His Cinderella Mistress

Overview

January Calendar knows what Max Golding is up to. He's a handsome corporate lawyer out to buy up her family's land to build a tacky resort, and his tactics are to charm the pants off her—literally!

But as frosty as January tries to be with Max, she's soon forced to thaw a little—there's a stalker in her hometown, and only Max can protect her from being the latest victim! However, that doesn't mean becoming Max's mistress—at the stroke of midnight, this Cinderella is determined ...

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His Cinderella Mistress

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Overview

January Calendar knows what Max Golding is up to. He's a handsome corporate lawyer out to buy up her family's land to build a tacky resort, and his tactics are to charm the pants off her—literally!

But as frosty as January tries to be with Max, she's soon forced to thaw a little—there's a stalker in her hometown, and only Max can protect her from being the latest victim! However, that doesn't mean becoming Max's mistress—at the stroke of midnight, this Cinderella is determined to be safely tucked up in her own bed!

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780373123704
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 1/1/2004
  • Series: Harlequin Presents Series , #2370
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 4.24 (w) x 6.62 (h) x 0.56 (d)

First Chapter

His Cinderella Mistress


By Carole Mortimer

Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.

Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-373-12370-1


Chapter One

"Would you allow me to buy you a drink?"

Sitting at the bar, sipping a glass of sparkling water, taking a well-earned rest after an hour of singing, January turned to politely refuse the offer. Only to have that refusal stick in her throat as she saw who it was doing the offering.

It was him!

The man who had been seated at the back of this hotel bar for the last hour as she sat at the piano and sang. The man who had stared at her for all of that time with an intensity that had made it impossible for her not to have noticed him in return.

She should refuse his offer, had learnt to keep a certain polite distance between herself and the guests who stayed at this prestigious hotel, transient people for the most part, here for a few days, never to be seen again.

Remember what happened on the farm last year, her sister May would have told her. January did remember - only too well!

Remember what you told me - afterwards, her sister March would have said; taking people at face value only brings trouble!

"That would be lovely, thank you," January accepted huskily.

The man gave an inclination of his dark head, ordering a bottle of champagne from John, the barman, before standing back to allow her to precede him to his table in the corner of the luxuriously comfortable room, made even more so at the moment because, although Christmas had come and gone, the decorations wouldn't be taken down for several more days yet.

January was aware of several curious glances coming their way as they walked by the crowded tables, could see their reflection in one of the mirrors along the walls. She, tall and willowy in the long black spangly dress she wore to perform in, her dark hair cascading down over her shoulders, eyes a mysterious dark smoky grey, fringed by sooty black lashes. The man walking so confidently behind her, the epitome of tall, dark and handsome in the black dinner suit and snowy white shirt he wore, his eyes a deep, unfathomable cobalt-blue.

It was those eyes, so intense and compelling, that had drawn her attention to him an hour ago, shortly after she began her first session of the evening. Those same eyes that even now, she could see in the mirror, were watching the gentle sway of her hips as she walked.

He stood to one side as January sank gracefully into one of the four armchairs placed around the low table, waiting until she was seated before lowering his considerable height into the chair opposite hers, that intense gaze having remained on her for the whole of that time.

"Champagne?" January prompted throatily a few minutes later - when it became apparent he wasn't going to make any effort to begin a conversation, seeming quite happy to just stare at her.

He gave a slight inclination of his head. "It is New Year's Eve, after all," he came back softly.

End of conversation, January realized a few seconds later when he added nothing further to that brief comment, beginning to wish she had listened to those little voices of her sisters' earlier inside her head.

"So it is," she answered dismissively, smiling up at John as he arrived with two glasses and the ice-bucket containing the bottle of champagne, deftly opening it before her anonymous companion nodded his thanks - and his obvious dismissal.

John turned to leave, but not before he had given January a speculative raise of his eyebrows.

Well aware that she always kept herself slightly aloof from the guests staying at the hotel, John was obviously curious as to why this man should be so different. Join the club!

"January." She turned back to the man determinedly.

He gave the semblance of a smile as he leant forward to pour the two glasses of champagne himself, competently, assuredly, not a single drop of the bubbly liquid reaching the top of the glass to spill over. "That's what usually follows December," he drawled dismissively.

"No, you misunderstood me." She shook her head, smiling. "My name is January."

"Ah." The smile deepened, showing even white teeth against his tanned skin. "Max," he supplied as economically.

Not exactly a scintillating conversationalist, she decided, studying him over the rim of her champagne glass. The strong, silent type, maybe, the sort of man who only spoke when he had something significant to say.

"Short for Maximillian?" she asked lightly.

His smile faded, leaving his face looking slightly grim. "Short for Maxim. My mother was a great reader, I believe," he added scornfully.

Her eyes widened at his tone. "Don't you know?"

His gaze narrowed. "No."

Obviously not a subject to be pursued!

"And are you in the area on business, Max?" she prompted curiously; after all, it was New Year's Eve, a time when most people would be with family or friends.

"Something like that." He nodded tersely. "Do you work at the hotel every night, or just New Year's Eve?"

She found herself frowning slightly, unsure whether he had meant the question to sound insulting - as it did! - or whether it was just his usual abruptness of manner.

She shrugged, deciding to give him the benefit of the doubt - for the moment. "I work here most Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings," she added the last pointedly.

"And as this is a Friday -"

"Yes," she confirmed huskily. "Look, I'm afraid I have to go back on in a few minutes," she added with a certain amount of relief; this man was more than a little hard going!

He nodded. "I'll wait for you at the end of the evening." He had so far made no effort to drink any of his own champagne, merely continued to look at January with that almost blinkless stare.

Which was just as unnerving close up as it had been from the distance for the last hour while she sang!

She had accepted his invitation on impulse - curiosity? - and now she was regretting it. Okay, so his brooding stillness made Heathcliff and Mr Rochester, two of her favourite romantic heroes, seem almost chatty by comparison, but it was also extremely uncomfortable to be stared at in this single-minded fashion.

She gave a brief shake of her head. "I don't think so, thank you." She smiled to take some of the bluntness out of her own words; after all, he was a guest at the hotel, and she just another person employed here. "Usually I finish about one-thirty, two o'clock, depending on how busy we are, but as tonight is New Year's Eve I'm here until three o'clock."

(Continues...)



Excerpted from His Cinderella Mistress by Carole Mortimer Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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