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DevilishlyHot

BOOK: DevilishlyHot
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Devilishly Hot
KATHY LOVE
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.
www.kensingtonbooks.com
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.

 

 

Thank you to Erin McCarthy for the chat that led to the creation of Finola White.
A very special thanks to my editor, Alicia Condon for her input, patience and support.
Thanks to the Tarts, for the shared plotting, laughter, desserts and wine.
And finally, thank you to all my friends and family who deal with me dropping off the radar before every deadline.

 

Prologue
Winter, 2008
“C
ouldn’t you just have fired her?” Tristan looked down at the motionless body of yet another of Finola’s personal assistants.
Finola lifted her herbal relaxation mask from her eyes and made a rueful face. “I suppose. But if you had seen what she’d done,” she sighed deeply, “Well, you’d have had a hard time thinking rationally too.”
Tristan, still contemplating the body, raised a dubious eyebrow. “I highly doubt it.”
Finola sighed again. “That’s true. You are so much more judicial than I am.”
Was that what she was going to call it? Tristan would have gone with
sane
, but tomato/tomahto.
Finola retrieved her crystal champagne flute from the glass end table beside her massage chair. She sipped her Dom Perignon White Gold Jeroboam. A sure sign Finola wasn’t pleased. The champagne always came out when she was feeling stressed. He’d call it petulant, but there was no point in mentioning that to Finola. Best to just let her soothe herself with her $40,000 bottle of bubbly.
“Honestly though, Tristan,” she said once she’d drained her glass and poured herself another, “she was utterly incompetent. I mean, she couldn’t do a single thing right. And it wasn’t like I was asking for the moon. I just expect that when I ask for something to be done, it be done on time.”
Tristan, only half listening, made a sympathetic noise. What the hell was he going to do with
this
one? Getting a grown woman down from the fifteenth floor of a busy building out to the even busier streets of Manhattan wasn’t easy, even for a demon. Add to it that this one didn’t appear capable of moving on her own two feet—and it was a real pain.
Really, he was the one who deserved the damned champagne.
“I simply asked her to get me the fabrics that an artist in Milan was creating specifically for the Alber Elbaz photoshoot. This was not an unreasonable request.”
“When is the photoshoot?” Tristan asked, considering the white handwoven Persian carpet in Finola’s office. It was big enough to wrap the body in, but Finola would have a conniption that he was using her handmade original flown in directly from Nain, Iran. But then again, this was her doing. He couldn’t help it if her damned rug was another casualty of her temper.
“It’s tomorrow,” Finola said, a hint of peevishness making her tone a little defensive. “I didn’t say it would be easy. But it was absolutely doable.”
Tristan looked from the carpet to the body, then back to the carpet. “What time did you tell her about this absolutely doable feat?”
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her wave her hand, “Oh, I don’t know. Probably one-ish.”
His gaze shifted from the rug to the cabinet behind Finola’s desk. That would be heavy all on its own, and with a body in it ... he returned his attention to the carpet—also heavy, but the best bet.
“When is the photoshoot?”
“Eleven,” she answered, topping off her glass again, the golden liquid sparkling, bubbles dancing.
Tristan didn’t feel like dancing. He was furious, but he pushed it aside, remaining cool. Giving in to his own emotions wouldn’t help the situation.
He returned to the body, crouching down to slide his arms under its neck and knees. With only a slight grunt, he hefted it up. Thank Lucifer and his many minions, this one was thin. The last one had been a good twenty-five pounds overweight, which hadn’t helped her with Finola’s wrath and ultimately was a large part (no pun intended) of her ... early retirement.
“You do realize that gave her less than twenty-four hours to get the material for you, don’t you?” he said, his tone breathy as he struggled to carry the body over to the rug.
“Well it can’t be impossible. It could have been flown on the Concorde or something.”
Tristan dropped the body rather unceremoniously onto one side of the carpet. “The Concorde stopped flying about five years ago.”
“Oh,” Finola sighed, clearly weary of their conversation, “well, whatever, she was a terrible assistant.”
She settled back in her lounger, replacing her mask over her eyes. Tristan arranged the body so the limbs were straight, then he lifted the edge of the carpet and started to ease the carpet and body over, rolling the body up like the filling of a jelly roll. A very complicated, costly jelly roll.
Finola lifted the edge of her mask and peered at him. “What are you doing?”
Saving your ass.
“Playing it safe,” he said, with a grunt, shoving with both arms to finish rolling the carpet. “You should really require height and weight to be included on all your employee résumés.”
“You are so right,” she agreed, but not for the reason he wanted the measurements there.
He rose, running his hands down the front of his Armani trousers, smoothing any wrinkles. Ah, there was a metaphor there.
“I quite like that carpet, you know,” Finola said, but then released her mask back over her eyes.
Well, at least she’d accepted that better than he’d expected.
“I’m going to have to go get one of the moving vans to dispose of this,” he told her.
She made a noise of acknowledgment, uninterested acknowledgment. But why would she care? Finola just made the messes; he cleaned them up.
He strode across her office, heading out to get the van and get this done.
“Wait,” Finola said, sitting up, her voice suddenly panicked, “I don’t have a personal assistant.”
“No,” Tristan agreed, his voice wry, “this is true.”
“I need an assistant. I mean, look.” She took off her eye mask and waved it in his direction. “My mask is absolutely cool now. A cool mask is not going to help this wretched headache behind my eyes. I need someone to warm my mask.”
Tristan fought back the urge to roll his eyes. Instead he walked over to the cabinet he had considered using for the body disposal. He opened the bottom drawer and pulled out a thick manila folder. Then he went to Finola and placed it on her lap.
“Pick one.”
She considered the file for a moment, then opened it. She flipped through several of the résumés, scanning them very briefly.
Finally she sighed, and randomly tugged one out of the dozens. “Hire this one.”
She held the page out to him without even glancing at the person’s education, abilities or experience.
“This could be why your assistants never work out,” he said dryly, but accepted the resume.
He raised an eyebrow as he perused the information there, but he walked over to Finola’s desk and picked up her phone. After punching in the numbers, he waited as the phone rang.
Finally, just when he would have hung up, a woman answered, her voice breathless, and heavily laced with a Southern drawl.
Tristan cringed. Not a good start. Finola wasn’t fond of the South. Too hot—ironic, he supposed.
“Hello,” he glanced back to the page in front of him, “I’m trying to reach Annie—Lou,”
Lou?
Really? “Riddle.”
Oh yeah, this was
not
going to go well.
The woman on the other end told him that was she.
“My name is Tristan McIntyre and I’m calling from
HOT!
magazine. I’m pleased to tell you that Ms. Finola White has decided to hire you as her personal assistant.”
Tristan nodded impatiently as Annie Lou thanked him profusely—and lengthily.
“Great,” he said, finally cutting off her sweet, golly-gee gratitude. “We’ll see you tomorrow morning. Eight o’clock sharp.”
Annie Lou Riddle was still drawling away as he hung up the phone.
“Done,” he said.
“You are the best, Tristan.”
Yes, he was. But he didn’t say anything, he just left the office. As he strolled past the large, ultramodern assistant’s desk, he made a note to himself that he had to get rid of all of the last assistant’s personal items that were still there.
Annie Lou Riddle. She had no idea that by accepting this job, she’d just sold her soul to the devil. Literally.
Annie stared at the receiver still clutched in her hand. The faint dial tone hummed, signifying no one was on the other end of the line, but she still didn’t hang up.
Finola White’s assistant.
HOT!
magazine.
HOT!
magazine!
She managed to pull herself together enough to press the OFF button on the cordless phone and drop it back into the receiver. Then with total abandon, she started to hop and dance around the tiny living room, laughing like a madwoman.
HOT!
magazine! Finola White!
“Oh my God ... oh my God,” she repeated over and over, still dancing.
Only the pounding from the downstairs neighbor on his ceiling, her floor, made her stop her happy dance. She collapsed onto her worn, circa 1970s tweed couch, still grinning.
This was amazing. Just amazing.
She let her head fall back against her sofa, closing her eyes and still smiling. This couldn’t come at a better time.
When her phone had rung, she’d been in the middle of packing her suitcases to head back to Magnolia, Mississippi, her small hometown where there were no prospects for a woman with degrees in fashion design and journalism. Oh sure, there was a local small-town paper she might work for, if she wanted to write articles on exciting things like the pros and cons of adding a stoplight on Main Street or who got into a fight at Sonny’s Bar and Grill this week.
But she didn’t have to worry about that now. She was officially an employee of
HOT!
magazine, the number one fashion magazine in the U.S. And not only that, she was going to be personal assistant to Finola White, magazine owner, entrepreneur, fashion icon herself, and one of the most powerful women in the fashion industry.
“Maybe the world,” she said aloud to herself, then giggled.
Amazing.
She opened her eyes and sat up as she heard a key in the door lock. Her smile growing even wider, she jumped up and raced to the door.
“Hey, there,” Annie’s boyfriend, Bobby, said, his blue eyes wide with surprise and confusion to find her waiting for him on the other side of the door. Or maybe it was because she was grinning like a fool. Heaven knew, it had been a long time since either of them had been lighthearted.
She flung herself into his arms, laughing.
“What’s going on?” he asked, once he’d recovered from his astonishment.
“I got a job!” She released him, hopping up and down in her excitement. The downstairs neighbor immediately thumped as if waiting with a broomstick or whatever was handily poised at the hint of the first noise.
Annie didn’t care today; nothing could ruin her joy.
“Really?” Bobby said, a wide smile of his own revealing his gleaming white teeth and the boyish dimples on either side of his perfect lips.
Annie told him how she’d been packing when she’d received that call.
“It was like providence,” she ended with a happy sigh.
Bobby frowned. “Is that a TV show or something?”
Annie laughed. Bobby was beautiful with his thick tawny hair and blue eyes. The all-American boy. And that would take him places, even if he was a little confused at times.
“This could be good for you too,” she said, “You never know, maybe you could get some modeling jobs through the magazine.”
Bobby raised an eyebrow. “I’m an actor.”
“I know,” Annie said automatically, although she suspected he’d do a lot better as a model. His acting was ... painful, at best. But she knew it was his dream and she would certainly support him.
“When do you start?” he asked.
“Tomorrow.”
“Awesome.” He headed to their “kitchen,” a corner of the one room where they had a mini fridge, a hot plate and a microwave. He pulled a package of bologna out of the fridge, curling up a slice and taking a bite.
BOOK: DevilishlyHot
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