Tuesday, March 11, 2008
EXCERPT: The Chemist
by Grayson Reyes Cole
Huntington is a smart, clairvoyant Public Relations phenom trying to make a respectable man out of playboy CEO and chemist, Remy Durant. But, can she fight her way to love through suspicious expiration dates, the paparazzi, old flames, focus groups, and a very, very angry scorned witch?
Huntington had been told at the desk that he was in Laboratory One. She took a deep breath and made her way towards the series of Labs on the basement level. She tugged at the soft pink shell she'd chosen, feeling self-conscious. That wouldn't have mattered if she hadn't spilled her coffee, but she had and there wasn't anything she could do about it. She shook her head telling herself it didn't matter. She would make the best of this situation as she had made the best of them all. She came to the last Lab and realized she had gone all the way from Lab Forty to Lab Two. There was no Lab One as far as she could see, and she had even stopped to inspect an emergency evacuation diagram above a row of multi-colored fire extinguishers. Hunny decided to ask someone and started in the door of Lab Two. She checked the light above the door: Green. She pressed on it, squaring her shoulders as if she was about to do battle. Every new adventure with The Chemist was, in essence, a battle and she hadn’t even met him yet.
At first, she didn't think anyone was there. The lab seemed absent of any organism not manifesting in a Petrie dish or beaker. It smelled clean, sterile even and the counters were neatly organized with their trays and vials and tubes and fascinating machines all in order. The lab was silent. But she was wound so tight, she just knew there was something momentous about to take place. Then she heard a rustle and the door opening behind her. The hairs rose on the nape of her neck. Worse and worse! Huntington recognized him right away, the client’s next devious plot against her: the cruelest sort of distraction.
The Chemist was tall, tall and big, much more so than she’d thought from the pictures. He hadn't noticed her yet and she watched with fascination as he shrugged out of his white lab coat. His black, golf shirt—hanging the right way off his body—showed off thick, sinewy muscles in his wide back bunching with each smooth motion. Shoulders as broad as they come led to arms that were thick and defined and strong. His shirt tucked into gray slacks showed off even more. It exhibited a narrow waist and hips. Hunny could see the curve of a healthy bottom leading down to strong thighs and calves she could sense even in his loose-fitting pants. He turned toward her, sensing her presence, and she could see the power in his chest. Just a quick, unconscious contracting of the muscles there that drew her eyes and dried her throat.
Hunny swallowed. She hadn't seen a body like that in a long, long time. She hadn’t had such a powerful physical reaction to a man in such a long… long… well, never. She swallowed again, not wanting to see his face if the body was so perfect. But, Hunny had never been a coward. Slowly, her eyes traveled up and up until she absently pressed a hand to her chest.
Huntington didn't know if she had ever seen someone so delicious looking and so…so… damn. His skin was dark chocolate, smooth, and shining with a young, healthy glow. He had high, proud cheekbones and a straight, firm nose. His jaw was strong and square. His chin was just as adamant with its neatly trimmed beard. His lips were full and... just full. They looked soft and warm and ready to kiss. And his eyes—Good Lord, they had not left her since he came in—his eyes were the deepest brown, black even, and mesmerizing with their almond shape. They were warm eyes that held amusement and intelligence and just a hint of something else that was more than a little intimidating. They were talking to her. His eyes were talking to her and Hunny didn’t know if she was ready for what they were saying. She took a step back. The amusement kicked up a notch and Hunny swallowed. The man looked like an angel and a devil at once.
Hunny had to look away for a moment. Her throat was dry and her insides felt like they were all stirred up. She needed to clear her head. She took a deep breath then—pure accident—cast her gaze back his way. He crossed his thick arms across his chest and leaned back against the counter. He smiled a brief, appraising smile that gave Hunny a glimpse of incredibly straight, white teeth, with the barest hint of a gap in the front two. Goodness, even the gap was sexy. She’d never in life thought of a gap as sexy. This man’s gap was sexy! And, as if that wasn’t enough, The Chemist started to speak. His voice was heavy and hot like a caress. Then she realized what he’d said and her eyes widened, “Hello, Honeybee.”
She knew immediately why he’d chosen that silly moniker. She’d been called it before, even before people knew her real name. Her butter-colored skin, sand-colored hair, and light brown eyes were frequently enough commented on. But, she’d never been called Honeybee. Everyone had shortened Huntington to Hunny since she was little, but never Honeybee. She didn't like it. She was certain she didn't like it. She absolutely didn't like the liquid warmth that had pooled inside her at the sound of that nickname rolling off his tongue.
Remy Durant. It would have been impossible even without the magazine to not know him. He was gorgeous, he exuded power, and already, with a single word, he’d shown himself to be cocky. And though she’d been convinced she would not be affected by him, she couldn’t fool herself. His attraction to her in that moment was so intense she could feel it like a palpable thing. He fairly radiated sensuality and it was completely directed at her. She told herself not to blush. She told herself and told herself. He wouldn’t understand it. He probably didn’t think he had given himself away, but emotions that strong always bared themselves to her gift. From birth, Huntington had been blessed with the ability read a person’s deepest thoughts, feelings, and finally, desires. In that moment, she had been reading Remy Durant’s.
It was going to be pretty damn hard to get through this first meeting if he was going to keep heating her up with his desire. And she couldn’t for the life of her figure out why. Why was this gorgeous man so attracted to her? Sure she was attractive enough—she’d have to be slow not to know that—but she had never picked up on a passion so strong from only a first meeting. Huntington found herself frowning. She certainly didn't like this coffee-complected Adonis being thrown at her as another wrench in her plans. She didn't like it at all. All she could think was she was not looking forward to the next couple of days. Oh this was definitely on the upper side of cruel!
For a moment, she considered leaving. She couldn't stay there. Her best bet would be to leave the Lab, find Gina and tell her she could present the work they’d done earlier that day. She would call Arthur and tell him… tell him… well she didn’t know what she would tell him. All she knew was, she couldn’t work with him. He was dangerous. Dangerous to every part of her person. He held her career in the balance, and he was making her body go haywire while she needed all of her mental energy to land this troublesome contract. She didn’t know if she could do it.
He was the single most handsome man she'd ever seen up close and personal, and his overpowering, predatory attraction to her was unnerving to say the least. How was she going to get the words out when she couldn’t stop staring at his chest and his arms, and that damn gap knowing full well that if she just gave in a little she could… How did a woman resist the power and draw of having a man like him at her fingertips?
Already the Chemist was trying to get her. Hunny knew it was irrational to think a company was a living thing out to thwart her, but if it continued to kick obstacles in her way, she would continue to think of it like that. She wondered if anyone had tried to file a harassment claim against a person’s private thoughts.
Quickly, with as much composure as she could muster she explained, "I'm sorry, were you expecting me?" she pushed out her hand and stepped forward. “I’m—“
“Huntington Lewis?” Hunny couldn’t tell if he was asking a question or not. His face, though hotly assessing before, was now almost inscrutable. He had put on his mask. Too bad the man didn’t know he couldn’t hide from her special talent. The stronger the feelings, the clearer they came to her. He engulfed her hand in his.
“Yes,” Hunny answered nearly embarrassed by the breathy sound of her own voice. That’s when she realized she should be shaking his hand back. She had spent an entire lifetime practicing indifference, making sure she never betrayed her skill. Her mother had taught her that. All she needed was to make a slip and make it to a scientist at that! Her melodramatic mother had given her all kinds of nightmares about testing facilities like the one in Firestarter. “Huntington Lewis.”
“Honey,” he stated clasping hers. For a moment, she couldn’t look away from his face. He was so masculine and beautiful… until she noticed that his nostrils flared. He was sniffing her!
“Huntington,” she corrected trying not to sound startled or surly.
He didn’t respond, merely smiled and inclined his head. “Shall we go to my office?”
Huntington nodded. She started toward the door and turned to leave. However, when she hazarded a glance behind her, she found that Adonis—Durant—hadn’t budged. He was still standing by the counter and now he was sporting a full-on, devastating grin with one eyebrow cocked up at her. That couldn't bode well.
Hunny frowned and he motioned her towards another door she had not noticed earlier. She changed her direction and went through the door as held it for her. As she walked past, she could hear him taking a deep, long breath right next to her hair and she felt that passion flare up again.
Opening the door she paused. It was the most sumptuous office she’d ever seen. She’d expected something dark, gray, black. Something cold and uninviting. Something industrial and manly. She couldn’t have been more surprised. It was bright and cheery with beautiful hardwood flooring (Was that redwood? Wasn’t that endangered or something?) shined to perfection and plush and large red, gold, and copper paintings on three walls. There were two over-large sofas, both covered in durable, crisp white canvas with bright yellow leather cushions artfully arranged on them. A polished inlay coffee table tied the sitting area together and coordinated with Remy’s desk. It was situated in the corner between two windows. A huge, flat monitor sat on it. Hunny figured there was a keyboard and mouse on it somewhere, however she certainly couldn’t see it. The desk, a beautiful polished piece she would later find came from Poland, was an uncontested mess.
Remy Durant went around and sat down. Huntington watched as he started to stack papers and pamphlet galleys and folders together to sit them on the floor behind him. Thankfully, his thoughts seemed to be moving towards a less provocative path.
“Drawers,” he said to her almost apologetically. “I wanted a desk with drawers, but this one doesn’t have any. I had to decide which I wanted more.”
Hunny thought of every description of him she’d read. How many times had she seen him in magazines or in society pages or even heard from MedSol employees that he was a total “hunk?” He was obviously that and more. Just from the look of him, she knew he was the exact sort of executive playboy to completely undo the image she had worked out for this company in her head. She was daunted to say the least because she still had the whole Mindy Banner thing to fix. What had possessed him to dump the wrong woman, a Senior United States Food and Drug Administration Inspector? What had the man been thinking?
Huntington was glad to put a hand over her eyes. Remy turned away to adjust the blinds over his right shoulder against the afternoon sun. She took a ragged breath as she faced him full-on again. She groaned in agony Damn! Damn! Damn! The man was good to look at.
She sat across from him at his desk and watched him sheepishly continue to straighten it up. “Really, I’m not normally this messy. I just need drawers. The designer said he was going to do a couple of file cabinets for me to fit under the desk. They’d match the wood and inlay, of course.” he told her self-consciously.
Trying to avoid staring at his handsome face—especially the succulent lips or the play of the muscles in his arms as he moved, or the charming and humble attempt he made to both explain and tidy his desk—Hunny focused on his hands. Big, broad, manicured hands with strong and deft fingers. She turned her gaze to the scenery out of the window. Safer that way.
“Well,” he startled her with his deep expectant voice. “Would you like to start?”
“Yes,” Hunny answered collecting herself. She looked him directly in the eye and smiled. She did this with every client. Then she started to present him her work. The tension thankfully eased out of her quickly and she became lost in her presentation. She loved what she did and her love for it managed to stop her from staring mouth open at the specimen across from her.
Remy proved to be a very attentive listener. He peppered her presentation with a question here or there or a “yes, I like that” but mainly sat across from paying attention and concentrating. Not once did she sense those waves of heat pouring off him again. All she could feel was this genuine enthusiasm for his work. She respected that.
“Legal has redlined the contract already,” Remy told her. “I anticipated that I would like what I saw,” he offered as explanation. “We’ll get that back to your folks probably by tomorrow.”
“Well, it is Monday,” Hunny stated glancing at her watch. “I’m sure I can get the specs back to you before I leave on Friday. Then you can contact me or Arthur back at—“
“I’d rather you stayed here.”
The voice was so quiet and non-intrusive, that Hunny didn’t notice it and continued. “Once you give the final thumbs up, I’ll have my team working solely on this project. Of course I’ll oversee and be the final judge on everything after—“
“I’d prefer to be more involved with the project than that,” he stated looking directly into her eyes. This time she was unable to look away. She swallowed when she noticed how obscenely long his lashes were. So intriguing for a man and so—“Have you ever worked with your team remotely?”
“I’m sorry?” Hunny breathed. She had already started to feel her breasts tighten and she could no longer cross her legs. And he smelled so… glorious? Why the hell did he smell so good when she’d been cautioned not to wear perfume?
“I think it would probably be better if you worked out of this office for a while. That way, I can be readily at your service to review and approve the material you all produce. I have all the faith in the world in your work. I just don’t want to be in the dark during the process. I want to watch the process.” True, all true. But, there was more. There was that attraction on the edges of his interest in her work.
“But that’s wholly unnecessary,” she caught herself arguing. “Besides, if they do the mock ups in DC we’ll still be faced with either evaluating them online or waiting for them to come in an overnight delivery.”
“That’s fine,” the stubborn man answered.
Hunny’s jaw worked as she tried to work out what she was going to say. “I’m not sure that it is fine. I understand your company is doing very well, but my remaining here will be an added and completely avoidable expense.” With what she hoped was a cheeky smirk, she added, “And, you can be assured that G&A would charge you for it.”
Remy returned her smiled but with a glint in his eye that Hunny couldn’t quite identify. She tried to focus her perception then, but found it difficult, almost as if her senses were blurred. He was trying to put that mask on again. He picked up the phone and dialed an extension.
“Hey Rich,” he greeted congenially. Rich Beltran, Head Counsel, had to be. “Yeah. How’s it coming?” he paused. “Oh yeah? Let me look.” Huntington watched him wedge the phone between his head and shoulder. His hands flew over the keyboard of his computer (which had been uncovered as he straightened his desk) and a calendar opened. “Yep. Good for me.” He typed in something Hunny couldn’t see then closed the calendar again. “No. I was calling about the contract to make sure you put in language ensuring that the Account Manager will work out of this office for the duration of the contract negotiation. At least three weeks out of the month. Well, of course… Weekends… Yep. That’s your job,” he laughed. “Carte Blanche,” Huntington noticed he said the words with a full on French pronunciation. Interesting. “I’m sure you’ll work out the pricing.”
That’s when Hunny processed what he was saying, and she processed the meaning behind the words. Her heart was beating so hard she thought her chest would bust open. She could hear the blood rushing in her ears which had all of sudden turned hot. Her whole body had gone still with the tension of fury. She tried to hold on to it. She really did. And, when she tried to hold on to her temper, it always worked. Except with her brother and now, apparently, with this overbearing bear of a CEO.
“I’m not staying here,” she bit out. As soon as the words left her lips she thought of Arthur Murray. He was going to kill her. “There’s no need,” she added quickly.
“Firstly, it’s in the contract.” It may have been in the contract, but he well knew there was no need. Huntington started to say something again but clamped her mouth shut. She was liable to kill him if she kept going. The audacity of the man! The ever-loving gall! “Secondly—“
With more calm than she felt, she offered “Perhaps we should talk about this more once the final ink dries.”
“Perhaps,” The Chemist agreed with a small shrug though his demeanor indicated he had no intention of that ever happening. Determination, that was the predominant sentiment coming from him. He reached over to one of the tidy stacks and picked up something completely familiar to Huntington. “Secondly, have you seen this?”
“Yes, I have.” Hunny swallowed. It was the magazine that had broken the dumping of Mindy Banner. That morning, Hunny had even seen a quick blurb about it an entertainment news program. Interesting, since absolutely none of the three in the overexposed love triangle were entertainers.
“Do you think either of our interests would be best served with you back in DC?”
Hunny gritted her teeth. “No,” she answered honestly.
“Shall I go ahead and book you on my calendar for Wednesday, too? We meet with the board every other Wednesdays and I’d like you there.”
“Of course,” she answered with a professionalism that belied her internal exasperation. She was done with this meeting. Standing, Huntington told him she would see herself out. Durant stood as well and showed her to the door.
“See you tomorrow, Hon—“
“Huntington,” she cut him off.
“Huntington.” He relented and inclined his head.
Hunny started out of the room, but she could have sworn she heard him sniff. She turned back to him. Rather than ask the potentially dangerous question, she had something else she wanted to know.
“No one’s been able to duplicate your formulas.”
“That’s right,” He answered. Huntington noticed the tension in his jaw. The first bit of tension she’d seen in him.
“It’s been one of the reasons why this company has skyrocketed in success since you’ve been at the helm.”
“Right,” he repeated.
“Even if other pharmaceutical companies come close to the same chemical makeup, they typically can’t offer the same shelf life MedSol can.”
“Why?” Huntington didn’t know why she’d been so blunt, but the question was out there, and now she realized she wanted it answered.
“Patents,” he answered and ushered her out of his office. He closed the door behind her before she had even walked away.
He acted like a man with the upper hand. Hell, Huntington could tell he felt like a man with the upper hand. Little did he know, when she tried, Huntington could come pretty damn close to reading a person’s mind under the right circumstances. And the power to read a person’s mind almost always gave one the advantage.
Sometimes hilarious, sometimes dark, always sexy, The Delicious Dark Side is waiting for you…
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