The ultimate forbidden attraction
Francesca Masseria is mortified. On her first day working for renowned tycoon Harrison Grant, she accidentally hits the panic button and watches in horror as security puts her boss in handcuffs! Normally poised and efficient, Harrison's enigmatic presence leaves Francesca flustered.
Harrison is furious. He can't afford any distractions with a high-stakes deal on the table, and his new assistant is as diverting for her beauty as her incompetence! He should fire her, but she's determined to make up for their disastrous meeting by anticipating his every need. Except, what Harrison's beginning to want from Francesca isn't part of her job description!
About the Author
Award-winning author JENNIFER HAYWARD emerged on the publishing scene as the winner of Harlequin's So You Think You Can Write global writing contest. The recpient of Romantic Times Magazine's Reviewer's Choice Award for Best Harlequin Presents of 2014 Jennifer's careers in journalism and PR, including years of working alongside powerful, charismatic CEOs and traveling the world, have provided perfect fodder for the fast-paced, sexy stories she likes to write.
Read an Excerpt
Rocky Balboa patrolled the length of his rectangular glassencased world with an increasingly agitated fervor, the blinding beam of the overhead fluorescent lights a far from suitable atmosphere for Frankie Masseria's high-strung orange parrot cichlid fish. Used to the cozy confines of Coburn Grant's muted, stylish office with its custom lighting and plentiful dimmers, Rocky apparently wasn't making the transition to Harrison Grant Ill's cold black-and-chrome domain any more easily than Frankie herself was.
Her mouth twisted in a grimace. She would make the poor joke of being a fish out of water in this startling new development of her as the replacement PA for the CEO of Grant Industries if her stomach wasn't dipping and turning along with Rocky's distressed flips and circles. Harrison Grant, the elder of the two Grant brothers from Long Island, heirs to an automotive fortune, was notorious for his ability to go through a PA a quarter until her predecessor Tessa Francis had taken over two years ago and tamed the legendary beast. Known for her formidable attitude and ability to whip any living thing into line, including even the snooty, tyrannical Harrison Grant, Tessa would have continued to keep the world a safer place for everybody had she not elected to do the very human thing of getting pregnant and requesting a six-month maternity leave. A reasonable request in many parts of the world, but not in the frantic, pulsing-with-forward-momentum world of Manhattan. Frankie had heard of female CEOs texting from the labor room. Yelling orders in between pushes. Not that that would ever be her. When she eventually found the perfect man to settle down with, she'd put raising her children first, unlike her parents who'd had them working in the Masseria family restaurant as soon as they were old enough to bus a table.
But that was then and this was now. She sighed and looked down at the massive amount of work sitting on her desk, unsure of what to tackle next. This wouldn't be her mess to weed through had Tessa orchestrated the orderly exit she'd been intent on and found a new PA for her impossible boss. But, according to Tessa, Harrison had simply refused to acknowledge she was leaving. His eyes would glaze over at the subject every time she brought it up, until finally, with time running out, Tessa had gone ahead and scheduled the interviews.
That's when the unthinkable had happened. Tessa had gone into premature labor last night while Harrison was on a business trip to Hong Kong, the interviews had been canceled and Frankie had been installed in her place by her magnanimous boss Coburn, who had decided his brother could not be without a PA. Without so much as a "would you mind, Frankie?"
"It's the perfect opportunity to shine," he'd told her in that cajoling voice of his. "Six months with Harrison and you'll be back with a whole new visibility within the company."
Or she would be just another piece of Harrison Grant's road kill, Frankie thought miserably. It had been her dream as long as she'd been old enough to apply eye shadow and visited her friend Olga's father in his swanky Manhattan office, to be a glamorous PA. To wear beautiful suits to the office every day, to live in the vibrant city she loved and to work in the upper echelons of power where all the big deals were made.
If that had gone against her parents' wishes to have her remain in the family restaurant business, so be it. She'd put herself through administrative-assistant school with her tip money, graduated top of her class and gone after her dream.
Landing a job with the insanely handsome, charming younger Grant brother, Coburn, had seemed like her dream come true. Working for the legendary Grant family, who commanded one of America's oldest automotive dynasties from one of Manhattan's marquee skyscrapers, was like taking her "what do I want to be in five years" plan and fast-forwarding it five years.
She had seized the opportunity with both hands, molding herself into the epitome of efficiency and professionalism in her six months with Coburn. Her boss's flashing blue eyes and easy smile wore his vice presidency with a stark sex appeal few women could resist, but resist Frankie had. She knew he'd hired her for both her skills and the fact she hadn't fallen all over him in the interview like the others had. In return, he'd been a dream to work with. He appreciated every ounce of the tightly coiled efficiency she brought to his office, reining in his tendency to run askew with his passion for his work.
So why throw her to the wolves so easily? She swallowed past the distressed lump in her throat and took a sip of the herbal French lavender tea that was supposed to calm her. Harrison Grant was reputed to be as serious and tunnel-visioned as his younger brother was hot-blooded and impulsive. He had a filthy temper from all accounts. She said "from all accounts" because Tessa had always shielded her from her boss, coming downstairs to Coburn's office if she needed something rather than expose Frankie to one of his moods. Frankie had accepted the arrangement gladly. She could live without having to deal with the massive ego of the man voted most likely to become president by his peers at Yale, his alma mater. Rumor had it that time wasn't far off for the thirty-three-year-old Harrison. Her father had told her he had enough clout within the business community to run as an independent in the next election and, in these disaffected times, he just might win.
If that happened, Coburn would take over as CEO and Frankie would be head honcho admin. The perfect career scenario by all accounts. If she survived the next six months.
A throb pulsed its way from her left temple through to the center of her head as she considered the files Tessa had left marked urgent. A key takeover to help facilitate, shareholder meetings to organize, a trip to India coming up in just weeks It seemed way beyond her means.
Rocky caught her attention out of the corner of her eye, swimming now in faster, demonic circles as if signaling an imminent disaster. His eyes bulged out of his aristocratic head, his expression foreboding. Yes, I know, Frankie wanted to reassure him, but we have twenty-four hours to prepare for his arrival.
Which meant she needed to get this work done. Despite her misgivings about the whirlwind change in plans, she was determined to prove to Harrison Grant she was the best PA he could ever have behind Tessa, a modern-day version of Wonder Woman. There was no other possible outcome.
The acquisition file was on top of the heap. Apparently Grant Industries was in the midst of attempting to purchase Siberius, a Russian automotive parts supplier. Job number one, Tessa had managed to tell her on the way to the hospital, was to finish the additional background Harrison had requested to support two outstanding contract negotiation points.
She scanned it, decided it was going to be a long night and rifled around in Tessa's desk until she found some takeout menus. The local Thai place appealed. She ordered herself some dinner to be delivered, slipped off her shoes and got comfortable. At seven, the new security guard brought her food up, noticed she was working alone and said he'd check on her throughout the evening. Deciding Harrison Grant owed her a glass of Pinot Grigio for this one, she procured a bottle of reasonably, but not overly, expensive wine from the heftily stocked bar in his office, took it back to her desk with a glass and opened it.
She was about to dig into her noodles when she realized the restaurant had forgotten to include a fork in the bag. Eating noodles with her hands not being an option, she toed her way around for her shoes and came up empty. She stuck her head under the massive desk and looked for them. It was dark under there and it took her eyes a few moments to adjust. Finally she located a shoe she'd kicked to the left and was holding it triumphantly in her hand and reaching for the second when a deep voice laced with an arctic coolness pierced the solid wooden desk.
"It didn't occur to me you were going to like it, Geoffrey. I pay people like you to make things happen, not for your incredibly insightful strategic thinking."
Harrison Grant. Oh, my God. What is he doing back tonight?
She reared her head up, her skull connecting hard with the inch-thick top of the desk. Stars exploded behind her eyes. A curse escaped her as she dropped the shoe, clasped her head in her hands and absorbed the pulsing aftershocks.
"Good God." The harsh-edged voice came closer. "Geoffrey, I'm going to have to call you back."
Frankie was vaguely aware of strong male hands levering her chair away from the desk and lifting her chin. She blinked as he pulled her hands from her head, and tipped her skull back. A clear head might have been a good weapon to face Harrison Grant with for the first time, but her cerebral matter was hazy, her vision shadowy as she took him in at close range. Dressed in a black trench coat in deference to the rainy, overcast New York day, he was tall, imposingly tall. The charcoal-gray suit he wore beneath the trench coat, the amount of rough stubble shading his aristocratic jaw and the laser-like stare of his black eyes under designer glasses made her giddily wonder if he was the devil himself.
Biting out a low curse, he tossed his cell phone on the desk and cupped the back of her head with one of his big hands, his fingers pressing into her scalp to feel for a bump. When he located the growing mass that was causing the deep throb in her head, a furrow ruffled his brow. "What exactly were you doing down there?"
"Shoes," Frankie muttered absently as the world began to right itself. She sucked in a couple of deep breaths and examined him closer. Along with those deadly dark eyes, he had a perfect aquiline nose that framed a firm, wide mouth. Apparently the devil came in extremely good-looking versions that also smelled amazing.
He held up three fingers. "How many?"
"What day is it?"
"Tuesday, the sixth of August."
He let his fingers slide from her head. His black gaze, however, remained pinned on her face. "Unless this is Goldilocks and the Three Bears redone to feature a brunette, you are sitting in the wrong chair."
Her heart sped up in her chest at his low, silky tone, as curiosity radiated from the inky darkness of his somewhat mesmerizing gaze. "What if this is actually the right chair?" she offered in an attempt to defuse the tension.
His mouth curved. "Now I know that would have to be a tale, because this chair belongs to my assistant, Tessa, and you," he murmured, his sweeping stare taking in all of her, including a rather comprehensive study of her legs, "are not her."
Frankie swallowed hard and followed his gaze. In the commotion, her conservative skirt had ridden up her thighs, baring the lacy black pull-ups that were her one nod toward femininity in her proper office attire. Oh, God. She tugged the summer-weight wool back to her knees, so much heat rushing to her face she might as well have been on fire. With difficulty, she moved her gaze back up to his and saw. disappointment?
"Tessa," she murmured, searching vainly for a way to rescue the situation, "went into premature labor and had her baby last night. Co" Her words died in her throat as a flash of silver glinted across the room. She blinked, thinking her swimming head had manufactured it, but when she looked again, the sight of two armed guards bearing down on them, guns drawn, made her mouth drop open.
"Putyour hands in the air."
The guards roared the words at them, their attention fixed on Harrison. Frankie stuck her hands in the air, her heart slamming so violently against her chest she thought she might pass out. Her gaze sat frozen on the glare of the lights reflected off the silver barrels.
She tore her panicked gaze away finally, flicking it to Harrison, whose face had a bemused look on it. Instead of following the guard's orders, he put his palms on his thighs and moved to straighten.
"I said put your hands in the air," the guard bellowed, waving his gun at Harrison. "Now."
Her boss put his suit-clad arms in the air in a slow, exaggerated movement. He might have acquiesced, but every muscle in his big body was tensed to revolt, his black gaze glittering. They sensed it, their eyes remaining trained on him. "Hands behind your back."
The CEO's mouth parted. "I think"
"Hands behind your back."
Her boss put his hands behind his back, a dark thundercloud stealing over his face. The guard closest to him holstered his gun, turned the CEO around with a careful appreciation of his powerful frame and snapped handcuffs around his wrists.
Oh, my God. Frankie's frozen brain registered the guards now as Grant Industries security guards. But what were they doing arresting Harrison Grant?
The guard with his gun still drawn crooked a finger at Frankie. "Over here."
The logical part of her brain told her she didn't want anything to do with a man with a gun. Even one in uniform. Maybe these men were posing as Grant security guards. Maybe they wanted to rob them.
"Move," the guard growled at her. Frankie's behind left the chair in a hurry. She wasn't sure how she did it because her legs were mush, but she wobbled over to where the guard stood, shaking so hard her teeth chattered. His partner pushed Harrison down in the chair she'd vacated.
"What happened?" the guard beside Frankie asked.
She gave him an uncomprehending look. 'Wh-what do you mean? You just came tearing in here."
"You hit the panic button."
Panic button. What panic button? She vaguely remembered something in her training about an emergency button she could press if anything ever happened, but she'd laughed it off at the time, thinking it would be more useful for handling Coburn's discarded girlfriends than an actual situation. Hers had been on the wall beside her desk.
Her gaze slid to the wall beside Tessa's desk. No button.
"It's under the desk on the left," the guard said.
Under the desk? Her gaze slid to the big mahogany desk where her new boss sat handcuffed. A sick feeling enveloped her. She must have hit the button by mistake when Harrison walked in and startled her.
Oh, good lord.
The guard pointed at Harrison. "Pete said you were up here working alone. He had his hands on you when we arrived."
Frankie's stomach rolled. The guards were new. They'd changed to a different company last week. "He," she clarified weakly, "is Harrison Grant, the CEO of this company. I hit the panic button by mistake."
The guards assumed identical gray complexions. Harrison Grant's expression moved from one of disbelief to an even darker countenance Frankie chose to avoid.
The guard beside her turned and surveyed the tall, elegant male in the chair dubiously. "You're supposed to be abroad."
Harrison's dark-as-night eyes glittered back at him. "I parked underground and took the back elevators."
"You don't look like your picture."
Frankie wanted to scream not to poke the beast. The glimmer in the CEO's eyes turned deadly. "I can assure you that she," he said, nodding his head at Frankie, "whoever she is, is telling the truth. Being the workaholic I am, I've acquired glasses since my last headshot."
"You got some ID?"
Her boss dipped his chin. "Front pocket."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Tempted by Her Billionaire Boss is a great read and I highly recommend it for anyone who's a fan of this line. Harrison is the classic Presents alpha male hero you can't help but love. Francesca is his feisty substitute secretary who refuses to be intimidated even when she's sorely tempted to. She sees the good in him and helps him see it in himself as he works his revenge on a rival business man. Loved these characters and their journey to love! Looking forward to her next one!
Unlike some romances that follow a superficial storyline and characters, this book provided a complex insight into the life of a man that has been influenced by tragedies past and a woman that believes in being true to oneself and others. Liked to read about the struggles to create a future out of a sad past.