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Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Hard Time by Ashley Ladd

Evie Cartland couldn’t stop her smile any more than she could stop a meteor. She sat on her hands to keep from flailing them. “Thank you. I won’t let you down.” She’d be the best director in company history. She’d work her ass off.

Mr. Farrell, the V.P., cracked a small smile and rose. “I know you won’t. Your work has been excellent. That’s why we promoted you.”

When he held out his hand, she stood and shook it. Tingles raced down her spine. To date she was only the second female director in the company. The only other was related to the CEO. Giddy, she squirmed. She’d done it! Broke through the glass ceiling.

“Let’s make the happy announcement to your department.” He held the door and waited for her to proceed.

A stitch attacked her side and she hung back. Her breath caught in her throat. “Does this mean the others up for this position already know?” Her nemesis, Will, specifically.

Will Hughes was her biggest rival and she feared her largest headache. Since his first day on the job, he’d dressed in expensive suits and lunched with upper management. Everyone knew he was destined for greatness.

Beside him she felt puny and invisible. But his presence had pushed her to work hard and many extra hours. She knew the job better than anyone else. So what if she didn’t have a degree from a fancy schmancy school?

She deserved this promotion!

So why was she about to jump out of her skin?

As they called together her department, she pasted a smile on her face and held her head high.

She barely heard Mr. Farrell say, “I’m happy to announce that your new director is Evie Cartland.” She was too busy sneaking furtive glances at Will, wondering how he took the news.

Several hands shook hers. Several co-workers gave her hugs. Still, she was focused on Will.

Hadn’t it been that way since he’d joined the company? If she was honest with herself she’d admit she spent way too much time thinking about him. Watching him. Goading him.

That evening after everybody had gone home, she arranged her new office. She was in awe of having walls. Blessed privacy!

“You looked nervous when Farrell announced your good news.” Will lounged against her door and loosened his tie.

She jumped and clutched her throat, then whirled about. Her heart threatened to gallop away.

Despite the long day he still looked crisp and delicious. She gulped. “Why are you still hanging around?”

“Hoping to catch you alone.” His dark eyes remained inscrutable. He didn’t move a muscle. He just watched her like a predator preparing to snag his prey.

Oh no! Her pulse skittered in her wrists. He was going to let her have it. She’d counted on a bit more time before he became a problem.

She kept her expression neutral and motioned to her guest chair. “What did you want to see me about?”

He moved deeper into her office but remained standing. “I wanted to give you a hug but not in front of the others.”

“Oh!” Her mouth opened in a big “O” and her eyes widened until her cheeks ached.

“If that’s okay with you.”

Guilt overcame her for taking the job he’d also wanted. “I’m sorry you weren’t chosen. You’d be a wonderful director, too.”

“Is it okay?”

When his shadow fell over her she looked up. It would be more than okay—unless he felt her quaking and realized how crazy head over heels she was for him.

Before she could reply, he wrapped her in his arms and pulled her close. His warm breath coasted down her neck.

She stayed in his arms, waiting for him to move away. But he didn’t.

She looked up at him and was caught by his gaze. She couldn’t look away, couldn’t breathe.

His lips closed in on hers. When he was barely a breath away he asked, “Would it be okay if I kiss you? You won’t fire me?”

Was it okay?

Her blood sang in her veins. Her toes curled. Butterflies pirouetted in her tummy.

Hell yeah! It was a lot more than okay. It was a dream come true.

Her throat was too constricted to speak so she replied by tiptoeing and pressing her lips to his. When his hands splayed across her back and he pulled her impossibly close, she parted her lips.

To her immense relief he kissed her back. Greedily. As if he’d been starved for her. As if he was in love with her, too.


Revelation punched her in the gut and she groaned. This was impossible!

He stared at her as if she’d gone mad.

Her palms grew clammy and she pulled out of his embrace. “I’m sorry about that. Please forget it happened.”

He cornered her at her desk. “What if I don’t want to forget? What if I want to kiss you again? And again?”

Her breath hissed out and she wanted to pinch herself to make sure she was awake. In an awe-struck voice she asked, “You do?”

He slid his finger under her chin and forced her gaze to meet his. “Yes. I’ve wanted to for a long time.”

Relief flooded her and she had to laugh. “And you pick now to tell me? I was afraid you’d hate me. Maybe not enough to stick needles in a voodoo doll. But you’d give me a hard time.”

He cracked a lopsided grin. “Laverne’s more the voodoo doll type. Watch out for her.”

He pinned her to the desk and when she felt how hard he was, she gasped. She took it all back. She yearned for him to give her a “hard” time. The sooner, the better.

He nuzzled her neck and ran his hands down her arms. “Are you hungry, like me?"

She melted against him and gave him a wicked smile. “Starved…”

About the Author: Ashley Ladd has more than 40 published romances. Her most recently released story is "Sorry Charlie" in the "Friction" anthology, published by Total-E-Bound at She's originally from Cincinnati but now lives in sunny South Florida. Her next release, an erotic romance, will be on October 5, 2009 at and is entitled "Recipe for Disaster".

She loves to read and write about comedy romance, time-travel, and as a big Trekkie, Air Force vet, and cat lover, you'll often find military heroes and heroines, space, and talking cats in her novels. She invites you to visit her at her blog at and also on Twitter and Facebook as "Ashleyladd" (all one word, no quotes).

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