Read an Excerpt
Working with Evan always made Stacey’s blood boil. She sat across the conference table from him as he worked the room with his glitzy Lustful Cosmetics presentation and salesman smooth talking. Evan’s strong, tall form looked good in his expensive suit. He looked so much better naked. She tried to block that thought. Their breakup a year ago had been necessary at the time, but when they worked together, the reason for it always became hazy.
Evan’s dark brown hair and blue eyes held lustful secrets that went right along with their company’s line of cosmetics. He knew all her secrets, and it made him safe and arousing.
If only things had worked out.
At six foot two, he stood the perfect height for everything she needed. Licking her lips, Stacey refocused on the deal at hand. Since their breakup, they’d avoided working together as much as possible but the Carpe Amor boutique was a deal neither of them wanted to give up. The boutiques offered makeup and lingerie as well as adult-oriented items.
They’d worked hard to develop the contact with handsome Italian boutique owner and CEO, Angelo Morelli. His vice president of sales was a half-French and half-Greek beauty. Marika Drakos was gorgeous and had her eyes all over Evan. The two had flown to New York to meet with Evan and Stacey. Stacey did her best to be professional while Angelo’s eyes seemed to be undressing her then he exchanged glances with Marika, and Stacey wondered if the two were involved.
The presentation ended, and Stacey took a sip of water as the lights went up. “I think you’ll find our packaging, promotional giveaways, and product line for Lustful Cosmetics are in keeping with the European market.” Stacey wanted her line in their boutiques. No matter what the economy did, the elite clientele of Europe followed these trendy little boutiques loyally. It’d be a gold mine if they could just convince the owner to take the chance on American products.
“Yes, I see it’s very nice. However, I do business with people I feel understand me and my boutiques on a deeper level. American products have not quite hit the mark yet.” Angelo leaned back in his chair.
“What about these fail to hit the mark? All our European test groups loved them. And they loved your boutiques. It all fits.” Evan caught Stacey’s eye. After two year of dating, she could read his expressions. Trouble.
Being around him had her insides knotted. Had she made a mistake? Could they have worked it out? There was time to ponder later, work had to come first.
They were on rocky terrain with their potential clients. Stacey agreed and shared his frustration. All their work down the tubes? That couldn’t happen.
“It’s not about what is on paper, Evan. The products would be well received.” Marika leaned towards him. “It’s about what is not on paper. There’s chemistry to business. American products simply don’t have it.”
“So don’t tell the customers the products are American. I made a trip to your boutiques in France, Italy, Greece and London. I studied buying habits, spoke with customers and staff. We aren’t just about the numbers on paper. We want to continue to innovate the line and roll out new concepts to keep people attracted.” Stacey made strong eye contact with both their guests. Climbing the corporate ladder in a big New York company had never been easy. Stacey let her guard down with very few, Evan being one. She knew they could pull this off.
Angelo grinned. “We heard about your visits. Very thorough and impressive. Very professional. You even purchased a selection, no doubt feeling out our inventory. You and Evan are very good, and the business end would be functional.”
“What end needs work?” Evan asked.
Stacey wanted to know, as well. Normally, clients were eager to tell them what was wrong. Carpe Amor told them it’d work but held back on why. Stacey and Evan had wined and dined their guests within the limits allowed. They’d gone to the Met and a Broadway show. She’d spent a lot of time close to Evan recently, and so far, they’d managed to keep their clothes on. If the clients only knew how hard that was. What more could they want?
“It’s not about the work. Don’t mistake me. Your hospitality has been most generous. But the styles do not match up. You’ve put your product in our style, but you’re still Americans.” He held up a neatly manicured hand. “I don’t want to offend you.”
Evan stood. “Mr. Morelli, please. Losing your business would be the worst offense. Styles differ, but our company does business worldwide every day. I realise your boutiques are smaller by comparison. We are well equipped to handle distribution, exchange rates, and whatever else might cause you concern."