Authors: Nicola Marsh
Jack had mucked around enough in his younger years. Deliberately sabotaging relationships to prevent people getting too close and ultimately letting him down. Keeping his distance from those who made emotional overtures.
Reid Harper had seen the good in him. No frigging way would he taint it with bad.
And that meant taking a week of cold showers on Prince Island to ensure he didn’t lay a finger on Reid’s hot sister.
Burlesque Bombshell Basics
Recreate the glamour of a 1930s silver screen siren. Marlene Dietrich, Jean Harlow, Mae West, Greta Garbo. Tight marcel waves a must
Chantal snatched Jess’s list out of her hand and waved it overhead, out of Jess’s reach.
“Give me that.” Jess leaped to no avail, considering Chantal had four inches on her—seven with her trademark towering stilettos.
“Not ‘til I make sure you’ve got everything you need,” Chantal said, chuckling as Jess made a final lunge, only to be one-upped by Adele, who sauntered into the office at that moment and plucked the list out of Chantal’s hand.
“What’s this?” Adele held it aloft. “And why do you want it so bad?”
Jess blushed. Last thing she needed was these two elegant, gorgeous women comfortable with their sexuality reading her pathetic list.
“It’s Jess’s,” Chantal said, her wide smirk alerting Jess to the fact her cousin must’ve caught a peek at the title. “I think it’s her checklist to seduce the hot Aussie chef and I just want to make sure she’s got all bases covered.”
“Some things are private.” Jess frowned when she caught the shared glance of amusement between the other two women. “Give me that.”
“You should’ve said please.” Adele smirked and unfolded the piece of paper with taunting slowness.
“Too late, Cuz.” Chantal rubbed her hands together in glee. “Besides, some things may be private but when it comes to getting the guy, you’re in the company of experts here. We only want to help.”
Jess didn’t buy Chantal’s faux innocence for a moment, while Adele muttered, “Expert? Speak for yourself.”
Chantal waggled her finger at Adele. “You still know how to work it.”
Adele rolled her eyes. “Trust me, the only thing I know how to work these days are my spreadsheets.”
“Going through a dry spell?”
“More like a drought.” Adele absentmindedly tapped the list against her other hand. “If I go any longer without a date, I’ll be forced to revoke my secret Bombshell membership and hand in my feather boa.”
Chantal rubbed her hands together. “Let’s take care of Jess’s love life first, then we’ll move onto yours.”
Adele shot Jess a look of pure panic. Considering the woman held her embarrassing list, Jess was out of sympathy.
“Are you going to read that list or shall I?” Chantal tapped her silver spangled pump against the floor in impatience and Jess, resigned to the inevitable, slumped into the nearest chair.
Adele murmured “sorry” but by the gleeful gleam in her eyes, she wasn’t.
The incriminating paper crinkled between her fingers as Adele smoothed it out and handed it over to Chantal. “You do the honors.”
“Put me out of my misery and get on with it already, you nosy sneaks.” Jess slouched further into the chair, knowing what was coming, a small part of her curious as to what the girls would think.
If anyone knew how to seduce a guy these two would. Adele, a statuesque redhead, could turn guys’ heads by walking into a room and Chantal, a showgirl who’d taken Vegas by storm in her younger days, brought a definitive va-va-voom to the burlesque scene if gossip around the club was anything to go by.
While Jess had been hanging around the dancers the last few days picking up tips, she’d also enjoyed chatting with the glamorous girls and learning everything she could about the sensual art of burlesque.
She’d also researched it extensively on the Net. Guess she could take the librarian out of Craye Canyon but she couldn’t take the librarian out of the girl.
“Nice title.” Chantal cleared her throat. “How To Get Jack Naked.”
Adele smothered a chuckle at Jess’s death glare and Chantal gave her a thumbs up sign of approval. “Shall I continue?”
“Please don’t,” Jess said, wishing she hadn’t read that stupid self-help book after dumping Max, the one citing list making for taking control of her life.
“Please do,” Adele said, and shrugged when Jess glared. “Hey, if I’m not getting any, at least let me live vicariously through you.”
With a heavy sigh, Jess waved at Chantal to continue.
“This is a pretty long list so I’ll abbreviate to the checked items,” Chantal said, her eyebrows rising as she scanned the page. “Sexy playlist. Edible body oil. Corsets, garters, seamed stockings.
Heat flooded Jess’s cheeks. “It’s a secret fantasy.”
Chantal eyed her with admiration. “I’m beginning to have a newfound respect for you, Cuz.”
“And I’m beginning to feel like the boring spinster I’m going to become,” Adele said, her admission tempered with an encouraging smile. “Good for you, Jess. Guys can be dumb. Pays to have a plan.”
“Jack isn’t dumb, he just doesn’t want me.” Jess plucked at the edges of her frayed denim cut-offs. “Actually, he wants me, but he says it’s not going to happen.”
Chantal handed her the piece of paper. “Show him this, sweetie, and he’ll be begging for it.”
“Hope so.” Jess folded the list and tucked it into her pocket. “But he was pretty damn stubborn ten years ago; reckon he may hold out on me now too.”
“Get him drunk,” Adele said, with a firm nod. “Do shots, but don’t drink all yours. That way, if it goes pear-shaped afterward you can blame it on the alcohol.”
“Nice one, Del.” Chantal licked the tip of her finger and chalked up a point in the air. “What’s his problem anyway? Anyone can see the guy’s hot for you.”
“His problem is Reid.” Jess loved her brother but she wished he wasn’t so close to Jack. Shouldn’t guys drift apart after all these years, especially living on different continents and working in different jobs? But noooo…her bro and Jack had to be best buds, and totally screw with her plan to cut loose.
Chantal took a seat next to Jess. “Reid Harper is Jess’s brother.”
To Jess’s surprise, Adele blushed.
Chantal sniggered. “Del saw Reid speak at a fundraiser the club sponsored and was goo-eyed for a week.”
“Was not.” Adele’s blush deepened and in that moment, Jess registered her porcelain pale skin, her big blue eyes and wavy, shoulder length auburn hair. Silly, as Jess had seen Adele several times over the last month but it wasn’t until now that Jess realized something; Adele was just Reid’s type.
Reid loved redheads.
Reid was single.
Adele was lamenting being single.
They were both attending Zazz’s wedding.
Oh yeah, this could work.
“Reid’s a good guy,” Jess said, trying to keep enthusiasm for prospective matchmaking out of her voice. “I’ll introduce you at the wedding.”
Adele shook her head. “That won’t be necessary—”
“Great idea.” Chantal clapped her hands like a hyperactive kid. “I can see it now…that island’s going to be a hotbed of sex and scandal.”
“I wish,” Jess and Adele murmured in unison, staring at each other in disbelief before laughing.
“Ladies, I think this deserves a toast.” Chantal leaped to her feet, ducked behind her desk to open a bar fridge, and pulled a bottle of fine French bubbly out.
She uncorked it, filled three glasses from the sideboard and handed them around in the time it took Jess to wonder how cool must her cousin be to have a fridge and the best champagne chilling in her office. Closely followed by the thought of the collective frowns of Craye Canyon’s librarians and well-read patrons if she’d pulled a similar stunt at the library. At nine o’clock in the morning.
Jess giggled and accepted a glass with thanks.
Chantal held up her glass. “To us, and an island interlude filled with sun, sea, studs and sex.”
Jess and Adele clinked Chantal’s glass in agreement to her toast. As Jess took a sip and the bubbles tickled her throat, she hoped Jack left his reservations on the plane because once they landed she had every intention of making her list come true.
Jack had done a good job of avoiding Jess in the lead-up to their sojourn on the island. He’d even convinced Dorian to fly him out early so he could supervise the local crayfish testing personally.
Dorian had been more than amenable. Anything to keep his bride-to-be happy. As Dorian’s private jet had left Vegas behind, Jack experienced a twinge of guilt at ditching Jess, before fortifying his resolve with the thought this was best for both of them.
It would be bad enough working alongside her on the island but at least they’d have others around. On a six hour plane journey with just the two of them and a one-man-cabin-staff? Too close for comfort.
So he’d been on the island a full two days, testing new dishes using local seafood, familiarizing himself with the resort’s kitchen where he’d be preparing the bulk of the food, focusing one hundred percent on ensuring the food for this wedding would be talked about for years to come. Not out of vanity but from a determination to repay Dorian for his faith in a drifter bum all those years ago.
Creating a perfect seafood soufflé took time and patience, and Jack had taken his latest test out of the oven when he sensed rather than heard Jess enter the kitchen.
He’d always been that way around her—on heightened alert, his skin buzzing with awareness inexplicably honed to her.
“If you were naked under that apron, I would’ve just walked in on the perfect island view,” she said, her tone soft and sultry, her laughter teasing him to hardness in an instant.
He straightened from the oven, laid the soufflé carefully on the bench, and watched it deflate. Pity the same couldn’t be said for his hard-on.
“Have a good flight?”
“Could’ve been better.” She sauntered across the kitchen in towering espadrilles, a white mini and a red polka dot halter-top, and he could’ve sworn she accentuated the sway of her hips. “If you’d been on it.”
“Came out early. Had a ton of work to do.” He gestured around the kitchen and thanked God he hadn’t tidied up after this morning’s experiments. It looked like he’d been busy, lending weight to his lame-assed excuse, which centered around keeping away from her than the culinary frenzy he’d been in the last few days.
“I can see that.” She dipped her finger in a bowl of white chocolate mousse layered with peppermint swirls, swiped a generous blob, and proceeded to lick it off the tip of her finger. In excruciating slowness.
Jack bit back a groan and edged toward the island bench to hide his massive erection. She’d been here less than two minutes and he was already thinking with his cock, not his head.
“Mmm…so good…” She sucked her finger and when the tip of her tongue darted out to lick the last mousse drops he swore.
“Nothing,” he said through gritted teeth, needing to get her out of here pronto before he swept utensils off the bench, spread-eagled her and fucked her until they both couldn’t walk.
“Better leave you to it,” she said, with a purely feminine laugh that taunted and tantalized. “I just stopped by to say hi.”
She turned to go and he tried not to perve on her ass. And failed.
“Almost forgot.” She glanced over her shoulder a second too fast and caught him staring, her triumphant grin not helping his little fantasy to wipe it off her face with a fast and furious fuck. “We’re going over the cake table tonight. I’m exhausted so I’m off to have a nap.”
She yawned and he couldn’t tell if it were faked. “Come by my villa at seven and we’ll start working on it.”
“We can work here…” he said, his response falling on deaf ears as she strutted away on those towering cork heels, the red espadrille ribbons winding around her calves like a crimson guide map to nirvana above.
“Shit,” he muttered, grabbing a ball of pizza dough and flinging it on the floured board.
But he knew a round of heavy-handed kneading wouldn’t ease the tension making him want to run after her and get this insane lust out of his system.
Burlesque Bombshell Basics
A perfect red pout encapsulates the Pin-Up Dolls of the 1940s. Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, Vivien Leigh. Gorgeous
When Jess had fantasized her seduction scene, she hadn’t banked on the island humidity making the silk stockings stick to her legs like taffy and the satin corset making breathing difficult.
She also hadn’t counted on the sheer
of it all. How did the Bombshells wear this stuff on stage and prance around without wanting to tear it all off?
The lace knickers chaffed, the garter rubbed, the stockings slipped and the corset constricted to the point of making her dizzy. At this rate she’d be naked before he arrived. A move guaranteed to make him run.
No, she had a subtler plan in mind. Sexy stuff on the inside, respectable on the outside. But not too respectable. Enough to give him a glimpse of what he could have if he followed through on the underlying attraction simmering between them.
The simple primrose shift sundress would do the trick. Short enough to ride up a tad and reveal the lace-topped stockings and garter. Deep V in the back to reveal corset ribbons when she leaned forward.
She also had work spread across the dining table, the wedding portfolio bulging to the brim with samples and seating plans and reams of paper, with her laptop booted up and displaying the virtual cake table she’d devised from snippets Zazz had provided.
All very businesslike, all very legit.
It was what would happen afterward that would blow her mind.
Jess glanced at the villa’s entrance hall floor-to-ceiling mirror and performed a little shimmy. She looked like a sunflower swaying in the breeze. Bright. Vibrant. Happy.