“I need one more piece of crap to fall on my desk today and that’s it – you’re all fired!” Ella Jameson had a reputation for being a bitch and today she was earning it. The women seated around her were all but quaking in their shoes. “It is too much to ask that you people do your job?” As her voice rose, people poked up their heads to watch, until as though sensing them, Ella’s head spun around and all onlookers ducked for cover. “Patricia, were you drunk when you wrote this, or was I drunk when I hired you? Deidre, no disaster could excuse this and these two…” She waved the last of the submissions in her hand before throwing them over her shoulder. “I’m just not going there.”
“Ms Jameson…” one of the women hesitantly raised her hand.
"Don’t speak!” The glare cut through the woman like ice. “We’re printing a prominent travel magazine, ladies, not toilet paper! You want to work for Kleenex, they’re four buildings down. You want to keep working for me? Prove it!”
Ryan Edwards smirked with wry
amusement as women ran in all directions. So, the rumours about the Ice
Princess were true; Ella Jameson was talented, beautiful, demanding and utterly
ruthless. His eyes swept with appreciation over the tall, slender woman with
curves in all the right places. She had, he decided, the face of an angel,
though he smirked even as he thought it, as right now those large, dark eyes of
hers were tempestuous at best. He wondered if he pulled the pin on that very
businesslike topknot, how far that rich mahogany hair of hers would spill down
over her shoulders. It was a tempting thought.
“They really did model The Devil Wears Prada on that woman,” a
voice behind him muttered to another employee.
“She makes Miranda Priestly look like
Mother Teresa,” the companion grumbled. “And what is she, thirty? She’s only
gonna get worse.”
He turned, amused, but the pair had
already moved on. Another woman caught his eye, gave him a shy appraisal and
hurried past. He was accustomed to women admiring him and wasn’t noble enough
not to take advantage of it from time to time. But this was business. There was
only one woman he was interested in today. He had intended on heading straight
to her office but hadn’t been able to resist the show. Now he found himself
wondering how long it would be before he found himself on the receiving end of
that temper. He thought with a grin that in all probability it wouldn’t be
She was heading quickly toward him to
the hallway, those long, long legs eating up the ground as she strode – no –
glided along, leaving a small band of followers rushing awkwardly in her wake.
He gave himself a moment to admire the picture, before deliberately putting
himself in her way.
“Ms Jameson?” As they very nearly
collided, his hand shot out to steady her. “My apologies,” he murmured,
enjoying her quick catch of breath and the instant awareness that flashed in
those captivating eyes.
In a heartbeat she composed herself, turned
her attention to the hand on her immaculate charcoal-grey suit and pointedly waited.
Catching her meaning he bit back a grin and removed his hand.
Without a word she moved off, then
turned and looked him up and down. A hint of cool appreciation touched her face
and with a small “Hmm” she was off again.
He caught the smirks of her
assistants as he fell into step. A young man wearing an Armani suit and a smug
expression glanced up at him, asked, “Can I help you?”
“Look, you can’t just – ”
“I assure you I can. Excuse me.”
Ella had reached the door to her
internal office as her assistants scattered to their various desks. He walked
straight by them to her door, evoking a chorus of panicked opposition which he
ignored as he proceeded inside.
She was at her desk, a phone already
pinned between her shoulder and her ear as she scrawled something on a notepad
with one hand and scrolled through something on her computer screen with the
Ryan sat, made himself comfortable
and bit his tongue down on the very real urge to laugh as she halted her
conversation, scrawling and scrolling and stared wide-eyed in total disbelief.
He took note of the same split-second gathering of composure he’d witnessed in
the hallway, then she was off the phone with a “Later” and her hands were in
front of her, fingers linked, a look he could only describe as haughty on her
perfectly made-up face.
“This ought to be good,” she
“I thought I’d drop by and introduce
myself,” he drawled lazily, his eyes deliberately roaming over her, “See if the
rumours about you were accurate.”
“They generally are,” she replied in
that velvety voice that made him think more of the bedroom than the boardroom.
“Especially the nasty ones. How did you get in here?”
Her expression was fleetingly
withering then bland. “I see. Looks like I’ll be firing someone today after
“I don’t allow obstacles to get in my
way, Ms Jameson. Your small herd of loyal sheep out there aren’t to blame.”
“Wow. Give me a minute to admire your
As he inclined his head and did just
that, he thought she almost – almost – smiled. Instead she frowned. “Who are
you and what do you want?”
He leant forward, allowed his gaze to
move to her blood-red painted lips. “I’ll tell you over dinner.”
“I’m sorry,” she replied, lifting the
phone, “I have a rule about narcissistic men with delusions of grandeur. You’ve
wasted enough of my time. I’m calling security.”
Ryan simply leant forward and
depressed the receiver. “Dinner, Ella.”
This time she made no attempt to mask
the quick flare of anger. “Like hell,” she replied also leaning forward, her
furious face now inches from his. “I asked you a question.”
The air around them all but crackled
with static as he seriously considered closing the distance and kissing her
senseless. To stem this undoubtedly insane urge and prevent probable bodily
harm he leant back and made himself comfortable. “My name, Your Highness, is
Ryan Edwards, and under the circumstances I think we should get to know each
Something flickered in her eyes
before they narrowed dangerously. Ignoring the jibe she asked, “What
A lop-sided grin crept onto his face.
“I’m crushed you haven’t heard of me.”
“I’m actually very well known in the
“Oh, I’ve heard of you. Don’t make me
ask you again.”
“You’re going to give yourself a jaw
ache, clenching it like that. I’m here because of the company takeover.”
work for Montague Enterprises?” she asked sceptically.
“It’s a recent thing.” He shrugged. “And
you haven’t checked your emails. We’re going on assignment. Together.”
From somewhere a clock ticked
rhythmically, the only sound for several moments as she stared at him,
completely appalled. “Are you insane?”
“Nope,” he replied, delighted with
her reaction. “Your new boss wants you – and I – on his pet project. So…” he
grinned, bracing himself for impact. “Ever slept in a tent, Ella?”
He thought it almost akin to waiting
for a tornado to hit. There was calm, a quiet anticipation, all the while
knowing that at any moment all hell could break loose. Ella’s face was like
that. Calm – too calm, but her eyes stirred with the first breezes of an
oncoming natural disaster. Her voice, when she found it, rumbled like far-off
thunder. “Wait outside.”
He got to his feet, chuckled. Oh yeah, he thought, pleased with his
decision, she’s perfect.
Five minutes later, Ella put down the
phone with a resounding click, her
reality fast becoming a nightmare. Briefly she allowed her head to fall into
her hands while she attempted to make sense of it.
When her magazine had been taken over
by a large company with diverse interests, she’d felt secure in her position
knowing she’d turned Travel magazine
into the top selling publication in its field. She hadn’t doubted they’d want
to keep her on. It had been her staff she’d worried about.
Every one of her handpicked team was
brilliant on their own, as a group she couldn’t have hoped for better. Almost
six months ago she’d received the email outlining the commencement of random
reviews of staff performance, something about ‘reassessing their suitability’
for the ‘new direction’ of the magazine. Of course, she’d been struck by a jolt
of pure dread. She was asked not to draw their attention to the reviews. In
other words, she was unable to warn anyone they would be taking place. So she’d
pushed, stressed, demanded that every single word submitted be better than
perfect, beyond criticism, award-worthy. No one was going to find her people
lacking, no one was going to have an excuse to fire them. They were her team.
Hers. And although most of them now considered her the boss from hell, she
thought she’d just about pulled it off.
How could she have predicted this? Her new boss was turning her magazine
into a television series. They wanted her on it. What did she know about
television? She was a travel writer turned magazine editor, not a television
reporter. The idea was ludicrous. And going on the road again? She’d lived out
of a suitcase for seven years – had enjoyed it, true – but she’d worked damn
hard for this position. She’d finally bought an apartment. She had a cat for
She released a long, unhappy breath
and sat back in her chair, trying to come to terms with the proposal. It didn’t
make sense. And then, of course, there was Ryan Edwards; the cult-status,
adventuring idiot who got himself into more trouble than was entirely
believable. The idea of them working together was as incomprehensible as it was
outrageous. She was a highly respected professional. He was, well, a lunatic.
No. This would not do. If Montague
weren’t interested in keeping her on in her current position, she’d quit. It
would hurt – this magazine was her baby. But she’d find something else. There
were plenty of companies out there that would hire her.
Her eyes turned back to the email
outlining the proposed changes to her contract and she read through it again
carefully, slowly. When her intercom buzzed she answered it distractedly.
“Mr Jameson is on line one, Ms
Ella bit back a curse – this day just
got more and more perfect by the minute. “Grandfather,” she greeted, picking up
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Vincent
“I’m sorry, tell you what?” though
she already knew. Somehow he knew everything the moment she found out, if not
“This takeover rubbish. What’s this
She didn’t bother to ask how he’d
found out. He always did. “I’m just looking into that now, grandfather.”
“There’s no excuse for incompetence,
Ella. Did you not receive the email this morning?”
Ella checked the time and date.
“Yes,” she admitted reluctantly, but I’ve – ”
“Don’t ‘but’ me, young lady. You’ll
hand in your resignation, of course. It’s more than time you rethought your
“Grandfather, we’ve been through this.”
“I don’t understand you! You’ve more
than proved you’ve a better head on your shoulders than either of your useless
parents. You need a good husband, make a family your career.”
“Grandfather, I have more in mind for
my life than producing heirs for you.”
“Watch your tone! At your age, you’ll
miss out if you procrastinate. If you really insist on working I’ll find you a
position closer to home. I hear Global Holidays
Fighting back the urge to scream at
his interference, Ella took a deep breath. “I appreciate that, but I can do
this on my own. Right now I’m busy ensuring my staff are able to keep their
positions. I don’t want – ”
“Ella, you are consistently,
frustratingly short-sighted. If they’re worth keeping, you take them with you.
Otherwise, they go. There’s no room for sentiment in business. Honestly,
sometimes I wonder how you’ve held that position; whether I taught you anything
“Do you?” she replied through grated
teeth, “You can’t expect me to just – ”
“I think I’ve earned the right to
expect you to do what you’re told!”
Ella knew that tone. He was
undoubtedly turning beetroot red and reaching for a brandy. “I’m sorry for
upsetting you, grandfather. I do appreciate everything you’ve done for me.”
“Then act appropriately.”
When the dial tone sounded in her
ear, Ella replaced the receiver. “Have a nice day, grandfather. Thanks for the
call,” she muttered. She pressed the heel of her palm to her forehead, counted
to ten and took a deep breath. He was the most frustrating, interfering,
old-fashioned… Still, he was her only family. He’d taken her in after her
parents had died, when she was only eight years old. He’d sent her to a
spectacular school and had funded her early travels as a young writer. He’d
pushed her to be the best in everything she did and she’d succeeded.
The only time she’d ever deliberately
crossed him in business was in taking this position. He’d lined something up –
because he was the legendary Vincent Jameson, publisher extraordinaire and
millionaire businessman – in one of his own companies. But Ella had wanted to
earn her position on her own. She’d wanted the challenge of taking on a
lesser-known publication and moulding it into something great. And she’d
succeeded there, too. And so he’d forgiven her, because nothing meant more to
her grandfather than winning. Except maybe an heir. And even if she’d wanted to
be it, she wouldn’t do because she wasn’t a boy.
She glared at the emailed copy of her
new contract. It was all there, in black and white. Had this been the ‘new
direction’ all along? She didn’t like not knowing what was going to happen –
hated not being in control, despised knowing she had only been fed small
amounts of information on some sort of need-to-know basis. Well, she’d just see
about this. She’d just see.
Working herself up to furious she
pressed a button on her computer. A moment later she snatched the print out and
gathering herself together, strode purposefully from her office.
As she came through the door,
assistants jumped to attention. Ryan was seated, reclining comfortably in a
chair with a coffee in his hand and an openly amused look on his face. “Time to
batten down the hatches,” he murmured, lazily getting to his feet.
Ella barely spared him a glance.
“Mary, please contact Henry Bales. Tell him I’m on my way.”
“Yes, Ms Jameson.”
“Blake, cancel my appointments for
this afternoon and reschedule my meeting with Brian Ferguson for tomorrow after
“Mr Ferguson is flying out this
evening, Ms Jameson.”
Ella swallowed the sharp retort that
formed on her lips, paused, took a breath and tried again. “So reschedule his
“I’m sorry Ms Jameson, but he was
adamant about seeing you today.”
She found her palm returning to her
forehead, found herself again counting to ten – quickly. “Get him on the
phone,” she ordered as she marched to his desk and waited. “Brian – Ella
Jameson. I have to reschedule for tomorrow... I assure you my time is every bit
as valuable as yours and this is unavoidable... well, that would be a shame
Brian. To date my personal review of your resort is glowing. I’m considering
featuring it with a cover… Yes, we’ll take care of your altered flight
arrangements. I appreciate that. See you tomorrow.” Ella hung up and turned to
Blake. “See what I just did? That was your job. Don’t make me do it again – and
organise those flights.”
“Sorry Ms – ”
“Mary, did you get hold of Henry?”
“I’m on hold, Ms Jameson.”
Ryan leant forward, whispered to
Blake, “Who is Henry?”
“Ms Jameson’s solicitor,” he mumbled.
Ryan wasn’t surprised. “Cancel that,
Mary,” he ordered, getting to his feet. He moved smoothly to Ella’s side and
took her by the arm before propelling her toward the exit. He had a brief
moment to appreciate the stares of amazed horror on the faces of her employees
before a quick glance at Ella’s face told him the tornado was about to hit
He smoothly went into damage control.
“You don’t really want to cause a scene,” he muttered under his breath as she
opened her mouth to do just that. “Just give me five minutes to hear what I
have to say.”
Two steps out the door, Ella dug in
her heels and turned on him. “Take. Your. Hand. Off. Me,” she grated, ripping
her arm from his grasp. “Are you looking for an assault charge?”
“Are you intending on wearing that to
dinner or do we need to stop off at your place?”
Ella practically gaped at him as she
attempted to figure out whether the man was simply too arrogant to comprehend
or whether he perhaps had some sort of sociological disorder. “I’m not sure
anything I’m saying is actually sinking in, so I want you to look at me while I
say this very, very clearly,” she ordered, looking him directly in the eyes.
“You could not drag me kicking and screaming into a restaurant with you. I
would starve to death before we sat
over a meal together. Is this making sense to you?”
“It’s making for amusing chit-chat.
Now, about that challenge.” He moved quickly – too
quickly. Before she had a chance to fully grasp his intent he had her over his
shoulder and in front of the lift. He pushed the button and the doors opened
The spell of complete and utter
disbelief that held her silent for the first few seconds broke. Torn between
fury and the terror one of her employees would witness this humiliating scene,
she prayed for the doors to close then considered her chances of taking him
Slim, she decided unhappily. “Put me
down. Right now!” she demanded instead, too proud to completely lose her
composure and too furious to consider anything less than formal charges.
“Well, Ella, we’ve yet to come to the
kicking and screaming portion of the argument. Any restaurant preferences?”
“You are insane!” she hissed into his ear, “Put me the hell down!”
“Are you going to behave?”
“When these doors open you’ll get your
kicking and screaming – along with a stint in a cell and multiple serious
injuries. Do you hear me?”
“Undoubtedly, and there’ll be a
hundred witnesses leaving work for the day that’ll get front row seats to your
very delectable ass. The photos will be circulating in seconds. Ready?” he
asked as the lift came to a halt.
Oh God, he was right… Heat rushed to
her face. “Alright!” she snapped.
Instantly she was deposited on her
feet, and a split-second later the doors slid open to a packed lobby. With a
look that could have levelled the building, she strode out of the lift and
headed for the front doors. This is not
happening, she reassured herself. I’m
having some sort of stress-induced hallucination. That has to be it.
“This way.” His hand was once again
on her arm and steering her, this time to a waiting car. A uniformed driver
nodded in greeting and opened the back door. Without protest, Ella slid into
the sleek black limo. She hadn’t given in – not by a long shot. She just needed
a minute to collect her scattered thoughts. The man had just picked her up.
Picked. Her. Up. How dare he! He was as crazy as the rumours. He had to be. Who
did that? No one. No one she should be in a car with she realised, suddenly
anxious. Was he kidnapping her? Did he honestly expect her to have dinner with
Ryan slid in beside her, studied her
murderous expression and grinned widely. “So… where would you like to go?”
“The nearest police station.”
“Sure, I’ll choose.” Ryan gave the
name of a prominent restaurant to the driver and they were on their way.
Ella looked out the window, seething.
Never had she been treated like this. Never. She supposed at least the driver
did indeed appear to be travelling in the general direction of the restaurant.
She was probably safe.
“Calm down.” Ryan drew her attention
back to him. “We’ll have dinner, have a chat. If you don’t like what I have to
say, you can leave.”
“Just why the hell would you for one second believe that someone like you
could have anything to say that would interest me?”
She saw his jaw tense and heard him
inhale sharply. Her own body tensed in response and she felt a definite sense
of relief when his eyebrows rose and his expression turned back to wry
amusement. Still, his tone was no longer the lazy drawl it had been. “Dinner.
Let me explain. You say no to my proposal, I’ll leave you alone.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “Or?”
“Or I’ll keep getting in your way
until you hear me out.”
“Is that a yes?”
She wanted to say no, wanted to warn
him what would happen if he started threatening her. But something in that
determined expression made her hesitate, made her wonder if maybe he was just a
little more dangerous than her ego was allowing her to process. After all,
wasn’t he the guy that had survived more life-threatening experiences than most
people could even think up? Hadn’t he, while in the role of adventure
traveller, bashed heads with corrupt governments, gone out of his way on
countless occasions to raise awareness of human rights issues? Hadn’t he been
arrested? Abducted? Held at gunpoint?
To be safe, she replied, “I’ll hear
what you have to say, if only to satisfy my own curiosity and get rid of you.
Then you go and you don’t come anywhere near me again. Are we clear?”