Authors: Elizabeth Lennox
“You must be the enemy
everyone is talking about
,” Katherine Avril
as she approached the three men in business suits standing in the lobby area.
to the tall, handsome man
in the center who
waiting in the lobby
There were two other stern looking men
behind the serious man but
he assumed that
was the one in charge. There was just an aura of authority surrounding
took her hand in his warm one but
stood there for
a long time just staring at her. As soon as their hands touched, Kate was
. The heat transferring from this man’s hand warmed her cold, nervous one. She had been trying to hide her trepidation ever since the announcement this morning but holding this man’s hand, looking into his eyes, the rest of the world disappeared. She couldn’t feel the silver bracelets clanging against each other whenever she moved, or the painful pinching of her toes in her high heeled shoes. Everything faded away as she looked into his dark, intense eyes.
“I’m Carlo Attracelli
,” he finally said. “
ncorporated, if that’s what you mean
Katherine liked his deep voice. It seemed to ring with authority and confidence.
“Pleased to me y
ou,” she said
with as much confidence as she could muster. She
shook his hand
, pretending she wasn’t intimidated
or overwhelmed by his simple presence
She hoped he didn’t notice that
her hand shook.
“You’ll have to excuse our lack of planning. We just heard that
was going to acquire Jamison’s Department Stores this morning. We’re all in shock.”
He raised an eyebrow at her explanation, but didn’t respond. The man
turned to his team members who were standing behind him. “This is Jeff McKenzie and Peter Ashton. They’re going to be helping with the due diligence
“Pleased to meet both of you as well,” she said and smiled at the two shorter, but still impressive men to Carlo’s left and right.
man continued to stare at her and she had the impression that he could see through her clothes and know what color and style of underwear she was wearing. It was very disconcerting, especially since she was interested in what he had underneath his
She pictured him in
boxers with muscular legs and stomach, not a lot of hair on his chest….
Clearing her mind of those treasonous thoughts, she quickly thought of something to say. “As I said, I’m Katherine Avril, Director of Purchasing,” she explained. “
You can call me Kate. If you’ll f
, I’ll show you around the offices
Mr. Jamison asked me to help you in any way while you’re working here.
I’ve reserved the conference room for the next two months for your exclusive use.” With that, she turned to usher them down the hallway.
had been watching
the twinkle in her eye which took the sting away from her words. He kept his face impassive as he took in the
, if slightly outrageous female
now walking away from them
. He heard one of his team members chuckle behind him but he didn’t take his eyes off the petite brunette with hair that curled softly
all the way down to
her tiny waist.
Carlo was amazed as much by her outfit as he was by the woman.
She was dressed in a short,
with a tight
red shirt tuck
ed into the waist. Her neck was draped in about ten different sets of necklaces and, Carlo wasn’t positive, but he suspected that he’d seen a white petticoat peak out from underneath her short skirt.
Even though he
kept his eyes on her face
while she was introducing herself
, he knew h
er long, sexy legs were encased in black stockings, ending in black patent-leather pumps with three inch heels.
The phrase, “legs that never ended” applied to this tiny woman.
Even so, her head was only about an inch above his shoulders
with those shoes which meant she was about a foot shorter than he was without shoes
Carlo watched her
, giving her a few feet lead so he could see her legs again. Sure enough, as she turned, her skirt
up slightly and a white, lace petticoat peaked out from underneath
her black skirt
“You’re awfully handsome,” she said
as she walked down the hallway. Again, Jeff chuckled behind them. Carlo wanted to glare at him, but he too was shocked at the comment.
Had she really just said he was handsome? Not just handsome, but “awfully handsome”?
A moment later,
the tiny woman
stopped in the middle of the hallway, her whole body frozen.
Carlo, Jeff and Peter stood there, wondering what was happening. Slowly, she
to face the three of them,
a tentative smile and a curious expression
on her face
, “I didn’t really say that
, did I?” she asked.
As soon as she finished her statement, her face flamed into embarrassed color.
Carlo raised one eyebrow and tried to keep from laughing. She was
a curious woman.
With a deep sigh, she nodded her head slightly.
By the amused expression on your face, I guess I did say it out loud.” The tiny woman
nued to make her way down the hallway toward
the conference room
, but her face was still flushed with color
. Opening the
with a flourish, she ushered the three men inside, giving a wide berth to Carlo who had extremely broad shoulders and towered above the tw
Jeff settled his briefcase onto the polished wooden surface. “Ms. Avril, excuse me for asking, but why did Jamison’s Department Stores assign the director of purchasing to help us out during this process?”
“Please, call me Kate. No one ever calls me Ms. Avril unless they’re trying to sell me something on the phone. And even then, I can tell that it is a salesperson because they mispronounce it,” she
chattered nervously. Her attention was on
Jeff and Peter, avoiding Carlo’s eyes altogether.
She took a deep breath before continuing. She told herself to pull it together befor
e these men thought of her as a complete
“As for why I’m assigned to help you out, well, that might not make sense on the surface, but I’m
probably the best qualified. I’d wager that I
know more about these stores than anyone, including th
e present owner, soon to be not-
present-owner if you three have any say in it, David Jamison.”
“How is that?” Peter asked, smiling despite himself.
“My mother was the previous owner and president’s secretary. I used to do my homework beside her desk each afternoon
so, even as a kid, I heard a lot about the goings on within the headquarters
Years later, w
hen I turned sixteen, I started working for the store
in the retail areas
. I’ve worked in almost every department, except finance, over the past twelve years. There’s basically nothing I haven’t done, or don’t know someone who has
doing it,” she explained. “
So I’m really your best point of contact.
I’m the lucky one that gets to help you three out for as long as I’m needed.
Kate peeked over at the tall one who called himself Carlo, then quickly away again when she realized that he was staring at her still with that same strange look on his face. He was a very serious fellow, she thought.
“Why isn’t David helping
us with this process
?” Jeff asked as he settled himself into a chair, pulling out pencils and
“You must be the accountant,” she said,
who immediately blushed and nodded his head. “David doesn’t
have time for
the day to day stuff of Jamison’s. He has more important things to do,”
and looked down at the floor.
She didn’t want to be disloyal so she just left her explanation hanging at that terse statement and hoped that would be enough for the three men.
Carlo sensed there was something more that she didn’t want them to know and he was curious. He suspected that there was much more to this
of a woman
than met the eye.
She came across as a little scatterbrained but he deduced that her chattering was due more to nervousness than
lack of intelligence.
“How are we to get reports and information
we need to complete the investigation
?” Peter asked, knowing what needed to get done
and eager to get started
Kate smiled brightly
, feeling like she was on safe ground now
. “Anything you need, just ask me. I’ve assigned my deputy to take over for
as long as you need
. I’ll only be interrupted for emergencies, so just let me know, and I’ll get you the data.
David has dedicated my services to the three of you for the foreseeable future. I’ll be helping you through this process for as long as it takes.
Peter and Jeff nodded and the three of them discussed the areas they would like to review and how the due diligence process works at a high level.
Peter gave her a list of things he would need to get started and Kate swept up a notepad and started writing. She nodded at all of Peter’s questions, indicating she knew she could get
“What do you need?” she turned to Jeff.
Jeff also gave her a list, but it was much smaller.
Carlo watched her as she made notes. He recognized the moment when she knew she’d have to face him and was curious
about her reaction to him. He was definitely having a reaction to her although he wasn’t sure why. She was not his usual type but his body was instantly aware of everything about her, every movement she made
It was as if she were a bundle of energy just trying to escape as quickly as possible.
liked watching her facial expressions. He wondered if she knew how much she revealed about her thoughts by her facial features. Carlo couldn’t tear his eyes away from her.
“What kinds of reports or data do you need?”
, her eyes not meeting his but focusing somewhere on his chin.
Carlo didn’t smile
. “I’ll be fine with what you’r
getting for Jeff and Peter
,” he explained
, wishing she’d look up at him so he could see her