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Authors: Brenda Jackson

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BOOK: Intimate Seduction
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“Thanks, Donovan, you’re a jewel.”

“Of course I am. And before you hang up I need to place an order of flowers to be delivered tomorrow to my housekeeper. She’s recuperating from an ankle injury.”

“Sure. What’s her name?”

“Earline Darwin. Hold on while I get her address right quick.”

“No need. I’ve delivered several flowers to her already. Evidently she’s a well-liked lady. I’ll make sure these get out tomorrow,” Kylie promised.

“I’d appreciate it, and will see you tomorrow.”

He smiled thinking his brothers had struck gold with his sisters-in-law. Kylie was extra special because not only did she cook mostly every day—and he knew he could drop in for a free meal—but she had made his oldest brother an extremely happy man. The family had all but given up on Chance, who had lost his first wife to cancer and had remained single after Cyndi’s death for more than seven years. But he and Kylie had gotten together, had married and now—in addition to Chance’s son, Marcus, who was away at college and Kylie’s daughter, Tiffany, who had graduated from high school a couple months ago and was currently traveling out of the country with her grandparents—they had Alden, their active two-year-old son. Like most kids his age, Alden kept his parents on their toes. Nowadays, there was never a dull moment at Chance and Kylie’s house.

Donovan finally noticed the vacuum cleaner was no longer running when he heard the sound of Natalie’s footsteps. He glanced over his shoulder. She stood in the middle of the kitchen with her purse slung over her shoulder, ready to go.

“I’ll be leaving now, Mr. Steele,” she said in a very professional tone.

He turned to her and smiled. “I’m Donovan. Say it.”

He saw the frown that lit her eyes. “I think it’s best to keep things strictly business between us, Mr. Steele.”

If she was trying to grate on his last nerve, he would not let her. Her attitude only made him even more determined to one day hear his first name flow passionately from her lips. “Okay, but business or otherwise you can still call me Donovan.”

“I prefer not.”

He moved away from the pantry to come and stand directly in front of her. “Then I plan on working hard to change your mind, Natalie. And I will succeed.”

Natalie opened her mouth to give him a blistering retort, to tell him he would fall right on that nice-looking tush of his, but paused. If keeping her mouth shut meant retaining him as a customer for her aunt then she would overlook his arrogant attitude. Instead she said, “I’ll discuss your request for increased service with my aunt and determine the days that will work for us and for you.”

She turned and headed for the door, fully aware he was right on her heels. Before she reached her destination, he said, “I’ve thought about it, and I prefer Fridays if that day is available.”

She paused and then turned around. “I’ll check my aunt’s schedule, and I’ll get back with you later this week.” She knew her tone of voice suggested she wasn’t looking forward to doing so.

“Fine, and I’ll look forward to receiving your call. And here.”

She glanced down at the twenty-dollar bill he was holding out to her. “What’s that for?”

He chuckled. “It’s your tip. I usually leave it on the kitchen table for your aunt, but since you’re the one who cleaned up the place today, it’s yours.”

She backed up, refusing to take it. “That’s not necessary. We bill you monthly for your cleaning service.”

“I’m aware of that, but I believe in tipping, as well. Take it.”

She started to refuse it again but changed her mind. She wouldn’t keep it for herself but would pass it on to her aunt. “Thank you,” she said, taking the money from his hand.

Their fingers touched, and the main thing she hadn’t wanted to happen did. Sensual energy released in her body, rousing her senses. It had been bad enough to deal with the vibes that had been radiating between them. An actual touch was downright dangerous.

She tried ignoring the reaction and hoped he did, as well, since it wouldn’t get either of them anywhere. Unfortunately, she could interpret the look in his eyes. Whereas she intended to ignore it, he planned on doing no such thing. Not only was the man arrogant but he was a rebel as well.

She fixed him a chilly look. “Like I said earlier, I’ll get back with you later this week.”

“I look forward to your call.”

She just bet he did. Fighting back the temptation to say something smart, she turned—without saying another word to him—opened the door and left.

 

“How was your first day, Nat?”

Natalie smiled as she looked across the room into the questioning eyes of her aunt. When she’d gotten home after taking care of her last client for the day, she’d found Aunt Earline taking a nap. Natalie had taken the time to prepare something for dinner before her aunt had awakened. The doctors had said the medication for pain would make Aunt Earline sleep for long periods of time. And although Natalie regretted her aunt’s broken ankle, she of all people knew this forced period of rest was just what her aunt needed. She’d worked too hard all her life.

It had been her aunt who had taken on the responsibility of raising her as a newborn when Natalie’s mother, who’d gotten pregnant at eighteen, had taken a break from the fast life she was living out in California just long enough to give birth to her baby and leave it in the care of her only sister and her husband before taking off again. Over the years her mother had returned on occasion when her money got low, and she would threaten to take Natalie away unless they paid up.

Natalie had been in her teens when her uncle died of cancer but had been only ten when she’d seen her mother for the last time. That was the day Lorene Ford’s body was shipped back to Charlotte for her funeral. According to what the police had said when they’d called Aunt Earline from Los Angeles, Lorene’s boyfriend had stabbed her to death in a fit of jealous rage.

Last year her aunt, deciding she wanted to be her own boss, had given up her nine-to-five job as a sec
retary for the school system to start Special Touch Housekeeping Agency. Her aunt was working diligently to build a clientele looking for personalized homecare.

“Today was challenging only because I had to get familiar with the layout of each home and figure out the best way to utilize my time.” Natalie finally told her aunt. She saw no reason to inform her aunt that she had fallen asleep in Donovan Steele’s bed.

“Mr. Steele was out of town for the weekend and didn’t get your message.” She couldn’t help but smile when she added, “Needless to say, I was definitely a surprise to him.”

“I’m sure you were. He’s very particular about who cleans up his home. He likes protecting his privacy. I understand the woman from his last cleaning service tried coming on to him, and when he didn’t return her advances, she threatened to pass on information about him to the newspaper’s gossip column.”

Natalie lifted a brow, enlightened. No wonder he was such a hardnose about someone else coming in to clean his place. “He wants to move into a weekly slot. Preferably Fridays.”

When she set the cup of tea in front of her aunt, she noticed her frowning. “He wants cleaning service every week?” Aunt Earline asked.

“Yes.”

“Why? There’s not much to do on the days he’s paying us for now. He’s a rather clean man, not a slob like Simpkins.”

Natalie couldn’t agree more. Jeremy Simpkins was a slob, and what was sad was the fact he had a live-in
fiancée, so to be fair Natalie wasn’t sure which of the two deserved the title. The house had been a complete mess. And it seemed that the two had had a fight the night before. Broken dishes had littered the kitchen floor when she’d arrived. From the looks of things, the argument had started during dinner and had been a doozy.

“Well, that’s what he wants,” she said, sliding into the chair opposite her aunt with her own cup of tea. It had always been a ritual for her aunt to enjoy a cup of herbal tea in the evening after dinner.

“Then we need to see how we can adjust our schedule to accommodate him. He was one of the first clients I took on, and through him, I got a lot of good referrals. Besides, he pays well and is a generous tipper.”

Natalie nodded at her aunt’s words. “He gave me a twenty-dollar tip, which I put in the emergency fund jar,” she said.

“You should have kept it. You earned it,” her aunt replied.

Natalie shook her head. “No big deal.” A smile then touched her lips. “He thinks I’m a regular employee with your cleaning service.”

Her aunt lifted a brow. “And you didn’t set him straight and inform him that you were a chemistry professor at Princeton University?”

Natalie shrugged. “I saw no reason to do that. He can think whatever he wants, as long as he pays for his cleaning service each month.”

She took a sip of her tea and, deciding to change the subject, said, “Farrah called while you were asleep. She and I are getting together Friday night and going out.”

Farrah Langley was her girlfriend from high
school. While growing up they were thick as thieves, and they made a point to get together whenever Natalie returned to town. She was one of the few people Farrah had confided in when she’d suspected her ex-husband was cheating. And when her suspicions proved to be true, Natalie had been the one who’d provided Farrah with long-distance consolation and support during her divorce.

Aunt Earline smiled. “I’m glad to hear it. I feel bad about you leaving your job to come help me take care of my business. I promise to do everything I can to hurry up and get better.”

“And I don’t want you to worry about it, Aunt Earline. You need me and I’m here. I had a long talk with Eric last week about my coming here, and staying until you’re back on your feet makes perfect sense.”

Eric was Aunt Earline’s son, who was five years older than Natalie and employed with the State Department as a foreign service officer. He was currently living in Australia.

“Besides, I needed a break from the university anyway,” Natalie tacked on. “I did agree to be back in time to do that lecture at the start of the fall semester, and my department head was grateful for that.”

Her aunt took a sip of tea and then looked at her and asked, “So what do you think of Donovan Steele? Most of the time I’ve cleaned his place he’s at work. However, the few times I’ve seen him I found him to be quite a charmer.”

A charmer? That was the last thing she’d thought of him. And how did they get back on the topic of Donovan Steele anyway? She shrugged. “I guess some
women would find him a charmer, but I was really too busy cleaning his home to take notice.”

At that moment the phone rang, and she was grateful for an excuse to get up from the table to escape a conversation about Donovan Steele.

Chapter 3

“A
nd you actually found the woman asleep in your bed?”

The man sitting across from Donovan at a table in the Racetrack Café rarely showed surprise, but he did now. Bronson Scott had to be the most unflappable man Donovan knew, even when he was behind the wheel in a race car going close to two hundred miles an hour. Regardless of his ability to retain his cool, Bronson did have one major flaw that few people detected. He had a stubbornness that he effectively hid behind a billowy cloud of charisma and charm. He was also loyal to a fault to those he trusted and considered friends. Donovan knew he fell in both categories.

“Yes, she was in the bed upstairs,” he responded and watched as Bronson’s eyes widened.

“What did you do?”

Not what he’d wanted to do, Donovan thought as he sighed deeply. “I woke her up…after checking her out first. I liked what I saw.”

Bronson smiled,. “Regardless, you caught her sleeping on the job, and with your stern work ethic I’m surprised you didn’t fire her on the spot.”

Donovan was surprised, as well. But there had been something about his Goldilocks that had given him pause…as well as a hard-on that still had her name wrapped around it. How could he explain to his best friend that when he had gazed down at Natalie desire as hot as it could get, as deep as it could go, had blazed through him? And he doubted he could explain why he wanted her back in his bed with an intensity he hadn’t felt in years, if ever.

“I could have fired her but I didn’t,” he decided to say after taking a sip of his beer right out of the bottle.

Bronson chuckled. “And that, my friend, says it all.”

Donovan raised a brow. “And what exactly is it saying?”

Bronson leaned back in his chair. “The extent of your interest. That finding her in your bed—that particular bed—has given you what you see as a vested interest in her life.”

Now it was Donovan’s time to chuckle. “Not her life, Bron, just her body.”

There. He’d spoken out loud the very thought that had been running through his mind ever since Natalie Ford had walked out of his door. She was a woman, a good-looking woman, a very hot and enticing woman.

A woman he wanted.

He had decided the moment he’d stared down into her open eyes that he wanted her. Sexual chemistry between them had been thick, the air surrounding them charged. Dangerously so. He would go so far and admit he didn’t particularly understand that part of the equation, but he would accept it now and dwell on it later. He knew what he wanted and would act on it. In a way, he already had. She would be in his home at least once a week for the next six weeks. A strategic move that he was pretty damn proud of.

“So what do you know about her?”

Donovan didn’t say anything for a moment, thinking about Bronson’s question. And then he said, “In addition to having a nice-looking body and a beautiful face, she’s twenty-six. Her aunt, my regular housekeeper, hurt her ankle and will be laid up for at least six weeks, and she’s filling in to help out.”

He then fell silent for a moment as he remembered her in his home. The most prominent memory was how she’d folded her arms beneath her breasts and stared at him with defiance in her eyes. But still, there had been something about her that certainly had his insides simmering in heated longing. He rarely gave any woman a lasting consideration, definitely never thought of plotting the sexual downfall of one, but all afternoon he’d been doing that very thing.

“And I know, by her own admission,” Donovan spoke up to add, “that she is currently not seeing anyone. In fact she says she’s taking a break from dating.”

Bronson lifted his brow. “Why?”

“We didn’t cover the details, not that it matters since she will start dating me.”

“Good luck.”

Donovan took another pull from the bottle and then asked, “Good luck?”

“Yes, I’ve never known you to get so interested in any woman. The next six weeks should be rather interesting.”

Donovan held back the urge to laugh out loud. Instead he said in an amused voice, “And I assume you think that
you
can talk?”

It was a known fact between the two of them that Bronson had fallen hard for a woman named Sunnie, the oldest of the St. Claire triplets from Florida and sister to the wife of Myles Joseph. Sunnie, unfortunately, was playing hard to get, but Bronson was determined to get her anyway.

Just like Donovan planned to get Natalie Ford.

The difference was that Bronson, by a decision of his own, which still had Donovan utterly confused, had allowed himself to get snarled without even putting up a fight. That was a predicament Donovan didn’t intend to ever find himself in. He enjoyed female companionship like the next guy—hell, probably a lot more than the next guy—but he knew when and where to draw the line. No woman, no matter how gorgeous her legs were, would get the best of him. In his mind she was a body to be had, pleasured and enjoyed.

“I’m thinking about going to Florida this weekend,” Bronson said, breaking into his thoughts.

Donovan was unaffected by Bronson’s words. His friend was determined to pursue a woman who didn’t want to be pursued.

“I propose a toast,” Bronson said, picking up his beer bottle. “To women. The ones we want for whatever reason we want them. May we both be successful in achieving our goals.”

Their bottles clinked, and then they both took a huge gulp. The main thought on Donovan’s mind as he felt the bitter-tasting liquid flow down his throat was that he would indeed be successful with Natalie Ford.

 

The next morning Donovan arrived at the office and discovered his calendar was full and that there was an important meeting with his brothers in Chance’s office at nine.

He enjoyed arriving at work early, usually coming straight from the gym where he gave his body an intense workout for an hour before showering and dressing to arrive at the office by six.

His secretary usually got in around eight, which meant he had a couple hours to handle whatever was at the top of his “must take care of” list without any interruptions. There was a time Sebastian and Morgan would also arrive around six in the morning. But since they got married, they seemed reluctant to leave their wives any sooner than they had to. Since Chance had been a single dad with a school-age child to handle, he’d preferred flexing his hours to suit his needs, which had been understandable. Nowadays he still flexed his schedule due to Alden. Either he took him to the nursery each day or picked him up. Donovan could tell his brother enjoyed stepping back into the role of father to a young child.

Donovan sat down at his desk with a cup of steaming coffee in his hand and rolled his eyes at the mere thought of any woman keeping him in bed beyond what he deemed was necessary. Men had a tendency to get too carried away with the opposite sex. Hell, they got carried away with sex period…or in his case, as he would admit grudgingly, the thought of getting sex.

That made him think of Natalie Ford. Hell, he had thought endlessly about her last night, if the truth be told. And alone in his office with just his thoughts, he might as well tell it. He had dreamed about her and her legs. He had even gone farther than that by thinking about the juncture of those legs and how he’d love to lose himself in that section of her body. A part of him wished she had not changed the linen on his bed. Instead of welcoming the clean, fresh scent when he’d gotten between the sheets, he had longed for her scent, a reminder that she had been in his bed.

But even without her scent as a memory, he had remembered. He had remembered to the point where he’d gone to sleep with a hard-on as a result of thinking about her, recalling what he’d seen when he had lifted that bedspread off her while she slept. She had looked so damn good in her shorts and top that he couldn’t help wonder just how she would look naked.

He was so enmeshed in those thoughts that he jumped, almost spilled coffee on his shirt, when there was a knock on his door. He frowned and glanced at the ceramic clock on his desk, a birthday gift from Lena, Morgan’s wife. It was a joke in the family that he enjoyed watching time slip by. It was early—a few
minutes past six. Who else would be in the office this early other than security?

“Come in,” he yelled out.

He was surprised when Sebastian stuck his head in the door, before opening it wide to walk in with a cup of coffee in his hand. Donovan sat up straight in his chair and quickly slipped the piece of paper he’d been doodling on inside his desk. Absently, he’d been jotting down all the ways he’d like to do Natalie. He was a master when it came to lovemaking positions and wanted to try each and every one he could think of on her.

“Why are you here so early?” he asked as his brother shut the door and eased down in the chair across from his desk.

“Jocelyn has a doctor’s appointment later today, so I thought I’d come in early and get a few things done before I have to leave.”

Donovan nodded. It was hard to believe how things had changed for Bas since getting married. There used to be a time when the Steele Corporation was more than a company to Bas; it had been his lifeline. Bas had been the last Steele brother to come work for SC. Of the four of them, it had been Bas who’d given their parents the most grief while growing up, especially during his teen years. Bas and the old man used to butt heads all the time, mainly because trouble had a way of finding Bas at every turn.

Now Bas was a happily married man with a baby on the way.

“Everything’s okay with Jocelyn and the baby?” Donovan asked.

Bas smiled. “Yes, everything is fine. Since she’s due next month, the doctors are now seeing her each week.”

“And you still don’t want to know if you’re having a boy or girl?” Donovan asked, then took a sip of his coffee.

“Nope. We’ll find out soon enough.”

Donovan nodded. That was the same attitude his other brother Morgan and his wife, Lena, had taken. Lena was due to deliver a month or so after Jocelyn.

“All we know is that it’s one big baby. No triplets for us,” Bas added jokingly. Donovan understood the punch line. Their cousin Cheyenne had given birth to triplets nearly nine months ago. The first multiple birth ever recorded in the Steele family.

His conversation with Bas easily shifted into details about the race that past weekend. Everyone was happy about Bron’s win and the positive exposure it had given SC. It was good advertising dollars at work.

“Do you know what our meeting this morning with Chance is about?” Donovan asked, knowing if anyone knew it would be Bas. As company troubleshooter, he kept well informed of anything and everything that happened at SC.

Bas shrugged. “Chance will tell you everything you need to know soon enough.”

Donovan rolled his eyes, wondering why he’d even bothered to ask. When it came to sharing SC’s business with anyone, Bas always developed a case of locked lips.

“Well, I’d better get to my own office. I have a lot to do,” Bas said standing.

Donovan inwardly smiled. It would be just like Bas
to put distance between them for fear of him trying to pump him for more information.

“Okay, then. I’ll see you at the meeting,” he said when Bas turned to leave. Donovan lifted a brow wondering what suddenly had Bas so nervous.

 

Natalie sipped her coffee trying to decide when would be the best time to call Donovan Steele. She and her aunt had worked on the schedules, and after shifting a couple of customers from Friday to Thursday—with their consent, of course—they had come up with a workable solution to accommodate Mr. Steele’s request.

She was working on the inside today, from the office set up in her aunt’s home, doing payroll and ordering supplies, and had been, for the time being, successful in talking her aunt into taking it easy and getting some rest.

Checking the clock on the wall once again, she figured Mr. Steele should be in his office by now and decided to give his business number a try. Taking a deep breath, she picked up the phone, glanced at the business card her aunt had attached to his file, and punched in the numbers. It didn’t take long for his secretary to answer.

“The Steele Corporation. Donovan Steele’s office. May I help you?”

“Yes, may I speak with Mr. Steele?”

“Who may I say is calling, please?”

“Natalie Ford.”

“Please hold on, Ms. Ford.”

Natalie pushed away from the desk to glance out the window, trying to get her mind off the fact that in a few
moments she would be hearing the sound of Donovan Steele’s voice again. Maybe she was suffering from a case of concentrating too much on work and not enough on the opposite sex. Why else would the sight of a good-looking man with a sexy voice have her mind flipping around like a fish out of water?

It wouldn’t take much to close her eyes, recall and visualize yesterday’s encounter with Donovan Steele. After leaving his place, driving over to her next client’s home had been difficult. She’d been overheated. Blatantly hot. If she could have gone somewhere and stripped down to her panties and bra she would have been tempted to do so.

And the sad thing about it was that her body’s high temperature had had nothing to do with Charlotte’s weather. It had been a hot day in July, true enough, but not a scorcher. She could now attribute her fever yesterday to Mr. Steele.

Mr. Steele.

He had tried several times to get her to call him Donovan, and she had refused to do so—would continue to do so. To call him by his first name sounded too personal, and she didn’t want to have that kind of relationship with him. She refused to have any sort of a relationship with him.

Her thoughts snapped back to the present when she heard the phone click in her ear and then…“Hello, this is Donovan.”

Immediately, her heart began pounding, and even though she didn’t want it to, her body began heating up, similar to the way it had yesterday. The man had such a sexy voice.

“Hello.”

At the sound of that voice again, she suddenly realized that she had not responded to his first greeting and quickly said, “Yes, Mr. Steele, this is Natalie Ford from Special Touch Housekeeping Agency.”

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