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My Naughty Boss by Charlotte Grace (1)

Chapter 1

Sophia

Public Relations Consultant needed immediately. Expertise required to finesse an executive who can’t stand the press. To put it bluntly, this job requires the patience of a saint. Do not apply if you can’t stand up to a CEO who needs you, but really doesn’t want to need you. Please apply with these considerations in mind. Excellent pay and benefits. Inquire at [email protected] for additional details.

I almost spewed coffee all over the table when I read this job posting. Dear God. I’d never seen an ad like this. I set my coffee down and swallowed my laughter. I was sitting in a high-end coffee shop in downtown Manhattan, frequented by Wall Street executives and the like.

I read the advertisement again. To make it even more amazing, the website where I came across this posting was only for high-end public relations positions. You couldn’t even gain access to the site without being invited after recommendations from prior employers. Most of the ads made me want to gag, they were so hoity-toity about what they needed. Don’t get me wrong. I loved my job. I ran a small Public Relations Consultation business. I was my own boss in some ways, yet I worked for the companies that hired me to clean up their messes. I thrived on stepping in when companies needed help turning their public image around, but they usually tried to make it seem as if the image problems were a public misunderstanding and nothing to do with the company. This advertisement was brutally honest.

Chandler International was owned by the legendary Lucas Chandler, known for his brilliance as an engineer, inventor and investor. He had revolutionized sustainable energy production and was reputedly one of the wealthiest men in the world. He was also known for his thin patience with the media. He was the quintessential handsome, sexy CEO who got pissed off when the media paid attention to his social life. I’d read about his latest blow up when he walked off the set of a live interview.

Thus far, Chandler International had eschewed hiring a PR firm to help manage these issues. Lucas Chandler openly disdained the need for it. However, it appeared his company wanted him to find a way to make nice with the media.

I quickly clicked out of the screen and did a search for Lucas Chandler. One click, and I was staring at a man who was ridiculously handsome.

Dark hair, piercing green eyes, and a body made for sin. His suits looked as if they were in love with him. My pulse kicked up a notch just looking at a picture of Lucas. A siren blared in the far reaches of my mind. Maybe it wasn’t the best idea to throw my hat in the ring for this job if my boss-to-be was so fucking hot he made me wet just looking at his picture. Especially given the reasons why I was currently between consultations. I ignored that siren and batted those worries away.

I loved a challenge.

***

“Ms. Dawson?”

I glanced over to see a Danny James stepping out of one of the closed doors in the suite where I’d been waiting. As Mr. Chandler’s personal assistant, he’d been part of my interview here. I smoothed my skirt and uncrossed my legs, standing quickly. I couldn’t say I knew why, but Chandler International had hired me for the consultant contract.

I approached him, slipping my purse strap over my shoulder and holding my hand out. “Yes. Nice to see you again, Mr. James.”

“Just call me Danny,” he said as he shook my hand quickly.

Danny looked to be in his mid-20s with dark blond hair, brown eyes and a fit body. He was dressed in jeans and a lavender button-down shirt. He eyed me for a moment, cocking his head to the side.

“So, did Suzanne give you a heads up on Lucas?” he asked.

I nodded. “I suppose so. She explained he's completely opposed to hiring a PR consultant, but that the board is insisting.”

Danny flashed a rueful smile and lifted his shoulder in a shrug, leaning his hips against a narrow table against the wall in the small waiting area. The space was all sleek surfaces and soft colors. The walls were painted a dove gray with the chairs to match. Abstract watercolors hung on the walls. I didn't know if the colors were intended to be soothing, but at the moment I was too keyed up to relax. I was anxious to meet Mr. Chandler and hopefully prepared to deal with his attitude. Though Suzanne, my contact in HR, had been somewhat tactful, she’d made it clear I needed to be prepared for him to make my job difficult.

“I wouldn't say he doesn't want to meet you specifically, that is. It's more that Lucas prefers not to deal with PR. If he had his way, he wouldn't do any interviews, or deal with any of this. But he needs to stay in the good graces of investors. He abhors the public’s interest in his personal life. Follow me. Lucas won’t be available for another few minutes.”

“Lead the way,” I replied with a nod, tamping my anxiety down.

I was anxious to get to my initial meeting with Mr. Chandler. I figured once that was over, I would be able to focus on what we needed to do.

Danny gestured me through the still open door, and we stepped into another hallway. Chandler International’s Manhattan offices were in a high-rise in central downtown. They occupied an entire floor here. I’d done my homework and knew that Manhattan was not the main location for the company with their main offices in Silicon Valley. No surprise there, given that they were a cutting edge technology company. We walked down a hallway lined with watercolors and outdoor photographs. My heels clicked on the glossy wood flooring.

Danny gestured me into a doorway at the end of the hallway. We stepped into a suite with another small waiting area. He led me into an office, gesturing for me to sit down in a leather chair and sinking into the chair opposite me. He leaned back and looked to me, his brown eyes warm and perceptive.

“So, you were obviously crazy enough to apply for this position after the ad,” he commented with a wry smile.

I couldn't help but smile in return. “I don't know if it was crazy, but I like a challenge. It was definitely one of the more interesting ads I've seen.”

Danny flashed a grin. “I wrote it. I know Lucas quite well, and I figured we needed to be blunt about what this position entailed.”

“How long have you worked here?” I asked.

Danny drummed his fingertips on the armrest of his chair. “Three years. I knew Lucas before he made a ton of money.” He was quiet for a beat and then leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “Here's the thing. Lucas might come across as a jerk, but he’s not. He just doesn't like this part of what he does. Keep in mind, he's a good guy underneath. Your job is to not be afraid to stand up to him, and to give him very clear guidance on how to deal with the media when he has to. I’m sure you're aware he’s not particularly keen on public relations.”

At his pause, I nodded. “When you work in public relations, it's your job to know where the perception problems lie. If I understand Mr. Chandler…”

Danny cut in. “Lucas, just call him Lucas.”

“Are you sure?”

He nodded firmly.

“Okay, from my understanding, the board has encouraged hiring a PR Consultant, despite Lucas’s opposition to the idea.”

Danny nodded firmly. “Absolutely. He’s going along with it because I think he might be ready to admit he needs to stop playing defense. I’m of the opinion if we find the right person—and I’m hoping that’s you—Lucas will realize you can ease the burden of this part of his work for him. All he wants to do is engineer better and more sustainable energy production. You will come to see he’d rather keep all of his attention on the work that matters. He is beyond annoyed he needs to negotiate deals and raise funds for new ventures. That means managing his image. Don't let his attitude get to you.” Danny paused and glanced at his watch. “Let’s go meet him.”

He stood quickly and led me out of his office and through the small waiting area. Knocking quickly on the door beside his office, he opened it and gestured me through.

I followed Danny into Lucas's office. As I’d have expected, it was large and spacious with the same dove gray walls and soft gray leather furniture throughout the offices. Rather than a desk, a large drafting table sat in front of the windows with papers scattered across it and flat screen monitors mounted on either end. This was clearly a working office, not for show. Lovely artwork adorned the walls with more photographs of the outdoors and watercolors.

Lucas was on the phone, looking out the windows. Chandler International’s offices were on the top floor of this high-rise. Of course, there was a spectacular view of Manhattan. You could even see the Statue of Liberty and the Atlantic Ocean in the distance. He finished his call and spun in his chair.

One look at him, and my pulse lunged. I’d somehow talked myself into thinking I wouldn’t be affected by him, despite how ridiculously handsome I knew him to be. I had been so very, very wrong. Sweet hell. He made me hot all over. His physical presence was potent. His straight dark hair was rumpled, as if he’d run a hand through it a few too many times. His piercing green eyes landed on me immediately. I could feel him sizing me up. I willed my pulse to slow down, but my breath hitched at one look into his eyes. Much as I wanted to look away to gather myself, I held his gaze. They’d hired me, among other reasons, for my alleged capacity to be able to stand up to Mr. Chandler, so I couldn’t be afraid to look at the man.

He stood and rounded the table. His energy felt coiled tight. He wore jeans and a rich blue button-down shirt, the color setting off his green eyes. Every inch of his muscled frame was easily visible. His strong shoulders filled out his shirt, and his jeans hugged his muscled legs like a lover. He approached Danny and me where we stood by a small table with a circle of chairs.

“Lucas…Chandler,” he said, adding his last name as an afterthought as he reached out to shake my hand.

Oh my God. Even his voice was sexy. Low with a subtle gruffness, it sent a shiver through me. When his palm closed around mine, his touch was a hot shock. It traveled up my arm and radiated through my body. His grip was strong and firm.

“Sophia Dawson. Nice to meet you,” I managed, thankful he didn’t know me well enough to know my voice didn’t usually sound breathy.

“Likewise,” he said with a nod. “Have a seat.”

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