The day after she was supposed to have been married, Kira Fitzgerald sat with her back to her desk at the Pickering Foundation, systematically and symbolically ridding herself of the dick-wad she’d caught screwing her sister.
She emptied her purse of anything that reminded her of the jock. Then she tossed the debris into her metal trashcan with gratifying force, and broke a tiny but expensive vial of his favorite perfume with great satisfaction. She took each of the addressed, ecru parchment wedding invitations she'd been saving to torture herself, and tossed them as well.
Taking this job as Pickering's Coordinator of Special Events had been a first step in rising from the ashes of her life. Performing this spell was the second. She’d turn everything that reminded her of the snake into ashes as well.
She added a pinch of healing herbs from her pouch, lit a long tapered match, and touched it to the edges of her shattered dreams. “I hate jocks!”
As number of pearl embossed calla lilies, and ridiculous, romantic words began to singe and curl, Kira raised her amethyst-tipped wand, tempted to give the jerk what he really deserved. “I wanna wither your Charlie, Penis!” But like any witch worthy of the title, she would harm none.
Kira wielded her wand with a flourish.
Reap what you sow,
Recall your faithless past,
Travel the row you hoe,
And grow a heart to last.
Though I wish you no ill,
Begone from screwing me.
This is my will,
So mote it be.”
Whoosh! The fire flared to bright and vigorous life, releasing a sickly-sweet scent into the air. “Shit!” She’d forgotten perfume was flammable.
As the flames and the flowery smoke rose, Kira grabbed her consolation bouquet from beside her computer, rescued the yellow roses, poured the water on the fire, and doused the small inferno.
That was when she saw the crisp blue vellum invitation atop her stack of mail, sitting there, free of its envelope, mocking her.
“Cripes, not another wedding.” She leaned forward to read it.
You Are Cordially Invited
to Jason Pickering Goddard’s
Ghost & Graveyard Tour of Rainbow’s Edge
Narragansett and Ochre Point Avenues
Newport, Rhode Island
Sunday Evening, October 30, 2006, 7 p.m.
Donation: $1,000 per person
“What idiot thought this up? There are no ghosts at Rainbow’s Edge.”
“Damn!” came a deep, sexy voice, “I should’ve thought of that.”
Kira yelped and whipped about to gape at the hunk of manhood who’d materialized behind her, her heart beating double time.
How long had he been standing there?
He made her think of a wolf, hungry yet calm, every nuance of his aquiline features sharp, like the gleam in his silver-gray eyes, and the disapproving dimple cut deep in the center of his chin.
Like a lazy predator, he leaned against the connecting doorjamb between her office and the next, arms crossed, sculpted lips firm, an antique walking stick at his side.
Kira’s heart shifted into overdrive. For half a beat, she thought he was gorgeous, flawless, but no. He needed a haircut, a bump spoiled the precision of his nose, and his square chin bore a decidedly stubborn set, not to mention that five-o’clock shadow at eleven in the morning.
The small scar that crossed his left brow intrigued her, but his lips—too perfect for a man—seemed carved in granite, and the orgasmic promise in his eyes should come with a warning label. Nevertheless, all the odd parts formed such an attractive whole, Kira had to catch her breath and rub her arms against a sudden chill. “How long have you been standing there?”
“Long enough to be glad my name’s not Charlie.”
“Nice talk. Little hormone problem going on there?”
Kira bristled. “Little attitude problem going on there?”
“Sorry, geez but that penis talk was seriously-scary.”
“Who are you?”
The intruder extended his hand with a grin that made her wonder why his teeth weren’t sharp. “I’m the new Director of Special Events,” he said. “And you?”
Just call me screwed. “Kira Fitzgerald,” she said, an empty vase in one hand, and dripping roses in the other.
She placed the flowers in the vase, glanced behind her at her smoking trashcan, and opened the window above it. Then she wiped her hands on the skirt of her smocked tube dress, glad it was black, and eyed her matching blazer with yearning. “I’m the Coordinator of Special Events,” she said.
“Son of a . . . I mean, glad to meet you.” The wolf warmed her with his sweeping glance, and when she took his offered hand across her desk, the heat his gaze had ignited escalated.
He let her hand go so fast, she thought he might have felt the burn as well.
“I guess . . . you’re my new boss.” Kira took her blazer from the back of her chair and slipped into it.
“You guessed right,” he said.
“I’ve been alone in this office for weeks,” she said. “I didn’t expect—”
“Not last week, you weren’t. I started last week.”
“Well no, I was on . . . vacation last week. Personal stuff . . . to settle.” Like finally getting her things from the Penis’s apartment.
Her hot new boss waited, for more of an explanation, Kira supposed, but she’d rather not elaborate. “I wouldn’t have cast— I mean, I thought I was alone or. . . ” She pointed over her shoulder and down toward the trashcan.
“Ah. . . .” He winced. “Is the Penis begoned forever?”
“Nah. I’m sure he’s screwing somebody.”
Kira bit her lip and shifted her stance. “Anything in particular you’d like me to . . . coordinate this morning?”
“Now that you ask.” Her boss gave her another deadly wolf grin, but fortunately for her, she’d mastered the art of hunk-resistance.
“I don’t suppose you could scare up a few ghosts for Rainbow’s Edge,” he said. “You know, say something that rhymes, and twirl that . . . thing in the air, the way you . . . toasted . . . Charlie.”
“Do you honestly believe in magic?” Kira asked.
“Threaten one penis and a guy will believe about anything you tell him.”
Kira bit her lip, refusing to be charmed. “Did you have this invitation printed?”
“Seemed like a good idea at the time,” the hunk said. “How do you know Rainbow’s Edge doesn’t have any ghosts?”
“I’ve read histories on all our mansions.”
He tilted his head. “Maybe you need to get a life?”
Kira slapped her palm with the invitation. Bite me, she thought. “Good thing these haven’t been mailed yet.”
“Oh, but they have.”
She glanced at her desk calendar. “You ordered them before you started the job? What are you, some kind of overachiever?”
“I wanted to get a head start, but I didn’t mean to put you on the spot. Nevertheless, I was assured that you could work, ahem, magic, and coordinate any event I thought would bring money into the foundation.”
Kira thought about ways to put him on the spot to raise money for the foundation, like . . . selling him to the highest bidder. Hmm. Revenge for fun and profit.
She smiled, and re-read the invite. “The phantom ghost is a problem, pun intended, though the event is perfect for All Hallows Eve. But if anybody’s willing to pay a grand to attend, which I seriously doubt, they’re gonna expect to meet this drive-by playboy, and I don’t think we can depend on him to show, even if he is Bessie’s—”
“I see you two have met.” Bessie Pickering Hazard, Chairman of the Board, swept into Kira’s office, making for an awkward moment, as Kira had been about to trash her neglectful grandson.
“I came down to perform the introductions,” Bessie said, “but no need, I see.”
Kira and Bessie embraced like the friends they’d become in the past month, because it was Kira’s first day back after a week of overdue cancelled-wedding damage control. “I missed you, Bessie. How are you?”
“Glad to see you back. When you didn’t come home last night, I was worried. Everything okay? You okay?”
“I drove down from Boston this morning,” Kira said. “Everything is . . . as expected.”
“What do you mean, she didn’t come home last night?” the wolf asked with snapping eyes. “Gram?”
Gram? Kira felt herself go cold. She wished a vanishing spell existed that she could perform lickety-split. But she remained visible, if the focused glint in Mr. Tall, Dark and Incredible’s eyes was anything to go by.
No wonder she’d thought of him as a wolf; they called him an ice wolf in the news for pity’s sakes. Now that she knew who he was, she saw that his stance, his demeanor, belonged to every arrogant jock she’d ever encountered.
Come to think of it, hadn’t her ex looked up to this guy as some kind of role model—less for his skill on the ice than for his money, women, and cars, it was true, but what could you expect from a penis?
Talk about your worst nightmare.
“Didn’t I tell you?” Bessie said, with such innocence, Kira became as suspicious as her grandson. “I couldn’t pay Kira as much as I wanted,” she said, “so I gave her an apartment at Cloud Kiss, rent free, as a job benefit. She’s been with me for a month, now.”
“No, you didn’t tell me, but I think you might have mentioned it before I sublet my condo and moved home.”
“Oh, no,” Kira said.
“Oh, yes,” Goddard said. “It appears, Miss Fitzgerald--”
“Mizz Fitzgerald. It appears we’re neighbors, here and at home.”
Bessie gave them an “isn’t this cozy?” smile, and Kira began to understand the wolf’s simmering anger.
“As a matter of fact,” Bessie said. “You’ll be sharing a kitchen.”
“Wait a minute,” the kitchen-sharers said as one, surprising Kira and making her stop and regard the jock, as he regarded her, with even greater mistrust if that were possible.
Bessie waved away their concern. “Don’t worry. It’s not like you’ll be tripping over each other. Neither of you bothers to cook.” She patted Kira’s hand. “The kitchen separates the suite. You’ll hardly know he’s there.”
Oh, she’d know. They’d both know. After all, she’d insulted the hell out of him. Worse than that, ever since he’d opened his mouth, she’d had this hormone thing going on, like popcorn on high heat, which really pissed her off, because that made him right. She did have a hormone problem.
The fact was, if he caught her raiding the fridge at midnight—which she did in her sleep—she just might . . . pop.
Kira gave herself a mental shake. According to The Penis, her new boss was the best Wizard’s goalie in thirty years, a wolf on and off the ice. Just what she needed, another jock in her life. A player. A man who collected women like loose change.
And hadn’t Bessie said that this one had been named the best kisser in America or some such nonsense?
Air. She needed air. She should have realized that the slash across his brow and the bump in his otherwise perfect nose meant that he’d been kissed by sticks and pucks as well as starlets.
“Listen,” Kira said, raising her chin as she regarded him. “I didn’t know you were Bessie’s grandson.”
“The fact that I’m Bessie’s grandson has no bearing on my ability to do my job!”
Kira stepped back. “Okay.”
“And what’s with you? How could you not know? You don’t read the papers, watch TV?”
“Not for sports or reality shows, I don’t. I like the movie channel.”
“So you hate jocks and reality shows?”
Damn, he had been there for a while.
“Let’s get something straight,” he snapped, a miffed ice jockey in wolf mode shooting hard sparks of silver her way. “Whoever I’m related to, whatever I used to be, or will be again, by God, I’m on board right now to get The Pickering Foundation back on its feet, and while I’m here, I plan to work myself, and everyone else, to the bone. Are we clear on that?”
“Sure. Of course. No problem.”
“Glad to hear it.” The jock turned on his heel for a last-word exit, but he gasped, faltered, and grabbed his cane. So much for a spectacular retreat, Kira thought, wishing to hell she hadn’t witnessed it.
“Gram,” he shouted. “My office. Now!”
Bessie winked at Kira. “Yes, dear.”
“Jason!” he snapped from his office. “You will call me Jason! No, maybe you should call me Mr. Goddard when I’m on the job, and I’ll call you Mrs. Hazard.”
“Six months,” he said, with no less bite. “You have me for six months and not a day more.”
“Yes, dear,” Bessie said with a last grin for Kira before shutting herself into his office.
If Kira hadn’t been so shaken, she might’ve laughed—so sweet and innocent had Bessie looked before facing the snarling wolf in his den. Snarling and angry with the world.
But the closing click of that door had Kira covering her heart. Six months with eyes like his gazing down at her—as if in heated expectation . . . of . . . not what every other woman was willing to put out.
Would she be able to interact in a businesslike manner, in a sane manner, at least in the office, for six months on a daily basis with a man who looked like every girl’s fantasy? A man with the eyes of a predator, an irresponsible jock who’d been chased by, and slept with, every acclaimed beauty in the free world?
Kira wasn’t certain, but no way could she bear the heat Goddard seemed to generate day and night. She didn’t know what his problem was: a personality clash, plain old dislike, the nepotism chip on his shoulder, or maybe it was her magic spell. Whatever. It didn’t matter, because they were stuck working together, and they’d both best get over it.
At least the electricity between them wasn’t sexual. She’d already failed that test. She didn’t have enough sex appeal to interest her own bridegroom, never mind a brazenly rich, sexy playboy jock.
She knew by Goddard’s reputation, and by her ex’s praise, that the hockey wolf was the kind of cocky jerk who needed no more than to snap his fingers, or flash his smile, to get a woman into his bed. “Well not me, buddy.”
The man was spoiled—that was a headline-making fact—spoiled and rich, and so well put together that women followed him as if they were pups, and he had a bone in his pocket.
Kira clamped a hand over her mouth when she caught her pun. A pretty meaty bone, too, as far as she could tell. Made Charlie look like he kept a cocktail frank in his pants.