Authors: Nicola Marsh
Nothing like the promise of sensational sex to bring out a bloom in a girl’s cheeks.
On cue, the doorbell rang and with one hand behind her back, fingers crossed for luck, she opened the door.
Jack’s eyes widened a fraction as his gaze flicked over her and he swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing.
“You look like you’re dressed for a sunny day at the office,” he said, clutching his portfolio tighter, like he half expected her to haul him into the villa and have her wicked way with him.
She would. Later. When she’d lulled him into a false sense of security.
“We’re having a business meeting; I thought it appropriate to dress the part.” She opened the door wide and beckoned him in, biting back a laugh at his wariness as he eased past her. “Drink?”
“Sparkling water, please.”
She registered his relief when he caught sight of the work strewn across the table.
, she wanted to yell, but settled for a sedate smile as she added ice to their glasses and topped up with water.
“Thanks.” He took the glass she proffered and rolled it across his forehead before draining half in a two gulps. “Damn humidity.”
“Is it making your hair frizz?” She deadpanned, glancing at his hair, thinking it looked perfect: finger tousled and mussed and sexy.
He laughed. “You’re one to talk. Remember those crazy hairstyles you had in the outback because of the heat?”
She wrinkled her nose. “Don’t remind me.”
But she didn’t mean it. She wanted to be reminded of their time in the outback. Wanted to re-establish the incredible bond they’d shared.
“Remember I almost convinced you to smear kangaroo poo through it to tame the fly-aways?”
“Bull. I never fell for your crap,” she said, knowing she had. But it wasn’t his teasing barbs she’d fallen for as much as the whole package.
She needed to remember how he’d rejected her regardless. It would keep this interlude between them purely physical. Sex with no strings. Her shot at proving Max had been wrong and she wasn’t frigid.
Yeah, Jack would be perfect to kick-start her new sensual side but she’d be a fool to see a trip down memory lane as anything but a few shared moments that had no bearing on here and now.
Her reticence must’ve showed on her face for his grin faded and he flipped open his portfolio, slid out a few sheets and passed them to her.
“Guess we should get started.”
“Sure.” She flicked through the cake sketches, blown away by Jack’s expertise.
Sure, she’d succumbed to watching his Aussie cooking show on the Net a few times, had seen him whip up some incredible feasts with ease and a lazy smile. But the cake concept he’d devised encapsulated Zazz’s ideas perfectly.
“What do you think?” He unconsciously leaned toward her and the intoxicating scent of the resort’s sandalwood soap emanating from him made her inhale.
The resort’s designer toiletries may be great but more than the soap, Jack’s freshly showered skin made her want to broach the short distance between them and lick him.
“It’s stunning,” she said, sounding breathless. “Zazz and Dorian will love it.”
Completely oblivious to her near-hyperventilating status, he pointed at the cake mock-up. “She wanted the red and black theme throughout the wedding to carry over to the cake, so I combined it with a burlesque Bombshell shape.”
He wolf-whistled and outlined an hourglass figure with his hands. “Do you know how many hours of research I had to put in to get that shape just right?”
“You wish.” She whacked him playfully on the arm, wishing he’d do some firsthand research with her. “So you’re going with the corset-shaped torso in crimson with black stays and ribbons, topped with black feathers?”
He nodded, and flipped to the next page. “And same colored cupcakes surrounding the main body.”
Jess took one look at the cupcakes topped with mini corsets, top hats, stilettos and elbow length gloves, and squealed. “Oh my God, these are fabulous!”
“Women.” He rolled his eyes, but she saw how pleased he was by her reaction. “Now that we’ve got the cake sorted, what else do you envisage on the cake table?”
“Let me show you.” Jess hit a button on her laptop and brought up several pictures. “Here’s a London Goth wedding. I love what they’ve done with the table decorations.”
He peered at the screen, moving his chair closer to hers, and she inadvertently held her breath. The thing was, once they’d started working, she’d been enjoying it so much she’d forgotten about her seduction plan. Yet all it took was an unexpected brush of his bare arm against hers and her synapses snapped to attention, firing illicit messages to her brain.
They had to work, that was a given. But seeing this side to him, professional and talented and focused, only served to make her like him more. And she couldn’t afford to like him too much. Lust after him? Not a problem. Like? She may as well hand him her heart on a silver platter complete with carving knife.
“You’re going with a tall black candelabra and hanging crystal garlands as the centerpieces?”
Glad to refocus, she nodded. “Along with black tower vases with red roses and feathers.”
She hit ‘
’ on the keyboard and brought up another concept. “I love these miniature birdcages, maybe filled with marzipan chandeliers?”
“Excellent.” He grabbed one of the pens she’d scattered across the table and made a note on his notepad. “You have the cake as the centerpiece on the table, with a candelabra matching the other tables either end. What else?”
“Well, I liked these too.” She leaned across the table and grabbed a few pictures out of her portfolio, Jack’s hiss of breath almost inaudible. Until she realized what it meant.
He’d caught a glimpse of the corset ribbons protruding from the V on the back her dress.
With sudden shaky hands, she pointed at the first pic as she eased back into her seat. “Clear glass vases filled with Turkish Delight flavored candy floss in some, red and black jelly beans in the other.”
“Looks good,” he said, his tone strangled until he cleared his throat.
Glad she wasn’t the only one having trouble breathing at the moment. Her plan had been to make him sweat, to make him so eager for her he wouldn’t be able to resist. She hadn’t counted on his reaction making her want to abandon her plan and tear his clothes off immediately.
“Though I’m not sure about these?” Her finger slid a pic toward him as she deliberately kept her distance. Accidental brushing at this point would scuttle her ‘make him beg’ plan before it had begun.
He took the pic, his movements as stiff and jerky as hers. “Honestly? Don’t think I like the black porcelain dishes spelling out LOVE, even if they are filled with my handmade white chocolate truffles.”
“Okay then.” She nodded, brusque and businesslike, to avoid being risqué and horny-like. “So the cake table is settled.”
Pity she couldn’t say the same about the insistent, invisible tug of attraction buzzing between them.
“I guess we’re done—”
“Any certainties for the menu yet?” They weren’t done, not by a long shot, and she intended to keep him here for as long as it took to pluck up her courage.
For despite the sexy underthings and her resolve to get laid, now that the moment to seduce Jack was drawing nearer, Jess had reverted to type.
Shy. Inept. Totally out of her depth.
How was it that someone so in control with the rest of her life was nervous when it came to sex?
She could blame Max all she liked but the truth was, despite his five-minute-rote-routine in the bedroom, and the harsh accusations he’d flung when they’d broken up, Jess knew her insecurities probably affected her performance. And the more wound up she got about a lack of orgasms, the harder they’d been to achieve.
Yet she’d come pretty damn fast in that alley with Jack… A one-off? She sure as hell hoped not but now that she had a chance for a repeat, her bravado had fled.
“I’ve finalized a few of the starters,” he said, looking at anything but her. “Seared scallops with shallot butter. Slow-cooked duck breast with chorizo and pancetta. Soft-shell crab with ginger and lime. And shrimp tempura with wasabi pepper and spicy garlic sauce.”
Jess’s mouth watered and a tiny moan of appreciation escaped her lips. “That sounds divine.”
Jack’s gaze riveted to her mouth and in an effort not to squirm, she crossed her legs.
Bad move. Or good, depending on how far she wanted to push him tonight, for his gaze traveled from her lips slowly south, and fixed on the lace-topped stocking fastened with a hint of garter.
“Fuck, Jess,” he muttered, his hands clenching into fists where they rested on his lap, trying futilely to cover his erection.
“I wish you would,” she said, edging close enough so her fingertip touched his thigh.
He jumped as if she’d short-circuited him.
“I wish you would. Fuck Jess,” she said, emboldened by his ragged breathing and desperate glare.
Jess had no idea how long they sat there, gazes locked, tension vibrating to breaking point.
She wanted to make the first move.
She wanted him to make the first move.
Hell, she had no idea what she wanted, bar Jack naked and inside her. Deep.
“Oh, for goodness sake.” She stood so fast the chair fell backward and slammed against the marble tiles. “You’re saying no to me
Before her anger dissipated and her meager courage waned, she unzipped the sheath. It slid off her shoulders and pooled at her feet.
Jack groaned and she stepped out of the dress before kicking it away.
“What the hell are you wearing?”
“Something to make you notice me as a woman and not Reid Harper’s goody-two-shoes little sister.”
She knew she’d made a monumental error in mentioning Reid the moment his name slipped out and Jack paled.
Desperate times called for desperate measures so she unclicked the garter clips holding up her stockings, propped a foot on the sofa arm, and rolled the stocking down her leg. Slowly.
Jack’s heavy breathing was the only sound piercing the silence as she removed the other stocking, bundling them in a loose ball before flinging them at him.
Pity her sporting prowess equaled her sexual skills, and the stockings missed the table and landed on a lamp rather than Jack’s lap.
If he laughed, she was out of here.
She glared at him, defying him to say something, to acknowledge she looked sexy and irresistible.
That’s when she saw it.
The corners of his mouth curved upward.
A smile. A goddamn smile.
She flashed back to the past in an embarrassing rush. The way she’d opened up to him in the outback, discussing a future and how much she loved him.
And he’d laughed.
Years later with the wisdom of maturity, she realized he’d been deliberately trying to push her away but seeing a similar reaction now hurt more than she could’ve thought possible.
She wasn’t a naïve kid any more. She was a woman with needs and desires. A woman who wouldn’t be hurting unless she’d already moved past ‘this is a fling only’ to ‘hell and damnation, I still care about this guy.’
As if things couldn’t get any worse, the staggering realization she may have feelings for Jack brought tears to her eyes.
And he saw.
“Go,” she said, dodging furniture in an effort to make it to the bedroom before she cried in earnest.
“Fuck off, Jack.” She made it to the bedroom door before he was upon her, wrapping his arms around her from behind, hauling her back against his broad chest.
She struggled, her chest heaving with silent sobs as he strode into the bedroom and sat on the bed, his arms surrounding her like bands of steel, anchoring her on his lap.
In her wildest dreams she’d never imagined having Jack in the villa’s bedroom would be like this. Her on a crying jag with ugly sobs, him cradling her and murmuring soothing words.
So much for sensational sex.
The tears should’ve been cathartic. Instead, as her sobs subsided, a cold, hard anger coalesced in the pit of her stomach.
Anger at herself. At him. At this entire, ludicrous situation.
In any other circumstance, they’d be going at it like jackrabbits right now. Instead, Jack was trapped by some unwritten boys’ code of honor and wouldn’t come near her.
Fine. She’d meant what she’d said in Vegas. If he didn’t want to party, she’d find someone who would.
Fuelled by fury, she broke his comforting hold and leaped off his lap.
“I said go.”
“I’m not going to leave you like this—”
“Why? Because you think I’ll waste any more time crying over you?” She whirled on him, hands on hips, her anger spiking as his gaze fixed on her chest which must be heaving over the top of the corset now that she’d worked herself up into a real rage. “Forget it. I’m done trying to get you to notice me as a woman.”
She strutted over to her suitcases and unzipped her special one. “Time for me to find someone else who’s happy to play.”
In a deliberate taunt, she picked up a sheer gold lace thong and dangled it on the end of her finger. “Someone eager to rip this off me when I wear it.”
She made a slingshot out of the thong and aimed. This time, she hit him fair and square on the nose.
Next, she hooked a maroon garter and swung it around. “Someone who’ll use his mouth and teeth to slide my stockings off.” She flung the garter at him, and it landed in his lap.
For the grand finale, she scooped an armful of satin corsets and feathers and panties and flung the lot at his big, fat head. “Someone who’s happy to watch me parade around in each and every one of those outfits before tearing them off me and finishing what they start.”
Jack didn’t move, his expression wary as he stared at her like she’d lost her mind. If she’d been in a laughing mood she would’ve giggled at the sight of him covered in various items of Bombshell garb. Instead, his complete lack of emotion, his reluctance to interact on any level, made her want to slug him.
“You don’t need all this stuff to get me to notice you as a woman.” He swept scraps of satin off his lap. “You never did.”