Corporate Spouses Duet #1

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The bachelorette auction was perfect, just like everything Angelica Leone arranged. At least it was until she tumbled off the stage—and landed in the arms of a man who seemed determined to muss up her immaculate exterior... 

Hard-driving corporate executive Paul Sterling was used to snapping his fingers and getting exactly what he wanted. The trouble was, it looked like what he wanted now was her! Well, he had to remember that this was strictly a business arrangement—even if he was making her ache to cross the fine line between business and pleasure... 


Harlequin  Books

September 2002

ISBN 0373764642 


Katherine's Other Series



"Let us manage the details of your life while you manage your company is their slogan and anyone who's met Angelica Leone, the co-founder and president, will tell you those details will be in good hands. Gentlemen, may I introduce the next participant in tonight's auction."


Angelica took a deep breath and stepped on stage. She moved slowly as she'd been taught in the private boarding school she'd attended during her formative years. Deportment was one of the areas she excelled in.  Who would've guessed she'd one day use it to make her living?


She knew that she looked every inch the lady. Knew that the corporate ladder climbers were looking her over, searching for a flaw before deciding if she and by default her company were worth their money.


Her high-heeled shoes beat the steady tattoo of her steps.  She swayed with each movement and focused instead of the sea of unfamiliar faces on the lights at the podium.  A few more steps and she'd be at the microphone.  Once she was behind the steady wooden barrier she could relax.  Public speaking was something she enjoyed.


Distracted by her thoughts, she stumbled over an electrical cord that had been improperly taped and saw her fall from the stage in the kind of slow motion that only movie cameras do well.


She tumbled quickly and had a moment of panic at the thought of landing with her skirt around her hips.  There was a sort of stunned silence as even the band stopped playing.  Then a murmur of excited voices.  She held her breath waiting for her impact with the hard ballroom floor.


Instead she landed solidly in a man's arms.  He was strong and warm and smelled faintly of some exotic cologne.  His heart beat steadily under her ear.  She'd never heard a man's heart beat before.


Her deceased husband, Roger had always preferred to keep a certain physical distance between them.  For a moment she panicked in the unfamiliar situation and struggled to free herself.  The man released her, setting her on her feet.


Her breath caught in her chest as she stared up at the man who'd saved her from the cold hard floor.  She knew him by reputation but they'd never met.  Paul Sterling, a corporate shark that had sent more than one of Angelica's clients looking for a new job.


She owed the last year's profit to him and his drive for success.  More than one newly promoted executive had come to her for training in manners and deportment when learning they'd be working under Paul.  He demanded perfection from his employees in every aspect of their life.


"Thank you for catching me," she said, unsteadily.


"My pleasure, Angel," he said.  The words washed over her like a warm breeze on a cool spring day.  It had been a long time since a man had stirred more than her business interest.


She glanced up magnetized by his intense gaze. There was more to this man than his reputation promised.  And that morewas enough to send her pulse pounding and her skin to tingling. She couldn't tear her gaze away. He wasn't the cold-blooded monster his reputation painted him to be.  Why did that worry her?


"It's Angelica.  Angelica Leone."


"Paul Sterling," he said.


"I know." She spoke before she'd thought a major problem of hers.  And it had landed her in hot water more than once.


He raised one eyebrow in response but Angelica suddenly became aware of all the people around them. Her face felt hot.  Not exactly the image she hoped to gain for her company. She tried to figure out how to get back on the stage and her rescuer lifted her to the platform with little difficulty.  


Two technicians rushed out and taped the cord down. She refused to glance at Paul again, though she knew she owed him a debt of gratitude.  Would cigars be sufficient?  Or did saving someone from an embarrassing situation deserve something more?  Something with a monogram.  She'd have to check her Emily Post when she got home.


She made it to the podium and clutched it as if it was a lifesaver and she was a last survivor on a sinking ship. "Situations just like that one are what we're equipped to teach you to handle.  But more importantly we're ready to show you how to navigate the more familiar waters of corporate socializing.  Tonight you will be bidding on our Silver Bells Package which includes domestic management of your house for three months and a partner at three corporate functions."


She smiled at the emcee and he started the bidding. She was conscious of many different bids being cast but the deepest voice that had the winning bid could belong to only one man--Paul Sterling.  Angelica knew that a box of cigars was never going to satisfy him.


The one man in the room who'd made her remember she was a woman was the man she'd just agreed to spend three dates with. They aren't real dates, she reminded herself but her racing blood didn't seem to notice.


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