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Authors: Kate Douglas

Intimate

BOOK: Intimate
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Table of Contents

About the Author

Copyright Page

 

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This book is dedicated to three truly wonderful authors—talented ladies all, who have encouraged and inspired me for much of my career: Stella Cameron, Robyn Carr, and Jayne Ann Krentz. You each know exactly what to say when I need to hear it, and I appreciate you more than I can express.

 

Also, to my agent Jessica Faust—you say what I need to hear as well, Jessica, though not nearly as diplomatically. For that I owe you my thanks and my career.

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

An author isn't the sole creator of a book—it really does take a village, and I have a wonderful village of supporters who work very hard to make my stories better. My thanks and appreciation to my beta readers Rose Toubbeh, Lynne Thomas, Kerry Parker, Jay Takane, Ann Jacobs, and Karen Woods, who so willingly take time out of their very busy schedules to read my final draft before it goes to my editor.

Because of their efforts, my editor, Eileen Rothschild, has no idea just how bad I can be, but she gets more than her share of credit as well. I promise, Eileen … no more meltdowns. Really. Thank you for your patience, your persistence, and your knowledge of what it takes to make a story even better. I am really enjoying working with you.

 

CHAPTER 1

Jake paused outside the fourth modeling agency he'd been to this morning—not counting the easy dozen he'd checked on after more than a week of searching. He still wasn't any closer to finding anyone remotely suited for the job, and the manager of this agency had been flat-out rude when he'd told him what he wanted.

Was it too much to ask for someone unique, an attractive young woman with a sexy, dark, and edgy look—and piercings? Nothing grotesque—ears, nose, eyebrow, the popular spots.

You'd think he was searching for a freak-show contestant.

He was running out of agencies, which meant he was running out of options. Marcus Reed, the one who'd hired him for the ad campaign, had specifically wanted a model from the San Francisco area for a potential long-term commitment. L.A. was out.

Sitting in his car in the parking garage a few minutes later, he sent a text to Marc.
Struck out again. One more on my list before I start dragging strangers in off the street.

Slipping his phone into his pocket, he paused when a tone alerted him to a new message.

Marc must be bored this morning. Chuckling, expecting a snarky reply, he checked the text. It wasn't from Marc. Stunned, Jake stared at the message on the screen, one that said
number blocked
instead of a name.

He scanned the text and his stomach clenched.
Hey, RJ …

He hadn't been RJ for almost twenty years.

The rest of the message was simple, appeared harmless.

Saw you over on Battery. It's been a long time, bud.

A tight knot coiled in his gut. He couldn't take his eyes off the text. No one called him RJ anymore. As far as he was concerned, RJ Cameron was dead and gone. Except someone had found him—someone who could connect him to the Olympic wonder kid he'd once been. The same stupid kid who'd spent time locked up for manslaughter after a drunk-driving accident that took two innocent lives.

He sucked in a couple of deep breaths. He had a job to get done. There was no time for crap like this. With a tap of his finger, Jake deleted the message.

*   *   *

Kaz Kazanov looped her tote bag over her shoulder and shoved open the heavy door into the office of Top End. Her roommate Lola was at her usual station at the front desk. She glanced up when Kaz stalked into the office, nodded at the door behind her desk, and shrugged.

Kaz glanced at the closed door to the general's office and whispered to Lola. “You don't know what he wants?”

Lola shook her head. “No idea. He just told me to get you here stat.”

“That doesn't sound good, especially after the way my morning went.”

“What happened?” Whispering, Lola leaned across her desk.

Kaz waved her off. “Nothing good. I'll fill you in later. Mind if I leave this here?” She dumped the heavy bag on the floor beside the desk.

“Go ahead, but you better hurry. He was blowing steam out both ears.” The phone buzzed, and with an exaggerated eye roll, Lola turned to answer it.

Kaz headed toward the door. She rapped twice, heard the familiar bark, and walked into the office.

“Close the damned door.” The pudgy little man behind the desk glared at her, lurched to his feet, and leaned forward, both hands planted firmly on the scarred oak surface.

Taking a deep breath, Kaz shut the door, folded her arms across her chest, and stared right back at him. He was such a weasel. She'd had her fill of him long ago, but she liked the steady income and loved the other people she worked with. He'd been more of an irritant than a real issue.

“The Smithum account is no longer ours, Ms. Kazanov. Do you want to know why?”

Oh, crap. She'd shown up on time and done everything they'd asked, but the vibe had not been good. “Not particularly,” she said, except she really did want to know.

“Well, I'm telling you anyway. They not only dropped you, they dropped the whole fucking agency because the model we sent them, the one they spent a week preparing for, the one who required specially ordered size-twelve shoes, had a fucking tattoo on her goddamned belly.”

Oh, this was just wrong. It took her a bit to find her voice—but she found it just fine. “My torso wasn't even in the shoot. This was a shoe ad, for crying out loud. Feet. They wanted feet.” She lifted one of the feet in question and then stomped it hard on the tile floor. “I've got two of them. Pedicure's perfect, tan's perfect, and maybe they're big, but so am I. You put little feet on a six-foot-two-inch woman, she's gonna fall over.” She let out a frustrated huff. “Why should they care about my tattoo?”

He really did get spit in the corners of his mouth when he was pissed. Yuck. Kaz blinked, then focused on the wall behind him.

“They are a deeply conservative company. They do not approve of tattoos. Neither does this agency. Your contract with Top End specifically spells out that there will not be any body art, tattoos, or piercings of any kind beyond simple earrings.” He glared at her, and she watched, fascinated, as his eyes narrowed and he focused on her face. “When did you add that disgusting stud in your nose?”

Kaz clenched her hands into fists to keep from touching the offending stud.
Damn it all!
She knew better than to wear it when coming anywhere near this guy, because he was always looking for something to bitch about. It didn't seem to matter right now anyway. The general had already worked himself into a self-righteous froth.

“Today, Ms. Kazanov, you really fucked up. I can't believe you showed up for the shoot in a pair of shorts and a cropped top with your midsection on full display, flaunting…”—he paused, obviously for the dramatic effect—“a large tattoo.”

She took a deep breath and let it out. Carefully enunciating each word, she said, “For your information, I showed up in the jeans and T-shirt I'm wearing now, completely covered, as you can tell, and was changing into shorts for the shoot when the owner's son decided to invite himself into my dressing room. I was not flaunting anything—I was being spied on by a pervert.”

Before he could respond, she added, “And furthermore, the contract I signed says nothing about body art or piercings. I have never signed an amendment that says anything different.”

“The contract you signed has been updated. You are well aware of the rules and policies of this company.”

She planted her hands on her hips and glared right back at him. “They may be your rules, Mr. MacArthur, but they are not in my contract. Not even mentioned in mine. I have never been offered another version, nor have I read one. Believe me,
sir,
” she said, emphasizing the title, “I read the small print.”

“Well, Ms. Kazanov, it really doesn't matter. You're still fired.”

“What?” Good God, the man was practically spitting, he was so pissed, his face purple, his body leaning forward as if he were ready to attack, shaking his fat little finger in her face.

“You heard me, Kazanov. Fired. Clear out your locker and leave the premises. Your check for this morning's fiasco, minus costs for failure to perform, will be mailed by the fifteenth.”

He stood straighter and still had to look up to her. Then, as if he realized the height disadvantage hadn't improved, he quickly sat in his big leather chair.

Not that it changed anything. “I said get out, Ms. Kazanov. You don't work here anymore, which means you're trespassing in my office. Now go. I have work to do.”

She stood there a moment longer, staring at the stupid little man and wishing she could think of something particularly pithy to say, something that would make her feel better as she slowly turned and headed for the door, except all she could think of was how expensive the rent was and how little money she had in her bank account.

Kaz opened the door, but she took satisfaction in slamming it as she finally found her backbone and stalked out of the office.

*   *   *

Jake glanced at the door of the final agency on his list. Top End. Sort of off the beaten track, but the place looked better once he stepped through the door. An attractive receptionist was just answering the phone, but she faced away from the entrance, her attention apparently focused on the office door behind her.

He took a moment to check out the pictures of all the beautiful people along the wall. They were almost interchangeable from agency to agency. This wasn't looking too promising, but he stopped in front of the receptionist's desk and waited for her to finish her call.

She set the phone down, but continued staring at the door behind her. Finally, he said, “Excuse me?”

She spun in her chair and blushed, looking up, and up even more. His height had that effect on people sometimes, but at six-and-a-half-feet tall, he was hard to ignore.

BOOK: Intimate
7.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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