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"I've got an idea," Steven said to Dinah as soon as his executive vice president at Raleighvale China answered the phone.
"The last time you said that I found myself answering some rather uncomfortable questions from the police in Rome."
He laughed. "This time you won't have to deal with the police."
"Somehow my fears still aren't eased. What's this idea of yours?"
"What do you know about pop culture?"
"How does a position as my executive VP sound?"
"I thought that was my position," she said.
"For Everest Group Mega Store. I'm calling you from my new office."
"Your father's company? You said you'd never do that. Why now?"
Steven didn't talk about his personal life. Ever.
"My reasons are my own. Suffice it to say that there is a huge bonus in it for you if you help me make this company the top performer at Everest Group."
"Very well. When do you need me?" Dinah asked.
"In twenty-four hours or so. I need time to acclimate and find an office for you. Bring your admin for now, but once you're settled, we'll find someone else to work in the other office."
"Twenty-four hours is pretty quick," she said.
"I'll be in touch," he said.
"Are you sure about this? I know you—"
"I always am," he said, hanging up the phone. No one really knew him and certainly not Dinah. She only knew the part of him he allowed her to see.
Steven had taken the china company over from his grandfather. Founded in 1780 to compete with Wedgwood, Raleighvale had succeeded in creating a truly English style of tableware. They were now the royal china makers, something that Dinah Miller spent a lot of time touting to prospective clients. She recently secured for them a bid to make Raleighvale the official dinnerware for the new president of France. He knew she'd be equally successful in her new role.
His iPhone beeped, notifying him of an incoming text message. It was from Geoff, requesting that he meet him and Henry for a drink at the Athenaeum Club. He replied in the affirmative.
Then his phone rang. "Devonshire."
"This is Hammond from the Leicester Square store. I'm sorry to bother you, sir, but we have an emergency."
"Why isn't the duty manager handling this?" Steven asked. He didn't remember seeing Hammond's name on the list of managers at that location.
"I'm a retail floor specialist. The manager isn't here, she's on her lunch break and won't answer her phone. But we can't wait until she gets back."
"What is the situation?" Steven asked.
"Someone has set up and is doing a photo shoot in the middle of the selling floor. It's Jon BonGiovanni, the rocker, and there is a crowd of people blocking the elevator. They just won't move."
"I'll be right there."
He hung up and grabbed his suit jacket before leaving to take care of the problem at the Leicester Square store. He didn't have time for waffling—the last thing he needed on his first day was some sort of retail fiasco.
Upon reaching the Leicester Square store, he took two steps and stopped, gobsmacked.
The problem with the store was obvious. A model, photographer and photographer's assistant milled about in the main retail section—just as Hammond had said. It was only as he walked closer that he saw Jon BonGiovanni, the aging rock musician from the seventies supergroup Majestica standing under the photographer's lights.
He wore a pair of skintight jeans and a barely there American flag shirt displaying his bare chest with a tattoo of a fist in the center of it.
"What's going on here?" Steven said as he approached the group.
"We are trying to do a photo shoot. One that your CEO has already approved, but today no one seems to know what was agreed on," the photographer said.
"I'm the CEO. Steven Devonshire."
"I'm Davis Montgomery."
Steven had heard of Davis—who hadn't? The man had made a mint photographing young rockers like Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Mick Jagger and Janis Joplin in the early seventies. His open approach to photography and his subjects had changed the way rock portraits were taken and revolutionized photography.
Steven shook the man's hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you. But you can't shoot in the retail store during our busy selling time."
"Ainsley received permission for us to be here."
"Who is Ainsley?"
The woman who walked up behind him was…exquisite. She had thick, ebony-colored hair that hung from a high ponytail at the back of her head. Her dark hair and alabaster skin first captured his attention but as his gaze skimmed down her body, he was entranced by her feminine figure. Her blouse was slim-fitting with cap sleeves and a nipped-in waist, and then the curvy hips were hugged lovingly by the black skirt. She was his dream girl come to life. The thick red belt around her waist just accentuated her gorgeous figure.
And then he caught a glimpse of her legs and the silk hose that encased them.
He nearly groaned out loud. She was a Betty Page look-alike. That classic fifties pin-up girl who had captured his teenage imagination and never let it go.
"And who are you, Ms. Ainsley?"
She seemed a bit taken aback by the question, and he wondered if he should have known who she was without asking. But she had a distinctively American accent and she was clearly in either the fashion industry or music. But he knew he would have remembered her had they met.
"Ainsley Patterson, editor-in-chief of British Fashion Quarterly."
"Your name is familiar, but I don't believe we've had the pleasure of meeting before."
"That's great," Davis said. "Now you know each other and I'd like to get back to work."
"I'm sure that Mr. Devonshire will be more than happy to accommodate us. After all, we have the permission of his father's solicitor."
Steven was tired of hearing about his father. Malcolm and he were little more than strangers. Though the same could be said of his mother and him. He just had never been the kind of child who'd clung to his parents.
"That's all well and good, Ms. Patterson, but neither Malcolm nor his lawyer are here right now. Let's go up to my office and discuss what you need and find a time that will work for everyone."
Steven expected Ainsley to back down, but she didn't. He'd never met a woman who could be so sexy and so businesslike at the same time. It was a turn-on just talking to her, but somehow he knew that wasn't the route he should take.
Ainsley didn't want to spend any extra time speaking to a man who couldn't remember her. But she hadn't gotten to where she was in publishing by avoiding people who annoyed her. Davis gave her a look that said he was about to blow his top and they were going to have to deal with one of his infamous temper tantrums.
"Come on. I don't have all day to hang out here," Jon said.
"Jon, I'm sorry for this inconvenience. Why don't you take a ten-minute break and Mr. Devonshire and I will straighten this out."
"Will we?" Steven said.
He had a look that was straight out of a fashion magazine: short hair, styled to look as if he didn't care, blue eyes—Paul Newman blue. So bright and penetrating Ainsley had been mesmerized by him the first time they'd met.
Of course, back then she'd been seventy pounds heavier, five years younger and minus the self-confidence she had today.
"Yes, we will. I'm sure that there is something we can offer you that will be adequate compensation—though having your store featured in our magazine is quite a boon."
"From your perspective, perhaps," Steven said.
"What can we do to make this happen?" she asked.
"I'm thinking feature articles on the Devonshire heirs," Steven said.
"That would be interesting, but we are a women's fashion magazine," she said. Her mind going over what she knew about Steven and his half brothers. The real angle would be getting them to talk about their early years, but even then there wasn't a fashion twist. Maybe the mothers, she thought. Then she knew she had it.
"How about an interview with your mothers?" she asked. "They were all very fashionable when Malcolm was dating them."
"My mum's a physicist."
"I know, but she was also named one of the most beautiful women in Britain."
Steven's eyes narrowed.
"I don't see how an article on my mum will benefit me," he said.
"We could do a photo shoot with each of the women in the business units—the airline, the record label and the retail store. I mean Tiffany Malone would be a natural at Everest Records. I can see the spread already.
"We can have each of you in there in a smaller perspective—Henry is definitely on the cutting edge of fashion…and Geoff is very traditional."
"And I'm all business," Steven said.
Ainsley looked at him. At this man who'd dismissed her because she'd been frumpy and overweight and he'd made an offhand comment that had devastated her… "Maybe we could do a makeover with you at one of our sister magazines."
He quirked one eyebrow at her. "I'm not a makeover kind of guy. If we agreed to this, then it'd be an exclusive for you."
Ainsley thought about it. She'd have to talk to her team, but there had to be some way to make this happen. "I'm not sure we can fit you into our schedule. I mean, if I had Malcolm in the article, too…then that would be a coup."
"It would be. But I can't promise that Malcolm would do it."
"Not close to him?"
"He's dying, Ainsley," Steven said.
She felt a pang. He hadn't shown any emotion at all. She wondered if that meant that he was scared of losing his father and didn't want anyone to know.
"I'm so very sorry."
He nodded. "Back to business here. You finish your shoot with Jon and then do feature articles on all of us from the fashion angle involving our mums—which issue?"
"I have to get back to the office and double-check my schedule, but I think it will be in the fall."
"Very well," he said. "It's a deal."
"Great," she said, turning to walk away.
"Do you have time for dinner to discuss the details? You could let Davis and Jon finish their shoot."
Ainsley didn't want to have a dinner with him. She'd had a crush on him ever since she'd done that interview five years ago. Not a stalk-him-like-a-crazy-woman-and-lie-in-his-bushes crush, but a kind of obsession that involved reading every article published on him. Would it be a good idea to go to dinner with him? Their relationship would have to stay professional, she reminded herself.
But he'd changed her life. When she'd realized that to a man like Steven she'd been completely invisible, it was shattering. Not just because of her size, but because she hadn't kept control of the interview. He'd unnerved the woman she'd been five years earlier and spurred her change. And now she wanted nothing more to do with him…well, that wasn't true. She'd love to exact a measure of revenge after the way he'd dissed her.
And she had no plans for tonight other than heading back to the office, working on page proofs and approving every detail of the magazine she'd fought so hard to become the editor-in-chief of. She could squeeze out a few hours for Steven.
"Agreed," she said.
"Should we shake hands and have a contract drawn up?" he asked.
"For our dinner. You make it sound like an all-day meeting you're dreading. I think that dinner with me will be enjoyable."
He was confident and she remembered his charm only too well. "Do you think so? Can you guarantee it?"
"Indeed I can."
Her BlackBerry buzzed crazily with text messages and e-mail notifications. She glanced down at the screen. At least three fires demanded her attention. "When and where for dinner? "
She motioned for Davis's assistant to come over.
"Nine. I'll pick you up."
"That's not necessary. I'd rather drive myself."
"I'm not sure where I can get a reservation with this late notice. Give me your address," he said.
She realized that Steven was used to getting his way, which was interesting because she was, too. She thought about digging her heels in on this issue, but time was money and they'd lost enough today waiting for someone to clean up this mess.
"Fine. You can pick me up at my office," she said, and then rattled off the address.
"See you then," he said and turned to leave. She watched him walk away, admiring the swagger in his step. He was a fine-looking man from the back, she thought, noticing the way his dress pants cupped his butt when he took a step.
"Are we okay to work?" Joanie asked. Joanie was Ainsley's age and had been working for Davis for the last ten years. She was slim and tall and her striking features made Ainsley think that Joanie could have been a model. But the other woman preferred to work behind the camera instead of in front of it.
"I believe we are."
"Great. I'll go get Jon back into makeup and let Davis know," Joanie said. "This was about to be one expensive mistake."
Ainsley needed no reminding. She waved over Danielle Bridges, the editor in charge of this article. Ainsley was here for star management and she was very glad she'd been here today. Danielle was new on their staff and Ainsley had yet to determine if she could hold her own.
"I am so sorry about this. I spoke to the manager several times to confirm the details," Danielle said.
The other woman had been apologizing all morning. "We can talk about this later. The issue has been resolved and we are going to get some great photos to go with the fabulous article you edited," Ainsley said. She believed that most people rose to challenges when they felt their superiors believed in them. And she also believed in reprimanding people in private.
"Thanks," Danielle said.
A minute later a twenty-something girl with stick-straight blond hair walked up to her. "Mr. Devonshire asked that I assist you in whatever you need. I'm Anne."
"You can work with Joanie."
Ainsley and Danielle stood off to the side, with Ainsley answering e-mails on her BlackBerry and waiting until she was sure the photo shoot was underway. Then she left the store to go back to her office.
Frederick VonHauser was waiting in her office. He was on her staff but also a trusted friend. Freddie and she had met when they'd both been attending Northwestern. Back then Freddie had been Larry Murphy. But he'd decided that he needed a new name for his new college life and had changed it their junior year.
Posted May 23, 2011
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Posted April 26, 2011
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Posted April 11, 2012
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Posted July 27, 2011
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