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Authors: Nicola Marsh

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BOOK: Brash
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Yet in one hot, steamy encounter in a grungy alley, Jack had blasted her preconceptions sky-high and revealed what she secretly hoped.

That her inner vixen was in hibernation mode and needed the right bait to come out to play.

She strutted across the room, glorying in her swiveling hips, her swaying butt. Heck, she looked good in lycra. Damn fine.

After a quick scroll through the music, she chose Geri Halliwell’s
It’s Raining Men
followed by Santana and Rob Thomas’s
Smooth
. Songs to get her moving. Songs to let off steam to. Songs to make her forget the barely suppressed sexual energy coursing through her body as an after affect of the cataclysmic orgasm courtesy of Jack.

As the first notes pumped out, Jess let loose. She didn’t bother trying to remember all the moves she’d watched the Bombshells perform earlier that afternoon. She didn’t care about execution or timing.

She just let go.

And it felt freaking fantastic.

She skipped across the room. She hung off the poles and swung around. She shimmied and shook and rolled her hips like she had a thousand men raining down upon her.

Jess played up to the mirrors. She sang along at the top of her lungs. By the time the song wound down sweat dripped down her forehead and she swiped it away, jogging on the spot until Smooth kicked in.

However, as Santana’s sultry guitar oozed from the surround sound, Jess knew she’d made an error in judgment.

Smooth
wasn’t a song to make her forget sexual energy…it exacerbated it. And the moment the lyrics kicked in, with Rob’s incredibly sexy crooning, the tension that wouldn’t abate since her encounter with Jack returned. Fiercer. Burning. Relentless.

So she went with it.

Swaying in time to the haunting beat. Sliding her hands down her body. Watching herself in the mirror.

Until the door slammed open and her startled gaze locked with Jack’s in the mirror.

He looked…angry. Like she’d broken some unspoken rule without trying. Well, tough. She’d come here to escape him and he had no right to follow her.

She took a step toward him, ready to blast him, when he entered and kicked the door shut. His hand snaked behind his back, pulled the lone blind down and flicked the lock. Closed.

Her heart skipped a beat as he stalked toward her, dangerous and menacing and incredibly hot. So hot, the heat radiating from his eyes could’ve melted her clothes clean off if she weren’t already wearing hardly anything. A fact she became acutely aware of when he stopped a foot in front of her.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” He towered over her, hands on hips like some great, avenging, bad boy angel. Major turn on. Huge.

“Dancing,” she said, kinking out her hip for good measure, stifling a giggle as he glowered.

“That wasn’t dancing. That was one step away from frigging masturbation.”

“And what would be so wrong about that?”

His jaw clenched, the inner war he waged plain to see in his tortured gaze. “I followed you to apologize. I didn’t expect to see you…ah, fuck.”

He dragged a hand through his hair, spiking it in the mussed, just-out-of-bed way that suited him so well. “Why is it whenever I’m around you I become inarticulate and confused?”

“Because your blood has drained from there,” she pointed to his head, “to there.” She pointed to his groin. “I’ve heard it’s a common problem when you fancy the other person and the only way to solve it is to have hours of wild, raunchy sex—”

“Stop, you’re killing me.” He held up his hand and she swiped it away, laughing.

“You think this is bad?” She ran a fingertip across her bare abdomen and he swallowed, his gaze riveted. “Wait ‘til you see the outfits I’ve packed for the island.”

“I’m telling Reid,” he blurted out, taking a step back, and she laughed harder.

“Go ahead. I’m sure my upstanding brother who’s heading for a senatorial seat will be thrilled to hear of our alley antics.”

She crossed her arms, an action that thrust her breasts upward, a deliberate move that didn’t go unnoticed as Jack took another step back.

“You don’t play fair,” he said, shaking his head.

“Neither do you.” She broached the minimal distance between them and snagged his hand. He tried to pull away but she held on tighter. “You can’t blow hot and cold. You want me. You have me. We put this attraction behind us. End of story.”

A new respect darkened his eyes to moss. “Please don’t talk about blowing anything while I’m so damn crippled I can hardly walk.”

She laughed, delighted when his rigid mouth eased into a semblance of a smile.

He gestured between them. “We’re both pretty highly strung now. How about we let off a little steam my way?”

Jess seriously hoped his way involved the two of them naked.

“Are you staying in an apartment?”

Jess nodded. “Yeah, Chantal owns a few near the club, is letting me crash in one of them. Why?”

“You’ll find out.” He winked, catapulting her back in time to clear blue outback skies, earth stained red, and long, hot days beneath an Aussie sun when he’d talked and teased and made her fall a little in love with him.

Jess knew the smart thing would be to beg off, head home and dive into bed with erotica, alone.

But she’d done the smart thing her whole life and look where it had got her? Single and searching and so goddamn bored she could scream.

“Okay, let’s do this your way,” she said in grudging capitulation and held up a finger. “For now.”

As she released his hand to gather up her dress and stilettos, she added, “Besides, we have a whole seven days to do it my way on the island and believe me, I plan to do it every which way.”

 

 

CHAPTER SIX

 

Burlesque Bombshell Basics

 

 

Burlesque is about the tease, the illusion, the glamour
.

 

Jack could do this.

He’d psyched himself up on the walk from the nightclub to Burlesque Bombshell, keeping a safe distance from Jess for no other reason than to curb the rampant desire raging through him.

With every step, his resolve grew.

He owed Reid and Dorian, and that meant seeing this job through to the end. He’d cater Dorian’s A-list wedding then he’d head back to Sydney ASAP.

But in order to survive a week with Jess on some exclusive island he had to prove to himself he could keep his hands off her. Had to prove to both of them they could co-exist as friends.

That’s what cooking a meal at her apartment was about. The ultimate test. If he could cope with their proximity on her turf, he could cope with anything she could throw at him.

And by her constant physical taunts, it looks like she’d be doing her damndest to seduce him.

Why the hell did they have to meet up again now, when she was looking to bust out of her sedate life and had fixed on him to do it?

It didn’t help she was right to a certain extent. Hooking up with him would be a lot safer than some horny prick who would take advantage of her, even end up hurting her if she fell for the douche bag.

For he had no doubt that’s what would happen. Girls like Jess didn’t do sex with no strings attached. They did sex with emotion, so no matter how flippant she acted, he knew better. She wouldn’t have gotten engaged if she didn’t want the white picket fence dream. And those dreams never went away. They changed boundaries, expanded, morphed into something bigger until it’s all she’d be able to think about.

He’d seen it with female employees at the restaurant, had listened to their constant chatter about The One and The Wedding and The House. They attributed the same importance to finding a husband as he did to creating the perfect hollandaise.

Jess wanted a keeper. And if by some monumental error in judgment he couldn’t control his relentless need for her, he’d be the douche bag who broke her heart.

Not. Going. To. Happen.

One evening. That’s all it would take. If he could last the next few hours they could work on Dorian’s wedding together.

Would it be tough working alongside her? Hell yeah. He was under no illusions how frigging hard it would be to sit next to her, poring over menus and table settings, her soft lilac fragrance wrapping around him like some goddamn siren’s elixir.

It’s one of the things he remembered about her, one of the many things, that even after a hard day’s work slogging over the stove in the cattlemen’s shed she’d sidle up to him and her alluring fragrance would wipe out the sweat and grime and stew odors.

It would tempt him to sit with her for hours under a star-filled outback sky, talking books and arguing politics. She’d been a shy little thing at first but could soon debate with gusto and he looked forward to hanging out with her at the end of a long, dusty day.

Reid would often join them, the American’s laconic observations never failing to make Jack laugh. He’d liked the Harpers, had developed a wee crush on them both during their time at the cattle station. By Reid’s faith in him the following months, it had been reciprocated.

Two weeks into their stay, Reid had mentioned an old family acquaintance that ran a restaurant in Sydney and would Jack be interested in an apprenticeship. No strings. Not expecting anything in return. Reid Harper had extended the hand of friendship and a future Jack had never imagined.

Cynical at first, Jack had waited for the rub. Something to indicate why Reid had done it. It never came then and in all the years that followed.

Those four weeks with Reid and Jess at a rundown cattle station in Far North Queensland had changed his life.

Simply, for a month, the Harpers had been more like a family to him than any of the deadhead-foster homes he’d grown up in.

He’d never do anything to screw over these people and sadly, his lust for Jess contravened his respect for her and gratitude to Reid.

“You done yet? I’m starving.” Jess padded barefoot into the tiny stainless steel kitchen in her apartment, her hair damp from a shower, her skin glowing, wearing a denim mini and faded magenta T-shirt.

She wasn’t the only one who was starving.

“Yeah, take a seat and I’ll serve up,” he said, glad to focus on the task of dishing up food. Anything to distract from the driving need to cross the kitchen, haul her into his arms, and take her on the table.

“There’s nothing sexier than a guy who can cook,” she said, her tone deliberately low and sultry. Or was that his over-sexed interpretation?

“Yeah, there is. A roomful of naked nymphos.” He dished the penne alla Matriciana onto a plate with far less aplomb than usual. The sooner she got something in her mouth to shut her up, the better.

His cock hardened. Damn, he meant food. The sooner she got
food
into her mouth the better.

He gritted his teeth and grated Parmesan over the top of their pasta like his life depended on it.

“Easy there, big fella. What’s that cheese ever done to you?”

Even her laugh taunted him and he knew the next thirty minutes while they shared this meal would be the hardest of his life.

“Eat.” He placed the plate in front of her and sat opposite, as far away as he could get on the tiny table. Not far enough as his knee brushed hers and he jerked back as if stung.

She stared at him, fork poised halfway to her mouth; that damn delectable mouth curved in a smug smile.

He shouldn’t have kissed her again because now he knew full well what those lips could do—wreak havoc. As for dry humping her in that alley, all the Michelin starred meals in the world he cooked her wouldn’t make up for it.

Jess deserved one thousand thread count sheets and rose petals and French champagne. Not a heavy petting session in a seedy back alley off the Strip.

“You worry too much,” she said, reaching across the table to smooth the frown between his brows. “Relax. We’re two old friends getting reacquainted after a decade.”

Reacquainted? They’d passed that point about two hours ago when he had his tongue down her throat and his cock rubbing her clit.

So, they ate. And Jess ratcheted the torture to unbearable. After every forkful of pasta that passed her lips, she’d lick them or moan her pleasure. Usually, the sight of patrons enjoying his food at the restaurant brought him great satisfaction. Seeing Jess have a culinary orgasm after every morsel? Pure frigging agony.

He barely touched his food but she didn’t comment, eating enough for both of them. He admired a healthy appetite…in all areas of his life…
fuck
.

“I remember you cooked this on the station once,” she said, mopping up the tomato-based sauce with a piece of bread she’d torn off a loaf between them. “It was good then. Now?” She kissed her fingertips. “
Buonissima
.”

“Thanks,” he said, strangely uncomfortable with her praise for a standby Italian meal he could concoct in his sleep.

He’d received rave reviews for his signature Australian/Asian fusion dishes the world over, had known he’d made it when awarded Michelin stars, but never had he felt this
undeserving
.

What was it about this woman that made him feel like he was not good enough?

Not that she’d ever given him any reason to feel that way, far from it. But when he’d been with Jess on the station, sharing idle chitchat, the gap beyond their cultural differences had been huge.

She came from a small town where she belonged. He came from a bunch of foster homes where he hadn’t belonged no matter how hard he tried.

She believed in domestic bliss. He’d seen too much domestic abuse.

She was starry-eyed and optimistic. He was a jaded realist.

Yet they’d connected regardless and that more than anything rammed home the fact that the longer he hung around her, the deeper shit he’d be in.

He shoveled a forkful of penne into his mouth before he said the unforgivable; that no matter how much he pushed her away, he yearned to resurrect the closeness they’d shared in the outback.

“So what have you been up to the last ten years, give or take?” She licked pasta sauce from the tip of her pinkie and he squirmed. “Apart from becoming a celebrity chef and heating up women’s kitchens the world over?”

BOOK: Brash
6.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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