Read an Excerpt
Rafael's Convenient Proposal
By Rebecca Winters
Mills & BoonCopyright © 2004 Rebecca Winters
All right reserved.
Chapter One"FOR those of you just joining the Jack Hendley Friday Night Live show broadcasting from New York, we have the gorgeous Ms. Mallory Ellis in studio with us this evening."
The band played a little theme music and the audience clapped.
"If you have eyes in your head, you could be forgiven for thinking she's a world-class supermodel or top box office movie star, but you'd be dead wrong. At twenty-nine years of age, Ms. Ellis has the distinction of being one of the youngest female executives ever featured in Financial Wizards of Wall Street.
"A top honors graduate in corporate law from Yale University, Ms. Ellis was snapped up by Windemere Cosmetics, a struggling Los Angeles based firm. In three short years under her guidance, the company not only has a new name, "Lady Windemere Cosmetics," it has also gone global. So far the profits keep rising which is good news for the employees who now own stock in the company.
"According to the magazine article, her undisputed genius lies in profit and loss savvy, but tonight we're hoping she'll reveal some of the secrets of her phenomenal success story."
From far away, the audience couldn't tell the TV host's eyes glittered as he studied her. "According to a source close to you, you're a woman who knows whatwomen want, and you put women with the right credentials in charge. Did you always plan to be a big female tycoon?"
There was an edge to his question rather than a teasing tone. She'd seen him in action before. Jack Hendley was a male chauvinist who had fixed ideas about a woman's place in life. That was all right with Mallory. A lot of insecure men had the same problem.
Coming on this show was the last thing she'd wanted to do. But when Liz Graffman, the seventy-year-old widow who owned Lady Windemere Cosmetics, received a call from the television network asking that its vice president fly to New York and be on the Jack Hendley show, Mallory couldn't say no to Liz's plea.
Lady Windemere Cosmetics would get the kind of exposure on his show you couldn't buy at any price.
Over the last thirty-six months, Mallory's relationship with Liz had become like that of a favorite great-aunt and niece. Surely Mallory could stand a half hour of being patronized by one of television's longstanding night talk show hosts.
"A tycoon by definition implies someone who owns a company or many companies. I only work for one," she corrected him with a friendly smile. He didn't smile back which was no surprise since he could sense she was refusing to play ball with him.
"However to answer your question, when I was old enough to think about the world, there was only one thing that drove me; my insatiable love for surfing."
His eyes flared because he hadn't been expecting that response. "Where did you grow up?"
"Huntington Beach, California."
"That explains it. Were you a good surfer?"
"I won a few western regional championships at Redondo Beach and Malibu."
Several wolf whistles resounded along with the clapping from the listening audience.
"At this juncture I'm sure every eligible male watching would like to know if there's a future Lord Windemere waiting in the wings somewhere."
The man was so predictable she had to stifle a moan before she said, "No."
"Does that mean -"
"It just means no," she broke in on him with a purposely engaging smile that lit up her brilliant blue eyes. Mallory had done her share of dating. She loved men as much as the next woman, but she didn't confuse her personal and professional life by getting too close to any one man. In fact she couldn't see it happening in the foreseeable future. Maybe one day.
"So what happened to turn you from a surfer into a corporate attorney?"
She'd made him uncomfortable with her brief, unrevealing answers. Good. It was about time he'd asked her a question relevant to her being on the show in the first place.
"If I wasn't surfing, I was reading beneath a beach umbrella. At an early age I became addicted to comic books. My father has a huge collection dating from the forties to the present which he treasures to this day. I must have read every one of them and particularly liked the stories about the Amazon women from Paradise Island with their secret powers."
He turned to the audience. "Put her in one of those sexy little outfits, and she'd look just like them." His remark provoked more whistles and cheers.
Mallory ignored the remark. When the din died down she said, "During the WWII years, the man who created that series once said that if women were given a little more time and the added strength they'd develop out of the war, they'd begin to control things in a serious way. When women ruled, there wouldn't be any more war because the girls wouldn't want to waste time killing men."
Another loud burst of applause broke out.
"Needless to say, those comments found a resonant chord in me. From that moment on I decided I would be one of those women who would begin to control things in a serious way."
By now most of the women were on their feet clapping while the band played some more theme music. When it finally subsided and they sat down again the host said, "So it's true that since you've taken over the reins, Lady Windemere has become an all women-run company?"
Mallory nodded, then cocked her head. The unconscious gesture caused her long, glistening hair, the color of dark mink, to slide over one shoulder.
"That's right. Women want to be beautiful for men, but they dress and put on makeup to pass a woman's inspection. You're married, Mr. Hendley. When your wife asks you if you like her in pink or red lipstick, what do you say?"
"That I like her no matter what she wears."
"Exactly. You sound like a good husband who knows how to stay out of hot water. But you're no help because you don't want to offend her by giving her a wrong answer.
"The female managers and employees at Lady Windemere don't have to be careful in the same way. They'll tell a customer the truth and create a pallet of colors just for her to make her feel her most beautiful and confident. In the end she'll buy more products and stay loyal to the brand for life."
"In other words, I won't be able to find a man to wait on me if I walk into one of your stores."
Her remarks had gotten under his skin. She sat back in the chair resting her hands on the armrests.
"Some might argue that you're sexist."
Mallory had been waiting for that salvo. She re-crossed her long elegant legs. "After taking a good look at Windemere, I saw what I thought needed doing in order to turn it into a promising business concern.
Excerpted from Rafael's Convenient Proposal by Rebecca Winters Copyright © 2004 by Rebecca Winters. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.