Read an Excerpt
The hotel bar had slick beige and chocolate-coloured panelled walls, soft, sensuous lighting and chairs the colour of Caribbean sand. Kara sat at the bar, sipping a vodka martini. She was a natural beauty, with black, shoulder-length hair that framed her finely-boned face. Her dark eyes were emphasised with smoky-grey eye shadow and her lips were the shade of rich burgundy, to match her nails. She was wearing a tight-fitting asymmetrical black dress, and it showed off her slender figure and the taut breasts which really didn’t need a bra. Her legs, as toned as a young colt’s, were lengthened even more by a pair of strappy gun-heeled shoes.
She looked edgy but rich, sensual but intriguing.
A man in his late 30s approached her – he had dark hair and eyes and was wearing a navy blazer over a pair of pale chinos. He was handsome enough and looked wealthy. She caught the barman’s eye, but almost imperceptibly, he shook his head.
‘I’m waiting for someone,’ she told the disappointed stranger, indicating the stool beside her own. ‘This seat’s taken.’
She waited a few more minutes, sipping her martini, until another man entered, looking around until his eyes settled on her. He was wearing an elegantly-cut suit and had thick, dark hair that contained greying flecks she’d always found attractive. Without hesitating, he approached her as if he’d known her all his life – it was the kind of self-assurance she’d always looked for, and usually found, in a lover.
Kara checked the barman, and this time he gave her a discreet nod.
‘Is anyone sitting here?’ He indicated the stool next to hers.
‘Only the invisible man.’
He sat down. ‘A Jack Daniels, please,’ he asked the barman, who gave Kara a complicit smile. ‘My name’s Brad.’ He held his hand out.
‘Kara,’ she responded, shaking his hand. ‘And I’ll have a vodka martini.’
He ordered her drink. ‘Asides the invisible man, were you waiting for someone, Kara?’
‘Only if the right person showed up.’
He smiled, trying to understand her. Why would a beautiful woman, dressed to kill like that, be sitting alone in a hotel bar? ‘You live in the neighbourhood?’
‘I have a suite here, at the hotel. It suits my purposes.’
‘Is that right? And what purposes may they be?’
Kara just smiled mysteriously and toyed with her glass. ‘And what’s a nice American boy doing in a dirty European city like this?’ she asked him.
‘I’m handling a corporate takeover. A chain of deluxe European hotels, discreet and stylish. This is one of them, as a matter of fact.’
‘It’d be a good buy.’
‘Too right. I’m having trouble with the major shareholder, though. Guy’s like, half-dead from a stroke, but he’s still playing hard ball. Claims he won’t sell at any price. Hell, we all know that everything’s got a price.’
‘Everything? Is that so, now?’ Kara shrugged, as if no longer interested in the conversation. ‘Did you do your due diligence on the rooms?’
He looked at her, surprised, but then he smiled, and his smile was boyish but electrically charged: it was the kind of smile that could make a girl forget her own name. ‘There’s a suite I’ve yet to see.’
Kara paused and nodded towards the gold band on his finger. ‘Nice ring you’ve got there.’
The smile turned to embarrassment. ‘Twelve years, three kids,’ he admitted. ‘Not to mention a business dinner in a little over an hour. Too bad. We could have had some fun.’
‘Yes, too bad.’ Kara agreed with a resigned smile. ‘We could have had a lot of fun.’
Brad had just ordered two more drinks when his mobile rang. ‘Hello? Oh, I’m sorry to hear that, sir … I hope you feel better in the morning … I understand, of course. Take good care of yourself, now.’
‘The stroke guy. Had some kind of attack, only a minor one, but enough to cancel on me.’ He sighed theatrically. ‘So tell me? What do you suggest a man should do alone tonight in a city like this?’
‘I can think of a thing or two.’
‘That suite you mentioned earlier …?’
‘Same colour scheme as this, but with a mirror, strategically positioned opposite the bed.’
Kara stared into Brad’s chocolate-coloured eyes, willing him to take a chance.
‘Listen, I er …’ Brad struggled to find the right words. ‘Forgive me if I’m misreading the situation or something. Can I just be forward and lay down some ground rules here? I’m a happily married man, as you already noticed, but I’ve been three weeks on the road, and that’s an awful long time. You’re an extraordinarily attractive and desirable woman, and I’d have to be as half-dead as that stubborn shareholder of ours not to want you.’
Kara considered this for a moment. ‘Are you propositioning me?’
‘I guess I am. I totally did not expect to be unfaithful to my wife during this trip, but I’m tired and I’m pissed that negotiations aren’t going my way and I need a release. Maybe I can make my proposition, as you put it, more attractive? A suite, how much has that got to cost? Five hundred, would that cover it?’
She paused to consider. ‘You’d use a condom, and there’d be nothing weird.’
‘I agree to those terms.’