Read The Awakening Online

Authors: Kat Quickly

Tags: #Romance, #erotica, #sensual, #global, #warming, #intrigue, #thriller, #politics, #conflict, #competition, #wolves, #polar bears, #New York, #the Arctic, #environment, #woods, #shape shifters, #magic, #immortal, #healers, #dreams, #destiny, #legend, #publishing, #swimming, #love, #good, #evil

The Awakening (2 page)

BOOK: The Awakening
6.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Andrew wasn’t usually drawn to such athletic women. He preferred petite, dolly types. They were always immaculately groomed in the latest haute couture, with impeccable manners and breeding, but not too generously endowed in the brains department. Bimbo was the word he assiduously avoided for years but as he danced with Carmen at the launch of
America’s Greatest
he had to admit he was used to soft and vain girls, the sort who gazed adoringly at him, looked exquisite on his arm, moaned and panted convincingly enough in bed and then cried copiously when he tossed them aside.

Carmen was six foot, completely toned and simply dressed in a black backless silk dress. Andrew couldn’t help but be drawn to her. The way she stood so straight, standing away from the crowd, with her head tilted away from the action, her large hands folded in front of her, to hide their size out here in the normal world away from the pool where shovels for hands had meant medals around your neck. He liked the way her blonde hair fell over her shoulders with only the barest trace of product visible. He remembered how divine she smelt. So clean and fresh and hardly a trace of make up. He hadn’t even minded that she was taller than him in her gold Manolo Blahniks. He hadn’t even looked at her feet. And she was smart. He was able to have real conversations with her about politics, global warming, literature and sport.

Carmen knew all about Great Blizzard – had been an admirer of the company for years. She was desperate to meet Victor Bernhard – a legend in environmental politics, not to mention those amazing polar bear calendars of his. So it was predictable that she would fall for Andrew’s charms. He didn’t treat her like a commodity and he wasn’t phased by her celebrity. Even in New York it was all too common to meet people who just fawned and gaped at her. Before Andrew she had wondered if she was ever going to meet someone she could love. Yes, she’d relished sex with her series of sports-hero-lovers but she’d never been in love with any of them. She’d thought it would be nice to be less alone. To have someone like her dad who just loved her just the way she was and liked being with her, just because she was Carmen and for no other reason. Had she not found anyone because she was looking in the wrong places for people who didn’t exist? She knew in her heart that she was like all normal girls and wanted someone just like her daddy to love her and look after her. But her daddy had died and left her alone. Left her to an indifferent mother in a heartless world. She wasn’t sorry for herself and hoped for love again. After all she was only twenty-six: a lot of life to go. She knew some shrink would have a field day with her abandonment feelings and consequent over-compensation in the pool, seeking recognition from the whole country, even the world. No, Carmen had known it was better to live a solitary life, a few distant friends – the girls from the Athens gold medley relay team all had lunch once a month and shared their lives – duty visits to Madeleine, her long suffering mother, and her dogs: Zanzibar and Alaska, the closest things she had to friends and understanding in her life. Her life was self contained and simple.

Until she met Andrew. And there he was, the sort of man she’d believed only existed in her imagination. He wanted more than to bed her and wear her on his arm. She liked that. She liked that he remembered the little things – like her passion for bacon and eggs for breakfast and her double espresso addiction. He seemed fond of her dogs (although they always growled at him) and patient with her mother. He knew all these amazing eateries and interesting people and he made her feel as if she belonged in his strange and powerful world; not a swimmer, coach or promoter in sight. With Andrew she finally felt connected to the human race, as if she belonged in New York, as if it was home, not just some strange place she was only visiting.

That first night he’d looked at her like she was a real woman. He’d taken her reluctant hand when they were introduced and yes, he’d kissed it, almost bowed before her and when he looked into her eyes she saw a man appreciating a woman, not an athlete.

“Dance with me?” He hadn’t waited for an answer and led her to the dance floor. She’d felt awkward at first, especially as she was taller than him in her shoes. But he just stood up straight and puller her firmly into his body. “You are quite beautiful,” he said simply, like it was a fact. “Shall I tell you what I’m going to do with you when I take you home?” he whispered.

She felt her whole body flush. She was too flattered to be outraged by his audacity. “Go on then,” she purred. “Let’s see if you’re worth considering.”

He laughed at her. “You are a cheeky one.”

“And you’re not?” she retorted, letting his hand stay on her bottom.

He nuzzled her neck, inhaling the intoxicating mix of her perfume and hair. She smelt good enough to eat. He pulled her closer, feeling her soft breasts through the silk of his shirt. She seemed to throb and hum in his arms, as if she was giving off energy and heat in his embrace. She was both soft and hard, seeming to melt into him as they moved together on the dance floor. He could just imagine what she would be like in bed. He felt himself stiffen at that thought.

“So tell me, then,” she teased. “I can’t wait to hear what’s on offer.”

He looked at her. She held his gaze, pulled him into her eyes, as big and as deep as any Olympic pool. “Not here. Let’s go. I want to be alone with you.”

Outside as they waited for Andrew’s car she let him enfold her, let their bodies fit closely together. She kissed his neck, sniffed his maleness. He buried his head in her hair, her mane of gold. His hands caressed her back. She felt the firmness of his ass with her hands, felt him harden into her. “Kiss me,” she commanded. His right hand moved to her face, gold beneath the streetlight, caressed her skin. His fingers touched her eyelids, traced the line of her over long nose, lingered over her claret stained lips. “Kiss me,” she whispered as his mouth sought hers. It was light at first, a butterfly touch, lips meeting, moving apart – just, mouths opening and re-meeting, savouring the taste of someone new, the smoothness of Carmen’s lips, the whiskery roughness of Andrew’s mouth. Soft steamy-breaths in the night air before he fell fully upon her, his tongue moving inside her, exploring her, feeling her, tasting all of her, meeting her tongue in the dark night, accepting her urgent exploring into his being.

She had never been kissed like that before. He had never kissed a woman with such tenderness and passion. He wanted her badly, very badly but knew he had to wait, not blow it by having sex with this creature before he knew her better. Not that AA had much intention of waiting long. Rather, he intended an intense and overwhelming courtship such that Carmen would never look at another man again, such that she would never forget him: even if he moved on from her. But he had a strange feeling about this one – Carmen was not like any woman he had ever met. Strangely, his father’s words echoed in his head.
She’ll be like no-one you’ve ever met, yet you’ll feel as if you’ve known her forever and will know her forever. You won’t be able to rest until she’s all yours. Just hope she feels like you do

Carmen was in love with Andrew before she knew it and she knew she would marry him the moment he asked. He seemed to be everything she’d longed for in a man. How could she expect to do better than someone handsome, well connected and so in tune with her? And even though she was bemused by the speed of their courtship and the intensity of their life together she accepted his unwavering belief in the rightness of them being together – would more time make any difference to how they felt about each other? Needless to say, she had been flattered by the offer of a book about her life, even if she’d thought it was just a clever chat up line at the time. She had had one of those sorts of lives, early grief and sadness, over-coming the odds and rising to great heights: she
an inspiration to millions. So Andrew’s pitch about the imprint and the new job, when he finally made it, all made sense.

But Andrew hadn’t told Victor about any of this. Not the book deal, not the new imprint, certainly not Carmen’s appointment. And while Andrew had almost complete control of the company during Victor’s annual and prolonged absences, he was not empowered to do what he had done. Andrew was betting on having everything in place by the time Victor returned and presenting him with a fait accompli. Andrew intended to impress Victor with his initiative and vision and make it quite clear he was ready to be CEO – either through Victor happily passing the crown, or through hostile take-over. Because it was quite clear to even a casual observer that Victor was not the man he used to be. He had always taken five-six month sabbaticals to travel north, shoot his calendars, look after his range of environmental interests. Usually he returned invigorated and ready to take back the reigns. But the last two years had seen Victor age, his energy diminish. Andrew expected Victor to step back by the end of the year. In fact, he had hinted as much before he left last November. Andrew meant to show Victor he was more than ready and with Carmen by his side he felt invincible. She had given him a confidence and calmness he had never possessed. Perhaps that was what Will had seen in Carmen? Andrew was a man with growing maturity and assurance, a man on his way to more than owning a publishing company, perhaps to a much more important office? Certainly Will hoped for such things and saw in Carmen a way to sure up Andrew’s chances of high office.

As she thought about it on her way to work, Carmen felt that the recurrence of the dream was more to do with her appointment at Great Blizzard than anything to do with her relationship with Andrew. She knew that Andrew was taking a great risk with this venture, but she believed, without any basis other than Andrew’s say-so, that Victor could only be impressed by the new move. How could he leave the company for so long and not expect things to happen? Did the man live in some sort of parallel universe in his absence? Surely he would see the sense in it all, especially her appointment. She realised she was rationalising it all to herself. Clearly Andrew’s calm was all veneer. She had sensed his underlying anxiety and it had transferred to her own subconscious and the dream had reappeared. There, she smiled at some anonymous businessman in a suit as she strode purposely towards the Bernhard Building. It made sense. In the past, the dream had always meant that things would be all right. She just had to be patient and have faith.

Carmen looked for Andrew in his office. He was always at work before her. While she ran through “dangerous” Central Park each morning Andrew availed himself of the company’s gym. It invigorated him for the day. Carmen was all for exercise, but she much preferred fresh air and the more natural pursuits of running and swimming. A gym just seemed so, so artificial, so man-made. Still, she applauded Great Blizzard’s enterprise in looking after its employees in such a way and she did take advantage of the pool on the roof. She couldn’t help herself, she would always love the water, no matter how it was configured. If the water around Manhattan was cleaner she was sure she’d swim in that too.

Andrew wasn’t in his office or the meeting room. Carmen shrugged, she would meet up with him later. There was no point looking for him, he could be anywhere. In this last week before the double launch Andrew was working all hours and never in one place for more than five minutes. She felt quite superfluous as she oversaw the final arrangements for the launch – the guest list, the food, the publicity, posed for photographs. She guessed the real work would start after the launch and she could do something other than finalise the promotional pictures for the launch party or read the early reviews of her book written with sensitivity and intelligence by one of the best biographers in the business – Katie Cooper, now a dear friend after the intensity of collaborating on the book. She felt as if she’d done nothing but look at pictures and read since settling into her office next to the absent Victor. She hoped the job would be meatier than this floss she was currently engaged in. Although Carmen knew that she had a great deal to learn about the business she felt it had to involve more than she was currently doing. She hoped she’d made the right decision in accepting such a position. Was she really up to it?

Unusually, Victor’s door was closed this morning and loud voices were piercing the glass walls separating Victor’s office from the editorial floor. It wasn’t long before Carmen realised that one of the voices belonged to Andrew. She could only assume the other man was Victor. It took seconds to work out what they were arguing about. She did her best to ignore it all. But her emails were not that compelling and she had never heard Andrew as angry or strident. He was usually the epitome of cool and control. She’d always assumed that his level headed, almost serene approach to business was what had found him in such a powerful position in his mid thirties. Great Blizzard Publishing Enterprises was one of the most powerful and influential forces in world publishing. Victor was always included amongst the list of most influential and wealthy Americans. Andrew was invariably included in lists of up-and-coming, to-watch-closely.

Up until this morning she’d believed Andrew to be in Victor’s good books, his chosen heir. Everything Andrew had told her about the business and Victor implied they had a close, almost father-son working relationship. But the tone and language punctuating the office air made her doubt the longevity of her own position and even Andrew’s future with GBPE. She crossed her fingers: she didn’t want to be fired quite so soon.

“He wants to meet you.” Andrew’s face was a thundercloud. “Now.” His arms were crossed and he tapped his foot impatiently. “Today is not the day to keep Victor waiting, Carmen.”

She stood up, stretched to her full height, smoothing down her Ermangelda Zenga suit. “I have not intention of doing that, Andrew.”

BOOK: The Awakening
6.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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