I’ve not written contemporary romance in ages, but when I was starting out, I wrote three of them before I decided to write something more otherworldly.
This is a short snippet — the first meeting between h/H. Natalie Hall (heroine) just learned that her boss got fired, and she’s apprehensive as she gets called to see Alex Damon. (She expects to be fired based on what her assistant told her).
Note: This is an uncorrected excerpt.
Someone with cropped black hair sat in an executive leather chair, facing the windows. Torrents of rain blurred the view of gray roads and red brake lights. A large tanned hand held a cell phone to an ear, but the voice was too low for her to eavesdrop. Natalie took a long breath and counted to ten, welcoming the respite before she had to face Alex Damon, the chairman and CEO of DDE’s holding company, Global Strategies Corporation. She’d never seen him in real life, although there were plenty of pictures in glossy gossip magazines. Being one of the planet’s most eligible bachelors and a self-made billionaire tended to make one’s face well-known.
Finally he snapped the phone shut and swiveled around to face her.
“Yes?” His voice was a steely baritone that demanded an immediate answer with just that one syllable.
His entire body emanated authority and raw sexuality. The dark tailored suit he was wearing tried to throw a veneer of civilization over him, but failed. He would’ve been frightening if it weren’t for the iron control in the winter gray eyes that said he ruled, not his primal instinct. She shivered as his gaze brushed over her, head to toe and then back up to her face. She had the most absurd feeling that he was undressing her with his eyes.
Nonsense. He was probably trying to decide if she would cry at bad news and whether he should delegate the distasteful task to someone else.
“I’m Natalie Hall. My assistant said you wanted to see me.” She noted with relief that her voice didn’t betray her nervousness.
He frowned slightly, his gaze darting to her barren ring finger then back to her face. Most people didn’t expect Asian when they heard the name “Hall”. For some reason it pleased her that she’d managed to surprise him.
He rose from his seat to his full height, which was impressive. He walked around the desk and extended a hand. “Alex Damon. Nice to meet you.” This time the baritone was more modulated. It slithered over her like strands of supple leather.
“Nice to meet you too.” Natalie shook his hand. It was slightly calloused and infused her cool skin with warmth.
He shut the door and gestured at a chair. “Please have a seat.”
She sat, putting her laptop bag and purse discreetly beside the chair and crossing her legs. She had the odd feeling that Alex was staring at them, but when she glanced up, he was busy pulling another chair from the other side of the office. God she was ridiculous. Of course he wasn’t looking at her legs. They were her best asset, but he’d dated models with legs up to their armpits.
When he sat across from her, barely enough personal space remained to be polite. She could feel a delicious heat coming off his body, smell a whiff of spicy cologne. Something stirred in her, sexual and dangerous. She stomped on it. This wasn’t the time, this wasn’t the place, and he definitely wasn’t the right man to be attracted to. Business and pleasure never mixed well.
“Your assistant told me you had a doctor’s appointment,” Alex said, breaking her train of thought. “I hope you aren’t coming down with something. You look a little flushed.”
She suppressed a surge of mortification. She was usually better at maintaining a professional façade.
“I’m fine,” she said, flashing him a quick smile. Danielle must have tried to cover for her, but Natalie could see that lying to this man would be a mistake. “There’s been some miscommunication, and I apologize. I was in a fender-bender this morning.” She quickly added, “Nothing major, but you know how it is on the Beltway.”
He nodded, and she relaxed a little until he stretched his legs out. The fabric of his pants spread tautly over lean muscles, and his calves almost touched hers. The heat coming off him was like a furnace. She wanted to sink into it.
“Well, down to business. As I’m sure you’ve heard, there have been some changes here since I arrived this morning.”
It was her turn to nod. What was he trying to say?
“Ralph is no longer in charge of the operation. His replacement will come from Caissa Enterprises, one of Global Strategies’ European subsidiaries.”
An executive from Europe. She didn’t know what to make of that. There were undoubtedly people at DDE who were qualified to take over. But then this wasn’t her company, and her opinion probably mattered very little to Alex.
“Since Vivien left with him, I have no choice but to rely on you. I believe you were her second-in-command?”
“Good.” Alex smiled. “Ralph’s replacement is expected later this week. Once he’s here, I hope you can help him with the transition.”
“I understand.” She suppressed a sigh of relief. So she wasn’t going to be let go.
“You also need to brief me on some of the major projects. I plan to be more actively involved for a while, until I’m satisfied with the operational efficiency here.”
She blinked. Yesterday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal had reported that he was returning to Shanghai to oversee several sweeping projects in the burgeoning Chinese market that could be very lucrative for Global Strategies. Although DDE was a profitable subsidiary, it was still only one of many mid-sized ones, not something that should consume much of his attention.
He shifted slightly in his seat, looking at her intently, and his legs brushed hers. She held her breath.
“Do you have any plans tonight?” he said.
She shook her head automatically.
Since her latest breakup six months ago, she’d devoted all her attention to work. Work didn’t disillusion her like Marcus had. She still couldn’t believe he’d proposed to another woman less than a month after they’d split up.
“Excellent.” A charming smile appeared on Alex’s lips. “Would you like to have dinner with me?”
She shot him a sharp look. She didn’t indulge in interoffice dating, no matter how delicious the man in the question was. It was the stupidest CLM — career limiting move — she could think of.
“I’d like to talk more about DDE, but I don’t have time at the moment. We can discuss it over dinner. I hate to make you extend your work day, but unfortunately that’s the only time I’m available.”
Despite his smooth tone, she couldn’t shake off the feeling that he was amused by her silent response. Was he laughing at her for thinking that he might have romantic interests in her?
She straightened. “It won’t be a problem.” I hope you won’t be a problem.
“Eleanor — my assistant — will send you an email this afternoon. How’s seven for you?”
“Fine.” She rose and shook his hand briskly, purposefully maintaining eye contact even as she felt her hand almost completely engulfed by his much larger and stronger one. Then she gathered her things and left.