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Authors: Susan Johnson

French Kiss

BOOK: French Kiss
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Susan Johnson


L.A. architect Nicole Lesdaux has just signed on to create a tree house for record producer Johnny Patrick's little girl, Jordi. The hunky single dad has given Nicky an unlimited budget—but she might have agreed to work for free, if it meant watching his sizzlingly sexy body by the pool every day…

But mixing business with pleasure is one of Nicky's no-no's—so she focuses on making this music mogul the Taj Mahal of tree houses. Until Johnny's ex-wife makes off to Paris with their daughter…

Since Nicky speaks the language, a desperate Johnny needs her help finding little Jordi. En route, sexual tensions run ever higher. Again and again, the two must fight back the urge to come together. And, as Nicky discovers, Johnny does know some French after all.




kay, Nicky had to admit, she was intimi
dated. Even though she’d told herself she wouldn’t be. So Johnny Patrick had produced the most top-ten records in the last decade. So he’d been married to the most beautiful movie star of the century. So he could have been a movie star himself— you know the tall, dark, silent type that could get any woman he wanted. It wasn’t supposed to matter.

This was a potential new client.

Nothing more.

It wasn’t as though she was going to sleep with him this afternoon—although she and every woman in the world with breath in her body might be tempted.

For sure, she wasn’t going to act like some idiot.

She’d worked for lots of rich people.

Her tree houses could get pretty pricey.

Not that she didn’t build inexpensive ones, too, but let’s face it, ever since that article about her tree houses had appeared in the
L.A. Times
, she’d been swamped with top-bracket people wanting her to build them the tree house they’d never had as a kid. They always pretended little Madison o
r Skip Junior wanted a quarter-
million-dollar tree house. And in return, she always pretended that those little kids did.

But even in her more rarified world of customers since that article, Johnny Patrick was right up there in the stratosphere of celebrities. And the locked gates at street level, not to mention the long drive up the Berkeley hills, with gardeners manicuring the landscape on every side, were doing a number on her intentions to stay calm.

Oh, Christ.

She’d reached the top of the hill.

Was that a house, or had Versai
lles been transported stone-by-
stone to California?



fter parking in
the humongous car park to the left of the entrance, it took her a moment to compose herself. Leaning on the steering wheel of her small hybrid car, she went through that old saw of Burns’—“A man’s a man for a’ that”—and reminded herself as well that she was here because she’d been asked. Johnny Patrick was interested in her expertise.

But really, how confident could one be in the presence of this—no shit—French palace. She felt like she was a fucking long way from Black Duck, Minnesota.

Nicky found herself relaxing when the door was opened by a little girl instead of a stately butler or French maid. And when the
towheaded girl, dressed in shorts and a Shrek T-shirt, asked excitedly, “Are you the tree house lady?” the atmosphere shifted closer to normal.

“I am,” Nicky said, holding out her small portfolio of plans.

“Oh, great! Hey, Daddy, the tree house lady is here!” And spinning around, she ran away down a cavernous hallway, shouting, “Come on, follow me!”

Keeping the blond hair in sight, down the hall and through a large room with museum-quality furniture and floor-to-ceiling French doors, Nicky found herself outside on a veranda that bordered an Olympic-sized pool. And swimming in that pool was none other than one of
magazine’s “Sexiest Men Alive.” Her towheaded guide was hopping up and down on the hand-painted red and blue tile pool surround, screaming, “Hurry, hurry. Daddy! I’ve been waiting all day!”

When Johnny Patrick pulled himself out of the water in a spectacular display of toned muscle and grace, Nicky didn’t know where to look. He was really built—lean with heavy-duty muscles, his tanned skin sleek and wet, his Speedo not doing a lot to cover what looked to be a real noteworthy package.

“I’ll be right with you,” he said, reaching for a pair of faded shorts on the tiled edging. “Sit
down.” He waved toward a pool-
side table and chairs. “Jordi, go find Maria. Tell her we need some lemonade.”

The sound of a zipper zipping was a distinct relief, as Nicky moved toward the table and chairs. The word
was tailor-
made for a man like Johnny Patrick. He was a frigging babe magnet without even trying.

Fortunately she had a moment to gather her wits before he sat down. This was a business appointment, she reminded herself
sternly. Don’t screw up because he happens to be God’s gift to women. A man like him knows it.

He dropped into the chair opposite her, ran his fingers through his hair to slick it back, slid down on his spine in a comfortable lounge and looked at her with a penetrating gaze. “You’re an architect, right?”

“Yes.” She sat up straighter, his tone all business. Although it would have helped the businesslike atmosphere if he’d worn a shirt.

“A friend of mine had you build his son a tree house. Kyle Jeter.”

She nodded. “We just finished it.”
Don't, don’t, don’t look at his buff upper body.
Deliberately fixing her gaze on his face, she said in her best professional tone, “We came in under deadline, too.”

“So I heard. Kyle was pleased
. He said you’re really good.”

Thank you.” Those cool gray eyes; she felt as though he was gauging her against some internal criteria.

“You’re familiar with keeping a low profile, I understand.”

“If necessary. Certainly.”

“I don’t want Jordi’s tree house to wind up in some scandal sheet. I’m trying to give her as normal a life as possible.”

That was a big assignment, she felt like saying, with a celebrity mother and father who had been featured on every tabloid cover known to man, as a couple and then singly since their divorce. “I understand,” she said instead. “Everything can be kept under the radar if you wish.”

“How did you end up in tree houses?”

“Long story.”

“I’ve got plenty of time.”

That chill glance again, as though he was overfamiliar with
interlopers. “I came out here with a boyfriend. We both had degrees in architecture and wanted a warmer climate for our designs.”

“Not tree houses.”

“No. Small houses for people with simp
le lifestyles.” She smiled faintl
y. “That didn’t exactly work out.”

“Did the boyfriend work out?”

“Does it matter?”

“It could if I’m trying to keep this from the tabloids.”

“He’s gone. He took a trip to Thailand and never came back.”


“Meaning?” Her voice took on a small edge.

“Nothing.” He smiled for the first time. “Forgive me. One gets paranoid in my line of work.”

“Too many groupies?” she said, figuring she was allowed after his damnably personal queries.

He seemed not to notice her pique. “Lots of stuff,” he said, his shoulder lifting in the smallest of shrugs. “Did you bring something to show me?”

As Nicky slid her portfolio across the table toward him, a girlish voice shouted, “I wanna see, too! Wait! Wait!”

Jordi was running toward them, followed by a middle-aged woman in slacks and a U2 T-shirt carrying a tray of glasses. As Jordi neared her father, she leaped at him with total abandon from at least six feet away. He caught her easily, as though they’d gone through that drill once or twice before, and settled her on his lap, drew up the portfolio, and opened it.

“Oh, I want
one!” Jordi cried, brushing her long blond hair away from her face so she could see better. “Look at that cute tower and that rope ladder!”

“Wait till you see them all, baby. There might be another one you like more.” His voice was low key, his smile doting, as he gazed at his daughter.

Nicky’s stomach did a sudden little flip-flop at that look of adoration from
e rock world’s major player. He’d produced every big name album in recent history. And there he was—not the badass magnet of every starlet and serious musician in the world of rock-and-roll, but fucking DADDY. Oh, Christ, he must have asked her something because he was looking at her expectantly.

'‘Alcoholic or non?”

Clearly, he’d repeated the query. “Ah

non is fine,” she quickly replied as though she hadn’t been in dreamland.

“Me, too, Maria.” He smiled at his housekeeper. “I’m on the wagon.”

Maria grinned and shot a glance at Nicky. “Mr. Johnny watches his drinking. He’s a real good father.”

Wow. That shot down the public image of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll.

“How ’bout some of those big cookies?” Jordi looked at her father. “It’s still hours till supper.”

“Why not. Some of those Rocky Road cookies, Maria. You like chocolate?” he asked, looking up at Nicky.

“I doubt there’s a woman who doesn’t.”

“Really?” His dark brows rose slightly.

Apparently Lisa Jordan, ex-wife and star of important small films adored by the critics, didn’t like chocolate. “I probably like it more than most,” Nicky said, trying to be polite.

His brows dropped, his attention back on the portfolio and his daughter’s enthusiastic appreciation of each and every tree house Nicky had ever built.

When Maria returned with a plate of mouthwatering cookies studded with chunks of dark chocolate, creamy marshmallows, and huge pecans, Nicky had to restrain herself. She’d forgotten to eat lunch, breakfast hadn’t been exactly filling—unless three cups of espresso counted—and the temptation to grab two or three cookies was almost overwhelming. Rocky Road was her favorite kind of ice cream, and the Dean & Deluca catalogue always had Rocky Road cookies that required overnight delivery.

Really, she was suddenly feeling a kind of immediate rapport.

It was amazing how chocolate could make one overlook even blatant discrepancies like Versailles-like homes and rock-star personalities.

Ohmygod, he reached for a cookie almost before the plate hit the table.

How could you
get along with a man who liked chocolate?

They all ate their cookies in a companionable silence, agreeing between chews on several characteristics necessary to tree houses. Like rope ladders that pulled up. And the need for electricity for a TV. And a small fridge for sodas. And a room large enough to bring up a ton of friends.

Nicky jotted down Jordi’s favorite construction elements as they ate, not even refusing when Johnny offered her a third cookie. So she looked like a pig. So what, when these cookies were to die for.

“Bring up the plans when you have them finished,” he said, after they’d cleaned the plate and drunk their lemonade. “I think we have a go here.”

“Is there some budget number for the project?” She’d learned early on to let her clients know that if they wanted the Taj Mahal of tree houses, it would cost them more than a nickel.

“Not really. As long as Jordi’s happy with the plans, I’m on board.”

“I could show you something say— by the end of the month.”

“I need it sooner.”

His smile was meant to dazzle, and it did, a distinct sensation of pleasure zipping through her senses in spite of his outrageous demand. “How soon exactly?” she asked, dubiously.

“Real soon,” he said, ignoring the reservation in her tone. “We have a birthday coming up, don’t we baby?” he cheerfully added, ruffling his daughter’s hair. His gaze swung back to Nicky. “I apologize for such short notice, but I just finished work on an album and came out into the sunlight again, as it were. Then Jordi decided she wanted a tree house for her birthday, you were recommended as the best and”—he shrugged—“and here we are. Naturally, I’d be happy to compensate you for whatever inconvenience this rush project will entail.”

“Jeez, I don’t know

She had work up the gazoo, and she wasn’t sure she liked his
money-will-buy-anything attitude.

“I’m good at expediting things,” Johnny offered. “Whatever you need, I could see that it was on site ASAP.”

“Can I
my tree house for my birthday?” Jordi murmured, looking up at her father with a soulful gaze.

His daughter had picked up on her uncertainty, Nicky thought, although the father clearly hadn’t—or wouldn’t. Right now she could practically see the wheels clicking in Johnny Patrick’s head—giving his daughter what she wanted was priority one for him. The question was: How much did she want to make it her priority, too?

It wasn’t as though she was starstruck or impressed with money; she’d worked with lots of prominent, wealthy clients. But
Johnny Patrick had a couple of things going for him that those other clients didn’t—like a face and body to die for. Not that she was interested in turning into a groupie, but she had to admit, it
be fun just
So, call her shallow, along with all the other ladies who drooled over him, if the titillating stories in the tabloids were true.

And seriously, he was offering her the store, money-wise. So what did she have to lose? She’d charge him big-time, make her accountant happy, make his daughter happy, and derive a modicum of enjoyment herself from an up-close-and-personal view of the man whose New Year’s Eve party in St. Bart

s was still generating gossip in the scandal sheets. “When is the birthday?” she asked.

BOOK: French Kiss
5.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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