“I’m a man you sleep with, not fall in love with.”
Jake Vance was danger in a designer suit, a charming corporate raider. When he set his sights on Blackstone’s, Australia’s richest diamond dealers, Holly McLeod’s primary assignment was as his assistant; her secondary was as a spy. To her amazement, she learned her dangerously sexy boss was the long-lost Blackstone heir. And then Jake did the unthinkable: To save his new company, he proposed marriage…an intimate one…to her!
* Book 5 in the Diamonds Down Under mini series
Silhouette Desire ~ North America ~ May 2008 / ANZ ~ June 2008
“The Best Love Stories of 2009” Anthology ~ ANZ ~ September 2009 /
Diamonds Down Under special release ~ ANZ ~ June 2012
An excruciating hour later, Jake’s normally tight control was in tatters. They’d gone through every floor in Blackstone’s and he’d spent precisely sixty-two minutes in Holly’s orbit, her gentle fragrance alternately arousing and frustrating him. Her soft, animated voice had tripped over his senses, aided traitorously by the memory of that kissy-mole when her mouth curved into a smile.
When she walked, he’d ashamedly found his gaze riveted to those curvy hips, swaying one tantalizing step ahead of him.
And her smell… he’d breathed in deeply, guiltily, more than once. Since when had a woman smelled so damn good?
The only time he’d not been thinking about touching her was when they’d passed Howard’s trophy wall. Photos of the man opening the Blackstone’s store. At some formal function. Shaking hands with the Prime Minister, the Queen, four U.S. past-presidents.
Jake had barely been able to contain a sneer. Howard had loved putting his stamp on everything he owned, flaunting his wealth and power. Like the way he’d displayed it on Ursula’s neck.
Disgust bubbled up and with a scowl he choked it back down. He was not like Howard, despite Kimberley’s assertion.
“Let’s move on.”
He jumped at Holly’s soft intrusion, only to have his body react on a more primitive level when his eyes focused on her curves once again. The grey pin-stripe skirt moulded her hips, emphasising a defined waist and womanly hips. Her shirt was bright blue, making her eyes stand out, the elbow-length sleeves showing off long arms with a watch on one wrist, a simple gold bangle on the other.
Absently he’d wondered if she had on any makeup at all, given how fresh her face looked. How touchable it looked.
He shoved his hands deep in his pockets and nodded. He imagined Holly taking the news about his real identity with outward calm, a facade that covered up the fact she was a deep thinker. He’d noticed more than once the realities of her thoughts clearly mirrored in her expressive blue eyes.
No, not blue, more green. Like the complexity of shades in the deep ocean, where the-
His thoughts screeched to a halt. Since when had he obsessed about a woman’s eyes before?
Yet despite his control, an unwanted ache started in his groin. An ache that couldn’t be ignored when, an hour after the tour was over, Jake shoved his way into Blackstone’s executive gym.
Instead of solitude, a stretching Holly on the treadmill confronted him, scattering all thoughts of a long hard run to clear his mind.
He stared. And stared. In short bike pants and a cropped sports top, she was gripping one tanned muscular leg behind her in a quad stretch, the white lycra pulling tight across her breasts as they rose with her deep breaths. As his mouth went dry, she rolled her shoulders and her long ponytail dragged over her damp skin.
Her breath sighed out, quickly engulfing his brain, the part that was still functioning.
His bag dropped unheeded to the floor. She kept right on stretching, her shoulder blades flexing and contracting with the effort.
Swish of the hair.
He groaned, ready to beat a hasty retreat, but she must have sensed him because she whirled, pulling her earbuds out. She quickly dropped her leg and grabbed her towel, her chest rising as a trickle of sweat ran down her throat and disappeared in the cleft beneath her damp tank. He let his gaze follow that journey, until he reluctantly dragged his eyes back up to meet hers.
“Leaving?” he murmured.
“Yes.” In record time, she pulled a sweatshirt over her head then scooped up her bag, quickly heading for the door.
He just stood there, the air as she hightailed it past him yawning cold and empty. Then he heard the door click with finality.
As the gym doors closed behind her, Holly wrapped her arms around her body to ward off the chill. Escape first, then put on your track pants. She thought she’d nearly succeeded until Jake appeared beside her.
“Yours,” he said gruffly, holding out her iPod. She paused, glanced at his hand, then up at his face. A blank, stern face devoid of all warmth.
She slowly took her iPod and couldn’t help but notice he relinquished it without making skin contact. “Thanks.” She turned back to the elevator and repositioned her bag on her shoulder, glancing up at the ascending floor numbers.
When he remained still, she shot a quick look in his direction. “Working late?”
“This is early for me.”
She smiled thinly but said nothing.
“But…?” he prompted.
“Don’t you ever take a day off?”
He shrugged. “Too much work to do.”
“What’s the point of making all that money if you can’t enjoy yourself?”
He frowned. “I’m not unhappy with what I’ve achieved, Holly. Money doesn’t make you miserable.”
“No. People do that all by themselves.” The elevator doors swung open, signalling the end to their strange conversation. But to Holly’s surprise he followed her in. The doors swished closed and in the next second, he slammed on the stop button.
“And to answer your question, I enjoy myself plenty.”
She stilled, her breath rattling around too harsh in her throat, her heart beating too loud in her chest. She looked at him, noting his narrowed eyes, the sudden tension in his body as it practically sizzled… not with anger but something else, something indefinable that he struggled to contain.
Apprehension chugged through her body, leaving her immobile. Wasn’t he supposed to be ice cold in the face of adversity?
Then he fixed on her mouth and she felt a hot flush start in her belly and fan upwards. She parted her lips, the air in her lungs thickly seeping out. Was he actually thinking about kissing her?
He moved quickly, so smoothly for a man the size of Ayers Rock that it took the rest of her breath away. Or maybe it was the kiss stealing all her will to function properly. It froze her limbs, stuttered her heartbeat. Erased all the memories of other kisses that had come before.
When his hot mouth covered hers in deep possession, his hands buried in her hair preventing escape, a low groan escaped her. The kiss, the sheer power and force of it, stole her will, along with any denials she may have entertained. All that existed was Jake and the force of his kiss, the utter command of his lips sliding over hers and his tongue invading her mouth.
She took a deep, shuddering breath as her eyes fluttered closed. His smell was so different from anything she’d experienced, the heat, the passion. So when his hands cupped her face, holding her in place, Holly kissed him right back.
It did Jake in, finally having her lush mouth beneath his, that tiny mole teasing the corner, his to kiss. The mole that had distracted him time and again for hours on end.
Her skin scorched him, as if a furnace burned just below the surface. Suddenly the desire to have her naked, to lie against the rest of that silken skin, crashed into him.
His hands were under her sweatshirt and he hit what he was seeking – hot damp flesh. But like an addict craving more, he wasn’t satisfied with the mere touch of her skin, the feel of her ribcage under his questing hand. He wanted – needed – more.
With his blood pounding thickly in his veins, the ache in his groin an almost unbearable tightness, he found the edge of her tank top and eased his way under to the gentle curve of one breast.
Her sudden gasp snapped him back to reality, and he wrenched his mouth away from the temptation of hers.
What the hell are you doing?
From a great gaping distance he heard Holly’s breathless question, thick with passion.
She’d never know how difficult it was to withdraw from the pleasures her body promised. How much he ached to succumb to the raging passion that forced beads of sweat to run down his back.
Desire grabbed at him, yanked and twisted his brain until he was left hot, hard and frustrated. But with a shuddering sigh, he withdrew and stepped back, the cool air rushing into the gaping chasm between their bodies.
“Pull your shirt down,” he said, knowing it came out more harshly than he intended when the light of desire flickered and died on Holly’s face.
Self-disgust filled him, quickly followed by guilt. He’d lost control. For the first time in years he’d lost it.
He wanted to reach out to her, offer some kind of apology, but if her crossed arms and steely back were any indication, he’d have a better chance of flying to the moon.
Slowly, he released the emergency stop button and with a sudden jerk, the elevator started up. “I’ll take you home.”
She shot him an incredulous look. “I’m not your responsibility, Jake. I can catch a cab.”
“Look,” he said slowly, turning to her. “We…”
“Jake, I understand.” She refused to meet his eyes as the elevator doors slid open. “It’s not a big deal.”
Jake stared at her retreating back, the words stuck to the roof of his mouth. Not a big deal? So how come he suddenly felt the urgency to taste her right now? To have those shapely legs wrap around his waist and feel the erotic glide as he buried himself deep inside her?
Damn it. Now he was hard again.
With a soft curse, he slammed on the basement button before he did something even more foolish than what he’d just already done.