Sexy in Stilettos (A Sexy Contemporary Romance)Nana Malone / Humor / Romance & Love
Sexy In Stilettos
The In Stilettos Series
Sexy in Stilettos
© 2012 by Nana Malone
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
Sexy in Stilettos
COPYRIGHT © 2012 by Nana Malone
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Cover Art by Kimberly Killion
Edited by Rhonda Helms
Published in the United States of America
For Manteh “Mantesco ‘That’s me.” Darfoor” You will be missed. Thank you for teaching me to speak my mind.
Erik and Siaki, I love you always. Thank you for loving my lists.
Misty, the words, “Thank You” will never be enough.
Marcie, this will be our year, I promise you.
Megs, Ten, Naad & Cyn, thank you for keeping me sane.
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He looks ready to kill me.
Jaya Trudeaux searched her father’s usually impassive, though now clearly angry, features. Furrowed brows, check. Tight lips, check. Throbbing vein above his left brow accompanied by a slight twitch in the left eye, courtesy of a long ago tango with a door jamb, check and check. Yep, Pierre was pissed.
Jaya dragged her eyes from her father’s glare and focused on the All-Tech Conference selection committee, giving them her best, sweet-girl-next-door meets competent-business woman, meets fellow-nerd smile. This she knew how to do. She understood the client’s needs, what it would take to pull off a conference of their magnitude, and that these guys were more SyFy channel than MTV. They wouldn’t be swayed with a flashy marketing presentation. They wanted someone who understood their world. Too bad it wasn’t the presentation her father wanted her to give.
As Jaya closed, she looked each of the selection committee members in the eye to make the connection. “Trudeaux Events might not have the flash of Starbuck like some of our competitors—” she indicated the placard with their list of competition. They’d all made pitches and most had gone the more flash than substance route. Suckers. “But we understand your needs. And we can meet them.”
Her fellow nerds beamed at her. Maybe it was the Battlestar Galactica reference. Maybe they recognized a kindred soul. Maybe they liked her legs. Either way, Trudeaux Events would certainly make the top two candidates for the conference. As the conference would bring well over twenty thousand attendees to San Diego, it would be a huge boon for the event company to land the business. If they were selected, maybe her father would finally make her an event lead.
As soon as the last handshakes were dealt and Brett James, the president of All-Tech thanked them for their time, Pierre Trudeaux indicated the door. Jaya’s stomach dropped. Well damn. Worst thing was, he had Derrick Cooley, Trudeaux’s VP of Corporate Events, trailing right behind him as they exited the boardroom. This couldn’t be good.
They were probably pissed she hadn’t gone through with their approved presentation. Derrick had pushed for something flashier, wanting to capture the client’s attention, and had refused to listen to her ideas for the presentation. Not to mention he hated her. How the hell she’d ever thought she wanted to marry that asshole was beyond her. She must have been high.
Back stiff, she exited out the closest door and started her explanations before they could get a word in edgewise. “I know that’s not the original presentation you talked about, but I’m uniquely attuned to this market and I feel like—” She didn’t finish. Both of them shot her looks so cold she could feel the icicles forming in her gut.
“In my office, Jaya,” her father said.
This. Was. Not. Good. Okay. Plan B time. She wasn’t above begging. Jaya wanted this client. Needed this client. She’d gone out and recruited this business. It was hers. If they gave the account to Derrick, or worse, to her sister, Tamara, she’d have a fit.
Once in Pierre’s austere office, Jaya settled in one of the guest chairs she knew her father selected deliberately to make people uncomfortable in his presence. Her father took his post behind his desk, looking every bit the authoritarian dictator he wished he were. Derrick remained standing, which gave him that additional position of power. Instead of looking at her, he stared out the window. Prick.
She sucked in a deep breath and marshaled her nerves. Come on gang. Once more with feeling. “Look. I’m sorry. But you saw the client—they don’t care about being the cool kids. They care about authenticity. No offense intended, Derrick, but your presentation would have lost them.” She drew in a breath. “Next time I’ll follow your direction, but clients like this need a plan they can get behind. They’re slow and steady comic-book readers. They don’t care about the latest cool-kid party.”
Derrick didn’t even wait for her father to speak, nor did he face her. “There won’t be a next time, Jaya.”
“What?” Her eyes burrowed on her father’s face. Impassive. But was that really a surprise? “Okay, look, bench me for the next few months if you want, but I’m the best presenter you have. I—”
Derrick turned from his position at the enormous floor to ceiling windows overlooking San Diego’s skyline. “No. Not for a few months. Forever.”
Jaya's anger simmered to life. But instead of its low-grade burn, it roared to five-alarm status. She turned her gaze on her father. “Dad?” Derrick didn’t have the authority to fire her. She still had more shares in the company than he did. Until, of course, he married Tamara.
Her father said nothing for a long moment, the barest hint of exhaustion in his features. “There’s a position in accounting if you would prefer. It would be a better fit. I think—”
Jaya blinked. “Did you just say ‘accounting’? Dad. I’m not an accountant. I’m an event planner. This is who I am.”
He sighed and slid a glance to Derrick. “Then I’m sorry. You leave me no choice. You’re fired.”
A hazy buzzing sound filled her ears as her father’s mouth moved. Disbelief weakened her knees and shock numbed her. So. Not. Happening. Her inner fixer took over from her brain because clearly her grey matter was on vacation.
Sure, she’d deviated a little from the original presentation, but not enough to warrant his firing her. Derrick’s fast and loose presentation would have had their eyes glazing over.
Her father’s voice was tight and low and sounded like gravel being put through a grinder. “We’re trying to move Trudeaux forward. The kinds of clients and presentations we want to do will bring us to the next level. Derrick is right. Since you refuse to keep up, you no longer belong at Trudeaux.”
She would not cry. “I gave a good presentation.” Even as the weak words spilled out, she wondered why she’d bothered. That was it? That was her big flare of rebellion? No wonder her father treated her like Carrot Top’s ugly twin sister. She couldn’t even rebel properly.
Papa Dearest’s eye did the twitch-and-jive routine again. “Good presentation? It would have been great if Derrick or Tamara had done it. They both have the vision. We’ve been preparing for months.” His voice rose by increments.
Tears stung her eyes. This wasn’t real. It was a dream. Absolutely. Was. Not. Happening. “I just gave you the presentation of my life. You can’t just fire me.”
When her father spoke again, only the barest hint of his New Orleans accent tinted his baritone. “Jaya, it’s done. You’re too invested. Too stuck in your ways. Like Derrick was saying, we need to move forward.” He cleared his throat, looking momentarily uncomfortable. “This is business, Jaya. I expect you not to be so childish as to skip your sister’s wedding in two weeks. We are still a family.”
Fuck. Family her ass. This was real? Like they were really telling her to pack up her Weitzman’s and bounce? Then expected her at the bloody wedding? Waves of failure and dread braided themselves into a nausea cocktail. She could feel the tension in her neck as if someone was squeezing it tight.
Throat burning from lack of oxygen, she stared at her father. Without a word, he got up from his desk, thin frame moving with a fluidity and grace that belied his age. He left the office with a soft click of his door, Jaya felt more alone than she’d ever felt in her life. Her father had abandoned her.
Derrick spoke and at first Jaya couldn’t hear him for the muffled silencer of dread cocooning her. Through the hazy fog of bitter anger and hazy fear, she noticed his mouth moving. The sound coming in slow and lazy increments, as if it didn’t matter what else he had to say to her.
“Jaya? Jaya, are you listening?”
She blinked up at him, the urge to strike him so strong she could feel her hand twitch of its own volition. Oh, God. She could see the headlines in the Union Tribune. “Angry Black Woman Shoves Ex-Fiancé Through Thirty Story Window.” She forced a breath.
Derrick spoke again. His voice tight and in control. “I’ll have security pack your things and a messenger deliver them to your apartment before week’s end.”
Suddenly too exhausted to breathe, she stood on wobbly legs. “Congratulations. You got what you wanted. Are you happy now?”
“You know I don’t like seeing your father unhappy. You did this to yourself.” He sniffed. “You could have turned this train around any time you liked. You chose to be an adversary.”
Before she exited the office, she turned back to glare at him. “You must really hate me.” She shrugged. “That’s okay because the feeling is mutual.”
Jaya managed to hold off the tears until she was down the hall, but then her resolve crumbled and hot wetness streaked down her cheeks. Come on girl. Suck it up. Or at least wait ‘til the elevator. Getting fired was so not at the top of her “Things To Do Before Hitting Thirty” list. The last thing she needed was to run into her sister or her father before she could get out of the building.
Never let them see you cry. But her stupid tear ducts revolted. She punched the elevator button and wrapped her arms around her ribs in an effort to hold herself together. The chime of the elevator made her wince with its cheery tinkle. The tears on revolt swam into her field of vision like soldiers through a barricade, temporarily blinding her. She forced her leaden legs onto the elevator desperate to get out of the building.
She swiped at the freefalling tears and walked into a wall of muscle.