on February 13, 2015
Genres: Contemporary RS
Living in Manhattan and working at Virago, one of the most successful women’s magazines in the nation is a dream come true for Lindsay Pinke. After five years of being overworked and underpaid in the research department, she’s finally noticed by Colette Duarte, the provocative executive editor of the magazine. She offers Lindsay the coveted role as her personal assistant, but first she must prove she’s worthy of the position. Lindsay must interview Victoria Nox, the elusive and extremely private CEO of Nox Media Holdings. If Lindsay succeeds, Colette promises her great things for her publishing career. If Lindsay fails, her chance as a respected writer will be cut short.
A chance meeting with Victoria at a high class function puts into motion a series of events that leaves Lindsay blindsided by her strong physical reaction to the magnetic but foreboding woman. When Lindsay unwittingly falls into Victoria’s world of dark temptations and complex entanglements, she leans the shocking truth Victoria hides about Colette that rocks Lindsay to her very core.
Now that Lindsay has become a balm on Victoria's soul, is she strong enough to help Victoria confront her shameful past, and stop one woman's sick games once and for all?
Excerpt: The first time our heroine, Lindsay meets the mysterious Victoria Nox….
Victoria Nox reminded me of a queen staring down at her subjects. She wore a floor length navy evening dress with a long slit up the right side of her leg. Her hair was piled high on top of her head. Her ears were bare, but she wore a pearl necklace and a matching pearl bracelet on her right wrist. A slight curl to her upper lip matched her severe expression.
I wanted to look away but I couldn’t. Her austere poise came naturally, as if engrained into her. But the depths I sought in her eyes showed a wearisome burden.
I regained my composure and stood tall, the long waves of my hair, brushing the slope of my back, almost like a caress as I displayed myself to her view. She curled her hand around her throat and licked her lips, the chandelier overhead giving them a shine.
I had never had such a visceral reaction to another person before. I backed away, blinking, finally breaking the hold she had over me.
She stared past me and a sour frown marred her face.
I jerked when Colette pressed her face to mine, her breath warm under my ear. “This is the chance you’ve been waiting for. Go for it.” She nudged me toward the stairs and then walked away with Mr. Carlisle down the hall.
I peered back up at the spot where I first had spotted Victoria. She was gone.
I didn’t search for Victoria right away. I was still shaken by my reaction to the woman in the provocative dress that had me swoon just by thinking about it. I needed a moment to myself, before I gained the courage to talk to the alluring woman.
I grabbed another drink and went inside the auction room. A small stage had been set up near the front, and rows of chairs filled the middle. Baskets and cards on tables lined the walls. People inspected the baskets overflowing with expensive items, decorated with bows or bright ribbons. Most jotted down a number with many zeroes on the paper in front of the baskets indicating how much they were willing to pay in order to claim the pricey items. Some baskets displayed beautiful jewelry or high-end makeup and perfume. Some showcased pictures of expensive cars. One basket even had a yacht up for grabs.
The basket I liked the most was a month-long stay at a villa in Italy. It had always been my dream to go to Europe. But my lack of savings stopped my dream from coming true.
I checked the last bid and whistled. “The only way I can afford this trip is if I sell my soul or give up my first born,” I mumbled and gulped down the rest of my drink.
“What’s the going rate for your soul and future first born?” A woman with a slightly sardonic tone asked right behind me.
“Way too much.” I shifted to the side to allow the woman to check out the basket.
“Some here are willing to give up their souls for no money at all,” the woman replied with more of a bite in her voice.
I took a deep breath and faced Victoria Nox.
“Um, hi,” I said, and waved.
The way she scanned my face, with what I could only describe as loathing, made my stomach flip, but not in a good way. She was one unhappy woman.
“You don’t belong here.”
I pitched back, not accustomed to such anger. She acted like I had offended her in some way.
“I belong here as much as you do. I was invited.”
“You came with Colette.” She gave me some space, and I swore she shuddered.
“Yes, she’s my boss.” This was what I’d been waiting for, even though the tension coming off this woman made me want to hightail it from the room. “I’m Lindsay Pinke, her new personal assistant, but it hasn’t been made official—”
“They keep getting younger,” she said, as if I wasn’t standing right in front of her.
This wasn’t the kind of interaction I’d expected. Was Victoria having a bad day or was she always this rude? Maybe I had offended her with my selling my soul or my first born comment. What if she donated the prize? That must be it!
“If you donated the trip to Italy, I didn’t mean to be rude. I was joking. I’m sorry if my comment upset you,” I said, hoping my apology would mollify her anger.
“I’m not upset because of that.” Her face was void of any emotion, including her animosity toward me, but her stare turned more penetrating, as if she were trying to look straight inside me for answers.
“Rough day then? You should have a drink. The champagne is delicious.” I shook my half-empty glass.
Her lips twitched and a smile almost appeared. “Are you really this clueless?”
Now that stung. I had a feeling speaking with her would be uncomfortable, but I wasn’t expecting such unpleasantness. I must have really rubbed her the wrong way. If she was going to continue insulting me, I wasn’t going to take it, no matter how much I wanted the assistant job.
“Why do you think I’m clueless? You don’t know anything about me.”
Her eyes lit up but there wasn’t any warmth in them. “Colette always has a new girl do her dirty work for her. How old are you, baby?”
I set the glass down before I threw the rest of my drink in her face. ‘Baby’ wasn’t used as a term of endearment here. But I wouldn’t lose my temper or walk away defeated by this condescending woman who acted as if the entire world should bow down to her.
“I’m only seven years younger than you, so calling me an infant is ridiculous, don’t you think, Miss Nox?” I folded my arms behind my back but I lost the grip on my purse and it fell to the floor. Everything inside tumbled out.
Shoot. I bent down to retrieve my things, wishing the ground would swallow me up. At least I didn’t carry anything embarrassing like tampons, but a small scrap paper I had jotted some notes on landed on top of Victoria’s feet. She snatched the paper and scanned it with a critical eye.
I rose to my feet, waiting for her to mock me over what I had written. Instead, humor flashed across her face.
“You wrote down various ways to introduce yourself to me?” she asked, perplexed.
Shrugging, I held out my hand for the paper. “You’re my first high profile interview. I wanted to be prepared.”
She didn’t give back the paper. She folded it into a neat square and slipped it inside her small bag. She then revealed a glossy square. “Take it.”
I took the card. It was a business card with her title and phone number and address to her office.
“Why did you give me your card?” I asked, utterly confused.
“I’m curious why Colette chose you this time.”
“This time?” I shook my head, not understanding at all.
Victoria stepped forward. I shifted back against the wall, feeling slightly claustrophobic as she invaded my space, almost towering over me. If I lowered my face, my nose would touch the top of her breasts. From my current view, she used those to her advantage.
“She throws her writers at me all the time. They think they’ll catch their big break if they interview me for her stupid magazine.”
Her bitter sounding snicker gave me goose bumps, but not in a good way. Still, I remained frozen, watching her chest rise with each breath she took.
“You’re not like the others. You’re too unsophisticated and untouched by the real world. So, I’m going to throw you a bone. Meet me at my office on Monday morning at nine. If you’re more than a minute late, our talk will be over even before it can begin.”
“When you mean ‘talk,’ you mean an official interview, right?” I asked, breathless and a little overheated.
“We’ll see how it goes.”
She stepped back, allowing me to catch my breath. I wasn’t one for confrontation, and this one tested my limits and then some. But I’d made headway with this haughty woman, who stared at me with a combination of puzzlement and animosity.
She lowered her gaze to my feet. A small, but mocking smile appeared. “Next time choose a softer color for your nails. The color doesn’t suit you, Miss Pinky. It’s too garish for your skin tone.”
“It’s Pink with a silent ‘e’,” I said, flexing my toes.
She didn’t respond. She twisted on her heel without a goodbye and left the room.
Before I collapsed from the tension in my lower back and knees, I used the wall for support, overcome with dizziness. I hurried through the crowd of people to find the bathroom before I had an accident. Then I’d clap myself on the back for my victory.
A victory that left me completely flustered.