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Authors: Nina G. Jones

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BOOK: Strapped
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Strapped [1]
Nina G. Jones
Nina G. Jones (2013)

Strapped contains explicit adult themes and content.

By all appearances, Shyla Ball has an enviable life: a loyal boyfriend, a great job, and family that loves her. She doesn't realize how deeply unsatisfied she is until she has an embarrassing encounter with a handsome stranger at a coffee shop. Taylor Holden, a successful businessman, takes a sudden special interest in her and offers her a job she cannot refuse. Soon after, she learns there is much more to this intensely private man than meets the eye. He is hiding many painful secrets, including why it is that he has seemingly plucked her out of obscurity for such a lucrative position. Her "perfect" world is turned upside down by her infatuation towards Taylor and in just a couple of months, her life looks nothing like it did before. While she is frightened by the changes she sees in herself, she cannot resist the lure of Taylor Holden. As Shyla slowly gains Taylor's trust, she learns of his complex history and how it has molded him into the person he has become. When elements of Taylor's secret past resurface and threaten to destroy them, Shyla finds out there may be more to Taylor's story than even he is aware of. Strapped is a story of passion, manipulation, obsession, and family secrets.

Strapped is told in the voice of Shyla. Despite the dark subject matter of the book, Shyla's often sarcastic and humorous personality lends an unusual voice to this heroine.


by Nina G. Jones

Copyright © 2013 Nina G. Jones

Cover design and book layout design by

Mijal Jubelirer Creative,

All rights reserved.

To BJ, who tolerates my morbid obsession with crime shows even though he secretly suspects I am plotting to kill him.

Special Thanks to Des, Cassie, Meg and Mijal who were instrumental in helping me complete this novel.

Chapter One

The time on my laptop reads 9:35am. I stare at it blankly, knowing I have to submit an entire marketing campaign by 4:30 in the afternoon. Minutes pass with no progress. I started working at five in the morning and my brain can no longer produce any creative thoughts. I gaze out the dining room window; the weather seems nice enough despite a mild overcast. I decide to walk to my favorite coffee shop about 20 minutes away. This will give me some much needed time to clear my head, and the boost from the caffeine won’t hurt either. I throw on my worn red leather motorcycle jacket, wrangle my massive head of brown hair into a woven cap, slip on a pair of TOMS and head out the front door. As I pass the mirror in the foyer, I put on a little bit of clear lip gloss and mascara as a finishing touch. The first inhalation of the cool air fills my lungs and is a much needed refuge from the confines of my apartment. I try my best to think of absolutely nothing work related as I walk, hoping by the time I return I will be ready to tackle the rest of the project. I distract myself by listening to the sounds surrounding me, the swooshing of cars speeding by, the faint cry of children playing in a schoolyard just out of view. A breeze caresses my neck as I relish in the simplicity of taking a walk. This quiet time gives me the mental rest I need to get my creative juices flowing again.

The coffee shop is buzzing with morning meetings and people working vigorously on their laptops. In front of me is a man, maybe 30 years old, talking on a cell phone. I immediately note how good he smells, like fresh laundry with just a hint of something warm and delicious. Is it vanilla? Sandalwood? I can hear brief snippets of his conversation:

“No...that’s not what I said...I want those delivered immediately. Tell Marsha to drop everything she is doing and make it happen.” His voice is firm, but not raised. He must be some sort of hotshot banker. He aggressively presses a button on his phone, I assume to hang up on whomever he is speaking with, and shoves the phone into the pocket of his gray slacks. At this point, I can only make out that he is tall, maybe a little over six feet, and has dark hair that looks like it was coiffed earlier in the day, but has now become a little unruly. He is wearing a white button down shirt, tucked into his pants, with the sleeves rolled up.

“Next!” A girl’s voice calls him to the counter. I can’t make out what he is ordering, and then I hear another girl call out, so I approach the counter.

“I’ll have a large coffee please, with room.” She hastily serves up the fresh and extremely hot cup of coffee. As I turn around to take my beverage to the condiment stand, I slam into someone behind me. The person feels like a wall, the torso not giving into my momentum and nearly throwing me back. The impact pops the lid off of my coffee cup and hot liquid explodes out of the opening, scalding my hands and flying onto the man whom I have just turned to face. I instantly realize it is him. I am sure this is all happening very quickly, but I hear myself breathing and feel myself looking up at him, as if in slow motion, taking a deep breath as my eyes scan up his torso and then his neck. The humiliation is fresh and my hand is pulsing with radiating pain from the hot coffee. My eyes slowly meet his: in a word, he is beautiful. He has eyes that are not quite green or blue, full lips, a strong, straight nose, and a beautiful This is not the reaction I am expecting.

“Oh my god, I am so sorry!” I lunge at his shirt with my napkin in a fruitless attempt to wipe off the coffee. “I feel like such an ass!”

“It’s okay, really,” he says, under a crooked grin. He puts his hands up at his sides, as if surrendering to my panicked attempt at cleaning his shirt. I continue to apologize, feeling as though there are not enough “sorries” this morning to make up for spilling my coffee all over his perfectly-pressed ensemble.

“It’s not a big deal. I have plenty of shirts like this.” As he says this, he touches my shoulder and my entire body tenses for a moment. He is so calm about the whole situation. Is this the same borderline rude guy who wanted Marsha to drop EVERYTHING she was doing? The coffee shop, buzzing with activity just minutes earlier, seems to have quieted. It feels like everyone has stopped their business to watch my extremely embarrassing moment unfold. Not being one for attention, I scurry out of the coffee shop, leaving without adding anything to my coffee. I just need to escape this moment as quickly as possible.

I sip on my bland, and still extremely hot coffee using my left hand, while looking at my right hand, which is red and painful from the spill. About ten minutes pass when I feel the first droplet. Then there is a second one, a third, and a fourth.
Please don’t tell me it’s about to rain.
I hurry my walking pace, knowing full well that I have about ten more minutes of walking left before I reach my home. I can hear my mother’s voice in my head nagging me about not checking the forecast. I zip up my jacket, pull up the collar and tuck my head in like a turtle, hoping the gray clouds above my head will not give out. Not a minute later, there is the loud clap of thunder in the distance, immediately followed by a downpour. I run around like a scampering mouse, looking for an awning, a tree, anything, but I cannot escape the downpour. What a morning this has turned out to be. I really should have just kept my ass at home. Then out of my line of vision, I hear someone speaking.

“Hop in.” The voice is so nonchalant, it almost makes me question whether I had arranged to be picked up. I whip my head around, which is now draped by my jacket. It’s

“ thanks, I’m okay.”

“You don’t look okay. You look like you’re getting soaked. There’s lightning. It’s not safe.” As he says this there is a boom so loud we both jump, wide-eyed. I really could use the ride, but who gets into a car with a strange man, even if the car is a Mercedes and the man is beautiful?

“I really shouldn’t...”

“If you’re concerned that I am a serial killer, I can assure you, I’m not,” he says, under the same crooked smile I saw at the coffee shop.
Ah yes...the good ol’ “I am not a serial killer” line, I bet all the girls fall for it.
There is another crack of thunder followed by a flash of lightening. I take a deep breath and walk towards the car, still hesitant to enter.

“I cannot in good conscience let you stand out in a torrential downpour. I suspect our interaction has put a damper on your day already, and this storm can’t be making it any better. If it makes you feel safer, take down my license plate and text it to a friend.” His level of kindness is cause for suspicion, but then again, this is the same guy that smiled when I doused scalding hot coffee on his impeccably tailored shirt. Maybe he is a rare breed of gentleman. It is raining pathetically hard and I start to feel like an idiot fighting his offer because clearly I need this ride and my pride has done nothing to keep me dry thus far.

His suggestion is just enough to make me feel secure about getting into his car without actually following through on it. “I bet you do this for all the girls that spill hot coffee on your shirt,” I say sarcastically as I lean into the passenger seat. “Ugh, you know, I really shouldn’t be in here. I’m all wet and you have these nice leather seats.”

“Honestly, that was a first for me - getting coffee spilled on me - as is offering rides to coffee spillers.” He smiles, “Don’t worry about the seats, it’s just a car.”
Just a brand new Mercedes.
I look over to him and blush -- the torso area of his shirt is covered in a large coffee stain. After I give him directions to my building, he engages me in conversation.

“So, what’s your name?”

“Shyla, and yours?”

“Taylor.” There is a brief pause.

“By the way, I am really sorry again about the coffee thing. I am a little frazzled this morning and it made me distracted.”

“Let me guess...big final?” He must think I am a student. The question is obviously a reflection of my overall demeanor and dress. Here I am in jeans, a T-shirt, a leather jacket and a knit hat, sitting next to a man in perfectly tailored but coffee-stained clothes. Although I’ve been out of college for five years now, I am still constantly mistaken for a 19 –year-old.

“No, I am a freelance graphic artist. I work from home. Graduated from college several years ago.” I can see him grinning while his eyes remain on the road.

“I know this is going to sound weird, but have we met before? Something about you seems so familiar.”

“No, I don’t think so.” While I don’t recognize his face, I feel it too, a certain level of comfort, as if this is not the first time we have spoken.

He glances over at me, to take a quick look at my face again. “Are you sure?”

“Yes. I don’t think I would have forgotten had I met you before.” I feel my face flush as I say this. I watch him stare at the road intently, but his lips curve just a little.

“Graphic designer? Are you any good?

“I wouldn’t be doing something if I didn’t think I was good at it.”

“You know, I am always looking for new, young talent. Why don’t you come interview for a job at my company?”

“Your company? Ummm...well I’m not really in the market for a job. Actually, the reason I went to get coffee was because I was so bogged down with assignments...” I sense that I am beginning to babble and stop myself to turn the conversation back to Taylor. “What’s the name of your company?”

“Holden Industries.”

Holy shit. The. Holden. Industries. I try my best to act completely unfazed. Everyone in the city knows Holden Industries, as it is one of the largest buildings downtown. He must be the owner’s son; he looks like he might just barely be 30 years old.

“Oh, cool.” I try to sound unimpressed. This time his lips do not move, but I can see amusement in his eyes.

“Seriously, we are always looking for young talent. I would love to talk to you more about opportunities with Holden Industries.” My luck has shifted remarkably this morning. From spilling coffee on a gorgeous man, to said gorgeous man trying to persuade me to interview for a job at his family’s company.

“I really appreciate the offer, but, I am pretty comfortable with my current position. I mean the offer is so tempting, but I know I would be unhappy working in a typical office setting.” He is silent for a few seconds. I assume he is taken aback by what appears to be a rejection of a potential opportunity at one of the most successful companies in the city.

“Why don’t you give me your card in the event we would like to contract your services?” My card? My nerves heighten for a second, worrying that I will look like an unprofessional jackass, but I remember that I have recently stuffed some cards in my wallet. I proudly pull one out and offer it to him. He reaches for it, keeping his eyes on the road. His hand barely grazes mine and I swear they linger for a moment as he pulls the card away. It electrifies me.

‘”Graphic Images,” he reads my company name aloud to himself with a smirk. “Did you design this?” I nod. “Shyla, this is very nice.” Our eyes lock for a moment when he turns to say this and again it stirs something up in me. I know he feels it too, this weight in the air, because he holds the look longer than he should.

Our gaze is abruptly stopped by a screeching noise and Taylor slamming on the brakes as someone blindly pulls out of a driveway in front of us. He reaches his free hand out in front of me, as if to stop my momentum. His arm feels immoveable, strong, and firm as it stops me from lurching any further forward.

“Oh my God!” I hear myself screaming.

“Unbelievable!” Taylor shouts as he lays into his horn as the Mercedes screeches to a full stop. We were just a couple of feet away from hitting the car. It’s the closest I have ever been to getting into a car accident and the shock leaves me panting for breath. His arm is still firmly against my breasts as they rise and lower from my heavy breathing. We make eye contact again when he looks over, presumably to check on me, and we both slowly lower our eyes in unison to his forearm and hand on my chest.

“I, uh...” He seems at a loss for words for the first time since I have met him. “I’m so sorry about that...”

“No! That guy was a jerk, he just pulled out right in front of us.” His arm is still there, much like his stare, longer than it needs to be.

“Are you okay?” He slowly slides his arm away from my chest and puts his hand on my shoulder. His touch gives me goosebumps. I take a hard gulp. My breathing is still heavy, but it’s the physical tension between us rather than the near accident that’s making my heart race. I notice my hands are clenching the sides of my seat and I release them.

“Yes, I am fine, really.” A horn honks behind us, breaking up the moment, and Taylor puts both his hands back on the steering wheel to accelerate towards my home, only a couple of blocks away

“Mr. Holden, I have to thank you again for the generous ride. I mean this really was kind of you and then you sort of saved my life,” I say with a smirk. Now that I know who he is I feel the inexplicable need to address him in a professional manner. The rain pours hard on the windshield which reminds me how much it would have sucked to be stuck out there.

“Mr. Holden? What happened to Taylor?” He pulls up in front of the apartment building, reaches into his pocket and pulls out his wallet. “Here. I hire based on personality and gut instinct. It has served me well so far. I would really like to discuss the possibility of you working for Holden Industries.” He doesn’t take no for an answer, does he?

“Thank you,
.” I put an extra emphasis on his name and smile as I try to take one last look at his face. He really is striking, the kind of man that distracts your thoughts enough so that you spill coffee all over yourself. I pause. I don’t want to leave the car, I feel like the schoolgirl that I apparently resemble. He extends his hand and I shake it, grateful to have an excuse to touch him.

As I walk into my apartment, I let out a big sigh. What was that? I know that essentially it was a well-mannered, incredibly gorgeous man giving a soaking-wet girl a ride home, but it felt like it was more. The tension in the car leaves me breathless, even minutes later.

I pull out the business card he handed to me:

BOOK: Strapped
8.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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