Katherine and Jared are…blistering and I adored them.
For centuries, Katharine has been making her own rules, flying above base human complications with an icy outlook, feeding and living on the poor fools caught in the flames of passion. Beautiful and chill, she runs her love life like she runs her master’s business – with the steel grip that only someone with an eternity’s experience can wield.
Years ago, Jared Aquino had been one of Katharine’s pets, a toy for the vampire to feed from, to play with. He left with his skin intact and now he’s back with a secret and a plan to get what he always wanted from Katharine. The question is, will Jared’s fire blaze hot enough to melt Katharine’s will and expose her vulnerable heart?
She loved the sound of her boot heels on the tile, the sharp, quick click-clack a warning, a promise, a threat. Katharine had a closet full-ankle boots for jeans, calf boots in supple leather for the office, for under her business skirts. Thigh high, six-inch stilettos for play, the vinyl ready to be nuzzled, licked, worshipped.
Her blonde hair was pulled up into a tight bun, makeup carefully applied, protective glasses on as she walked into the board meeting for Intensity Incorporated's quarterly stockholders update. The men stood as she entered; the two women glared. It was Hell to be the competition. If they only knew.
"Hello Frank, Eddie, Rick. Are we ready to begin?"
From milk maid for a toothless witch on the Viking coast to whore—to secretary—to Queen Bee with a hefty amount of power and voting percentage and a corner office—Katharine was proof positive that a woman with a little sense, a lot of talent, and an enormous amount of time to spare could make it in the world.
And make the men she stepped over to get there kiss her boots and thank her.
"Actually, Katharine, we're waiting for someone." Frank gave her an apologetic smile from behind his horn rimmed glasses, pushing his graying hair back into its tidy comb-over. "Would you like Anne to get you some coffee?"
"Cream, no sugar." Coffee. At least it was exceptional coffee. What she really wanted was a pretty man, stretched and nude at her feet, neck stretched and arched and offered over to her hunger. She sat down, laptop on the table. Eddie stood and hooked her into the secured network with a quiet smile which she answered with a nod. "Who are we waiting for?"
It wasn't as if these were open meetings.
Frank cleared his throat and looked at Eddie, who in turn looked at Rick. Finally it was Aleene who spoke up, looking pleased as punch.
"Our new shareholder, Katharine. The one who bought Artie out when he retired. The transaction was finalized last week. Didn't Frank tell you?"
It would take more than a new shareholder to rattle her—after all, no one knew that the owner of this company was her own sire and that she was simply playing, occupying her time—and she arched one eyebrow up, deflating Frank with a look. "It must have slipped his mind. I hear that happens in later middle age."
"Well, it's a good thing you're getting some new blood in here then, isn't it?" The voice was smooth, urbane, and the man who used it matched perfectly. Expensive suit, good shoes, a two-hundred dollar haircut...and a face she'd hoped she would never have to see again in his lifetime.
Jared Aquino placed his briefcase on the table and sat opposite her, smiling all around. "Thanks for waiting. I apologize for the delay. Shall we begin?"
It took all of her hard-earned control to not gape, not stare. The little bastard looked like he'd done well for himself. Katharine wondered exactly how many women he'd left, and owed money, in the last ten years to be able to afford that suit.
Frank nodded, starting a PowerPoint slide show on the corporation's third-quarter profits, the projected returns for fourth quarter. She cued up her new line—a series of custom pheromone perfumes, very exclusive, very expensive.
It was going to make them a fortune.
It was going to make her a fortune.
Rick and Aleene were always her naysayers, and today was no exception. Rick started with, "That seems awfully chancy, Katharine."
Aleene followed with, "Have you researched this fully?"
"No, Aleene. I was wandering aimlessly down the boulevard last night and thought, 'my, wouldn't it be charming to risk millions of dollars on a whim'." Stupid twat. It took a concentrated effort not to bare her teeth and growl. "If you had read through the information disseminated Monday, you would have discovered all of the R&D reports.
"The project is a sure thing. And, as we don't produce the product until the individual pays for it, all the capital we're investing is a very specific advertising campaign, packaging, that avenue."
She'd been working with Carol and Olaf in the chemistry lab for months. The concept was stunning. And, given the reaction of her latest pets, completely effective.
"I think it's a sound idea. People are very into that sort of product right now, and I can only say that if Katharine thinks it's effective, it will be for sure. She has a nose for these things." She got a long, slow look as Jared spoke up for her. There was something dangerous in those dark eyes that hadn't been there all those years ago.
"I appreciate the vote of confidence." She tapped a few notes into her laptop, long nails clicking. As soon as this meeting was over, she was calling Silvestri. Jared was the only one of her pets to voluntarily leave her, the only one that might have been a lover in time. Hopefully he wasn’t looking for trouble. It got harder and harder as time passed to hide desiccated bodies. "Tell me, what is your area of expertise in the industry?"
"Well, I started in research and development, but I found I was much better at the marketing aspect of it. In the last five years I've done very successful turn around campaigns for places like Chanel and Dior, and I've been a consultant for a dozen more. My references are available, if you'd like to look them over some time."
The way he lounged back in his chair like a big cat made her grit her teeth.
"I'm sure that won't be necessary." There were people to be hired for that. "Are there any other concerns, barring the expected ones, of course?"
She didn't bother staring Aleene down, but Rick dropped his eyes and shook his head. No one else spoke up, Frank and Eddie staring at her expectantly, Jared leaning back like he was meant to be cradled in the leather of the chair and smiling. Just smiling.
When did he start wearing glasses?
"Excellent. Shall I have the marketing team start on a design?" She got the needed nods and sent the email that was waiting on her laptop, already drafted, to the head of the design department.
Jared pulled out a PDA and noted something down, then looked back up at her. "You do know the marketing budget is rather thin these days? I think that will change fairly rapidly now, but if you could get me the figures you expect to allocate to this..."
"Thin, but not anorexic. After all, we're trying to cure the company of an unfortunate case of monetary bulimia." She chuckled low, watched a few men squirm at the tone. Silvestri had been quite…vexed.
"As you say. I will still need those figures." There was no squirming from Jared, simply a steady look and core of steel in his voice she found intriguing. He had shown signs of it, all those years ago, but honestly she had never thought he'd refine it. He'd been such a good pet, so eager to learn what she’d needed, what her kind required from their human companions.
Too bad he'd turned out to be such a little prick.
"The bare bones figures are available in the business plan. Do you have access to the shareholders information or are the lads in IRT still hooking you up?"
"I should have access by this afternoon." He made more notes, then sat back, awaiting the next order of business.
Oh, another very good thing to know. She made a quick note to assure her files were protected and archived. The last thing she needed was for Jared to have one iota of information he didn't need.
He had more than enough as it was.
Frank cleared his throat. "In the old business category, we have the Islington account. They really weren't happy with the product, Katharine. You know Lauren handled that, and she really didn't put much effort into the mix."
Which was why Lauren was…no longer an issue. Custom blends for outside customers had been a large part of their business until a few bad accounts managers had stemmed the flow of accounts.
Katharine nodded, nose wrinkling at the sound of Lauren's name. The girl had had potential and had turned out to be much more interested in bilking the company of a few million dollars. Of course, she’d also been a luscious little feast. "I have a long lunch scheduled with the CEO's oldest son. He's an old, dear friend of mine. Almost family. I'm sure I can work any kinks out of the deal."
Roberto had the most deliciously sensitive collarbones, the most lovely auburn curls.
A soft chuckle sounded, jarring her from her thoughts. Jared nodded, smiling at her as if he knew what he’d caught her doing. Ridiculous. "I have no doubt in my mind that Katharine can work the kinks out of anyone. Her family contacts are widespread."
A lesser woman would have blushed.
Fortunately for her, there wasn't a damned thing lesser about her.
"Thank you, Jared. Frank, don't lose any sleep over the Islington account. It's in my hands now."
Frank gave her a relieved smile. "Oh, excellent. I will depend on you, then."
She smiled back, the expression sincere, forgiving him for his earlier slip. Frank was a dear man, family hand-chosen three hundred years ago to be protected and succored by her sire, and a brilliant researcher, but completely out of his league in the boardroom. Still, he trusted her and followed her lead without question. Good boy.
"Was there anything else, Katharine, now that you have seen fit to take over?" Aleene looked at her, lip curling, so snide and so obvious that Katharine almost felt sorry for her. Almost.
Pointless little twat. Honestly. They should feed the child to someone. Katharine turned her smile back to Aleene, staring the bitch down, forcing her back. "Do you have something you'd like to discuss?"
"Well, I think that perhaps you ought to know that Jared is temporary head of marketing, so perhaps you ought to share information a little more fully with him. Alan won't be getting your e-mail."
Oh, that bitch loved to be the bearer of bad news.
"And I think that perhaps you should spend less time with your head under Rick's desk gathering information and more time on your accounts, dear. Especially as Moira Valen called me and transferred her business and the business of her fiancé—Georgio Ballezza—into my hands."
Aleene went red and opened her mouth to strike back, only to jump when Jared's briefcase closed with a sharp click. "Was there anything else?" He asked, hands flat on the table, leaning toward Aleene in a manner designed to intimidate.
Oh, he had learned a few things. Of course, she had enjoyed a different look from him altogether. The image of his ass, red and hot, draped over her lap as he begged for her attention passed through her mind.
Oh, yes. A much different look.
Eyes wide, Aleene backed right down, practically turning around and offering her tail to him. Katharine quite ignored her own sharp spike of anger. "No. No, of course not. Not unless you have something, Frank?"
Frank's eyes met hers, the laughter almost hidden. "No, I think we should all get back to work."
"Absolutely." Katharine shut her laptop, stood, allowing Frank to pull out her chair. "Everyone have a perfectly lovely day."
Following her out, Jared moved close, walking next to her. "If you have a moment later on today I would like to meet with you, Katharine. I think we have a few things to discuss."
"Do we?" She turned a calm smile on him, perfectly in control. "Have Vivian set something up with your assistant and I'm at your disposal, of course."
Of course. Something within her wanted to snarl, to snap at him and have him on his knees. Part of her was proud—she'd molded an, apparently, strong businessman.
A strong businessman who owed her a good deal of money and who knew altogether too many secrets for her comfort.
"I was hoping for something a little more private. Dinner perhaps. I have a proposal for you, one that I would rather the whole office did not hear."
Oh, there was that look again, the one he certainly had not learned at her hand, dark and somehow dangerous. Or perhaps he had learned it from her. By example.
"Sashimi's then?" She pulled out her calendar, checked. She had cocktails scheduled at five with a client and a manicure at seven-thirty. "Nine o'clock?" She could be fashionably late and avoid the direct sun.
A smile crinkled up the new and intriguing wrinkles around Jared's eyes. "Nine it is. I will wait for you in the lounge."
"Excellent." She nodded, headed off without another word. She'd hear his apology, have a nice meal on his dime and head home.
It was always so nice when a pet—even a backhanded one like Jared—made a success out of themselves.