Harlequin Presents - November 2013
© By Lucy Monroe
RELEASE DAY THIS FRIDAY! (November 1)
Excerpt from Chapter 1Palms sweaty, heart beating faster than a rock drummer’s solo, Audrey stood outside Vincenzo Tomasi’s office.
Was she really going to do this?
She’d spent the last three nights tossing and turning, her brother’s future and Mr. Tomasi’s outrageous plan vying for attention in her brain. Somewhere in the wee hours of that morning, she’d come up with a pretty brash plan of her own.
Unquestionably risky, nevertheless if it worked, she could give her brother the best Christmas gift ever. The realization of the dream he’d worked so hard for.
Going through with it could also result in her immediate dismissal.
But despite the lessons of the past six years, or maybe even because of them, she had hope. She and Toby had made it this far when their parents had been sure they would crash and burn, both returning to the family fold repentant and willing to toe the line.
They’d said as much when she’d gone to them to ask for help for Toby’s schooling.
So hope burned hot in her heart.
Hope that maybe fate had smiled on her and Toby for once. That maybe destiny had put Audrey in that bathroom stall at just the right time to overhear the conversation between Gloria and the other senior support staff member.
Hope that maybe Audrey could make a difference, not only in her own life and that of her brother, but for two orphaned children. Maybe she could give them the kind of loving upbringing she’d longed for, the kind that their uncle clearly wanted for them.
It was insane. This plan of hers. No arguing that. And probably, Mr. Tomasi was going to laugh her out of his office, but Audrey had to try.
If for no other reason than to impart to him just how easily his scheme could end up backfiring and hurting the children he was so obviously trying to protect.
Audrey had considered long and hard about whether to approach Gloria first or Mr. Tomasi directly, but eventually she realize she didn’t have a choice. Not if she wanted to give her crazy, dangerous plan a chance of succeeding.
Approaching Gloria meant giving the PAA the chance to turn Audrey down before Mr. Tomasi even heard about her. She couldn’t let that happen.
Audrey couldn’t ignore the semi-public nature of the discussion in the bathroom either. After that lack of prudence on Gloria’s part in keeping her boss’ information private, Audrey had no confidence in anything like real discretion on her own behalf.
After all, Gloria’s loyalty to her employer was legendary. She had no such allegiance to Audrey and even less impetus to keep Audrey’s brazen suggestion to herself.
So, Audrey had to figure out a way to see the CEO without his PAA present. It wasn’t as hard for her as it might be for someone else who hadn’t spent the last four years fixated in hopeless fascination on the man who owned the company where she made her living.
She’d seen pictures of him before transferring to the company headquarters from the bank, but the first time Audrey had caught a glimpse of the gorgeous, driven man herself? She’d stopped breathing and that part of her that used to dream became captivated.
She watched, paid attention to everything she heard about the CEO. And every fantasy between wakefulness and dreaming Audrey’d had in the last four years had starred Vincenzo Angilu Tomasi.
Her hand froze on the door handle as she had the sick worry that maybe this plan of hers was just another one of those.
Only she fulfilled every single one of the requirements the PAA had said Mr. Tomasi had for the job candidates. Even so, Audrey was fairly certain Mr. Tomasi was in no way expecting an applicant from the lower floor offices of his own building.
While she’d been born into a family that were themselves considered high society, Audrey couldn’t begin to lay claim to that now either. She’d attended Barnard for three years, but her degree was from SUNY and the only one of her friends from those days who still kept Audrey in her orbit was Liz.
The roommate who had saved Toby’s life.
Besides, while Mr. Tomasi might not want a super model like his dead sister-in-law Johana for the position, he probably wasn’t interested in a woman as average as Audrey.
Her long hair the color of chestnuts was several shades lighter than his more exotic espresso brown and arrow straight besides. While the drop-dead gorgeous CEO had Mediterranean blue eyes, an exciting and unexpected combination with his almost black hair color, Audrey’s were the same chocolate brown as her brother.
And they didn’t shine with Toby’s zest for life either. The responsibilities and work of her adulthood had taken that from her.
She was average in height as well, with curves that weren’t going to make any man stop and do a double-take. Not like the six-foot-four inch corporate king, who looked more like an action movie hero than a CEO.
Audrey knew she wasn’t the first or last woman to fall for him at first sight.
He didn’t need to settle for average.
Oh, crap. All she was doing was psyching herself out and that wasn’t going to help. Not at all. Either she was going to do this, or she wasn’t.
Okay, so she had a crush on the man. So, sue her. She wasn’t applying for the position because of it.
She was here because she wanted to make life better for three children who deserved something better than the hand dealt to them. Her brother might be eighteen, but he was still her child in every way that counted. Even if he didn’t see things that way.
For his sake, and that of the little ones, Audrey had no choice but to take this chance.
Taking a deep breath, she pushed the door open to Mr. Tomasi’s office without knocking.
He was sitting behind his desk, reading some papers spread out in front of him.
“I thought you weren’t going to be back for another thirty minutes,” he said without looking up from the papers, clearly believing the intruder in his office was his PAA.
Just the sound of his voice made her breath freeze in her chest and it impossible to speak.
His head came up when his comment was met with silence. At first, his eyes widened in surprised confusion and then narrowed. “It is customary to knock before entering to office of your CEO.”
Funny, he had no doubt she was an employee, not a client or business associate.
“My name...” She had to stop and swallow to wet her very dry throat. “My name is Audrey Miller, Mr. Tomasi and I’m here to apply for a position with you.”