Daxton (BBW Bear Shifter Moonshiner Romance) (120 Proof Honey)

BOOK: Daxton (BBW Bear Shifter Moonshiner Romance) (120 Proof Honey)
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Daxton

120 Proof Honey I

by

Becca Fanning

Blair Mason sat at the desk of her cramped office, flipping through sales numbers. Boxes of cereal and potato chips towered into the sky on either side of her desk. Stacks of invoices that needed to be paid stuck out at every angle from her plastic inbox. A collection of marketing paraphernalia rested against the far wall—signs reading “30% off Today Only!” and “Don’t Forget to Use Your Mason’s Super Saver Card!”

She let her head fall into her hands and reviewed the numbers again. Something had to be missing. This couldn’t be all the sales they’d had this month. If things continued like this, she’d be out of business by the end of the quarter. She knew that when the new ShopRite came to town, it would affect her. Big chain stores always hurt small business owners. But this was happening much faster than she anticipated. Worst of all, all the money she’d recently put into marketing seemed to be doing no good.
 

If she wanted to save the store, she’d have to make some difficult decisions. And that meant cutting the biggest expense any grocery store had—labor. She’d have to lay off people that had worked for her for years. This was no high turnover place of employment. Her employees were loyal. They worked hard and stuck around. And now, in order to keep some of them, she’d have to let some go.
 

Blair pulled out the employee books and started reviewing things. As she evaluated each person, the emotions of the situation overwhelmed her. She couldn’t picture telling Louis or Megan or Kelly that they no longer had a job to take care of their families. Tears sprang in her eyes and, before she could reach for a tissue, they spilled over and ran down her face.

A knock at the door startled her. “Yes?”

“It’s Vanessa.”

“Come in.” She didn’t have to worry about hiding her feelings from her assistant manager. Vanessa was well aware of the falling sales numbers and what it would mean for all of them.

“Hey,” she said softly when she saw Blair’s face. She looked down at the desk and nodded. “Sales numbers. Not good.”

“Afraid not.” Blair looked around for tissues, but the box on her desk seemed to have vanished.

“This may not be the best time, but there’s a sales guy here to see you.”

“What?” Blair flipped to her planner. She had no meeting scheduled.

“He didn’t have anything scheduled with you. He said he was in the area and wanted to talk to you.”

“Well, he can make an appointment like everyone else.” Blair retrieved her purse from under her desk and looked for the packet of tissues she had stashed in there.

“Normally, I’d fully agree, but you may want to make an exception.”

“Nope. Don’t think so,” she said without looking up from her purse.

“Well, Blair, this guy is very good looking.” She leaned in closer and whispered, “And I mean H-O-T HOT. And there’s no ring on his finger.”

Blair stopped her search to look Vanessa in the eye. “Do I seem that desperate for a date to you?”

“No, but it has been a while since you and Luke broke up. I just thought maybe it was time to get out there and have some fun. You gotta see this guy’s eyes.”

Blair sighed. “Fine.”

Vanessa turned and walked out of the office.

“Give me a minute, though!” Blair called. She resumed her search and finally saw the blue plastic of the tissue packet, shoved under her lotion and collection of discount cards. She yanked the packet until it came free and looked up to see a man staring back at her.

He certainly was good looking. Vanessa had not exaggerated. And Blair was vividly aware of the mascara trails now stiffening on her cheeks.
 

“I’m sorry, she told me to come up…” He gestured toward the door.

“No, it’s fine.” Blair spun in her chair to turn her back to the man while she wiped at her face. Balancing the small compact mirror on her knee, she licked the tissue, wiped at the trails until they were faint red lines, and dabbed fresh powder over them. The whole process had taken less than a minute, but felt like eternity as his eyes bore into her back. And Vanessa wondered why she’d hadn’t gone on a date in months.
 

With a deep breath, Blair turned back and stuck out her hand to the man, acting like nothing had happened. Her performance didn’t stop her from feeling like a complete idiot, however. Or from noticing the solid grasp of his handshake. “Blair Mason, owner. My assistant tells me you’ve got a new product for us to consider?”

“I do.” He handed her his card and took a seat at the small chair across from her desk. “Daxton Holt. Marketing Director for Bear Natural Honey.”

She glanced at the business card, then looked him in the eye. “We have a supplier of honey already. Why should I carry your brand?”

She laced her fingers and hoped her business-owner confidence came across, though she felt rather incompetent and fearful at the moment. She focused her attention on him to keep her mind off what she’d have to do later, when she sent some of her people home for good.
 

He was a big man. Broad shoulders that threatened to burst the seams of his suit jacket if he moved wrong, a chiseled jaw with a close-shaved beard. His eyes were like cold metal, a strange gold hardened into the shape of his irises. It was hard to see any muscles since he was wearing a suit, but she could tell they were there. His voice was deep and steady and his black hair fell casually into loose spikes. She gulped and had to remind herself to listen to what he was saying.

“Wait a minute.” She held up a hand to stop him. “Are you saying that your honey is bottled in your own local facility and not a larger bottling company?”

“Right. That way we can keep costs down for our distributors.”

“But I have no way of assuring the quality of your product or its safety. I don’t know what your contamination standards are or your safety processes. I just can’t afford to take a risk like that. Not when—”
 

She stopped herself, but he raised an eyebrow at her hesitation.

“Look,” she said. “I’m sure you know that ShopRite moved in just across town. Maybe try there. I can’t afford to have product recalls or something that sits on the shelf and doesn’t move because it’s unknown.”
 

Daxton gazed at her for a minute, pulled his mouth into half a smile, and said, “ShopRite won’t buy my product. But you know, that’s to your advantage.”

“Oh?”

“Why do people prefer the local grocer over the big chains?”

She flicked her stack of sales numbers. “They don’t, apparently.”

“Then maybe you’re not taking advantage of the biggest asset you have.”

Blair crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes slightly at him. “And what’s that?”

“Local. Organic. People these days will pay double if they know they’re not getting chemicals, and if they’re helping out the little guy from the next town over. You fill your store with nothing but organic products from the Ozark and watch your business increase.”

She considered this for a moment. She’d always thought people wanted their big brands, the products they were used to using. The same products they could get at ShopRite on double coupon day for much cheaper than they could in her store. But if they got hooked on products they couldn’t get at ShopRite, then he might be onto something. It would mean a huge shift in inventory, though, and some big risks. This was a decision that would need time, careful thought, and lots of number crunching.
 

Daxton leaned across the desk. She got a whiff of his cologne—a subtly musky, almost woodsy scent that was also sweet somehow. She took a deeper whiff without making it obvious.
 

“And,” he said with a smirk, “If you like that idea, I’ve got some product that will really sell well. And it won’t even require shelf space.”

Before she could ask, he pulled out another business card and handed it to her.

Same name, same title. But this company was listed as Wild Honey Whiskey and boasted the tag line, “locally distilled and bottled.” She tried to hand the card back. “Moonshine?”
 

“The best in the Ozarks.”

“You’re serious.”
 

“Would you like to try a sample?”
 

He reached inside his suit jacket, but she stood up and held up her palm to stop him.

“No, no, no. Please leave. I don’t want your illegal product anywhere near me or my store. Thank you.”

She marched to the office door and held it open, gesturing for him to leave. He stood feet from her, towering over her, his teeth glinting bright white in the office fluorescents.
 

“It’s not that illegal, really. So long as the maker pays his taxes, it’s not illegal at all, in fact.”

She laughed once. “And I’m supposed to believe that you pay all your taxes?”

“Believe whatever you want. Point is, you wouldn’t get in trouble for selling it, it’s only the maker that can get slammed with tax evasion.”

“Unbelievable. Please. Leave now. Don’t make me call security.”

He raised an eyebrow. “I doubt you have security in a store this size.” But he moved through the door before pausing and turning to her. “Think about what I said. Local. Organic. Even if you only want my honey, you should call me.”

Blair’s face flushed. She didn’t want to think about his honey or about calling him. “Right.”

She pulled the door closed and put her back to it, breathing deep until her heart slowed. Why did such an attractive man have to have such a huge flaw? Everyone knew that moonshiners were all throughout the mountains. And they got busted regularly. He was nothing more than a lying, cheating, criminal. She couldn’t trust him or his products. But those eyes…
 

She shook her head and sat back down at her desk. She had more important things to worry about. But even as she assessed her list of employees once again, she couldn’t help peaking at the business card sitting innocently on her desk. Daxton Holt. His name shone in black letters and it seemed to call out to her, demanding attention. She finally flipped the card over and returned to her task.

BOOK: Daxton (BBW Bear Shifter Moonshiner Romance) (120 Proof Honey)
2.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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