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Latonya Stevens glanced up from the papers on her desk. Smiling, she tilted her head and batted her eyes playfully at her coworker.
Jeff Weatherby leaned against the entryway to her office wearing a designer suit and a smile that could best be described as sexy with a little mischief thrown in for good measure. His tall, lean, muscular build, along with his Hollywood heartthrob looks and boyish charm, made him almost irresistible. And he knew it. Observing the player-on-the-prowl gleam in his eyes, Latonya thanked God she had developed immunity to smooth-talking playboys ever since the first one, her father, broke her heart.
Jeff loosened his tie as he stepped into the office and took a seat. "So, beautiful, how about you come to Soka's with us for happy hour. It's Friday and it's time to get ready for the weekend." His piercing cobalt-blue eyes glimmered as he spoke. He casually leaned back in the chair.
Watching as he made himself comfortable, Latonya admired his easy, laid-back nature. She figured that it must have been nice to let go and not have to worry about anything but working and partying hard, sometimes in that order.
Unfortunately, she had too many responsibilities to test the lifestyle Jeff seemed to promote so wholeheartedly.
"Thanks for the invite,but I have to get a head start on next week's projects." She stood up and stretched, moving her neck and head in a circular motion.
"You know what they say about all work..." Jeff ran his fingers through black hair that would put male-shampoo-commercial models out of business and let his words linger.
"I know. I'm dull," Latonya admitted as she sat back down in her seat. She didn't need anyone to tell her that she didn't have a social life. She couldn't remember ever having one. And given the amount of responsibilities she now had, she doubted she'd be getting one anytime soon.
She'd started working for Harrington Enterprise's Miami offices fresh out of her MBA program full of energy and hope. The company exported cement and refined petroleum products from the Bahamas and imported crude oil from the States into the Bahamas. At twenty-four years old, the job with the Fortune 500-company allowed her to remain at home and help out her family in a stressful time: her grandmother — who had single-handedly raised Latonya and her sister — had just had a stroke.
She'd needed a job that would allow her to take over the mortgage payments on the small two-bedroom home where she'd spent most of her life and pay the part of her sister's tuition that wasn't covered by scholarships. The entry-level position at Harrington had barely allowed her to make ends meet when she combined those responsibilities with her own student-loan debt, but she was getting by.
Jeff smiled as he stood up, slinging his suit jacket over his shoulder. "You're not dull, beautiful. Just a little uptight, that's all. But I intend to make it my business to loosen you up. You work too hard. You need to learn how to relax, and I'm just the man to show you how." He winked at her.
Tilting her head, Latonya squinted and pursed her lips. "I'll tell you what, when I have time for a social life you will be the first person I call. How about that?" She knew she would never take him up on his offer. Flirting was fun, but it didn't pay the bills.
"That sounds like a plan to me, beautiful. I'll see you on Monday. That is, unless you want to give me a call later and hang out this weekend. Let's say Saturday night. You, me, a little dinner — "
"I'll see you on Monday, Weatherby. Now, go and party or whatever it is you guys do on a Friday night. I have work to do."
"Right. Catch you later, beautiful." Jeff gave her one last wink as he strolled from the office.
I'll tell you what, when I have time for a social life you will be the first person I call. How about that?
Carlton Harrington III let the words linger in his mind as he continued down the hallway. He hadn't meant to listen in on the conversation between Jeff and Latonya. He'd simply been walking by her office when he heard a sound that he seldom had the pleasure of hearing from her. Laughter.
Had he known that he would become automatically irritated by what he heard, maybe he would have kept walking.
As he made his way through the fairly empty corridors of Harrington Enterprise, two of his employees stopped him.
"Hey, Mr. Harrington, do you want to come to Soka's with us? A few of us hang out there on Fridays to unwind after a long week."
Carlton glanced up and noticed Stan Carter and Juan Esperanzo standing in front of the elevator. Before he could answer Stan's inquiry, Juan spoke.
"Hey, Jeff, is she coming?"
Carlton turned and saw Jeff Weatherby trotting down the hall.
"No, she says she has work to do," Jeff responded. Carlton expelled a breath of air he didn't even know he was holding as he moved to face Stan and Juan. "I told you she wasn't going to come. Face it, man, your skills are lost on this one. That's a serious sistah and she is not checking for you, Jeff. Give it up." Stan let out a chuckle as he pressed the button for the elevator. He glanced over at Carlton. "So, would you like to come hang out?"
Carlton considered it briefly and decided to decline the outing with his employees. He already had plans to meet up with friends at Soka's later. "No, I'll take a rain check this time."
The elevator came and the trio of men stepped on. "Just so you know, Ms. Latonya Stevens will be mine by the end of the year. I'm wearing her down. She won't be able to resist much longer. I can already see that she is falling for me — " Jeff's words and Stan and Juan's laughter were cut off by the elevator.
Like hell! Carlton thought as he listened to Jeff's boasting. Shocked that he even cared what went on between Jeff and Latonya Stevens, he continued on to the copy room. He had to make a copy of some paperwork from the Biltmore account and mail it to the Bahamas office.
It was hard to imagine that the small storefront business his great-great-grandfather had started back when he'd first moved to Miami from the Bahamas had become a huge import-export business. The company dealt mostly in cement and oil refining. Harrington Enterprise had two large main offices: one in Miami and the other in the city of Nassau in the Bahamas. They had several more satellite offices throughout the Caribbean.
As the sheets filtered though the copy machine, Carlton noticed that several key pieces of information were missing. He would have to go back to his office and add the information before sending the report. This meant he would be late meeting his friends.
On his way back down the hall, he stopped at Latonya Stevens's door. He couldn't figure out what it was about the woman that triggered the uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach, but he hoped he knew enough to stay away from her. He realized that if he had any sense he wouldn't have been standing in front of her door.
He was about to turn away when she looked up from the paperwork on her desk. His stomach turned over and he almost smiled. However, the look on her face turned quickly into a frown when she saw him standing there. Before he could talk any sense into himself, his feet were heading directly into her office.
Latonya gritted her teeth. After weeks of managing to avoid prolonged contact with Carlton Harrington III, he'd just come barging into her office. When she heard footsteps in the hallway, she thought it might have been Jeff coming back to try to convince her to come with them to Soka's again. Flirting playboys, she could handle. Brooding, sexy bosses, she needed help with. Her immunity to men didn't seem to work at all with Carlton.
She had been with Harrington Enterprise for almost a year when the boss's grandson, Carlton Harrington III, had temporarily taken over her division. He had just returned from heading up an expansion project that pushed the Bahamas and Miami-based company farther into the Caribbean and seemed intent on making changes and making his mark.
The first Monday that she worked with Carlton she realized that she had several reasons to be nervous. The most unsettling were his ruggedly handsome looks and the powerful sensuality that she swore dripped from his pores. She had never seen a man so fine in all her life. His custom-made business suits, starched-shirts and silk ties draped his perfect form in a manner that proved the man made the clothes. She couldn't imagine any other man exuding a tenth of the cool, suave confidence he did in those suits.
The perfect combination of smooth dark chocolate with just barely a hint of milk, he had broad shoulders and well-defined muscles. His lush lips appeared soft to the touch. Although he never smiled at her, when she saw him smile at others, she had to admit that the perfect teeth along with those lips made for one delightful grin.
His eyes called to mind deep, dark pools of water; they were liquid fire and full of expression. The only problem was, from the time he first laid eyes on her, she felt as if all his eyes could express were irritation and dissatisfaction. His perfectly squared jaw-line and sweet lips were always set in a frown whenever Latonya entered the room.
She couldn't seem to do anything right for the grumpy man. He never managed more than grunts toward her, but with others he seemed cordial, even friendly. She told herself by the end of their first week working together that she really could not stand the man, no matter how handsome he was.
If only that were true. Honestly, for the first time in her young life she was finding herself intensely attracted to a man. She got heart palpitations whenever she was in the same room with him. She had to think of increasingly creative ways to maintain a facade of calm.
Excerpted from If Only You Knew by Gwyneth Bolton Copyright © 2006 by Gwyneth Bolton. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted July 5, 2006
Reading If Only You Knew took me through a range of emotions. I felt the struggles that Latonya and Carlton went through and rooted for them to make it. Ms. Bolton has a gift for pulling you into the story and tugging on your heart. I can honestly say I laughed, cried and even got angry at certain stages. I felt the pain that Latonya went through as she made hard decisions about her life and love. The love scenes took me there and back. And even though Carlton is a very alpha-male hero I found myself falling a little bit in love with his troubled soul. I really loved this book and can't wait to read the next one by this truly gifted and talented author.
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I enjoyed this book from beginning to end sincerly hoping there is a book two I'm hoping to see how there lives continue I read this book in a day I couldn't put it down.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 16, 2006
Let me start by saying that I am a die-hard romance fan. I purchased this book because it was one of the launch books of the Kimani Romance line owned by Harlequin. While reading this book, I experienced a multitude of emotions ranging from bewilderment to anger. The whole distribution and advertising of this book as a romance has me confused as to what the editor of this book's idea of romance really is. The heroine, LaTonya is a young, educated woman who works long hours in overtime trying to earn a promotion to a higher paying position. She feels this is necessary considering she has to support and put her sister through college and take care of an ill grandmother recovering from a stroke. LaTonya works for a tyrant of a boss, whose family owns the company and has been placed there temporarily to fill his grandfather's position. The hero, Carlton Harrington III, is a Caribbean corporate millionaire who is making LaTonya's professional life a living hell. The reader is also informed that he does this because he is very attracted to the LaTonya. How does he show it? By making her complete her other co-workers incomplete assignments, badgering her in front of other employees, making snide inappropriate comments about her friendship with other male colleagues and making her come in and work overtime on the weekends. He also spends his time eavesdropping on conversations she has with other colleagues and leering at her as if he hates her, constantly finding fault in everything she does. What is the explanation given to the reader? That Carlton is very attracted to LaTonya. Is this how a grown man acts when he finds a woman attractive? His behavior resembles that of a young boy who is experiencing feelings for the opposite sex for the first time and has no idea how to handle them. Carlton forces LaTonya to work late one Saturday. When she finally decides she has had enough and calls him on the abuse, she asks that he give her a transfer to another department. He vehemently tells her she isn't going to another department and any transfer she tries to receive, he will block. This is how he handles rejection, by lashing out. A constant behavior exhibited by him in this novel. LaTonya tells him he is out of line, tries to leave and he grabs her with such force she winces in pain, and he kisses her and insists that she wants him as much as he does her. She says nothing then seems like she is forced to admit that there is an attraction: a sick one if you ask me. What is LaTonya's reaction to the indecent proposal of a one-night stand? Why not? He looks good and maybe just maybe she can get her transfer if she does. Huh? What kind of reasoning is this? Did I mention that the heroine is a virgin at the time she makes this decision? What virgin would be so flippant with her virginity that she would give it to a man that she has despised for his treatment of her for so long? Apparently, this heroine would. The reader is supposed to believe this as well. I kept asking myself throughout this novel why would an educated woman, with an MBA no less, fall for a man like this? The author gives the reader the reason of Carlton being so attractive that she cannot resist. Is the reader supposed to give him a pass on his misdeeds just because he is handsome? What about the laws against sexual harassment in the workplace? LaTonya decides not to pursue a case because she feels since the hero is rich and powerful and she doesn't stand a chance. The heroine seemed afraid to say no to the hero. Anytime she tried to go against him and didn't the reason given was that he was a millionaire and she had nothing so what could she do to stop him? What kind of message does this send to women readers in the same position? The book jumps around so much, sometimes by months and years. By the fourth chapter, the couple end up married and the heroine is pregnant. Why? Because the hero tells the woman he has to have her, not because he lWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 28, 2006
I thoroughly enjoyed If Only You Knew. I could not put it down for one second and would rate it Bolton's best novel to date. The story line is well presented and the characters well developed. Bolton craftily uses the romance genre to highlight tensions that evolve between diasporic blacks and is able to aptly demonstrate how communication, an understanding of each group's experiences/history, and most importantly LOVE can help us to overcome these misunderstandings. Carlton and Latonya's love for each other eventually shatters the distrust between the African Caribbean and African American characters in the novel. Bolton surpasses documenting stereotypes instead, she offers a glimpse of the reality of differences among blacks rather than painting a picture of a monolithic black diaspora. She allows two talented, intelligent, soul mates to work through the strains of love, marriage, and family. The love scenes between Latonya and Carlton are superbly written-hot, steamy, racy-and I must confess erased any problems I had with Carlton's harsh decisions and his jealousy. I highly recommend this novel and look forward to more like romance novels from Bolton.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 20, 2010
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