Harlequin Mills & Boon Sexy ~ Nov 2013 (Australia/NZ)
Harlequin KISS ~ Nov 2013 (USA)
Dedicated yachtswoman and experienced skipper, Olivia Wishart, is participating in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race in memory of her mother who died of breast cancer before they could make the voyage together. She and her best friend, Brie, are raising funds on the trip for the cancer retreat she wants to establish.
But tonight it's Christmas Eve and Olivia treats herself to a harmless, one-off flirtation with a Tall, Dark and Delicious whom she meets at a pre-sailing party overlooking Sydney Harbour. Next morning, Brie's brother, celebrity chef, Jett Davies, turns up for Christmas lunch…
Somewhere near the beginning of Chapter One:
He was late but Jett Davies skirted the massive gold Christmas tree dominating the black marble foyer as he made his way up yet another sweeping staircase. The third level was an outdoor entertainment area and he caught a waft of briny harbour and freshly mown grass. Winking party lights cast a muted kaleidoscopic blush over the elite guests wearing anything and everything from a token nod to the festive season to the full Christmas get-up.
The guest list included the Who's Who of the yachting world from all over the globe, along with their glammed-up wives, lovers and/or mistresses. Seemed anyone with money to throw at Australia's prestigious Sydney-to-Hobart, one of the world's top and most difficult off-shore yacht races, was partaking of the evening's merrymaking.
A force-field of inquisitive eyes found him as he took a beer from a circulating waiter's tray. Eyes dead ahead, he cut straight to an antique spiral staircase he'd spotted in the corner. He hoped its steep and winding steps would discourage stiletto-heeled females from venturing up. He wasn't looking for an available woman. He was looking for his sister. Or had been until she'd texted him ten minutes ago to say she'd been caught up. Car problems, she'd told him - she'd let him know when she was on her way.
The stairs opened up onto a small viewing platform above the main outdoor entertainment area. Deserted - the way he liked it. Leaning on the rail, he watched the ferries track across the twinkling harbour.
The band below fired off a set of rocking Christmas tunes and his head throbbed. He didn't do the festive season - all that Kris Kringle nonsense, mistletoe madness and nostalgia.
So why had he agreed with Breanna's suggestion to meet her here instead of the hotel bar? Or them as it happened, because Breanna was sharing the suite with a girlfriend. Which had him wondering about the wearer of the strawberry lace panties and matching D-cups hanging over the shower rosette in the second bathroom…
Don't even think about it. He shook trouble away, checked the time. Ten more minutes, Breanna, and I'm gone.
Guests were starting to leave when Olivia finally found a moment alone and a semi-secluded spot to sit. She sucked on the straw of her Christmas Jones cocktail - her first alcoholic beverage for the evening - and leaned towards the balcony watching the incandescent candles amongst the garden shrubbery.
Hurry up, Brie.
She'd networked all evening to promote her Snowflake Foundation and was delighted with the responses and promises for donations. But she and her crew had just come off five days' intensive training on the harbour, her feet were killing her and she was ready for some shut-eye.
Except Brie wasn't answering her phone - but she'd texted a winky face.
Did that mean she'd forgotten their arrangement to be there for each other at the end of the evening or what? Pushing up from her plastic party chair, she considered texting a response to say she was leaving but they'd made a promise to watch out for each other years ago and that had never changed.
Then as if fate stepped in, her eyes snagged on the lower half of a man descending from a pretty spiral staircase that she'd not noticed earlier. Even if men weren't a priority for Olivia, a little blip of pleasure registered on her radar. Black trousers covered legs that went all the way up - and up - the fabric lovingly clasped around muscled thighs, a firm, rounded, super-hero-in-tights butt. Nice. A girl deserved a little lust blip every now and then and this blip was brightening by the second.
He reached the bottom step and the full frontal, full impact hit with a wow. It was like a flashbulb went off and Olivia blinked. There he was. A fully formed, three dimensional, reach-out-with-both-hands-and-touch example of prime masculinity.
The stranger she'd not promised Brie she'd stay away from.