Read an Excerpt
By Elizabeth Oldfield
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. All right reserved. ISBN: 0-373-80543-8
Chapter One"What we need is to have a romance."
Dragging her eyes away from the newspaper article which she was reading, Jennet gazed blankly at the tall, dark-haired man who had stridden back into the room.
"Excuse me?" she said as she closed the paper and hastily attempted to reassemble her thoughts.
The article had been unsettling. Would the appeal made in that final paragraph draw any response? she wondered. Were amateur detectives in the process of winkling out clues? Might gossipy informants have already jammed the switchboard? A chill shivered involuntarily down her spine. She hoped not.
"I reckon it's time we began a love affair," Connor Malone declared, walking across the white cord-carpeted floor towards a bubbling expresso machine.
He indicated the mug which sat beside her on the polished ebony table. "Want a fill-up?"
"Uh-yes, please." She swigged the remaining half inch of gone-cold coffee. "Black, one sugar."
"No sign of Lester?" he asked as he diverted his long stride towards her.
A meeting had been arranged. They had both arrived on time at the stipulated nine-thirty, but ten o'clock was approaching and Lester Sewell, founder and chairman of the Ensign television company, had yet to put in an appearance.
After waiting a while in the spaciousfourth-floor office with its chic black and white decor, lurid examples of abstract art and bank of flat twenty-nine-inch state-of-the-art television screens, her companion had grown impatient. The day's heavy workload meant he had neither the time nor the inclination to hang around.
"There're a couple of matters which require my attention," he had said, excusing himself, and had gone off to dictate strategy to one or other of his minions.
Left alone, Jennet had poured herself a coffee. She had checked through the papers in her bulky folder, placed roller-ball pen and notepad at the ready, then taken out the copy of the newspaper which the postman had pushed through her letterbox minutes before she had left the house that morning.
"A love affair?" she repeated, thinking she must have misheard.
No, the appeal would be ignored. The paper was small-town and local. Its readers were farmers, matronly stalwarts of the Women's Institute, people trawling the "for sale" columns in the hope of spotting a bargain-priced second-hand car. They would skim the article at best, and promptly forget about it.
"That's right." As he reached down to clasp long fingers around the mug, Connor fixed pale grey eyes intently on hers. "What we need is a red-hot encounter, full of joyous sexual abandon and free-floating lust."
Jennet blinked. It was fortunate she was sitting down, otherwise she might well have fallen down in a dead faint, she thought bemusedly-or needed something rock-solid to cling onto.
As the writer of a television comedy/drama which had drawn rave reviews on its debut run, she had been working in conjunction with Connor Malone, the director of the series, for almost a year now. During that time they had established a rapport, yet she had believed it to be a working rapport. Pure and simple. Nothing more. She had not realised she appealed to him on a personal basis and it had certainly never occurred to her that he might wish them to embark on an intimate physical liaison.
"Free -" Her mouth had gone dry and she needed to swallow. "Free-floating lust?" she echoed chokily.
"It'd add one hell of a kick."
As he strode over to operate the flow of hot coffee, Jennet sat immobilised, her mind awhirl. Although she had made only sparse reference to her private life, Connor would know she was a widow and lived alone. Had he realised that she always slept alone? Could he have guessed there were times, increasingly, when the lack of lovemaking made her feel restless and edgy? How she had begun to fantasise about nights of wild passion with dynamic-hipped strangers? It seemed possible. The director might not possess mind-reading powers, but he was remarkably astute and alert.
Suspicion narrowed her green eyes. Was this some kind of sneaky masculine assault on her vulnerability? Had he recognised what today's jargon would call "a window of opportunity"-a widow of opportunity, a hoho voice adjusted in her head-and decided to take advantage? Did he expect her to fall at his feet in a blubbering mass of gratitude and thank him for rescuing her from her fate? Or start tearing away her clothes and offering herself up in eager sacrifice? If so, he had miscalculated.
"Maybe," she said crisply, "but I don't think that -"
"Why not?" he demanded.
"Because -" Jennet bounced a palm off her brow in an abrupt "what an idiot!" gesture. "This is a joke!" she said, and laughed. Laughed with deep-throated, gurgling relief. "Sorry to be so slow on the uptake, but I was up at the crack of dawn in order to drive into London and obviously my brain isn't properly in gear. OK, what's the punchline?"
"There is no punchline. I'm not joking. I'm deadly serious," Connor said, his sober expression verifying his words. "Hell, put an unattached woman and an unattached man in regular proximity and if they're both blessed with a healthy sex drive the chances are that, sooner or later, they'll strike sparks off each other. It's human nature."
"Is it? I'm not sure I'd go along with that," she said, feeling harassed all over again. She drew in a breath. "However -"
"Don't reject the idea out of hand."
"Take your time and consider it." He placed a white porcelain mug of steaming coffee in front of her and returned to the machine to fill one for himself. "Weigh up the pros and cons, like I have." Looking back over his shoulder, he flashed her a crooked grin. "Humour me. OK?"
Jennet frowned. Her mind might be spinning like a windmill in a hurricane, but he sounded unemotive, matter-of-fact and so damn reasonable. As if he were conducting a business transaction. He also sounded as if he believed she would be persuaded by his sales pitch and fall in line with the idea, in due course. She would not. Yet point-blank objection seemed to be getting her nowhere, so she supposed she might as well go through the motions and pretend to consider. Indeed, his insistence left little alternative.
Sighing, she gave a reluctant shrug. "OK."
Whilst his announcement had surprised and stunned, this 'sock it to her' approach was typical, she thought as she folded the newspaper and placed it inside the black leather attaché case which stood at her feet. Connor Malone believed in plain speaking and decisive actions. In his role of executive producer, with responsibility for Ensign's entire drama output and director of a few selected programmes, if he wanted something he went for it with a steely determination; and was invariably successful. Her heart pounded. But now he wanted her.
Excerpted from Solution: Seduction by Elizabeth Oldfield
Copyright © 2003 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.