Read an Excerpt
"Can I smell you?"
Kayla Hill's fingers struck the wrong keys on her computer. Surely she hadn't heard her boss correctlyher very serious, very handsome boss. "Excuse me. What did you say?"
Angelo Amatucci's tanned face creased with lines as though he were deep in thought. "Are you wearing perfume?"
yes, I am."
"Good. That will be helpful. May I have a smell?"
Helpful? With what? She gave up on answering an email and turned her full attention to her boss, who moved to stand next to her. What in the world had prompted him to ask such a question? Was her perfume bothering him? She sure hoped not. She wore it all the time. If he didn't like it or was allergic to it, she thought he'd have mentioned it before now.
Kayla craned her neck, allowing her gaze to travel up over his fit body, all six-foot-plus of muscle, until she met his inquisitive eyes. "I'm sorry but I
I don't understand."
"I just finished speaking with Victoria Van Holsen, owner of Moonshadows Cosmetics. She has decided that her latest fragrance campaign, even though she painstakingly approved it each step of the way, just won't do."
"She doesn't want it?" Kayla failed to keep the astonishment out of her voice.
A muscle in his jaw twitched. "She insists we present her with a totally new proposal."
"But this is a Christmas campaign. Everything should be finalized, considering it's already March." Then, realizing that she was speaking to a man with far more experience, she pressed her lips together, silencing her rambling thoughts.
"Now that information about her competitor's upcoming holiday campaign has been leaked, she wants something more noteworthysomething that will go viral."
"I thought the campaign was unique. I really like it." Kayla truly meant it. She wasn't trying to butter up her bossthat was just an unexpected bonus.
"The fact of the matter is, Victoria Van Holsen is a household name and one of our most important clients. Our duty is to keep her happy."
It was the company's mottothe client's needs come first. No matter what. And if Kayla was ever going to rise up the chain from her temporary detour as the personal assistant to the CEO of Amatucci & Associates Advertising to her dream job as an ad executive on Madison Avenue, she could never forget that the clients were always right. It didn't matter how unreasonable or outrageous their requests might be at times, keeping them happy was of the utmost importance.
"How can I help?"
His face was devoid of emotion, giving no hint of his thoughts.
She did as he asked. Her heart fluttered as he circled her. When he stopped behind her and leaned in close, an army of goose bumps rose on her skin. Her eyes drifted closed as a gentle sigh slipped across her lips. Angelo Amatucci truly did want an up close and personal whiff of her perfume.
He didn't so much as touch a single hair on her, but she could sense him near her neck. Her pulse raced. If this most unusual request had come from anyone else, she'd swear they were hitting on her. But as Mr. Amatucci stepped to the front of her, his indifferent expression hadn't changed. Her frantic heart rate dipped back to normal.
There had never been any attempt on his part to flirt with her. Though his actions at times could be quite unpredictable, they were always ingenuous. She deduced that his sudden curiosity about her perfume had something to do with the Van Holsen account. But what could he be thinking? Because there was no way she was wearing a Moonshadows fragrance. One ounce of the stuff would set her back an entire paycheck.
"It seems to have faded away." A frown tugged at his lips.
"Perhaps this will be better." She pulled up the sleeve of her blue suit jacket and the pink blouse beneath it before holding out her wrist to him.
His hand was warm and his fingers gentle as he lifted her hand to his face. Her heart resumed its frantic tap dancing in her chest. Tip-tap. Tip-tap. She wished it wouldn't do that. He was, after all, her bossthe man who held her career aspirations in the palm of his very powerful hand. A man who was much too serious for her.
Still, she couldn't dismiss that his short dark wavy hair with a few silver strands at the temples framed a very handsome, chiseled face. His dark brown eyes closed as he inhaled the fragrance, and she noticed his dark lashes as they swept down, hiding his mesmerizing eyes. It was a wonder some woman hadn't snatched him upnot that Kayla had any thoughts in that direction.
She had narrowly escaped the bondage of marriage to a really nice guy, who even came with her Mom's and Dad's stamp of approval. Though the breakup had been hard, it had been the right decision for both of them. Steven had wanted a traditional wife who was content to cook, clean and raise a large family. Not that there was anything wrong with that vision. It just wasn't what she envisioned for her future. She wanted to get out of Nowhereville, USA, and find her future in New York City.
When Mr. Amatucci released her arm, she could still feel warmth where his fingers had once been. Her pulse continued to race. She didn't know why she was having this reaction. She wasn't about to jeopardize her rising career for some ridiculous crush on her boss, especially when it was perfectly obvious that he didn't feel a thing for her.
His gaze met hers. "Is that the only perfume you wear?"
She nodded. "It's my favorite."
"Could I convince you to wear another fragrance?"
He was using her as a test market? Interesting. She could tell him what he wanted to hear, but how would that help him develop a new marketing strategy? She decided to take her chances and give him honest answers.
"Why would I change when I've been using this same perfume for years?"
He rubbed his neck as she'd seen him do numerous times in the past when he was contemplating new ideas for big accounts. And the Van Holsen account was a very big account. The fact that the client had the money to toss aside a fully formulated ad campaign and start over from scratch was proof of their deep pockets.
Mr. Amatucci's gaze was still on her, but she couldn't tell if he was lost in thought. "How long have you worn that fragrance?"
"Since I was a teenager." She remembered picking out the flower-shaped bottle from a department store counter. It was right before her first ever school dance. She'd worn it for every special occasion since, including her first date with Steven. And then there was her high school graduation followed by her college commencement. She'd worn it for all the big moments in her life. Even the day she'd packed her bags and moved to New York City in search of her dreams.
"Talk to me." Mr. Amatucci's voice cut through her memories. "What were you thinking about just now?"
She glanced hesitantly at him. In all of the weeks she'd worked as his PA, they'd never ventured into a conversation that was the slightest bit personal. Their talks had always centered around business. Now, he'd probably think she was silly or sentimental or both.
"I was thinking about all the times in my life when I wore this perfume."
"And I wore it for every major event. My first date. My first kiss. My" A sharp look from him silenced her.
"So your attachment to the fragrance goes beyond the scent itself. It is a sentimental attachment, right?"
She shrugged. "I guess so." She'd never thought of it that way. In fact, she'd never given her perfume this much thought. If the bottle got low, she put it on her shopping list, but that's as far as her thoughts ever went.
"So if our client doesn't want to go with a spar-kly, feel-fabulous-when-you-wear-this campaign, we can try a more glamorous sentimental approach. Thanks to you, we now have a new strategy."
She loved watching creativity in action. And she loved being a part of the creative process.
"Glad I could help."
He started to walk away, then he paused and turned back. "You were just promoted to a copywriter position before you took this temporary assignment as my PA, right?"
She nodded. What better way to get noticed than to work directly for one of the biggest names in the advertising industry.
"Good. You aren't done with this project. I want you to dig into those memories and write out some ideas"
"But don't you have a creative team for this account?" She wanted to kick herself for blurting out her thoughts.
Mr. Amatucci sent her a narrowed look. His cool, professional tone remained unchanged. "Are you saying you aren't interested in working on the project?"
Before she could find the words to express her enthusiasm, his phone rang and he turned away. She struggled to contain her excitement. This was her big opening and she fully intended to make the most of it.
This was going to work out perfectly.
A smile tugged at Kayla lips. She'd finally made it. Though people thought she'd made a big mistake by taking a step backward to assume a temporary position as Mr. Amatucci's PA, it was actually working out just as she'd envisioned.
She'd gone after what she wanted and she'd gotten it. Well, not exactly, but she was well on her way to making her dreams a reality. With a little more patience and a lot of hard work, she'd become an account executive on New York's famous Madison Avenue in the exclusive advertising agency of Amatucci & Associates.
Her fingers glided over the keyboard of her computer as she completed the email to the creative department about another of their Christmas campaigns. Sure it was only March, but in the marketing world, they were working months into the future. And with a late-season snowstorm swirling about outside, it seemed sort of fitting to be working on a holiday project.
She glanced off to the side of her computer monitor, noticing her boss holding the phone to his ear as he faced a wall of windows overlooking downtown Manhattan. Being on the twenty-third floor, they normally had a great view of the city, but not today. What she wouldn't give to be someplace sunnyfar, far away from the snow. After months of frigid temperatures and icy sidewalks, she was most definitely ready for springtime.
"Have you started that list?" Mr. Amatucci's piercing brown gaze met hers.
Umshe'd been lost in her thoughts and hadn't even realized he'd wrapped up his phone call. Her gaze moved from his tanned face to her monitor. "Not yet. I need to finish one more email. It shouldn't take me long. I think your ideas for the account are spot-on. Just wait until the client lays her eyes on the mock-ups."
Then, realizing she was rambling, she pressed her lips firmly together. There was just something about being around him that filled her with nervous energy. And his long stretches of silence had her rushing to fill in the silent gaps.
Mr. Amatucci looked as though he was about to say something, but his phone rang again. All eyes moved to his desk. The ringtone was different. It must be his private line. In all the time she'd been working for him, it had never rung.
It rang again and yet all he did was stare at the phone.
"Do you want me to get it?" Kayla offered, not sure what the problem was or why Mr. Amatucci was hesitant. "I really don't mind."
"I've got it." He reached over and snatched up the receiver. "Nico, what's the matter?"
Well, that was certainly a strange greeting.
Who picked up the phone expecting something to be wrong? Then, realizing that she was staringnot to mention eavesdroppingshe turned her attention back to the notes she'd been rewording into an email. She glanced up to see Mr. Amatucci had turned his back to her. He once again faced the windows and spoke softly. Though the words were no longer distinguishable, the steely edge of his voice was still obvious.
She looked at the paper on her desk, her gaze darting over it to find where she'd left off. She didn't want to sit here with her hands idle. No, that definitely wouldn't look good for her.
She was sending along some of Mr. Amatucci's thoughts about the mock-up of an ad campaign for a new clienta very demanding client. The account was huge. It would go globallike most of the other accounts her boss personally handled. Each of his clients expected Mr. Amatucci's world to revolve around them and their accounts. He took their calls, no matter the timeday or night. Through it all, he maintained his cool. To say Angelo was a workaholic was being modest.
As a result, he ran the most sought-after advertising agency in the countryif not the world. Stepping off the elevator, clients and staff were immediately greeted by local artists' work and fresh flowers. The receptionist was bright and cheerful without being annoying. Appointments were kept timely. The quality of the work was exemplary. All of it culminated in Amatucci & Associates being so popular that they had to turn away business.
"Cosa! Nico, no!" Mr. Amatucci's hand waved about as he talked.
Her boss's agitated voice rose with each word uttered. Kayla's fingers paused as her attention zeroed in on the man who never raised his voiceuntil now. He was practically yelling. But she could only make out bits and pieces. His words were a mix of English and Italian with a thick accent.
"Nico, are you sure?"
Had someone died? And who was Nico? She hadn't heard Mr. Amatucci mention anyone with that name, but then again, this call was on his private line. It was highly doubtful that it had anything to do with business. And she knew exactly nothing about his personal lifesometimes she wondered if he even had one.
"Marianna can't be pregnant!" The shouts spi-raled off into Italian.
Pregnant? Was he the father? The questions came hard and fast. There was a little voice in the back of her mind that told her she should excuse herself and give him some privacy, but she was riveted to her chair. No one would ever believe that this smooth, icy-cool man was capable of such heated volatility. She blinked, making sure she hadn't fallen asleep and was having some bizarre dream. But when her eyes opened, her boss was standing across the room with his hand slicing through the air as he spoke Italian.
The paramount question was: Who was Marianna?
Angelo Amatucci tightened his grip on the phone until his fingers hurt. This had to be some sort of nightmare and soon he'd wake up. Could it be he'd been working a bit too much lately? Perhaps he should listen to the hints from his business associates to take a break from the frantic pace. That would explain why just moments ago when he'd been examining Ms. Hill's perfumea scent he found quite invitingthat he'd been tempted to smooth his thumb along the silky skin of her wrist
"Angelo, are you listening to me?" Tones of blatant concern laced Nico's voice, demanding Angelo's full attention. "What are we going to do?"