Royce claims he's been in love with her ever since she threw a party for one of his friends six months ago. But if that's true, why is this incredibly eligible CEO currently taking applications for a wife? Despite herself, Naomi is tempted to fill one out. But can her inner tigress believe a man might change his stripes?
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A true Tigress knows how to strut her stuff. She walks with her head held high, her breasts pushed forward and wears an expression that says, " I'll eat you alive."
I'M A DOORMAT.
There. I admitted it. If people want to wipe their muddy boots on the rug that is my life, I'm likely to welcome them with a smile and thank them afterward. Knowing this, some people might lose all respect for me. In my defense, let me just say I'm getting better. Stronger. More assertive.
I'm unleashing my inner Tigress.
Unfortunately, I've kept her on a tight leash today. So far the score is not in my favor. Life 5. Tigress 2.
Again, in my defense, let me say that Life is a mean, mean bitch.
I replayed the last section I'd read of Unleashing the Tigress Within through my mind as the chrome-and-glass building that housed Powell Aeronautics came into view. My upcoming meeting would go wonderfully, I assured myself; as a Tigress, I would allow nothing less.
Determined, I raised my chin and squared my shoulders against the cab's seat, effectively displaying my breasts to their best advantage. But try as I might, I couldn't get the cannibalistic expression down.
Of course, when you have lips as full and seemingly collagen-injected as mineokay, maybe not so seem-inglythe only expression they're good for is "I charge two hundred dollars an hour." Which, if you think about it, could imply I want to eat someone alive.
For Brad Pitt, I'd be willing to work something out. For everyone else, wellI shrugged. Sorry, but all they'll get is the expression.
I pursed my lips, relaxed them. Pursed. Relaxed. Trying to find the perfect menacing facial cast. When I noticed the cabdriver staring at me through the rearview mirror, I turned my reddening face toward the window. I should have practiced at home, but I'd received an impromptu call from my ex-husbandmay he die and burn in hell for all eternityand that had consumed my spare time.
"I want to give us another try," he'd said. He usually called once a month with the same speech. He just couldn't stand the thought of a woman not wanting him. "I love you, babe. I swear I do," he'd finished.
Yeah, and my breasts are double-D delights of pleasure.
They're not, in case anyone is wondering. I'm barely, barely a B-minus.
I'm proud of myself. I'd told him I hoped he became intimately acquainted with a flesh-eating bacteria that ravaged his entire body slowly and painfully, beginning with his favorite appendage, and hung up. (The first point to go on my scorecard.) I suspect and hope my Tigress is as mean a bitch as Life, but I haven't interacted with her enough yet to know for sure.
Anyway, while Richard and I were together, he cheated on me. Like the good little girl I am, I let the first time slide. Fight for your marriage and all that bullshit. Boys will be boys, right? Never mind that they're male whores.
Oopsie. Is my bitterness showing?
The second time he cheated, I left him for all of four weeks. I'm embarrassed to admit he romanced me back. I mean, he tattooed my name on his ass. Who can resist that? So what that my name rests next to his first wife's.
The third time he cheated, well, I moved out for good and filed for divorce. That was six months ago. Being a divorce lawyeraka scum of the universe himself, he'd known exactly how to work the system and had ended up with everything while I had nothing.
If you want to know where depraved murderers get their ideas, I think I know. From scorned women. What I could have done with a curling iron and an ice pick.
Well, that's a moot point now.
Richard's call had been the perfect beginning to my increasingly horrendous day. Earlier this morning I'd been fired from one of the biggest jobs of my almost nonexistent party-planning career. All because I'd refused to give the owner of Glasston Industries a "private party"his words, not minein the back of his luxury sedan.
My dismissal came after I'd already spent four weeks planning Glasston's annual employee banquet.
Four long, torturous, I-want-to-kill-myself weeks! At the disgusting offer, my inner Tigress had emerged unbidden and I'd quickly introduced Mr. Glasston's groin to my knee. (My second point.) Needless to say, they didn't part on good terms. Before he could have me arrested for assault, I had jumped in this cab, buckled up and prepared to meet my next client. That's when I found a piece of rotten food stuck to the seat belt. At least, I hoped it was food. I did not want to contemplate what else the non-removable grease stain could be from.
Greaseor whateverwas the least of my problems, though. When I'd first entered the cab, I'd thought the driver had a horrible case of gas. Wrong. That noxious scent of dog poop wafting through the cab, well, it came from my shoes. I'd probably stepped in a steaming pile on my trek to Glasston Industries. I only hoped I'd left a souvenir on Mr. Glasston's trousers.
Is it horrible of me to wish he and Richard would rot in hell together?
Okay, wait. I'm beginning to sound bitter again. I don't want to be a bitter woman. Really. I want to be strong. Strong women are happy. And I desperately want to be happy.
Needing a mental boost, I dug in my briefcase and gripped my copy of Unleashing the Tigress Within. My twin cousins, Kera and Mel, had given me the book for my thirty-first birthday two months ago, and with its guidance I was becoming a stronger, happier woman.
A woman in control of her destiny.
A woman who didn't let a little bad luck bring her down.
Everything will work out, Naomi. Just you wait and see. The cab came to an abrupt stop. I handed the driver a ten. "Keep the change," I said, then drew in a deep breath and pushed open the door.
As I stepped onto the sidewalk, a young man grabbed the leather strap of my purse and tore off in a sprint. I screeched and leapt after him. Except, only four steps into my pursuit, the three-inch heel of my left shoe snapped and I toppled face-first. Dark strands of hair clouded my vision and air abandoned my lungs in a mighty heave. My briefcase skidded across the concrete.
It was early July and a typical Dallas morning: sweltering, dry and miserable. The heated pavement burned raw scratches on my knees.
The thief disappeared around the corner and no one even tried to stop him. I think one woman actually said, " Did you see that guy's butt? So cute!"
As I lay sprawled, quite a few people rubber-necked as they walked by; others simply stopped, stared and snickered. Cheeks burning, I jackknifed to my feet. And practically fell again when one of my injured knees buckled in protest.
It would have been nice if the cabby had gotten out and helped me. But a harried blond woman jumped over me and settled herself inside the taxi before I could even blink. The damn car whizzed away, leaving me in a cloud of exhaust. Choking, I bent and gathered my things. At least I'd left my maxed out credit cards at home. Not the case with my (now missing) lipstick and oil-control powder.
Damn it! I did not need this.
Limping and dirty, I somehow collected my wits enough to make it inside the Powell building. Despite being robbed, I had to act confident and assured. This job was too important.
Disregarding the curious stares of the businessmen and women in the lobby, I searched for and found the bathroom. Women filled the space to capacity, their loud, cackling voices more annoying than the thick haze of forbidden cigarette smoke.
I coughed and shoved my way into one of the cramped stalls, locked the door behind me and tossed my stained jacket in the trash can. I leaned my head against the cool, polished wood. A part of me wanted to sob great buckets of tears. Another part of me wanted to attack something. Just fling myself at the next person I saw and dine on the carnage.
I had to find a happy medium. Approaching a potential employer looking like a feralbut sensitive beast wasn't good business. Taking a deep breath, I closed my eyes and mentally chanted, I'm in a meadow of happiness. I'm in a meadow of happiness.
Why hadn't I kicked off my shoes and chased that purse-stealing bastard down?
I'm in a meadow of happiness. Why hadn't I reported Mr. Glasston's disgusting proposition?
I'm in a freaking meadow of happiness!
My eyelids popped open and my fists clenched. The meditation my stepdad had taught me was only increasing my agitation. Better to stop now before I started screaming/crying/ performing kung fu against the stall walls. My stepdad is a psychiatrist, but his methods rarely work for me. I don't know why I keep trying them.
"I can do this. I can."
Liar, my Tigress said, and I snapped, Bitch. God, maybe on top of it all I'm schizophrenic.
Forcing my muscles to relax, I slipped out of the stall. My gaze automatically scanned the crowded bathroom, taking in previously missed details. Every woman present wore some type of green. There were pea-green blazers, lime-green skirts, olive-green blouses.
I felt like I'd just stepped into an avocado salad. Why green? I wondered, gazing down at my own brown, calf-length skirt. Then I uttered a dejected sigh. What the hell did it matter? Even if I'd known green was the current fashion trend, I no longer owned any clothes in that color. Lately I only wore browns, blacks and whites. Business colors. Boring colors.
Another item for my growing Why My Day Sucks list.
With the mirror overly crowded, there simply wasn't enough room to fix my hair, so I left it alone, pinned haphazardly at the base of my neck, errant strands floating down my temples. I was, however, determined to make it to my meeting without limping.
After I cleaned my disgustingly ripe shoes, I spent ten minutes banging, scraping and clawing them to a similar height. Finally they were both completely flat. I wouldn't limp, that was for sure, but I now looked like a twelve-year-old. At five-three, I needed every extra inch I could get.
The bathroom was growing more crowded by the second. Feeling the walls close in around me, I squeezed my way out. A security guard with burly shoulders and a belly that hung over the waistband of his pants stood in the lobby, just in front of the elevator entrance. When I tried to pass him, his arm shot out, blocking my way.