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Copyright © 2008 Noelle Mack
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How did the song go? The one about a foggy day in London ... as if London was ever not foggy or rainy or gloomy or all-around miserably wet. Glad to be inside the financial building on Paternoster Square, Lara knew her hair was frizzing. Given damp weather, it took only seconds for it to turn from thick and barely wavy into a boingy cloud that floated around her head.
She glanced at her reflection in the aqua-tinted glass walls that added to her sense of being underwater and sighed. She did not look remotely professional or corporate or cool. She looked ... fluffy. In the world of international finance, fluffy was not good.
A gorgeous woman in a short-skirted suit and aggressively rectangular glasses clicked by, her stilettos sure and quick. Behind the narrow lenses were eyes outlined in severe black pencil, assessing eyes that took in the details of what Lara had on in an instant. Lara could practically hear the other's woman's precision fashion sense whirring as she was duly inspected and found lacking. Ill-fitting jacket. Shabby shoes. How utterly pathetic. And how very American.
Lara sighed and tipped her chin up. Poor but proud, that's what she was. And yes, from the US, and proud of that too. She missed Chicago already, even though she was here for a jobinterview with the famous and somewhat mysterious Adam Bowlin. However, she fully expected to be hired on the spot. Strings had been pulled, favors were owed-it was a done deal. She hoped.
She walked toward the lobby console, signed in and spoke briefly to the guard, who phoned an unseen somebody at the firm on the uppermost floor Lara specified. He murmured her name and appointment time without moving his lips, not even looking at her. She felt faintly unworthy for the second time in less than two minutes. The English were good at that. Except for happily smashed blue-collar guys in pubs and a few cheerful shopgirls, Brits seemed to pride themselves on being chilly and standoffish-and ranking everyone instantly according to a class system that baffled Lara.
She'd been in London for less than a week, fascinated by the crowded, complicated, and ancient city, but she'd never felt so damn lonely in her life. Maybe it was because her temporary flat, sublet through a friend of a friend of a friend, was in Clerkenwell. Not posh, for all that it was so pricey she had barely anything left over for entertainment or shopping. And not even all that convenient.
She hadn't come to London to make new pals and go club-hopping. The trip was basically a climb-the-career ladder move to please her Chicago boss at Pratt Investments. Jason Pratt III, the brash grandson of the brokerage's founder, wanted to start a hedge fund of his own, one that would rival the enviable returns and exclusive international cachet of the Bowlin Fund. La-di-dah.
He also wanted to poach a few of its phenomenally wealthy clients.
Jason was a hothead with money to burn and a bad reputation in the Chicago financial world. No doubt his grandfather, the first Jason Pratt, a conservative, thrifty Midwesterner who bought his suits at Sears, was spinning in his grave. Sedately.
Jason Pratt III wouldn't care. But he knew he needed to find out more about Adam Bowlin, and to do that, he needed Lara. Meaning he wanted to plant her in Bowlin's office, in Bowlin's lap if necessary, so she could find out what was what. Lara drew the line at the lap part.
But she had wanted to see London and he knew it. With huge college loans she would be paying off for what seemed to be the rest of her life, travel was out of the question. So she'd agreed-and then came the haggling. Jason loved to argue about money and she didn't. He'd insisted that he didn't have the bucks to pay her expenses over and above her salary.
Yeah, right. Jason thought nothing of dropping $250 on a single lunch. He preferred Kobe beefsteak, massaged to perfection while it was still on the cow in Japan, plus a $700 bottle of French wine to go with. His best offer: a jitney bus trip to O'Hare and a roundtrip coach flight to Gatwick. He'd generously agreed to continue to pay her full salary while she, as he put it, whooped it up in London. He threw in a promise, for what it was worth, to make up the difference for the dollar being in the toilet-his phrase-against the mighty euro.
She frowned, wondering what Jason would say if he saw her now. She could guess. Geez, Lara, can't you do something about your hair? Ask where Chryssie gets hers straightened, wouldja? I oughta send her and not you.
Screw him. And screw Chryssie. But Jason was already doing the honors in that department.
Lara looked at the guard, awaiting further instructions. He murmured something, his beady eyes even colder if that was possible, and made the barest inclination of his head toward a bank of elevators.
"Thank you." Evidently those went up to the executive office suites. She walked in that direction, trying to make her own high heels click on the highly polished marble in that scary way. Didn't work. Instead, she felt a slight sideways movement of the half-sole on the left shoe, a recent repair. Just so long as it didn't start to flap, she'd be fine.
It started to flap. Lara scooted her left foot and stepped with the right. Great. Just great. Nothing she could do about it now. She was expected and the great and powerful Adam Bowlin was waiting for her. She could bet a hedge fund king never experienced a footwear emergency. His shoes were undoubtedly handmade in Italy and as highly polished as these goddamn slippery floors. His underlings probably licked the soles clean each morning even before they fetched his coffee.
Scoot-flap-click, scoot-flap-click. Eventually she got to the elevators. There were six in all. The closed doors were silvery steel, trimmed with burnished brass. Massive. Forbidding. Like the doors of six impenetrable vaults.
One set whooshed open and someone walked out as she was looking down worriedly at her stupid high heels. She should have dressed like the clueless American tourist everyone here thought she was and worn her ugly sneakers. At least the soles of those were still firmly attached to the-
A pair of long, large black shoes stopped in front of her. Man shoes. Impeccably tailored trousers broke over the insteps.
Lara did not want to look up. Maybe he would take her downward gaze as a sign of humbleness. Or abject insanity. Apparently not. The shoes didn't move on.
Whoever the man was, he wasn't going to pay much attention to her, not the way she was dressed. Bargain-basement fake tweed. Head still hanging, she regretted the whimsical pin on her lapel, a last-minute addition, deeply regretted it. He was wearing a Savile Row suit himself, unless she missed her guess.
His voice was deep and sensual. "You must be Lara Stone. I'm Adam Bowlin." Hell.
She looked at him with wide, startled eyes. The last thing she'd expected was for him to come down to the lobby. Must be a coincidence. He was probably just going out for a quick bite, taking a break from making millions, which she understood was tiring.
"Maybe you're not Lara Stone."
"Oh no. I mean, yes. I am her." You sound like an idiot, she told herself. Way to go, Lara.
"Glad to hear it. How very nice to meet you."
She forced herself to remain calm while she took him in, trying not to stare at the big hands thrust casually into his pants pockets and the long waist that widened into a broad chest-
He was wearing clothes worth looking at, fortunately for her sanity. She concentrated on those. Guys in finance prided themselves on sartorial splendor and she was familiar with the details of it.
Adam's attire was subtle by American standards, but amazing all the same. Bespoke shirt. Turnbull & Asser, by her guess. A snow-white collar and double cuffs set off its understated hue. Nestled between the collar's hand-turned points was a Windsor-knotted silk tie that had probably cost more than she made in a month.
Nice tie. And under the shirt-what the hell, she went back to mentally undressing him-was a very nice broad chest and shoulders to match. And his face. Wow. Eminently smoochable.
Adam Bowlin was a work of art. Tall, tailored man art. Incredibly sexy. In no way did he seem stiff-upper-lippy or teddibly reserved. He had a powerful take-charge, ultra-masculine vibe that made her quiver inside. If he only ever said one word to her and that word was surrender, she wouldn't have a problem with that.
His big, blazing smile was as warm as his voice. If he hadn't said who he was, she might not have figured it out right away, even though Jason had ordered her to look him up online. The images on Google didn't do him justice. Who knew? The internationally renowned founder and manager of a hedge fund so exclusive that he turned away investors with less than five zillion was hot. Scorchingly so.
Adam thrust out his hand and she took it for a good old American shakity-shake, loving the feel of his strong fingers clasping hers despite her embarrassment.
That smile was extremely effective. A panty-melting, braunhooking, throw-me-down weapon. Lara squirmed and sweated inside her inexpensive suit, wishing she could rip it off and kick her cheapo high heels up in the air-and run out to have her hair straightened before she launched an all-out seduction.
Unless he launched one first. It could happen. She took a step toward and felt her sole flap.
Maybe not today. She met his gaze and smiled.
His eyes were hazel, and his lashes were thick. A dimple flashed as his smile widened. But everything else was on the strong and angular side of handsome.
"I decided to pop down to meet you," he said genially. "It's a bit of a maze once you're on the upper floor. Thought I'd lead the way."
"Please do," she chirped, thrilled that he had. She would have expected him to send a shoe licker to do that.
"I was chatting with our receptionist and saw you on the security video." His eyes flicked over her with obvious admiration.
He must have liked what he saw. Then and now. Lara blushed. Then she got to work trying to place his accent. Not totally British, really not American. Adam continued making small talk, and she wasn't quite bold enough to come right out and ask. He waved to the guard, who'd glided their way from the lobby console.
"Anything the matter, Mr. Bowlin?"
The guard's lips still didn't move, but his expression seemed a little more animated. Maybe it was just the ultra-modern lights overhead reflected in his beady eyes. Lifelike effect, Lara thought with an inward smile.
"Not at all. Thanks."
The guard said something incomprehensible and nodded to Lara before going back to his post.
"Shall we?" Adam pressed the up button.
"Sure." They waited until a different set of doors whooshed open and she took a step and swore under her breath. She'd forgotten about the half-sole. It flapped. He noticed.
"D'you want to have that fixed? There's a cobbler not a block away," Adam said in a friendly way, letting the doors close while he waited for her to reply. "I don't mind waiting. In fact, I'll walk you there."
Aww. He was nice, too. "That's okay. I can manage."
"Up we go then."
When they got on the next elevator, the half-sole came off.
"Oops." She looked at it and at him and at it again. The small piece of rubber on the elevator floor looked like a dead cartoon mouse that had been run over by a cartoon steamroller. She bent down to pick it up and stuck it into the outer pocket of her purse.
He only grinned, not seeming to think it was some big deal that her clothes and shoes weren't perfect. Outside of a nebulous feeling of lust-crazed worship, Lara realized that she liked him already. A lot.
Just being in the elevator with him made her skin tingle. He stood to her right, not too close and not against the wall. Just there. It was easy, so easy, to imagine him completely naked.
The elevator stopped with a jolt.
Adam arched a thick, sexy eyebrow and looked at her. "We seem to be between floors."
"So we are," she said casually. "Does it-happen often?"
He jabbed at the button for his company's floor with his thumb. She watched him, thinking about the male approach to machinery. All men generally assumed that things were supposed to work, and that light-up buttons did something, got results.
The junior execs and stockbrokers in her Chicago financial tower liked to poke elevator buttons with the same vigor Adam displayed, trying to get to the high floors faster or hold open the doors for a buddy, but it never made any difference. Lara, being female, knew better. Elevators rose and fell because of the pull of the moon.
He jabbed harder. Nothing happened. "Bloody hell. We're stuck."
Lara gulped. The elevator was relatively spacious but being trapped in it with him was likely to get on her nerves. In a good way. In a get-my-clothes-off-and-fuck-me-now way. She had never done the deed in an elevator.
She leaned against the paneling and smiled politely at him. "Give it a minute."
His eyes narrowed. "You're unnaturally calm. I suppose you don't mind being a captive."
She suppressed an immediate, interestingly submissive fantasy, in which she was in an even more confined space, naked, kneeling in front of him, also naked-standing with his big, muscular legs apart and-
"I do, though," he was saying. "I can't stand to be penned up. Ever. Fuck. I admire your self-control."
She snapped back to reality. "Um, thanks." He seemed to have grown larger somehow, his shoulders looking broader than before as he stared fiercely at the control panel and its rows of buttons. Hands on hips. Legs apart. She could do him like that. It would be fun.
He took off his jacket and tossed it carelessly on the floor, then bent over to squint at the in-case-of-emergency instructions.
Rock solid, she thought, giving his butt a discreet once-over while he wasn't looking at her. His very male ass had those hollows at the side that she preferred, and curving muscle that would be great to hang onto while he gave her a hot, hard fuck.
From behind. Or on top of her, spreading her legs really wide so he could go deep. No. Making her spread her legs wide. For him. Mmm. Oh yes. He would have the upper hand-she wanted him to. It was a fantasy she'd always wanted to explore.
But not with any of the lethargic college dudes she'd dated. As for the stockbrokers and traders in Chicago, they didn't cut it either. In general, they were too obsessed with themselves and their career trajectories. And a lot of them were too into coke, for that matter, and not the kind that was served over ice. So she was a virgin when it came to her deep, dark fantasies. Lara blushed.
He straightened and looked at her. "Hot in here," he said conversationally. "You've gone a bit red in the face."
"Have I?" Lara managed a prim little smile.
"I'm really sorry about this, Lara," he said, thoroughly exasperated. He folded his hand into a fist and slammed it against the panel. "Fuck!"
"You can use the intercom to call the guard." She pointed to the panel and a circle of holes in the polished steel that she assumed was an intercom.
Adam scowled and jabbed the red button underneath the circle, speaking into it. "Hello? Hello? Is anyone there? The bloody fucking lift broke down-hello?"
There was no reply. No electronic beep or boop. Not even the crackle of static.
"Guess that's broken too," Lara said.
He uncurled the fist and flexed his fingers. He'd used his left hand, so Lara noticed he wasn't wearing a wedding ring, for what that was worth. Maybe Englishmen didn't. But married men didn't always bother with rings, in her experience. That was a park she definitely didn't play in.
Lara sighed and leaned against the wall, looking in her purse for her cell phone, then remembering that she hadn't bought a sim card for it before she'd left. She had the phone but it was useless and she guessed that he didn't have one on him, since he'd only come down to get her. She couldn't very well pull out the laptop in her bag and e for help.
It was getting hot in the stuck elevator, but at least her hair wasn't so frizzy now. She patted it back into a semblance of a style, then straightened her skirt and pulled down her jacket.
He looked at her while she did.
Excerpted from Nights in Black Leather by NOELLE MACK Copyright © 2008 by Noelle Mack. 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.
Posted December 9, 2008
Lara Stone lives up to her surname as she leaves no stone unturned or untouched for that matter in her quest to clmb the corporate ladder. Thus when an opportunity arises, the ambitious at all cost Lara avidly agrees to be the corporate headquarters¿ mole in their London office she sees an opportunity to shortcut the climb to the top.----------- Lara leaves Chicago for England to spy on hedge fund magnate Adam Bowlin. However, she is stunned by the hunk she assumed was a playboy. Instead of clubbing he prefers nights in his chateau spent with the beautiful American as they explore together virtually and reality BDSM and more including her most secret desires. However, in daylight she fears how her beloved will react when he learns why she came to England.------------ This is an engaging erotic romance although too much emphasis is on the BDSM scenes and not on the lead couple outside of their sexual encounters. The story line hops from one BDSM scenario including virtual reality to another. Fans who prefer their hardcore to dominate the tale will relish the erotic moody blues of NIGHTS IN BLACK LEATHER.---------- Harriet Klausner
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 1, 2008
With a title of 'Nights in Black Leather' I totally expected something else. This story truly had some promising parts and a few good love scenes it was very difficult to follow. I was forced to finish reading it because I was interested to find out what happened when Adam found out Lara was working against his company. This story was like traveling down a long curvy road with a lot of bumps in the road and a lot of stop signs. it didn't flow very well.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 27, 2009
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Posted October 24, 2008
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