Damage Control blurb:
Curvy Isabella DeLorean knows what it’s like to be the butt of jokes but she has brains, talent, beauty, an irrepressible sense of humor, and a plus-size body that matches her big heart. Tough as steel and built for comfort, this DeLorean would love nothing more than to take her new boss for a ride.
Nicholas Wentworth III is CEO of the Wentworth’s department store chain. His newest sales clerk is so popular with customers, Bella wins Employee of the Month and all the perks that come with it—a sizeable bonus, a premium parking space, and dinner with CEO. Bella’s hot Italian-American blood thinks that a boss with benefits might just be what she needs. She’s already dealing with vicious coworkers, a shady manager, and office gossip. Accepting the award from Nick puts an even bigger target on her back. Someone’s aware of their mutual attraction. Someone who’ll stop at nothing to keep her and Nick apart. With Bella’s life in peril, can Nick find her stalker before it’s too late?
Damage Control is Ree L. Diehl’s first novella, her first BBW, and first romantic mystery. It’s a sizzling addition to the Stand Your Ground anti-bullying anthology.
DAMAGE CONTROL excerpt:
Bella put the credit card printout with the cash register receipt and handed them to Lola.
The bride-to-be tucked them in her billfold. “I’ll give these to Vito when I get home. Thanks for all your help, doll. You’re the best.”
“Thank you, Lola. I wish you and Vito every joy.”
Glancing over, Bella saw Maria carrying Justinian on her hip. The way that he was gnawing on a finger, she wondered if a tooth was coming in.
She was so focused on her nephew that she didn’t see Ms. Cohen coming from the back with a spray bottle of perfume in her hand. “There,” she said, misting away. “Much better!”
For Ms. Cohen maybe, but not for Bella. One whiff and she felt her throat start to close. She stumbled to the chair just outside the lingerie display room, gasping for air.
“Someone get a doctor!” Maria yelled. Justinian burst into tears, wailing like a banshee. Lola called 911. “Bella, can you hear me? Do you have one of those shot things for allergies?”
Bella shook her head weakly. She had an inhaler if she started to wheeze. A runny nose and sinus headache were the norm. She’d never had a reaction this bad, with a fat tongue and dangerously constricted airways. Dear God, what if her throat swelled shut before help came? Not being able to breathe was the most frightening thing she’d ever experienced.
She felt dizzy. She couldn’t get enough air, and she was losing consciousness. Her eyelids closed, too heavy to keep open any longer.
“Hang in there, sweetie. Help is on the way. Stay with me, Bella. Stay with me. Come on, sweetheart. Stay with me.”
Strange, but Maria’s voice had changed to Mr. Wentworth’s.
Try as she might, she couldn’t force open her eyes. Couldn’t see him and couldn’t stay with him, as much as she wanted to. How ironic was it, to win a date with the man of her dreams and die before dinner?
“I agree. It is ironic.”
Bella stopped breathing again, but this time it wasn’t a medical emergency. She felt the sting of an IV in the back of her hand and heard the blip of monitors even before she opened her eyes and saw Nicholas Wentworth sitting by her hospital bed.
He looked exhausted.
She was pretty sure that she looked worse.
“Hi,” she croaked. “What are you doing here?”
He conjured a tired smile. “Checking on my Employee of the Month. Your mother tells me that you’re a fighter. She swears that you’ll be out of here in time for the presentation tomorrow night.”
Good lord. She’d lost a day? A day’s pay. No, two days. Yesterday and today and maybe tomorrow, depending on how soon they would let her go.
Bella burst into tears. “I’m s-sorry,” she keened. “It’s just—I can’t afford to miss work.”
“Workmen’s Comp,” he said, waving a dismissive hand. “Everything’s covered. Your pay. Your stay. This is a result of an incident while you were on the clock. Trust me when I say that everything will be taken care of. All you need to do is relax and recover. Lingerie will be waiting for you when the doctor releases you. Ms. Cohen, however, will not.”
Bracing his elbows on the arms of his chair, he clasped his hands and leaned toward her. “After your review yesterday morning, I started checking, comparing department profits and sales commissions paid. The figures showed a disturbing pattern. When I called Ms. Cohen to discuss my findings, I was told that she was busy with a medical emergency. Yours.”
He rubbed a hand across his face and smiled grimly. “Miss Chin—Qua—found your phone on the counter, still recording. She had me listen to it. Ms. Cohen was ready to let your sales go through another register. But what she did next was worse. Ms. Cohen knew that you had fragrance allergies. That’s why we put you in lingerie, in a part of the store farthest from the makeup and perfume counters. Yet she deliberately sprayed perfume without your permission, without bothering to ask if you were allergic to that brand. It was an unconscionable act, and I fired her. The search is on for a new lingerie department manager. HR recommends the one from our Charleston, South Carolina, location. Ms. Jackson—Evalynne—has an excellent record but she’s not fond of hurricanes and is looking to relocate.”
“Same job, new boss. I can handle it.” Truthfully, she was relieved to have a job to come back to, especially if it meant that she could catch a glimpse of Nicholas Wentworth III from time to time.
He smiled softly. “I’m certain you can.”
“I’m a DeLorean,” she quipped. “Tough as steel and built for comfort.”
It was one of her standing jokes when someone pointed out her weight. Bella groaned when she heard what had flown out of her mouth. “Forget I said that. Jesus, take me now.”
Mr. Wentworth chuckled. “Sorry, he’ll have to wait until I’m done with you. We have a presentation tomorrow night, and there’s still your Employee of the Month dinner with me. Your mother is looking forward to the first, and I,” he said, “am looking forward to the second.”
She looked for the signs, but he wasn’t joking.
She needed to make a major fashion statement. In her mind, she saw a basic black mermaid wrap with an asymmetrical draped bodice, crossing to one side and fastening at her waist.
“Two weeks,” she said. If they were going to do this, she wanted enough time to make the perfect dress.
“Good,” he said. “Good. You’ll be out of here and back to work. Speaking of which, I’d better get going. I have a conference call in an hour. I’m glad to see that you’re doing better, Miss DeLorean.”
That sounded so formal when she was sitting here with her ass hanging out of a hospital gown. “My family and friends call me Bella, Mr. Wentworth.”
Standing, he smoothed the creases from his suit pants and draped his matching jacket over his arm. “And my family and friends call me Nick. I’ll see you soon, Bella. Get some rest.”
She didn’t want to rest. She wanted to watch that fine specimen of manhood leave her hospital room and memorize how his bubble butt looked in motion. She wanted to bite it. Lick it. She wanted to bend over the bed and let the CEO of Wentworth’s own her every orifice.
God, what she wouldn’t give to have her vibrator right now.