Lilley's fairy-tale wish is about to be granted. She'll swap her gray suits for a fabulous dress and killer heels, and dance the night away with the man every other woman wants...but only for one night.
Alessandro Caetani does not do happy-ever-afters. In fact, his charm extends only as far as getting his Little Mouse secretary into bed. Lilley has never taken such a risk before, but this is her night of living dangerously....
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Jennie Lucas's parents owned a bookstore and she grew up surrounded by books, dreaming about faraway lands. At twenty-two she met her future husband and after their marriage, she graduated from university with a degree in English. She started writing books a year later. Jennie won the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart contest in 2005 and hasn’t looked back since. Visit Jennie’s website at: www.jennielucas.comExcerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
"Is someone here?"
The man's voice was harsh, echoing down the dark halls. Clapping a hand over her mouth, Lilley Smith cut herself off mid sob and ducked back farther into the shadows. It was Saturday evening, and except for the security guards in the lobby downstairs, she'd thought she was alone in the twenty-floor building. Until five seconds ago, when she'd heard the elevator ding and she'd dashed into the nearest private office to hide, dragging her file cart willy-nilly behind her.
Stretching out her foot, Lilley silently nudged the door closed. She wiped her puffy, tearstained eyes, trying not to make a sound as she waited for the man in the hall to leave so she could cry in peace.
Her day had been so horrible it was almost funny. Coming home that morning from an unfortunate, one-time-only attempt at jogging, she'd found her boyfriend in bed with her roommate. Then she'd lost her fledgling dream business. Finally, calling home for comfort, she'd been disinherited by her father. An impressive day, even for her.
Normally it would have bothered Lilley that she'd had to catch up with work on the weekend again. Today it didn't even register. She'd worked as a file clerk for Caetani Worldwide for two months, but it still took her twice as long as Nadia, the other file-room clerk, to get her files sorted, delivered and returned.
Nadia. Her co-worker, roommate and, as of this morning, former best friend. Exhaling, Lilley leaned back against her cart as she remembered the stricken look in Nadia's face as she'd tumbled out of bed with Jeremy. Covering herself with a robe, Nadia had cried and asked Lilley for forgiveness as Jeremy tried to make their betrayal sound like Lilley's fault.
Lilley had fled the apartment and gone straight for the bus downtown. Lost, desperate for comfort, she'd called her father for the first time in three years. That hadn't gone too well either.
Thank heaven for work. This job was all she had now. But when would the stranger in the hallway leave? When? She couldn't let him—or anyone—see her like this—with red puffy eyes, working at a snail's pace as every single letter and number shimmered and moved back and forth on the files. Who was the man, and why wasn't he dancing and drinking champagne at the charity ball with everyone else?
Lilley shivered. She'd never been in this office before, but it was cavernous and cold, with stark, expensively appointed furnishings of dark wood, a gorgeous Turkish carpet and floor-to-ceiling windows that revealed twilight across downtown San Francisco and the bay beyond. Her head slowly tilted back to view the frescoed ceilings. It was an office fit for a king. Fit for...
Fit for a prince.
Lilley's lips parted. Panic ripped through her as she realized for the first time whose office this had to be. She gave a terrified little squeak.
The office door creaked open. Lilley reacted on pure instinct, throwing herself through the shadows into the nearest closet.
"Who's in here?" The man's voice was harsh and low.
Heart pounding, she peered through the gap in the door. She saw the hulking silhouette of the stranger's broad-shouldered body in the dim light of the hall, blocking her only avenue of escape.
She covered her mouth with her hands, realizing she'd left her file cart behind the black leather sofa. All the man had to do was turn on the light and he'd see it. Being caught sobbing in the hallway would have been humiliating. Being caught skulking in the CEO's office would be a career-destroying disaster!
"Come out." The man's footstep was heavy on the floor. "I know you're in here."
Her heart stopped in her chest as she recognized that husky, accented voice. It wasn't some random janitor or junior assistant who was about to catch her. It was the CEO himself.
Tall, dark and broad-shouldered, Prince Alessandro Caetani was a self-made billionaire, the CEO of a luxury conglomerate that reached to every corner of the globe. He was also a ruthless playboy. All the women who worked in his San Francisco regional headquarters, from the youngest secretary to the fifty-something female vice president, were madly in love with him.
And now he was about to catch Lilley alone in his office.
Trying not to breathe, she backed farther into his closet, pressing her body behind his jackets, against the back wall. His suits smelled of sandalwood and musk and power. She closed her eyes, praying the prince would turn and leave. For once in her life, she prayed her skill at being invisible to men would actually pay off.
The door was ripped open. The jackets were shoved aside as a large hand ruthlessly grabbed her wrist. She gave a little shriek as he pulled her out of the closet.
"I've got you now," he growled. He switched on a lamp, and a circle of golden light filled the dark, cavernous office. "You little..."
Then he saw her, and his black eyes widened with surprise. Lilley sucked in her breath as, against her will, she looked straight into the face of her boss for the first time.
Prince Alessandro Caetani was the most handsome man she'd ever seen, from his muscular body beneath his black tuxedo to the cold expression in his dark eyes. His aristocratic Roman nose was offset by the slightly thuggish curve of his sharp, dark-shadowed jawline. He looked—and was, if the legends were true—half prince, half conqueror.
"I know you." Prince Alessandro frowned, looking puzzled in the soft glow of the lamplight. "What are you doing here, little mouse?"
Her wrist burned where he touched her, sending sparks up her arm and down the length of her body. "What—what did you call me?"
He abruptly dropped her wrist. "What is your name?"
It took her a minute to remember. "L-Lilley," she managed. "From the file room."
Prince Alessandro's eyes narrowed. He walked around her, slowly looking her up and down. Her cheeks went hot. Compared to his gorgeous perfection in his sleek, sophisticated tuxedo, she knew she was frumpy and frightful in her sweatshirt and gray baggy sweatpants. "And what are you doing here, Lilley from the file room? Alone in my office on a Saturday night?"
She licked her dry lips, trying to calm her shaking knees. "I was...was..." What had she been doing, anyway? Where was she? Who was she? "I was just...um." Her eyes fell on the file cart. "Working?"
He followed her gaze, then lifted a dark eyebrow. "Why are you not at the Preziosi ball?"
"I...I lost my date," she whispered.
"Funny." His sensual mouth curved in a humorless smile. "That seems to be going around."
The sexy, deep, accented timbre of his voice moved over her like a spell. She couldn't move or look away from his masculine beauty as he towered over her, strong, powerful and wide-shouldered, with thighs like tree trunks.
Thighs? Who said anything about his thighs?
Ever since Jeremy had arranged her file-room job, Lilley had done her best to make sure her billionaire boss never noticed her. And now, beneath the prince's black, hypnotic gaze, she found herself suddenly wanting to blurt out why. She wasn't very good at telling lies, not even white ones. The hot, searing depths in Prince Alessandro's dark eyes whispered that she could tell him anything, anything at all, and he would understand. He would forgive and show mercy.
But she'd been around powerful men before. She recognized the intensity of his gaze for what it actually was: an emotional shakedown.
The ruthless playboy prince, show mercy? No way. If he knew about Lilley's father, about her cousin, he'd fire her. Or worse.
"Lilley," he mused aloud in the silent office. He tilted his head, and his eyes suddenly gleamed in the small circle of lamplight. "What is your last name?"
"Smith," she said honestly, then hid a smile. No help for him there.
"And what are you doing in my office, Miss Smith?"
The scent of him, sandalwood and musk and soap and something more—something uniquely him—washed over her. She gave an involuntary shiver. "Returning, um, files."
"You know my files go to Mrs. Rutherford."
"Yes," she admitted unhappily.
He moved closer. She could practically feel the warmth of his body through his crisp black tuxedo jacket. "Tell me why you're really here."
She swallowed, looking down at the expensive carpet beneath her old, scuffed jogging shoes. "I just wanted to work for a few hours in peace and quiet. Without anyone bothering me."
"On a Saturday night?" he said coldly. "You were searching my office. Going through my files."
She looked up. "No!"
Prince Alessandro folded his arms. His dark eyes were hard, his expression like chiseled stone.
"I was hiding," she said in a voice almost too soft to hear.
"Hiding?" His voice was silky. "Hiding from what?"
Against her will, the truth was ripped out of her. "From you.
His dark eyes sharpened. He leaned forward. "Tell me why."
Lilley could barely even breathe, much less think, with Prince Alessandro Caetani so close to her.
The soft golden glow of the lamp, the darkening twilight outside the windows filled the enormous, high-ceilinged office with deepening shadows. "I was crying," she whispered over the lump in her throat. "I couldn't stay at home, I'm days behind on my work, and I didn't want you to see me because I was crying!"
Struggling not to cry, Lilley looked away. If she wept in front of her powerful boss, her humiliation would be complete. He would fire her—whether for skulking in his office, for crying in such an unprofessional way, or for being so behind on her work, it hardly mattered. She would lose the last thing she valued. The perfect finale to the second-worst day ...
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Book Description Harlequin, 2012. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0373130686
Book Description Harlequin, 2012. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110373130686