Read an Excerpt
An Elite PR novel
By Clare James, Vanessa Mitchell
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Clare James
All rights reserved.
Holy shit, does this guy know what he's doing in the sack! Or in the bathroom stall, rather.
That was Vivian Blake's first thought as she watched the video. Watched as he slammed the voluptuous blonde against the wall and drove into her with so much force, it took Viv's breath away. Though she was watching the X-rated bathroom romp from her iPad — in the privacy of her own home — it didn't stop the heat from spreading over her chest, up her neck and face, to the tips of her ears. She felt downright pervy watching the footage. The surprisingly clear footage. Yeah, she could see everything. This was no shady production. The picture was clear and sharp, damn near HD. She sank a little deeper under her covers, the cool, crisp sheets brushing against her sensitive skin.
Viv couldn't help but wonder how she would feel up against that wall. Ah — she squirmed as another wave of warmth rolled in, blanketing her from head to toe, reaching places she hadn't felt in a long time. It was too much to even think about.
Get your mind out of your pants and focus, Viv.
The tendons in the man's arms bulged as he held Blondie up, cradling her thighs. It was one of the hottest things she had ever seen. And we were talking arms for fuck's sake. Once she locked in on his face? Forget about it. The camera was placed overhead so the angle provided Viv with an excellent view of that rugged mug. Piercing blue eyes, strong jaw with the perfect amount of stubble, and plump kissable lips that he used to his full advantage as he brought this unnamed woman to the brink of ecstasy in a bar bathroom.
The guy, however, had a name. A name worth millions. Mr. Bathroom Stall Sex Guy was better known as racing sensation Jarod Cage. And he was a foolish, foolish man.
The recording went viral almost immediately after he'd done the deed. What followed was a steady, and often vicious, stream of media coverage all over Racing Land. Cage Caught Again.More Trouble for Racing Bad Boy. Could This Be the Beginning of the End?
Now, twenty hours later, most of the photos and video clips had been taken down from the scummy websites. The attorneys made sure of it. But as a lucky insider, Viv had one of the few copies left for her viewing pleasure.
And what a pleasure it was.
As she assessed the evidence in question, it was easy to make out the delicious piece of mancake in the stall. Almost too easy. Viv wasn't even remotely into racing, yet she recognized the man on the screen as Jarod Cage. There'd be no way to deny it was him. She made a note to look into the logistics as soon as she could — the equipment used to get the footage, as well as the methods of distribution — to find out who was responsible for the leak.
PR Rule Number 1: Know your audience. That included your enemies.
Amazed that the guy could hold up this mystery woman for so long, Viv checked the running time on the video. Five minutes. She stroked her own flabby arms and grimaced. Then she typed "go to the gym" on her work calendar.
Jarod shifted his angle a bit, and the woman's blond locks fell over her full breasts. It reminded Viv that an appointment with her stylist was also in order. She could use some highlights in her hair for summer. She'd already been feeling frumpy lately, and this bombshell wasn't helping matters. Not that she wanted to ooze sex like Video Girl here — that would not go over well at the office — but she could stand to pump it up a notch. Maybe even start breaking into her collection of shoes, take them out for a spin every now and again. Viv was no Carrie Bradshaw, but she did have a few pairs of Manolos and Jimmy Choos from an off-season sale. She considered them an investment and cared for them like a comic book nerd cares for a first-edition Batman or his G.I. Joe action figure. It was true. In fact, her burgundy sling-backs had never even left the box. What a shame, when they could be digging into a fine ass like the one currently gracing her screen.
Another minute ticked by. Viv's brain finally, reluctantly, pulled away from Mr. Sex on Wheels and shifted to work mode. It was time for some serious damage control, and they would need to come up with the mother of all excuses for this one. Drinking problem? A bad reaction from prescription drugs? A doppelgänger? She'd have to cook up something good to get him out of this predicament.
How he didn't realize he was being recorded in this compromising position, she had no idea. Actually, that wasn't true. She did understand. After dealing with so many athletes, musicians, and actors — and their very delicate dirty laundry — she'd come to realize that incredible talent came with a price ... intellect, in most cases. Thus, leaving the other head in charge of the important decisions.
No difference here. It was an open-and-shut case. Thankfully for the manwhore, it was Viv's job to clean up indiscretions like these and make him nice and shiny again.
And she wasn't above spinning the story, either. Whatever it took. She never would've made it as a lawyer, bound by all the rules and ethics. She was more of a rule bender than follower, an imperative strategy if they wanted to win in the court of public opinion.
The only court that mattered.
Viv paused the tape and zoomed in.
Was that a tattoo on his hip?
Jarod's jeans hung around his ankles, but she could only get a view of the black spot on his right side when he pulled away from Video Girl. And it was never long enough for a decent look. Damn. Though her skin was unmarked, Viv had an unhealthy obsession with ink. Particularly on hot, strapping men.
She pulled up her laptop and opened Jarod's file. It was going to take more than this sex show to see exactly what she was dealing with. Not that she really had a choice in the matter. Her boss simply emailed the file on the way out of the office and said, "Read up. Your new client will be here in the morning."
That was Miranda Wells — president of Elite Public Relations' Atlanta Group and world-class spin doctor. With one of the most impressive track records in the industry, Elite PR managed clients in major business, sports, and entertainment hubs around the world. The majority of the Atlanta Group's roster came from the Nashville music scene, Southern athletes, and actors. Miranda knew them all, and she was one woman you never wanted to piss off.
Viv knew that firsthand, which is why she'd hit this case hard to ensure she was more than prepared for her new assignment. Even if tomorrow was the day before the Fourth of July and technically a company holiday.
Who needed picnics and fireworks, anyway?
Viv didn't work sixty hours a week and move every eight to twelve months for the fun of it. She was there to learn. Recruited right out of college for Elite's executive track, she had worked stints in the Chicago, Philly, and DC offices before Atlanta. Her goal was to make it to the New York office by the time she was twenty-five, and then start planting some roots. That was the dream. Until then, everything else was just temporary.
But thanks to Miranda, she was already a year off schedule. Viv celebrated her twenty-sixth birthday last week ... and it wasn't anywhere near the Big Apple. The timing of her next move was at her boss's discretion, and so far Miranda had rejected three of her transfer requests. "You're not ready," she'd said each time.
So Viv would do her job and repair the reputation of this latest exhibitionist. What was it with celebrities anyway? If she had a dollar for every sex scandal that came through Elite's doors ...
Viv clicked through the notes and files of this latest PR nightmare, which included some very serious threats from Jarod's sponsor — the squeaky clean Saturn Corp. It was apparent that the leading American manufacturer of confectionery was not at all impressed by these recent events. As it turned out, chocolate and T-and-A didn't mix.
Thing was, if Jarod lost his sponsor, he would also lose his place on the NASCAR circuit and millions of dollars in endorsements. This was a career-defining moment for the driver. And if Viv played it right, she could restore Mr. Cage's image, protect his livelihood, and watch him win whatever it is that you win in racing.
Then she'd be a shoo-in for the New York transfer.
She made a quick detour to search for more information about Jarod's profession. What was it called anyway? A club? Pastime? Activity?
According to Wiki, NASCAR is a sport. Second only to the NFL in TV ratings, it held some major world attendance titles in sporting events. No wonder the sponsors were worried. The public had serious power in the racing world.
This wasn't going to be easy. Music, business, even baseball or football, were all in Viv's wheelhouse. But NASCAR? Let's be serious. She simply couldn't comprehend why anyone would think it was a challenge to drive around in circles all day. Or why people would pay to watch.
Didn't matter. This assignment was a chance to get back on track — see, she was already acclimating — but only if she did everything perfectly.
Eye on the prize.
She organized her paperwork and electronics, creating a makeshift office on her plush king-size bed. Viv loved working in her bedroom — a space that took up the entire top floor in her swanky loft. Soft blue tones covered the walls and seemed to soothe her after the long and grueling hours she spent in the downtown office. It was a cozy nest: a four-poster bed, floral prints, and an oversize puffy chaise. A stark contrast to the main floor, which looked more like a model home with the sleek furniture and modern art. There wasn't a hint of anything personal to be found. Viv rented the place fully furnished — except for the bedroom — and hadn't made one change to the place. She never did.
That was Viv, a walking contradiction. She recognized it, but it suited her. She could entertain and look the part of a successful businesswoman if she wished. And then, at the end of the day, she could curl up in her cozy bedroom with her cooking magazines, watch a romcom, or read one of her steamy romance novels.
Speaking of steamy, Viv turned her attention back to the video and hit play. Geez, the sounds that came from that little bathroom stall were enough to make a grown woman blush. Jarod was still going strong. My God, how long could he last?
A loud groan or growl — was it a growl? — echoed in her bedroom. She wasn't quite sure what that was, but Video Girl sure seemed to like it. And that only reminded Viv how long it'd been since she'd been manhandled.
Not that her experiences were anything close to this, and not that she'd wanted it like that anyway. Still ...
Ever since she started at Elite, she'd had no time for a relationship. Men, even those with the stamina of an Olympic athlete and ass of a Greek god, were not part of her plan just yet. Why put down roots and get attached when she'd be leaving soon? And honestly, relationship and commitment or not, Viv wasn't a hook-up-in-a-bar-bathroom kind of gal. Though she had to admit, she was seriously considering changing her position on that hard-and-fast rule. Thanks in part to this showing of Legally Boned with Jarod Cage.
Thing was, even Viv's most determined suitors, like Jake at the local TV station, never got to see her naked. Okay, maybe once or twice, but that was it. And it was well over a year ago.
Snuggled in bed, Viv continued to watch the video. Just. A. Little. More. Prep. For. Tomorrow's. Meeting. Oh God. She was actually pacing her thoughts to Jarod's thrusts. This was getting out of hand.
Suddenly, Jarod stopped all motion and began talking. But this wasn't idle chitchat. Even if she couldn't make out the words, she could tell it was intense and demanding, and apparently so hot it made the woman's eyes roll back in her head. Viv messed with the volume, straining to hear him, to no avail.
What the hell did he say?
She couldn't read Jarod's lips because they were fastened on Video Girl's ear, and she couldn't sweeten the audio without the studio equipment they had at the office. It was driving Viv crazy. Not that it really mattered for her work. It was her own curiosity making her mad. His words, and the effect they had on his woman. Holy shit.
Seconds later, they both slumped against the wall, and Viv's chest deflated like a popped balloon. If it were possible, she'd say she just had a vicarious orgasm. Though hers had none of the relief, so she went to the kitchen and snagged the last of the leftover chocolate cake to find her happy place.
Back in bed with her heaping plate, she made it to the last scene in the footage. Jarod pulled up his pants and rubbed the scruff on his chin, looking perfectly sated. Video Girl was not as composed. She was a messy puddle of afterglow, so Jarod helped dress her. It was odd, and also strangely sweet.
Viv wolfed down the remaining morsels of her dessert, relieved the video was finally over. Then she put it out of her mind for the next few hours while she worked. She read about Jarod Cage's racing history and his personal life. And that's when she found another potential crisis to deal with — his engagement to a Gina McKnight, a motocross reporter for ESPN. The article said the two were on the rocks, but still ... what a dumbass. Yes, his relationship status would definitely have to be addressed.
She continued brainstorming ideas and polishing her presentation until she was confident she had a strategy in place to solve the Cage crisis. At two in the morning, she shut everything down, closed her eyes, and let the exhaustion take her under. Not surprisingly, it didn't last. Viv never slept well the night before a client meeting, so she spent the next six hours tossing and turning, dozing in and out. Only this time it wasn't the stress of the presentation messing with her shut-eye. It was the image of Jarod Cage playing on the screen behind her eyelids and the sounds of his demands vibrating in her ears.
* * *
Viv moved into downward facing dog for the third time in her morning yoga class, desperate for a pair of fresh panties. Unable to banish the thoughts of Mr. Sex on Wheels and that damn video from the night before, Viv felt dirty and stupid ... but mostly, incredibly horny. She was like a groupie or stalker or something, fixated on a man she couldn't have. It was embarrassing, and completely unlike her.
She tried to burn off the shit-pot of nervous energy simmering under her skin, holding each pose longer than anyone in the class. Her Eagle was something to behold. Still, as she twisted her body into various pretzel-like shapes, all she could focus on was her meeting with the notorious bad boy. In two hours.
Maybe morning yoga wasn't such a good idea.
But Viv Blake wasn't a quitter. She toughed out the session, though she felt none of the relief that she usually did by the time the class said Namaste. All of the uneasiness had yet to subside, so she hit the locker room hoping a steaming shower would help.
She dried off and slipped into a slate-gray wrap dress and pale pink Louboutins, and, oh yeah, the ensemble worked its magic — lifting her spirits and her measly five-foot-three height. She actually felt more powerful with the shoe's extra inches. So far, so good.
Her makeup was another story. She was hot and splotchy with bags under her eyes, and the minimal makeup she carried in her bag wasn't cutting it. She'd have to polish up her game face at the office, where she kept the big guns (like heavy-duty concealer, eye brightener, and berry lip stain) for mornings such as this.
Making quick work of her long dark hair, she secured it in a loose bun and headed out to the coffee shop across from the firm, ordering an iced dark roast. She really wasn't a fan, but couldn't take regular coffee in this heat. Connecticut had its steamy moments in the summertime, but the Nutmeg State had nothing on Hotlanta.
Viv placed the cool cup up to her forehead as she walked the last block to her building. The city was sleepy for midweek — even at Elite. Everyone was already off celebrating the holiday, leaving the sorry saps like her to hold down the fort.
Excerpted from Caught by Clare James, Vanessa Mitchell. Copyright © 2015 Clare James. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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