(Lesbian Romantic Thriller with Erotic elements. Formerly titled 50 Shades of Pink from 2015. **Revised and re-edited**)
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Working at Virago, one of the most successful women’s magazines in the nation is a dream come true for Lindsay Pinke. After five years of being overworked and underpaid in the research department, she’s finally noticed by Colette Duarte, the provocative executive editor of the magazine. She offers Lindsay the coveted role as her personal assistant, but first she must prove she’s worthy of the position. Lindsay must interview Victoria Nox, the elusive and extremely private CEO of Nox Media Holdings. If Lindsay succeeds, Colette promises her great things for her publishing career. If Lindsay fails, her chance as a respected writer will be cut short.
A chance meeting with Victoria at a high class function puts into motion a series of events that leaves Lindsay blindsided by her strong physical reaction to the magnetic woman. When she unwittingly falls into Victoria’s world of dark temptations and complex entanglements, she learns the shocking truth Victoria hides about Colette that rocks Lindsay to her very core.
Now that Lindsay has become a balm for Victoria’s soul, is she strong enough to help Victoria confront her shameful past, and stop one woman’s sick games once and for all?
The woman standing in the middle of the room was the only vibrant and colorful addition. Victoria wore a tight, cherry-red A-line dress and matching heels, accessorized with the same pearl necklace and bracelet on as Friday night. Her hair lay in waves over her shoulders. She didn’t appear a hard-nosed businesswoman, or the rude and almost condescending one I had met three days prior. But I still found her intimidating. Something sharp stirred deep within my belly, causing my pulse to speed up.
“Good morning, Miss Pinke.” She walked toward me.
“You may call me Lindsay.” I swallowed hard.
Her eyes dropped to my chest, and the corner of her mouth twitched. “An interesting way to spell your name. Some type of nickname?”
I covered my name tag instead of shaking her hand. “Security misspelled my first name.”
“But they spelled your last name right.” She dropped her arm at her side. “Do you always wear some type of pink to go along with your name?”
“Not usually.” I wore the pink blouse because I thought it looked nice with my suit, and not because I was trying to be clever.
I couldn’t say if she believed me or not. A shuttered expression covered her face. “I like the color red, as you can see from my dress.”
“But not in your office?” The room felt clinical and cold, although it was spacious with floor-to-ceiling windows on one side. Black-and-white photos of city landscapes hung on the opposite wall, which was an understated beige. Even the carpet was a bland color.
“I’m in the process of redecorating. New carpeting and furniture should arrive next week. Let’s sit near the windows. The light is perfect there.” She moved in that direction.
“You don’t want to sit at your desk?” I’d assumed she’d want to show her power by sitting behind the wide desk while I sat across from her in a smaller chair. The glass table near the windows would be personal and intimate.
“I sit behind my desk almost every day for more hours than I can count. My chair has a permanent indentation of my ass imbedded in the seat.”
A laugh erupted from my mouth. “Oh my god, I can’t believe you said that.”
With more refinement than I would ever have, she sat down on one of the chairs facing the room. “Why?”
“Because you’re being too nice to me,” I blurted, wincing. Ugh, me and my stupid mouth!
Her eyes widened and she sputtered…or maybe it was a snort. Whatever it was, she held back laughter.
“I’m nice most of the time. I’m leery of you because of who you work for.”
“You mean Colette?” I sat and extracted my notepad and recorder from my bag.
She crossed her legs. “Has she told you about her connection to my family?”
“She said she was once friends with your aunt and uncle, and she met you when you moved in with them after your parents’ death. She said she was like your big sister, but you lost touch after you moved to England.”
“Big sister?” Her knuckles whitened as she gripped the chair arms.
“You see it differently?” I cleared my throat, wishing I had changed the direction of the conversation away from Colette. I started to press the button on the recorder, but she set it aside.
“Before we begin, I’m going to establish some rules. Any questions about my former relationship with Colette are off limits. You can ask me anything about my company and my position as CEO, as well as some personal questions about my likes and dislikes and mundane things like that. But the years prior to me living in England are something I won’t talk about.”
“Is it because your parents’ death still hurts to talk about?” It was hard to ignore the shift in the air. The easygoing atmosphere had been replaced with a stifling tension.
She loosened her grip and folded her hands on her lap. She kept her gaze on my face. “The events surrounding my parents’ death, and the outcome of my life after are common knowledge. If you respect my wishes, I’ll give you new information that should interest your audience.”
“I appreciate that, in light of your…turbulent relationship with Co—”
“We don’t have a relationship to speak of. She knows why, and using you to find out what I think of her won’t help her cause.”
“Cause? What do you mean?” I tried not to squirm in my seat.
“You can’t think you’re the first sweet young thing she has thrown at me.” She leaned forward with a brittle smile. “Why do you think she sent you to me?”
I refused to back down or submit to this woman with the massive chip on her shoulder. She’d learn I wasn’t a pushover or some silly twit. “She believes in me and wants me to prove I’m worthy—”
She slapped her hands on the table and jumped up from her seat. I jerked back as she leaned in close enough for me to smell her coffee-scented breath. “She’s not testing you. She’s testing me, Miss Pinke.” She flicked the tip of my nose and then went to the windows and stared out of them.
I sat frozen, other than my chest rising with each inhale and exhale I took. My eyes stung with held-back tears. The worst possible thing would be to break down now.
She finally turned back around. The bravado she easily flashed had vanished. “She knows my weaknesses too well. You could end up being one of them.”
“M-me?” My voice came out as a squeak, and my throat tightened.
She rolled her head and walked back to the table. Instead of taking her seat, she stood behind me and dropped her hand on my shoulder. I tensed, watching our reflection in the window, paralyzed in my seat. My heart quickened, and my stomach reeled.
She tugged on my braid and twisted it around her hand. I bit down on my bottom lip, my breath escaping through my mouth in short pants. Heat spread up from legs and along my sides to my torso.
She bent down low, mouth brushing the edge of my ear. “It would be too easy to seduce you right now. But I’m not going to do that.”
Why not? I mouthed, barely swallowing back a moan.
“Unlike the others before you, I believe you’re an innocent. Plus.” She pressed her cheek to mine. “I don’t want to be your downfall and ruin your life. Think of it as my birthday gift to you.”
I spun around in my seat, flinching from her hold on my hair. “Le-let me go.”
She backed away with her hands raised.
Jumping out of my chair, I snagged my bag, flustered and confused. “How did you know it’s my birthday?
“I had you investigated over the weekend, so I knew who I’m dealing with.” She moved behind her desk.
I made my way to the door, trying not to hyperventilate. “You need help.”
She lifted a small remote, and the door behind me buzzed. “It’s best if you go now.”
I wrenched the door open. It banged against the wall. I didn’t run, but I bolted down the hall and toward the door that would lead me to freedom. Annette, typing on her cell, opened the door.
“I’ll take you back to the elevator.” Sympathy lined her voice.
I held a trembling hand to my pounding forehead. “You don’t want to know what happened between me and your boss in her office?”
“Miss Nox’s business is her own and not mine.” She studied my face. “I take it the interview didn’t go as you had planned?”
We reached the elevators, and, with a tap of her badge, the doors opened. I marched inside and shot her a look of disgust. “Your boss is a bitch.” I jabbed the button, and the doors shut on Annette’s disbelieving face.
The tears I’d kept in check fell down my cheeks. I scrubbed them away, angry at myself. I cursed both Colette and Victoria in my head over their sick game I’d been coerced into.