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'So, are you going to stand there all morning looking down your superior nose at me, or are you going to do something useful and offer to carry one of these boxes up in the lift for me?'
Gideon closed his eyes. Counted to ten. Slowly. Breathed in. And then out again. Even more slowly. Before once again opening his eyes.
No, Joey McKinley was still there. In fact she had straightened from bending over the boot of her car, parked two bays down from Gideon's own in this private underground car park, and was now peremptorily tapping the sole of one three-inch stiletto-heeled shoe against the concrete floor. He knew this woman would become the bane of his existence for the next four weeks, if this situation was allowed to continue.
Joey McKinley. Twenty-eight years old, five foot four inches tall, with short, silky red hair that somehow wisped up and away from the heart-shaped beauty of her face, challenging jade-green eyes, and a creamily smooth complexion with a soft sprinkling of freckles across the bridge of her tiny nose, her lips full and sensual. The leanness of her obviously physically fit body was shown to advantage in a smart black tailored business suit and a silk blouse the same jade-green colour as her eyes.
'Well?' his own personal nemesis challenged, that impatient tapping of her shoe against the concrete floor increasing as she looked across at him with auburn brows arched over those mocking green eyes.
Gideon drew in another deep and steadying breath as he considered the numerous ways in which he might cause his older brother Lucan pain for having placed him in this untenable position in the first place. Not enough to do any serious damage, of course. But a little pain? Gideon felt no qualms whatsoever about that. Lucan obviously felt a similar lack of concern about Gideon's welfare, having inflicted this woman on him without a second's consideration.
It was something Gideon had been contemplating for the last thirty-six hours, in fact. Ever since Lucan had informed him, at his wedding reception on Saturday evening, that when Gideon took over as temporary chairman of the St Claire Corporation for the month that he and Lexie were away on their honeymoon, he had arranged for Joey McKinley to take Gideon's place as the company's legal representative.
Gideon's assurances that he was perfectly capable of fulfilling both roles had made absolutely no impact on his older brother. He'd also ignored Gideon when he'd confessed he had his doubts that he and Joey McKinley could work together.
Gideon respected the woman as a lawyer, having heard only positive comments from other colleagues concerning her ability in a courtroom, but on every other level she succeeded in making his hackles rise.
That red hair was like a shining beacon in any room she happened to be in, and she had a husky and sensual laugh that, when released, had every male head in the vicinity turning in her direction. She had been wearing a dress the last two times Gideon had met herfirstly, an ankle-length sheath of a maid of honour gown in a deep jade colour at her sister Stephanie and his brother Jordan's wedding, almost two months ago, and a red knee-length dress at Lucan and Lexie's wedding on Saturday. The latter should have clashed with the bright copper cap of her hair, but instead it had just seemed to emphasise the natural gold and cinnamon highlights running through those strands.
The black business suit she was wearing today should have looked crisp and professional, but somehow didn't. The jacket was short and figure-hugging, and the top three buttons left unfastened on the green silk blouse she wore beneath enabled him to see the tops of full and creamy breasts. The fitted knee-length skirt showed off an expanse of her shapely legs.
In other words, Joey McKinley was
'You know, I've seen paint dry quicker than you appear to be able to make up your mind!' she called out.
a veritable thorn in his side!
He drew in another controlling breath in an effort to force the tension from his body. 'Do you always have to be this abrasive?' Silly question; he knew her well enough by now to know that she always said exactly what happened to be on her mind at the time. Something that Gideon, a man who always measured his words carefully before speaking, found disturbing to say the least.
Her next comment was a prime example of that blunt-ness. 'Maybe I wouldn't feel the need if you occasionally took that I'm-so-superior stick out of your backside and joined the rest of us mortals in the real world.'
Gideon winced. The two of them had metwhat?four times in total. Most recently two days ago, at Lucan and Lexie's wedding, and before that nine weeks ago, when he'd first met her in her office at Pickard, Pickard and Wright, after he had gone to inform her he had managed to extricate her twin sister Stephanie from an awkward legal situation. Two weeks after that he'd met her at the wedding rehearsal of his twin brother Jordan and Stephanie, and then he'd seen her again at their wedding a week later.
Gideon frowned now as he remembered his absolute astonishment during Jordan and Stephanie's marriage ceremony. Everything had gone so smoothly in the lead-up to the wedding, and Gideon, as his brother's best man, had ensured that he and Jordan arrived at the church in plenty of time. Gideon had even felt a lump of emotion in his own throat, on his twin's behalf, when the two of them had turned to see how beautiful Stephanie looked as she walked down the aisle. Until, that was, Gideon had caught the look of derision in Joey's gaze as she'd glanced at him from where she followed just behind her twin.
Not that this was anything unusual; the two of them seemed to have taken an instant dislike to each other the very first time they'd met. No, the reason for Gideon's astonishment had come later in the ceremony, when everyone had sat down while Jordan and Stephanie and their two witnesses signed the register, and he'd heard an angel singing.
A single, unaccompanied voice had soared majestically to the heavens, filling the church to the rafters, as sweet and clear as the perfect, melodic chiming of a bell.
He had never before heard anything so beautiful as that voiceso clear and plaintive it had been almost magical as it claimed his emotions. He had felt so dazed, his senses so completely captivated by the pure and haunting beauty of that voice, that it had taken him a minute or so to realise that all the wedding guests were looking towards the right side of the churchwhich was when Gideon had realised that the singing 'angel' was none other than Joey McKinley!*
Joey had no idea why it was that Gideon St Claire brought out the very worst in herto the extent that she enjoyed nothing more than deliberately baiting him out of what she considered his arrogant complacency. Maybe it really was that superior attitude of his that bugged her. Or the fact that, with his icy reserve firmly clamped in place, he was always so emotionally unresponsive. Everything about him was restrained, from the short style of his wonderful gold-coloured hair, the tailored dark suits he worealways over a white shirt and matched with a discreetly subdued silk tieto the expensive but unremarkable metallic-grey saloon car he drove. If Joey had been as rich as the St Claire family was reputed to be then she would have driven a sporty red Ferrari at the very least!
Or her resentment could just stem from the fact that a couple of months ago Gideon St Claire had stepped in, with his highly polished size eleven handmade leather shoes, and sorted out a delicate and personal legal matter for her sister, which Joey had been tryingunsuccessfullyto settle for weeks.
It certainly couldn't have anything to do with the fact that, putting the icy reserve apart, the man was as handsome as sin but gave every impression he hadn't so much as noticed Joey was a female, let alone a passably attractive one!
His haircut too short for her likingwas the colour and texture of spun gold, and styled over his ears and brow. His eyes were a dark and piercing brown, set in a ruggedly handsome face, and as if that wasn't enough, nature had bestowed upon him high cheekbones, sensually chiselled lips, and an arrogantly square jaw.
Having studied him from beneath lowered lashes at their second meetingshe had been too overwhelmed by both his legal reputation and his considerable arrogance the first time they met in her office!Joey had no doubt, just from the predatory way that he moved, that the body beneath those dark tailored suits and white silk shirts was powerfully lean and muscled.
Wheat-gold hair, chocolate-brown eyes, broodingly sensual features that any male model would kill for, and a body that was all hard masculine contours meant that Gideon St Claire was seriously hotwith a capital H. A description that, if he were to hear it, would no doubt offend all his icily reserved sensibilities!
Taking all that smouldering sensuality into consideration, Joey had been intrigued by the fact that he hadn't brought a woman with him to the weddings of his brothers. That coupled with the fact that Gideon didn't even seem to register her as a female, had eventually made Joey ask her sister whether Gideon maybe preferred men to women. She had assumed Stephanie's answer to be a resounding no after it had taken her sister almost five minutes to stop laughing hysterically.
So, Mr Arrogantly Reserved and Broodingly Sensual obviously liked womenjust not Joey!
Well, that was fine with herGideon St Claire might be one of the most disturbingly attractive men Joey had ever met, but the lack of interest he always showed in her only succeeded in making her feel defensive, and more often than not she deliberately set out to shock him.
'Are you suffering from laryngitis, or are you just not a morning person?' The bright cheerfulness with which Joey spoke showed neither of those two things applied to her.
'Perhaps if you were to stop talking long enough to allow me to answer you?' He spoke tersely, yet even the low and gravelly tenor of his voice was sexy, she thought with a mental sigh. He made no move to close the short distance between their two parked cars. 'Miss McKinley'
His nostrils flared with obvious distaste. 'Would you object if I were to call you Josephine?'
'Not at allas long as you don't mind me reacting the same way I did the last time someone tried to do that,' she came back breezily. 'He ended up with a black eye,' she supplied with a smile as Gideon raised questioning blond brows.
One of those brows remained raised. 'You don't like the name Josephine?'
This was not going well, Gideon accepted heavily. He had come to the conclusion, during the hours since Lucan had spoken to him on Saturday evening, that the only solution to this problem was for him to talk to Joey and calmly and logically explain why he didn't feel they could work together, before waving her a cheery goodbye and getting on with his role of acting chairman of the St Claire Corporation. For heaven's sake, she must be as aware as he was of their different approaches towell, everything!
A reasonable and well thought out plan, he had believed at the time. Until he had actually been faced with the abrasively outspoken woman in person. Just these few minutes of conversation with her was enough to show him that his conclusion had been entirely correct. However, he'd also swiftly realised that any suggestion on his part that she might care to rethink agreeing to work with him for a month would probably only result in the contrary Joey McKinley doing the exact opposite.
For once in Gideon's well-ordered life he had no idea what to do or say to best achieve his objective. He just knew he couldn't tolerate working in close proximity with this forthright young woman for four weeks and stay sane!
Even if she did have the singing voice of an angel.
The fact that Lucan had announced he was taking a whole month off for his honeymoon, during which he intended to be completely incommunicado except for absolute emergencies, was extraordinary in itself.
Not that Gideon should have been surprisedboth his brothers had been behaving in a completely unpredictable manner since they had met and as quickly married the two women they had fallen in love with. It wasn't that he didn't like both Stephanie and Lexiehe did. It was the change in his two brothers that he found.unsettling.
Jordan, an A-list actor who had enjoyed any number of relationships with beautiful actresses and models during the past ten years, had surprisingly fallen in love with his physiotherapist two months ago, and showed every appearance of continuing to be totally besotted with Stephanie now the two of them were married. To the extent that the filming of his current movie was completely scheduled around the hours Stephanie worked at the clinic she had opened since moving to LA.
And until Lucan had met and fallen in love with Lexie he had never taken more than a few days away from the company he had built up into one of the most diverse and successful in the world. In fact, driven was the word Gideon would most have associated with his older brother until the advent of Lexie into his life only a few short weeks ago.
It was a word that could have been associated with all three of the St Claire brothers since they'd reached adulthood and entered their chosen professions: Gideon in law, Jordan in acting, Lucan in the world of business.
All of that had changed in the past two months, and as a man who preferred order and continuity Gideon was still trying to come to terms with it. Something he wasn't likely to do with the annoying Joey McKinley haunting his every working moment!
'Very well, then. Joey it is.' He gave an almost imperceptible sigh. 'I'm sure that Pickard, Pickard and Wright Jason Pickard, in particularwas sorry to see you go.'
'See me go where, exactly?'
Gideon eyed her impatiently. Really, nothing he had heard about this woman had ever given him reason to question her intelligence. 'Here, of course.'
Joey looked taken aback. 'I'm sorry, but you'll have to explain what you mean. Especially the "Jason Pickard, in particular" remark,' she added coolly.