HERS TO COMMAND

Chapter One:

"I want that one." Lady Regina Edmonds looked out the window of her limousine at the crowded construction site. A tantalizing array of tanned and muscular young men were lounging bare-chested in the hot summer sun, taking a break from the hard work of building the new high-rise hotel. Half the luxury hotels in London had been built by Regina, or by her late husband Reginald. The powerful woman in the long limousine could afford to buy anything she wanted . . .

Adam Madison didn't care about money. All he wanted was enough coins in his pocket to buy a good hot dinner and a drink or two at the local pub. Lying flat on his back with his eyes closed, Adam let the warm sun caress his smooth skin while he lazily imagined making love to pretty Peggy, the black-eyed barmaid at his favorite pub. If Peggy was busy, there was always Lucy, or maybe Molly. It didn't really matter which girl he chose or how much he earned. Even without a penny in his pocket, Adam never had trouble finding a girl.

"Madison! Wake up and put your shirt on. We've a visitor." Mr. Perkins was a short, scrawny man with a red, angry face. He was always worrying about deadlines and details.

"Right, Mr. Perkins. I'm always ready to do my bit." Adam rose at once, but he didn't bother with his shirt. Everyone on the site knew that he was the best worker, strong and always on time. Why should he apologize for having a little snooze?

"Have you a workman you can spare for a few days, Mr. Perkins?" The rich woman in the limousine sounded bored.

"This good-looking lad is the best we've got," Mr. Perkins said, smiling while he pounded Adam on the back. "Muscles like a horse, and he always does what he's told. Adam won't let you down, ma'am."

"I'm happy here," Adam said, looking the woman in the eye. The haughty blonde with the diamond choker around her neck might be all done up in velvet and lace, but her smoky gray eyes shot sparks just like a barmaid's.

"Your work here has been outstanding, Mr. Perkins tells me. I own the corporation that pays your salary, and I can offer you some new opportunities and a chance for advancement. But if you don't obey orders you won't have a job very long."

"I don't need advancement, ma'am. Not if it means taking orders from a woman who has to buy a man's interest." Adam wasn't educated, but he knew right from wrong. He pronounced each word with blunt firmness, looking right at the attractive older woman. He liked her looks well enough, but he didn't like her manners.

"Madison, you apologize to the lady, or I'll dismiss you on the spot!" Perkins tried to look fierce as he hissed in Adam's ear, but he was obviously much more scared than angry. One word from the lady in the limousine could throw a dozen men out of work, including the site supervisor.

"No need," the lady said, in a bored voice, sinking back in her seat and giving her driver a signal to move on. "Better keep this one, Mr. Perkins. He's got character and a sharp wit, even if he's not the type who'll ever amount to much."

Adam spat in the dirt as the limousine drove away.