A ONE-NIGHT STAND with a handsome stranger wasn't a problem–until he tries to STEAL her company.
Not many people can say that they’re living their dream. I started on this path when I was only knee-high, but I never let anything stop me from achieving everything my father had planned for me.
When I was a little girl, my father and I would lie in the field behind our house for hours and stare at the night sky. He’d hold me close and point to the stars, twinkling like diamonds against black silk above us.
He dreamed of touching the heavens and visiting the vast reaches of space. He spent years studying to be an astronaut and almost achieved his goal. Tragically, within weeks of finishing training, a horrific car accident killed my mother and left him in a back brace for a year.
His career ended before it even began, and he changed his focus to me. He didn’t force me onto the path I’m on now. No, my father taught me that I could achieve anything and believed I would touch the very reaches he’d always dreamed he would but never did.
“Lauren, your future is there,” he’d say with wonder and excitement.
I’d look up, staring at the stars twinkling above us, and wonder what else was out there. Childhood curiosity and the love of my father drove me toward my destiny…toward today. Not into space, but to the inside of the boardroom, where I could make the dream a reality for others.
Although I didn’t have the guts to become an astronaut, I knew from a young age that I wanted to make it possible for others to go where no man had gone before. My father believed in me and said I could do anything if I worked hard enough. I studied science and business at Boston University, graduating with a bachelor of science in aerospace and an MBA by the age of twenty-four.
It didn’t matter that I was a woman in a male-dominated industry, the only limitations I had were those that others had placed on me, underestimating my drive and determination to reach the top.
Five years ago, I became the CEO of Interstellar Corp—one of the world’s cutting-edge producers of aerospace technology. They are the second-largest company in the field, behind only Cozza International, the oldest company in the field. I never thought that within ten years of stepping through the door, I’d be head of the multibillion-dollar corporation.
I’d achieved a small piece of my father’s dream before the age of thirty, but my father never got to see me take the helm. Three years before I was appointed the head of Interstellar, he died of a stroke
Although he wasn’t standing by my side, I thought about him watching me from above, finally going to all the places he’d always dreamed of seeing.
I’d made it.
Lauren Bradley, CEO of Interstellar Corporation.
Being a businesswoman and running a company came with some major hurdles that I had never expected.
But like everything else in my life, I didn’t let it stop me.
I always knew the business world could be cutthroat, but I never expected the betrayal to come from someone close to me.
I braced myself for it. There’s always competition—both from inside the company and from other businesses in the same field.
Years before I became CEO, I made a mistake.
One that can be especially devastating to the career of a female executive.
Not a what, but a who.
We’d worked long hours together on the development of a new engine technology, and the lust became undeniable. It was my first big assignment for the company and the launching pad that catapulted me to the top. Between Trent’s rugged good looks and MENSA-level genius, I couldn’t help but be attracted to him.
After months of going back and forth, I gave in to him.
Relationships were a complication I couldn’t afford, especially not in the beginning of my career. My mind knew it, but my body led me down the path of a sinful office romance that ended as spectacularly as a test rocket exploding before reaching the stratosphere.
Eventually, I came to my senses, feeling boxed in after he became possessive, which had me backpedaling and looking for a way out. After I was able to break off our relationship, I asked if we could be friends, but Trent refused to believe that we were over. He did everything in his power to get me back, and every time I told him no, he took it to mean yes.
I refused his every advance, but he bided his time and thought I’d come to my senses—but I never did.
The one thing I know about myself is that once my mind is made up, I never go back.
Trent was a hard lesson to learn—never mix business with pleasure. Interoffice romances spell disaster and should be avoided at all costs. I couldn’t just walk away from him entirely. We worked together. And that there is the rub.
When I became CEO of Interstellar, he became the head of research and development, not because of me, but because of our work on the project that had pushed us together. We had a common goal—a new engine technology that would revolutionize the industry, and we were so close.
I knew that, as a company, we needed him, even if I didn’t want a damn thing to do with him.
He had a brilliant mind, and Interstellar needed him just as much as they needed me. We were trapped together in a symbiotic relationship, even though it was toxic. He needed me to back his projects and give him free rein, while I needed him to create something so magnificent it would make Interstellar the leader in the aerospace industry and allow me to leave my mark on the universe. Like it or not, our lives were intertwined.
He pulled off the impossible, creating something that would solidify Interstellar’s dominance over the entire industry.
Maybe he wasn’t my biggest mistake after all.
Trent sits down, his straight brown hair wild and messy, fitting his mad scientist persona to a T. He places his hands behind his head and kicks back in the chair. “How much do you love me?”
I take a deep breath and count to three. I’m not in the mood for his flirtatious banter this early in the morning. But then again, I never am. “We’ve been over this before. You need to knock before entering my office. Strolling in like you own the place is not acceptable.”
Trent never did fully grasp the boundaries I’d put in place after we broke up. Being the CEO and his boss hasn’t earned me an ounce of respect in his eyes either. He comes and goes as he pleases, no matter how many times I’ve reminded him he can’t just breeze into my office like we’re still a couple.
“Come on, Lulu.” He gives me the classic Trent “I’m the man” chin lift.
I hate when he calls me Lulu. He gave me the nickname a few months after we started dating, and it always gave me the creeps. For being such a brilliant man, at times, he’s completely clueless.
“What do you want?” I try to keep the anger from my voice, but I fail miserably.
He shows off the dimple that I used to adore but now despise. “You lost your sparkle, sweetheart. What’s wrong?”
I rise from my chair, stroll to the front of my desk, and lean against it. “Skip the bullshit, Trent. It’s not going to work on me anymore.” Crossing my arms, I stare down at the man I once thought I loved. “What’s wrong with the design?”
He smiles smugly. “Nothing. It’s perfect.”
It’s hard to imagine a time when I believed Trent was charming, but I fell for him hook, line, and sinker.
My mouth falls open, and my arms drop. “It’s done?”
That damn dimple deepens. “Yep.”
“You did it?” I whisper, gripping the edge of my desk, unable to believe what he’s telling me.
I shouldn’t be shocked that he found a way to make the engine work. It’s the reason I never fired him. Trent isn’t just a genius; he has the ability to rank right up there with Albert Einstein if he’s only given a chance.
He squares his shoulders and puffs out his chest, because Trent wouldn’t be Trent without his cockiness. “I did.”
“Do you know what this means?”
The enormity of this moment isn’t lost on me.
My heart beats wildly as my mind reels from the news.
He did it.
We did it.
Interstellar pulled off something no one ever thought possible, and Trent made it happen. Suddenly, I’m thankful I never fired him even if he’s a daily pain in my ass. I’m all about taking one for the team, especially when they come through in a big way.
He stands and invades my personal space with his aquamarine eyes gazing into mine. “That I’m a legend.” He moves closer, and I lean backward, trying to put more space between us. “Bound to be remembered for eternity.”
He cages me in, but in this moment, I’m not angry. How can I be after he just delivered the most amazing news? “Yeah, Trent, you will.” It’s true and ridiculous all at once. “But this means that we’re going to crush the bastards at Cozza.”
“It’s what you always wanted.” He starts to stroke the exposed skin on my arm. “We make an amazing team, Lauren.”
Team? We haven’t been a team in years, and even then, we were two entities that spent time together but didn’t gel as one. I was too busy busting my ass to climb the corporate ladder, and Trent, well, his brilliant mind never seemed to stay focused long enough. When we were a couple, he never paid as much attention to me as he does now.
The man doesn’t understand boundaries. Not only does he breeze into my office whenever he feels like it, but he touches me more than I’d like. By that I mean, if he touches me once, it’s too much. But I can’t knee him in the balls in my office. Even if he doesn’t act professionally, I must.
I dig my fingernails into the wood on the underside of my desk, and I narrow my eyes. I grit my teeth, but keep my voice down so the rest of the office doesn’t overhear. “Get your hands off me.”
His thumb brushes against my flesh, too close to my breast as he ignores my request. “The new engine is my gift to you. Someday, you’ll come back to me.”
“Trent.” I finally duck under his arm and move behind my desk again. I grip the back of my chair and raise my chin. “I appreciate the thoughtfulness behind your accomplishment, but there will never be an us again.”
“I’ll wait for you. Bask in the knowledge that it’s ready for the final test phase before we can launch it into production, Lulu.”
I wrinkle my nose and tamp down a growl that’s building in the back of my throat. “Thanks.” My tone is clipped and cold. “I look forward to reading your report and bringing it before the board for final approval. Can you have it on my desk before the end of the day?”
“Already done. Cassie has it.”
I’m at a loss for words.
Trent’s always been thorough but not when it comes to paperwork. The man could build anything with his hands, but ask him to write something down, and he becomes inarticulate and lazy.
I clear my throat. “I’ll call an emergency meeting and get the ball rolling ASAP.”
He turns to face me before he makes it to the door. “Want to have a drink with me after work to celebrate?”
“It’s never going to happen, Trent. We have a business relationship, and that’s it.”
I hold up my hand because I don’t want to waste another minute having this useless, repetitive conversation. “Trent, stop making a fool of yourself.”
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WHAT READERS ARE SAYING ABOUT ACQUISITION
“It’s a stay-up-all-night-and-read-just-one-more-page type of book!” – AD Justice, USA Today bestselling author
“ACQUISITION and MERGER are the best multi-faceted, intriguing books to ever hit my Kindle.” – Terri Marie, NYT bestselling author
“Absolutely superb. A real page turner that leaves you gasping right till the end.” - A Book Lover's Emporium Book Blog
“What a shift for Bliss! There is definitely HEAT, but even those scenes have a new quality to them, refreshing my affection for the author. Mother trucker that ending smacked me in the face.” – A Cup and a Book
“This is one gripping read.” – Life in the Book Lane
“Truly a triumph.” – KFReads
“Smartly written. I was completely invested in this story and can't wait for more!” – Fun Under the Covers
"A delicious sort of push and pull between Antonio and Lauren. The chemistry was yowza.” – Amanda, Goodreads Reviewer