His by Design(3)By: Dani Wade
“Fine, Sloan. Do whatever it is you do,” Vivian forced out through clenched teeth.
“I’ll have that in writing, I think,” Sloan said.
“As demanding as you are, I’m amazed anyone will work with you.”
“Oh, I’ll manage,” he said with a cocky quirk of his shapely lips.
“Not alone, you won’t. The last thing I need is you wandering around unattended.”
“Aw, Vivian. I didn’t know you cared. Oh wait, you don’t,” Sloan said with saccharin sweetness.
“I care about Eternity Designs,” she said.
His gaze scanned Vivian’s face as if to determine the catch. “Anyone you saddle me with better know what they’re doing and how to take orders.”
“Oh, I have no doubt she’ll work like a charm…and be able to keep you in line.”
Ziara’s heart picked up speed when Vivian’s elegant, bejeweled fingers waved in her direction. No. No, no, no. The effort to hide her sudden panic and appear in control might just give her a heart attack.
Vivian’s voice trickled through her consciousness, breaking her inward focus. “Your history with assistants is well-known, Sloan. They crawl all over you like bees in honey. That won’t be an issue with Ziara. I’ve trained her well. She knows more about how we conduct business here than anyone except my own assistant. And her behavior is impeccable—unlike yours.”
What was she—a slave girl at auction? Would the buyer prefer pretty and pliable or plain but talented? Though dependable was exactly the look she was going for, the thought still disconcerted her.
“Well, Vivian, isn’t that thoughtful of you?” he said.
Ziara glanced up to find Sloan’s gaze directed her way. His earlier anger had turned his bright blue eyes icily sharp, his body rigid, his jaw tight. But now he eased back in a chair, propping his elbows on the arms. His fingers absently stroked the upper ridge of his lip, drawing her attention to the sensuous curve of his mouth. His turbulent look suddenly softened like ice thawing beneath a heat lamp.
Her emotions seesawed as his gaze traveled south, visually caressing the extra length of leg exposed by her hasty drop into her chair. She could almost feel his touch sliding along the edge of her skirt, tickling the sensitive skin on the backs of her legs.
Bit by bit, Ziara used up her willpower forcing herself to sit impassively. The twitch of her thighs urged her to shift her feet, but she resisted. That would tell him just how much he affected her. Tightening her muscles, she tried to crack down on the spreading fire, to no avail. Ignoring physical desire had never been a problem before him.
Her new boss.
Her soothingly subtle gray business suit, so comfortable in the luxurious air-conditioning only moments ago, now felt heavy, itchy. Her nipples peaked against their confinement. She felt that he peered through her professional armor to the woman she kept hidden deep inside.
How could a simple look make her so aware, too aware? As if she lacked something only he could provide.
As casually as possible, she adjusted her position and her skirt, covering her legs down past her knees.
Knowledge leaked into his eyes, as well as smug satisfaction. He did that on purpose. Feeling a need to defend herself, she met him with a flick of her lashes. Slowly she lifted her left brow.
He grinned, not at all intimidated by her challenge. “Be in my office and ready to work first thing tomorrow morning.”
She could handle his antagonistic, dismissive tone; she welcomed it to counteract her strange reaction to him. Unlike efficient orders and professional expectations, the sensations created with that hot, hard stare set her nerves on edge.
But she could handle it. She’d pulled herself up from a sludge-pile existence and become a woman with goals and dreams and skills. She could control herself for the three months it would take to get Eternity Designs back in the spotlight and earn her stripes as an executive assistant. But how was she going to control him?
* * *
Ziara. Her classic beauty and calm demeanor distracted Sloan from Vivian’s condescension. Staring his new assistant down made him hotter than he’d been in a long time. Vivian’s insistence that Ziara wouldn’t follow the path of his previous assistants didn’t worry him. As annoying as it had been to replace three employees in less than two years because they insisted they were in love with him, he might have to pursue this woman. Her pretend lack of interest challenged him, but turning Ziara’s head could provide plenty of ammunition in his war with Vivian.
How ironic that the very thing he’d avoided in his professional life—intimate involvement with an employee—could give him a leg up in this situation. It felt wrong even thinking that way, but winning her loyalty could give him the freedom to do whatever he wanted without Vivian’s interference. He needed every advantage to fight against Vivian. His stepmother was totally immune to his charm, which drew cheeky toddlers, blue-haired dames and women of every age in between. If Vivian had been a typical trophy wife, at least Sloan could have fallen back on his practiced grin and genuine appreciation of the female species, but, instead, dear old Dad had the foresight to marry a savvy woman. One steeped in Southern tradition and brimming with a Southern belle’s ingenuity to survive. Too bad her temperament had always favored Scarlett’s machinations as opposed to Melanie’s sweetness.