Authors: Mina Carter
by Mina Carter
ask questions or flash cameras at her and sometimes she needed that tranquillity.
She really didn't expect to be kept waiting long. To do that would be incredibly rude, not to mention could damage future relations, she mused. Although she was here today to discuss a charity, aka non-profit, event, one for which Anders Entertainment had pledged the use of Swithland Park, there was also the fact that Zette was an artist in her own right.
One who toured frequently. Tours that were not charity events and would also need venues.
She just hoped this guy remembered that, and she could use that bit of leverage to her advantage. Tucking the file with her papers in by her thigh she checked covertly around, to see if anyone was watching her. The two receptionists were intent on the screens in front of them and the rest of the entrance lobby was empty. Zette felt safe to wriggle a little, using her jacket to cover as she rearranged her corset a little to display her cleavage to its best advantage.
Never pass up a little va-va-voom, you never knew when it might come in handy. Of course, she didn't expect this Anders to be some handsome young stud but hopefully he wouldn't be that far into his dotage that she couldn't indulge in a little light-hearted flirtation. A flirtation that, with the solid facts and figures her team had prepared, would hopefully ease whatever worries he had over hosting
She was so wrapped up in her thoughts, Zette didn't realise she had company until someone, a male someone, 14
by Mina Carter
cleared their throat at her side. Startled Zette looked up, her eyes colliding with a pair of striking hazel-green ones.
Hazel-green eyes she recognised.
"Hello Zette," JJ said quietly. "Long time, no see."
* * * *
Instantly she was eighteen again and in the grip of her first desperate love, for her step cousin JJ. She'd had a crush on him since her mother had married Robert Jensen and she'd been introduced to her new family, the quiet plump daughter of her social butterfly mother, Ariadne. He'd been fourteen to her eleven and seemed so grown up, so confident.
Quite unlike the shy Zette. She'd watched him for years, secretly admiring him, wishing he'd notice her. See her as a woman rather than an irritating kid sister.
Finally, at her eighteenth birthday party, he had. It had been a magical evening, she'd felt so grown up in the evening dress her mother had picked out for her. And JJ had obviously noticed, catching her hand and pulling her away from the party into the shadows by the boathouse.
"I've wanted to do this for months," he admitted, a moment before his lips claimed hers in a gentle kiss that blew her innocent, naive mind. It was the perfect kiss and should have been the perfect end to the perfect evening.
It had been an end all right, but nothing like a perfect one.
Not from Zette's point of view anyway. An end she'd have never seen coming, not in a million years. Their perfect kiss 15
by Mina Carter
had marked the beginning of the end and a huge change in Zette's life. A change that had left her heartbroken and alone.
She'd left her bag. Dropped on the seat by the boathouse as JJ had kissed her, she hadn't realised it was gone until she'd returned to her room, filled with pink and white frills more suited to a six year old than a young woman. She stood in the middle of the room, nibbling her lower lip. A bad habit when she was stressed or nervous. She had to go and look for it. It had been a gift, one of her birthday presents and she didn't want to lose it. Besides if anyone had found it, they'd know she'd been down near the boathouse which could have led to all sorts of questions she didn't want to answer.
Particularly as the only person that stayed down there was JJ.
No, she had to go and fetch it.
Decision made, she crept back out, checking through the debris of the now finished party, retracing her steps until she made her way down to the boathouse. Her steps were lighter, her very spirit buoyed up by the possibility of seeing JJ again.
Hopefully he'd still be awake ... would he kiss her again? She hoped so. She might even manage to surprise him getting ready for bed, without his shirt on. This time, with what had passed between them, she could look her fill instead of looking away or burying her nose in a book like she usually did around the pool.
No more sneaky glances and covert looks! JJ loved her, he had to. Otherwise he wouldn't have kissed her like that, would he? With so much tenderness and restrained passion.
Innocent though she was, some feminine part of her recognised a man who was holding himself in check. The 16
by Mina Carter
thought of JJ holding himself in check thrilled her. She wanted to break through his restraint, taste the passion she knew first-hand was hiding there. Her first lover.
"Lush armful ain't she? Bit plump for my tastes but good for a roll in the hay." Her stepfather's voice broke through her daydreams, stopping her in her tracks in the shadows.
The voice had come from the open French doors at the side of the boathouse. Zette crept forwards, her recovered bag in her hands. Robert must have come down to check on JJ after the party. For some reason his uncle always seemed to think JJ needed the 'guidance of a father' after having lost both parents in a skiing accident when he was just six. So Robert had set himself up in that role, despite the fact that he had no kids of his own.
She edged toward the pool of light until she could see in through the doors. JJ and his uncle were sprawled in the leather easy chairs, heavy whiskey tumblers filled with the amber liquid in their hands. JJ shrugged, knocking back the contents of his glass in a careless swallow, the powerful muscles of his throat working.
"She's okay, a pretty little thing," he replied offhand, a reply that froze Zette's heart in her chest. She was okay? Just okay? What about the kiss earlier, was that just
? Hadn't it meant anything to him?
Robert's laugh twisted the knife that stabbed her gut.
"That's my boy, love 'em and leave 'em! Mind you, if the daughter's half as good as the mother in the sack, I might have to look at the younger model myself!"
by Mina Carter
Zette felt sick, her eyes filling with tears as she waited for JJ to tell his uncle it wasn't like that, waited for him to defend her as surely he must. Tell Robert they were in love.
He didn't, just shrugging again in a careless way that tore at Zette's heart, cracking it. His next words shattered it beyond repair. "I'll be gone in a week anyway," he said in a bored tone, "she's just a diversion, something to fill my time this week."
The memory faded and Zette blinked, bringing herself back to the present with a bump. She covered her lapse with a slow downward sweep of her lashes. Her eyes, so expressive, had always been her downfall. There was no way she wanted him to know how much he affected her.
It brought it all back, everything she'd tried so hard to bury for so long. She'd known it wouldn't work of course.
These things had to be faced, dealt with. But at the time she'd been too young, too inexperienced to know how to deal with it. She'd had her heart broken, her mother's marriage had failed and she'd been left to fend for herself in London after her mother had headed off to the Med to find herself a new husband.
Survival had taken precedence and she'd pushed it all to the back of her mind, fooling herself that time healed all wounds. It didn't. The mere sound of his voice was enough to rip away all the layers she'd plastered over her wounds like a child pulling the scab away from a nasty graze and revealing the tender flesh beneath.
* * * *
by Mina Carter
She was pissed, that much JJ could tell. The slight stiffening of her body told him she'd recognised his voice even before she looked up and speared him with those eyes. Not the sultry chocolate brown of the pictures in the various magazines upstairs but cold and hard. It took a lot to make brown eyes go cold like that but he wasn't surprised. No doubt he was the last person she expected, wanted to see.
"JJ." She inclined her head a touch in greeting as she stood, moving with an elegant grace he didn't remember her possessing as a teenager. If anything she'd been awkward, as though unsure in her own skin. She didn't offer her hand, which irked him a little. Now that she was here, in front of him, he wanted to touch her again. Found he needed to touch her, needed to feel her satin soft skin under his.
, he told himself, getting his body's reaction to the sound of her voice in check. She'd always had an unusual voice, distinctive. He could never remember her singing as a child though, but that might have had something to do with her mother. Ariadne couldn't sing, wasn't in any way musical other than using the odd dance to cast her lures for her next victim of a husband. If she wasn't interested in something, no further effort was expended on it. It had always pissed him off about Zette's mother, that and the callous way she'd treated her quiet daughter.
Obviously though, somewhere along the line someone had seen the promise in it. He wondered who ... How had she gotten her big break?
As soon as he thought it, he dismissed the question. He wasn't interested in the past, or the portions of it between 19
by Mina Carter
Zette and her gold-digging mother being kicked out of the Jensen house and now. All he was interested in was getting her into his bed. For now anyway. The rest would come later.
"You're looking well," he commented lightly then nodded toward the lift, eager to get on with this. "I believe we have an appointment so shall we?"
"From that I assume Mr Anders isn't going to be joining us?" she asked as she walked into the lift ahead of him. Her perfume, an exotic scent that suited her, wound around his senses leaving him a little lightheaded. JJ shook himself to clear it and hit the button for his top floor office, keeping his mind firmly on the business ahead and not on the promise of the curves beneath the jacket she was wearing.
What on earth was the matter with him? He'd never reacted this strongly to a woman before. Not even Zette herself when she was younger. But who knew she'd turn out like this? A siren to haunt any man's dreams.
"Oh I doubt he will be. Probably off playing golf in the Seychelles or something," he commented. "He retired last week."
Zette made a noncommittal noise in response. She wondered whether that had been all Anders's idea or if he had been 'helped' toward his decision by a bucket load of stress.
JJ wasn't just known for his takeovers in the world of big business but more for his hostile takeovers. Bluntly put, they called him the 'Jensen Mako,' the shark of the business world.
Impatience surged through her as she waited for the lift to reach its destination, a journey of mere seconds that seemed 20
by Mina Carter
to be taking hours. She needed to escape, put some distance between her and JJ.
He'd changed. The man standing next to her bore little resemblance to the boy she'd known. Abruptly she realised he had been a boy then, despite how grown up he'd seemed.
She flicked him a glance from under her lashes.
He'd matured well, the lean frame she remembered filled out now. Broad shoulders filled the tailored jacket and skimmed into a narrow waist and powerful hips and thighs.
They weren't the only changes. His face was harder, more determined. The glint of silver at his temple suited him.
She shivered. One thing hadn't changed. He was still the hottest guy she'd ever seen. Not the prettiest. Working in the music industry she saw plenty of pretty boys but none affected her the way JJ did. She stepped out of the lift as soon as the door opened, escaping into the relative safety of the office beyond.
"Very nice," she commented, her heels soundless in the plush carpet as she looked around. It was nice in that 'exec in a box' interior design way. Personally she hated it.
"Bland," he replied, striding around her to the desk, unknowingly echoing her thoughts. "However, you didn't come here to comment on my taste in interior design, did you Zette?"
Her chin rose a little at his blunt statement, at the slight challenge in his voice. For some reason he'd forced this meeting. Why, she didn't know, but he had. Zette didn't believe in coincidences and this, Anders Entertainment being 21
by Mina Carter
bought out just as she was arranging a concert at one of their venues, was just too much of a coincidence to be plausible.
"No," she replied, wondering how to play this one. She didn't understand the world JJ moved in, didn't understand the rules he played by. There was no way she could play him at his own game and win.
"I actually came to see Anders rather than you, so I was a little surprised to see you here. But that was the point wasn't it?" she threw back, the look on her face cool, polite. "Why'd you buy Anders Entertainment? It's not your usual style..."
He looked up from the papers he was studying on his desk, piercing hazel eyes catching hers in a direct look. Amusement leeched into them. "My usual style?" he queried, his voice dropping lower until it was almost an auditory caress. "Been checking up on me Zette?"
Anger rose, sharp and immediate. Of all the patronising, condescending ... Didn't help that it was true. She had been keeping tabs on him, reading every little snippet she found in the news. "No! Well, yes, but only to avoid you and your bloody family!" she bit out, managing to reign in her temper.
Well, most of it anyway.
He smiled, covering the flash of annoyance in his eyes before she was sure she'd seen it. He straightened up. "Oh well, that's a pity. I really was hoping this meeting would be slightly more congenial."