Harlequin Mills & Boon Sexy ~ December 2010 (Australia/NZ)
Harlequin Presents ~ February 2011 (USA)
When He was Bad…
Successful architect Matt McGregor is used to having his way, both in business and in the bedroom. So when he discovers his aunt's gardener is the violet-eyed beauty who captivated him at a night-club then promptly disappeared, he's determined not to let her run out on him again.
Ellie Rose has sworn off relationships of any kind and falling for her employer's seriously sexy nephew could prove more painful than landing naked in a patch of poison ivy - after all, temporary is all he's offering. But the millionaire's red-hot kisses and chivalrous ways are melting her resistance big time.
Can their no-strings affair tempt them both to unlock their hearts and risk more than a few nights between the sheets?
"Imagine him naked."
Ellie Rose barely heard her friend's voice above the night-club's musical din, but she recognised the lusty tone. She knew why. And she knew to whom she was referring. The six-foot-something male model type standing not more than fifteen feet away. As the gyrating crowd parted briefly beneath the swirl of dimly coloured neon lights and bone-jarring bass, she was treated to her first full-length glimpse of him.
He was turned away from her, but she could see that he was tall and dark and… She had a thing for cute rear ends. One butt cheek tightened and… Nice, she thought with a little sigh that tickled like a guilty pleasure down to her toes. Very nice.
Then the crowd closed around him and she cursed her height-challenged five-foot two. But no way was she admitting to ogling him with the same lustful thoughts her friend had voiced. She hadn't known Sasha long but she did know that she was more than likely to up and invite him over. From what Ellie had observed, Sasha didn't wait for men to find her; she found them.
Ellie feigned ignorance. "Who?"
Sasha lifted her bottle of wine cooler in salute and raised her voice over the noise. "You know perfectly well who - the guy up close with that tall chick in leather pants. Better still, imagine yourself naked with him."
Ellie could. Very well. Too well. On indigo satin sheets… Except that the stunning brunette leaning in for a kiss insisted on sabotaging the image. Ellie swallowed and said in a ridiculously tight voice, "We're not here to pick up guys, we're here to enjoy the music."
"Speak for yourself." Sasha tipped her bottle to her lips. "If you want to enjoy music, go see a musical. Uh oh, I think he's looking at us," she said. "At you," she amended as the crowd between them thinned. She pressed her knuckles into Ellie's spine, prodded her forward. "He's coming this way. Go on. You could get lucky tonight." She leaned closer, spoke into Ellie's ear. "Ask him if he's got any friends."
Ellie's legs began to tremble. She didn't want to get lucky. Did she? No. Not with a guy who had the potential to make her want things she knew she couldn't have with a guy like him. He had permanent playboy written all over that cocky smile and confident stride.
He wore black trousers and a white open-necked shirt that reflected the ceiling's changing light show. His hair was dark, short and spiked with a touch of gel in such a way that it looked as if he'd just rolled out of his lover's bed. The designer platinum watch adorning his wrist screamed money, money, money.
The lighting changed to an intermittent strobe - it seemed to flash in time to her pulse - as he drew near. And then he was so close that a quick yank of her arm would bring him within lip-smacking distance and it was like watching one of those flickering black and white movies.
His eyes were dark bottomless pools. Mesmerising, magnetic, reeling her in. "Hi, there. Can I buy you a drink?"
His voice, liqueur over dark chocolate, slid down deep, coating her insides with its lusciousness. She raised her all-but-empty bottle of cola. "I already have one, thanks, and I'm with a friend…" She trailed off as she saw Sasha making off into the knot of dancers, hips swaying. The rat. This little dinghy was doomed.
"Looks like your friend knows how to have a good time," he said, his gaze following Ellie's briefly before turning back to her. "I haven't seen you here before."
"Because I haven't been here before. I'm not a regular clubber." Sasha had dragged her along despite her protests, insisting Ellie needed more fun in her life.
"Let's make you one." He reached for her hand. "Dance with me." A tingling sensation zipped all the way up her arm and settled low in her abdomen. His hand was warm, hard, firm. The way she imagined the rest of his body would feel. She recalled her sheet fantasy - and the brunette… and tension gripped tight in her lower belly.
"What about your friend?" She slipped her hand from his. Smoothed the tingly palm over her little black dress. Hitched her miniscule embroidered bag higher on her shoulder.
Uh-oh. Big mistake, voicing that observation, because now he knew she'd been checking him out. But he couldn't know what she'd been thinking…
Or perhaps he did, because he grinned - the way a man like him would grin if he knew - and Ellie wished she'd never given him the satisfaction.
"Yasmine's a colleague," he said, that sexy confident grin still in place. "I haven't seen her for a while, I've been working in Sydney."
Hence the up close and personal, Ellie supposed. She darted a quick glance behind him. She saw a well-endowed blonde in a white halter neck watching him with avaricious intent but she could no longer see Yasmine. Or maybe her name wasn't Yasmine at all; maybe she'd just given this guy the flick and he'd moved on to his next target - Ellie. She didn't know him; he could be lying, looking for an easy lay.
And when it came right down to it, who here wasn't?
Her body wanted, desperately, to refute that claim - with him - but she injected the zap of excess hormonal energy into her spine instead, straightened and stuck to something inanely neutral. "You're from Melbourne originally?"
He nodded. "I work on multiple projects, so I commute between the two cities on occasion."
And he obviously took the high road to town whereas she lived on the low road.
"The name's Matt, by the way."
No surname, Ellie noted. Obviously not interested in more than a passing flirtation. Fine. Long term relationships and becoming attached to people always ended in disaster. At least it did for her. She lifted the bottle to her lips and drained the contents to soothe her throat which felt as if it were coated in sand. "I'm Ellie."
"How about that dance, then, Ellie?"
A ribbon of heat shimmied through her, especially when the music changed to a slow, thrumming love song.
Perspiration broke out between her breasts, on her upper lip. She tugged at the neckline of her dress a couple of times to create a draught. It didn't help. "I'd rather not at the moment, if you don't mind…" Except that the bosomy blonde was sure to pounce… and Ellie found herself smiling up at him. "It's so airless and loud in here, I-"
"Outside, then?" he suggested. "I could do with some fresh air myself."
Even better, Matt thought, as with a light hand at her back he guided her around the sway of dancers toward the club's secured outdoor area. The sensation of skin-warmed fabric was a tantalising heat against his palm. Anticipation - a different kind of heat - nipped at his skin.
But she stopped mid-stride and swivelled to face him, looking for all the world like a bunny frozen in headlights and for a moment there he thought she'd changed her mind. He was prepared to do whatever it took to change it back again but she gestured to the cloakroom.
"I…I'll want my jacket. It might be hot in here, but it's bitterly cold outside."
He watched her walk towards the cloak-check. He hadn't intended picking up a woman tonight. He'd come to get away from the pressures of work for an hour or two, but the petite little female with the short flyaway bob had captivated him. Perhaps it was because she was nothing like the women he usually dated.
He liked his women the way he designed his million-dollar constructions; tall, clean-cut lines, elegant sophistication and a sense of style. This girl was tiny, delicately boned but curvaceous. Moreover, every curve looked real. She reminded him of fairy floss - pretty and sweet and fragile.
That warm nip of anticipation struck anew. Harder, hotter. He ran a finger around the collar of his shirt. His suggestion to step outside had been inspired because suddenly he couldn't wait to find out if she tasted as sweet as she looked. And then… then he wanted to take his time to enjoy.
"A romance of groundbreaking proportions. When He Was Bad… by Anne Oliver is full of a heated passion that draws both the hero and heroine into a relationship that refuses to be denied. Ms Oliver has again penned an exciting and captivating story for any romance reader to enjoy."