From New York Times bestselling author Tracy Anne Warren comes a sexy and romantic new contemporary series about corporate combat in the boardroom and under-the-covers passion in the bedroom…
Idealistic good girl Madelyn Grayson believes in doing what’s right. Even as a high-powered executive in the mad world of advertising, she doesn’t cut corners, making her ad campaigns sizzle without having to burn anyone along the way.
Rival exec Zack Douglas never wastes an opportunity to land the next big deal—especially when it benefits him. A bad boy with a reputation to match, he has no qualms about doing whatever it takes to get ahead, no matter who gets in the way.
When a hot promotion pops up at their company, both Zack and Madelyn wind up on the short list for the position. But as the two square off, they discover that being heated rivals in the office makes for scorching bed play behind closed doors. Will Madelyn’s steamy, secret affair with Mr. Vice make her compromise her ideals—or worse, lose her heart?
“Few things are more fun than an enemies-to-lovers romance, and Warren delivers…[she] pulls out all the stops. A truly satisfying romance.” - The New York Times Book Review
“Zippy yet soulful…Deeply relatable characters and strong writing…” – Publishers Weekly
“A strong start to Warren’s steamy new series. Will leave readers wanting …more.” – Booklist
“…the feel of a fast paced comedy made in the forties. Well written [and] witty.” – Cocktails and Books
“Well-done.” – RT BookReviews
“This was such a good story. A great combination of romance [and] sex with a really good plot and characters. It was one fun read.” - Bitten By Love Reviews.com
“Packed with sensuality, angst-to-love theme and a romance that will put your emotions through the wringer. A simple delightful love story.” - Addicted to Romance
New York City
New Year’s Eve
Madelyn Grayson took refuge at the farthest corner of the ballroom near the canapé table. Her brother and his wife were still dancing, so she didn’t want to return to their table and sit alone.
Deciding to take advantage of the party fare, she picked up a plate and helped herself to a selection of succulent looking hors d’oeuvres, the better to blend in. She’d skipped dinner, and with the hour hand at half past ten, she was more than a bit hungry. Just as she was about to sample a mushroom cap topped with crab meat, she heard a familiar voice close behind her.
She set the uneaten appetizer back on her plate. So much for hiding in plain sight, she thought.
Resigned, she turned to meet Zack Douglas’s shrewd gaze. “Zack. What a surprise. I didn’t know you were going to be here tonight. Somehow this doesn’t strike me as your kind of party.”
“You’re right about that. All flash and little action. Slow, definitely slow.”
“Not slow. Dignified. But I can understand that this might not be the sort of entertainment you prefer.”
“And how would you know what sort of entertainment I prefer?”
Madelyn shrugged. “One hears things.”
How could she not? There was always some story circulating about him. Last New Year’s Eve, as one tale went, he’d attended a wild, raucous party at the home of a well-known rock star. The theme had been Old Morocco and boasted, among other excesses, a mosaic-tiled fountain overflowing with champagne, exotic music, soft Persian rugs, lush pillow-strewn tents, and a bevy of half-naked dancing girls. Zack never admitted whether the rumors about him were true. He never bothered to deny any of them either.
“Listening to gossip? Shame on you, Madelyn.” He chose a toast point, spooning a healthy serving of two-hundred-dollar-an-ounce caviar on top.
“So, what are you doing here then?” she said. “Did one of F and S’s wealthier clients die and leave a grieving widow in desperate need of escort?”
Zack raised an eyebrow. “Actually my date hasn’t arrived yet.”
“Oh, had one last set to finish at the strip club, did she?” She popped a canapé into her mouth.
“No, she was called in to perform emergency heart by-pass surgery. She’s an attending over at Mount Sinai.”
He gave her a strong pat between the shoulder blades. “You okay?”
She nodded, tears stinging her eyes as she tried to draw a breath. She fell into a paroxysm of coughing, completely unable to speak.
“Here, try a little champagne.”
“Thanks,” she whispered, accepting the glass and taking a sip.
She nodded again.
“You need to be careful when you eat this rich, fancy stuff. Easy for it to go down the wrong way.”
She looked at him through her lashes and drank a little more champagne, trying to decide whether or not he was teasing her. Gradually, her breathing returned to normal. That’s when she became aware of his hand on her back, moving in gentle, soothing circles, his palm warm and large. She suppressed an urge to shiver with a kind of pure, almost feline pleasure. Slowly, she eased away.
His hand dropped to his side. “Where’s the Viking tonight?”
She watched him scan the throng of party-goers.
“I figured he’d have been over here like a shot. What with you choking and all.”
She gave him a puzzled look.
“Your boyfriend. The big blond who couldn’t be pried away from your side at the company picnic last summer.”
Surprised, she realized he meant James. Just barely, she kept herself from rolling her eyes. Even people who didn’t know James asked after him. Although Zack’s interest didn’t sound terribly friendly. “He...uh...he isn’t here. Business overseas.”
She figured her excuse wasn’t a total lie. As an international financier James often had business overseas. He very well might be ringing in the New Year in another part of the world. She didn’t know.
“You’re here alone then?”
Her back straightened. “No, I came with my brother and sister-in-law. Something wrong with that?”
Zack set down his empty plate. “Not at all. Most women would have stayed home, or else found themselves another date. Your loyalty is commendable.”
She considered telling him the truth, but she’d had more than enough conversation on the subject already. She was tired of cross-examinations. Besides, it really wasn’t any of his business.
“Considering that my date hasn’t arrived yet and you don’t have one for tonight, how about a dance?” He held out his hand, palm up in invitation.
He made a show of glancing around. “I don’t see anyone else asking, do you? Come on, it’s only a dance. I don’t think one dance would compromise company rules about fraternization.”
That would be a first, she thought, Zack Douglas concerned about policies on fraternization. “Be that as it may––”
“Unless you’re chicken. Is that it, Red? Afraid to dance with me?”
She gritted her teeth.
“You want to dance, Douglas?” she said. “Then let’s dance.”
She stalked ahead of him onto the dance floor.
Turning, she slapped her hand into his. “And don’t call me Red. You got it?”
He wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her close. “I got it. Red.” He winked and swept her into motion, making several extravagant turns that revved her pulse into high gear.
The pace of the music soon slowed, the beat growing throaty, sultry with a bluesy sort of jazz. Zack tucked her close, pressing her palm against the flat expanse of his chest. Warmed by his body heat, the expensive fabric of his dress shirt smelled faintly of starch and clean, healthy male. He wore no cologne. He didn’t need to. Zack Douglas unembellished was better than any fragrance could ever hope to be.
Wait, where had that thought come from? Zack Douglas was the enemy. Her chief rival and arch nemesis. Beating her out of clients and accounts. Cheating her at every turn.
Too much champagne, that must be it. Well, she wouldn’t drink another drop, she assured herself, not a bit more tonight. And as soon as this dance was over, she’d ditch him and forget he was even in the room.
She slipped her hand from beneath his, curling it into a fist to wedge a tiny space between them. “So...um...when is your date supposed to arrive?”
There was an intent look in his eyes, almost smoldering.
She couldn’t remember ever seeing that particular expression on his face before.
“She wasn’t sure,” he murmured absently. “I told her if she hadn’t made it by eleven, I’d call.”
“It must be getting close to that now.”
“Hmm, I suppose.”
The music ended. The two of them moved apart, along with the other couples on the dance floor, to applaud the band whose leader announced there would be a fifteen minute intermission while he and his fellow musicians took a break.
Madelyn traced a seam on her gown. “I’d better get back to my table. My brother and sister-in-law will be wondering what’s become of me.”
He slid a hand beneath her elbow. “I’ll walk you back.”
“That’s okay” She moved out of his reach. “Go phone your date.”
He hesitated, then nodded. “Thanks for the dance, Madelyn.”
“Sure. Happy New Year.”
“Happy New Year. See you at work on Tuesday.”
She made her way across the ballroom and was relieved to find P.G. and Caroline there, sharing a plate heaped with an array of desserts.
“Who was that?” Caroline asked as Madelyn took a seat. Her sister-in-law looked sweet and pretty in an aquamarine silk dress that went perfectly with her fair skin and tawny hair.
Madelyn picked up a fork and nipped the end off a piece of chocolate cake. “Who?”
“That man. The one you were dancing with.”
“Oh, an acquaintance from the office. No one important.”
A half an hour later the band was in full swing once more, the dance floor packed with couples whirling away the final minutes of December. Madelyn watched them, wishing she hadn’t sworn off the bubbly. It wasn’t as if she were driving home. And since the dance with Zack Douglas, she hadn’t caught so much as a glimpse of the man. His date must have shown up. They were probably out there somewhere right now having a fabulous time. She sighed, wishing she were doing the same.
She was debating whether to indulge in her own personal tour of the dessert table––something sweet to go with that glass of champagne she just might change her mind about––when her brother appeared at her elbow.
“Madelyn, I’m sorry but we’ve got to leave. Caroline just called home to check on Brian and he’s sick, running a fever. It’s probably nothing serious, but we should go.”
“Of course you need to be with Brian. You go on.”
“We will, once we drop you off.”
“I live in the opposite direction. Taking me home will add another hour to your trip, and it’s nearly midnight now. No, you two go back to your hotel, check out and get on the road. I’m a big girl. I know my way around the city. I’ll take a cab. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”
Uncertain, P.G. buried his hands in his pockets. “You sure? I don’t like leaving you alone.”
“You’re not. Look around, there must be three hundred people here. Besides, you’re forgetting which one of us is the eldest. I am. So do what your big sister tells you and go.”
He made a face. “Big sister my foot. Just because you’re ten minutes older than me doesn’t make you the boss.” It was an old argument, one they’d indulged in as twins for as long as each of them could remember. P.G. hesitated for a fraction of a second more, then gave in. “All right, but call us tomorrow. Promise?”
She stretched up on her toes to brush a kiss over his cheek. “I promise.” She gave him a light shove toward the door. “Now get out of here.”
“Happy New Year, Madelyn.”
“Happy New Year, P.G.. Drive safely. There are a lot of weirdoes on the road tonight.”
He grinned. “This is New York City. There are always a lot of weirdoes on the road.”
Roughly two minutes later, dejection set in as she stood alone, feeling lost and more than a little sorry for herself. She checked the time on her wrist watch. Fifteen minutes to midnight. Stay and watch the balloons drop? Or call it an evening and look for a cab?
She’d taken three steps toward the door when a hand lightly touched her shoulder.
“Was that your brother and his wife I just saw leaving?”
Madelyn turned and tipped her chin up to look at—–who else–– Zack Douglas. With the mellow glow of the ballroom light playing over his swarthy skin and dark hair, he reminded her of a fallen angel.
“What?” she murmured.
“Your brother. Did he just leave?”
She lowered her eyes to collect herself. “Yes. He...um...he and Caroline had a family emergency. Their son is ill.”
He scowled. “Didn’t you arrive here with them?”
“I did but I told them to go on without me. I can see myself home just fine.”
He opened his mouth as if to argue, then closed it. With a smile, he folded her hand over his elbow. “Good, then it seems I’ve got you all to myself.”
She tried to pull her hand away but he refused to let go.
“Where’s your date, the doctor?” she asked.
“Still in surgery. Another emergency came in and she was needed to assist. I spoke to her nurse a few minutes ago. She’d been asked to convey Sheryl’s apologies. Long and short, my date has stood me up.”
He shrugged. “It’s not a big deal. We haven’t been seeing each other very long.”
“Actually, I was about to go home.”
“You can’t leave now––it’s almost midnight. Stay and have some fun, Madelyn. That’s what New Year’s Eve is all about.”
“I’ve had my fill of fun for one night.”
He released her long enough to snag two glasses of champagne from the tray of a passing waiter. He handed one to her. “Drink up, the night’s young.”
She saw his eyes twinkle. His face was a dream––far, far too beautiful for any woman’s own good.
She hesitated, knowing she ought to tell him good-night. Instead, she raised the glass to her lips and took a long, slow sip.
Time flashed past, their glasses disappeared and she was in his arms, her head spinning as they whirled to the music, their bodies pressed close in a way she should never have allowed.
The band played a drum roll to signal that the twelve o’clock hour was only moments away. Everyone stilled in a jubilant hush, then began to count backwards from ten in a loud, boisterous chorus.
“...Five...four...three...two...one...Happy New Year!”
Colorful balloons and gaily stripped confetti rained from above as horns tooted and the band swung into a brassy rendition of Auld Lang Syne. Amid the glitter and spectacle, people embraced and kissed.
Zack turned her to him, cupping her face in his hands, as he smiled down into her eyes. “Happy New Year, Madelyn.”
He leaned down and covered her lips with his.
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