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QUINN, his lean body clad in supple motor-cycle leathers, strode into the swish foyer of the world-famous magazine Chic.
The glass swing doors closed behind him and, green eyes narrowed, he paused for a moment to get his bearings. Nothing in his attitude hinted at the fact that he knew that had the person he sought known he was there he would undoubtedly have found himself chucked out on his ear!
By nature Quinn was a confident individual--in his experience assurance was far more likely to open doors than an apologetic manner--but he considered this situation called for a extra degree of audacity. The meek might well be going to inherit the earth but Quinn couldn't wait that long--he was a man with a mission!
At any time Quinn had the sort of face that made people look, and then look again, their eyes admiringly drawn to the pleasing arrangement of strong bones and intriguing manly hollows that made his irregular features stand out from the crowd. At that moment his expression--a fairly accurate reflection of his one overriding emotion, determination--drew more second glances than usual.
His steely purpose extended beyond the tight-jawed, edgy expression on his saturnine features, his entire lean, loose-limbed body was tense with resolve; even his soft-footed tread had something uncompromising about it. In fact Quinn oozed danger, and human nature--or at least female nature--being what it was, this was the fatal ingredient that had every woman in the place instantly riveted.
In the normal run of things Quinn wasn't much bothered about the impression he made on people, except when, as part of his professional role, he needed toput them at their ease. His present enterprise was purely personal, and he had other, more urgent, things on his mind than racing pulses! He was going to see Rowena, and if that involved an unseemly contretemps with a security guard, chaining himself to an immovable object or just generally making a spectacle of himself, so be it!
Dignity had its place--hell, he was great at dignity, he oozed the stuff morning till night--but now wasn't the occasion to display restraint. He'd been displaying it for the past couple of months and where had it got him...? Fobbed off, ignored and generally given the run around, that was where!
His chiselled jaw tightened another notch as he contemplated the abysmal way Rowena Parrish, his long-time friend and recent lover, had been treating him since that memorable night in New York.
No, the time had arrived for a little bit of positive action. Quinn wasn't a man accustomed to dealing with rejection or failure, and he was damned if he was going to accept it now without some sort of explanation. It would have to be an extremely good one too if it was going to satisfy him!
"I'm here to see Ms--" he began firmly as he approached the nearest of the receptionists arranged around a big half-moon-shaped desk.
"Oh, and she'll definitely be glad to see you." There was a fervent nod of agreement that slid like a Mexican wave down the line of pretty faces.
It wasn't that the other applicants hadn't been good-looking. Like this one they'd all been sheathed in sexy black leather, and unlike this clean-shaven specimen they'd had the air of dissipated ruggedness that went with a sprinkling of designer stubble. Despite this advantage none had even come close to matching the indefinable something extra that this guy had by the bucketful!
The receptionist and her companions had all been watching his approach, mouths slightly ajar. His every physical attribute--these included legs that were longer than long, narrow hips, a washboard-flat belly and wide, powerful shoulders--had been digested, drooled over and stored for future dreamy reference.
Quinn, ready to do battle, was a little taken aback by this response. He cleared his throat and frowned suspiciously--was this some new devious ploy of Rowena's to get him out of her hair?
"Right, then, I'll just go to...?" 'If you'll give me your name I'll let them know you're on your way up."
"Quinn Tyler." There was no instant start of recognition--good, Rowena hadn't left any instructions to have him thrown out if he showed up as she had done at her apartment building.
After a lot of judicious eyelash fluttering the young woman consulted the screen in front of her. "We haven't actually got you down...it must be some sort of mistake." There were fervent nods of agreement. "No problem, I'll just add your name here," she told him cheerfully.
It was slowly dawning on Quinn that there was some sort of mistaken identity thing going on here, but as this seemed to be working in his favour he didn't see much point setting the record straight. If it got him closer to the inner sanctum and Rowena he was quite happy to play along, though that might be easier if he knew what role he was meant to be playing.
He dismissed any lingering qualms with a philosophical shrug--it couldn't be worse than a punch-up with Security, could it...?
Elbow leaning on the desk, he shamelessly utilised his most winning smile. "That's very good of you..." he consulted the name badge pinned to her ample bosom '...Stephanie."
A couple of minutes later, his fixed smile faded abruptly as he stepped into the glass-fronted lift and it began its smooth ascent. He looked at the piece of paper the nubile Stephanie had thrust into his hand, and his brows rose cynically at the sight of a scribbled phone number before he crushed it carelessly between his strong fingers.
The directions he'd received from Stephanie took him to a long, narrow room that contained a row of chairs and little else furniture-wise.
Quinn blinked; he was looking at a leather fetishist's dream. Males, mostly a few years younger than himself--mid to late twenties, he estimated--filled the available chairs. They were all clad in a similar fashion to himself--black leather from head to toe.
As he was surveying the surreal biker reunion scene in front of him, a door just to his left opened and he turned to see a short female figure dressed in a garish combination of lime green and cerise emerge, carrying a clipboard.
"Who's first?" The black leather rose en masse in response to her slightly bored query.
Apparently oblivious to the sudden rise in testosterone levels and anxiety, she ignored all the figures trying desperately hard to be rampantly male and turned instead to the one conveniently closest--ironically he was the only person present not trying to catch her attention.
"You! You'll do..." Her eyes travelled up the six-foot-five frame, getting wider and wider the more she saw. She paused, blinking in bemused fashion when she eventually encountered the greenest pair of eyes she'd ever seen. Long, curly ebony lashes any woman would have traded her soul for and equally dark, well-defined brows were suitable accessories for these truly spectacular orbs.
Sophie had seen it all but even she couldn't repress a tiny sigh of feminine appreciation. He might not be trying, but this guy was succeeding fairly dramatically on the rampant male front!
Her eyes eagerly slid over the strong, hawkish nose that bisected the hunk's lean features and dropped to the wide firm line of a sensationally sexy mouth. A slow grin spread across her features.
"You'll do very well indeed," she told him with a throaty chuckle.
Quinn, aware of a battery of resentful eyes on his back, found himself being bundled by the tiny figure through the door and into the connecting room.
In contrast to his colourful escort the elegant female behind the desk was clad totally in black. She looked at Quinn for a full thirty seconds before smiling--he had the distinct impression her facial muscles didn't get a whole lot of practice with this procedure.
She rose to her feet. "Anna Semple." Instead of extending her hand as Quinn had expected, she walked around him, head on one side in a bird-like attitude--he found himself thinking 'vulture' at this point. "And who might you be?" Anna asked, somewhat taken aback to discover that, instead of looking eager to please, this candidate was glancing at his wrist-watch.
"Quinn Tyler." He couldn't decide whether he was amused or irritated by the treatment.
"I haven't got a Quinn Tyler down here," her colourful companion revealed, consulting her list.
"No matter." His interrogator frowned as though his name was tugging at her memory. "These don't look like props." She ran a hand lightly over the sleeve of his well-worn leather jacket and gave another vulpine smile.
"They're not." 'And have you done much of this sort of work, Quinn Tyler...?"
Time to ditch the subterfuge and move on to his main objective. "Actually I think there's been some sort of..." He edged surreptitiously towards the door.
"Who sent you?" 'Nobody sent me." 'Initiative! I like that, don't I, Sophie? But you have an agent?" If he didn't this opened all sorts of interesting possibilities--such as an exclusive contract. Now wouldn't that be nice? Very nice, she decided, trying and failing to discover any flaws in the hunk. Forget the leather spread--this guy could front their 'new season--new man' feature that was to run for three consecutive issues, she thought excitedly.
Quinn was a patient man, but even he had his limitations. He'd seen farmers giving prospective purchases at a livestock market a more subtle survey than this female was giving him! Any minute now he was convinced she'd ask him to show her his teeth! He was almost right...
"Take off your shirt and jacket, will you?" Anna requested, casually retaking her seat.
Quinn's eyes widened as it dawned on him she was deadly serious. And I thought my job called for personal sacrifices! he thought.
"Is that all?"
The younger woman looked startled by his response, but the irony sailed right over the older female's head.
"Yes, that'll be sufficient." Anna flicked her female companion an amused look as the big man remained immobile. "Not shy, are you?" she taunted indulgently.
"Not shy, no," Quinn replied honestly. Just a bit particular about who I take my clothes off for. The thought of removing his clothes focused his mind forcefully on his original objective--Rowena.
Now, if she'd asked him his response would have been quite different. With reluctance he dragged his mind clear of the various stimulating scenarios it had immediately conjured up along this theme.
He was just about to break the news that, whatever they had in mind, he wasn't available when the door behind him opened a crack, and the sound of voices drifted in--one at least he identified instantly.
"Have I got the go-ahead on the "Having It All" feature, Rowena?" Sylvia Morrow urgently hailed her editor who, oblivious to the admiring male eyes lining the wall, was taking a short cut through to her top floor office. She'd worked hard for that office.
Rowena was a tall, beautiful young woman with typical English-rose colouring, classical features, natural ash-blonde hair and a shapely but slender body. She was not unaware of the impact her looks made on people, but she felt on balance that these attributes had been more of a hindrance than a help in her single-minded efforts to gain the right to call that office on the top floor her own.
The job of editor that went with the luxury office was still new enough to seem unreal. It was the goal she'd been working towards ever since she'd left university with a first-class honours degree, no experience, no money and boundless ambition.
Now she was there--she had it all! Funny, she'd expected success to feel quite different. The route to the top hadn't been easy--people had said she was too young and some still were saying it--but she was proving them wrong.
The vague feeling of anticlimax was, she supposed, to be expected. Perhaps if her personal life wasn't such a mess she could have enjoyed her moment of glory, but ironically she'd never felt more confused or unhappy in her life. And whose fault was that? Quinn Tyler's.
She conveniently ignored the inescapable fact that she herself was at least fifty per cent to blame for her present predicament.
"Are you all right, Rowena?" Sylvia's concerned glance slipped from the haunted expression on her boss's pale face to the slim hand pressed against her enviably flat belly.
They had both been at the glitzy party of yet another new perfume launch the previous evening, the food and drink had flowed freely and Sylvia, who was congenitally incapable of refusing freebies, had woken feeling a trifle delicate that morning. It seemed unlikely Rowena had over-indulged too--self-control was Rowena's middle name.
Rowena smiled stiffly and, trying not to draw attention to her action, removed her hand from her stomach. If she wasn't careful, she thought worriedly, people were going to start putting two and two together.
"I'm fine." She was in control now and didn't show even by so much as a flicker of an eyelash the conflict that was raging in her head.
For someone who'd mouthed off as often as she had about how impossible it was for a woman to give her all to a job when she had a baby, this was some position to find herself in. Actually, it was some position for anyone to find themselves in! Not that she had a baby yet... She sighed, aware that she could fool others but not herself. No matter how hard she attempted to think of the new life inside her as a cluster of cells, she couldn't. It was a person--in the primitive stages maybe, but still a little individual.
"The "Having it All" feature...?" Sylvia prompted. Rowena pushed aside her personal problems--for the first time in her professional career the process wasn't easy. "You know my opinion on that one, Sylvia." Rowena didn't believe you could 'have it all'.