We exited the elevator on the thirtieth floor and walked down the hall toward the conference room. Blake Mead, the CEO, rushed over as soon as he saw me. Raina excused herself to get a cup of tea from the buffet while I tried to interpret his anxious expression. Blake was a good-looking man with deep set brown eyes and brown hair lightly streaked with gray. I’d always considered him a confident and capable leader, but today I saw none of his typical self-assurance.
“Listen, Aria,” he said when he reached me. “Corporate is rumbling about the performance in some of our divisions, and they’re in the midst of evaluating the feasibility of some of our projects. I have a sneaking suspicion they’ll send someone here to analyze every aspect of our operations.”
I knew why he was concerned. Our last few projects had failed expectations by a rather wide margin. “Should we meet to form a strategy?” I suggested. “We should also include Mike Ward. His division was unusually below budget projections.”
“Yes, it was,” Blake agreed. “I’ll have Cynthia call Raina and get something scheduled for the three of us.” He let out another sigh. “Well, looks like it’s time. Let’s get this started.”
I followed him toward the front of the room and stood next to the chair beside David, RPH’s Marketing Director. He was tall and broad-shouldered, with a mop of dirty-blond hair and thick, solemn brows offset by a boyish grin. Gunmetal blue eyes gleamed behind rectangular-framed glasses that sat at the very tip of his nose.
David and I began discussion of his many deadlines, one of which was for my division. He confirmed that he would have the final prints ready for my approval later this afternoon, and we talked about a business lunch if my schedule permitted, which I needed to verify with Raina. I glanced toward the buffet, but she was gone. I scanned the room in search of her but stopped short at the gloriously handsome man standing near the door.
He appeared remarkably confident, browsing the room as if assessing it before making a decision to enter. I was practically gaping at him when his eyes finally connected with mine. Was it possible for the heart to skip a beat? Because mine certainly had. His eyes traveled the length of my body, and then he nodded a hello. I smiled in response, unable to tear my eyes away. Whoever he was, I quickly surmised that he was an unadulterated orgasm in a suit. Virginia gently throbbed as my mind instantly ventured to dark, naughty places. Oh, fuck me! Please!
Blake interrupted my mini daydream; based on his expression, he had called my name more than once. Embarrassed by my slip, I turned toward Blake with feigned interest, hoping he didn’t realize that I was going goo-goo over Mr. Fuck Me.
“Yes?” I replied.
“Would you like to begin the meeting and let me finish up or would you prefer I start?” he asked.
He consistently made this offer and I consistently accepted. I really didn’t understand why he didn’t just make it the standing protocol. “I can start,” I replied, hoping I could maintain focus despite my derailed thoughts.
“Good, I was hoping you would say that. It takes the pressure off of me to set the tone. I seem to always make people nervous,” he replied.
“I wonder why that is,” I said dryly. Blake was a very astute, very staid businessman. He often came across as intimidating, despite his efforts to appear otherwise.
I faced the interns and other staff members and took a seat near the head of the conference table. “Good morning, everyone. If you will all be seated.” Everyone moved toward the chairs situated around the table. I would have preferred Blake open the meeting because I was still rolling in the aftershocks of Mr. Fuck Me. I took a deep breath and focused on the agenda, although I would have preferred to focus my attention on the hot sexy stranger in the dark gray suit.
Once everyone was seated, I began the introductions. “My name is Aria Cason, and I am Raine Publishing House’s President of Communications. I’d like to welcome you and present you with a brief introduction to the company and the agenda for our meeting today. I would first like to introduce you to some of the key staff of RPH who will also be speaking this morning. Starting clockwise, this is Adam Shelton, Senior Editor; David Shaw, Director of Marketing; Kent Richmond, Director of Finance; and last but certainly not least, Blake Meade, our fearless President and CEO. We’ve also invited a few RPH staff who will serve as your mentors during your next few months with us. We’re all extremely pleased that you have chosen RPH as your intern site this summer…”
The remainder of my briefing detailed the different areas of the company, devoting a great deal of time to specifics of my department and expectations. I went on to inform them of the success of previous interns, some of whom had been offered positions at RPH. It was very difficult to concentrate and present the information as I normally would, due to my fleeting thoughts. I had to continuously remind myself not to hone in too much on one particular individual.
Blake and Adam were next in line, offering their views from the perspectives of CEO and editor. At the conclusion of the departmental introductions, Blake asked each of the interns to introduce themselves and provide details of the path that led them to RPH. When it was Mr. Fuck Me’s turn, as I would expect, all of the women’s eyes were glued to him. I smirked to myself. Surely these Bland Betties didn’t think they stood a chance with a man like him. I was by no means an uppity type, but I was a realist. And realistically speaking, there was not a chance in hell of any them hooking up with this guy. He seemed above it all—above the frivolities of the hunt and the seduction.
He scanned the others around the table, giving direct eye contact as he spoke. His relaxed, confident vibe bordered on smugness, but it easily commanded the attention of everyone in the room—he was utterly captivating. He had cool written all over his face, and he radiated a calm control that sent his sex appeal through the roof.
As it turned out, his name was not Mr. Fuck Me; it was Aiden Wyatt. He was a Harvard graduate, having earned multiple degrees—one of which was a Masters in Business. As he spoke of his education and work experience, my attention was fragmented by the intoxicating combination of his face and his voice. He was exceptionally attractive, but more than that, he had that something about him that was more appealing than his looks. It immediately drew you in—as if he had glamoured you. Yes, I was a fan of a certain HBO series, and just like those fictional magical creatures, he had me absolutely spellbound. I didn’t typically pay attention to a man’s mouth unless he was doing something intimate with it, but I found myself watching his lips. The words dripped from them like warm honey. Was he aware of the heat he was creating? I could have literally reached an orgasm from just hearing him speak.
After having received his business degree, he had attended Harvard Law School—where he completed his law degree—but upon graduation, he opted for a different career. I was perplexed as to why he would consider an entry-level position, with such an impressive educational background. He was, in a word, amazing. I would love to have met him under different circumstances. He appeared to be damned near perfect! Why did he have to be an intern? And an even better question: why was he interning here? With his level of education, he had endless career possibilities.
Aiden had been the last intern to speak. The director of Human Resources, Lorraine Atchison, entered to officially announce the department assignments. I assumed Aiden would work within the finance or legal department since he had a background in both. Good luck, ladies. I couldn’t imagine how difficult it would be to work closely with him for a day, let alone the next four months.
With the meeting finished, I walked to Harper, our assigned intern, just as Lorraine approached Aiden. I overheard the word transfer; obviously they were in conversation regarding the departmental assignments. I glanced toward the two of them. Lorraine was eyeing him as if she wanted to rip his clothes off. Not that I couldn’t see why.
The room slowly emptied as everyone returned to their respective departments. Raina and I were exiting with Harper when Lorraine asked to speak with him
“Aria, can you give us a moment? We’ll walk down to your office shortly,” Lorraine said.
“Of course,” I replied. Raina and I left the three of them in the conference room.
“Ms. Cason, it seems you have an admirer,” Raina said as she pressed the button for the twenty-fifth floor.
“Don’t tell me you didn’t notice the way Aiden was staring at you?”
“No, I can’t say that I did,” I replied.
“What is it, Raina?” I asked, since she obviously had more to say about the intern.
“Ah, nothing. I was just thinking it’s a good thing he’s not working in our department. It would be difficult to work with someone as appealing as he is.”
“Appealing?” I asked, smiling and feigning disinterest. “Is that what he is?”
“So you did notice how handsome he is. I knew you were as affected as the rest of the women in the room,” she accused.
“Affected? Interesting choice of words.”
“Interesting and accurate,” she added with a laugh. Seemed we both felt we had dodged a very hot and sexy bullet.
“Raina, if you would, send Harper to my office when he arrives,” I said, as I walked past her desk.
“Of course, Ms. Cason.”
Raina and I had previously selected the projects that I would assign our intern. We actually needed some additional research on the new marketing concepts for RPH’s e-publishing division. We needed a campaign to break into the fortified position Amazon had in this arena. I sat at my desk and woke my computer to locate the list of preliminary action items that Harper would need.
“Yes,” I replied, still looking for the file. “What is it, Raina?”
“Our intern is here and chomping at the bit to get started,” she stated. I looked up from the screen with a welcoming smile that quickly faded as I found myself staring into the gorgeous green eyes of Aiden Wyatt.