Brittany Hylton-VanDeere believed in Love at First Sight the same way born-agains believed in their Savior--with a fervor that was awe-inspiring and, at times, downright frightening.
Her instant adorations were not limited to people. Oh no. She was just as likely to fall suddenly, madly in love with a car, a pair of shoes, a skinny-half-caf-no-foam latte, or a new job.
Especially a new job.
When she first walked through the door to Karmic Consultants, she knew, with a passion that was as sincere as it was irrational, this was The One. This was where she belonged.
Karmic Consultants was a place where people believed. Where the outside-the-everyday happened every single day. And where one slightly-off-kilter, cockeyed optimist such as herself could fit right in.
No two ways about it. Brittany was in love.
And then she saw him.
The man who stomped into Karma's office was unlike anyone in Brittany's--admittedly limited--experience of men.
For one thing, he was swearing. And calling himself a gigolo. Or rather, not a gigolo, which really only seemed like the kind of protest a gigolo would feel the need to make. So, clearly a gigolo. A swearing gigolo. And a hot one.
Hot was not a word Brittany often had cause to use regarding the men of her acquaintance--the men her family approved of. Proper, yes. Distinguished, absolutely. Respectable? Heck yes, with a side of darn straight.
But hot? Sizzling, smoking, white-hot-sex-on-a-tropical-beach-in-front-of-God-and-everyone hot? That was another matter.
He had tattoos. Tribal, lay-me-naked-on-the-altar-as-an-offering-to-the-gods-of-sex tattoos that slashed and spiraled their way up his deliciously muscled arms to disappear beneath the short sleeves of his snug black T-shirt. Brittany's eyes traced those heavy black markings and she imagined she could hear the sound of distant drums. Aboriginal. Primal. Oh yeah, Mr. I'm-Not-A-Gigolo was primal, all right.
Hair so black it had blue highlights tumbled over his brow in a disarray so carelessly sexy it would have taken the average mortal two hours and seventeen different greasy hair products to reproduce it. Big Sexy here probably rolled out of bed looking that good.
He was tall-ish, but not grotesquely so, which Brittany appreciated, being a bit on the petite side herself. She'd have to tip her head back for a kiss, but he wasn't so huge he could tuck her under his arm like a football.
He strode into the room and toward Karma's desk without glancing a single time in Brittany's direction--so she could only speculate on the color of his eyes.
Emerald, perhaps? Or maybe a deep, mossy hue?
Green was Brittany's favorite color, and if he was going to be her dream man, he could at least be so considerate as to have her favorite color eyes. She'd let him pick the shade.
He folded his tattooed, muscled forearms across his chest and glowered at the cool, composed, and utterly unfazed woman behind the desk.
Karma rose from her chair. "Rodriguez, if you could wait outside for just a moment..." She waved an elegant hand in Brittany's direction.
Rodriguez's gaze tracked the movement to where Brittany sat. He grimaced and turned back to Karma. Brittany internally flinched at being so summarily dismissed.
"Sorry," he grunted. "Didn't realize you had a client in here."
Brittany bounced out of her chair. She was not a client. And she would not be brushed aside. She hadn't even gotten a good look at his eyes yet.
"I'm not a client. I'm the secretary." She tried to sound definitive. Professional. But she hadn't had much experience with professionalism and she had a feeling she sounded more like a cheerleader. She'd never been a cheerleader, but people tended to express outright shock when she told them that. Apparently cheerleader was more a type than an occupation. She hoped secretaries were just occupations. If it was a type, she might be in trouble.
She really wanted this job. They believed here.
In everything, except her, apparently.
Rodriguez didn't even turn his head this time. He just slid her a look out of the corner of his eyes. "This week's disaster?" he asked Karma with a wry twist to his mouth.
Brittany stiffened, balling her hands into fists. He may be sexy and primal and all, but that didn't give him an excuse for being rude. Rudeness was never called for. "Excuse me," Brittany clipped off the words, channeling her mother in disciplining-the-underlings mode. "I am an excellent secretary." Or rather she was sure she would be, if she put her mind to it. She had yet to find an occupation she couldn't master. She would master this one too. Provided being a secretary didn't require being the secretary type. "I am going to be here far longer than a week and I am not a disaster."
Rodriguez treated her as if she hadn't spoken at all. He turned all of his attention to Karma as if Brittany weren't standing right there being brilliantly secretarial.
"Mrs. Sullivan called up a demon to possess her own daughter just because she wanted me to come to her house to exorcise it," he growled.
The subtle warmth of his accent wrapped around the words, sending little hubba-hubba chills down Brittany's spine and distracting her from the words themselves--and from the fact that she was irritated with him. Really, who could be irritated with a man whose very voice licked words into submission?
Karma gave a low laugh. "Well, that's one kind of job security. Far be it from me to question our clients' needs to pay us to eradicate problems they cause themselves."
"She wanted me to come to her house so she could fuck me," Rodriguez snapped. "She might as well have opened the door bare-ass naked with a condom in one hand for all the subtlety she had about it."
Brittany took a step toward where they were squared off across the desk, inserting herself back into the conversation. "At least she was thinking about safe sex. STDs are a real risk. Not to mention birth control. Did she really open the door naked?"
Rodriguez shot her a hot glare--his eyes too slitted for her to get a good look at the color--then turned back to Karma. Dismissed again.
"They're taking bets," he snarled at his boss. "This putana," he spat the word like an epithet, so Brittany decided it must be, "she came right out and admitted that they are betting on which one of them can get me into the sack first. A bunch of goddamn bored homemakers with too much time on their hands have painted a goddamn target on my ass."
Karma winced. "It's a compliment, of sorts," she said without conviction.
Well, yes. It was that. But Brittany could definitely see the housewives' side of it. She was tempted to paint a bull's-eye of her own. The man was hot.
Not that she would ever wager on him. That did seem rather insulting. Although, she couldn't say for sure. No one had ever bet on getting her into bed. Which was kind of sad really. What was wrong with her that men weren't placing bets on her as a sex object? Not even frat boys! Weren't they known for that kind of behavior? Wasn't she sexy enough?
Rodriguez slapped his hands palm down on the wide black slab of marble that was Karma's desk, jolting Brittany from her musings. "This has to stop. I'm not taking any more calls from desperate housewives. You can send another exorcist."
Karma grimaced. "You'll have to take over the holy site jobs then. And I'll have to figure out some way to convince Edwin that it isn't beneath him to do residential work. Are you sure you aren't willing to just take a bonus? Hazard pay?"
A sound came out of Rodriguez's throat that distinctly resembled a growl. Brittany shivered. He was so animalistic. If only he weren't also ignoring her so completely.
"Do I look like I'm for sale? If you pay me extra every time some trophy wife gropes me, you might as well start advertising my goddamn stud fee as part of the exorcism package. I will not be paid to be molested."
Karma sighed and dropped back into her chair. "I'll work something out with Edwin. And we'll screen the new clients more carefully in the future. You won't have to go back there again."
"I better not," Rodriguez grumbled, shoving himself away from the desk and striding back toward the door. "A goddamn pit of vipers would be preferable."
He was leaving? So soon?