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Authors: Louise Bagshawe

Tags: #Romance, #Chick Lit

A Kept Woman (11 page)

BOOK: A Kept Woman
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‘So what do you think of it?’ Ernie asked loudly.

He pushed through the plain wooden door without knocking, and was pleased to see a young woman, presumably Cicero’s assistant, jump out of her skin. The space was boringly decorated, clean and functional

 

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There was nothing of the black leather and gilt-clock elegance of the other Blakely’s offices, not to mention any trace of the opulence on Ernie’s floor. Cicero had no Eames chairs, no hand-woven Persian rugs. He had secretary cubicles and swivel-back chairs from an ‘economic’ office supply place.

But Cicero was walking around his small space as rapt as if Ernie had assigned him a wing at Versailles.

‘It’s amazing.’ He glanced into the corner office, slightly larger than the two beside it, where he would sit. ‘You even got us our own kitchen.’ Michael laughed. ‘Susan is thrilled she won’t have to go on a bagel run twice a day any more.’

‘And you’ve hired your new people?’ Ernie asked. He really didn’t care what Susan thought. She was” pretty enough, but girls like her were two a nickel in New York. He didn’t promote women up from assistant positions and he didn’t want to luck her, so she didn’t feature on his radar.

‘Yeah. I spoke to Felix last week. Everybody will be coning in today, making changes to the run we have ready to go. Of course, they will have to get used to all this.’ He waved a brawny arm around his offices, and Ernie realised the bitching about luxury wasn’t going to come. To Michael Cicero, this was luxury.

‘You have to bring your illustrators up to meet Janet and me.’ Ernie smiled warmly at the younger man. His lawyers had told him he had to -make sure of each piece of talent, individually, to really luck Michael over. Last thing he wanted was Cicero walking out before he had got hold of his talent. ‘We take pride in really getting to know a team we work with.’

‘I’ll do that.’ Michael repressed his distaste. He hated corporate therapy-speak that called workplaces ‘teams’ and ‘families’ and then didn’t hesitate to fire a guy who was underperforming. Plus, the limey was thin and had

 

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manicured hands and what looked like a fake tan. He was a million miles away from Michael’s idea of a g,uy. But he was the one coming up with the money. So far, there had been no memos, no corporate interference. Just production dollars, meetings with finance guys and lots of cheques.

Michael reminded himself it was no more cheap paper and flimsy covers. No more riding around Brooklyn and the Long Island Expressway with a van full of products. For that, he could deal with Ernie and his corporate babble.

Ernie stuck out a bony hand, and Michael shook it, careful not to crush it in his.

‘Great to have you on board,’ Ernie said. ‘We love nurturing talent. We think you’re really going to create a very special endeavour here.’

What the hell does that mean? Michael thought, but he just smiled. ‘Thanks. The guys will be arriving shortly. I’ll send them upstairs when they get here.’

‘Good. Remember, you’re part of the Blakely’s family now,’ Ernie told him. Then he flashed an insincere smile at Susan Katz and was gone.

Susan closed the door behind Ernie and looked at her handsome boss. He was leaning over the windowsill outside his office, surveying the street. Nobody was here; the creative gang didn’t show up to work until ten o’clock at the earliest. She indulged in a brief, glorious fantasy that Michael would turn around to her, thrust up her neat little burgundy skirt, grab her thighs around the cream-coloured lace hold-up stockings she was wearing today, and throw her over her cubicle desk and just luck her brains out.

‘So what do we do now?’ Susan ventured.

Michael turned around and handed her a neat sheet of folded paper from his jacket pocket. ‘This is the call sheet for today. I made it up last night.’

 

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‘Yes, Mr Cicero,’ Susan said, sighing.

Of course. Work. She was insane to think here could be anything else in Michael’s life.

 

Michael Cicero could never clearly recall his first few weeks in business. It merged into one long, confused, exhilarating, exhausting blur. While Seth and his other illustrators worked with Blakely’s production team, he was hiring salesmen, visiting booksellers and making presentations. At night he was wiped out, but still didn’t want to leave. Susan Katz, reluctantly, would leave the office, in a breath of perfume, wishing him goodnight with her pencil-lined mouth, tossing her gleaming hair back across her shoulders, and Michael, oblivious, would head out to a bar when he could no longer squeeze in even one more call.

The line was coming together. The response was superb. He felt he was living on a cloud of adrenaline and energy. He snatched a sandwich or burger when he could, and fit in his workouts by rising an hour earlier.

Every night, Michael wanted to celebrate.

What he really wanted was a woman.

There was no shortage of girls, of course. There never had been. Poor Susan, if Michael had met her in a bar he would have jumped her bones without thinking twice. But the office was sacred to him. Three times a week, on average, he picked up a girl, usually one he had banged before; girls he knew, clean, .dumb, gorgeous girls, women he could take in small doses. They had big breasts, small waists and round, firm butts. Unfortunately, most girls were stupid and Michael couldn’t take stupid. He was polite and kind and didn’t lie to anybody. Nine times out of ten, they wanted a return encounter. He liked Janet, who wore a bra two sizes too small, so creamy, jiggling flesh poured out over the top of the black lace, and Elsa, the fitness instructor, who had that

 

delectable ass, curvy, jutting and muscular. He laughed at her when she complained about it. When would girls learn that most guys didn’t want a tomboy? Every tire Elsa leant over to pick up something from the floor, he got a twitch in his groin.

But all the girls who banged Michael so eagerly, all the condom packets he went through, didn’t satisfy him. He wanted a girl he could talk to when she was done giving him head, preferably expertly. And if her technique wasn’t perfect, he’d be happy to give her practical lessons.

He thought he’d found her when he met Iris. She was in a bar on Twenty-fourth and Eighth, but then again, so was he. She was a paralegal, with hopes of becoming a lawyer some day. She had an excellent body, a curvy ass, good tits, and she knew several words of more than one syllable. -Michael asked her out and, to his surprise, found she wouldn’t give it up on the first date. Nor the second. She made it to three before sharing his bed, and when she did so, he found she could suck him well. Better than well. She wasn’t the classiest girl, but he figured you had to make allowances. And he was full of adrenaline, and she was there.

One evening, three weeks into their relationship, after a more expensive dinner than he could really afford, Michael had taken her home, banged her, and was now wondering how long he had to wait before he could ask her to leave, without being rude. A girlfriend was great, but he had to get up in the morning.

Iris lay sprawled across his bed, reading his tabloids: the News and Post which Michael only bought for the sports sections. Iris liked to ring all the jewellery shops advertising discount diamonds she couldn’t afford, and then move on to the gossip pages. She propped herself up on her slim elbows, which let her breasts sway nicely, her nipples still hardened from his tongue on them earlier.

 

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‘Anything interesting?’ Cicero asked. Play nice, he thought with an inward sigh.

‘Yeah. Something about your boss.’

‘Where? Let me see.’

‘Oh, so now you’re interested,’ Iris teased, but she handed over the inky sheet. ‘It’s a bit about the wife, actually.’

‘Diana? She’s a snotty little bitch,’ Michael said, unthinkingly, and then cursed himself. He shouldn’t say things like that. Not even to Iris. Discretion was important in a business like his.

‘You met her?’ Iris demanded. She sat up with a sigh, butt-naked, and he admired the firm lines of her stomach. She sighed, wistfully. ‘They’re always taking her photo. She looks so great. She throws, like, the hippest-parties, and everybody goes.’

‘Do they now,’ Michael said, absently. He scanned the article to see if it said anything about Ernie. It didn’t; he was about to throw it out.

‘Sure. All the celebrities, the politicians, basketball players, everyone … and her clothes, such incredible clothes!’

Iris babbled on, but Cicero paid her no attention. He was looking at the shot of Diana, in a soft cashmere sky blue sweater worn over a silk taffeta skirt, emerging from a dinner at City Hall. She looked … out of his league. Classy, like a princess or something. The thought of Ernie Foxton banging that was literally incredible. He tried to picture it: he failed.

Diana Foxton. There was something about her he should remember, wasn’t there? Something he had meant to do that had slipped by him?

Oh, shit, Michael thought. Of course. They had fought - stuck-up madam that she was. Class, sure, but didn’t she know it - and he had signed his deal before she could go running to Ernie and blow it for him.

 

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But in fact, she hadn’t said a thing. Ernie had never mentioned it. Nobody had said boo to him. Mrs Foxton had actually kept that plump, sexy little mouth shut.’

He should thank her. He had meant to go and thank her. She could have made things hard for him, and she had chosen not to.

Credit where it’s due, Michael thought. He resolved he would see her tomorrow.

He looked across at Iris, her legs up in the air, lying on her stomach now. Her ass stuck straight up in the air. He was sure she lay around naked deliberately. Whatever, she was a great piece of ass.

‘Get over here,’ he said.

 

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hapter I

 

Michael Cicero looked at Diana.

He was lounging on Ernie’s antique Chesterfield sofa

which she had found at huge cost with the help of two decorators. Diana couldn’t accuse him of being rude, at least not directly. His feet weren’t propped up on her Indian ottoman, he wasn’t smoking and dropping ash on to the Persian carpet.

But something about his manner set her on edge. Diana’s skin prickled when she noticed his body, lean and hugely muscled, looking even bigger in that new suit he was wearing, arranging itself comfortably on the leather, relaxed, confident. Cicero didn’t seem in the slightest bit put off by the fact that he was lolling on a fifteen-thousand-dollar piece of furniture; nor nervous that he might knock over one of the eighteenth-century vases. He wasn’t even staring reverentially at the pictures and mentally calculating how much they cost. He didn’t seem, Diana realised with another shock of annoyance, to care.

His suit was charcoal, hand tailored. It was no designer she could pick out. The shoes -John Lobb, maybe? Diana was hazy on men’s fashions, but she knew instantly that Michael Cicero had come into money and that he had aggravatingly good taste.

‘That’s not the most pleasant way to greet a guest, ma’am,’ Michael said with a lazy smile. His eyes flickered over her, and for the first time, Diana noticed it. She blushed slightly and drew herself up, angry at having

C

been caught in blatant rudeness. You couldn’t allow yourself to slip like that. This arrogant man was some kind of business acquaintance of Ernie’s.

I won’t endear myself to Ernie by putting off his colleagues, Diana thought.

She glided into the drawing room and offered him the warmest smile she could muster.

‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it how it sounded.’

‘Oh hell, it’s you?’ Michael quoted, with a broad grin. Diana was slightly flustered. ‘Well, I - I guess - it came

Out—’

Cicero held up one hand. ‘Hey, that’s fine. I understand. Don’t worry about it.’

Diana bit down on her lip. ‘You were waiting to see Ernie here?,I’m afraid he’ll be at the office for quite some time.’

‘No. I “came to see you.’

She paused, not quite sure she’d heard him properly. ‘You came to see me?”

‘You’re going to ask to what do you owe the pleasure, aren’t you?’

‘Something like that.’

‘Please, have a seat.’ It was amazing, the way he could so generously invite her to sit down in her own apartment. He did it with such force of will that Diana found herself settling on the armchair opposite him.

Michael watched the way she tucked her slender legs in behind her automatically as she sat down. Her back was rigid, her bearing ladylike. She was one class act, he thought, and judging from the way she was dressed, she cost exactly what you always imagined these dames fetched. He thought about Ernie Foxton. Maybe she liked Ernie’s take-no-prisoners business style, who knew? The guy had nothing else to recommend him. Prancing around in his flashy clothes, with his designer offices, and weak limbs - probably never seen a set of weights in his

 

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life. He hadn’t had the right body language with his girl either, when they were at lunch. Hadn’t even held her hand. Hell, if she were my woman, Michael told himself, I’d be all over her.

He decided that the unyielding rigidity of her back was due to the fact that she never came. A little mouse of a man like Ernie couldn’t melt the ice over that exterior. No way.

He pulled himself sharply back from his reverie. She was a spoiled little minx, and she looked exhausted from her long day of shopping, probably. Best that he said his piece and got out.

‘Well, actually, I figured I should come around and thank you,’ Michael said.

‘Thank me for what? I’m sure you don’t owe me anything.’ Diana pressed a little button on the table, and Consuela glided into view. ‘Could you fetch us a pot of coffee and some cookies, please, Consuela?’

‘It’s not necessary. I won’t be staying. My company, Green Eggs, signed a deal with Ernie’s company last month.’

‘Really? I don’t pay much attention to his work,’ Diana said vaguely.

Then it’s not his business nous, Michael thought, just good old-fashioned gold-digging. He refused to believe that the gorgeous creature in front of him could love anybody at all apart from herself, and certainly not Ernie Foxton.

BOOK: A Kept Woman
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