To be honest, I think some of my difficulties with Victor’s story lie in my uncertainty about he’ll be perceived. He’s not an easy, likeable man to write. One of the first clues: I didn’t know what kind of clothes he wore, but I knew from the very beginning that he prefers a riding crop. *wince* So I’m going to have to work hard to make sure he comes across as wickedly sexy and not cruel.
In many ways, I know him much better than I know Shiloh. I know what his hang-ups are. I know his deep dark fears and they’re very real and play a huge part in the story. I’m beginning to fall into the rhythm of his story — and it is his story — so I think it’s time to crack open the door and let you have a sneak peek.
This snippet is from Chapter One as of today but may be revised or even end up on the cutting floor before I’m finished. First draft only, you know the deal. I’m playing around with the title, too. I was going to call this story Gifted, but that’s not feeling right. I think a play on the saying “to the victor belong the spoils” might be fun. Belong to The Victor, maybe? Oh, hell if I know. We went through probably 50 titles or more for Dear Sir, I’m Yours, before we got it right. Anyway, this snippet gives you a clue to why I first called this story “ANTs.”
Without further ado, Victor.
“We have a spy.” Victor Connagher, CEO of Dallas cable channel VCONN, paused the show playing on the large flat-screen television hung on the wall behind him.
Secret Fantasies blazed in neon across the screen with the tagline “On the internet, any secret fantasy can be a dream come true.”
“It’s certainly no coincidence that KDSX is running a spot announcing a new show remarkably like our new fall lineup, down to the same idea of secret identities and baring all secrets online. What’s the name of our show still in production?”
“Internet Secrets,” Malinda Kannes bit off each word. As the show’s producer, she was taking the leak the hardest. “I’m sorry, Victor. We’ve kept the show very quiet, even inside VCONN. It had to be someone on my production staff or the show itself.”
He leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers, projecting a calm and controlled attitude. Inside, though, he burned. He’d built VCONN up from a third-rate cable channel running Grandma’s Cooking and Bob the Garage Guy to a smoldering, risqué adult show that everyone in Dallas tittered about–and tuned in eagerly each night to be shocked, appalled, and yes, aroused. Internet Secrets was supposed to be their premier fall show to conquer KDSX, their number one copycat competitor.
Evidently copycat wasn’t good enough for them any longer; they had to steal his shows outright.
“Internet Secrets is scrapped,” Victor announced.
Mal didn’t argue, although two red blotches blazed on her cheeks. After years of friendship, he knew that she’d be working her boyfriend over hard tonight, much to his enjoyment. There was a reason that VCONN aired such politically incorrect and sexy shows: Just about every single one of VCONN’s employees enjoyed a secret kink, starting with the CEO.
Victor leaned forward and pinned each of his employees with his gaze one by one. Mal met his gaze evenly, but the others paled and dropped their gazes after just a few seconds of his intensity. Out of guilt? Or simple respect to the years of power he’d built here as CEO? He couldn’t be sure.
“We need a new show,” he said softly. “Only a handful of people will work on it. That way it’ll be very easy for me to identify our spy.” He couldn’t help but smile, then, even though he knew it betrayed the consummate businessman mask he wore. He’d relish punishing their leak with his own hands. “And we need this new show in production today.”
“What a coincidence,” Mal drawled, some of her ire at losing her pet project fading. “I have someone waiting outside to pitch her latest idea. I thought it was pretty hot myself.”
“Excellent. The rest of you are dismissed.”
Unspoken, his distrust hung in the close, tight air of the conference room like a discordant note. VCONN was a small but prosperous company, and he hated not being able to trust his own employees. His gut protested that his management team was solid, but at this point, he couldn’t risk it. He refused to throw away their fall season, even if he must hurt a few kind souls who were innocent.
However, his resolve weakened as soon as he saw the person who’d come to pitch the new show idea.
Shiloh Holmes shook Mal’s hand and with a bright smile, turned to him. He felt the impact like a quarterback sack from his blind spot. She was one of those people who managed to brighten up the room as soon as she entered. Literally, it felt as though someone had yanked open the blinds and let the Texas sun come pouring into the darkened cavernous room.
Meeting his gaze head on with a saucy little grin that tightened his groin, Shiloh took his hand and it was all he could do not to squeeze his fingers incrementally until she cried out. He had a feeling it wouldn’t be a whimper of pain, but a welcoming purr of desire.
He forced himself to release her and shot a dark gaze at Mal, who wore a particularly smug little Cheshire smile. Why all these cat metaphors? He growled at himself, but he knew, oh, he knew. From her very first interview at VCONN nearly a year ago, Shiloh had reminded him of a purring, tawny kitten winding around his ankles. A kitten that simply begged him to pick her up by the scruff of her neck and carry her home.
Frustrated, he reached back and jerked the ponytail holding his shoulder-length hair tighter. The CEO of the company could not come onto one of his employees without opening himself up for sexual harassment charges, let alone a boss with his particular proclivities.
Watching her set up her storyboards, he tried to pinpoint exactly what attracted him so strongly. It was more than her honey-brown hair that curled and bounced about her face, her dark chocolate eyes, and her lush, curvy body. She was attractive, yes, but he’d known or worked with many other beautiful women who’d never tempted him like Shiloh.
No, it was the way she managed to meet his gaze directly, even with her head tilted slightly in come-hither shyness–or a position of unconscious surrender. Her bubbly personality was warm, open, and charming, yet she also managed to throw down an unspoken challenge at him.
Try to break me. I can take whatever you give me.
Surrender and challenge at the same time–a dichotomy that compelled him to investigate. Clenching his jaws, he breathed deeply, forcing that thought away. She couldn’t possibly know about…
He read the title of her proposed show and caught himself tapping his fingers on his right thigh. Maybe she did know after all.
America’s Next Top sub: Submit to the Master.