Good morning - here's the second half of Chapter 1. I hope you enjoy it!!!
Here's the link for the first part of Chapter 1 from last week, if you need a refresher on where we left things.
Kat Owens took in the scene surrounding her.
This is it.
Her new life. A new town, new job, new friends, new everything. All for the opportunity of becoming Vice President of Client Services for Sinclair Marketing Group. Funny, but standing within striking range of the ladder’s top rung didn’t feel like she’d thought it would. Somehow she’d pictured herself being light as a feather and floating on air. Not weighted down and miserable.
Maybe it was the stuffy clothes and uncomfortable shoes. Maybe it was the pantyhose cutting her lu-lu in half—it was difficult to feel light and airy when important body parts were at risk of permanent damage.
It might be those things, but deep in her heart she knew it was more than all of that.
She looked around at the various mix of agency staff, clients and vendors. All of them here for the supposed purpose of celebrating SMG’s move into their new offices. It looked nice, neat and polite on the surface. Regular people playing nicely, shaking hands, telling jokes and laughing. Sharing a few—but not too many—personal stories.
But if one looked at these interactions with a microscope, they’d see the ugly truth of advertising life. She supposed all businesses were competitive and cutthroat, but few reached the pinnacle of advertising. In advertising, your best friend would set you up, cut you down and steal your job. That was tough to beat.
Sure, handshakes and nice-to-meet-ya’s took place in most polite circles. But not much about this job included any real sincerity or concern for the people you met.
It was all about getting what you wanted, and to hell with everyone else.
The hardest part of her job was the suck-up-ass-kissing required to get and keep an account. That’s where the laughing and joke telling came in. And the personal stories…those were told to prove you were a human being. Sometimes in this business it was difficult to know for sure.
Right now, she wanted nothing more than to go home, shed the office armor and crawl into bed. But as the future VP of Client Services, it was critical she familiarize herself with all the agency’s clients. This event had coincided perfectly with her move to the agency, giving her the opportunity to meet most of the clients in one fell swoop. So, until the last guest had had their fill of food and drink and headed out the door, she was stuck.
Rusty Sinclair, President of Sinclair Marketing Group, had spared no expense in throwing this open house celebration to show off his pride and joy—the restored Victorian that now housed the offices for SMG.
And nowhere was it more evident than in the overflowing food tables. Shrimp, every colored vegetable known to man, stuffed mushrooms, meatballs and fruit galore sat awaiting a taker. What appealed to her most were the chocolate-covered strawberries. Actually, it was the chocolate that had her mouth watering, but she couldn’t run her finger along the inside of the bowl and scoop out the chocolate, so she had to take the strawberries too.
Since leaving this shindig wasn’t an option, she’d have to settle for a few quiet moments in a secluded corner. She wanted to shed the high heels, relax her face muscles before the pasted-on smile became permanent, take a few deep breaths and grab a quick bite to eat.
She picked a few of the larger berries—because they held more chocolate—and stacked them on her small plate. Settling into an empty corner of the conference room, she kicked off her shoes and sagged in relief against the wall. She picked up a berry, licked her lips, then slid the fruit into her watering mouth. Her eyes drifted shut as she savored the mixture of sweet, smooth chocolate and tart strawberry.
However, her moment of delectable bliss was short lived, as the hair on the back of her neck prickled. She’d had the strangest sensation for the past thirty minutes of being watched, and the feeling was too strong now to ignore.
She grabbed another berry and casually scanned the crowd. She’d just bitten down, once again enjoying the near-orgasmic feeling of the thick chocolate rolling across her tongue, when she stumbled across a brilliant blue gaze boring straight into her.
Oh. My. God.
Her heart skipped a few beats, and her stomach plummeted. Startled, she gasped. Chocolate and strawberry juice shot to the back of her throat, and she started to choke. She yanked the stem from her mouth, stifled the coughing as best as she could, then grabbed her glass of water. After a few sips she had the coughing under control, her heart rate had slowed and her breathing was somewhat normal.
What she wouldn’t give to convince herself it wasn’t him. But she’d never forget or mistake those eyes. She saw them every night in her dreams, and often in daydreams. Even on a cellular level her body recognized them, and everything feminine within her screamed and responded.
Maybe he doesn’t recognize me.
Just because she’d spent the last thirteen months reliving every second of their incredible night together didn’t mean he had. However, as she flicked her gaze back to him, that tiny fragment of hope slipped away and was replaced with dismay. The million-watt smile that had played so easily on his mouth the night they’d met was gone, a severe scowl taking its place.
Oh yeah, he recognized her. And he was pissed.
She didn’t know which was worse. Him not recognizing her, or him recognizing her and not being happy to see her. A heavy sadness settled over her as she dropped her gaze to the floor, righted her shoes and slipped her feet into them.
What’s a girl gotta do to catch a freakin’ break?
The last two weeks had been hell. Between quitting her old job—the only job she’d known since college—packing her apartment in a heated rush, and moving from Charlotte to the small, coastal North Carolina town of Riverside—where she didn’t know anyone besides her new boss—she was operating on a tightly stretched rope. And at this moment, she heard the faint tearing as a few more strands unraveled and gave way.
She spotted Maggie and Seth, two of her coworkers, talking with a sales rep from a local radio station. Needing to know Erik’s association with the agency, she casually strolled in their direction. If luck was on her side she’d find that no one knew him. He’d be a lost soul who had wandered into the wrong party.
She slipped into a space between Seth, the very talented and very gay art director, and Maggie, the equally talented and very northern copywriter. She patiently waited and when the opportunity presented itself, said, “I think I’ve met almost everyone. But there is one gentleman I haven’t had a chance to meet yet. I wondered if anyone could tell me who he is.”
“I’m sure between all of us,” Maggie said, gesturing to the three of them, “we know everyone here. Riverside’s not that big a place.”
“I don’t want to turn around and be obvious, but he was standing with Elise a minute ago. Around six feet tall, dark hair that’s kind of curly and unruly—”
“Rock-star stubble covering a strong jaw line and gorgeous blue eyes?”
Kat bit her bottom lip and cut her eyes to Seth, shocked by his astute and detailed description of Erik. Seth didn’t hide his sexual orientation, but never had his excessive gayness been more evident.
“Damn, Seth,” Maggie said, sounding in awe. “I didn’t know even men thought Erik was hot.”
Seth looked offended. “Why the hell not? He’s one of the hottest men ever. And every gay man in town has a goal of being the one who turns him.”
Kat burst out laughing, then threw her hand over her mouth. Erik was as hetero as they came, and there wasn’t a chance in hell of turning him. Thank God.
Sexual genius like his couldn’t possibly play both sides of the fence, and what a shame it would be for womankind if he did. He had long fingers and strong, capable hands. She’d expected the jagged scars on his palms—the ones he refused to talk about—to be rough, like calluses. But his touch was soft, and he knew exactly where, when and how to stroke a woman’s body to elicit sensations and feelings never before discovered.
At least that was what he’d done to her. Just thinking about it caused the hammering in her chest to increase and her breathing to grow shallow.
Get a grip. Now was not the time to remember or react. Bothersome information had been revealed—Erik was an equal-opportunity sex magnet—and she still didn’t know his relationship to the agency. “Who is he? Is he a client?”
“His name is Erik Monteague,” Maggie said. “His family owns Monteague Boats. They’re a client—”
Damn, damn, damn.
“—actually one of our larger clients, and he’s our contact.”
“Mmm…hmm… And don’t I wish we had more contact.” Seth had taken on the stereotypical gay man pose—hip cocked to the side, one arm crossed over his stomach while the other arm held a glass of wine to his lips. His eyes were hooded and appreciative as he stared at Erik.
“Life offers few guarantees, Seth, but one thing I can guarantee is that you’ll never have that opportunity,” Cara, the radio station rep, jumped in. Turning her attention to Kat, she explained. “Erik’s pretty wild and crazy. And he loves the ladies.” The last was said directly to Seth, emphasizing the point that he lived in a dream world that would never, ever come to fruition.
While Cara’s words were intended to make a point to Seth, they settled in Kat’s gut like a heavy weight. The night she’d met Erik, she’d suspected one-night stands were a way of life for him. That had been part of the reason she’d left like she had. But knowing that, and hearing details of his sex-capades, were two different things entirely.
Jealous feelings were ridiculous and immature. She’d been lucky enough to have the experience of one night with Erik. The memories were hers forever, and she could pull them out from time to time and relive the passion they’d shared.
But now would not be a good time to walk down memory lane. The whole situation was surreal and like bad déjà vu. What would happen to her job if anyone found out she’d slept with Erik? Even though their night hadn’t involved a whole lot of sleep.
It was before you took this job—relax.
She couldn’t relax, not when the past rushed at her like an out of control freight train on a course destined to crash. No way would she let another promotion slip away because of a lapse in judgment. She’d just have to remind him what happened at her last job and ask him to keep their night together private.
But that made it sound like she was ashamed or regretted it. She was sure to him it had been just another one-night stand, but to her it had been more. Much more. And she didn’t like the idea of lessening it by treating it as a dirty secret.
“His nickname is ‘The Full Monty,’” Cara said, interrupting her thoughts. “No one works harder than Erik. But he plays equally hard. He’s wild and untamed. Many have tried, but most believe he’ll never settle down.”
Kat studied Cara’s expression. She wondered if she was being warned off of Erik for her sake, or if Cara had personal motives for warning Kat away from him. Whichever, it didn’t matter. Erik was off-limits regardless of his settling-down tendencies.
“You said the name of his company is Monteague Boats?”
Kat did a quick mental rundown of the client list Rusty had passed on to her. That name didn’t ring a bell, and she felt confident if she’d seen it listed anywhere she would’ve taken notice. She’d known Erik’s last name and that he lived somewhere along the North Carolina coast. And although his name hadn’t been what she’d spent the majority of her time remembering, she was certain it would have caught her attention had she come across it on her client list.
At least that was a small consolation. Even though he was a client of the agency, he wasn’t one of her personal clients. Therefore, she wouldn’t have to see him on a regular basis. He might even be one of those clients who did everything by e-mail and fax, and then she wouldn’t have to see him at all.
She thanked the trio for their information and excused herself. After that near freak-out she needed fresh air. Hopefully she could slip out, unnoticed, into the backyard garden for a few minutes and regroup before diving back into the fray.
I'm working on the video - actually, I'm really hoping and praying I'm able to retrieve it from an external hard drive. I'll get up here for you guys to see first, before I put it up anywhere else. Hopefully it'll be at the beginning of the week, since Savin' Me releases on Wednesday!
I hope it's a great weekend for everyone. Our weather is supposed to get a little warmer and that makes me a very happy person. Hope the weather where ever you are cooperates, as well!
Peace and love,