About the Author
Initially a French/English teacher, EMMA DARCY changed careers to computer programming before the happy demands of marriage and motherhood. Very much a people person, and always interested in relationships, she finds the world of romance fiction a thrilling one, and the challenge of creating her own cast of characters very addictive.
Recent titles by the same author:
THE INCORRIGIBLE PLAYBOY
AN OFFER SHE CAN’T REFUSE
THE COSTARELLA CONTRACT
HIDDEN MISTRESS, PUBLIC WIFE
Did you know these are also available as eBooks? Visit www.millsandboon.co.uk
MONDAY morning, and as usual, the staff of Multi-Media Promotions was abuzz with the swapping of weekend news before everyone settled down to work. Nick Armstrong exchanged only brief greetings as he strode to his private office, trailed by his friend and business partner, Leon Webster. The moment his door was shut, he released his pent-up anger to the one person who should understand his situation.
‘You know what Tanya said to me on Saturday, after I’d called off our planned outing once again?’ he exploded.
‘Something undoubtedly designed to cut you off at the knees,’ came the voice of experience.
Nick grimaced, remembering that Leon had just been through a nasty break-up with a live-in girlfriend. ‘She said what I really wanted was a toy doll whose feelings wouldn’t be hurt from being left on a shelf until I had time for playing.’
‘Sounds good! A toy doll wouldn’t nag.’
‘Better still, a fairy princess doll …’
‘Yep. Beautiful, glamorous, long blond hair, sparkling eyes, a smile to warm a man’s heart …’
‘…with a magic wand that would give me the energy to be the kind of lover that even a plastic toy would expect of a man.’
‘Oooh … we’re getting into kinky stuff here.’
‘Leon, this is serious. And we are going to have a serious discussion.’
Eyebrows lifted mockingly. ‘About women?’
‘About business.’ Nick glowered at his friend as he rounded the desk and dropped into his chair. ‘Take a seat. And wipe that smirk off your face. This is deadly serious.’
‘The man is wounded,’ Leon muttered, settling into a chair with a mournful expression. Seeing Nick’s irritation, he made an effort to present a suitably serious countenance.
It was dangerous to rile Nick in this mood. He was the darkly brooding type—a creative genius and a computer whiz from way back—and he often needed lightening up, but this was not the moment, Leon decided.
They were opposites in many ways. Even in looks. Nick—tall, black-haired, blue-eyed, had a face and body that were stamped with masculine strength, both physical and mental. Oddly enough, Leon never felt diminished by him. While he himself was only average height and his colouring wasn’t so dramatic, having fairish brown hair and brown eyes, he had the gift of the gab and could attract any woman he wanted.
They made a great team—the design king and the salesman—and Leon was not about to allow anything to disturb it. Besides which, his partner’s mental well-being was of paramount importance to their success.
‘Business!’ Nick tapped the desk with a strong index finger for emphasis. ‘You know how much the Internet stuff has taken off, Leon. I’m snowed under. I need two more graphic designers to help take the load.’
‘That will cut into our profits,’ he cautioned.
‘I need a life, too,’ Nick bit out.
Leon rolled his eyes. ‘Just because Tanya got in a snit over not getting your undivided attention? She doesn’t own you, Nick, and take it from me …’
Blue lightning flashed straight back at him. ‘I take a lot from you, Leon. You’re a fantastic salesman and we’re doing great, but I will not work to this pressure anymore.’
Hands instantly lifted into a truce position. ‘Okay, okay,’ he soothed. ‘So long as this is you talking and not Tanya. You always said if we worked like dogs until we’re thirty …’
‘I’m thirty next week. Both of us pocketed over five million dollars last year …’
‘And may well pocket twice that this year.’
‘But we’ve paid a price for it. You lost Liz …’
‘There you go, bringing women into it …’
‘Damn it, Leon! I want a life beyond work, even if you don’t. I’m thirty next week. Enough’s enough. I need more staff.’
‘Okay, okay. I’ll ask around. Head-hunt someone good for you.’
Nick held up two fingers.
Leon sighed. Two more salaries to pay. ‘So we’ll get someone good and one out of design school to be trained. How’s that?’
‘Not at all. Common sense to train them our way. You know that, Nick.’
Nick privately conceded the point, but was not about to relax his stance on the issue. ‘Get right onto it, Leon. And don’t be giving me any delay tactics. I don’t care what it costs. It will cost a damned sight more if I reach burnout.’
‘Don’t mention that word!’ Horror-struck, Leon jackknifed from his chair. ‘Your wish is my command, dear boy. I shall go forth this moment and head-hunt.’
‘A trainee, as well.’
‘No problem. They’ll be storming the portals to get in here.’ He strode to the door and paused, looking back with cynical eyes. ‘I bet Tanya is still coming to your birthday bash. She likes what our money can buy. Don’t forget that when she turns the screws again.’
‘Business, Leon,’ Nick tersely reminded him, and he went.
On edge, disgruntled with his world, Nick turned to his computer, switched it on, and tried to settle himself to work. But Leon’s words stuck in his mind. The flaming row he’d had with Tanya had ended with her saying that the party would be his last chance with her. If he hadn’t made some move to reorganise his life …
His lips thinned. She’d gone too far, expecting him to order his life to suit her. It wasn’t as if he was being unfaithful, taking out other women on the side. And she certainly didn’t mind him spending the big money he earned, always asking him to take her to the most fashionable restaurants and get the best seats at the live shows she wanted to see. Leon was right about her suckering him for all he could give.
Not that it was an overly disturbing factor. What was money for, anyway, if not to buy life’s pleasures? Except Tanya wasn’t delivering much in the way of pleasure herself. In fact, she was becoming an unreasonable nag, picking fights at the end of the night which inevitably turned him off wanting to have sex with her. It wasn’t so much energy he lacked, but desire.
His last chance …
He had a good mind to finish it before the