In Love With Lucy, страница 1
In Love with Lucy
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
Copyright Crystal W. Wilson 2014
Cover by Jena Brignola at Bibliophile Productions
Editing by Kerry Genova at Writer’s Resource
The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and trademarked owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction: Alka-Seltzer, Armani, Bunn, Keurig, Mercedes-Benz, Nutella
To T and A, who took the time to beta read this novella for me. I love working with you two ladies and not just because your initials stand for tits and ass.
Table of Contents
Titles by C.C. Wood
My hands shook as I rode the elevator up to the tenth floor at the end of my lunch hour. My meeting with the gallery owner had far surpassed my expectations and a date was set for my first showing, just over a month away. Davide was extremely impressed with my backlog of work and believed I easily had enough pieces on such short notice. If the showing was successful, I would finally be able to quit my job, something I had been looking forward to since my third week at Barden Business Solutions, when my boss, Christopher James Barden the Third, glowered at me for having the gall to ask what services the company offered.
Should I have done some research before applying for the administrative assistant position? Probably, but I hadn’t honestly thought I would get the job. I mean, I was a photographer with a degree in Fine Arts and the closest I came to office experience was the summer intern-slash-assistant job I’d had for a fashion photographer. I knew how to type, make coffee, and I was proficient at data entry, but I knew nothing about business.
It just happened to be my good (or bad, depending on how you looked at it) luck that Christopher James Barden the Third had a reputation for being a pain in the ass taskmaster who was impossible to please. If I had been a little more involved in the business world, I would have avoided this position like the plague.
Instead, I blithely strolled into his waiting area, introduced myself to the receptionist, and tried not to stare at the rumpled man propped up in the corner. I crossed my legs and decided to while away the time on my smartphone. Just as I clicked on the Facebook icon on my phone, the door to my left flew open, crashing against the wall, and a fresh-faced young woman ran out. I gaped at her as she passed. Her cheeks were bright red and tears streamed down her face.
I was still staring at her back when I heard a deep, rumbling voice.
“Ginny, who’s next?”
Slowly, I turned my head. Standing in the open doorway was one of the most beautiful men I had ever seen and, quite frankly, I saw more than a few during my internship with Marcus, a highly sought after fashion and celebrity photographer. Somehow I managed not to gawk, drool, or otherwise humiliate myself.
His eyes scanned the waiting area, landing first on the man in the wrinkled suit, who looked as though he were asleep, then moved to me. I froze under his scrutiny. His eyes were light blue and cold. As he examined me, they turned positively glacial.
My heart started racing and I had a pretty good idea why Little Miss Innocent had just bolted from his office in tears. That memory alone was enough to make me straighten my spine and tighten my jaw. Obviously, this guy got off on making others feel small.
Well, I wouldn’t allow him to do that to me. My mother always said that no one could make you feel badly about yourself unless you let them. No way in hell would he get to me. I met his gaze with a level stare of my own, even going so far as to arch an eyebrow at him.
I thought I saw a flush creep into his cheeks before he pointed at me and said, “You. Now,” and turned to disappear back into his office.
I glanced at the guy in the corner, noticing that he was indeed asleep, and then marched through the door.
Fully intending to politely tell him ‘thanks but no thanks’ in regard to the interview, I left the door open for a quick escape. I tried not to openly stare at the small, tastefully decorated modern office as I followed him through to another doorway.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t stop the gasp as we entered a much larger office with one wall made entirely of glass. It was impressive and gorgeous, just like the man that waited for me to enter before shutting the door behind me.
As he walked around to his desk, he gestured to the chair in front of me. “Please have a seat, Ms….”
“Daniels. Lucy Daniels,” I answered, remaining on my feet. “I think perhaps I’ve made a mistake–”
He shuffled through the files on his desk, then opened one. “Lucinda Daniels, twenty-six. I see here you have experience as an assistant to Marcus Flynn, the photographer.”
I nodded. “Yes, but I don’t think–”
He continued speaking without taking his eyes off the paper. “You graduated summa cum laude and you’ve done graduate work.” His eyes flicked back up to me. “Would you say you are a hard worker and a fast learner, Lucinda?”
“I am. Listen–”
“Good. When can you start? I really need someone immediately, but I can get by with a temp for a week or so if you need to provide your notice elsewhere.”
“Will you please stop interrupting me?” I snapped.
His eyebrows rose and he stared at me with unconcealed surprise. I could see that people didn’t often speak to him that way even though he’d given me every indication that he was an unbearable ass.
When he didn’t respond, I continued. “I think I made a mistake applying for this job. I can gather by the environment that I wouldn’t be a good fit.”
His eyebrows were no longer raised, but lowered as he scowled at me. “I don’t understand, Lucinda.”
“While I enjoy a challenge, Mr. Barden, I do not think I could work for someone who constantly interrupts me and has a talent for making young women cry.” I took a step back toward the door, trying not to laugh at the expression on his face. The most beautiful man I’d ever seen look confused and a little chastened. “Good luck finding a new assistant. I’ll see myself out.”
I turned and put my hand on the knob.
“I’ll pay you twenty-five percent more than the listed salary.”
I froze. That was quite a bit of money and almost double my current pay. Considering I had student loans out the eyeballs, I drove an unreliable, practically antique car, lived in a miniscule studio apartment and rarely had enough hot water to see me through my morning shower, it would make a huge difference in my quality of life. Rapidly, I considered my options, which were two.
First, I could tell him to take a flying leap and hang on t
I turned to face him, my mind made up.
“I’ll start tomorrow on two conditions,” I said.
If I didn’t know better, I could swear there was a gleam of amusement in his eyes, but I doubted much entertained Christopher James Barden the Third. “Continue,” he prompted.
“I expect you to treat me in a civilized manner. I won’t tolerate verbal abuse or constant rudeness, it’s uncalled for and might be the reason you are in desperate need of an assistant.” His eyebrows rose again, as though he couldn’t believe I was speaking to him like that, though he no longer looked angry. “In addition, do not call me Lucinda. I’ll answer to Lucy or Ms. Daniels.”
He rose from his chair, walked over to me, and put out his hand. “You have a deal. I don’t stand on formality, so you’ll call me Chris and I’ll call you Lucy.”
I put my hand in his, his calloused palm rough against mine, odd for a man who worked in an office all day. I would have wondered about the condition of his hand if it hadn’t been for the shockwave that ran up my arm and made every hair on the back of my neck stand on end.
As though he knew exactly what I was feeling, the arrogant man just stood there and smiled as I extricated my hand from his and tried not to look like I was running for my life as I left.
The elevator dinged, jerking me out of my reverie. That day had been almost three years ago and I’d regretted my decision ever since. The man was self-centered, sardonic, sexist, and stern. I smirked at my own alliteration. Despite the fact that he was gorgeous, he got on my last damn nerve. I could not wait to be rid of him.
I sipped champagne as I watched people mill about in the gallery. The turnout to my show was incredible. I couldn’t believe how many people were walking around, drinking cocktails, and discussing my photographs. All four of my girlfriends had planned to come, but it was still early and they hadn’t made it yet.
When I mentioned this to Davide, he just smiled serenely, “Darling, I know all the right people. You are going to be a star.” He drawled the last word.
I smiled and rolled my eyes. “I don’t care about being a star, Davide. I just want to be able to do what I love and still pay my bills. Oh, and buy sexy shoes.”
He sighed, looking disappointed. “Such mundane dreams, dear Lucy. It just won’t do.” He clucked his tongue. “Now, you look fabulous. Go mingle. Even if your work wasn’t top notch, you’re hot enough that every straight man here would buy a photo if he got a glance at you in that fantastic dress.”
I smoothed my hand down the sexy red strapless dress that clung to every curve. It had been a cast-off from a photo shoot I’d worked with Marcus four years ago. One of the few benefits of working for him. “Fine,” I huffed. “I’ll make nice, but, if some drunken hipster feels me up, I won’t hesitate to skewer his balls with my stiletto.”
Davide waved a hand. “Honey, you know it turns me on when you get all blood thirsty, and in that dress, I’d be disappointed if you didn’t.”
I jumped, almost dropping my champagne flute, as the deep voice murmured right next to my ear and the large hand slid around me to rest on the side of my waist. Shocked, I looked up into the brilliant blue eyes of my boss, Christopher James Barden. The. Fucking. Third.
“Chris!” I squeaked. “What are you doing here?”
He frowned at me. “What kind of boss would I be if I didn’t come to your showing?”
“A good one,” I muttered under my breath as I sipped my drink.
I smiled brightly. “Thank you for coming.” I tried to step away without being obvious about it, but he just followed me, his arm tightening around my waist. “Um, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go mingle.”
“No, you need to introduce me,” Davide interrupted.
Shit. He sounded curious. I glanced at him and saw the interested gleam in his eyes. Not only was he curious, he thought Chris was cute. My perfect evening was disintegrating before my very eyes.
“Davide, this is Christopher James Barden the Third, CEO of Barden Business Solutions.” I looked at Chris. “Chris, Davide owns this gallery and put together the exhibition of my work.” I made sure my eyes communicated how badly I could fuck up his entire life if he acted like an asshat.
Chris smiled at me, then Davide, and I swear I heard the other man sigh dreamily. Another one bites the dust. One glimpse of the Barden megawatt grin and most people were toast. Too bad that Chris didn’t use the smile more than his disapproval.
“A pleasure meeting you, Davide,” my boss said, extending his free hand.
Hoping he was distracted enough for me to make a quick getaway, I managed to escape the clasp of his arm and put two feet of space between us.
I looked at Davide. “Why don’t you walk Chris through the series while I go chat up guests?”
The thrilled look on my friend’s face told me that I wouldn’t have to ask twice. “Of course, of course.” He made shooing motions with his hands. “You go sell some photographs with that sexy red dress. I’ll make sure that Mr. Barden is well taken care of.”
I smirked at Chris over Davide’s shoulder and gave him a little finger wave before sauntering off into the crush. After I ditched my pain in the ass boss, I snagged a fresh glass of champagne from the tray of a passing waiter and replaced it with my empty one. Sipping the delicious sparkling wine, I sashayed to one of the exhibits and struck up a conversation with several men who were standing in front of the piece.
I worked my way through the crowd, talking to men and women of all ages. I answered questions, flirted, debated, and laughed for close to an hour before two arms wrapped around my waist, lifting me off my feet.
I squealed loudly, trying to twist out of the strong grip. When my feet hit the floor, I whirled around and looked up into the face of Marcus Flynn and squealed again, throwing both arms around his neck.
“You came,” I cried, hugging him tightly.
His sinewy arms crushed me in a huge bear hug. “Of course I did. It’s not every day the best assistant I’ve ever had has her very own showing.” His gravelly voice was deep and loud, drawing even more attention to us than my cries had.
I kissed both his cheeks twice. Before I could pull away, one of his hands snaked up to hold my head still so he could plant a hard, close-mouthed kiss right on my mouth. I laughed and shoved him away playfully.
“No stealing kisses, naughty boy,” I chided.
Marcus grinned at me. “How else am I going to get sugar from you?”
I linked my arm through his. “All you have to do is ask,” I answered cheekily.
He threw his head back and laughed. “I know you better than that, Lucy. I’d need a suit of armor and a big ass spear to get more than a stolen kiss from you.” He grabbed my glass of champagne and tossed it back.
It was my turn to giggle. “True, your spear always has been a little small for my taste.” The free-flowing wine had loosened my tongue and lowered my inhibitions.
Marcus choked and started coughing. I smacked him on the back vigorously.
“You okay?” I asked.
His eyes were watering as he cleared his throat. “I can’t believe I forgot how quick witted you are. That was a good one, Luce.”
I grinned and winked at him. Before I could ask him if he’d seen the photographs, I felt someone move up beside me and a hard arm wrap around my waist. His hand splayed low on my hip, holding me the way a lover, not an employer, might. I recognized my boss’s cologne before I even looked up.
Trying to ignore the way the skin of my hip burned under his touch, I looked up. “Hi, Chris. Enjoying the showing?” I pulled away slightly, trying to put some distance between us, but he plaster
I scowled up at him. What in the hell was his problem? He was acting like a jealous boyfriend rather than my boss. Then again, he was a bit of a stick in the mud. From the disapproving expression on his face, I hazarded a guess that he didn’t like the way Marcus and I had been carrying on. Probably not befitting of a Barden Business Solutions employee. Well, that was tough shit. I had sold every single damn photograph in the show. Between the money I earned that night and my now substantial savings, I had enough money to live comfortably for close to a year and I was no longer in need of my current job.
“Who’s this, Luce?” Marcus asked, breaking my train of thought.
I looked at him and smiled. “This is my boss, Christopher James Barden the Third. I’m his assistant at Barden Business Solutions.”
Marcus’ eyebrows rose in surprise. “You’re working as an assistant?”
I nodded. “Not all of us photograph the rich and famous, Marcus.”
“Hell, why didn’t you call me? I’m always in need of a good assistant.”
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah and I’m more in need of my sanity. The only reason I survived my internship with you is because I knew it was short term. You’re harder to work for than Chris.” I cut off abruptly. Shit, I hadn’t meant to say that. It was all that damn champagne.
Marcus roared with laughter. “That is true. You actually lasted the entire summer. Most of my interns quit within a couple of weeks.”
Chris interrupted us, leaning forward to offer Marcus his hand. “You must be Marcus Flynn.”
Marcus grabbed his hand and shook it firmly, looking Chris over, sizing him up. “I am. Pleasure to meet you, Christopher James Barden the Third.”
“Please, call me Chris,” my boss said.
I watched in confusion as they continued to hold hands. Since he was wearing a short sleeved shirt, I noticed Marcus’ forearm suddenly flex. My boss stiffened next to me. Then it hit me. They were having a freaking pissing match. Considering that Marcus often hauled heavy camera equipment and lifted weights four or five times a week, I figured he would prevail.