“I realize I’m your sub. But I’m not some object like your saddle. Hanging around ready to be used when you need me, set aside when you don’t.”
Jesus. Did Ainsley really just compare herself to his saddle? And what the fuck was up with that “be used” comment?
She flounced to the bedroom doorway.
“Where do you think you’re goin?”
Ainsley deigned to give him a mocking look. “I’m going to the fucking opera dressed like this. Where do you think I’m going? I’m going home.”
“I’ve been here since Friday night. I need to check on my cats. Then I have to finish unpacking and wash clothes. All things I’ve neglected, because I have a life besides the one I spend bound for your pleasure.”
That smartass comment raised his blood pressure. “You trying to see how much hotter you can make the water you’re already in, sub?”
“No. Sir, Bennett, Sir,” she snapped off with military precision and notched her chin higher. “You told me we wouldn’t spend every waking minute together. We have this weekend. I think I deserve a furlough.”
And it’d been one of the best weekends he could remember, not that he could tell her that with the anger emanating from her like a poisonous cloud. Hey wait. Had she just compared the weekend to a…prison sentence?
“I’ve got a busy week, so I’ll call you. Or maybe you’ll call me when you need to practice your rope-tying skills.” She threw the rope at him and disappeared down the hallway.
Maybe you’ll call me when you need to practice your rope-tying skills? Oh hell no. That would not fly with him.
Ben heard the door slam. By the time he made it outside, her car was halfway up the drive.
Oh, little sub, you’ve just landed yourself in a whole passel of trouble.
Ainsley spent all day Monday on the phone with Chase McKay’s publicist and going back and forth with Steve Talbot, president of Settler’s First Bank. They’d come to an agreement about co-sponsoring the local event as a platform for Chase to announce his new charity. Steve’s attempts to cut National West out of the event entirely displeased Mayor Mark, who championed the idea of both banks providing a united front to the community.
So at the end of the day, she felt she’d accomplished something. So much of her duties as bank president were busy work. Seemed she spent her life on the phone.
Not that she minded. She’d taken the position because the regional manager assured Ainsley that the bulk of her job would be schmoozing locals into switching a portion of their banking business to National West. Ainsley could handle PR; it’s what she did best. She figured the event would show the locals that this bank was interested in investing in the community. In the next month she’d approach individual businesses, touting the benefits of diversifying their banking needs.
During her divorce, she’d needed a career change. Intrigued by the management end of banking, she’d taken over a small branch office in a low-income suburb of Denver no one else wanted to tackle. Determined to keep the branch from closing, she’d approached every business, big and small, in the three-mile radius, talking up the benefits of banking locally. She used the bank’s allotted community funds to resurrect small community events that were underfunded, but much beloved. She volunteered her time, which had a huge impact on convincing locals of her sincerity. The hard work, the unpaid hours of overtime, had paid off. In that year she’d increased that branch’s business banking operation by twenty-five percent and the personal banking business by thirteen percent. Quite a coup for a woman who’d spent the previous six years as a PR assistant.
Now here she was in Sundance, basically starting over again. With her PR savvy and Turton as the bean counter, on paper they looked like an unbeatable team to make this branch a rousing success from the get go. But in reality, Turton was bitter Ainsley had been awarded the job. And she still hadn’t figured out the best way to deal with him.
Jenny knocked on her door. “Sorry to interrupt, but there’s an extremely agitated woman pacing in the lobby. Turton tried to help her but she refuses to talk to anyone but the bank president.”
“I’ll be right there.” Ainsley set aside the stack of files, and straightened her short suit jacket as she made her way around the desk.
But the agitated woman met her at the office door. “Are you the bank president?”
“Yes. I’m Ainsley Hamilton. What can I do for you?”
“Don’t treat me like an idiot, for starters.”
Okay. So she was testy. “I’d appreciate the same courtesy, Miss…”
The petite redhead looked up. Her large eyes were a pale shade of blue that made her pupils stand out. A striking combination, given the woman’s gamine features. “Sorry. I’m Joely Monroe.”
“Well, Miss Monroe, let’s talk in my office. Could I get you something to drink?”
“I don’t suppose you’ve got vodka?”
Ainsley muttered, “I wish. We’ve got coffee. Water. Hot tea?”
“Have a seat.” After they’d both settled, Ainsley said, “Is there a problem with your account?”
“I don’t have an account here. That’s the problem.” She jammed a hand through her hair, cut in an asymmetrical style few women could pull off. “My accounts have always been with Settler’s First. Not by choice, I assure you. But there is no bank in Moorcroft and I didn’t want to drive even farther to Spearfish to do my business banking.”
“Your business is in Moorcroft?”
“I have a medical practice. Small town doctor-type stuff, it’s just me and two nurses. Anyway, we’ve been having problems with our credit card machine. It locks up, and then it won’t generate reports. A big pain in the butt since so much business is done on that machine. Settler’s First installed the machine as part of their full-service banking promise. But any time it goes down, their advice? Unplug it from the wall for a couple minutes and plug it back in. When that doesn’t work, they claim it’s my Internet connection causing the problems, which it’s not. The machine has gone down fifteen times in the last month. And not once has anyone from that bank contacted me to see if the problem is fixed, or if they should show up and troubleshoot the problem if it isn’t. I’m tired of fighting with them. I’m tired of my office manager losing her mind on me because we’ve got thousands of dollars in transit every time the machine goes down. So I’m shopping for a new bank. But before I go to the trouble of changing accounts and telling Steve Talbot where to shove it, I’d like some guarantee that I’ll get decent customer service from this bank.”
Ainsley smiled. “We can do much better than decent on the customer service end. We’ve got a Denver-based IT team here on Wednesday. I’ll send them your way and they can check everything in your office, from the phone lines to the Internet service to the credit card machine itself. And if those guys can’t figure out the problem? They’ll find someone who can.”
Her eyes lit up. “Really? You’d do that?”
“Yes, assuming you open an account with us.” Or multiple accounts.
“Done. What now?”
“The usual boring bank stuff. You’ll have to fill out reams of paperwork, but it’ll be worth it in the long run, I promise.”
Doctor Monroe glanced at her watch. “It’s almost five o’clock. Don’t you banker types lock the doors at five?” She scowled. “I took off early today to address this problem with Settler’s First only to find out their lobby closes at four.”
“Happy as I am that your unhappiness with them brought you to us, I will point out our goal is to maintain more customer-friendly hours than bankers’ hours. Our lobby is actually open until six during the week and noon on Saturday.”
“So now that you’ve given me the spiel, lay the paperwork on me and I’ll get it to my office manager first thing in the morning. It’s kosher for her to swing in tomorrow and finalize everything?”
“Absolutely. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll grab all the paperwork you’ll need.”
When Ainsley returned to the office, the doctor gave her a curious look. “You haven’t lived here long?”
“A few weeks. I transferred from Denver.”
“I don’t see pictures of a husband or kids decorating your walls. You married?”
“Divorced. No kids.” Sort of a bizarre line of questions. “How about you?”
“Also divorced. No kids. And let me tell ya, that makes us a rarity in this area.”
“I haven’t had much time to meet many people or soak in the local color.”
She popped to her feet. “You have to eat, right? I’ll take you to a local favorite hot spot where we can chow down a juicy hamburger, split a plate of onion rings and sip a martini.”
“A martini? In Sundance?”
She smirked. “Lettie at the Golden Boot makes a mean lemon drop.”
“I’m in. Let me grab my coat and tell my vice president to close up. I’ll meet you there.”
It wasn’t like she had plans tonight anyway. Ben acted shocked that she’d gotten a little huffy with him. Probably not smart to compare herself to an old saddle—broken in and ready to be used when he wanted it, out of sight and out of mind when he didn’t.
There’s gonna be hell to pay for that crack, sub.
Ainsley whirled around like Bennett had whispered that in her ear. But she only saw Turton giving her the stink eye. She had to find a way to deal with that prickly man, but not tonight.
Ten minutes later, Ainsley slid into the booth across from her newest customer. Before she sipped the yummy looking martini, she confessed, “I have no idea what to call you. Doc? Doc Monroe? Joely?”
“Call me Joely. As proud as I am of my medical degree and my practice, it’s good to be reminded I’m more than just my occupation.” She raised her glass. “To faulty credit card machines.”