Love, Lust and Everything in between! Lillana does an amazing job pulling you into the life and love triangle of Katrina by making you really fall in love (or hate) with the characters. The book is full of romance, desire, loathing, hurt... I mean.. All the feels and emotions! It's definitely an adult read! - Heather Sutton ★★★★★ stars
Never have I been so totally and utterly gutted by a book on page 5, that is until I read Struggle.I was speechless and left thinking how, and most importantly WHY?
Struggle is a story of friendship, a story of love, and a story of survival.
I couldn't put this book down until I knew how it ended, and I absolutely loved how it ended. Margaret Neal ★★★★★ stars
Intense Romance! Such an emotional story. When you love something set it free? Thats the old saying, if it was truly yours it will come back, something like that.
That saying well that says it all about this book but with alot of emotions and drama involved. The book is intense and fascinating. - Vinessa Donatelli Wooten ★★★★ stars
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Katrina Mahoney is starting her first day as the part-time librarian at the law firm Turner, Barlow & Smith in Sydney. She gets off to a rocky start but during her tour of the office, she meets one of the junior solicitors, Elliot Roberts.
She catches Elliot's attention before long, and at an after-work function they end up sharing a passionate kiss in front of far too many witnesses. This causes gossip at work and strains Katrina’s relationship with her long-time best friend, David.
Katrina continues her romance with Elliot in secret, going running and to the gym with him during lunch breaks. They are very attracted to each other but know they could both lose their jobs if their relationship is discovered due to the firm's strict no-dating policy.
Katrina's childhood best friend David is sceptical of her relationship with Elliot and warns her not to date men in secret after her last boyfriend treated her so poorly. He gets into an argument with her about it, and it doesn’t take long before Katrina realises she’ll have to choose between two loves. But how does she choose between a man who only wants her in secret and one who only wants her as a friend?
Look Inside - Chapter 1
Look Inside - Chapter 1
12 months later
If my life was a movie, it’d be playing Dolly Parton’s Nine to Five, as I enter the building in Sydney’s Martin Place that houses the law offices of Turner, Barlow & Smith. It’s my first day as the part-time librarian. Actually, it’s my first job full-stop, and I’m nervous as hell.
In that movie, the music would come to a screeching halt the moment I approach the reception area and open my mouth.
With a finger held up to silence me, the frosty receptionist gives me a look that tells me I’m no better than the crud under her beautifully manicured fingernails. She isn’t even on a call. But she makes me wait until one comes in and she answers it.
“Turner, Barlow and Smith. How can I direct your call?”
I have to admit I feel a little intimidated by her looks. She’s beautifully made up and very curvaceous; like one of those sexy cartoon pin-up girls you see from wartime posters. She has jet-black hair cascading down her shoulders, and a bust daring to break through her fitted blouse that a flat-chested girl like me would pay dearly for. I feel like Frankenstein’s monster standing near her.
I wait while she answers and redirects a few calls. And even when it’s obvious she’s doing nothing, she still makes me wait. I feel my nerves skitter about in my chest before I take a deep breath and clear my throat.
She looks at me with her lips pursed, and her perfect brows arched. It makes me wonder how she’s kept this job. She’s not good at greeting possible clients.
Despite feeling ill at ease by the frostiness of her gaze, I take a deep breath. “I’m Katrina Mahoney. I start work here today.” She keeps staring. “Uh, in the library?” It comes out as a question, her blank look making me second guess myself. Am I in the right place?
“Take a seat.” She tilts her head back and looks down her nose at me—a difficult thing to do to someone as tall as I am, but she succeeds insurmountably. “The office manager will come for you when she’s ready.” Cutting eye contact, she immediately returns her attention to whatever she feels is more important than having some fucking manners.
Great start. I’m making friends already.
Taking a deep breath, I turn and look around the waiting area, sighing when I see the low-set furniture. I walk towards it, wondering how the heck I’m going to fold my long legs in some sort of dignified manner—I don’t want to flash the office manager when she comes out to collect me.
I perch on the edge of a cream leather couch with my knees angling down and my legs tucked to the side. I imagine I look a little like a daddy longlegs, but I don’t have much choice in the matter. This world isn’t built for tall girls in short skirts. #tallgirlproblems
Being a librarian in a legal firm isn’t my top-tier career goal. I applied for this job in the hopes it would be a foot in the door by the time I graduate. I’m two years into studying a humanities/law degree at Western Sydney University. Ultimately, I want to practise family law and landing a job in a big multi-focused law firm like TBS could be the in I need to get my career off to the right start.
My skirt isn’t that short. I’m just overly gangly.
Trying to look conservative for my first day, I put on a black pinstripe skirt that ends above my knees. I’ve teamed it with a crimson satin blouse and black low heeled Mary-Jane shoes. I straightened the natural wave out of my honey-blonde hair so it sits just below my shoulders, and I’m wearing enough makeup to give my lips and cheeks a rosy glow and cover an angry-looking scar that runs along my hairline. Hence the Frankenstein reference.
I only have to sit awkwardly on the low-set chairs for a few minutes before a small woman who appears to be in her mid-forties and of Indian origin comes out to greet me. “I’m the office manager on this level; Priya.” She extends her hand in greeting. “You must be Katrina Mahoney.”
I immediately rise, dwarfing Priya with my six feet of height, smile, and shake her hand. “Yes, that’s me. It’s lovely to meet you.”
Priya looks up at me and says the first thing most people say upon meeting me. “My, you’re a tall one aren’t you?” I smile and nod to be polite, while inwardly rolling my eyes. Thanks for the brilliant deduction there, Watson. “Follow me. I’ll show you around the office.”
I do as I’m told, following closely behind and trying to take in as much information about my surroundings as possible.
Priya speaks over her shoulder and points things out as we go along. “In here are the conference rooms. In your position, you’ll only need to know about them for drinks on Friday nights—there’s a social committee in charge of all that. You can join if you like. Mary runs it. She should come and talk to you about it at some point during the day. We like our employees taking part in group activities. Helps us work better as a team.”
She flashes a smile then continues down the corridor, passing different offices and cubicles. She explains that the corner offices are for the partners, and the window offices are for the junior and senior solicitors. In the area outside their offices, the personal assistant's cubicles reside with a block of windowless offices in the centre of the floor for accounts and other support staff. This centre block also contains the library and the break room.
“Here’s where you’ll be working.” Priya stops outside a room, two regular offices wide. It’s lined with built-in bookcases on three walls that reach up to the high ceiling. Through the centre are two rows of smaller bookcases, and on the third wall, a reference computer, an ancient-looking microfiche reader, and a photocopier. Crammed behind all of that is my desk.
Priya walks towards it and places a hand on top of the cubicle divider. “You can put your bag in the bottom drawer,” she says, tapping the desk with her foot. “It locks.” Then she takes me through the computer login process and sifts through my already full desk tray, showing me law journal updates and explaining how the firm’s library system works.
“The microfiche machine lives in here, but since everything is online now, it isn’t commonly used. However, we do still have a number of solicitors who prefer the old tech. They’ll send you a request for the microfilm and you’ll need to get them from the archives. Elliot—one of our newest junior solicitors—is in charge of those. He’s also responsible for cataloging these law magazines.” She pulls them out of my tray and I wonder why they aren’t just sent to him directly. “I’ll take you to meet him now.”
Priya leads me down the busy corridor to a small office wedged between the partner’s big corner office and all the regular-sized offices. I would have thought it a storage room if I wasn’t shown different.
“He’s just in here.” She taps on the closed door and waits patiently for the OK to go in. When she opens the door, a man in his early twenties looks up from his work revealing the most vivid blue eyes I’ve ever seen.
I catch my breath as I drink him in, feeling shocked I’m even reacting to him. Since my altercation with Christopher, I’ve barely even noticed the opposite sex. But this man—this Elliot—well, he’s something else. He’s gorgeous.
Even through his dress shirt, I can see how well muscled he is, his face showing that smattering of stubble I love on a man. I don’t know how else to describe him, except to say he’s stunning—those blue eyes, that full mouth, his light golden-brown hair and broad shoulders—I feel myself swoon a little but return to reality when I notice him arch one of those perfect eyebrows in question.
“Sorry to interrupt, Elliot. But, I just wanted to introduce you to our new librarian, Kat,” Priya says, indicating me.
“Um, no. It’s Katrina,” I correct, hating my name shortened to that of a small furry animal.
“Sorry—Katrina,” Priya amends with a slight eye roll.
Elliot doesn’t speak at first. He just sits there, studying me.
Is there something in my teeth?
My cheeks flush involuntarily, as the discomfort of being stared at causes me to look nervously around the room, out the door. Anywhere but at him.
My apparent unease seems to make him realise he’s staring. He quickly clears his throat and says, “It’s nice to meet you, Katrina.”
His voice, wow. It’s as beautiful as the rest of him with a deep rumble that sends chills up my spine.
I’m trying desperately to be cool so he doesn’t notice my immediate attraction. A guy like this must have women swooning all over him. I don’t need him to think I’m one of them—despite his hotness. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my twenty years on this earth, it’s that hot guys and I don’t mix. We’re better off as friends. I’ve dated guys who look as good as him before and it’s never ended well. The scars I bear are the perfect testament to that.
I manage a tight smile. “Hi, um, uh, Elliot.”
Inwardly, my eyes roll. You sound like an idiot. And to make matters worse, there’s silence after that. Nobody says a word, and this awkwardness envelops us like a scratchy woollen blanket.
Say something smart. “Ah…” My eyes dart around the room, trying to find a talking point to move things along. “Nice window.” I wince, regretting the comment the moment it leaves my mouth. You are too stupid to live, woman.
Elliot’s brow lifts again as he glances over his shoulder at said window “It came with the office.” His blue eyes meet mine but reveal no emotion.
I nod and press my lips together so I can’t talk anymore. He thinks I’m a complete ditz. I can feel the heat rising in my cheeks, while moths of embarrassment churn through my stomach. Kill me, please.
Priya raises her eyebrows at the exchange. “Well, this was fun.” She ushers me out of his office as she says, “Just thought you should meet Katrina so you know what she is doing leaving things on your desk. Enjoy your day, Elliot.”
She gently closes his door and leads me back towards the library, not saying anything more until we’re back inside. “So, your bright-red face tells me you noticed he’s a bit of spunk, huh?”
I try to act nonchalant and shrug my shoulders a little. “He’s OK.”
“All the girls are after him, but he doesn’t show any interest. Don’t get any ideas. There’s a strict no-dating policy here, and he adheres to it. There’s a list of junior solicitors a mile long wanting to work here, and I really don’t think he will risk his job. Do yourself a favour and don’t get your hopes up.”
“My hopes are adequately low,” I say, mentally kicking myself for feeling a little disappointed.
“Someone nice to look at though, huh? Stops the office being so boring.”
“I suppose,” I answer carefully.
“Well.” She smiles. “If you need anything, don’t hesitate to call me.”
I nod and thank her for the tour before getting started with work. As I flip through the items in my tray, I can’t imagine I’ll have any trouble. Everything is basic. Sort books, gather microfiche and follow a simple instruction sheet for the law journal updates—take out page twenty-two, insert the new page twenty-two—I’ll be fine.
Alone, I take some time to look around my new work space so I can take it all in. It feels peaceful being surrounded by books, and the colours of the room help add to the calming effect: pistachio green for the small spaces of wall, and a dim grey for the bookcases.
I have a job. Smiling, I twist lightly from side to side biting my lip as an idea comes to me. I peek over my partition to make sure I’m still alone then tuck my legs in tight and spin around in childish abandon. I place my hands on the desk to stop the spinning and sigh happily. It’s exciting to have my own space within an office. Even if it feels a little like a girl playing dress up.
Gathering the law volumes I need to update, I focus my mind on doing what I’m getting paid for. I don’t get far into the update before a woman a few years older than me with chestnut brown hair and a Mediterranean complexion comes in to introduce herself.
“Hi, you must be Katrina. I’m Mary, Francis’s PA—you may have seen him on your tour. I’m the head of the social committee!” She announces it to me like there should have been a Tada! at the end. She seems very peppy. “I thought I’d pop in to welcome you to Turner, Barlow and Smith and give you a rundown of the things we like to do as a team here.”
“A team,” I repeat, bobbing my head as she prattles on.
“Yes. We do lots of fun things outside of work hours.”
I sit silently listening to her chatter about Friday drinks and various social activities that come up throughout the year.
“Last year we had a team enter a dragon boat race. And the year before that, we competed in a half marathon for charity. I hear you’re a bit sporty.”
“I’m a triathlete, yeah,” I say, regretting putting that information on my resume. Between uni, work and training, I won’t have time for corporate sports.
“Just what we need. Maybe if you come to Friday night drinks this week I can introduce you around? You drink don’t you?”
“Ah, sure. Yeah, I drink.”
“Great. Well, it’s only half an hour, straight after work in the conference room.”
“OK, I’ll make sure I’m there,” I say, feeling the pressure to fit in.
“Excellent. This is your first job, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, very first,” I admit.
“Well, I’m sure you’ll like it here. We’re a pretty good group of people. I mean, you get your cliques like you do everywhere, but most people here are real nice. I’ll see you around, if not, on Friday, OK?” she turns to leave and practically bounces out the door.
“Sounds great,” I call after her, smiling weakly. I really don’t know if I’m a Friday-night-drinks kind of person, but I figure I’d better show my face if I want to make any friends here. It sounds important.
After I get a little more work done, I leave the library to grab a coffee at morning tea time. There are two PA desks outside the offices in front of the library door, and one of the girls—a small, slightly rotund girl with a friendly face and dirty blonde hair tied up in a bouncy ponytail—gets up as I approach.
“You’re new,” she states in an Irish accent. “I’m Kayley.”
“Katrina,” I reply, and we shake hands briefly.
“I’m Greg’s PA. He's creepy.” She whispers the last part.
“Is he?” My eyes skitter around nervously. I’m not sure I should be having this conversation.
“Yeah, sometimes I go in there to drop something off, and he is under his desk.”
“Exactly! That’s the part I find creepy.”
I laugh, my concern ebbing away as we start to talk about how long she’s been working here and what some of the other girls are like.
When we reach the kitchen, I’m introduced to Anne and Carl, who are both filing clerks, and Albina and Joanne, who are both PAs. I can’t help but notice that most of the people in the break room are all support staff. Any solicitors who come in make their coffee or tea, utter some small talk and leave.
“They don’t really associate too much with all of us plebs,” Kayley explains, handing me a cup for my coffee as we move along the line of people waiting for the water heater.
“Mary made it sound like the whole company was a team.”
She laughs. “Yeah. That’s a no. Management set up the social committee to foster some kind of cohesion between solicitors and support staff. It doesn’t really work, but they provide free drinks and food.” She shrugs as if that explains it all before she sucks in her breath and taps my arm. “Wouldn’t mind a little cohesion with this one, though. Check him out.” Her eyes are on the doorway where I find Elliot joining the end of the queue. He nods and says hello to a couple of people on their way out, but mostly stands there quietly, waiting his turn for coffee, tea or whatever his chosen refreshment is.
“Him? Yeah, I met him a little earlier. Doesn’t seem too friendly.”
“Pity.” Kayley doesn’t hide the fact she’s openly staring at the guy. “He could make coming to work a hell of a lot more fun.”
One of the other PAs moves towards him and starts up a conversation. I’m stupidly standing here, watching it all play out when he realises and looks at me, stopping mid-sentence for just a beat. Oh shit! The girl talking to him follows his gaze and finds a now red-faced me, who for some insane reason is still looking at them. Look away. Look away! She squints her eyes, shooting daggers in my direction, flicking her long honey streaked hair over her shoulder as she laughs and continues her conversation with Elliot. Is she laughing at me now? Why am I still staring?
Kayley leans in, thankfully snapping my attention back to a safe area. “He’s delicious, huh? The one talking to him is Beth. She’s his PA and thinks she has dibs on him. But every woman here is lusting after the man. He’s divine. Did you see that body? And the hair, the eyes? I could go on.” She sighs happily as we spoon granulated coffee and sugar into our mugs.
“Priya told me there’s a 'no-dating' policy here.”
“That’s only a problem if you get caught,” Albina cuts in, leaning between us to grab a wooden stirrer. “I’d fuck that guy in a heartbeat.” She saunters off with an appreciative growl, and I grin, enjoying her audaciousness but refusing to look at Elliot again. I don’t want to get stuck staring.
Once we’ve added our hot water and milk, we take our drinks to one of the tables and sit down. At our table is Anne, Carl, Albina, Joanne—who prefers to be called ‘Jo’—Kayley and myself. The whole setup feels like a scene from a high school movie with predetermined groups sticking together in the cafeteria.
My new friends seem eager to fill me in on office gossip. I find out that one of the senior partners is going through a nasty divorce and sleeps at the office most nights. And the IT guy is having an affair with one of the admin girls.
“They think no one knows, but they aren’t very good at pretending nothing is happening,” Jo says.
“Yeah. But no one cares enough to report them,” Carl adds. “As long as I never walk in on them fucking in the file room, I don’t give a shit what they do.”
“Fair enough,” I say, taking a mouthful of my coffee.
“Tell us about you, though,” Kayley says.
“Yes,” Albina adds. “What’s your deal? You’re young. Are you still at school? Boyfriend? Family? Tell us everything.”
“My deal?” I sit back, holding the warm mug between both hands while I try to decide how much I want to tell them. “There’s not much to me. No boyfriend, I still live at home, and I’m studying a humanities-law degree. Second year.”
“So you want to be one of them?” Carl asks, brows raised as he points to the solicitor retreating out the door.
“I do, but I’ll make sure I’m still kind to the little plebs,” I tease.
“You better,” Kayley says with a laugh. “You already know too much.”