Read an Excerpt
A Feel the Heat Novel
By Nicola Marsh, Libby Murphy
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Nicola Marsh
All rights reserved.
Jett Halcott knew lingerie.
Which meant the tall blonde striding through LAX like she had a bug up her ass, leaving a trail of skimpy, provocative satin and lace spilling from her suitcase, was either a hooker or a Victoria's Secret model.
Either would be fine with him.
He could call out to her and put an end to the sniggers from passengers streaming through the chaotic airport.
But where was the fun in that?
Instead, he scooped up every frivolous scrap that tumbled out of her wheeled luggage, like crumbs for a deviant Hansel ready to gobble the gingerbread all in one go.
From what he could see, the blonde looked tempting from behind. Long legs. Sexy ass. Shiny, straight hair halfway down her back that swung with every step she took. Fast strides that lengthened the gap between them.
The lingerie shedder was a go-getter or she was about to miss her plane.
He snagged crotchless ivory lace panties, a black bustier, a red corset, and a tempting assortment of satin thongs and sheer bras from the trail she left behind her, mentally dressing her in each and every one.
He picked up the pace, dodging weary travelers pushing trolleys laden with luggage, eventually catching up with her after they cleared security.
"Excuse me ..." He'd planned on making some smart-ass remark when she turned. Instead, he found himself surprisingly speechless as her eyes connected with his.
Pale, light blue, the color of a glacier he'd seen in New Zealand on a school trip once. Pity her haughty expression matched the unusually striking color.
"Is there a problem?" She glanced at his arms, laden with sexy underthings, and her eyes widened. "Whatever you're selling, I'm not interested."
"Pity. I think you'd look great in this." He snagged a sheer crimson lace thong and held it out on the tip of his forefinger. "Red's definitely your color."
To his surprise she blushed, before directing a death glare at him, the kind of stare that could freeze a guy into hypothermia.
"Do I need to call security?"
"I don't know. Do you?" He returned the thong to the pile in his arms. "Though I'd prefer a one-on-one fashion parade rather than having an audience."
Her lips thinned into an unimpressed line. "I've got a plane to catch."
"Me, too. Which is why I'm done with my good deed for the day and am returning your belongings." Before she could reply he thrust the lingerie at her and she reacted quickly, managing to catch the lot before they tumbled to the floor.
"These aren't mine —"
"That's what they all say." He pointed at the small suitcase propped at her feet. "Your zipper's busted. You've been leaving lingerie all through LAX."
She glanced down at her suitcase and groaned. "I'll kill Zoe."
Just his frigging luck, she had a girlfriend.
She studied the mass of purple, pink, ruby, and black underwear in her arms and wrinkled her nose. "My friend's idea of a joke, packing this stuff for my honeymoon."
Worse luck, she was married.
Her gaze swung back to him. "Do you think you could give me a hand?"
He waited until a booming boarding call over the loudspeaker finished before responding. "Helping you try them on? Absolutely." He grinned, and for a moment the corners of her mouth curved upward in response.
"I meant could you take a look at that zipper and see if it's fixable." She juggled the lingerie in her arms. "Kinda got my hands full."
"It'll cost you," he said, squatting to take a look at her case. Designer. With a very handy name tag hanging off the handle.
Pity Allegra Wilks was married. She was just how he liked his women. Tall. Cool. Blond. With a kick-ass Californian accent he found incredibly sexy.
"Cost me what?"
He fiddled with the zipper, unsnagged the silk lining caught in its steel teeth, and stood. "A celebratory drink before we catch our respective planes."
"What are we celebrating?"
He smirked. "Your wedding."
And the fact that he'd managed not to kill Reeve, his business partner and former best friend, for costing him the one thing that mattered most.
Maybe he'd reserve that pleasure for the prick if he ever surfaced from his hidey-hole in the Caribbean. For now, he had the distinct urge to see how far he could push the delightfully aloof Allegra.
"Wedding?" she parroted, staring at him like he'd lost his mind. "I'm not married."
She looked away as she said it, and he wasn't sure if he'd glimpsed regret, sadness, or embarrassment before she did.
Maybe this was his lucky day after all.
"You said your friend packed for your honeymoon?" He gestured to her overflowing arms, his mood taking a turn for the better.
"Not that it's any of your business, but I didn't have time to repack." She squared her shoulders and looked down her snooty nose. "I'm heading to Palm Bay without the groom. No wedding. No honeymoon. No frigging happy ever after." She gave him a thumbs-up. "South Pacific, here I come, woo-hoo."
He bit back a smile at her sarcasm.
Palm Bay? No way.
He should feel sorry for her. Or the poor schmuck she'd probably ditched before being shackled to a proverbial ball and chain. Instead, his blood fizzed as he tried to contain his elation.
He'd have a good eight hours on the flight to charm her into modeling some of that lingerie when they arrived.
A guy could live in hope.
"You left him at the altar?"
"He left me," she said, sounding surprisingly calm for a woman who'd been ditched.
"Dumb bastard," he said, earning another lip quirk for his bluntness.
"Thanks. I think." She tossed the lingerie into the open suitcase at her feet, zipped it, and straightened to her impressive five nine. "And for fixing that."
"Aren't you going to thank me for saving your lingerie?"
She shrugged. "Considering I won't be wearing any of it, I don't care one way or the other."
He tsk-tsked. "Shame."
She didn't want to ask. He could see the silent battle she waged, curiosity with the urge to tell him to piss off.
Thankfully, her curiosity won out. "Shame about what?"
"A gorgeous woman like you should wear sexy stuff all the time." His gaze started at her feet and swept slowly upward, noting her pearly pink nail polish, white capris, turquoise peasant top, and matching pendant hanging from a white-gold choker.
He didn't linger on the parts he wanted to, like the curve of her hip, her trim waist, her C-cup cleavage. Plenty of time for that. When she was wearing nothing but the sexy stuff.
Yeah, he was that confident. He had to be; otherwise he'd go frigging insane, thinking about what he'd lost and what he faced when he returned home.
"And a bullshit artist like you should quit while he's ahead," she said, her expression telling him she'd liked his compliment regardless.
A feisty one. Would be just the distraction he needed. "How about that drink?"
Her eyes narrowed to slits of ice. "I didn't agree to it."
"Hmm." He tapped his temple, pretending to think. "Yet I fixed your zipper regardless."
"Thanks," she said, grabbing the suitcase handle so hard he wouldn't be surprised if the thing busted again. But he spied a fleeting glimmer in her eyes, a glimpse of regret, almost sadness. And he could identify with that. The mess he'd left in Sydney haunted him, probably as much as her being dumped before her wedding. Which meant they shared an unexpected connection. Wouldn't hurt to commiserate together. He could do with a little up-close-and-personal consoling from someone like her.
He touched her arm. "Where I come from, it's not polite to blow someone off after they've done you a favor."
It had been a flyaway comment but something unimaginable sparked in her eyes, something akin to excitement when he'd said the word blow.
So the bust-up babe wasn't as cool as she liked to pretend. He could work with that. His cock twitched in agreement.
She rolled her eyes. "Let me guess. You use that Aussie accent to woo women along with spin bull."
"You don't like my accent?"
A faint pink stained her cheeks as she glanced away. "I never said that."
"Is it working?" He took a step closer, invading her personal space. "Are you wooed yet?"
She snorted, but her mouth softened into a semi-smile. "It'd take a lot more than a great accent and blatant charm to woo me into doing anything with you."
"Anything?" He lowered his voice, sotto voce. "And here I was just hoping for a drink."
He deliberately brushed his arm against hers, enjoying her slight flinch. Which meant she felt the spark underlying their exchange as much as he did. "But I'm definitely up for anything."
He expected her to bristle. To shut off. To shoot him down with a cutting quip and an aloof glare.
What he didn't expect was the flare of heat in her steady gaze as she eyeballed him, and the tip of her tongue to dart out and moisten her bottom lip, an innocuous action that shot straight to his hard-on.
"I really do have a plane to catch —"
"You wouldn't want to leave a guy alone when he's down on his luck, would you?" He sniffed and faked knuckling his eyes. "I could do with a shoulder to cry on and maybe you could, too?"
He threw it out there, taking a chance by appealing to her bruised side. She had to be a tad fragile after being dumped by a dickhead. And considering his flirting was getting him nowhere, it wouldn't hurt to change tack.
Besides, he could do with a little lighthearted repartee and sexy distraction before landing in Palm Bay. The place where his future would be decided.
"What do you say?" He flashed his best smile as a sweetener, encouraged when he glimpsed the corners of her mouth turning up slightly in response.
"Let's start with that drink and see what else you can charm me into," she said, giving the suitcase handle an impatient jiggle as if she couldn't wait.
"Lady, you've got yourself a deal."
They were in for a long flight to Palm Bay and he had more than charming her on his mind.
* * *
While her lingerie savior followed up on a problem with his boarding pass, Allegra entered the bar. She'd kill Zoe for packing that lingerie. She knew it was her best friend's idea of a joke, wanting to spice up Allegra's honeymoon on Palm Bay. Ironic, in twenty-four hours her wedding had been canceled, the honeymoon ditched, but a more compelling reason for heading to Palm Bay had presented itself.
A reason that could make or break her business.
She'd had no intention of heading to Palm Bay, despite Flint's insistence that she should enjoy the trip. Her ex-fiancé had good intentions, but the last thing she felt like doing after her aborted wedding was take a week in the sun. Until an hour after they'd broken up, when a giant mother-effing cloud dumped on her and AW Advertising had lost its biggest account.
She'd done everything for one of the largest farms in California, from a national OJ campaign to a statewide billboard spread for its avocados along every highway. Her entire company operated on the profits from the farm mob.
And now it was gone. In less than thirty seconds she'd gone from having a successful yet modest advertising agency to being on the skids.
Which meant she needed to secure a new mega-client. A client like Kaluna Resorts, currently seeking a new ad campaign, and her sole reason for heading to Palm Bay.
Kai Kaluna was legendary in the hotelier business. He bought small, secluded islands and turned them into six-star luxury resorts for those lucky enough to afford it. Lush hotels and villas frequented by rock stars, movie stars, and supermodels who wanted to be pampered in complete privacy. She'd seen full-page ads for his resorts in glossy travel magazines, had admired his concepts, and envied the ad agency responsible for boosting his profile.
AW Advertising had to be that agency. He'd won awards across the globe for his stunning, eco-friendly resorts, and running an advertising campaign for him would be worth millions. Millions she now needed for her business to survive.
If she landed Kaluna, along with several new clients she'd pitched for two weeks ago, her agency would be okay. The smaller clients would provide a much-needed cash injection but it was Kaluna she had to land.
Allegra perched on a barstool, ordered a gin and tonic for her, a beer for the hottie, and wondered what the hell she was doing.
Bad enough her reluctant groom had ditched her and business had taken a massive turn for the worse. But now she'd agreed to have a drink with a stranger, something she never did.
Allegra didn't trust many people. She especially didn't trust a slick charmer with bad boy tattooed all over his broad chest. He even wore the requisite bad-boy outfit: thigh-hugging black denim, chest-skimming ebony T-shirt, and cowboy boots.
Though in all fairness it wasn't his fault she had a thing for Alex O'Loughlin and the hottie happened to bear a striking resemblance to the über-sexy Australian actor.
That mussed brown hair, unusual green eyes, and day-old stubble did it for her in a big way. Along with the lean, hard bod, the ripped abs, the firm ass ... she squirmed. Throw in the easy-on-the-ears Aussie drawl, and how could she say no?
Besides, this was only one drink before she boarded a plane for a week of stress-filled strategizing to nail the pitch of her life.
Plan A, where she married Hollywood producer Flint Dunbar, gained notoriety for her advertising agency, and marketed some of the biggest films in Tinseltown? Gone.
While she lamented the loss of a professional boost, she was secretly relieved that Flint had called off their wedding. Theirs had been a business merger rather than a great love affair. Hell, she'd known Flint for most of her life, given that her socialite parents moved in influential LA circles and Flint was her dad's best friend. When Flint hinted at needing a wife to boost his profile and cement his position in Hollywood, Allegra had done what she did best. Help.
She'd been a helper her whole life, from tutoring fellow students lagging behind in class to tending wounded birds. From saving tables for the nerds in the cafeteria at high school to filling in at the college newspaper despite hating it. No great surprise why she did it, having no support from her parents whatsoever growing up and having to fend for herself. She valued her independence but seemed determined not to see others feel the same abandonment she had.
In the end, it looked like Flint hadn't wanted her help. And she'd been glad. She'd loved him in her own way, the kind of love for a good, reliable friend who would never let her down. They'd had a nice relationship, comfortable.
Which is why she'd agreed to a drink with the cocky, pushy Aussie.
She liked how he'd flirted: confident and teasing, with a killer sense of humor. She admired his boldness. It made her wish she could be more like him, and for the first time in a long time she'd felt something ... a spark of attraction, a buzz in her belly, a twinge lower. Damn, it felt good.
She rarely dated before Flint, had spent all her time building up AW Advertising from scratch before their three-year relationship began. Which meant she was thirty and hadn't mastered the art of flirting, let alone felt that buzz too often.
The Aussie made her want to experience both.
The waiter deposited their drinks in front of her and she paid, wondering if she should drink fast and make a run for it. All these thoughts of flirting and buzzing were a frivolous waste of time, considering she wouldn't see the hottie again after they had a drink together.
The sound of soft female laughter farther along the bar drew her attention, as she watched a sultry brunette place her hand on a guy's thigh, lean in closer, and whisper something in his ear. Not surprisingly, the guy slid an arm around her waist, hugged her close, and planted a hot, openmouthed kiss on her crimson-glossed lips.
A stab of jealousy speared Allegra as she turned away. She'd love to be that confident in her sexuality, that empowered to make a move and not analyze it to death.
"I'm officially nuts," she muttered under her breath, absentmindedly stirring her G&T with a straw. Where did she think this could go? Fifteen minutes of flirtation before they went their separate ways? Yep, definitely nuts.
Excerpted from Wicked Heat by Nicola Marsh, Libby Murphy. Copyright © 2013 Nicola Marsh. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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