PR executive Victoria Holmes prefers to play it cool. So when a weekend schmooze with a potential new client finds her face-to-face with her grating office rival, Victoria is livid.
And the topping on her peeved pie? Outdoor adventure company mogul Jared McKenna—who's irritating, hot, laid-back and sexy enough to blow Victoria's composure right out the window along with her inhibitions!
She's not his type. And he's definitely not hers. But when the weekend slips completely out of her control thanks to a surprise jewel heist, Victoria will have to choose between keeping her cool or letting the heat—and Jared—take her breath away.
Wendy Etherington was born and raised in the deep South-and she has the fried chicken recipes and NASCAR ticket stubs to prove it. The author of thirty books, she writes full-time from her home in South Carolina, where she lives with her husband, two daughters and an energetic Shih Tzu named Cody. She can be reached via her website, wendyetherington.com. Or follow her on Twitter @wendyeth.
Those Who Have, Do! by Peeps Galloway, Gossipmonger (And proud of it!) Well, kids, with summer winding down, tradition dictates the posh and influential of NYC gather in Southampton for one last gasp of fun and sun.
I hear (from sources I'd have to give away my priceless collection of original Versace gowns if I revealed—not gonna happen, BTW!) there's a new product coming from the prestigious firm of Rutherford Security that'll change the way the rich and famous store their gems and secrets.
No doubt more will be heard by those lucky enough to have received a coveted invite to the longtime Southampton socialite Rose Rutherford's fabulous house party.
Mrs. Rutherford's husband, Raymond, made his money in Texas oil in the eighties, but though he met his fate nearly fifteen years ago in the arms of his stripper mistress, he had the decency to invest in lucrative beach-front property, providing Rose with the perfect locale for entertaining. Among the highend guests will be her son, Richard (yes, everyone in the family has the R moniker), who chose the lovely and tasteful Ruthanne as a mate.
Also of interest on the guest list is the inclusion of two (yes, dos!) executives from Coleman Public Relations. Both Peter Standish and Victoria Holmes (of the Holmes Family Cardiac Wing at Midtown Memorial) are attending the weekend house party.
Is Mrs. Rutherford just that generous to PR execs or do we smell heated competition for something?
Certainly jealousy will rear its ugly (but column-worthy) head, which is much more fun than a leisurely cocktail hour by the pool, anyway. So stay tuned!
On the agenda are wild water excursions provided by Flaming Arrow Adventure Tours. Calls from this office by yours truly for details were unreturned (as if that would deter your loyal and tireless columnist!?!), but don't you worry, dear readers, I'm on the case!
I'm informed that Jet Ski riding, scuba diving, boating and other activities involving the potential for bodily harm have been scheduled. (Dear heaven, count me out!) But then I hear the adventure guide is none other than Jared McKenna, and trust me, rabid followers, he is hot, hot, smokin' hot. So maybe extreme sports are a hobby to consider after all
Kiss and tell—please!
P.S. Catering to be provided by Shelby Dixon (recently highlighted in this column!)
Taking her focus off the clogged Manhattan traffic at a stoplight, Victoria Holmes shifted her hard, determined gaze between her two best friends. "I'm getting this contract or else."
"Or else what?" Calla Tucker asked, folding up her newspaper and placing it neatly on her lap.
"Or else she blames us," Shelby Dixon answered.
Pleased her pals had gotten the point so quickly, Victoria stared through the windshield of her Mercedes and ordered her stomach to cease its churning.
She was going to get the contract—and the promotion. Like her mother before her, she'd given everything to Cole-man PR.
But your mother's a legend, and you don't quite measure up, do you?
Didn't she? Victoria always worked nights, weekends, holidays. She brought in high-dollar clients with high-dollar campaigns. She oozed ambition and confidence, even though her mother had been the youngest senior VP in the history of the firm and nobody ever let Victoria forget it.
She schmoozed. She demurred when necessary. She represented the firm with the utmost in professionalism. She deserved her own senior VP title and corner office. She'd earned the right to step from behind her mother's long shadow and prove she hadn't clung to her coattails to attain success.
"This Rutherford contract will put me over the edge," she muttered.
"She's talking to herself again," Calla said from the backseat.
"Let her be," Shelby said. "She's barely slept in the last week. She's punchy."
Victoria scowled. "You both know I can hear you, don't you?"
Despite her mood, Victoria was grateful for her friends' support. As a caterer, Shelby was giving up the long weekend with her live-in boyfriend to serve as chef to the Rutherford house party they were attending in Southampton. Calla, a travel writer, was hoping to make good use of both her camera and her keyboard.
"You know I appreciate you guys coming with me," Victoria said, making an effort to soften her tone. "I need these meetings to go smoothly."
"Hey, I'm just happy to see the Rutherford estate." Calla sounded slightly awestruck. "It's been featured in Architectural Views countless times over the years. Maybe I'll get my own magazine piece out of this."
"And I'm grateful for the business," Shelby said. "After the June bridal season it was a long, booking-free summer."
"You were exhausted after all those weddings," Calla pointed out. "You needed a break."
"Why doesn't that rich lover of yours recommend you to all his rich friends?" Victoria asked.
"He does, but he's got a business of his own to run. Besides, just like most of the friends you recommend, the affluent have been in the Hamptons all summer. I'm too small of an operation to be hauling equipment and supplies out there every weekend."
"I'm sure Rose Rutherford's gourmet kitchen has everything we need," Calla said.
"The housekeeper assures me they do," Shelby explained. "Plus, she was willing to let my food suppliers deliver everything directly, so I didn't have to bring the van."
"I'm not arriving at the Rutherford estate in a catering van," Victoria insisted, cutting between two cabs to take the next right onto East Thirty-second.
"Heaven forbid anybody thinks you have a domestic for a friend," Calla teased.
Victoria met Calla's gaze with a glare in the rearview mirror. "I'm not a snob. Appearance is important for getting this contract."
"And I'm not a domestic," Shelby stated firmly. Then added, "Not that there's anything wrong with being one." Shelby turned and exchanged a meaningful look with Calla.
"I saw that," Victoria said. "Since I'm the one who's driving, aren't you two worried about me being both deaf and blind?"
Shelby cleared her throat. "I was reminding Calla that this weekend is about you getting the Rutherford Securities contract, even though she could be tanning and ogling lifeguards, and I could be naked between the sheets in a beach-side hotel with my man."
"Wow, that was some look," Victoria said drily.
"Have you heard any more about Coleman Sr.'s rumored retirement?" Shelby asked, obviously guessing Victoria's temper was too cutting for humor.
She nodded. "They're announcing next week after the holiday. I got it straight from his secretary."
"Why'd she tell you?" Calla asked.
"Because I, unlike her boss, never forget her birthday or Secretary's Day, or that her favorite flowers are daisies or that she likes chocolates filled with caramel."
Shelby angled her head. "How do you remember all that?"
Victoria shrugged. "I have a file on everybody. Trust me, ladies, the key to a smooth ride up the corporate ladder is making nice with the real power brokers—the assistants."
Which she'd learned straight from The Legend, namely her mother. The reminder dulled her resentment. Victoria didn't expect people to pity her because she had to live up to excellence.
But besides her mom, there was her attorney father, her cardiac surgeon grandfather and the Holmes foundation run by her grandmother and cousin to measure her success against. All in all, a pretty daunting yardstick.
"So when Coleman Sr. retires," Shelby said, "Coleman Jr. inherits the long-awaited president's position, and their valuable client Rutherford Securities is up for grabs."
Victoria's mouth went dry with anticipation. "And the senior VP corner office gets a new occupant."
Shelby patted her leg. "You'll get it. Nobody works harder than you. Don't worry."
But Victoria was worried.
Thanks to her influential family connections, she had been invited by the Rutherfords to their annual Labor Day weekend party. She was going to use the opportunity to talk to Richard, Rose's son, about a strategy to promote an innovative new product that Rutherford Securities had developed.
The future of her career and her reputation among her infamously affluent family rested on the next few days.
Calla leaned forward between them. "So what cool security thing does ole Rich need a PR strategy for? I loved those commercials where the chimpanzee disables the security system by banging on the control panel."
Victoria winced. She had a strict policy against silly animals in campaigns, particularly in a serious industry like home and business security. "That was an ad for motion sensor cameras." One Coleman Sr. had come up with, yet another reason it was time for him to retire and let her take over the account.
Shelby looked up from the list she'd been scribbling. "Would the police or animal control have been alerted about an intrusion?"
"Both, maybe. But this new venture for Rutherford is completely different." Victoria pressed her lips together. The idea seemed out-of-date to her, but she'd once done a campaign for bubble gum that changed colors the longer a kid chewed it. The actual product was irrelevant. "It's a safe."
"Safe from what?" Calla asked.
Without success, Victoria fought the blush—a blush— creeping across her face. "Not safe from anything. A safe.'''
Her friends exchanged another one of those looks just before Shelby tapped her pen against her lips. "One of those big, heavy, metal things you store valuables in?"
Victoria flexed her hands on the steering wheel. "Yes."
"Well, that's.. " Shelby began.
"Innovative," Calla finished.
"Oh, please stop," Victoria said. "It's on the left side of nutty. But with banks failing and consumer confidence in traditional investments falling, it might strike a chord."
"Better than burying your cash in the backyard," Calla said.
Shelby nodded. "Especially since I don't have a backyard."
"Supposedly, this one's got a state-of-the-art computer chip that makes the dial and tumbler thing passe," Victoria said, aware the simpleness of the product was going to be the biggest challenge to overcome. "Regardless, Richard's going to invest a lot of money to convince people this is a must-have electronic gadget."
"Invest with you," Calla said a little too brightly.
"Yeah." Victoria got on I-495 and headed east. An old-school product with a futuristic upgrade? This was exactly the campaign that might, just might, outpace her mother's crazy-at-the-time idea of investing in websites to promote things. "'Cause I deserve it. Don't I?"