SEDUCED BY HER TEXAS BILLIONAIRE BOSS
Guilty Pleasures 6
Copyright © 2012
Please note the prologue is not included in this free excerpt.
Frances Denning screwed the top on her fountain pen and placed it on the desk, then steepled her fingers together in contemplation. “So what other positive attributes do you think you could bring to Brannigan Enterprises, Tess?”
The head of human resources arched a curious brow as she looked across the desk that separated them. About fifty years old and impeccably dressed in a dark gray business suit, Frances Denning had proved a formidable interviewer, or should that be inquisitor? In quick succession, she’d fired hard-to-answer questions at her for the last half hour. However, Tess now sensed a subtle change in Frances’s approach, and followed her lead by relaxing back in her chair, allowing her hands to rest peacefully on her lap.
“Well, Mrs. Denning, as I’m sure you already know, I have four years’ experience working in a similar position for the food giant Aeries. I headed their public relations department for two of those four years. During my time there, I developed a good working relationship with the media.”
Frances Denning muttered something under her breath, which she didn’t quite catch, but guessed wasn’t good. “With all due respect, Tess, Aeries makes candy bars. Heading the public relations department at Brannigan Enterprises will be entirely different. I’m sure you understand that an out-of-control oil fire is a far more urgent situation than someone complaining about the taste or size of their favorite confectionery. Think about this, with the pressure mounting, how would you cope with the media clamoring for more information?”
“I would remain calm and focused, exactly as I did with the salmonella outbreak in 2011, which threatened to damage Aeries’s market share and loyal customer base. With more than thirty members of the public hospitalized, it was an extremely pressurized situation. As head of public relations it was my job to be in front of the camera on numerous news channels, calmly explaining that the situation was under control, and the public had nothing to fear. Perhaps you saw me.”
“I did. Why do you think you’re here?”
Tess was well aware that a woman like Frances Denning would have scrutinized her CV in minutest detail. That was why she’d been offered the interview in the first place, because of her impressive employment history. However, the older woman wasn’t finished with her interrogation quite yet. She brushed a hand through her silver coifed hair. “Then let me ask you another question, Tess. How do you think you’ll gel with Mr. Brannigan? He has a reputation for, how shall I put it…” Frances paused, carefully considering her choice of words. She then opened her hands wide, palms up. “I’ve known Kyle Brannigan for seven years, and let’s just say he’s unafraid to speak his mind. He certainly doesn’t suffer fools lightly, which brings me back to the reason why I’ve asked you to come in today. What Mr. Brannigan needs, or should I say demands, is someone who can put a calm, controlled buffer between the company and the media. How you deal with TV and press reflects on how the public perceives us. If Brannigan Enterprises comes across as uncaring or not environmental enough, then the share price suffers, and believe me, if this happens, Kyle Brannigan will kick your ass big-time, and mine for hiring you in the first place. Mr. Brannigan requires the very best person available. If I don’t give him exactly what he wants, I’ll be looking for a new job. Do I make myself clear?”
“Absolutely, Mrs. Denning, and let me assure you that I’m able and willing to rise to the challenge.”
Of course, Tess had heard all about Kyle Brannigan’s hot temper. After all it was well documented. He was a man who seemed to make his own rules. A man who took life as it came. He’d once physically ejected a reporter from a press conference when the guy made a cheap shot about his private life. Far from damaging Kyle Brannigan’s reputation, it had only served to enhance his devil-may-care persona. The man was notorious for his womanizing ways. According to popular myth and legend, women sizzled with sexual need whenever they were around him, so much so that they fell into his bed at the merest click of his fingers. Oh, yes, and she had a good idea what that man demanded in the bedroom, too—outright kinky stuff that fired her imagination should she think about it for too long. There’d been so many kiss-and-tell stories over the years that some of them must contain an element of truth. Albeit exaggerated.
Tess raised her chin and looked Frances straight in the eye. “If you give me the job, I don’t think I’ll disappoint my new boss.”
A smile briefly touched Frances’s lips. “So, Tess—”
A loud rap suddenly sounded on the office door, making her jolt with surprise. Almost immediately, and before Frances could even utter the words, “enter” or “I’m busy,” Kyle Brannigan strode purposefully into the room. Judging by the delicious aroma, he held a steaming cup of hot coffee. He looked thoroughly at ease with himself. Naturally, she’d seen him many times before on the TV, and she’d always made a point of tuning in whenever she heard that deep, seductive Texas drawl of his, but to actually see this powerful man in the flesh left her senses reeling.
Get ahold of yourself, girl. He’s just a man, nothing more. You can’t trust any of them.
Tieless and with his shirt collar undone, he was dressed in a light gray business suit. Standing about six three and weighing, she guessed, around two hundred pounds, Kyle Brannigan cut an impressive figure. His collar-length, dark brown hair fell disheveled around his manly features, creating an air of mystery and danger. He frightened her a little, but for some strange reason she kind of liked it. His face sported deep laughter lines that creased appealingly at the sides of his mouth, while telltale signs of stubble darkened his strong jaw, giving the impression that he enjoyed an adventurous life, but could also be ruthless if necessary. It was his vibrant blue eyes as they held hers that finally convinced her that all the stories about his sex life were true. The man could have any woman he wanted, or so he thought.
Like a drawbridge being raised up, Tess held her emotions in check. No man, however attractive and powerful, would use her, then make her feel worthless like Chad had. She wouldn’t allow it.
Perhaps he sensed her frosty reception, because his lips spread into a sensuous smile as he held out his hand. “Kyle Brannigan. Good to meet you.”
“Tess Morgan, good to meet you, too, Mr. Brannigan.” His grip was powerful, yet possessed a surprising tenderness, too. She could still sense his warmth as he let go of her hand and sat on the chair next to Frances. She now had two powerful people sitting opposite her, scrutinizing her every word, checking for flaws and weaknesses in her character.
I can handle it.
Tess watched mesmerized as he took a sip of steaming hot coffee. His vibrant blue eyes seemed to probe the very depths of her soul. He placed a hand on Frances’s arm. “Carry on, Frances. Just pretend I’m not here.”
Frances released a girlish giggle, and shook her head. “Kyle, now you know that’s hard to do at the best of times.” Although Frances Denning was a strong woman in her own right, she clearly wasn’t immune to the charms of Kyle Brannigan. Tess saw the effect he was having on her. She seemed all soft and submissive in his presence, and if she wasn’t mistaken, a slight pink blush tinged her cheeks.
Tess figured Kyle Brannigan wasn’t here by chance. His appearance in the office suggested he wanted to take an active part in the selection of his new personal assistant. She tried to calm the frisson of anticipation when she realized that he might actually offer her the job.
She looked him directly in the eye. Christ, he’s gorgeous. Aged around forty, he had about him an air of confidence and total assurance that was thoroughly intoxicating. How many men had the power and sheer presence to do that? There was something animalistic, almost primal in his actions. Just the way he placed the coffee cup on the desk made her feel sexy as hell. The masculine hairs on the back of his hand caught the light streaming through the window. He was definitely all male.
Jesus Christ, I’m at an interview. Concentrate on the job at hand.
Seeming a little distracted, too, Frances absentmindedly picked up her fountain pen, her long, manicured nails glancing off the metal casing as she twisted it nervously in her fingers. “Kyle, I was just explaining to Tess the attributes required for the position of personal assistant. Your personal assistant.”
He smiled, a truly beautiful smile, making the laughter lines deepen around his mouth and eyes. He then turned his attention from Frances to her. “Ms. Morgan, would you object if I called you by your Christian name?”
“Please do, Mr. Brannigan.”
“Tess, the media seem as interested in my private life as they do Brannigan Enterprises. Quite frankly, their unrelenting attention seriously pisses me off. How the hell do these guys come up with so many dumb-ass questions? So, should I offer you the job, and should you accept, that’s where you’d fit in. I currently employ a team of twenty-five public relations personnel working around the globe. The majority have been ably picked by the lady sitting next to me.” He touched Frances’s arm again, and Tess noticed her smile and blush at the same time. “But occasionally, I like to be more involved with employment recruitment, especially when I’ll be working closely with the selected individual. What I need is someone to handle the media when I’m working in the field. I never was a desk jockey, Tess. Underneath I’m just a regular guy, and I’ve always enjoyed being hands-on. I need someone who can handle the media with a lot more diplomacy than I ever could. In a nutshell, I have a very low opinion of the press, and would like to have as little to do with them as possible.”
Sensing her opportunity, Tess put her point across. “Mr. Brannigan, sir, if you’ll give me a chance, I believe I won’t disappoint you. I know exactly what the media require, and I know exactly what you require of a personal assistant.”
Now was the time to impress. “First of all, up-to-the-minute information is vital. I always ensure that I keep myself fully informed. I personally guarantee I will always be in control of events and able to convey clear, concise messages to press and TV. I always use simple, easy-to-understand language that cannot be misinterpreted by the media, something by their very nature they always endeavor to do. I also believe that positive yet relaxed body language is a must. The media pick up on everything. Believe me, Mr. Brannigan, and I hope you’ll excuse my choice of words, but even if the shit is about to hit the fan, I will project a feeling of absolute calm. You can count on it, sir. You can count on me.”
A sensuous smile played on his lips. “Very impressive. So tell me, Tess, what is the current share price of Brannigan Enterprises stock, or is that something you only actually research when you’re working for a company?”
Thank God she’d had the foresight to look it up. “It closed last night at fifteen dollars ninety-nine cents, up three point four on the previous day.”
“Excellent.” Kyle Brannigan glanced in Frances Denning’s direction. “I think we’re done here, Frances.” He stood, and then shook Tess’s hand. “Good meeting you, Tess.” He walked to the doorway before pausing and turning to look at her. “You got any kids?”
“Someone waiting for you at home?”
“Then meet me back here at five this afternoon, with enough clothes for a week.”
“I’m sorry Mr. Brannigan, I don’t understand. I—”
“You’ve got the job, honey. We’re flying to Alaska this evening in my private jet.” He smiled that beautiful smile again. “Got a problem with that?”
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