True Loveby Brenda Jackson, Kensington Publishing Corporation Staff
Successful manager Shayla Kirkland has landed her dream job with one of Chicago’s top new firms, Chenault Electronics. Now, she’s in a perfect position to destroy the company for unjustly running her mother’s career. But she never expected that handsome CEO Nicholas Chenault would spark a passion that challenges her resolveand make her surrender to the most… See more details below
Successful manager Shayla Kirkland has landed her dream job with one of Chicago’s top new firms, Chenault Electronics. Now, she’s in a perfect position to destroy the company for unjustly running her mother’s career. But she never expected that handsome CEO Nicholas Chenault would spark a passion that challenges her resolveand make her surrender to the most irresistible desire…
Read an Excerpt
The distinctive scent of a man's aftershave alerted Shayla Kirkland that she was no longer alone in the interviewing room. She had glanced up, thinking the fragrance was smooth, hypnotic, and sexy ... very much like the tall, remarkably good-looking man who had walked in.
"Yes," she'd responded, rising to her feet and parting her lips in a wry smile. She had known Nicholas Chenault was extremely handsome. Her extensive research of Chenault Electronics had prepared her for that fact. But the photographs she'd seen of him had evidently been of poor quality, because they'd failed to capture the vibrant coloring of his light brown skin and the brilliant gold of his eyes. He had taken her hand in a businesslike handshake. She'd let out her breath slowly, realizing that she'd been holding it since he had entered the room.
"I'm Nicholas Chenault. I appreciate your interest in my company. Please take a seat and we'll begin the interview."
Shayla sat down again, forcing herself to remember that this would not be an ordinary interview. She was here with a purpose. She was here with a plan. But first she had to get her foot in the door.
"Now, Ms. Kirkland," Nicholas Chenault said in a deep husky voice as he sat behind the desk, "what exactly do you know about Chenault Electronics?"
If only you knew, she thought. Lifting her eyes to meet his directly, she wished she hadn't. His eyes were brilliantly gold, and they were brilliantly intelligent, sharp, and assessing.She wondered how good he was at reading people. For a brief moment an uneasy feeling swept through her. Knowing this was not the time to rethink her decision about what she was doing, she straightened in the chair and met his gaze. He had asked a common interview question, and thanks to her in-depth research she had an answer, one that was appropriate. She would tell him some of what she knew about his company, but not everything.
She would not tell him about her plans to destroy it.
"I can give you a historical summation dating back to the day Chenault Electronics was first formed by your father, Alan Chenault, thirty-five years ago, and how he transformed it from a corner store operation into a relatively neat and tidy electronic company. Unfortunately, he lacked vision, which is evident in his failure to tap into numerous domestic and international markets." She paused, giving him her best businesslike, professional look. Although she had just openly criticized what had been his father's narrow strategy for running the business, it had been the absolute truth. "However, I believe what I know about your present-day operation is what I'd like to address."
At his nod, she continued. "Under your leadership, Mr. Chenault, this company has emerged as a powerful force within the global economy. Your expansion into the overseas market is phenomenal, as well as timely. Sales for this year are expected to exceed thirty million. You've even gone one step further. You've capitalized on the failures of your competitorswho can't see the advantages of putting out new products and diverse technologyespecially in the development of wireless communications and advanced electronics throughout the developing world."
When she stopped talking, a slow smile touched Nicholas Chenault's lips. "Please go on," he said, not hiding the fact that he was clearly impressed with her accurate summation of his company.
"Chenault Electronics was the first to deploy a wireless telephone network in Benin, Africa. This helped to provide the first telephone service in the area, providing a long overdue means of communication to hundreds of remote customers."
Feeling confident that she had the interview under control, Shayla relaxed. She was more determined than ever to convince the man sitting across from her that she was everything his company was looking for.
Nicholas Chenault was impressed with Shayla Kirkland's wealth of knowledge about his company. To say that she had done her homework and was fully prepared would be an understatement. So far they had been in the interview for over an hour, and each question had been answered in a way that definitely displayed her knowledge and her intelligence. She was now expounding on her educational background.
It was a good thing he'd already done a number of interviews that week, so that it required little thoughthis mind was focused on the woman.
He glanced down at the notes he had jotted down on the evaluation form. The first category listed on the form was appearance. He'd written neat, dresses with good taste, professionally. He glanced back up to look at her and decided not to add that the fit of her navy blue, tailored, business suit was chic, precise, and enticing. Then there was her hairshort, black, and cut in a trendy style that didn't take away from her professional image. Her almond-colored skin had a light touch of makeup. The berry tone of her lips highlighted the glow of her cheeks and the sultry, dark, brandywine coloring of her eyes. Nicholas inhaled deeply, forcing his mind to concentrate only on those of Shayla Kirkland's assets that were important in terms of employment.
"Ms. Kirkland, why did you move back to Chicago?" he asked, trying not to notice her crossing her long gorgeous legs. Nicholas had to tighten his grip on the pen he held in his hand to keep his imagination from taking over.
"My mother passed two weeks ago, unexpectedly. Now that I'm here, I feel this is where I belong, and have decided to stay."
The deep sadness in her voice gripped Nicholas. "My condolences for your loss."
Nicholas decided to move on to the next interview question. "Tell me about some of your other achievements, and how they can benefit us here."
When she began speaking, he couldn't help but zero in on her poise. She was definitely at ease, composed, and had a self-confident manner. She wasn't hesitant in providing eye contact. The dark coloring of her eyes was compelling and magnetic, and he found his gaze pulled back to them time and time again. He couldn't help wondering what color her eyes were when they glowed with passion and inner fire. How would they look when they became heated with pleasure?
"Ms. Kirkland, what do you see in this position of manager of international affairs that you did not have in your last position?" he asked in an effort to keep his mind on track.
As she began answering, he glanced down at the evaluation form. The next category on the list was personality. As he sat there watching her and listening to her, there was no doubt in his mind that she would be a perfect fit for his company. If first impressions were to be believed, she was friendly, but not overly so. That was good, because she was a single woman of twenty-sixa very attractive one at thatand he had a number of single men working for him. The last thing Chenault Electronics needed to deal with was a sexual harassment lawsuit.
After asking her a few more questions, for which she provided concise and informative answers, he leaned back in his chair and said, "That ends your interview, Ms. Kirkland. Is there anything you'd like to ask me about the position?"
"No, Mr. Chenault. You've told me everything I needed to know. However, I'd just like to add that I believe I can be an asset to your company."
Nicholas nodded, thinking that she could be an asset in a number of ways. He stood. "This was a very pleasant interview, Ms. Kirkland. I hope to make a decision within a week."
Shayla stood and offered him her hand. "Thank you for giving me the opportunity to interview with your company. Good day, Mr. Chenault."
Nicholas walked her to the door, then stood and watched as she walked away. He let out a deep breath, thinking that everything about Shayla Kirkland was real class, even her walk. The graceful sway of her hips was enough to bring a comatose man back into the world.
Walking back to the desk, Nicholas sat down and looked over the evaluation form. Her communication skills were superb. She had expressed herself eloquently. Her answers had been clear, fluid, and organized, and her information had been accurate and informed. Her educational background was outstandingan MBA from Harvardand her fluency in four languagesChinese, Spanish, French, and Swahiliwas more than impressive. Her letter of recommendation from Howard University spoke volumes, and nearly glowed on the page.
He sighed, knowing he didn't have to cover the other categories of the interview evaluation form to know that Shayla Kirkland was the ideal person for the new Chicago office. She would definitely bring a lot of experience and diversity to the table. He would be a total fool not to hire her.
Yet he was contemplating that very thing.
Nicholas stood and walked over to the window. Since buying this building six months ago, he had decided he liked the location because it provided a stunning view of downtown Chicago. The metropolis was totally different from downtown Jacksonville, Florida, where his home office was located. Here in Chicago, the buildings surrounding his were tall and impressive, but the areas surrounding those structures were crowded and congested. One of the things he appreciated most about the location of his office building in Jacksonville was the beautiful view of the St. Johns River and the land space that came with it. Jacksonville had more land space than any other city in Florida. And with the revitalization plans the city had underway, it wouldn't be long before downtown Jacksonville boasted structures that were just as tall and impressive, a scenic river view that would continue to be breathtaking, and surrounding buildings that would still provide space.
Space was something he appreciated more than anything, especially personal space, which was why he was thinking seriously about not hiring Shayla Kirkland.
For the first time since taking over Chenault Electronics after his father's death three years ago, he had been totally captivated by a woman. He had definitely not expected the rush of pleasure that hit him square in the solar plexus when he'd taken her hand in his to shake it. He had been overcome with a weird feeling, andalthough he had been able to downplay it and get through the interview session with Shayla Kirkland without any hint of the turmoil he'd been init had been there, just the same. He had noted everything about her, things he had needed to notice and things he had notlike the perfect coloring of her pantyhose against the flesh of her smooth legs, and the fullness of her lips, and how those lips seemed to have been begging for a kiss even while she was in her most professional mode. For the first time in his life he had felt cramped and closed in.
Threatened about his space.
All the time she had been talking to him, telling him about her extensive travels abroad before she'd finally taken a job as manager of the Business Department at Howard University, he had been thinking that any man would have designs on her. She was definitely a woman who deserved a man's complete attention. And if that thought hadn't been bad enough, at another time during the interviewwhen a small wisp of hair had fallen out of place and brushed her foreheadhe had been tempted to reach over and tuck the strand back in place. There was no way he could work as closely with her as he would need to for the next six to eight months without feeling devoid of space ... and of sane thoughts and body control. Shayla Kirkland might be well-qualified for the position she had applied forto his way of thinking maybe even a tad overqualifiedbut she would also be a threat he didn't want to deal with. And with the security surrounding his company's development of the mangolid chip, better known as the MC Project, he didn't need anything or anyone around him that could challenge his focus. The last thing he needed was to be in the constant company of a woman he consistently thought of taking to bed.
Nicholas sighed before walking back over to the desk and sitting down. He leaned back in his chair, trying to remember the last time he had been intimate with a woman, and coming up with the conclusion that it had been too long. Because of his vigorous work schedule he'd been too busy to carve out time for a personal life, and he'd never gone for the idea of having sex just for the sake of doing so. At the age of thirty-two he had an intense sexual drive, like most men his age. However, he knew how to control it. Marriage and children were the last things on his mind. Although he much preferred a long-term relationship to a short-term one, he also preferred a relationship in which the two individuals knew up front what to expect and what not to expect. The one thing any woman he became involved with could not expect was an invitation to become a "live-in"he allowed no one to invade his spaceor share it, for that matter.
His last long-term affair had been with Olivia. They had lasted nearly a year before she began dropping hints that it was time for their relationship to move to another level. Since the level they'd been operating on had suited him just fine and he'd seen no reason to change it, she had decided to move on. That had been more than a year ago, and he hadn't been intimate with a woman since. Of course, since the press conference ten months agowhen it had been announced to the world that he was the haft brother of superstar movie actor Sterling Hamiltonwomen from everywhere had been coming on to him in droves, but he'd been too busy to appreciate his newfound popularity. Not that he would have, anyway, since that wasn't his style. His mind had been filled with thoughts of mangolid chips and micron-controllers, not silken sheets, naked bodies, and hot sex.
For the first time in over a year he had obsessive thoughts of sleeping with a womanShayla Kirkland. No, he quickly corrected, he had more than just thoughts of sleeping with her. During the interview, he'd had visions of her in his arms, the scent of her entrenched in his skin, the taste of her on his tongue, and the feel of him hard and solid as a rock inside of her. Lucky for him he'd been sitting behind a desk.
He was smart enough to know that Shayla Kirkland was a disaster just waiting to happen. She would tempt him to break his own personal rule of not dating any of his employees. Making a quick decision, he checked the block on the interview evaluation form for Do not hire. He would release her file to his secretary, so she could send out the customary Sorry, but you did not get the job letter.
He had to do whatever was needed to protect his space and his peace of mind.
Emotions too numerous to name swept through Shayla as she entered her home. Her world was tilting, and she was experiencing the movement right along with it. Leaning against the closed door to get her balance, she breathed in deeply to take a mind-clearing breath.
The interview had tense moments for her. Although Nicholas Chenault had been the epitome of a professional throughout the process, she had felt a tingling in the pit of her stomach every time she had looked into the depths of his golden eyes. Eyes that color were a rarity among African-Americans unless they wore color contacts. It was obvious his eye color was natural. It was perfectly in sync with his skin tone.
A glimmer of warmth flooded through her as she remembered sitting across from him during the interview. In the beginning it had seemed as if she had no defense against her attraction to him. His startling good looks had nearly taken the wind out of her sails, leaving her body feeling as if it were being heated.
Shayla pushed away from the door, walked across the room, and dropped onto the sofa. Although she had gotten off to a shaky start, she believed she would get the job. Then she would make Chenault Electronics pay for what they had done to her mother nearly twenty-seven years ago. First, she would deal with Chenault. Then she would find a way to take care of Thomas Jordache, the man who owned TJ Electronics. She would have taken care of him first if he had not been out of the country on business. According to his office, he would not be returning for another three weeks or so. That would give her time to put together a plan to deal with him, since he had been the initiator of her mother's woes back then.
Sitting up straight in her seat, Shayla reached over to pick up a book from the coffee table in front of her. It was her mother's diary. She had found it last week when she'd been in the attic going through her mother's things. The information she had uncovered after reading the diary had tilted her world, had literally rocked it. According to what her mother had written, Glenn Kirkland, the man Shayla had grown up believing was her father until his death two years ago, had not been. Glenn had married her mother when she was ten weeks pregnant with another man's child, willingly giving the unborn child his name, his love, and his protection. It had all come about because of a web of deceit and lies.
Shayla closed the diary and placed it back on the table. Twenty-seven years ago her mother suffered an enormous amount of humiliation for nothing. She had been stripped of her dignity and her pride, as well as her job, because of Chenault Electronics and Thomas Jordache.
Shayla stood and walked over to the window and gazed out. "Both of them will pay for causing you undeserved pain, Mama. I'll see to it."
Meet the Author
Brenda Jackson is a New York Times bestselling author of more than one hundred romance titles. Brenda lives in Jacksonville, Florida, and divides her time between family, writing and traveling. Email Brenda at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her on her website at brendajackson.net.
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