RT Book Reviews on OUR FIRST DANCE
Our First Embrace (Harlequin Kimani Romance Series #371)by Judy Lynn Hubbard
From first kiss to last
Nicole Carter just landed her dream job working for fashion legend Alexander James in Paris. Sparks fly when they meet. But her buttoned-up alpha boss is determined to ignore the heat building between them, and Nicole knows crossing the line is taboo. Though that doesn't stop her from fantasizing about them/p>/b>/em>
From first kiss to last
Nicole Carter just landed her dream job working for fashion legend Alexander James in Paris. Sparks fly when they meet. But her buttoned-up alpha boss is determined to ignore the heat building between them, and Nicole knows crossing the line is taboo. Though that doesn't stop her from fantasizing about them sharing a steamy night together in the most romantic city in the world .
The once-burned-by-love designer doesn't trust womenor the powerful desire his alluring new hire is bringing to the forefront. Giving in to temptation will put everything Alexander's worked for at risk. Is he willing to fight for the woman he thinks he could spend forever with?
RT Book Reviews on OUR FIRST DANCE
Read an Excerpt
Paris in the springtime! Native New Yorker, twenty-five-year-old Nicole Carter, couldn't believe she was finally in France.
It was a beautiful Monday morning with plenty of sunshine. The temperature was a cool forty-two degrees, and she didn't bother to fasten her light jacket as she walked along the sidewalk, passing various brightly colored cafés that beckoned her to stop; however, she resisted. The last thing she needed was to be late for her first day.
She was in enough trouble already-arriving a week later than scheduled so she could attend her brother's wedding in New York. Alexander James, her new boss, hadn't been too happy about her requested delay, and she prayed he wouldn't hold it against her.
Nicole halted in front of a six-story stone building that housed Alexander's Fashion House. She stood outside for a few seconds smiling at the edifice before opening the glass door and walking inside. Opulent surroundings greeted her-black-and-white marble floors, tapestry chairs and expensive artwork. Everything about Alexander's screamed class.
She approached the security booth, and after receiving her badge was directed to the sixth floor. Upon exiting the elevator, Nicole checked in with the receptionist, who showed her to Alexander James's office. She paused long enough to take several calming breaths before rapping lightly on the closed wooden door and plastering a smile on her face. Then she opened the door and went inside.
The first thing she noticed was how large and spacious the office was. With its heavy wood-and-leather furniture, it had definitely been decorated for a man by a man. The hardwood floor shone. Huge windows occupied the entire back wall, allowing a multitude of light to stream in and soften the dark decor.
The second thing she noticed was the imposing man rising from behind a massive mahogany desk as she entered. He had to be over six feet-definitely the master of his domain. Alexander James's photos didn't begin to do him justice.
He was dressed casually in a navy blazer, white shirt, no tie and navy slacks. He wore his dark brown hair slightly long and curly. His skin tone was much lighter than hers; the cafe-au-lait complexion reflected his heritage, his mother being European and his father African-American. It was his hazel eyes flecked with gold that really drew Nicole in-even though at the moment they were dancing with displeasure and directed squarely at her.
"Welcome to Paris, Miss Carter." Alexander's deep voice caressed her skin, and prickles shot up her arm as he briefly clasped her small hand in his large one.
"Thank you." She sat in the seat he motioned to in front of his desk, and he resumed his seat behind it.
"Did you have a nice flight?"
"Yes." She crossed her legs, resting her hands in her lap. "Thank you for asking."
"Is your hotel satisfactory?"
"It's beautiful," she assured. Calling her temporary home, the art deco-inspired Lutetia, a hotel seemed insulting.
"Good." He nodded. "You should be comfortable there until you can find more permanent quarters."
"I plan to look for something this weekend."
"I expected you to have a place lined up before arriving."
"I meant to, but.." Her voice trailed off.
"But time got away from you."
Her shoulders stiffened at his slightly accusatory tone. She met his cool gaze with one of her own. So this was the way it was going to be? She sighed inwardly.
"Life happens, Mr. James," she tightly informed him.
"Prudent planning is worth its weight in gold, Miss Carter." He folded his arms across his broad chest. "Wouldn't you agree?"
"Whenever possible." She silently counted to ten and reminded herself he was her new boss, and she wanted this job.
Alexander remained silent while his eyes studied her from head to toe. She reminded him of a porcelain doll. Her shapely figure was accentuated by her crisp and professional black pantsuit. Her short tapered hairstyle perfectly framed her heart-shaped face, and her deep brown eyes were very expressive-at the moment, tinged with frustration. She was a beautiful woman, a fact he was angry at himself for noticing. She was his employee; she was here to work, and work she would!
"We're having an in-house spring show at the end of next month and then a big yearly show at the end of August." He sat back in his plush leather chair and tapped his desktop with his fingers. "You're already a week behind."
"You'll find I'm not afraid of hard work, Mr. James," she promised.
"For your sake I hope not." He smiled without humor. "You have a lot of catching up to do."
"For goodness' sake, I'm only a week late-not a month," she snapped.
"A lot of work can be lost in a week," he informed tightly. "I don't like wasting time."
"Neither do I, Mr. James."
"Really?" He raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Actions speak louder than words, Miss Carter. I hope I didn't make a mistake hiring you."
She visibly bristled at his insinuation. "You didn't."
"Time will tell." He wasn't at all convinced. "I'm going to start you on the Bettina line. I trust you had time to familiarize yourself with the information packet I sent you."
"Yes, I did," she assured him. "Bettina is your casual and affordable chic line catering to the twenty to twenty-five age range."
When he showed no signs of being impressed with her answer, she snapped open her portfolio and handed him five sketches.
"What are these?"
"Sketches I took the liberty of preparing while I kept you waiting." Her voice was tinged with sarcasm, prompting him to raise one of his eyebrows.
Without a word, he flipped from one sketch to the next, purposefully keeping his expression unreadable. They were good, very good, but he wouldn't give her the satisfaction of knowing that yet. He needed to see what she was made of-find out if she possessed the dedication and stamina to handle the demands he would place on her.
He wasn't running a nursery, and he had no intention of coddling her or any of his employees. Her actions made him question his choosing her for the coveted position with his company, and he didn't like second-guessing himself. She'd cut it or she'd be out on the door before she could blink her pretty brown eyes. After a cursory exploration of the designs, he placed them on his desk and stared at her silently.
"Well?" She bristled under his cool scrutiny.
"It's nice to know you gave some thought to work while we waited for you to show up."
"What do you think of them?" She seemed to be fighting the urge to scream in frustration.
"They're adequate." He shrugged. "They could have been passable had you been here on time.'"
He almost smiled when her eyes darkened angrily. "Mr. James, how many times "
"I hope you had a nice time while you kept us waiting, Miss Carter, because I'm going to work you until you drop," he darkly promised, interrupting her tirade before it could begin.
"Give it your best shot, Mr. James." She picked up her sketches and replaced them in her portfolio.
He punched a button on his phone, "Jean, send in Monique." He stood and returned his attention to Nicole. "That'll be all, Miss Carter. Monique, one of my dedicated head designers, will show you to your workstation. If you need anything, let her know."
Right on cue, a rap sounded on his door, and it opened to admit Monique, a smiling, slender African-American woman who honed in on Nicole. She and Nicole were about the same height, though Monique was a couple of years older. Her long black hair was pulled away from her smiling face.
"Hi, Nicole. I'm Monique." She extended a hand, which Nicole shook. "Welcome to Alexander's."
"Thank you." Nicole smiled at her genuine welcome. "It's nice to meet you."
"You, too." Monique glanced at a stoic Alexander. "I'll show you around if the boss is done with you."
"We're through for now," Alex agreed, sitting back down behind his desk. "Thanks, Monique."
"Sure thing, boss." Monique opened the door and waited for her to gather her belongings. "Ready, Nicole?"
"More than." Nicole sighed and left the office. Alex watched them go, his eyes boring into her back.
She repressed the urge to stomp out of his office as she preceded Monique through the door. What an infuriating man! She sighed audibly once the door closed behind them.
Monique chuckled. "That bad, huh?"
"No, it was fine." At Monique's skeptical look she elaborated. "He is.. " She paused, not sure if she was talking to a friend or a foe. "It was fine," she reiterated.
Monique laughed, linked her arm through Nicole's and pulled her away. "Oh, I'll bet!" She smiled and whispered conspiratorially, "You can trust me. I'm a fellow New Yorker."
"Really?" Nicole brightened at the mention of home.
"Mmm-hmm, born and raised. I transferred from Alexander's New York office five years ago. You're planning on transferring to that office after your six months here, right?"
"Yes," Nicole confirmed. Right now, she couldn't wait for that day to come. "Do you like it here?"
"I love it." Monique beamed. "You will, too. I promise."
"This is a fantastic opportunity for me. I plan to make the most of it."
"I'll help you any way I can," Monique promised. "I predict we're going to be good friends."
"I think so, too," Nicole agreed.
"Definitely," Monique assured. "How about some coffee before I show you to your station?"
"I'd love some." Nicole groaned gratefully, and Monique laughed.
"The break room is in here."
Monique led her into an attractive white room with rows of laminate tables and matching padded chairs. There was a full kitchen, including several refrigerators, microwaves and conventional ovens. Her eyes widened as Monique poured two cups of coffee not into Styrofoam, but into china cups.
"Very nice." Nicole took the offered cup from Monique.
"The boss believes in doing little things like this to keep us happy." Monique shrugged as they sat down at one of the tables. "He's really not bad once you get to know him."
"Time will tell." After adding cream and sugar, Nicole sipped her coffee and felt some of the tension leaving her. "He's upset because I'm late."
"You had a wedding to attend, right?"
"Yes." Nicole smiled fondly. "My brother's."
"Well, you couldn't miss that."
"No, I couldn't." Nicole sighed. "I wish Mr. James understood that."
"He'll get over it," Monique predicted. "Just wow him with your fabulous work ethic and tremendous talent."
"You'll be fine, and like I said, I'll help you in any way I can."
"You're welcome." Monique squeezed her hand and winked. "We New Yorkers have to stick together."
"Definitely." Nicole returned her smile, feeling at ease for the first time that morning.
* * *
Victor James entered his older brother's office without knocking. He chuckled at Alex's raised eyebrow as he plopped down on the edge of his desk.
"Hey bro, what's up?"
Alex frowned. "I'm trying to get some work done."
"Well, that's why I'm here." At his brother's confused stare, Victor reminded him, "You said your computer was, in your words, acting squirrely."
"Oh, yeah." Alex sighed, pushing away from his desk and motioning for Victor to come over. "I don't know what's wrong with this thing."
"Let me see what you've done to her." Victor's sigh elicited a chuckle from his brother.
"She is right," Alex disgustedly agreed. "This thing is as temperamental as any woman I've ever known."
"You just don't know how to handle her," Victor chided as he continued typing on the keyboard, turning the screen completely black.
"I guess I don't," Alex agreed as he watched his brother work his magic. The man was a genius with computers.
Victor owned Delphine Computers and handled all the software needs for Alexander's. At twenty-nine, he was three years younger than Alex, and the two had always been close, especially since their parents died five years ago in a plane crash.
"There you go." Victor smiled with satisfaction a few minutes later. "She's as good as new."
Alex returned to his seat and tested out the computer. He heaved a sigh of relief when the blasted machine did what he wanted it to without fighting him.
"Thanks, man. You're a lifesaver."
"De nada." Victor bowed before resuming his perch on the edge of Alex's desk. "By the way, who was the honey I saw leaving your office with Monique a few minutes ago?"
"That was our new junior associate, which means she's off-limits to you," Alex warned.
"She looked mad. What did you do to her?"
"I didn't do anything to her," Alex denied with a frown. "She took her sweet time about getting here, and I let her know I didn't appreciate it."
Victor's brows creased thoughtfully. "Is she the one from New York who had a last-minute funeral to attend?"
"A wedding," Alex corrected around a chuckle. "Her brother's, to be exact."
"Well, that was a good reason for the delay." Victor studied his brother's sour expression. "Wasn't it?"
"Yeah, I guess." Alex reclined in his chair.
"If she was as dedicated as she professes to be, she would have been here on time."
"Come on Alex, it was her brother's wedding." He grinned. "You wouldn't miss my wedding, would you?"
"Definitely not." He twirled a pen in his fingers. "I'd be glad to be rid of you."
"You know you'd be bawling like a baby at the thought," Victor asserted.
"Yeah, go on and delude yourself." Alex laughed. "Anyway, we're not talking about me and what I would have done."
"Okay, point taken. What did she miss, really? Tell me." At his brother's silence, he admonished, "You need to lighten up, bro."
"I have a business to run, and I need dedicated people around me." Alex refused to give an inch.
"Who says she's not dedicated? She's here, isn't she?"
"Yeah." She was here all right, upsetting his equilibrium.
"Give the kid a break, Alex." Victor slapped him on the shoulder. "She's in a new country, starting a new job, and then she has to run into your foul temper." Victor sighed theatrically. "It's just too much for anyone to have to bear."
"Shouldn't you be somewhere doing something useful?" Alex chuckled in spite of himself.
"Not until this afternoon." Victor glanced without interest at his watch. "My morning's free."
"Well, I do have a lot of work to get through." Alex pointedly glanced at his brother before picking up some sketches from his desk to review.
Victor stood. "Oh, is that your not-so-subtle way of telling me to get lost?"
"We both know subtlety doesn't work with you." Alex grinned as his brother walked to the door.
"Just so you know, I don't appreciate being used and discarded," Victor huffed.
"You should be used to it by now," Alex good-naturedly rejoined.
"Sad, but true," Victor lamented. "Hey, tell you what."
"I'll take the babe off your hands and escort her to the fashion show at the end of April," he magnanimously offered.
"No, I'll take her," Alex quickly asserted, having no idea why his brother's offer irritated him immensely.
"Ah-ha!" Victor shouted, and Alex grimaced. "So you want to take her then?"
"No, I don't want to take her," Alex quickly denied.
"Then let me," Victor offered again.
"It's my responsibility."
"You and your responsibility." Victor groaned in disgust.
"One of us has to be responsible," Alex drily asserted. "You wound me, bro."
"You'll live," Alex promised. "Now will you get out of here?"
"Okay, I'm going. I think I'll see if I can spot " He paused. "What's her name?"
"Nicole," Alex reluctantly offered. "Nicole Carter."
"Nicole Nicole." Victor fit his tongue around her name with several different emphases. "Oh, I like that."
"Goodbye, Vic." Alex dismissed him, swiveling in his chair to stare moodily out of the window.
"See ya later, bro." Victor left, whistling a tune that grated on his brother's nerves.
Meet the Author
Judy Lynn Hubbard is a native of Dallas, Texas and has always been an avid reader—particularly of romance. She loves well-written, engaging stories with characters she can identify with, empathize with and root for. She loves to write and when writing, she honestly can't wait to see what happens next; she knows if she feels that way, she’s created characters and a story that readers will thoroughly enjoy and that's her goal.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This is a great and refreshing read. Not much on erotica, but a wonderful romance story line. I want to read about Victor next!
I really enjoyed this story. Looking forward to the next one.