Eclipse of the Heart - By Carly Carson

Chapter 1

"No matter what he says, his thoughts will revolve around stripping you naked and bending you over his desk," Jessie said.

Amanda Thompson smiled as she remembered the silly words her roommate had teased her with this morning at breakfast. Perhaps they were effective at reducing her tension a bit.

But when she stepped out of the elevator into the spacious, elegantly appointed waiting room that guarded her potential boss's inner sanctum, she felt her insecurities rushing back. This job was too important. She simply had to get it. Her sister's life was at stake.

Two women stood at a mahogany reception desk with their backs to her. Money bought silence and Amanda's sensible black pumps made no sound on the thick gray carpet. She could tell the two women chatting with their heads together did not hear her approach, but she had no desire to eavesdrop.

They'd turn around when she got closer.

The shorter one, a redhead, held a hand to her mouth, which partially obscured her words. "…interview today…new mistress…check her out…"

The leggy blonde had no qualms about being overheard. "I want that job," she announced, tossing her long hair down her back. "Nothing to do but shag him for good money. Can't you just send me in and pretend I'm the candidate?"

"No way." Red dropped her hand and shook her curly head. "The applicants come from some agency."

"Pooh! He'd never know the difference."

"He knows everything," Red said darkly. "You try workin' for him."

"That's exactly what I want—"

Amanda cleared her throat. Both women turned and surveyed her as if she'd just beamed down from the overhead lights.

"You're early." A flush stole up Red's cheeks, as if she were embarrassed to be caught gossiping, but, at the same time, she nudged her friend.

"I'll wait," Amanda answered. She was fifteen minutes early, well within the range of acceptable arrival time, but she believed in making the best impression possible on everyone. No need to alienate the assistant.

"Shoot." Red held out her hand. "I can never remember the order of things. I'm Rosie, Mr. Winter's assistant this week." She beamed with pride. "Pleased to meet ya."

"Amanda Thompson. As you guessed, I'm here for an interview with Mr. Winter." Amanda glanced around. "I was told to check in with Ms. Lockwood."

"She's out this week," Rosie announced. "I'm the company's revolvin' temp."

The blonde sniffed while giving Amanda a once-over. "As if," she snorted before stomping off.

"Don't pay her any mind." Rosie waved a hand. "Jealous."

"She wouldn't be if she knew how nervous I was." Amanda clapped a hand over her mouth. "Whoops. See what nerves do to me?"

Rosie laughed. "Don't worry. I won't tell." She leaned forward and lowered her voice. "He can be a little intimidating. Ya want some advice?"

Amanda smiled. It was impossible not to like the imp, with her round cheeks, outrageous outfit and easy friendliness.

"I think I'm okay," she said.

"No, see you don't realize, people have been comin' in all week to interview for this job. Lots of competition, y'know?"

"There always is." Amanda wanted to step away, but she couldn't be rude to this friendly elf.

Rosie nodded. "So what you want to do is loosen up a bit. Unbutton that blouse." She gestured to the plain, collared blouse that Amanda had thought looked neat and businesslike.

"You could even," Rosie added in a stage whisper, "scoot into that bathroom over there, and take it off altogether." She winked. "Make him wonder what's under that jacket, y'know?"

Amanda laughed. "You've seen women trying to get the job that way?"

"You wouldn't believe what I've seen." Rosie leaned forward. "Women swarmin' like an overturned beehive. And the outfits!" She rolled her big blue eyes. "He's rich, he's single, and he's smokin' hot." She fanned her face with an exaggerated motion. "Okay, maybe he's a little too starched, if you know what I mean. Sometimes I wanna lift my skirt myself just to see the look on his face."

Amanda laughed again, even as she realized she had to back off. She shouldn't be gossiping with the office temp. Nor would she be likely to take fashion advice from someone currently wearing a pink tulle ballerina skirt topped with a brown leather jacket.

"Thanks, Rosie. I think I'll take my chances the way I am." She started to walk over to the floor-to-ceiling windows that offered a breathtaking view of Manhattan's Central Park.

Rosie shook her head as she picked up the phone. "Can't you at least let down your hair?" She pointed at Amanda's neat bun.

Amanda shook her head as Rosie