Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Toni's inspiration for Temp to Permanent

In my other life as an accountant, I maintained the accounting software and supervised payroll. Each year just prior to year-end close I interviewed candidates sent over from various temporary help agencies for the most likely candidate to fill my shoes while I concentrated on producing year end financial reports.

One year, the best temp to interview for the job turned out to be a show-stopping male. He had the training, skills and willingness to help I was looking for and could start the next day, auditing weekly time sheets. Word spread among our employees and a steady line of women employees soon began parading past his desk to turn in their time sheets in person and see for themselves if what they'd heard about the new temp was true.

The poor guy had a wife at home, but that didn't deter his admirers, who looked for any excuse to visit accounting and earn his smile. They even hung out of their cubicles whenever he walked by.

Those events inspired my second published novel, Temp to Permanent. I'd decided to write a novel about the overextended owner of an advertising firm whose secretary calls in sick on the busiest day of the heroine's career, forcing her to place an urgent call for a temp.

When a man so good-looking she longs to feast on him across a dinner table in some romantic setting shows up, she thinks uh-uh, no way. She needs help, not the distraction this handsome guy is already causing her, and tries to send him away. He convinces her to let him work without pay until lunch time, so he can prove himself to her.

And prove himself he does, in countless ways. His fingers fly over the keys of her computer. He uses his head and makes needed decisions without interrupting her. It's only when he clears his throat in the outer office that her thoughts return to him. How can she get any work done under these conditions? Somehow, she must.

And so the busy life of Carina Carrington gets turned upside down by a black-haired, blue-eyed temp determined to help her company succeed at all cost.

Here's a blurb: A struggling business woman and her secretive temporary secretary are drawn together by love and forced apart by her suspicions and his relentless adherence to ethics-in-the-office guidelines until he saves her life.

Temp to Permanent unedited Excerpt:

Carina Carrington's fingers flew across the computer keyboard.

Not fast enough.

She'd never meet her schedule without another pair of hands. Of all possible days, why did Rachael pick today to call in sick?

And what happened to her replacement? The temp agency had promised to send a secretary an hour ago. What was keeping her?

At the scrape of a leather shoe sole, Carina's concentration cracked.

"Hello, is anyone here?"

Startled, Carina hit a wrong key. Unless his face matches that heart-stopping voice, I'll throttle this salesman.

She abandoned the keyboard and swiveled around in her chair. Six feet of tanned muscles crossed her carpet. No way would she choke this hunk.

"There's no one at the desk out front," a husky male voice rasped.

Surrounded by masculine scent, Carina riveted her gaze on his business card, then glanced up. Devilish blue eyes locked with hers. She looked away to conceal her unprofessional, very unladylike reaction.

"I'm Gregory Lawless from Data Services. Pat Kilpatrick said to see Mrs. Carrington. Your receptionist--"

"Has the flu."

This perfect example of centerfold material could not possibly type.

With all the work still to turn out, I'll kill Pat, instead.

Reluctantly Carina pushed back her chair and stood to shake his hand. Good grip, self-confident. "That's why you're here, Mr. Lawless. I'm short handed today, and it's Miss Carrington."

She indicated a chair and waited for him to sit. "The agency didn't say they were sending a man." Oops. Maybe employers weren't supposed to say things like that anymore.

"Is that a problem?"

"Only if you can't do the job." She wasn't about to acknowledge how difficult he made the simple act of speech.

He folded his lanky frame into the visitor's chair she'd indicated and placed a folder on her desk. "Ms. Kilpatrick asked me to give you this copy of my résumé."

A deep cleft creased his chin. How could she think with that distraction? With her weakness for cleft chins she couldn't hope to actually work around this man. His devastating smile belonged in a bedroom. In a bar. Anywhere but in her office, ruining her concentration.

Carina sank into her own chair and opened his file to study the brief list of qualifications while steadying her heart beat. San Diego Data Services normally provided exceptional help, but Pat had warned this flu epidemic had also left her short handed. Gregory must be the last healthy soul available.

Healthy? He was that, all right. From what she could see, far healthier than a man had any need to look.

He'd indicated a willingness to work. Any warm body could man the phones in her secretary's absence. What about this unexpected heat? Maybe Mom was right and she was sex-deprived.

Perhaps tomorrow Pat would have a real secretary available. Her mind pictured a prim woman. Someone wearing a skirt whose very presence wouldn't take her mind off her work.

She glanced up from the résumé to study Gregory. Information in the agency's file was scant, little more than name, address and social security number. He looked about her age. Why would a man approaching thirty resign himself to temporary work?

Carina drew a steadying breath. "Have you been with Data Services long?"

He tilted his head, obviously mulling over a reply. "This is my first assignment."

Great. Disgruntled by his admission, she looked away. Few skills and even less experience. Carina stole a glance. The smile hovering about his mouth prevented objective reasoning. "With a busy week ahead of me, there won't be much time for training."

He peered at the scribbled notes on her calendar and lifted one cocky eyebrow, giving him a rakish appearance that almost brought her out of her chair.

"Tell you what. Let's not waste any more time. Give me a chance to help and if I don't meet your requirements, you don't owe me a cent."

Desperation evident in his voice caused her to give him a sharp look. "So you're a gambler, too."

He straightened his back against the chair, then leaned forward and gazed at her. "I've nothing to lose," he admitted with admirable honesty.

Carina pondered everything she would gain if Gregory could fill Rachael's shoes. She wouldn't need to postpone tomorrow's meeting and might still land that contract.

Quick decisions were her trademark. "I'll only expect you to answer the phone. On Mondays it rings constantly."

He grinned, nodding. "How shall I answer?"

Criminey. Would she need to hold his hand and walk him through the office as well? "Carrington Graphics will do."

"I'll manage. What is the nature of your business? Ms. Kilpatrick said you needed someone in a hurry and didn't take time to fill me in."

"Advertising." From the bookcase behind her desk Carina selected two brochures and unfolded them for Gregory to examine. "This is a terrible time to come up short handed. I've two important presentations scheduled, one tomorrow, and another on Friday. Rachael always handles my prepress. Without her, I'll never be ready."

After a moment, Gregory leaned across her desk to return the brochures. Fragrance, spicy-clean and fresh, teased her nostrils. Aftershave and a recent shower, a masculine scent far too likely to distract her, if she gave it a chance. She wouldn't, absolutely couldn't. Not this week.

"I've had some experience with--"

"It's likely the phones will occupy all your time." She couldn't picture his neatly trimmed fingertips flying over a keyboard.

Imagining his hands tangled in some woman's hair though...

Easy. Far too easy.

Cut that out. "Why don't I get you settled at the front desk, Gregory."

He followed her into the outer office. "I prefer Greg."

She ignored the thump of her heart. "Greg it is."

The phone rang. Carina reached for it, only to find Greg's hand already there. He gave her a complacent look and shrugged.

"Good morning, Carrington Graphics," he said into the receiver. "How may I direct your call?" He listened a moment longer. "Certainly, just one moment, please." He placed the caller on hold. "There's a typesetting question on line one."

"Thank you. I'll take it in my office." She rubbed the circulation back into her fingers as she walked away.

The less she heard Greg Lawless' voice, the more she'd accomplish. Carina decided, and pulled her door closed before lifting the receiver. She had her secretary's work to finish.

You're invited to visit Desert Breeze Publishing's Web site, download the book, and find out what happens next.

And visit Toni's web site: