Authors: Joss Wood
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary
Step behind the hotel room doors of The Chatsfield, London…
When Ben treats girlfriend Joely to a luxurious birthday night at The Chatsfield, he has more than celebration in mind… Joely may be anti-marriage, but Ben is determined to show her they are destined for happy-ever-after! With every proposal attempt ending in disaster, Ben’s last hope is the stunning sapphire engagement ring burning a hole in his pocket… But who would have thought that being walked in on by a stranger—whilst naked!—would be so good for a relationship?
‘Morgan’s struggles with a learning disorder and her fears that she “isn’t good enough,” along with Noah’s fear of allowing his emotions to take control of his life, add depth to this steamy, fast-paced story. Well-developed secondary characters are a bonus.’
—RT Book Reviews on FLIRTING WITH THE FORBIDDEN
‘Loved the chemistry between Rowan and Seb – Seb is adorable, and his angst runs deep.’
—Harlequinjunkie.com on THE LAST GUY SHE SHOULD CALL
‘I LOVED this book. The hero and heroine had an attraction I could absolutely feel. The secondary characters were just crackling with life. I believed everything that happened in this story would be real if the people existed, and that’s an amazing thing. When a book draws me in like this one, I hesitate to remove it from my tablet – just to remind myself to read it again later.’
—Harlequinjunkie.com on TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?
‘Jack’s backstory is literally heart-wrenching. Watching Ellie and Jack dance around each other while trying to keep their lives the same was incredibly riveting. And seeing their growth really drew the whole story together. Amazing book. If you can keep it together in the last two chapters, I bow to you. Go read it… go on… go!’
—Harlequinjunkie.com on IF YOU CAN’T STAND THE HEAT
‘Wood’s tortured hero is believable and compelling, and the story takes readers on a passionate, emotional roller-coaster ride.’
—RT Book Reviews on IT WAS ONLY A KISS
‘Joss Wood has a writing style that is easy to read and will keep you glued to the pages… if you like reading sweet and sexy romance without going too much into all the naughty details, you’ll love this story.’
—Harlequinjunkie.com on IT WAS ONLY A KISS
Proposal in Room 309
‘Marriages are made in heaven’ had been the Master of Ceremonies’ opening remark at a mutual friend’s wedding eighteen months ago.
‘So are tornados, hurricanes and tropical storms.’
He’d turned at the sarcastic mutter behind him and looked into a pair of deep-as-midnight blue eyes and felt his heart bounce off his ribcage. Ka-doof!
‘Not a believer in the institution?’ he asked sotto voice as he stood with his back to the MC.
‘Hell, no,’ she’d scoffed. ‘You don’t need a certificate to be committed; you just need to be committed.’
He took a step back to stand next to the gorgeous sable-haired cynic.
‘Are you telling me that you can’t think of one reason to get married? Love?’
He kept his eyes on her face and watched her eyes narrow at his bland tone.
‘What’s love got to do with it? What can you do married that you can’t do living together? And then, to add insult to injury, when you marry you shove all your financial eggs into one basket and when you decide that you no longer want to be together, you have this turgid mess you have to pick through.’ Joely shook her head so hard that he thought she’d shake loose her sexy, messy pile of curls. ‘Madness. What’s that old saying…marriage is an institution and who wants to be in an institution?’
A lady of strong views, he’d thought. ‘My name is Ben Duncan.’
‘Can I get you a drink?’
Two shallow dimples flashed when she smiled. ‘Only if you promise not to propose.’
‘Well, not tonight.’
Eighteen months later and while much had changed between them, Joely’s anti-marriage views hadn’t. And that was why he’d chosen The Chatsfield to launch his campaign to change Joely’s mind. There was a reason it was voted one of the most romantic hotels in the world. The hotel, rich, luxurious, decadent, gave the subtle impression that anything was possible, that magic was hovering just around the corner.
Well, that was what the brochures and website said…Ben just wanted to get Joely out of their flat where she felt comfortable and settled, and hopefully she’d see happy honeymooners and settled families and wrinklies who’d been married for a hundred years.
He was also hoping that, since it was her birthday, she wouldn’t give him the silent treatment for raising ‘That Which Must Not Be Discussed’.
Joely had been hard to catch and, if he had to be honest, he still wasn’t sure whether she was really his. It had taken three weeks to persuade her to have dinner with him, another six to get her into bed and getting her to move in with him had required the finesse of a brain surgeon. Dr Joely Ann Bennett did not like change.
He believed in marriage, in the concept, in the promises that he wanted to make to her in front of their family and friends. And he didn’t fail; it wasn’t in his makeup, despite his genetics. When he started something he finished it, every single time. Unlike his father who flitted through life bouncing from one get rich quick scheme to another, expecting Ben to bail him out when it went pear shaped again. Like Joely’s parents, his father also had a tenuous grasp on the concept of commitment and fidelity.
Well, Ben and Joely were not their parents and they could do anything they wanted to…
And that was why, wildly optimistic sap that he was, he was here with a kick-ass ring in the inside pocket of his suit jacket.
Of course, it could also mean that he was freakin’ nuts.
Ben jammed his hands into the pockets of his suit trousers and looked around the lobby of the opulent hotel. Built and decorated in the ‘twenties at the beginning of the art deco period, it still retained the glamour and subdued sexiness of that era. The massive front reception desk had been hand-carved with geometric inlays of abalone shell and ivory and the couches and easy chairs, in bold jewel tone colours, were from the same period. Despite having a double-volume ceiling and a fountain with a brass statue of a naked sprite in the middle of the lobby, it still retained the feel of a rich country house…if the country house was Blenheim or Buckingham Palace.
Ben looked at his watch and cursed when he saw that Joely was fifteen minutes late. He was just reaching for his mobile when it rang and he knew it was her.
‘Honey, you’re late…again.’
‘Working on my birthday is contrary to all the rules of the universe but my day is over and it’s time to play!’ Joely replied and, despite her jovial tone, Ben could hear the exhaustion in her voice.
‘You ok?’ he asked, immediately concerned.
Joely sighed. ‘I really need that drink…and you.’
‘Kind of…and really busy. Apart from being such a treat, having a drink at The Chatsfield is a nice bridge between the blood and gore of the patients from an RTA and my weekend off. Thanks for thinking of this, Ben, you spoil me.’
Only Joely, so undemanding, would think a drink was him spoiling her. He grinned, thinking of the flowers in the shockingly expensive suite upstairs, the rose petals on the bed, the champagne on ice. ‘Well, it is your birthday and tomorrow you can have the day off. Maybe, if you’re really good, you’ll get breakfast delivered to you.’
Which he wouldn’t have to make. Bonus.
‘That sounds like heaven; my only problem is that I’m not really dressed for The Chatsfield,’ Joely said.
Joely had the type of body that would look good draped in a Hessian sack and, for a doctor working in Accident and Emergency who spent most of her days in scrubs, the sense of style of a catwalk model. She always looked fantastic.
‘You’ll be fine.’
Besides he’d packed her a black dress, the sexiest underwear he could find and shoes – he hoped they were the right ones - for her to wear when they had dinner at the two-star Michelin restaurant on the second floor.
‘Well, I’m about three minutes away. Meet me in the lobby.’
‘Already here, babe,’ Ben answered on a grin before disconnecting the call. Standing by the huge fountain in the centre of the lobby, he turned as someone cleared his throat behind him. It was Harrison, the same concierge he’d spoken to when making all of the many, many arrangements it took to set this evening up. Ben, easily able to read people’s faces, immediately noticed that something was wrong.
He lifted his eyebrows.
To his credit, Harrison didn’t waffle and jumped right in. ‘Mr Duncan? The flowers and rose petals you ordered have been mistakenly delivered and set up in the wrong room, sir. My sincere apologies but in the confusion of making arrangements for a very picky celebrity and a demanding sheik and his entourage, my staff entered the incorrect room number and it was set up in room 390, not 309.’
Ok, easy to fix. ‘Can’t you just move it?’
Harrison shook his head. ‘Well, I would but the couple came back to the room unexpectedly and one half of the partnership believed his lover had organised it for him and the other begged me not to let the cat out of the bag.’ Harrison gestured to two well-dressed men walking through the lobby. There was a rose petal in the hair of the blonde.
‘While you are having dinner, we’ll dress the room again,’ Harrison said, wringing his hands. ‘Would that be in order?’
‘Sure.’ Ben shrugged.
‘Things like this don’t happen at The Chatsfield. Obviously, we’ll compensate you for our error and we’ll leave a thank gift in your room.’
Take a breath, Ben wanted to say, it’s flowers not a broken vial of the Ebola virus. Jo probably wouldn’t even notice; the woman could spot a potential melanoma at fifty paces but flowers? Not so much.
‘Thank you for your understanding,’ Harrison gushed before leaving.
Hell, in the scheme of things he had a lot more to worry about. Like whether he would ever be able to get his woman down an aisle. Or even talking about it…
He felt her hand on his shoulder and then caught her scent; something fresh and light that suited her vibrant personality. Ben turned and looked into those deep eyes surrounded by sooty lashes; traced the contours of her wide mouth, her high cheekbones. He knew he wanted to wake up to that face for the rest of his life…
He grabbed her and yanked her to him, sipping at her mouth while holding her head in place.
Let the campaign begin, he thought before he got lost in her kiss.
***It didn’t matter how tired she was, how flat, being in Ben’s strong arms, feeling his masculine solidness always picked her up, Joely thought as she looped her arms around Ben’s neck and sank into his kiss. They’d been together for eighteen months, living together for six and she was still amazed that their relationship was as much fun as it was when they had just met, dizzy with the wonder of each other.
He was everything she’d ever wanted in a man and a part of her still couldn’t believe that she’d found him. Intelligent, yeah, you couldn’t be one of the country’s youngest venture capitalists without an overdose of smarts, and sexy with his ripped body and deep grey eyes. Having a lover with a hard body who had superior sack skills was a huge bonus.
But best of all, Ben was steady. Reliable. Thinking. While he wasn’t unemotional, far from it, he wasn’t volatile and she loved that about him. Unlike her crazy, hot-blooded, impulsive blood and step-parents and half and step siblings, there was no drama with Ben. He didn’t upset apple carts, throw his toys, make quick decisions without talking it over with her. He was rational and he didn’t make rash decisions.
She felt safe with him. Loved. Treasured.
‘Hey you. Want to buy a girl a margarita? Tequila makes me easy…’
Ben grinned. ‘I make you easy.’
‘This is true but buy me a drink anyway.’
‘Sure.’ Ben tugged her head back by gently pulling her ponytail and smiled down at her from his six-two height. ‘Happy birthday, Jo. What is it, your thirty-fifth?’
Joely mock glared at him as he placed a broad hand on her back and guided her to the bar off the lobby. ‘It’s my twenty-ninth, you twit, as you well know.’
In the downstairs trendy, classy bar, Ben snagged a free bar stool and Joely wiggled her bum onto it as Ben ordered a margarita and a beer from the barman. The place was full of suited men and smart woman, coming into the bar for a Friday night drink. Just next to them sat a glossy couple who were looking everywhere but at each other.
‘Trouble brewing.’ Joely tipped her head towards them and Ben slid his gaze to the left.