Harlequin Presents Writing Competition 2009: Runner Up Joanne Pibworth's First Chapter
Welcome to the last winning entry of the ! Today we'll be posting the first chapter of SHOES, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE by Joanne Pibworth, the runner up in the Modern Heat section (and IHP regular 🙂 ). And wooo boy, it's a steamy one! ~Amy
“Shoes, Lies & Video Tape” by Joanne Pibworth
“Have you ever made love with a complete stranger?” the voice close to her ear murmured, rich, deep and sexy as hell. She didn’t need to turn around to know who was standing behind her, sending her pulse into frantic overdrive.
Nancy shook her head slowly, closing her eyes, her breath catching in her throat.
She’d noticed him as soon as she’d sat down on a high stool in the hotel piano bar. It was turned midnight, and he had a smouldering charisma that set him apart – bronzed and broad shouldered in his dinner jacket, black tie loosened casually around the undone shirt buttons at his neck. His dark hair brushed his collar; the sensual curve of his full mouth a promise of guaranteed satisfaction.
In short, he looked like he’d tumbled straight from the centrefold of a glossy magazine, and a raunchy one at that.
He’d zeroed in on her instantly too, undressing her with his eyes across the bar. And now he was right behind her, his warm mouth murmuring huskily against her hair. Leaning back against him instinctively, she noticed a small crowd of people in the doorway of the bar and jolted upright again sharply.
She felt him melt away as they advanced towards her in high spirits, crowding in to say goodnight and congratulate her for the millionth time that evening.
“You really showed ‘em Nance,” said Marie, her office manager, pointing an unsteady finger at her. “You showed ‘em how its done girl, and we are all soooo proud of you,” she swayed on her heels as she waved her arms wildly to encompass the group.
“Hey, I couldn’t have done it on my own. You guys are the best ever,” Nancy said affectionately, looking around at the team who’d helped her build Bon Nannie up into one of the best new nanny agencies in London over the last twelve months.
“This is for all of us,” she picked up the glass prism with their agency name inscribed on the base. “Best new business” she read aloud, her eyes shining as she looked at the happy faces around her.
“Thank you. All of you.” Nancy could feel a lump in her throat; she was so fond of them all. “Now, go home and get some sleep guys, eh? I’ll see you all on Monday,” They meandered off arm in arm, saluting her noisily as they went, leaving her once again alone in the bar.
The bar tender set a glass of chilled champagne in front of her.
“Compliments of the gentleman,” he said quietly. He didn’t say who, and Nancy didn’t need to ask.
She picked up the icy champagne flute, drinking deeply from the deliciously creamy fizz, sighing with pleasure as the bubbles sparkled down her throat.
He’d slipped away, sat quietly sipping brandy, watching her.
And now he was behind her again, as if they’d never been interrupted. “I asked you a question,” he said huskily, his voice liquid silk against the heated curve of her neck.
He swung her stool slowly around to face him, his marine eyes ablaze with desire that he made no attempt to hide. Nancy felt strangely liberated by the primal instinct he unleashed in her, for once she was free of her usual rules. Slithering to her feet against him, she revelled in how he towered over her, even in her high heels.
He took the champagne glass from her fingers and placed it on the bar with deliberate care.
Close up, he was simply the most magnificent man she’d ever laid eyes on.
He radiated a sensual force field that held her a willing captive, sending thrills of lust rippling through her body.
Sliding one strong arm around her waist, he urged her closer. His other hand buried itself deep into her tawny curls, winding them gently around his fingers to tilt her head upwards.
Her smoky hazel eyes met his glittering midnight ones, seeing her own desire reflected there ten fold. It was her final undoing, knowing he felt that same urgent need.
“Kiss me,” she heard herself whisper, shocked that the words actually came out aloud.
A fleeting half smile touched his lips, and she held her breath as he lowered his head to hers.
Her eyelids fluttered closed at the first touch of his mouth, her lips yielding under his unexpectedly gentle pressure. Her heart jumped against her ribcage as his lips moved more insistently over hers, heating up, searching to deepen the kiss.
Her arms wound up around his broad shoulders of their own accord, and she opened her mouth to let his tongue slide in. He tasted of warm cognac, and his five o clock shadow brazed against the soft skin of her face. His hands moved in a slow caress down the length of her back, blazing a trail of heat on the naked skin revealed by her low cut dress. Lower again to mould the curve of her bottom possessively.
Nancy’s senses reeled under his assault, the bar fading away around her. They were suspended in their own private lust bubble, consumed by the heat of the fire they’d started. His tongue twined with hers, her nails raking the back of his neck, driving him to the edge of reason.
Groaning into her mouth, he crushed her against his hard body, letting her feel the evidence of his arousal straining against her stomach.
His mouth moved into her hair, teeth grazing her ear lobe.
“Come to my room.”
It wasn’t a question. Nancy wouldn’t have refused if it had of been.
Somewhere within her a tiny voice questioned her sanity for leaving with a stranger, but other voices clamoured to shout it down easily. He’s gorgeous. He’s achingly sexy. He’s just kissed me so thoroughly that I forgot to breathe.
And something else too, an innate sense that she could trust him, even though she didn’t even know his name.
Holding her hand, he pulled her through the bar into the opulent hotel lobby, guiding her straight through the open doors of the thankfully empty lift.
She threw herself on him as the doors closed, craving the feeling of his hot mouth on her again. She’d never felt so completely overwhelmed by wanton sexual need – all she could think of was this man, this moment.
He backed her against the mirrored wall, lifting her up off her feet to give himself easier access to her kiss swollen mouth. Her silver evening dress rode high on her thighs as she wrapped her long legs around his waist, her sandals clattering to the floor. Clinging to his shoulders as if her life depended on it, Nancy arched closer still.
Craving the heat of his body against her. Needing more.
He kissed her feverishly, his mouth crushing hers as his hands roamed hungrily over her back, her silk clad bottom, around to cup her breasts through the flimsy material of her dress. He was everywhere and nowhere quite enough, and she wanted more.
“Touch me. Oh God, Please touch me” she moaned, her voice barely a whimper in his mouth.
Twisting around, he slammed a hand on the lift’s emergency stop button.
Turning back, his eyes glittered dangerously as he eased a hand down between their heated bodies, stroking her lightly through the damp silk of her knickers. His mouth moved back over hers, slower this time, making time for a thorough exploration.
Licking. Sliding. Catching her lower lip with his teeth.
She matched his tongue stroke for urgent stroke, her hips rocking insistently against his hand. She gasped as he slipped a warm finger under the lace edge of her knickers, finally touching her with the shocking intimacy that she craved.
He could sense how close she was, and gentled her with his mouth as his fingers parted her slick flesh. She cried out as he stroked her, finding her rhythm, pushing her ever closer to the edge. “Please,” she moaned, bucking against his hand, gasping in shocked pleasure as he slid a finger inside her.
Stroking with his thumb. Sliding with his fingers. His other hand kneading the soft curves of her bottom. Nancy ached, clung to him, moaning softly as the waves of pleasure spiralled deliciously upwards and out of her control.
Oh God yes, please don’t stop…
The lift lurched suddenly into life, jolting Nancy back to reality with sickening speed. Her eyes flew open, assaulted by their erotic image reflected ten fold around the mirrored lift. Shame crashed over her like a tidal wave. What the hell was she doing? She pushed her palms against his hard chest in panic, stumbling to her feet unsteadily. The doors were about to slide open any second, they could so easily have been caught in the act. Great advertising that would have been for her business.
Smoothing her long skirt down frantically, she knotted her mussed up hair at the nape of her neck for speed.
“God, I’m sorry, I don’t know what I…” She wanted to apologise for leading him on, for behaving so…so wildly out of character. She opened her mouth to speak, but the words stuck in her throat as she looked at him. He leant against the glass, rubbing his chin with his hand as he fought to regulate his ragged breathing, His eyes glittered darkly against his tanned complexion, his lips full of the promise of kisses she desperately wanted to taste. He was devastating, like a drug she wanted to stay addicted to.
“Tell me your name,” he demanded softly, catching her wrist as the doors slid open to reveal the glistening chandeliers of the huge reception.
“It’s Nanc…” the words died on her lips as she looked down at his hand gripping her arm, her eyes suddenly focusing on the glint of gold against his bronzed skin.
He was wearing a wedding ring.
She wrenched her hand from his in shock, shooting him a long, last anguished look. Hitching up her dress, she bolted across the marble floor, desperate to put space between them. It was only as her feet hit the damp pavements outside that she realised with a shock that she was still barefoot.
There was no way she could go back in for her sandals now.
She groaned in frustration at her own stupidity. How had she managed to lose her shoes and her dignity in the space of around fifteen minutes?
The sandals had been a stupidly expensive treat to herself when the business celebrated its first successful year a few months back, an indulgence way beyond her normal budget. And now she’d lost them.
That’s the price I pay for behaving like a tart she thought, pressing her hands to her flaming cheeks in shock. Thank God that lift had started up again. Who knows how far she’d have gone?
She squirmed at the uncomfortable thought, knowing the answer.
“So, how was the award’s evening?” her flatmate Sarah asked as she flipped eggs expertly in the pan.
“Oh, you know. The usual. Long. Cool to win though….” Nancy said, sitting at the kitchen table with her chin propped in her hands.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t get there hon, work went crazy,” Sarah slid a plate of bacon & eggs under Nancy’s nose.
“I take it it was a good night then, if your hangover’s anything to go by. You look terrible,” Sarah said, eyeing Nancy’s slightly green complexion.
She reached into the cupboard and slid a box of paracetamol across the table to her friend.
Nancy nodded vaguely, prising two pills from their foil packet with shaky fingers.
“Um, yeah. You could say that,” she swallowed hard to wash the pills down with her juice, dodging eye contact with her friend.
“So… Err, work. Tell me about your busy evening,”
Sarah turned and eyed Nancy curiously, plonking herself in the opposite chair with a cup of coffee in her hands.
“Hmmmm. I think you’re trying to change the subject Nancy Elliott.”
Nancy’s stoic silence spoke more than any denial could have.
Interesting… you’re holding out on me” Sarah’s eyes sparkled in anticipation of juicy details. “Spill!”
Nancy groaned, pushing her plate away to make room for her head on the table.
“Oooh. This is gonna be even better than I thought!”
Sarah laughed in delight, pulling the plate towards her and making an enthusiastic start on Nancy’s breakfast. She waved her fork in the direction of Nancy’s head as she spoke again.
“I’m hoping there’s a man involved in this story somewhere?”
Nancy nodded, groaning again from under the tangle of curls.
“Come onnnnnn, tell your Auntie Sarah,”
“Uhuh. Can’t. Too embarrassing,” Nancy mumbled.
She could feel her cheeks burning as memories of last night flashed through her mind, unbidden and unwelcome.
“What could be so awful that you can’t tell your oldest friend?” Sarah wheedled.
“Stop it. I just don’t want to talk about it.” Nancy tried to load her words with finality, but Sarah was having none of it.
“Bad luck. Get your head off that table right now and start talking.”
“Sarah! Arrrgh, it’s….”
“It’s what Nance? What could be so terrible that you can’t even tell me?” Sarah’s face suddenly turned serious.
“Oh God. You didn’t get it on with Richard again did you?”
Nancys head snapped up, an indignant look on her face. “No!”
Just the thought turned her delicate stomach.
Richard had turned out to be a spectacularly bad boyfriend, sleeping around on her in the run up to their wedding date twelve months ago. She was only glad she found out before he put a ring on her finger – at least it had saved her the divorce fees, if nothing else.
“OK. So it wasn’t Richard,” Sarah took a slug of coffee and studied Nancy thoughtfully across the kitchen table.
“So who was it then?”
“I have no idea who he was.”
“What do you mean, you have no idea? How much did you drink last night?” Sarah’s voice rose to a screech at the end of each sentence.
Nancy closed her eyes and she pressed her fingers against her temples.
“I thought you’d be pleased, given the random men you’re always trying to set me up with,” she muttered sarcastically.
“Yes, but even I never suggested you get blind drunk and hop into bed with them without even asking their name!”
“I wasn’t drunk Sarah. I was…. I was seduced!” Nancy wailed.
Sarah’s eye’s popped and she spluttered on her coffee.
“In a lift. By a stranger.” Nancy groaned and dropped her head into her hands.“And I lost my bloody favourite shoes.”
Sarah snorted with laughter. “I don’t get it…what happened to your shoes?”
“They fell off. Right about the time he hit the emergency stop button and put his hand down my knickers.”
“Nancy!” Sarah gasped. “I’m actually shocked! At least tell me he was gorgeous?”
“Ooooh, he was gorgeous all right. Actually, he was more than gorgeous Sarah. He was…he was…” her face crumpled. She couldn’t find the words to encapsulate how mind numbingly erotic the whole encounter had been, followed by the whooshing pain of it ending so abruptly.
“OK, OK, I get the picture. So why didn’t you at least ask this sex god for his name?” Sarah was agog.
“Because I ran away Sarah,” all traces of humour drained from Nancy’s tired face. For a while last night she’d let herself think he was the perfect man, but he’d turned out to be every bit as grubby as Richard. She was angry with him for being so depressingly predictable, and with herself for being so gullible.
“I ran away, because I realised that he’s married.”
* * *
Hearing the crunch of tyres on gravel, Jack McBride tipped back in his chair to glance out of the window just in time to appreciate Nancy’s shapely bottom as she leant over to retrieve her briefcase from the boot of her car.
His eyes travelled lazily down her long slim legs, back up again to her face as she straightened and walked purposefully towards his house.
Releasing his breath with a low whistle, he readied himself to meet her for the second time.
She looked every inch as good as she had two weeks ago, if somewhat more demurely dressed in her business suit.
His eyes strayed down the slender column of her throat to the swell of her breasts, and he found himself wondering what lay beneath the buttons of her close fitting charcoal jacket. Lace. Maybe silk. As he remembered, she seemed to favour both. He swallowed hard and shook his head to clear out memories of their last encounter. He ran through his mental checklist one last time.
The business proposal. The shoes. The video tape.
He hoped he’d only need the first point from that list, maybe the second at a push. If he needed to mention the videotape then he’d know she was a real tough cookie.
Right on cue, there was a tap at the door, followed by his assistant Jon’s head around the door.
“Miss Elliott for you” he smiled, raising a knowing eyebrow at his boss.
“Send her in please, thanks Jon”
The door swung wider, and Nancy stepped into his office as Jon clicked the door closed behind her.
“You…”She gasped, rooted to the spot by shocked recognition.
This was Jack McBride? This was the man who held the key to potentially increasing her business ten fold?
How could she possibly attempt a business conversation with the man who less than two weeks previously had seduced her so thoroughly that she had practically ripped the shirt off his back?
A hot flush crept up over her chest as he stood up from behind the desk, advancing towards her panther like in black trousers and a closely tailored shirt that clung to his well-defined chest and shoulders.
Every nerve ending in her treacherous body jangled in excitement, the unexpectedness of seeing him again knocking the breath from her lungs.
A lazy smile played across his lips as he watched her fight to regain her composure.
Her brain scrabbled to make sense of the situation, but he was just so damn off putting. He lounged on the edge of his desk with his arms folded, his shirtsleeves rolled back to reveal strong brown forearms.
He was quite simply the most magnetic, drop dead gorgeous man she’d ever laid her eyes on, and right now he was caressing her with a look that could melt ice cream in December.
Nancy narrowed her eyes as cold droplets of suspicion ran down her spine. There wasn’t a trace of surprise on his face, he was as icy cool as the champagne he’d sent her the other night.
It was no co-incidence that she was here in his office, in his home – he’d clearly been expecting her.
Giving herself a mental shake, Nancy held out a hand formally.
“Mr McBride,” it took every fibre of her being to ignore the crackles of electricity that spiked up her arm as he shook her hand.
Her brain registered warmth and strength, memories rushing back of that same sexy hand stroking down her back, sliding along the soft skin of her inner thighs.
“It’s good to see you. Again.” Jack arched one dark brow fractionally, his only acknowledgement of their first meeting.
The rich rumble of his voice sent an involuntary shiver of excitement through her. The last time she’d heard him speak his mouth had been close to her ear, sending her weak at the knees with desire.
“Call me Jack, please. Sit down.” He gestured at the leather chair by the desk, returning around to his on side.
Uncharacteristically, Nancy did as she was told. In truth, her legs weren’t doing a great job of holding her up, so sitting came as a welcome relief. Crossing her shapely legs, she regarded him coolly across the walnut expanse of his desk.
He’d asked her here in her professional capacity, and boy was he going to get it. She gave him the benefit of her full promotional spiel, resolutely avoiding direct eye contact for fear of not being able to resist crawling across the desktop into his lap.
He met her challenge head on, outlining his business proposal for her agency to provide a nanny service for hotel customers in London, dropping in figures that made Nancy’s heart race with sheer adrenalin.
The contract was the stuff of dreams, and would propel the agency more than a few rungs up the ladder over their business competitors.
Jack handed her some papers to look over, steepling his fingers as he watched her silently across the desk.
He knew perfectly well that she’d probably right now be looking for the catch. And she’d be right—there was a catch, but she wouldn’t find it written in those papers.
Looking at her bent head as she read the file, his eyes rested on the silver clip holding her hair neatly back from her face. He wanted to reach over and take it out, let her curls tumble wildly around her face as they had that night. Shifting uncomfortably in his chair, he willed his mind onto safer territory. He couldn’t work out what it was about Nancy, she intrigued him more than any woman he’d ever met.
The other night she’d radiated a siren call of sensuality, one he’d felt compelled to answer. He’d practically acted like a gigolo right there in the bar of his own hotel, and his own lack of control had shocked him.
It wasn’t that he was any stranger to one-night stands, far from it. In fact he made it his policy to date women who wanted nothing from him apart from a good time, because he knew had nothing else to offer.
But Nancy Elliott…well, she was unfinished business.
He was distracted at work. He couldn’t focus on reports. Her face was imprinted on his eyelids when he lay down to sleep, a kaleidoscope of sensual images that played on a loop. There were only so many cold showers one man could endure.
In short, she was a beautiful, sexy problem, and he was a man who liked to tackle his problems head on. He needed to work Nancy thoroughly out of his system, and it could be a fun summer for them both if she felt the same way.
It was time to find out. He cleared his throat as she looked up from the file, her hungry eyes betraying how much she wanted the contract.
“There’s one more thing. I also need to personally hire a nanny for the summer, for my son.”
She nodded efficiently.
“Of course, I’m sure I can make arrang…” she trailed off in confusion as he held up a hand to interrupt her.
“I’m sure you could. But aren’t you a qualified nanny Nancy?” He sat perfectly still, his marine eyes locked on her.
She stalled, suddenly not liking where this was heading.
“Well, technically yes, but I don’t take on any of the agency bookings myself.”
“Make an exception. Take this one,” he demanded quietly.
“What? No!” Nancy said in panic, struggling to regain her professional composure. “I couldn’t possibly Mr.McBride.”
“Jack. “He corrected gently, waiting for her to speak again.
She drew in a deep breath, deciding that a little honesty was required here.
“Mr.McBride…Jack…. Did you know that I owned Bon Nannie when you arranged this meeting?”
He smiled ruefully in acknowledgment. “’Fraid so. Sorry,”
He isn’t one bit sorry Nancy thought, detecting the hint of laughter in his voice. She stared at him stonily, waiting for an explanation.
“I confess that I might have done a little digging at the hotel when you left. You’d already told me your first name, so it didn’t exactly take much detective work to find you.”
“But the hotel can’t just share my private details like that,” she said in shocked tones, “I could probably sue them.”
“Good luck with that,” he said dryly. “I own the hotel.” He was laughing at her, and she didn’t appreciate it one bit.
Enough was enough. She wanted that contract badly, but she wasn’t prepared to sell herself as part of the bargain.
“I see.” She said primly, gathering her papers together. “Well, Jack, I think it would be best all round if you chose a different agency for your nannying needs. Professional and personal.”
She gave him a withering look and stood up, making to leave.
She couldn’t believe she’d just thrown away such a huge deal, but some things were worth more than money.
Jack watched her, impressed despite the fact that things weren’t going as smoothly as he’d hoped.
Reaching into the bottom draw of his desk, he withdrew her shoes slowly and placed them on the desk in front of him.
“Yours I believe,” he said, brows raised suggestively over mocking blue eyes.
Nancy’s answering bright red blush spoke volumes. Seeing her shoes sitting starkly against his uncluttered desk brought back a hot tumble of memories of the evening she’d lost them, of them falling from her feet as she’d wrapped herself around him. She needed to grab them and get out of there. Now.
Her hand shot out to retrieve them, but he moved them towards himself smartly and raised his eyebrows at her with a satisfied rumble of laughter.
“Not so fast,” he wagged a finger at her, making her itch to reach out and snap it off. “Hear me out, first” he gestured for her to sit back down.
She dropped back into her chair with bad grace, infuriated by his clear enjoyment of seeing her squirm.
“Now. I need a nanny for 6 weeks. My son and I are spending the summer in Mallorca,”
“And will your wife be joining you?”
There, she’d said it. The gloves were off, and she raised her chin and stared at him in direct challenge. He looked down and touched his wedding ring automatically as she spoke, a pulse flickering along the tanned length of his clenched jaw.
He was silent for just a beat too long; the long sweep of his dark lashes concealing his expression.
Looking up at last, his suddenly dark eyes were unfathomable as he spoke again.
“It will be just Dillon and I. And you.”
“No, absolutely not,” She shook her head firmly.
“Absolutely yes, Nancy”.
“Oh for Gods sake, will you stop being so ridiculous!” Panic crept into Nancy’s voice. She hadn’t taken a nanny job herself in over three years, for lots of good but complicated reasons that she was sure he wouldn’t have a prayer of understanding.
He drummed long brown fingers on the desk lightly, appraising her with serious eyes.
“I’d hoped it wouldn’t come to this.”
Her stomach knotted at the flints of steely determination behind his quietly spoken words.
Picking up a remote control slowly, he flicked on a TV screen on the wall.
Erotic images scrolled across the screen, and it took Nancy a long couple of seconds to realize that she was the star of the show, with Jack in a supporting role. A very supporting role, if the way his hands cupping her bottom were anything to go by.
She gasped in mortification, rounding on him furiously. “Turn that bloody thing off!” Her cheeks flamed with embarrassment.
“Ssh, listen” he murmured, shaking his head and putting a finger to his lips” this is the best bit.”
Nancy couldn’t tear her eyes away from the screen, remembering every moment with electrifying clarity as it shimmered before her eyes like a soft porn movie.
He clicked it off, but not before she could be clearly heard begging him to touch her. Her toes curled in shame at the sound of her own guttural moaning.
He cleared his throat, shifting uncomfortably in his chair. He couldn’t watch the footage without getting aroused; it was more erotic than any movie designed for the purpose.
“I felt it would be in both of our best interests if I removed the security footage from the hotel.” he said huskily, his voice less steady than a few moments ago.
“I’ll just bet you did!” Nancy laughed acidly. “And how many times have you watched it since I wonder?” she hissed.
He shrugged, laughing as he raised his hands as if to start counting on his fingers.
“Give me the tape,” she said desperately. How had this got so badly out of hand?
He shook his head regretfully, rubbing a hand slowly over the shadow of stubble on his chin.
“It would be terrible for your business if people thought that you try to seduce prospective clients in order to secure contracts” he mused, almost to himself.
She drew in a sharp breath; unable to believe he’d stoop so low.
“Are you trying to blackmail me Mr. McBride?” Even to her own ears it sounded ridiculous, like an over the top actress in a James Bond movie.
“Hardly,” he scoffed, laughing openly at her indignant expression.
Fury rose in her stomach, held down by octopus-like tendrils of undeniable excitement. He was the most annoying man on the planet, but when he laughed like that he was just about the sexiest too.
She hated him. She wanted him. Anger fought attraction, and much as she hated to admit it she was completely turned on by his thoroughly unreasonable behaviour.
“Nancy, I’m offering you the business contract, the tape, and your shoes for just six weeks of your time. I think it’s a more than generous offer,” His eyes scorched over her, and long moments passed before she spoke again, her voice tinged with knowing sarcasm.
“And just what else will you expect to get from me Jack? ”
His voice when he finally spoke was low and sultry.
“Nancy, if that tapes anything to go by, it’s me that should be asking you that question.”