Carter Diallo can fix anything.
Even a broken heart?
Lawyer and businessman Carter Diallo solves problems for his powerful family’s corporation, from broken contracts to sex scandals. But when his influential powers fail him, the Diallos bring in PR wizard—and ex-lover—Jade Tremaine. Ten years ago, Carter left Jade emotionally devastated. Now the man known as The Magic Man must prove he’s genuine and win back Jade’s trust...
About the Author
Jamaican-born Lindsay Evans is a traveler, lover of food, and avid café loafer. She's been reading romances since she was a very young girl and feels there is a certain amount of surreal magic in that she now gets to write her own love stories. Contact Lindsay at LindsayEvansWrites.com.
Read an Excerpt
Carter climbed out of the glittering turquoise pool, water dripping down his bare chest, chiseled abs, and the swimsuit clinging to his narrow hips and trunk-like thighs. The warm desert breeze brushed over him like a caress, leaving pleasurable goose bumps in its wake.
It was a damn nice day.
He ran a hand over his close-cut hair and squinted against the glare of the afternoon Las Vegas sunshine. His arms and back ached from the laps he'd swum in the Olympic-sized pool separated from the wading pool by a stylized velvet rope, and his chest rose and fell with his regulated breath.
He should've been more relaxed. Hell, he should've been a limp noodle after the fruit-heavy tropical breakfast, hour-long massage and strenuous swim he started his day with. But the dream was still riding him. Somehow, it had seemed worse than usual last night.
So instead of feeling tranquil after a long morning and afternoon of food, pampering and winning at blackjack, Carter was tense. His whole body was a mass of coiled muscle. He barely managed not to look over his shoulder, searching for a familiar pair of brown eyes, curved lips, a sweet face that begged for promises he'd never been able to keep.
At nearly three in the afternoon on a Tuesday, the hotel pool was as crowded as a Saturday night at a regular spot. But in Vegas, people didn't keep regular hours. Every night was a party. Every day was a vacation.
At his lounge chair, he scooped up his towel and roughly scrubbed it over his head, neck and chest. People watched him. Women, specifically. He could feel the burn of their eyes. Their gazes roamed his body, hard and muscled from a rigid routine in the gym, greedy and admiring.
He was used to all that and so just shrugged it off.
"Can I get you anything else, Mr. Diallo?" A poolside concierge paused by his chair, her white uniform shining in the sun while she held an empty tray at her side. She looked ready to get him just about anything he wanted.
"Just another mineral water, please."
The woman nodded and quickly flitted away to get him what he asked for.
Carter had had a whiskey sour earlier but quickly switched to water after he got a call that the reason for his Vegas trip was set to go down in just a few hours. Alcohol never really affected him, but he didn't take the chance while he was on the job. When he was at work, he was at work.
As the head of his own security company he built from scratch, personally taking care of many of the situations his high-end clients demanded with discretion, he was always very careful to separate business from pleasure. One careless slip could mean losing everything for his client, and even for himself. Carter Diallo never slipped.
When he'd come in the day before, anticipating that the work part of his trip wouldn't start for another twenty-four hours, he took full advantage of the perks of being in Vegas. He hit a couple of the casinos, indulged in a long evening at the late-night spa before sitting down to a solitary meal in the hotel's rooftop restaurant. Views of the strip had been the ideal accompaniment to his perfectly cooked steak and creamy rosemary potatoes. He had slept well last night. Long and deep. Until the dream swept over him, that is.
A tone chimed on his phone. Three fifteen.
Carter sighed, his massive chest rising up and down with the breath.
Time for him to get to work.
* * *
"Did anyone ever tell you, blackmail isn't a very safe hobby?" Carter crossed his arms over his chest and loomed over the skinny guy cringing back in the hotel bed.
"I didn't do anything, man!"
The guy, no older than twenty-five at best, did his best to melt into the headboard, his stupid hipster beard quivering like a weed in the storm.
When would these boys stop thinking growing big beards on their baby faces was a good substitute for actually being a man?
Carter didn't back down. He towered over the young man and deliberately used his tall and burly frame to intimidate the guy who'd dared try to blackmail his sister. His dark gray suit, worth more money than the dude could spend in a week, only added to the intimidating picture. Carter made sure of it.
"I swear, it wasn't me! Alice is lying!" The kid was trying to practically climb over the headboard and into the wall now, his skinny legs bared in some ridiculous underwear with a string that crawled between his butt cheeks.
What did Alice ever see in this guy?
"So this isn't you I see using the prepaid ATM card you demanded she send you to this post office box?" Carter showed him a picture on his cell phone.
It was undoubtedly him, despite the low-drawn hoodie and shoulders hunched away from the cameras. But the idiot wore the same shoes he'd somehow convinced Alice to buy for him, limited-edition two-thousand-dollar kicks that had only come out a few days before the photo was taken.
In the blackmail note, the kid demanded money and shoes. Greedy for everything he wouldn't get now that Alice had seen through his crap for what it was and broken up with him.
Anger boiled in Carter, a low and violent rage. But, as usual, he kept a tight grip on it, another aspect of his personality that secured him the title as the most placid Diallo brother, if also the most dangerous.
Calmly, Carter scrolled to another picture on the phone. A blown-up version of the one the boy sent to Alice's email address. In the photo, two people were obviously in an intimate situation, the boy with Alice despite what he'd amateurishly done to try and hide his face.
"Are you going to tell me this isn't you too?" Another pair of men's string underwear and expensive shoes were just within the frame.
"I'm telling you, man! I didn't do anything ..." An obvious lie. The kid tried to fend Carter off with his skinny arms, but Carter wasn't about to get himself dirty by touching the little slimeball.
Instead, he growled and the kid jerked violently back into the wall, nearly giving himself a concussion. Carter held up the phone and deliberately deleted the dirty pictures of his sister though it was a mostly symbolic gesture. He'd already wiped the copies from the cloud — along with every piece of information the idiot punk stored on it — and already tracked down all the other digital and hard copies of the photos themselves. Carter darkened the phone and tucked it away in his inside jacket pocket.
Alice needed better taste in men.
"If I hear from you again or find out you're trying this crap with other women, I'll be back. And I won't be so nice next time." The prepaid Visa card the kid had demanded from Alice was long empty, appearing filled with cash long enough for him to think the money — one freakin' million dollars — was there before it drained out. With his face calm and emotionless, Carter let him know that fact too.
"What? You — you can't do that!" More terrified by the loss of the money he'd stolen from Alice, he grabbed his phone, swiped and tapped the screen a few times. Carter gave him a couple of seconds to check his accounts and verify that Carter Diallo didn't make threats. Only promises.
Frantic eyes grew wider when he saw what was on the screen. "Please! I swear, I didn't mean anything by it." The phone dropped to the wrinkled sheets that smelled of sweat. Yelling and pleading, the boy grabbed for Carter's suit jacket but Carter stepped neatly back, avoiding his hands.
He was big, but fast when it counted.
"Yes, you're wiped out," Carter said. "You can move in with your mama, get a job at a fast food joint. Whatever it is, you better not try this aga —"
Just then his phone rang. It was a particular ring tone. Each of his siblings and parents had their own. It was Kingsley, his oldest brother and CEO of the Diallo Corporation calling.
"Carter," he answered although his brother obviously knew who he'd dialed.
Or at least he hoped he did. The last thing he wanted was to get another naked-butt dial from his brother who was crazy in love — and lust — with his fiancée and bride-to-be, Adah.
Kingsley, a former member of the workaholics club except when he escaped to Aruba once a year to windsurf or whatever, was making it work with Adah. She lived in Atlanta and already had a business of her own there. Nothing she could easily relocate to Miami. At least not according to Kingsley. But Carter could clearly see the solution to that "problem."
"We have a situation," Kingsley said. "How soon can you get back to Miami?"
"That sounds serious."
"With the pending IPO, everything is serious now."
"Right." The decision to go public with their family's multi-billiondollar beauty corporation wasn't one that all the involved siblings and board members were crazy about, Carter included. But it was what most of them wanted so he'd gotten on board. "What's the problem?"
Turned out that their brother Jaxon, a local Miami celebrity and member of the corporation's board of directors, had gotten into trouble. Again. Normally it would be nothing but a blip in the Miami papers, another way for their notorious brother to impress women and get more of them into bed. But — and this was a big but that Carter didn't agree with and was only going along with to keep the family peace — with the pending IPO, the public scrutiny from Jaxon's increasingly stupid antics could bring ruin to the company's stock as soon as it was offered.
Carter grunted. "That damn kid ..." Jaxon was eleven years younger than him.
"Yeah. I keep telling Mom to ship him off someplace —"
"Right. Like anyplace could keep him secure, much less out of trouble."
"Like I was saying ..." Then Kingsley laughed, rueful and irritated at the same time. "... she basically told me the same thing you did. And I agree." They'd all like for that not to be the case, but Jaxon was his own brand of stubborn. And reckless.
"We'll deal with it. Just tell me the rest."
While his brother filled his ear with the latest problem he had to deal with as the company's "fixer," he brought up his messenger app and let his assistant know he needed an earlier flight back to Miami. By the time he had all the details of the latest Diallo disaster, he had a plane ticket already downloaded to his phone.
He'd already checked out of his hotel, figuring it would be easier to take care of business first before heading back to the Las Vegas airport.
"All right, I'll jump on the first available flight and meet you in the office." He shrugged back the sleeve of his suit jacket to glance at his watch. It was almost six. "My assistant will let you know my ETA." "All right, sounds good." Kingsley sounded relieved.
"You just gonna stand in my hotel room all day?" the kid interrupted. The fear was leaching fast out of his little rodent-like face.
Carter knew just how to fix that. "The room is all paid up until tomorrow. But I had the receipt mailed to your house so you can know just how much you owe the Diallo family." That's right, kid. I know where you live. Carter tipped his head to the boy who was now visibly trembling. "Enjoy the pool here. It's no Ritz but the water is nice and warm."
He opened the door.
"Don't hang around this place too long, Trey," Carter said.
Then he closed the door behind him and headed down the stairs to the rental Benz he'd left in the nearby parking lot.
* * *
On the way to the airport in the car, he read the email Kingsley sent him about his brother's latest mess. And damn, it was a big one.
He sent Kingsley a quick message:
Not sure this is something I can handle but I'll have some ideas by the time I get there.
At the airport, he quickly made his way through the line and to his first-class seat. Ignoring the woman dressed in head-to-toe Balmain trying to get his attention with idle chatter, he scoured his brain for solutions his brother and the rest of the family could work with.
When the woman angled her immense cleavage toward him, he got an idea, reached for his phone and sent Kingsley a message.
This looks beyond my scope. If I fix this the way I want, things might backfire and blow back on the business. A buddy of mine used a firm in Cali for something similar a while back. The work was good and discreet. Here is the info to consider.
He sent the name of the firm plus his contact there just in time for the final warning from the flight attendant. He gave her his most charming smile and sat back to be a good boy.
"That's a gorgeous watch you're wearing." The woman reactivated her flirtation and stroked her long fingers along the armrest. A breath of air from the wake of her hand gave the unpleasant illusion that she'd touched him.
But he kept his hand right where it was.
"Thanks," he said. "It was a gift."
She raised a thoughtful eyebrow, obviously reevaluating him. The Tom Ford suit. Meticulous manicure. And of course, the Vacheron Constantin watch.
A faint smile twitched the corner of his mouth. He imagined that in her mind, he just went from rich boyfriend, husband or Mile High Club prospect to kept man. Or boy toy. It didn't matter what she thought, though. He wasn't interested in her right now.
Normally, he'd give maybe a tenth of his attention to flirting with a woman like her. From the faded ring-finger tan line, he could tell she was divorced. Obviously on the hunt for a new lover or husband. The sex would probably be good. Uninhibited. Maybe even a little bit kinky.
But Carter was still in work mode. Not even an impressive set of newly divorced ... assets could pull his attention from where it needed to be. He'd always been a "business before pleasure" kind of guy. Even when the pleasure promised to be very pleasurable indeed.
"Whoever gave the watch to you has good taste," the woman said, her voice trailing off as obviously as her interest in Carter. No boy toy for her, then.
"Thanks." He tipped his head her way.
He wasn't like Kingsley, Jaxon or any of his brothers who had the kind of looks that made women stop in their tracks then offer up their life savings for a night or two between the sheets.
No, he wasn't as handsome as his brothers. He was, however, big and intimidating. And he was smart. The one who put his native skill set and law degree to good use to keep the family successful and thriving.
Yes, if he'd been one of his brothers, the woman would've probably still kept trying to get into his pants, figuring that although there was no money, being close to beauty like theirs for even a short time was worth any effort. But he wasn't one of the pretty ones, and that was okay.
With the woman suddenly intent on getting more champagne from the flight attendant, Carter settled down to enjoy the ride. He turned to face the window with its view of the clouds and, far away, another passenger plane flying at a lower altitude. His eyelids grew heavy. Then a familiar dream took him.
* * *
Birds chirped loud and cheerful outside his fifth-floor window and sunlight flooded into his single college room. The hard lines of a wooden chair pressed along his back, butt and thighs, and in front of him on the desk sat his half-finished homework.
Why hadn't he finished his homework yet? Class was in just a few hours.
While vague thoughts of getting back to the homework floated through his mind, his room door burst open. The most beautiful woman he had ever seen rushed through it.
Jade Tremaine. She looked like the sweet girl next door. Permed hair down to the middle of her back, a gorgeous face completely free of makeup. Her body, slender yet curvy, had a thick booty that usually starred in his juicier fantasies.
"Carter!" She was crying.
"Jade, baby, what's wrong?"
The sadness on her face carved a hole straight through Carter. If she let him, he would move the world to get rid of her tears. Her smiles made him happy. Her laughter made him laugh too. Everyone around them noticed Carter's obsession and assumed they were more than friends. But Jade already had a boyfriend, and she wasn't a cheater.
"Carter!" Jade fell into his arms, still sobbing.
This was a dream. After more than ten years of living with it, Carter knew every move he would make while trapped inside its illusion. And he knew how different it was from the real event that happened between them years ago.
Jade's slender body heaved against his.
"He cheated on me ..." Her voice had wounds in it, large enough for wailing sobs to break through. "I can't believe it. I really trusted him." Anxiety turned him inside out at the sight of her obvious pain. He would do anything to make things right for her. "Tell me," he practically begged. "Tell me what I can do."
But Jade kept sobbing on him, the same words falling from her trembling lips again and again.
"Just hold me. Please." She trembled like a leaf caught in a hurricane. "Carter ..." Her body felt cool and delicate against his.
"Please, don't cry." His voice sounded hoarse and desperate to his own ears. He needed to make everything okay for her. Carter's mind was in tatters, nothing like the logic and control that usually ruled his day-to-day life. "I'll fix whatever you want."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Her Perfect Pleasure"
Copyright © 2018 Lindsay Evans.
Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
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.