Tiger Lily Trilogy Interlude (Book 2)
In her lowest moment, Lily receives help from an unexpected source…
Though Lily refuses to see Jonas, he sends his ex-wife, Dani to watch over her. Ashamed to admit Declan has physically abused her, she lies to Jonas and to herself.
Now the lies have taken on a life of their own. She breaks up with Jonas, the only man she’s ever loved–protecting him the best she can, but martyrdom is a heavy cross to bear. She’s so wounded, she’s loses her instinct for self-preservation.
Jonas won’t stay away. He invades her dreams with his hard body and soft caresses, then her life–using her body against her. Her pain is no match for the memories of their steamy past and the protective tenderness Jonas now wraps around her. Lily realizes she and Jonas have more in common than their sultry sexual companionship…they both want family–the sweet intimacy of belonging.
“Deserves more than 5 stars!! Absolutely loved this trilogy. I read it all in 2 days because I was completely enthralled. I loved the “broken” characters and watching as love mended them. This is a deep love story and each book in the series more captivating than the last.” Amazon Reviewer
Excerpt from Tiger Lily Trilogy
You could always tell it was Friday when the inter-office cat dancing videos started to circulate around the offices of Arch Limited. The little balls of fur were our ceremonial icons, marking the end of our work week. I used to delete them without a second glance, but somehow I came to count on them. So, between eating a forkful of lettuce and typing on my computer on this particular Friday, I perked my ears for the sound notifying me of those dancing cats in my inbox. Halfway through the turkey salad I had picked up from the Korean Deli on East 44th, they finally arrived, dancing and frolicking across my screen. Inside, I squealed with glee. Yes!
Yet, on the heels of that thought came, I cheer for cats. I need a life.
My lack of a life, or in truth, lack of social options to fill my life with, would have to wait. I didn’t have much time left before my weekly meeting with my boss, Chief Managing Editor, Gregor Worton. So I printed out the Request for Proposal (RFP) he had forwarded for today’s discussion on brainstorming new business. As a small press, we weren’t an automatic send for high-profile clients. Fortunately for us, Gregor was a gifted plotter and found creative ways to “slip in incentives to steal *cough* win clients.
The idea of our little publishing house pursuing these clients wasn’t as futile as contacting them had once been. Not since Gregor started finding the best needle manuscripts in the literary haystack submissions. He managed to catapult our writers to the lips of the New York Times and USA Today top sellers’ lists. In a way, Arch had become the phoenix of publishing houses, rising out of indie publishing mayhem. And for that reason, I understood why Gregor pushed for Arch to try for the “big fish.” Still, when my hand grasped the paper printout from my tray and caught sight of the “fish” Gregor wanted, I grabbed a napkin to cover my mouth to keep in what I hadn’t yet swallowed so I wouldn’t choke.
I read the first line of the RFP:
Jonas Crane of Crane Holdings, former Venture Capitalist and one of Forbes Magazine’s ‘Top Fifty Next-Gen’ and ‘Successful Under Forty’ for the past six years, is seeking assistance in publishing his first book…
Jonas wasn’t just a big fish; he was a whale. And even with our recent success, we were a string and bent pin bidding to hook him. Still, Gregor was a dreamer, like my father used to be. I needed his dreams. They gave me hope in my otherwise muted existence.
I placed my doubts aside and quickly typed Jonas’s name on Google and jotted down a few key points on him to share in the meeting.
Once completed, I tried to stand up but fell back into my chair. I glanced down and frowned, my favorite gray wool skirt had caught in the wheel’s tread of my desk chair. Again.
I hoped I didn’t get chew marks on the fabric or I’d have no choice but to place the skirt along with the others in my graveyard of mangled office clothing. Crouching down, I pushed up the sleeves of my turtleneck and held the wheel in place. As I eased the cloth out of its jaws, I examined my skirt. A grease mark. My mind conjured a memory of my father scolding me, “Salomé’s strive for perfection by presenting the best they can be.” Ever the vagabond, Tiger Lily.
Covering my face, I took a deep breath and started to ease my sleeves down my arms, but stopped, I was too warm. Luckily, Gregor’s fan in his office was always on. He didn’t seem to mind when I angled the breeze my way during our meetings.
The heat inside the office gave a false sense of hot weather outside, though in actuality we were in the middle of January in New York City. The air outside was notably colder and we were in the midst of recovering from an unexpected snowstorm. But, as was customary for the city, all the streets were thoroughly salted and plowed. Nothing seemed to stop New York from moving, and that’s what I needed to do. Stop thinking and keep moving.
I stood, successfully this time, and walked the three feet to my boss’s office, careful not to knock over the “lucky” pile of books holding the door ajar. According to Gregor, everything was lucky and had to remain just as he placed them. Eyes down at the floor, I planned a path to the chair across from him, presently the only surface without books and papers. His desk had the most organized piles, though there were remnants of old coffee cups and take-out containers. I found it puzzling he never lost anything.
Gregor’s ready excuse these days was “that’s what divorce does to you.” Lately he expressed concern his divorce had interfered with his Midas touch and needed the clutter to help ward off the bad vibes. I bought his story a year ago, but truthfully, he should let me or the cleaners tidy his office. Of course, the moment I allowed that thought to set in, I would’ve sworn one of his “lucky” piles of papers walked away on its own.
On second thought, I’ll leave the cleaning to the professionals.
“Come on in, Lily,” Gregor said, calling me back from my thoughts. He smiled brightly upon my approach and I sat down and stared across at him.
Gregor’s brown bobbed hair and tweed blazers had most believing he was a professor instead of head of the company, but he didn’t care. In fact, in some ways, I think he thought of himself as a professor as well. He was not traditionally handsome, plagued by sharp facial features and bug eyes, though his were a lovely shade of green. Nonetheless, the women around the office didn’t seem to notice his shortcomings. Instead, they often gossiped he had a “je ne sais quoi” they found sexually appealing. I didn’t think of him in that way though. Gregor was just, well … Gregor. “Sorry I missed your Alfred Hitchcock marathon Saturday night,” Gregor began. “I’m not sorry I missed out on the dissection you call discussion afterward.”
I grinned. “I thought you liked that part.”
“You having too much wine and getting loud and silly. That’s the part I like.” He chuckled.
I giggled. “You get just as silly and vocal as me.”
He stared at me in that deadpan way for a few moments before joining in and laughing. Gregor had been more than a boss from day one, when I stumbled into his office a couple of years ago. He ignored my anthropology degree and empty resume, and still let me pitch myself to him for twenty minutes before sending me off to buy a client a gift.
I reached out to hand him the papers. “Here are the printouts you wanted. So what’s on your to-do list today?” I poised with my pen.
His smile upgraded to a full toothy grin. “Jonas Crane. That’s all I want you to focus on.”
I tilted my head. “Don’t you think Jonas is too high up the ladder for us?”
“‘We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams,’” he said.
I groaned. “Willy Wonka? Gregor.” I sucked in air. “Jonas hasn’t granted any interviews in at least two years. Not even to the top papers. We can’t reach him.”
“Poet O’Shaughnessy, Lily, not Willy Wonka,” Gregor said with a lift to his chin. “As for Jonas, tell me what ‘in’ you found.”
The “in” was Gregor’s buzzword for his method of finding a way to engage a potential client by accidentally on purpose bumping into them—a civilized form of stalking.
I pressed a finger to my cheek. “I read in the New York Post a while back, Jonas is separated from his wife and doesn’t live here anymore.”
“Old news,” he interrupted me. “His wife, Dani, acquired the Dakota apartment on the Upper Westside and lives there with their son, Paul.”
I shrugged. “Sorry.”
“Don’t fret. I’ve got a better idea.”
I lifted my brows. “Oh? The fact that he’s no longer in New York and we have a limited budget for travel isn’t a concern?”
His lips twitched. “My sources say he’s been staying at the Waldorf Astoria twice a month for the past three months.” He awaited my adoration, which I gave to him in spades, along with a dose of pride.
I sat up straighter. “You’re brilliant, Gregor, but is Jonas that regimented? I mean, he met the Dalai Lama, dined at the White House, and trekked in Kenya.”
Gregor smirked, as we both mused over my showing off research skills to make up for a lack of stalk-worthy contributions.
“Jonas is not only regimented, but downright predictable lately.” He smugly grinned.
I sighed. I hated when he dragged everything out for extra effect, and was relieved when he picked up his tablet, indicating he was ready to tell me.
“Jonas Crane will be sitting in Sir Harry’s bar around nine tonight, drinking Scotch, when he will spontaneously meet a beautiful lady from Arch,” he said.
My eyes widened as the realization set in that his gaze was fixed on me. “Me? Surely you don’t mean me. Mia would be better suited.”
Mia and Seth from marketing were his go-to persons for these fishing expeditions, as they had no qualms in getting the business by any means necessary. Not to mention the fact they both looked like models and were ambitious, an intoxicating combination for most people.
His mouth turned up in the corner. “Mia couldn’t get a man like Crane. We’ve crossed paths, and I doubt he’s changed that much.”
I arched my brows. “Really? I doubt he’d even notice me.”
“Oh ye of low self-esteem. If I looked like you, I’d be sitting in Sir Harry’s, but I don’t, so you’re the one. You’re better suited for this. Trust me.”
We sat there staring at each other as silence grew between us. Gregor had done as much with past clients. And his divorce, though a sore spot for him, had been a marriage from one of his client trysts. So he wasn’t asking me to do anything he hadn’t done himself.
His thoughts on my ability to attract the target were reassuring after the recent end of my engagement. Nonetheless, I doubted my five-seven height and curvy figure would get me past “hello” with a guy like Jonas Crane. And even if my appearance somehow landed me an opener, what was supposed to come after? I didn’t say anything Gregor didn’t already take into consideration when choosing me and from his apt gaze, my lacking confidence wasn’t dissuading him.
I narrowed my brows. “I know nothing about sales. What if I mess things up for Arch?”
His lips curved up. “That’s why you’re perfect. Well, that and the fact that you’re … beautiful.”
My mouth dropped open and I laughed. “Oh how the compliments are flowing when you want something.”
“Lily, I’m still your boss,” Gregor said with a slight irritation in his tone.
“Yes. Sorry, Mr. Worton.” I brought my hand up to cover my lips, swallowing my smile.
He turned his head hiding his grin. “As I was saying. You’re pretty, but you still need to look the part. So, take the rest of the afternoon off. Get your bitchy roommate to help you, but for god sake, go alone.”
I dropped my notepad. “Downgraded from beautiful already.” I couldn’t help but mutter, but the stern set to his jaw this time sobered me, though the twinkle in his eye shone. As for my roommate Natasha, a blonde stunner, she might easily derail the situation, especially if she caught a whiff of wealth.
I chewed my bottom lip and stared at Gregor, noting the wear around his eyes. He had put so much into this company’s success. He only expected me to attempt to speak with Jonas Crane. If he refused, at least I tried, and thereby fulfilled my part on his quest for new business. “I’ll do my best,” I said.
Gregor exhaled. “I have no doubt you will, you always do. But,” he paused, “this will be different. Jonas Crane is going to want to do more than just talk with you.” His lips pressed together.
My lips parted. “How can you be so sure? He’s twelve years older than me. Urbane. I doubt he would be interested in anything sexual with me….” I let the words die off as our eyes met.
A strange expression crossed his face. “Some temptations are impossible to resist,” Gregor said. He cleared his throat, “I’m talking about Crane.”
He displayed his Rolex. “You have seven hours. Just start with a drink and chat,” he said. “He’ll enjoy talking with you.”
I smoothed down the front of my wool skirt and focused on the stack of books on his desk. After several moments, he finally spoke again, “If you do end up having sex with Jonas Crane….”
“I won’t.” I jutted out my chin and moved toward the door.
“You don’t have to,” Gregor said in an even tone. “Just relax and be yourself. You’ll do fine.”
I nodded and started walking again.
“If we land Jonas, you can take my job,” he called out.
I turned back. “Will I need to create a mess of manuscripts in my cubicle?”
He winked at me. “Well, maybe not mine, but I can promise you a promotion.”
I smiled at him and turned away. I didn’t want Gregor’s job, not that he would give the job to someone in my assistant position anyway. Arch Limited wasn’t my dream. I hoped to one day return to cross-cultural studies and transform my mother’s legacy, Perchance to Dream art week, into a professional program throughout the world. Thereby making it a true Salomé Love Legacy in more than a mere title change following their deaths. This dream was what my father would call a “Salomé dream,” bigger than sense, but smaller than our will.