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Authors: Myrna Mackenzie

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BOOK: Saving Cinderella!
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“When the afternoon comes, my friends are leaving…”

“Friends. Of course.”

He wasn’t a man who cultivated friendships. Another failure to imprint, he supposed. Or…no. It was a choice. Letting people get close enabled them to see too much and gave them too much power. It left a person vulnerable, and he would never do anything that left him vulnerable again. Still, he understood the value of promoting the goodwill of employees.

“You’ll want to see them off.”

“They’re my closest friends.”

“Friends who are on vacation with you.”

“Yes, but I made a deal with
you
.”

“And I’ll expect you to be on duty every day, beginning tomorrow. I demand punctuality and good attendance from my employees, but frankly you saved my rear, so I’m not inclined to make you cut your vacation short. We’ll manage to scrape by one more day by having people do double duty and juggling a bit. Fortunately I have no meetings scheduled, and I’m capable of directing people around my own facility when necessary.”

She frowned again. “Already I don’t like the way this is starting. Your other employees will resent being asked to cover for me.”

“My other employees know who signs their paychecks. They also know I’ll compensate them for their trouble and that I’ll return the favor when they need an emergency day off.”

“I don’t like to shirk my duties.”

Wyatt gave her his most intimidating look—the one that had been known to make those on his payroll shake in their shoes. “We’re not going to argue about this.”

Alex looked completely unperturbed. “No, of course not. I’m totally aware that you’re in charge, but still…”

Again he had that urge to smile, and Wyatt had never been a man given to smiles. Without missing a beat, he stepped over to a cabinet, opened a drawer, pulled out a handful of brochures and held them out to Alex.

“What’s this?”

“Homework. If you’re going to play hooky, I’ll at least expect you to start educating yourself about the local attractions and the hotel.”

The woman’s smile could have lit the ballroom at
McKendrick’s. The impact of it nearly sent Wyatt reeling. “I’ll do that. Is there anything else?”

Yes. Stop smiling
, he wanted to say.
Stop making me think of you as a woman I want to touch, and just be what you have to be, a very temporary employee.
“Yes, there is one thing.”

She waited.

“Enjoy your day off.”

“I will. And…thank you.”

“For what?”

Her lips curved up more. “You’re making it possible for me to fulfill my dreams.”

Wyatt wanted to groan. He wished she hadn’t said that. Dreamers were delicate creatures who could be easily hurt by men like him. He’d been a dreamer once, a long time ago. These days he gave the naive and the innocently optimistic a wide berth.

“Meet me here first thing tomorrow. I’ll get you started.”

Because the sooner he got her established, the sooner he could start thinking of her as just another employee.

He hoped.

CHAPTER FOUR

A
LEX
watched her friends pack their bags. Despite their plans to party up until the last minute, the day had been oddly subdued. The night before they’d each gone their separate ways, and this morning Serena had been distracted and flushed at breakfast.

“Yes, I had an…interesting evening,” she’d said, but neglected to give any details.

“Very nice,” was all Molly had said about her time the night before, but Alex had noticed that she’d glanced away.

And now that the time had come for them to part company, no one looked very cheerful. Jayne was even more beautiful with her new hairstyle, but the pain in her eyes was more intense than before the weekend had started. Still, she gave her friends a determined smile.

“This vacation was just what I needed,” she said. “I’m glad you suggested it, Serena.”

“It was an impulse,” Serena said. “Maybe not my best.” They all looked at Alex.

“I’m fine,” she said. “When will I ever get an opportunity like this again? Besides, I’ll be back in San Diego soon, living my dream, and we’ll have a party to celebrate.”

“A huge party,” Molly agreed.

“The biggest and best,” Serena added.

Then there was nothing left to say. The three of them had to leave or they’d miss their plane.

“Promise you’ll stay in touch?” Molly gave Alex a hug.

“By phone, e-mail, text and every way possible,” Alex agreed.

“And don’t let that gorgeous hunk of a boss of yours work you too hard,” Serena added.

All of them laughed at that. Alex thrived on hard work.

“I’ll get plenty of downtime.”

“And above all, don’t…” Jayne hesitated. “He’s too attractive to be safe, Alex.”

“I won’t fall in love with him, Jayne,” Alex said solemnly. “Today several of the other employees have sidled up to me to tell me that every woman falls in love with him, but there’s something mysterious about his past and he never gets involved with employees or falls in love, so I’ve been warned. Not that I needed to be. I’ve been burned too many times to ever fall for a man who comes with a ‘guaranteed to break a girl’s heart’ tag sewn into his shirts.” Love had only ever brought her pain, and now she was allergic. She was through with it.

Jayne managed a smile. She hugged Alex. “I would hate him so much if he hurt you.”

“That won’t happen. I’m not interested, and he’s definitely not interested.” Alex’s words were as much a warning for herself as reassurance for her friends.

“Okay, but if you need us…for anything…” Serena began.

“We’re only a few hours away,” Molly added.

Then they all piled into a cab and were gone.

Alex was on her own. But tomorrow, and for a lot of tomorrows, she would be working for Wyatt McKendrick.

At last she let the full reality of that thought sink in, and
admitted that she wasn’t nearly as unaffected as she had told her friends. A sleepless night followed, only emphasizing the pitfalls of this situation. But when morning came there was no putting off the moment…or the man.

She had just signed on to work with the man dubbed the most elusive bachelor in Las Vegas. And unfortunately she
did
find him attractive, and she
was
nervous.

But she had never been one to stand meekly by awaiting her fate. She tended to plow forcefully ahead…just the way her unlucky-in-love mother had done.

And that, of course, was the problem. But it was one she intended to rectify.

“So, let’s get this thing done, Wyatt McKendrick,” she muttered. Because the sooner he gave her some direction, the sooner she could go about her business, away from any danger of getting too close to the man.

 

“I’m ready,” Alex said, as she met Wyatt coming out of his office. “Where do I begin?”

He raised a brow. “I’m glad you’re so enthusiastic. You argued vociferously against taking this job.”

“But now I have, and I intend to jump in with both feet.”

Which brought his gaze to her feet and her open-toed low-heeled sandals…which made Alex aware of her feet in a way she never had been before. She felt a bit exposed. But she couldn’t let him see that, so she thrust her chin up and waited.

“Okay,” he agreed. “But technically you’re not due at your desk for another hour, so I’ve made arrangements to introduce you to some of the people I prefer to refer customers to.”

“Such as…”

“Travel agents, tour guides, other business contacts.”

She pulled a small blue notepad out of her purse. “All right, I’m ready.”

A trace of a smile lifted his lips. He reached out and plucked the notepad from her grasp. “There’s a fact sheet with everyone’s contact information on it at your desk. The purpose of this outing is for me to introduce you and for you to inhale the details of the businesses you’ll be referring customers to. I want you to note what makes these businesses the best that can be had even if the customer never enters their premises. I’ve worked with some of them for the entire time I’ve been here.”

“You’re not native to Las Vegas?”

“No. A transplant from a small town in Illinois. I came here five years ago, not knowing a soul, but Las Vegas fits me.”

She tilted her head and studied him. “Wow, you stayed even though you had no friends or family here? That’s intriguing. So many people fly into Las Vegas for a weekend or a week.”

“And most of them leave,” he said, finishing her thoughts. “But they come to have fun. I came because a person can start from square one here and make things happen quickly.”

Alex looked up at the high atrium ceiling of the lobby. The room was green and gold, with light streaming in and turning everything molten. With its creamy marble floors and subtle gold offsets, the whole atmosphere was one of richness. But Alex knew from her weekend here that the magic began beyond this lobby. The hotel was divided into two wings. One was focused on pampering oneself with meditation and relaxation and places for private meetings or total solitude, the other was set up for treating oneself to life’s beaches and parties. Both, however, echoed the richness of this room.

“Did you design this place yourself?” she asked.

“Most of it.”

“You did an outstanding job. My friends and I came here because Jayne was jilted. We needed some escapism. McKendrick’s is the perfect escape.”

“Thank you. It’s a work in progress.”

“You’re changing things?” She’d spent too much of her life watching things change and slip away. Or maybe
things
was the wrong word. She’d watched
people
change and she’d paid the price.

“You don’t approve?”

“The hotel is perfect as it is.”

“Perfection—or imperfection—is a matter of opinion, isn’t it?”

Alex studied him. His tone had been light, but for a second she’d seen a hint of something
not
light in his eyes.

“Has someone been criticizing McKendrick’s?” she asked.

He looked amused. “You sound defensive.”

“Hey, I work at McKendrick’s,” she teased. “I’ve been here for—” she glanced at her watch “—five whole minutes, and I’ll have you know that I’m intensely loyal.”

Also prone to immersing herself in situations, she reminded herself. Was she really already lecturing her boss? Getting too involved? That would definitely have to stop.

“I’m glad to know that. But change can be good,” he said. “If McKendrick’s is to stay at the top of the game I have to keep making it better.”

She nodded. “Belinda said something about it being awards season?”

“Yes,” he answered, his green eyes intense. “McKendrick’s has been nominated for one of the more prestigious ones, but the competition is fierce and there’s no guarantee of success. I rely on my employees who deal with the customers to note ways we can improve, so don’t be shy.”

Alex chuckled.

“What?” Wyatt asked.

“No one would ever say that I’m shy about offering my opinions. Too often I can’t keep my mouth shut.”

His gaze lowered to Alex’s mouth, and she suddenly felt short of breath. He slowly shook his head. “I wouldn’t worry about your mouth…as long as you’re being helpful. I’m a demanding employer, but I don’t pass judgment unless a crime has been committed. You can speak freely to me.”

That was heady and possibly dangerous territory. She had a reputation for being overzealous about fixing things. She tried too hard. And often, if people weren’t overwhelmed by her, they took advantage. She gave too much. They took too much. But those had been nonwork situations, and Wyatt
was
her boss. Somehow that was both freeing and frightening. He was out of her league and she was in over her head.

But she didn’t have much time to think about that. Within minutes Wyatt had handed her into his sleek black sports car, and her education had begun.

The businesses Wyatt took her to were all opulent, the owners gracious. They took the time to explain what she could call on them for and to assure her that she could expect their help if she was uncertain of what a customer needed, but what struck her even more was the respectful but formal relationship each of them seemed to have with Wyatt. There was no friendly banter of the type she enjoyed with
her
business associates. They clearly admired Wyatt, but he maintained a distance.

“Thank you, Harold. Alex and I will be in touch,” he told the owner of Barrington Tours.

The man nodded. “I’m very pleased to meet you, Alex,” he said, his tone warm. “Call on me if you have any questions.”

“You might regret that,” she teased. “I tend to ask a lot of questions.”

The man grinned. “Try me. I’ll look forward to it. Really.”

When she’d thanked him and turned to leave, she noticed Wyatt standing with his arms crossed, watching the exchange, a slightly disapproving look in his eyes. She was tempted to look down at herself to see if her bra strap was showing. Instead, she smiled. Others might be intimidated by Wyatt’s height and stern looks, and her pulse might gallop at the sheer virility of the man, but none of that would ultimately matter. She was temporary. There couldn’t be any danger here. She wouldn’t allow it.

“Next?” she said with a bright smile.

“Last stop,” Wyatt said as he drove her to the third shop. “Then I’ll return you to your desk and let you get acclimated.”

Alex nodded. She was expecting this stop to be like the last two, both of which had evidenced cool distance between Wyatt and the owners. Men respecting men, each carving out his own stoic space.

But when they entered an upscale clothing store, several female employees stopped to stare at Wyatt with naked longing in their eyes.

“Hello, Beverly, this is Alex, my new concierge,” he said to a beautiful woman of indeterminate years. “She may be calling on you now and then. Beverly can provide a suit, dress shirt and tie in record time,” he told Alex.

“Yes. I prefer
un
dressing men, but I’m an expert at dressing them,” Beverly told Alex with a smile.

Alex liked the woman immediately. “Does it happen often?”

“Dressing or undressing?”

“Both,” Alex said, refusing to blush. If she was going to work with this woman she needed to know how to hold her own.

Beverly laughed. “I like her,” she told Wyatt, ignoring the fact that he was still maintaining his distance. “And, for the record, we almost never get to undress them—especially not the good-looking ones, like Wyatt. But you’d be amazed at how many men show up with too few shirts and then spill mustard on the one they need. And of course they go running to the closest concierge. You and I, we’re going to be a team.”

“I’ll put you on my speed dial,” Alex said. “I’ll memorize your number.”

“Oh, you’re good. We’re going to have fun. Wyatt, you be good to her and don’t scare her away with those forbidding stares of yours. Don’t make her fall in love with you, either. It’s the surest way to lose a good employee.”

Alex blanched. “That won’t be a problem. I’ve sworn off men.”

Beverly snorted. “Honey, we
all
swear off men now and then. But when someone like Wyatt comes along, we forget what we promised not to do.”

Alex wanted to glance at Wyatt, to see his expression. He had been silent during this whole exchange. He hadn’t admonished Beverly, but he hadn’t responded, either. She remembered the warning about employees falling in love with him. “I won’t forget,” she told Beverly.

“Beverly, stop badgering Alex,” Wyatt finally said. “That’s not why I brought her here, and she’s not interested.”

Beverly wrinkled her nose. “That’s what I say about chocolate. Every single morning. And don’t you try to intimidate me with those frowns, Wyatt. It might work with everyone else, but not with me.”

Almost despite himself, it seemed, Wyatt smiled. He said goodbye, Alex bade Beverly farewell, and they both wandered out into the sunlight. “I’m sorry about that,” he said.

“Don’t be. I like people who speak their minds. And I definitely like having all the cards on the table.”

He nodded. “As in admitting that you’ve sworn off men?”

“I mean it. You don’t have to worry.”

“I wasn’t, and it was worth knowing. I don’t intrude on my employees’ private lives, but I do try to protect them when I can. It’s safe to assume that being one of the public faces of McKendrick’s and an attractive woman, there’ll be men who’ll try to hit on you. I assume you ran into some jerks in the past. If you should ever feel pressured by a customer and need assistance, Randy or I will deal with them.”

Alex shook her head. “I’m able to take care of myself, and I wouldn’t say that my attitude about men has anything to do with the ones I knew being jerks. I just ran into some hard truths about myself. I’m a woman who leaps when other people walk, and I also like to stay in one place when the men that I’ve known are changing and rushing off to something new. I want a home, stability, a fulfilling career and maybe children.”

“But you agreed to work here when you wanted to stay in San Diego?”

“Only because you bribed me.”

He held out his hands in surrender. “I did, didn’t I?”

“Blatantly.”

BOOK: Saving Cinderella!
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