Authors: Stella London
Copyright © 2015 Stella London
Cover art/design by: Perfect Pear Creative
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any
means, electronic or mechanical, including emailing, photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and
retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or
dead, is entirely coincidental.
life were a musical, I’d
be singing a song about my happiness.
practically skip out of my apartment into a rare day of San Francisco
sunshine: nothing but beautiful Van Gogh-blue skies above and ahead.
Since this is the real world though, I’m
keeping myself from dancing in the street, instead expressing my joy
in a slightly more normal way.
are you this morning?” I
say brightly to a woman walking an adorable black Labrador. “What
a cute dog!”
eyes me cautiously and pulls her dog back. “Are
not so normal. “Just
in a good mood,”
that nice for you?” she
snaps and moves on.
really blame her. Just a few days ago, if I’d
seen me on the street, whistling as I walk with so much spring in my
step I might bounce right over the Golden Gate Bridge, I’d
have rolled my eyes, too. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder,
and today, nothing is going to tarnish my rose-colored glasses.
I wave at the
passing traffic, smiling when a yellow cab pulls to the curb.
the driver asks when I get in.
starting a new job.”
A job I’ve
been dreaming about for years. For my whole life, really.
sounding as bored as possible.
lean back in the cab seat, not even caring that it smells like feet,
and gaze outside at the tall, gorgeous buildings lining the streets.
A week ago, I had to force myself to see anything pretty in this same
city as I headed into work at Carringer’s
Auction House – to
mop floors and get yelled at by the snootiest boss of all time. But
thanks to what I like to believe is fate, a bit of luck, and a
faith in my abilities, I’m
on my way to an incredible opportunity as the new art consultant to
one of the richest—and
on the planet. Not too shabby for someone who could barely get an
interview last year.
your day going?”
I ask the cabbie.
dog peed on my shoes,” he
now my fare won’t
stop talking to me.”
promise not to pee on you at least,”
I say. He
finally cracks a smile, and I feel like I’ve
done a good deed for the day.
mom tried to teach me that what you send out into the world, the
beauty you create or the negativity you unleash, will all come back
to you. Karma, I guess, but to her it was always more like balance. A
reminder that there’s
someone on the end of every cruel word or bright smile. And today, I
feel like all my own smiles and hard work over the years are finally
coming back to me – the
cab driver even wishes me ‘good
as he drops me off in front of my new office: a steel and glass
skyscraper that looks like it might touch the clouds. I’m
beginning to understand what my Mom meant, and now I want my joy to
ripple out to others. Maybe some of it will even reach her, wherever
heels click on the sidewalk as I bustle through the other
professionals on their way to work. Just a few weeks ago, I was one
of them: rushing so fast, I bumped into a stranger and spilled coffee
all over his tie. But of course, he wasn’t
a stranger for long. The handsome businessman turned out to be
Charles St. Clair, the man who swept me off my feet and just hired me
as his personal art consultant.
elevator is sleek and shiny when I step into it, and I quickly check
myself out in the silver elevator door, feeling my first shiver of
nerves as I fix my bangs and smile to make sure there’s
no lipstick on my teeth. I haven’t
seen St. Clair since the night on my roof when he offered me the job,
the heat between us sizzling on my skin. I don’t
know what will happen or even what I want to happen, but I do know I
want to look my best.
elevator doors ding open, and before I can step out onto the polished
wooden floors, a petite, curvy woman with cute glasses greets me.
morning, Miss Bennett!” She
gestures for me to follow her. “I’m
Maisie, Mr. St. Clair’s
secretary, and I’m
here to help with whatever you need. Welcome.”
to meet you, and it’s
follow her into the lobby, and though I was expecting luxury, holy
cow is this gorgeous. Two leather couches face each other across a
wide glass coffee table topped by a silver vase full of elegant white
flowers. A shiny wood bar off to the side holds bottles of water and
sodas, glasses, and a bucket of ice. Floor to ceiling windows frame
the city below, the white Ferry Building with its peaked clock tower
and the sparkling blue waters of the bay beyond.
I stand fixed
for a moment, just absorbing the subtle elegance of this place and
the dramatic view.
clears her throat. “Coffee?”
hands me a china cup. “One
sugar, two creams, right?”
how did you…?”
I inhale the
rich scent of French roast. My favorite.
St. Clair passed along instructions,”
smiles. I smile back—damn,
good. She goes on, “He
also said to tell you he’s
on a call but he will see you shortly.”
again and we’re
off down a hallway, the walls lined with exquisite paintings and
sketches, various styles and genres, all fantastic. “I’m
to show you to your office.”
have my own office?” My
heart does a little skip and I refrain from actually skipping down
the hall. This day just keeps getting better. At Carringer’s
I spent eight hours in windowless rooms, and waitressing at
restaurant, the closest I get to an office is an overturned empty
wine crate out back to sit on during my breaks.
says, glancing back at me with a smile. “St.
Clair has been looking for an art consultant for some time. We’re
very excited to have you. Here we are.”
opens a door into a corner office suite bigger than my studio
apartment. The same million-dollar view from the lobby shines outside
my window, the palm trees, the little white capped wave trails from
boats skimming the waters surrounding Alcatraz in the distance. Even
the gray Carquinez Bridge looks silver bathed in the golden morning
I whisper, my
jaw nearly dropping. “Are
you sure this is my office? There hasn’t
been some mistake?”
looks amused. “Mr.
St. Clair said you were funny. Let’s
get started, shall we?” Maisie
walks over to the mahogany desk in the corner of the room and wakes
up the computer. My computer.
Clair said to get you anything you need. If you want the name of art
dealer he met at a party in Paris three years ago, or a turkey on rye
no mayo, just ask and I’ll
figure out how to get it. I love my job and my job is making things
run smoothly, so whatever it is, I can handle it. Got it?”
good. I nod, a little dazed, still absorbing the room, the fact that
I work here. “Now,
I want to show you how—”
eyes halt in their scan of the soft cream walls. “I’m
sorry, is that an original Frida Kahlo sketch?”
stops and smiles instead of looking irritated. “It
Clair said you had a good eye.”
to interrupt. I just can’t
believe I have a famous artist’s
work in my office,”
I say sheepishly. “It’s
so incredible to be this close to talent like that.”
laughs and I immediately feel like I’ve
screwed up, made myself look too eager and inexperienced, and I can’t
shake the lingering feeling that I don’t
really belong here.
I say something wrong?”
I ask, my cheeks warming.
and St Clair. are just going to get along so well!”
the mouse and clicks. “Now,
all our files are accessible through the network so if there’s
looking for you can start here…”
my eyes have found a new home: the Dali painting from his house in
Napa, a surrealist depiction of an elephant crossing a desert. I
loved it. And now it’s
think back to where it hung in his kitchen, the kitchen where St.
Clair started kissing the back of my neck as he unzipped my dress and
stop kissing me until he’d
spread me out on his table and…
croak, my throat dry. I can feel a flush rushing up my cheeks like a
giant banner for inappropriate thoughts. “Is
it warm in here?” I
shake the sensations of St. Clair’s
soft hands and expert tongue out of my mind and try to focus on what
Maisie was saying about international databases. “So…files.”
is why you have me. Basically, whatever will help you work—travel
arrangements, lunch reservations, contact information, you name it
on it.” She
very good at my job.” Maisie
picks up a small gold box from the desk and hands it to me. “These
are your business cards.”
open the box and find thick glossy white cardstock with embossed
black and gold lettering.
Bennett, Consultant – St.
on paper; it must be official.
bustles away, letting me know she’ll
be just down the hall before leaving me alone to absorb my new office
my new life.
set my coffee on the desk—on
a fancy agate coaster—and
sink into my chair, the plush leather supporting me like a pillow.
quiet. I rotate slowly so I can see the art again, the view. I can
feel the warmth of the sun through the glass and decide to just sit
here for a second, marveling at how fast life can change, how risk
really can lead to reward.
St. Clair stands in my doorway and I jump out of my moment of
reflection, and almost out of my skin. “Sorry,”
he says, his
beautifully sculpted features furrowing into concern.
mean to scare you.”
stand up, nervous, unsure what to say. In a carefully-fitted suit,
just as gorgeous as ever: dark hair over handsome features, and that
sexy English accent that makes my stomach turn in knots. “Thank
you so much for—” I
both stop and laugh, easing some of the tension I felt. “You
was going to ask how you were settling in.”
Really great. Thank you again for this opportunity,”
I say, trying
not to sound too ass-kissing. “I
promise I won’t
let you down.”
know you won’t,”
he says, his
eyebrow raised suggestively. “I
have a good eye for talent. It’s
going to be fun having you around.”
pause, struck by sudden doubt. We only spent one night together—an
amazing night, yes—but
is that why he hired me? To be waiting in his office in my negligée
increased the value of his art collection?
uh, what talents of mine do you hope to be using?”
hesitantly, trying to sound casual but hating how unsure of myself I
like he reads my mind, though, because he’s
immediately reassuring. “Grace,
not like that. I promise, you’re
the person I want for this job because you’re
going to be great at it.”
rush of relief runs through my body. “Thank
my friends and family can believe in me, why not St. Clair?
my mom would say.
the rest will follow.