My new contemporary romance, Entry-Level Mistress, begins as a classic revenge story. Exhibit A: the back cover blurb:
Daniel Hartmann and Emily Anderson have every reason to hate each other. Her father destroyed the lives of his parents and he in turn sent her father to jail. Now Daniel’s a successful billionaire and artsy Emily is his newest employee. Both of them intend to make the other pay for the sins of the past, but revenge has never been so sweet.
A romance reader for over 28 years, I’ve read a variety of revenge stories, from the medieval, your brother hurt my best friend’s cousin’s daughter so now I will storm the castle, hold you prisoner and seduce you, to the contemporary landscape of corporate espionage. This is the lineage that inspired Entry-Level Mistress and so it has some of those awesome, crazy elements. At the same time, it has a heroine that is intensely analytical and modern. I loved writing Emily because, at 21, she’s both naïve and self-aware, and her intelligence quickly conflicts with the outrageous plan she’s concocted.
Which is when this story stops being a revenge story and focuses a bit more on love, with another classic romance story element to challenge Emily’s confident plans.
For me as a romance reader, those well-trod story elements are familiar and comforting, and I have my favorites I return to again to again. As an author, I do my best to satisfy expectations while twisting the elements into something new and exciting.
Enjoy this little taste of Entry-Level Mistress!
Oh, God, this was going to happen. I stopped myself from wrapping my arms around my shaking body. After all these years, to actually come face to face with him . . . it was unreal.
Okay. Calm. I took a deep breath, drew up the lessons from my freshman acting class. I didn’t have to be twenty-one year old Emily Anderson, terrified and shaking. I could be anybody I wanted. And I didn’t have to take this meeting sitting down.
I pushed my rolling chair back from the desk and stood, carefully not looking in his general direction. But I felt when his attention was on me again, or maybe that was my imagination. I crossed the few yards to the kitchen, wondered if not looking was too obvious, and spared a glance to my left. His hand was resting on the metal rim of another cubicle and his head was tilted down, but his gaze met mine.
Shock flooded my body. I struggled for control, forcing myself to play it cool. Then as if he were just another hot guy at art school or the barista at the local coffee house, I slanted him a smile and looked away, quickly hiding from the intense awareness. Three steps. Kitchen. Deep, deep sigh. What the hell was I doing? I pulled a paper cup out from the cupboard and started to fill it with water.
The light in the room dimmed infinitesimally. His polished black shoes were in my line of sight, as were the perfect hems of his tailored trousers. He was clearly a man who cared about his clothing.
“Emily Anderson, right?”
So he knew my name. Despite the relative ubiquity of Anderson as a last name, surely then, he knew that I was the daughter of his father’s old partner.
I straightened. Turned. Sent him that slanted smile. Up close he was nearly devastating. But he wasn’t smiling back. Maybe that intense expression meant something other than the desire I had read. Maybe I only knew how to read college boys, not mega-wealthy businessmen.
“That’s right,” I said lightly. Took a sip of water while watching him. “Newest employee at Hartmann Enterprises . . . Mr. Hartmann.”
His lips quirked. I almost held my breath, expecting that brief movement to stretch into his patented smirk, the one that had stared out at me from GQ. For goodness’ sake, he was a celebrity, or at least dated celebrities. And I was talking to him.
“Well, newest employee. I’m on my way out to lunch. Join me.”
He shifted. I could see the outline of muscles under the smooth lines of his pants. I had the brief, clear idea that his body would be long and lean, the sort of body that belonged to a man who was active and athletic but had never tried to bulk up. He was about a decade older than me and yet he was without doubt the most attractive man I’d ever been within five feet of.
He knew my name and he was asking me to lunch. If that didn’t add up to having been made, I didn’t know what did. I wanted to run but I had to brazen this out.
I crossed my arms, affected an air of nonchalance that I didn’t feel at all. “Do you invite all your newest employees out to lunch?”
“Do you look at all your bosses that way?”
The way I had looked at him? What about the way he had looked at me?
“You’re my first boss,” I bit back quickly, hoping the heat I felt didn’t show in my cheeks. How exactly had I looked at him?
“We hired you without a track record?”
I wanted to stamp my feet at how easily he caught me off guard, twisted my words to serve him. Instead, I arched an eyebrow. Tilted my head. “Should I be worried for my job?”
He smirked. I sucked in a breath. The man was wickedly handsome. It wasn’t fair. Especially since I resented him. Hated him. He’d sent my father to jail. There . . . attraction almost all gone.
“No. I don’t invite all my employees to lunch. But I’m inviting you.”