From the Author
Note: This book contains one Maori multimillionaire with control issues, one fierce blonde with a mind of her own, and some very dirty loving.
From the Inside Flap
My heels tapped on the echoing marble of the lobby floor. I couldn't help a hasty glance down to make sure the black marker I'd used to cover up the last-minute nick in my good pumps had done its job. Yep. Unless somebody was really staring, I was golden. And thanks to the beauty of consignment stores, the rest of my outfit would pass muster, too. Maybe. Barely.
Note One. Be Positive.
I stepped into an open elevator and pushed the button for the 43rd floor. The elegant brushed-nickel doors whispered shut, and my stomach dropped as fast as the car ascended. It wasn't just the ride doing it to me, either.
One nervous hand ran over the waistband of my severe black skirt--simple and secondhand, but, like the jacket, Chanel all the same--making sure my white blouse--from Target--was still neatly tucked in. I wished the ride would take a little longer. We were already on 11, and I needed to breathe.
Note Two. Be Zen. I breathe with the universe.
Who was I kidding? I breathed like a panicked horse. All right, then, breathe like a less panicked horse.
My hands were sweating, and I fumbled in my purse for a tissue. Note Three. Wipe hands discreetly on skirt as approach Ms. Hiring Manager. Whose name I suddenly couldn't remember. Martine Devereaux. Martine Devereaux. Ms. Devereaux.
I wiped my hands, glanced up at the security cameras, and waved. Hi, guys. They were probably used to watching terrified job applicants trying to get it together on the elevator. Probably their big entertainment.
I still couldn't believe my luck. After all the resumes I'd sent out, met by a silence that had resonated all the way from midtown to my crummy apartment, I'd thought I'd be stuck working for Vincent forever. Submitting to his tirades, having him tell me how stupid I was, how clumsy I'd been every time he made a mistake. It couldn't be his fault, and there I was, available to take the blame, because I needed the job too much to quit, and I had nowhere else to go, and he knew it. And because I was little and blonde, and everybody loves pushing little blondes around. It's in the DNA or something.
No. A lifetime of Vincent wasn't happening. This was the turning point. It would be this, or it would be...something. I wasn't going to be stuck in this rut forever.
They all wanted somebody with a college degree, that was the problem. There was no place on their forms to explain that when other young women had been going to parties and studying for finals, I'd been taking care of other things. Or that I would work harder than anybody they could hire. I learn fast, and I never make the same mistake twice.
But if you can't meet them, you can't impress them. And once they see my associates degree--earned at night, one painfully-scratched-together semester's worth of tuition at a time--there goes my application, straight into the virtual trash.
Sometimes, I've wanted to go down to their offices and sit there until they see me. Just sit there, nice and polite, and refuse to leave. I'd been about to go for it when the call had come. Nothing to lose. The police wouldn't actually arrest you for being desperate enough to try a little too hard to get an interview, would they?
Probably. Next plan.
Well, that was then, and this was now. Because out of the blue, I had gotten the call. For a job I hadn't even applied for, an interview for the publicity department at Te Mana, a glamour position beyond my wildest dreams.
Why? Maybe I'd impressed somebody from the company at the shoot. Maybe they liked the way I crawled on the floor or fetched coffee or got yelled at. Hah. Or maybe Vincent wasn't so bad after all. Maybe he'd recommended me. Hah again. I'd told him I had a dentist appointment today. I wouldn't put it past him to ask to see the bill, either.
The elevator stopped on the 43rd floor, and my heart slammed against my chest. Because it was Hemi Te Mana himself getting in, his glance flicking over me just as it had the week before. A predatory glance, my wild imagination provided. Or a dismissive one, more likely. A little smile on his beautiful lips. He'd probably noticed my shoe. Rumor had it he noticed everything.
"You're here," he said, pushing the button for 51. "Looking forward to your interview?"
Oh, God. I was staring. At his shirt, open at the neck to reveal a triangle of smooth brown skin, glimpsed for a single glorious instant before he turned to stand beside me. Which gave me a great view of the perfectly tailored black suit jacket that clung to his broad shoulders and narrowed to his trim waist.
It took me a moment to register what he'd said, and not just because I was stunned to be standing beside him. It was the accent. I'd heard it in interviews as well as at the shoot, but all the same, the clipped tones and New Zealand vowels fell strangely on my ear. But there was nothing a bit strange about the low voice. As creamy as chocolate, as deep and rich as his skin. As hot as a New Zealand summer. Well, what I imagined a New Zealand summer would be.
"How did you know?" I asked, struggling to focus on what he'd said.
"I make it my business to know everything. Because it is my business."
The elevator came to a stop, the doors glided open, and he put a hand out to hold them. "Here you are."
"Thanks," I said. "Wish me luck." Then I could have kicked myself. Why was I talking to him like that? Like he was...anybody?
A faint smile warmed his brown eyes for just a moment, lightening his expression so he wasn't the cold, forbidding figure he'd seemed at the shoot, and then the mask had slipped back into place, and my heart was fluttering, beating out a fierce tattoo.
"I don't think you'll need luck," he told me. "I have a feeling you're going to knock them dead."
I stepped out, the doors closed again, and he was gone.