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Playing Cupid. Arranging dates. What are mothers for?
Hollywood heartthrob and widower Lukkas Spader knows his women are just photo ops for the paparazzi. He's sworn off real dating. But the big-time movie producer needs a gal Friday. And Yohanna desperately needs a job. So what if she's beautiful and their relationship starts out like a typical chick flick? That doesn't mean they're going to fall in love...
She's never felt the sparks between herself and the parade of potential husbands her mother's insisted she meet. But when Yohanna Andrzejewski poses for the cameras with sexy, gorgeous Lukkas—trying to keep the gossipmongers at bay—she realizes that there's something in the air...call it sparks. Bells. Magic. Because Lukkas and Yohanna may not be looking for love, but something—or someone—is making sure it finds them!
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
This USA TODAY bestselling and RITA ® Award-winning author has written more than two hundred books for Harlequin Books and Silhouette Books, some under the name Marie Nicole. Her romances are beloved by fans worldwide. Visit her website at www.marieferrarella.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
You know, for a man who currently has the number one movie at the box office for the past three weeks, you really don't look very happy," Theresa Manetti commented to her client as she paused for a moment to stand by Lukkas Spader.
In the catering business for more than twelve years now, Theresa quickly surveyed the large room where she was presently catering the popular producer's impromptu party, a last-minute send-off that he was throwing for his departing assistant, Janice Brooks.
Tall, with broad shoulders and a broader smile—a smile that was conspicuously absent at the moment, Theresa noted—the thirty-six-year-old wunderkind, as those in higher places tended to dub him, shrugged.
"I can't rest on my laurels, Theresa. In this cutthroat business, you're only as good as your next project."
Theresa narrowed her eyes as she studied the young man. That wasn't at the heart of his problem. She could tell by the lost look in his eyes.
"There's something else, isn't there?" the woman asked. "Don't bother denying it, Lukkas. I raised two silver-tongued lawyers, I can see beyond the facade. You're young, good-looking—I'm old so I'm allowed to say that—and the world is currently at your feet. Yet you look as if you've just lost your best friend. What's bothering you?"
Lukkas shrugged. Admitting that the woman had guessed correctly wasn't going to cost him anything. Besides, he liked this woman whose catering service he'd used half a dozen times or so. There was something about Theresa Manetti that reminded him of his late mother.
"You're not old," he told her and then grew more serious when he said, "She's leaving."
"She," Theresa repeated, looking around the room to see if she could spot the woman Lukkas was talking about.
He nodded. "Jan."
Theresa looked at him in surprise. "You mean the young woman you threw the going-away party for?"
She couldn't see them as a pair, but if he didn't want this Jan leaving, why was he throwing this party for her? Why wasn't he trying to convince the young woman to stay?
Lukkas frowned as he nodded. "She's following her heart and marrying some guy in England she met while we were in production on My Wild Irish Rose!" As if a lightbulb had suddenly gone off in his head, he realized what his caterer was probably thinking. That this was a matter of the heart. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
"Don't get me wrong," he said, quickly setting Theresa straight. "I'm happy that Jan's happy, but I don't know what I'm going to do without her."
"Why?" Theresa asked, curious. "What is it that she does?"
"She keeps me honest and organized," he told her with a dry laugh. Because the woman was still looking at him, waiting for a viable answer, Lukkas elaborated, "I'm the one with the ideas and the energy, the inspiration. Jan's the one who makes sense of it all, who simplifies my chaos and makes sure that everything gets done on time."
Aware of the level of work involved in what Lukkas did, that certainly sounded like a taxing job, Theresa thought.
"And you don't have anyone to take her place?" she ventured. At the same time Theresa realized this wasn't a matter involving the heart. Lukkas seemed genuinely happy that his assistant had found someone to love so this wasn't something that could be fixed with a good match.
A pity, she silently lamented. She and her friends hadn't had a good challenge in almost a month. All three of them ran their own respective businesses, but nothing truly made them come to life like pairing up a couple and moving their lives along; lives that would have otherwise just gone their own separate routes, never bumping into one another, never discovering the pot of gold that was waiting for them at the end of the rainbow.
Thinking of that made her recall the poker game she and her friends had played last Monday. The card game was really just an excuse to get together, unwind and occasionally talk about a possible new opportunity for them to play Cupid. Last Monday, Cecilia had spent most of her time talking about a young woman named Yohanna Somethingor-other—the last name was a tongue twister at best. Apparently the young woman had just lost her job and was also too sweet and adorable—Cecilia's exact words—to be without a soul mate.
"Jan is going to be hard, if not impossible, to replace," Lukkas was saying.
Theresa smiled at the much-sought-after producer. He was single. He was exceedingly handsome. He was perfect. "Don't be too sure," she said.
He turned toward her. "You know someone?"
Theresa's smile was warm and genuine—and very encouraging. "Dear boy, I always know someone." Theresa's eyes were fairly sparkling at this point.
Watching her, Lukkas thought that this woman must have a trick or two up her sleeve. Right now, he needed to find someone to replace Jan. A competent someone. "Tell me more. I'm listening."
A little less than twenty-four hours later Yohanna Andrzejewski found herself standing on Lukkas Spader's doorstep. The Lukkas Spader, big-time producer of some very special movies.
Part of her thought she was dreaming. The other part was exceedingly nervous. That was the part that had allowed her knees to feel like Jell-O.
Taking a deep breath and telling herself to calm down, she leaned over and rang the doorbell. And then smiled. The doorbell played several bars from the first movie the producer had ever made: Dreamland.
She closed her eyes, recalling the rest of the score.
And that was the way Lukkas first saw her, standing on his doorstep, her eyes shut and swaying to some inner tune.
"Can I help you?"
The voice was deep and sexy. Startled, her eyes flew open.
The man was even better looking than his pictures, she realized as she frantically went in search of her tongue. It, along with her brain, had gone missing in action. It took a second for her to bring about the reunion.
"I'm—" She had to clear her throat before continuing. "Yohanna Andrzejewski. I'm here about the job opening," she added after a beat.
He'd been expecting her. Glancing at his watch, he saw that she was early. A hopeful sign, he thought. "I've been expecting you," he told her. "Follow me."
She fell into step behind him. "You answered your own door," she noted, slightly surprised.
"Had to," he told her. "It hasn't learned to open itself."
She laughed. "I was surprised that you have a house in Newport Beach," she confessed. "You're not all that far from where I live." Initially anticipating a long commute for the interview, she'd been relieved when she was told that he would see her in his Orange County home.
"Things are a little chaotic here," he admitted. "I haven't finished getting all the furniture yet. I think of this as my home away from home. Don't get me wrong, I love Hollywood." Entering a first-floor bedroom he'd converted into an office, Lukkas crossed to his desk, took a seat and gestured for her to take a seat on the opposite side. "But sometimes you just have to get away from the noise just so you're able to hear yourself think."
"Yes, sir," Yohanna responded.
The smile on her lips was almost shy. He was amused but also somewhat skeptical about whether this petite, attractive young woman was equal to the job he needed doing.
"I noticed on your résumé that your last job was with a law firm." He raised an eyebrow as he took a closer look at the dark blonde sitting before him. "Are you a lawyer?" He was aware that most law school graduates had to begin at the bottom of the heap if they were even lucky enough to land a position with any firm.
"Don't do that," he told her.
She hadn't a clue what he might be referring to. "Do what, sir?"
"Call me sir," he specified. "You make me feel like my father—not exactly a feeling I cherish," he added more or less to himself.
Even so, she'd heard him. "Sorry, si—Mr. Spader." She'd managed to catch herself.
"Even worse," he told her. "My name is Lukkas. Think you can manage that?" Yohanna nodded vigorously. "Good," he pronounced.
Letting her résumé fall to his desk, he moved his chair in closer and leaned over, creating a feeling of intimacy. "So tell me, Yohanna with-the-unpronounceable-last-name, just what makes you think that you can work for me?"
As a rule Yohanna had a tendency toward modesty, but she had the distinct impression that the man interviewing her didn't value modesty. He valued confidence. She'd always had people skills, skills that allowed her to read others rather accurately. Lukkas Spader didn't strike her as a man who had the patience to work with meek people.
However she had a feeling that he respected—and expected—honesty. "Mrs. Parnell—"
He held up his hand, stopping her right there. "Who's Mrs. Parnell?"
"She's friends with Theresa Manetti, the woman who—"
He stopped her again. "I know who Theresa Manetti is," he told her. "Go on."
Yohanna picked up the thread exactly where she had dropped it. "She said you needed someone to organize your schedules, your notes and keep up to the minute on all the details of your projects."
He studied her for a long moment. She couldn't glean anything from his solemn, thoughtful expression. "And that would be you?" he finally asked.
Yohanna detected neither amusement nor skepticism in his voice. He was harder to gauge than most. Not to mention that the man was definitely making her nervous. Not because he was so good-looking but because she really wanted to get this job. She wasn't good at doing nothing.
Yohanna pulled herself together. She was determined not to let the producer see how nervous he made her. His world was undoubtedly filled with people who fawned over him. She wanted him to view her as an asset, not just another fawning groupie or "yes" person.
"That would be me," she replied, silently congratulating herself for not letting her voice quiver as she said the words.
The next moment she was relieved to see a smile playing on the producer's lips. The fact that the smile also managed to make him almost impossibly handsome was something she tried not to notice.
It was like trying not to notice the sun.
"You're pretty sure of yourself, aren't you?" he asked, amusement curving the corners of his mouth.
Yohanna raised her chin ever so slightly, an automatic reaction when she felt she was being challenged. "I know my strengths," she replied.
"Apparently so does Mrs. Manetti," he told her. "When we spoke, she spoke very highly of your qualifications, and I respect her judgment."
He continued looking at her, as if trying to discern if she was as good as the older woman had led him to believe. The silence dragged on for a good several minutes.
Yohanna had met the woman he was referring to only briefly. They had exchanged a few words and the interview had been arranged. There had been no time for Mrs. Manetti to form an opinion about her abilities one way or another.
She could feel herself fidgeting inside, and her pulse rate began to accelerate. All she could think of was that she really needed this job. She'd only been out of work for a couple of days, but the thought of prolonged inactivity had her already climbing the proverbial walls. Not to mention that she had enough money in the bank to see her through approximately one month—one and a half if she gave up eating.
As a last resort she could always move in with her mother, but as far as she was concerned, living under a freeway overpass was preferable to that. Her mother had been decent enough when Yohanna was growing up, but in the past eight years, only two topics of conversation interested her: marriage and children, neither of which was anywhere in Yohanna's immediate future.
She was fairly confident that living with her mother even for a day would swiftly become catastrophic.
Lukkas continued doling out information. "If you became my assistant, you'd be keeping irregular hours at best. I'm talking really irregular," he intoned, his eyes on hers. "And you'd be on call 24/7. Are you up for that?" he asked, looking at her intently.
"Absolutely," she assured him with as much confidence as she could muster.
But Lukkas still had his doubts. "You're not going to come to me in tears a week or two from now, saying that your husband is unhappy with the hours you're keeping and could I give you a more normal schedule, are you?"
"I don't have a husband, so that's not going to happen."
But Lukkas wasn't satisfied yet. "A fiancé? A boyfriend?"
"No and no," Yohanna responded, quietly shooting down each choice.
Lukkas still appeared skeptical. "Really? Not even a boyfriend?" His eyes never left hers, as if he considered himself to be an infallible human lie detector—and being as attractive as she was, the young woman couldn't possibly be telling the truth.
"Not even a boyfriend," she echoed, her face innocence personified.
"You're kidding, right?" he said in disbelief. How could someone who looked like this woman not have men lining up at her door, waiting for a chance just to spend some time with her? He knew this was none of his business or even ethical for him to ask, but curiosity urged him on.
"No," she replied. "I just never experienced that 'walking on air' feeling, si—Lukkas," she quickly corrected herself.
"Walking on air," he repeated. "Is that some sort of code?"
"More like a feeling," she explained then added quickly, "I've never met a man I felt I had chemistry with. In other words, I didn't experience any sparks flying between us. Without that, what's the point?" she asked with a vague shrug.
"What, indeed?" he murmured, thinking back, for a second, to his own solitary life. It hadn't always been that way.
Talking about herself always made her feel uncomfortable. Yohanna was quick to return to the salient point of all this. "The bottom line is that there isn't anyone to complain about my hours even if they do turn out to be extensive."
"No 'if' about it," he assured her. "They will be extensive. I'm afraid that it's the nature of the beast. I put in long hours and that means so will you." Again he peered closely at her face, as if he could read the answer—and if she was lying, he'd catch her in that, too. "You're all right with that?" he asked again.
"You haven't asked about a salary," he pointed out. The fact that she hadn't asked made him suspicious. Everyone always talked about money in his world. Why hadn't she?
"I'm sure you'll be fair," Yohanna replied.
Again he studied her for a long moment. He didn't find his answer. So he asked. "And what makes you so sure that I'll be 'fair'?"
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Book Description Harlequin (Uk), 2015. Paperback. Condition: Brand New. 416 pages. In Stock. Seller Inventory # zk026325142X
Book Description Mills & Boon. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M026325142X