Ironically though, we probably spend more time together than we do with our own friends and family, so why not get to know the humans behind the job titles?”
“I already know everything I need to,” he grumped and took a sip of his whiskey.
I turned my body to face him. This might be the most we’d ever spoken outside of work, and he made me feel oddly combative.
“Such as?” I prompted.
He eyed me a moment. A little tingle touched the back of my neck when he seemed to take all of me in.
“Take you, for example,” he said.
I tensed. I might’ve been curious to know what he thought of our co-workers, but I wasn’t so keen to hear his opinion on me personally.
“Okay,” I said, wary.
“You want everyone to like you. Sometimes to your detriment. You go out of your way to do favours for people who will probably never return them, people who aren’t worth your time. You laugh in between sentences when nothing funny has been said, and you agree with people when you know what they’re saying is incorrect. Also, you smile way too much. It’s off-putting.”
I blinked, my stomach twisting at the sheer onslaught of truth he’d just spilled. He’d hit a nerve—no, a major artery—and I was metaphorically bleeding out. These were things I already knew about myself, but I didn’t like thinking Cameron Grant could see those traits so clearly that he’d noticed all of this when I wasn’t even aware of being observed. I guess he was our head investigator for a reason.