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About the author:
After a successful fifteen-year career with various New York publishing houses, and over 40 sexy contemporary romance novels published, N.Y. Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Carly Phillips is now an Indie author who writes to her own expectations and that of her readers. She continues the tradition of hot men and strong women and plans to publish many more sizzling stories. Carly lives in Purchase, NY with her family, two nearly adult daughters and two crazy dogs who star on her Facebook Fan Page and website. She's a writer, a knitter of sorts, a wife, and a mom. In addition, she's a Twitter and Internet junkie and is always around to interact with her readers.
What inspired you to write your book?
Here is a short sample from the book:
Even with the anxiety over her first day of work at her new job looming, Lexie Parker still took the time to count out the brightly colored pills and filled the plastic holder, labeled by individual days and divided by a.m. and p.m. doses. She separated each medication and double-checked the dose on the list provided to her by her sister’s doctor. In a separate pill holder, she included a daily dose of antianxiety medication, also doctor-prescribed and approved.
She clicked each holder shut tight, then left the plastic containers next to the cookie jar in the kitchen for her sister, along with ten dollars for coffee and breakfast downstairs at the market on the corner. Any extra change would probably be hoarded for shopping, but she’d accepted that particular vice. As long as she could keep Kendall on her meds, Lexie could breathe more easily. Her sister might not appreciate the effort, but Lexie knew, if not for her, the psych ward was waiting. Again.
Her sister’s dog, Waffles, a small terrier mix she’d adopted during one of her manic phases, jumped up and down, begging for a treat.
“No. You just had breakfast, you piggy,” Lexie said, bending to pat the tan fluffy dog on the head. “You’re on a diet.” Her sister tended to overfeed him, when she remembered to feed him at all.
Lexie ticked off her list of morning chores, satisfied she’d remembered everything before sparing a glance at the second bedroom in her apartment—paid for with her father’s money. His way of showing gratitude for her sacrifice. She’d lost her last job because she’d been too busy looking after Kendall during her last depressive episode. The one that had landed her in Shady Oaks.
Lexie hated accepting her parents’ money, but she’d been unemployed and out of options, and they’d leased this apartment for them a few months ago. After her sister’s doctor had agreed to release her following a two-week stay in the psych ward, as long as she lived with someone who could keep an eye on her. Though her parents had a huge home on Long Island, Lexie had taken the burden off of them and agreed to the new living arrangement.
After all, Kendall was her twin. And her father had his hands full with her mother, who suffered from severe depression. Yes, her family had fantastic genes. Lexie always feared she was one bad mood away from falling prey to the same demons that consumed her mother and sister.
Lexie rushed into her room to get ready for her first day at her new job. The position wasn’t glamorous. She’d been hired on as a personal assistant to a software mogul whose company her father was investing in. Her employment was a favor, since she didn’t have a glowing letter of recommendation from her last job.
Her dreams of working in a PR agency in Manhattan had disappeared when she transferred to a local college not long after her sister had returned home following her first breakdown. Lexie had taken classes and finished her degree but wasn’t able to build a career that lasted. Life was always busy, and her twin’s periods of stability weren’t long enough.
Despite her busy morning routine, Lexie couldn’t afford to be late. She’d read the online write-ups on Kaden Barnes, software billionaire whose company was giving Snapchat a run for the money. Kaden was the financial guru behind the business, and if his partners were to be believed, he couldn’t keep a personal assistant because he was too difficult to work for.
She wasn’t worried … much. The one thing Lexie was good at was keeping other people organized and ignoring frustrating personalities. She was sure she could deal with the stuffy billionaire with a stick up his ass.
She dressed in her best skirt and blouse, chose a pair of heels she could walk in without too much pain, picked up her purse, and started for the door.
“Lexie!” Kendall called, yanking her door open and rushing into the room. “I had the best idea for a job. What if I board dogs?” she asked, scooping Waffles into her arms. “You want playmates, don’t you?” she asked, nuzzling the pup’s fur.
Drawing a deep breath, Lexie turned. “We aren’t allowed more than one pet in this building, so I’m afraid you’ll have to keep thinking. I have to get to work, so we’ll talk later. Your meds are on the counter and so is money for lunch.”
“God dammit, you’re not my mother. I’m twenty-eight years old! I don’t need a babysitter,” she exploded. She bent and placed the dog on the floor, then glared at Lexie.
No, the meds hadn’t calibrated correctly yet, she thought, trying her best to maintain her composure. When Kendall was level-headed, she appreciated Lexie’s efforts at helping.
Ignoring her outburst, otherwise she’d end up engaged in a full-on war of words, which was what her sister wanted, she waved good-bye. “See you later!” she said and rushed out the door.
Unfortunately, when she reached the ground level and exit and opened the door to the street, rain sprinkled down just as the bus she planned on taking pulled up to the corner.
There was no time to run back upstairs for an umbrella, so she braved the rain and hoped she didn’t look like a drowned rat by the time she arrived at her new job.
* * *
Kaden Barnes walked out of yet another unproductive settlement meeting, his business partners, Derek West and Lucas Monroe, by his side. He exited into an early-morning drizzle. From the wet look of the ground, the skies had opened up while they were indoors, and his foot hit a puddle before he climbed into the waiting Town Car.
Fucking swell. This day was just fantastic already, and it was barely nine a.m. Julian Dane, their former friend, was suing them for a piece of their company and a huge chunk of money. Today’s plan had been to set the meeting early, intending to catch him at a weak moment, when he wouldn’t be as focused and ready to talk terms. The bastard trying to steal a piece of their empire had a problem with partying and a bigger issue with drugs. As they all knew from experience, mornings were rough on him.
Unfortunately, all the power plays in the world didn’t matter. According to their attorney, because Julian had been there during the initial design phase, they’d have to come up with some kind of settlement if they wanted this mess to go away. In Kade’s book, any acknowledgment of Julian’s supposed hand in the creation of the Blink app was a loss. And Kade didn’t like to lose.
He remained silent on the ride downtown to their Soho offices while Derek and Lucas talked about potential offers Julian might accept. Kade was still brewing on that. The man had a cocaine problem. Money would probably be the most welcome solution. Lord knew he hadn’t been interested in rehab when offered, and no way in hell would they give him a stake in the company.
“You could have shaved for this meeting,” Derek said as they exited the car a little while later.
Lucas slammed the door behind them and laughed. The asshole.
Kade shrugged. “I wore a suit. You can’t have everything.”
They’d agreed to dress like the adults they were, not the tee-shirt-wearing juveniles they preferred to be, in order to let Julian know he wouldn’t be walking all over them. They were taking his lawsuit seriously—because if it dragged out and ended up in court, their company valuation would be impacted. They couldn’t afford to let that happen, and Julian knew it. Which meant he had the upper hand.
Still stewing over that fact, Kade followed the others into the elevator. He hit the button for the top floor, heading up to the area above the workspace they shared with employees. The offices were housed in a newly renovated garage.
He strode past the abstract paintings surrounded by steel beams toward his private office and stepped inside. The wall-to-wall windows provided him with a full view of the gloomy rain that matched his mood. All he wanted was to hole up at his desk and work on the funding. No distractions, no bothersome annoyances, no—
“Good morning, Mr. Barnes,” a chipper voice said, popping up from beneath his desk.
He blinked in surprise, then narrowed his gaze at the strange woman he’d never seen before. “Who the hell are you, and what are you doing under there?”
“I moved your computer and was plugging it back in,” she said, pointing to the far corner of his desk. “You can pull it forward when you need to work. I set the keyboard at a better ergonomic location so it’s safer for your back. Not to mention, you’ll have easier access to your files when you’re sitting at your desk,” she explained, clasping her hands in front of her.
His lips firmed, and he was about to rip into her when he realized she looked as if she’d been caught in the morning’s downpour. Her brown hair was damp, curling at the ends, and her white shirt had water stains on the front, calling attention to a lace bra and her full breasts. None of which detracted from the beauty beneath the smudged makeup. With big blue eyes and porcelain skin, she was exactly Kade’s type.
Not skinny and more than a handful, he thought, his mouth watering at the thought. “And my other question? Who are you?” he asked, his voice harsh in order to cover the sudden rush of desire he didn’t need riding him here and now.
“Lexie Parker, your new personal assistant,” she said, her voice soft and pleasing, at distinct odds with her bossy personality, if her nerve in rearranging his desk before meeting him was anything to go by. His anxiety and ADHD were off the charts with a mere glance at the new setup, not that he’d admit to such a thing.
When he remained silent, she placed her hand on the stapler—on his now neat desk. Folders sat in precise stacks; his favorite pen was nowhere to be found, probably mixed in with the writing utensils in the holder he never used. His organized disorganization was gone. Not even his meds took the edge off her changes.
“I didn’t hire you,” he said through gritted teeth.
“I see you two have met,” Derek said, joining them in his office and slapping Kade on the back as he drew up beside him. “Think you can hold on to this one?”
Kade unclenched his jaw. “Did I miss the interview?” he asked.
“Lexie is Wade Parker’s daughter,” Derek said, naming their biggest backer and investor. “She needed a job, and you, my friend, need a personal assistant you can’t run off with your not-so-charming personality and demands.”
His eyes shot daggers at his partner, who knew full well he liked to choose his own PA, before glancing back at Lexie. She smiled and treated him to a small wave. His dick responded to her smile. The wave irritated the shit out of him.
He turned to face her. “Guess we’re stuck with each other.”
She smiled, and it brightened her entire face, lighting up incredibly blue eyes. Sky blue, his favorite color. “So what next?” she asked.
“Don’t touch my stuff without permission.”
She frowned, her eyes narrowing, drawing attention to her dark lashes. “How about you try my changes. If you don’t like them, I’ll put things back the way I found them.” She patted his chair, indicating he should sit.
Well, what do you know? She wasn’t intimidated by him.
He met her gaze and grinned, extending his hand. “Just ask before you touch my things next time.”
“Yes … sir.” They shook hands, and the feel of her soft flesh sent waves of desire rippling along his skin. He jerked his hand back quickly.
Derek chuckled. “I think you two will get along just fine.” He leaned in close and whispered in Kade’s ear. “And since she’s Wade’s daughter, you can trust her with your keys. You won’t have to pick up your own dry cleaning.” Another slap on the back, and he walked out the door.
“Would you like to make a list of what’s expected of me?” Lexie asked eagerly.
He groaned. A peppy, sexy personal assistant wasn’t what he’d had in mind. Of course, he’d run off the older woman before Lexie (too many personal errands for her taste), the young woman right out of college (she’d come on to him and looked like jailbait, and when he’d not-so-politely turned her down, she’d walked out on the spot), and another PA who hadn’t appreciated his request for coffee every morning. She’d said it went against her feminist sensibilities. He’d told her he didn’t give a shit and she’d quit.
Lucas claimed Kade had control and trust issues with women and drove them off on purpose. He was right about one thing. Kade didn’t trust most females. The first one in his life had abandoned him by choice, and the ones who’d come after had betrayed him. That didn’t just jade a man. It embedded an ugly truth deep in his psyche. Women either wanted something or would stab him in the back, one way or another.
His personal assistant, as much as he needed one, had the potential to get too close and intimately involved, at least in his private life. Add in the fact that the woman waiting for his instructions was beautiful, and things were destined to get complicated. But he needed the help, something Derek obviously knew. So Lexie Parker was his, at least for now.
“Let’s start with you giving my desk back.”
He cocked an eyebrow and waited for her to walk around the piece of furniture, providing a view of nice legs beneath her pencil skirt that ended just above the knee and an ass she knew how to sway as she walked. With the way his body tightened, her damned hem might as well hit mid-thigh.
Pissed at himself, he strode around her, catching a whiff of a warm, feminine scent he couldn’t name but would never forget.
“I’ll just go get a pen and paper,” she said.
“Here.” He handed her a yellow lined notepad and a pen, pulled from the holder she’d moved to the right side of his desk.
He gestured for her to sit before easing himself into his luxurious leather chair and tipping back, getting as comfortable as he could within the confines of his suit. He much preferred his well-worn jeans. He loosened his tie and undid the top button of his dress shirt, his gaze locking with hers. She’d been staring, watching his every move.
Caught, her cheeks flushed a pretty pink, and she ducked her head, busied herself, making a show of clicking the pen open and getting ready to take notes.
He steepled his fingers and began to rattle off his list of daily needs. “First things first. Coffee waiting for me at nine. I like it fresh, hot, black with three sugars. You’ll keep my schedule of meetings. I tend to forget without a reminder. You’ll accompany me to meetings, get a feel for this business and anything I’m currently working on. I need you fluent in tech.” He glanced over his fingers to find her writing quickly.
Finishing up, she met his gaze. “Ready.”
Here’s where the issues and deal breakers usually came in. “I’ll expect you to pick up my dry cleaning from my house on Tuesdays and Saturdays and drop it off at my apartment.” He handed her a card from his top desk drawer. “My preferred dry cleaner’s address.”
He spared her another look as she merely accepted the card. She didn’t balk at doing his personal chores. Surprising respect rose before he smothered it.
“Got it. What else?” she asked.
Undeterred, he continued. “I work from home often. On those days I’ll ask you to bring me lunch or work from there as well.”
She nodded once again.
“No complaints so far?”
An amused smile lifted the corners of her mouth. “Nope. You haven’t run me off yet. So what do you like to eat for lunch?”
“Grilled chicken on whole wheat bread, mayonnaise, and two slices of avocado. There’s a place downstairs that delivers.” He slid another business card across the desk.
She picked it up, drawing his attention to her pink fingernails. Delicate, long fingers, made for curling around his—
“Keys. I’ll need a key to your house,” she said, interrupting his inappropriate train of thought.
“Apartment,” he muttered, annoyed she was a step ahead of him. And also irked by the fact that he couldn’t stop thinking about her in a sexual way. It was going to make working with her damned distracting. “I’ll get you a key soon.” He always had his locks changed after a PA didn’t work out.
“Is there anything else?” she asked, sliding the pen along her lip in a gesture surely not meant to be erotic, but his body registered it that way nevertheless.
“No. You can go home,” he snapped.
“Excuse me?” she asked, eyes wide. “You can’t just fire me for no good cause.”
“I didn’t. I’m giving you a break. You can’t be comfortable in that damp shirt,” he said, deliberately letting his gaze trail over the water stains on her chest.
Those luscious lips opened, then closed again in horrified shock.
Go ahead, sweetheart. Call me on sexual harassment, he thought. At least that would end his pain. He couldn’t spend another minute wondering what color her nipples were beneath that lacy bra, and his jaw hurt from clenching his teeth so hard.
When she remained silent, he knew she was stronger than he’d given her credit for. “I’m going to work from home this afternoon,” he told her, making the spur-of-the-moment decision. “Leave me your email and cell number, and I’ll send you a grocery list. You can fill it and bring it by later today. My fridge is empty.”
Realizing he’d have to have a company credit card put in her name if she worked out, he rose and reached into his pocket for cash, handing her money to pay.
“I need your address,” she reminded him.
He picked up yet another business card, his, and handed it to her. “I’m uptown. Keep track of mileage, bus or subway fares, and you can submit expense reports.”
“Yes … Boss.” She rose and hugged the clipboard to her chest. “You’ll be happy with me,” she promised him. “You’ll see.”
Oh, he was plenty happy with her. He was more curious how long she’d be happy with him and his endless demands.