Authors: Christy McKellen
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Contemporary Women
Journalist Jess has always followed the rules when it comes to her career:
1) Never say no! Trying to extract a tell-all interview from bad boy of the art world Xander Heaton might be her own worst nightmare, but she’s just going to have to grin and bear it!
2) Absolutely no flirting on the job—professionalism is key to a journalist’s success. Even if Xander does have her imagining the most unprofessional scenarios….
3) If resistance proves impossible, remember the golden rule—never kiss and tell!
One night with Xander and she’s broken at least one rule…and discovered it’s much more fun breaking rules than making them!
SNEAK PEEK EXCERPT FROM
Lessons in Rule-Breaking
“I’m not going to sleep with you,” she blurted before she could stop herself, her nerves riding roughshod over her common sense.
He laughed out loud, shaking his head in mirth.
“Don’t worry—I’m taking a break from seducing innocent young journalists, so your virtue is safe with me,” he said, his mouth quirked in a playful smile. “I
interested in your body, Jess, but only on an artistic level.”
“You can’t blame me for being wary when you make provocative statements. You do have a reputation for being a bit…”
“A bit what?”
She paused, searching for the right word. “Wild.”
He gave her a bemused grin. “I promise to be on my best behavior,” he said, making a crossing motion over his heart. “And if I slip up you have my permission to
me into shape.”
the images he’d just conjured in her mind.
She really needed to get out of here before she totally lost her cool.
He was a player, all right, but she wasn’t about to let him play
Who can resist the dangerous charms of a bad boy? Not me! Especially a disgustingly talented one with a body built for sin and the wits to win over the hardest of women. My heroine, Jess,
that hard woman, and Xander, my hero, certainly has his work cut out to get the better of
These two characters were such fun to write. They’re both headstrong, superambitious and broken in their own heart-wrenching way. Thank goodness they had me to throw them together and force them to sort out their lives!
I had the pleasure of sending them off to pass some quality time on the banks of Lake Garda—a place I have a great fondness for after spending my honeymoon there. How could they fail to fall in love in such a romantic setting? I challenge anyone to resist the charms of the place.
This is a story of divine inspiration, a little bit of magic and some very messy artistic endeavors. I hope you enjoy it.
About Christy McKellen
BK (Before Kids) Christy McKellen worked as a video and radio producer in London and Nottingham. After a decade of dealing with nappies, tantrums and endless questions from toddlers she has come out the other side and moved into the wonderful world of literature. She now spends her time writing flirty, sexy romance with a kick—her dream job!
In her downtime she can be found drinking the odd glass of champagne, ambling around the beautiful South West of England, or escaping from real life by dashing off to foreign lands with her fabulous family.
Other Harlequin® KISS™ titles by Christy McKellen:
Holiday with a Stranger
This and other titles by Christy McKellen are available as ebooks from
To the Prosecco Book Club ladies for their
encouragement and friendship.
And to Clio, my fantastic editor, thanks for your
positivity and unerring support.
‘The editor wants
to see you in her office.’
Jessica LaFayette glanced up from the screen of her laptop to see Claire, one of the other junior staff writers at
magazine, looking down at her with worry in her eyes and a speculative eyebrow raised.
Clearly Claire was as concerned as Jess about what sort of news was about to be bestowed on her.
There had been rumours flying about the office recently about staff cutbacks and everyone had been on tenterhooks for weeks, desperately worried that they were the one about to be summoned to the editor’s office in order to be given the boot.
Okay, time to buckle up.
Smoothing a hand down her hair and straightening her blouse, Jess gave Claire a curt nod and stood up, balling her trembling hands into fists at her sides, before striding over to the editor’s office.
If she lost this job she was in big trouble. She’d already raced through her meagre savings living in London as an intern for nine months, before finally securing the job here—on the proviso she made it past her three-month probation period. The thought of having to pack up and go home to live back with her parents in the burbs of Leicester, after all the excitement of finally being employed in her dream job, sent a twist of panic through her.
They thought she was crazy chasing such a competitive career, but it was what she’d always wanted to do and she’d been determined to give it everything she had.
She was stubborn like that.
It had taken her two years after leaving university to land a placement at
, two long years of living back at home with a woman who would surely place as a top contender for ‘World’s Most Disappointed Mother.’
the daughter Ingrid LaFayette had hoped for. Instead of a vivacious, beauty—a carbon copy of herself—she’d been lumped with kooky-looking, strong-willed Jess.
No way was she going back to the raised eyebrows and tense silences that she’d lived with for longer than she wanted to remember. Life had moved on and so had she.
Pushing back her shoulders and taking a deep breath, Jess rapped on the glass partition of her editor’s office before walking in.
Pamela Bradley—editor extraordinaire—looked up from her computer and waved Jess into the office with a perfectly manicured hand.
All the women who worked on the magazine rocked up to work every day looking as if they’d just stepped off a Paris catwalk—all except for Jess. She preferred to stick with her smart, comfortably fitting suits. She knew her limitations when it came to fashion—she hadn’t a clue what was supposed to suit her body shape and didn’t want to make a fool of herself by looking as if she was trying too hard. She was a smart, but practical, girl through and through.
‘Jess, sit.’ Pamela gestured towards the chair facing her and Jess sat down on the edge of the seat, her hands folded neatly in her lap, and waited, her heart thumping hard against her chest.
‘So, I read your piece on nail salons.’ Pamela gave her a steely-eyed look and Jess shrank back into her seat under the confidence-wrecking force of it.
Uh-oh. That wasn’t the look of unadulterated joy and respect she’d been hoping for.
‘To be perfectly honest, Jess, it wasn’t good enough. The pieces you’ve been submitting recently have been a little... How can I put this?’ She put both hands onto the desk in front of her, her nails digging into the wood like talons, and leant forward. ‘Dry. Lifeless. Dull.’ The words snapped out of her mouth as if she found them utterly distasteful. She gave a small shake of her perfectly coiffed head. ‘I expected more, Jess, when I offered you the position here.’
Fear and embarrassment wound through Jess’s chest and pooled like burning acid in her stomach.
She’d blown it. Pamela had to make someone redundant and it looked as if it was going to be her head on the block.
‘I c-can do better,’ she stuttered out, desperate to stall the words she felt sure were about to trip from Pamela’s lips.
Pamela shook her head and her mouth twisted into a dissatisfied smile. ‘I gave you the job because I sensed there was some hidden potential there, Jess. You’re a talented writer, methodical with an accomplished style, but your writing lacks the edge you need to make your pieces really stand out. It’s
controlled, too stuffy.’
‘I can unstuff it,’ Jess yelped, feeling tears of frustration burning at the backs of her eyes.
‘How do you propose to do that, Jess?’
Jess mouthed at her, totally at a loss for how to answer.
‘To be frank, I think you need to stop living in that self-controlled little bubble,’ Pamela continued, eyeing the immaculate, but understated, suit Jess was wearing today.
Jess smoothed her skirt down, then her hair. ‘I don’t understand what you mean.’
‘Look, Jess, I think you’re a talented writer and you could build a great career with us here, but my advice to you is that you need to find that extra something to make your work sparkle. To find the life beyond your neat little world.’ She tipped her head in a motherly sort of way. ‘When did you last go out on a date, for example?’
The question made Jess uneasy. ‘What does that have to do with anything?’
‘You’re what? Twenty-five? You take life too seriously. You should be out, having wild sex and falling in love at your age. Widening your experiences.’
‘Sex is overrated,’ Jess muttered, thinking back to the awkward sexual experiences she’d had up till this point. She didn’t get what all the fuss was about when it came to sex. It was uncomfortable and messy and she was usually glad when it was all over if she was totally honest. Neither of the guys she’d slept with had rocked her world, but at the time she’d thought she ought to put the effort in, just to see what she was supposedly missing out on.
It turned out she wasn’t missing much at all.
There was a knock on the partition behind her and Jess turned to see Pamela’s assistant standing there with a slip of paper clutched in her hand.
‘Sorry to interrupt, but Maggie just phoned. She’s stuck in Greece because of an air-traffic-controllers strike and can’t make it back for her assignment today. She sounded pretty fed up because apparently she’d managed to snag an interview with Xander Heaton, that bad-boy artist everyone’s so crazy about.’
Pamela sighed. ‘Can’t she reschedule? I really need that piece in the next issue. Xander was going to be the linchpin of the article.’
‘Apparently not. He’s refusing to change the date because he’s about to start working on a new exhibition. He’ll be at his studio in Old Street today, but he’s off to Italy tonight and he never gives any press interviews while he’s working. Something about killing his muse.’
‘Yeah, okay.’ Pamela sighed, flapping a hand in a tired manner. ‘Can Marnie go?’ she asked, clearly not that hopeful.
‘She’s off with the flu. Nearly half the office has called in sick this week.’
‘I can go and cover it,’ Jess said a little too loudly, her heart racing as a sudden shot of adrenaline fired round her body. If she didn’t grab this opportunity quickly one of the other junior writers would and she really needed to show Pamela some of that spark she was so keen to see.
‘I don’t know, Jess.’ Pamela flipped her a look of deep scepticism.
‘Please, Pam, give me another chance to show you how I can make my writing sizzle.’ Jess leant forward in her chair, clasping her hands together in a prayer of hope. ‘It would be such a shame to miss out on the opportunity of interviewing him while he’s in the country.’
‘You think you’re up to handling someone like Xander Heaton, do you?’
Jess sat up straighter, pulled taut by a thread of hope. ‘Of course I am. How difficult can he be?’
She could have sworn she saw an amused smirk flit across Pamela’s face.
‘Okay, then,’ Pamela said, finally. ‘If he’s working with a model, make sure you talk to her, too, if you get the opportunity—see if you can get something interesting. What he’s like to work with, whether she’s sleeping with him, why he picked her as his model, anything to give the piece an edge. Try and get a sense of who he is, any personal details you can draw out of him. He’s got himself a reputation as a real playboy over the last year—he’s turned up to pretty much every high-profile party going and caused a scene at all of them—so see if you can get some gossip about what happened there. Oh, and try and find out why he hasn’t produced anything of note recently, too. His last exhibition was a real critical flop so that might have something to do with it. And most importantly, find out what he’s planning to do for his next project.’
Jess was nodding so much her neck was starting to ache. ‘Okay, got it. No problem.’ She stood up and smiled at Pamela. ‘Thank you, for giving me another chance.’
Pamela raised a severely plucked eyebrow. ‘Don’t waste this opportunity, Jess. If you want to keep your job on this magazine you’re going to have to pull something pretty special out of the bag.’
* * *
Pamela’s words rang in Jess’s ears as she took the tube over to Old Street.
She made copious notes on the way, determined to remember everything Pamela had asked for.
The train had just reached Moorgate station when it slowed down to a crawl, then stopped, midjourney.
The driver’s voice came over the tannoy to let the passengers know there was an electrical fault with the train, but they were hoping to get it sorted out in a few minutes.
Jess looked about her wildly; she was already running late to hit the allotted time for her interview with Xander and she didn’t want to turn up there flustered and on the back foot. She wanted him to be impressed with her cool professionalism and trust her enough to spill the sort of information she needed to make her piece stand out from the ones he’d done in the past.
She’d seen pictures of him in the press—at parties with the great and good of London society, usually with some eminently beautiful woman hanging off his arm—and she knew in her bones he was going to be a challenge. If she was going to win him over she couldn’t allow herself to be daunted by that famous dark charisma and overabundance of sexual confidence.
He was exactly the sort of man she usually avoided in real life. Bad-boy types who flitted from woman to woman like moths in a lighting shop were the antithesis of what she was looking for in a partner. She needed steady and safe. Comfortable. A relationship she could feel in control of.
A nervous shiver tickled down her spine at the thought of facing him, but she shook it off. She was
going to let his challenging reputation get to her. She was a smart, savvy, professional woman and that was exactly what he was going to see—when she finally arrived there.
She sat there for another fifteen minutes, tapping her feet and biting at a ragged fingernail until the train finally began its excruciatingly slow roll into Old Street station.
She was now officially late for her interview.
She hated being late. Hated it.
Anything that took control out of her hands like this made her so stressed she felt ill with it.
After a few more frustrating minutes of trying to figure out where she was meant to be going using the sat nav on her phone, she finally found the converted warehouse where Xander’s studio was located.
Feeling sticky and jumpy after running all the way there in her heels, she stepped into the blissfully cool entrance lobby and looked at the list of names and businesses on the large brushed-metal sign. Xander’s studio was just one of a collection of spaces used by a group of high-profile artists and creatives.
The place was shabby chic through and through with huge, squashy leather sofas scattered around a break-out kitchen area, all done out in stainless steel and black lacquer-fronted cupboards. Amazing murals had been painted on all the walls and Jess recognised one in Xander’s famously biting style. It was a social commentary on the state of reporting in the press. An open newspaper showed a picture of a child crying, with a meat cleaver slicing through the middle of it and the word
painted in big red bloody letters along the blade.
Okay, she really needed to stop looking at that before
got to her. Did he really hate journalists that much? Would that make it even harder for her to conduct a successful interview with him?
Only one way to find out.
Gritting her teeth and smoothing down the jacket of her suit, she walked up the stairs to where Xander’s studio was located on the third floor.
Taking a moment to get her breath back, she knocked loudly on the heavy wooden door to his studio and stood back to wait for him to appear, her hands grasped tightly behind her back and what she hoped was an open and friendly smile plastered across her face.
There was the sound of footsteps from the other side of the door and Jess steeled herself as it swung open to reveal Xander Heaton, with a paintbrush in one hand and a look of tense annoyance on his face.
Jess couldn’t help but stand and stare up at him as he towered over her. She’d anticipated him being somehow disappointing in the flesh, but he wasn’t. He
Paint-splattered jeans hung low on his hips and a grey cotton T-shirt clung tightly to the hard contours of his chest, making no effort whatsoever to disguise the swell of muscles on his rangy frame.
Despite the hard angles of his bone structure there was something faintly boyish about him. Perhaps that was the key to his appeal? A hard alpha male on the outside with just a glimmer of a softer, more vulnerable soul inside.
There was an almost ethereal glow about him, too, as if his charisma were being overmanufactured inside his body and the excess were spilling out through the pores of his skin.
Even his just-rolled-out-of-bed, designer mess of rich chestnut-brown hair seemed to glow like a freshly shelled conker in the sunshine pouring in through the large warehouse windows.
Jess’s body buzzed with longing to reach up and run her hands over his face, to feel the hard contours of his bones under that golden skin and the gentle rasp of his barely there stubble as it caught on the whorls of her fingertips.