Authors: Jackie Williams
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Romance, #Romantic Suspense, #Teen & Young Adult, #Contemporary Fiction, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense
e stood there with her mouth open in shock.
What an arrogant arse! And after she’d helped him too!
She shut her mouth quickly, her brain eventually kicking into gear as she finally registered the words he had actually spoken.
Connected with what she had seen in his briefcase, she could at last put all the clues together. She had been too distr
acted by him to take note earlier. Her wide green eyes narrowed sharply as she realized who he was.
He was one of the developers
! Probably the guy who owned the company going by the spectacular car he drove and the fabulously suit he wore. She bit down a frustrated groan as the implications hit her. He was one of the men stamping on her dream and denying her friends their jobs.
For a fraction of a second she wished she hadn’t slammed the brakes on quite so hard. There was no way her little car woul
d have killed him going at that speed. It was more likely that he would have killed her car; he was just too huge to be run over by a Mini travelling at less than twenty miles per hour, but it may have knocked some of the superiority out of him. If he hadn’t arrived at the meeting on time maybe the development could have been stopped or at the very least delayed for a few weeks.
Breathing heavily, her heart pounding irrationally, she climbed back into her car, realizing that it was a
lost hope. Nothing was going to change the Councils mind. They had sewn up the deal weeks ago. These things weren’t decided in one tiny meeting with an angry bloke and a briefcase. Her little protest hadn’t made the slightest bit of difference and Mercedes Man being a few minutes late wouldn’t change anything either.
She looked in her rear view mirror to check on any other drivers and groaned deeply as she
caught sight of her reflection. Her hair was sticking out from beneath the pushed-up sunglasses and her face was smudged with watery mascara. There was a slight lightening of the dark makeup where Mercedes Man had rubbed his finger across it.
She thought. Why did she have to look such a mess? He must have thought she was the local lunatic with her mad hair and crazy eyes. She pulled a makeup wipe from in the glove compartment and cleaned up her face. She shoved the blackened wipe back into the glove compartment and grabbed another handful of sherbet pips at the same time.
he crunched them furiously as she put the car into gear and, after looking much more carefully than strictly necessary, turned out onto the road.
This was so what she needed.
She didn’t care if her skin became wrinkled like a prune; after the day she’d had she felt entitled to stand in the shower as long as she was able.
The hot water splashed over her body, cleansing the bubbles from her hair and the stress from her shoulders.
As the water ran cooler, Caroline stepped out of the shower and dried herself on a huge fluffy towel. She wrapped it around her body and took another slightly smaller one to wrap around her mass of water-slickened hair. She tucked the loose end in firmly and walked through to her bedroom.
She selected her
favourite body lotion and sat on the edge of the bed massaging the fragrant cream into her arms and legs, enjoying the cool sensation and smoothness on her skin.
Loosening the towel around her hair, she turned
her head upside down and, wriggling her fingers through the dark strands, she let her long hair fall nearly to the floor as she blow-dried it. She brushed through the warm silky hair when it was dry, pulling it back over her shoulders and letting its curling fullness fall nearly to her waist.
She sat quietly thinking for a moment before she went to her wardrobe.
The mood in the shop had been
sombre. After the disastrous council meeting, Caroline had called in her four part-time staff to give them the bad news. There was no way she was going to let them find out by any other means.
They would be closing the shop in three months, making way for the new waterfront apartment blocks with shopping facilities beneath. As her lease had been for three years, she would be offered an option to take premises in the new facilities, but the developers would decide the rental later. It was going to be considerably more expensive than now and
was almost irrelevant anyway; they all knew they couldn’t wait the year for the development to be ready.
Their shoulders had all drooped and Cathy had even started to cry. Caroline had put her arms around her friends trying to reassure them that she would do her best to keep it going and find another suitable outlet for their fabulous
homemade cakes, chocolates and sweets. She tried to sound upbeat and confident although deep down she knew she would be hard-pressed to get anything off the ground at such short notice.
It was Cathy’s
impulsive suggestion to go out that cheered them all slightly. They all agreed that it was no good sitting around being miserable. Why not have one good fling while they could all still afford it? They made the sudden decision to go to the local nightclub after work. It was an over twenty-fives only night, and Cathy made jokes about Caroline being lucky that she’d just had her twenty-fifth birthday, or she wouldn’t have been allowed to in. She had better take some I.D. or they wouldn’t let her in. Caroline had laughed out loud for the first time that day. They made hurried arrangements to meet that evening. It would be the perfect antidote to her terrible day.
Caroline ran her fingers lightly along her rail of clothes, most of which were far more suited to day wear than the evening, before she settled for a tightly fitting, strapless black dress that set off her creamy white skin perfectly. The dress had a built-in bodice and she decided to go without a bra as the figure-hugging material would only allow for the skimpiest of underwear.
ipping the dress over her head and smoothing it down her stomach and thighs, she stood looking approvingly in her full-length mirror. It would knock them dead, she decided, knowing that her slim waist and curvy hips were exactly right for this outfit. Not that she knew anyone to knock dead of course, but that wasn’t going to influence her decision.
he put on only light makeup and a touch of mascara, leaving her fabulous green eyes to do their own work and then lashings of very red lipstick to set off her pale complexion.
She looked at her reflection.
The resulting effect was spectacular. Her dark brown hair glossed over her shoulders, skimming radiantly across her ivory skin. She just needed her blood red, killer heels with matching handbag and she would be more than ready for action.
Cathy stood waiting at the door of the club talking to the two huge bouncers who vetted the entrants when Caroline arrived. The men looked admiringly at her and she felt a little self-conscious. Cathy was very attractive but Caroline, with her incredibly long hair and goddess-like figure was much more glamorous.
“The others have cried off.” Cathy said immediately as she kissed Caroline on both chee
ks in greeting. “Gemma couldn’t find a babysitter in time and Lucy and Georgie are going out with their boyfriends instead, so it’s just us two.” She explained as Caroline’s face dropped a little.
“Oh well, it was short notice I suppose
. It would have been perfect if they had come but we’ll have a great time anyway. Perhaps we’ll have time to sort something out with them another evening but we may as well enjoy ourselves as we are here.” Caroline smiled warmly as she looked at her friend. Cathy was wearing a tight red miniskirt and soft cream blouse. A wide black belt cinched in at her waist. The outfit was dramatic and striking and Caroline hoped that she didn’t look too plain in her deep black.
Cathy spoke quickly again
as she nodded in the direction of the nightclub doormen as she passed and they gave the two women appreciative glances. Cathy smiled back at them and then nudged Caroline’s arm.
“We don’t want to waste any time hanging about out here. It’s too chilly f
or a start and I mustn’t be late tonight home if you want me opening the shop on time in the morning. I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of my boss so let’s go and get dancing.” She chuckled as Caroline raised her eyebrows and laughed.
The music throbbed
in the darkened nightclub and the dance floor was already crowded with writhing bodies. Caroline and Cathy made their way towards the bar, weaving between other clubbers and choosing white wine spritzers when they were eventually served.
The drink was very cool and almost too refreshing and they both finished the first glass quickly. Caroline bought another round and
they shimmied their way through the crowds as they tried to find a table. Several men gave her and Cathy long, lustful glances and one or two made admiring remarks as they passed.
At last they found a seat and
as they put their glasses on the table they looked around at the other clubbers. It was only as they sat down that Caroline saw one man in particular, staring straight at her from across the dance floor.
Her heart immediately picked up its pace, thumpin
g erratically in her chest and she glanced away quickly as she suddenly recognized Mercedes Man.
He was at the middle of a small gathering of women. A
couple of men were there too, standing back from the ladies who all looked towards the tall man at their centre. The whole group looked stunningly beautiful, but he stood out, almost blindingly attractive, as he towered over the other men and women surrounding him. His dark hair was a lustrous blue-black under the strobe lighting, curling into his collar and he looked like some sort of dark God in pale fitted jeans and short-sleeved linen shirt. The huge muscles at the tops of his arms were obvious beneath the fine material and his broad, square shoulders emphasized the slimness of his waist.
didn’t look any further down as her heart began to pound madly and she could feel her pulse beating in her throat. She turned away and sat with her back to him, talking animatedly to Cathy, and trying not to think of how she had looked, with her hair and make-up everywhere, earlier on in the day. With a bit of luck he hadn’t recognised her.
It obviously wasn’t her lucky day.
Cathy’s looked up as a huge shadow loomed over Caroline’s shoulder. Her eyes popped wide in surprise as she took in the glorious man. There was only one person in the room who would have made Cathy react that way.
ne could almost feel his eyes boring into the back of her head and then she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned her head slowly and looked up, a very long way up, her eyes taking in every inch of him as they slid over the length of his body. His dark grey eyes were smouldering as he smiled a breathtakingly white smile down at her. She turned up the corners of her mouth in brittle acknowledgment and looked then back to Cathy, determined not to speak to him, but she groaned inwardly as she saw that Cathy was already on her way towards the dance floor, leaving a very empty chair by Caroline’s side.
Mercedes Man slipped gracefully
into the vacant seat, his knee accidentally touching hers briefly. Caroline deliberately looked down, not meeting his magnetic gaze and she shifted her leg away from his, making sure it couldn’t be touched by him again.
She could sense immediately how much more comfortable and relaxed he was in his denim jeans and soft
linen shirt. The trousers and stiff-collared shirt ensemble of earlier had obviously only been worn for his meeting. She continued to look down at her hands until he suddenly put a long finger under her chin and lifted her face.
She still had to look a long way up even though he was sitting. The tingling electric feeling of earlier in the day returned as the heat of his finger burned her skin, but she didn’t knock it away or pull back this time. The pulse in her neck
beat erratically against his skin as he spoke and she hoped he couldn’t feel it.
“I thought it was you I saw coming in. I want to say sorry about this morning. I was in such a rush
and the parking was so limited but I really shouldn’t have been so rude.” He had to raise his voice above the sound of the music but she could hear that he was making a genuine apology. “Are you okay now? You looked as though you’d been upset by something.”
“Yes, I’m okay,” She answered automatically and slightly breathlessly. The way he was staring at her was most unfair and she had to steady herself as he took his finger away from her chin. She wiped a smear of red lipstick
from around the top of her glass with her fingertip to give herself something to do while she considered more of a response but the way he looked at her made it hard for her to think.
e you here to celebrate?” He watched her finger touching the rim of the glass. He didn’t wait for her response but his face was bright with excitement, his smile lighting it up and a tiny dimple showed in one of his lean cheeks. “I’m here with some friends and business colleagues.” He wafted a huge hand in the general direction of the dance floor and acknowledged his group of friends who appeared to be staring at him intently. He turned away from them again and gave Caroline his undivided attention. “Our meeting went brilliantly even though I was a little late with the final drawings. It was fortunate that one of my colleagues had thought to take in the model earlier in the week. We’re having a couple of pints. You know, letting our hair down before the real work starts. You and your friend are welcome to join us.” His voice was still raised and Caroline suddenly remembered who he was. She narrowed her eyes and scowled at him furiously.
“Actually, forget w
hat I just said. I’m not okay and I’m not celebrating anything.” She almost shouted. He sat back, stretching his impossibly long legs out in front of him while he looked at her quizzically, not understanding her sudden change of attitude.
The feeling of his finger had stayed with her. She tried to wipe the sensation away with the back of her hand. Her
blood began to boil as her temper grew. She put both hands on the table to keep them from slapping his beautiful, superior face.
“You’re ruining my life, Mister, and the lives of four of my friends!” She raged at him now, hating everything about him and his wretched business. She stood up quickly, just wanting to get away from him, but he stood too and caught hold of her arm as she was about to walk away.
She could feel the strength in his hand as his grasp held her still, his fingers reaching right around her forearm. The jolts of electricity fizzed back into action and pulsed through her skin. She glanced back up at him wondering if he could feel it too.
is eyes frowned, but he obviously hadn’t had the same reaction. He clearly felt nothing for her or her business.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about? I on
ly came over to apologize for my less than polite behavior this morning. Even though you were the one to nearly run me over.” He was glaring curiously into her furious emerald eyes and she suddenly felt her insides turn to jelly as she tried determinedly to maintain her glare back at him. “Do you want to explain to me what I’ve done that is going to ruin your life?” He asked, genuine confusion in his expression.
His grey eyes looked almost black in the dimmed lighting and her anger dropped almost as quickly as it had flared. She took a deep, steadying breath, inhaling his intoxicating perfume, before she spoke.
“Oh forget it.” The air came out of her in a rush. “I’m just not good company at the moment.” She moved to pull away from him but he held onto her arm and spoke again.
“Are you going to tell me about it then?” He obviously wasn’t going to let it go.
Caroline sighed deeply and her shoulders slumped just a little. She felt defeated and all the fight suddenly left her.