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Beautiful distraction, p.30
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       Beautiful Distraction, p.30

           J. C. Reed
 

  He was off limits. Forbidden to touch or drool over.

  Everyone but him. Got it, Stewart?

  I breathed in and out as I steadied myself, centering my resolve in the knowledge that I had it all under control. I thought I was doing great…until my weak body betrayed me.

  My heart began to thump a little harder. As I took deep breaths to calm my nerves, the door opened and in he walked… six foot two of toned muscles. I knew I was blushing, but I couldn’t stop. Just like I couldn’t stop my knees giving way beneath me. Thank goodness I was sitting, otherwise I might have landed flat on my ass. Staring at him, I ran my tongue along my suddenly parched lips to moisten them. He looked so darn sexy, dressed in a tailored business suit and a crisp white shirt; the upper button was undone, revealing that delicious patch of skin I had started to look out for. His thick dark hair was shiny, but unruly, and looked as though he’d just stepped out of the shower and didn’t bother brushing it. I wanted to run my fingers through it. Without thinking I sniffed, and a sassy non-invasive cologne intermingled with a more masculine shower gel shot my reserve to pieces. It instantly turned me on, making me want to—

  Dammit.

  It wasn’t just my body that betrayed me. My mind wouldn’t stop conjuring images of Jett and me, together, doing naughty stuff. I bit my lower lip hard as I fought the urge to jump on his lap and bury my fingers in his hair and draw us onto the couch with him on top of me. His weight would pin me to the spot and—

  “You okay? You look a bit flustered.” Jett Mayfield sat down opposite me and inched forward, lower arms resting on his thighs, as though to inspect me. An amused glint played in his devilish green eyes. The guy was a piece of sin. If he were the devil holding a contract, this would be the moment I might just give in to temptation and sign over my soul.

  What was it with my inability to focus around this guy?

  I leaned back to put a few more inches between us. “I’m just surprised you scrub up so nicely in a suit.”

  He raised a brow. “Was that a compliment, Ms. Stewart?” It was, but the guy’s inflated ego was already so big I doubted he would fit it through Manhattan. I wasn’t going to contribute to mankind’s doom by letting it grow to even bigger proportions.

  “Not really. After what you were sporting at that club, even a lumberjack shirt thrown over a spandex bodysuit would be a vast improvement.” My brain only realized what I’d just said after the words left my mouth. Not only was I incapable of keeping my body heat under control, my potty mouth also couldn’t stop insulting him. I swallowed hard and peered at him. An apology rushed to my lips.

  “Spandex bodysuits, huh?” His eyes twinkled. “If that’s what turns you on—I’m all for giving it a try.”

  My breath hitched. “I’m sorry, Mr. Mayfield. I don’t know what came over me.”

  He raised his hand to stop me. “We can discuss today’s schedule over breakfast. And please call me Jett. We’ll have to work together around the clock, so we might as well drop the formalities and start getting to know each other better in every sense.” There was that double meaning thing he kept doing. Or was it all in my head?

  Stop putting words in his mouth, Stewart.

  “Great. I’m Brooke.” I smiled and followed him out the door to the restaurant downstairs, aware of the jealous glances from every single female we passed. As Jett began to talk about my job and what he expected of me in a no-nonsense voice I assumed was his business tone, I relaxed a little and even managed to swallow down a few bites of the best butter croissant I ever had.

  It was just a job. He was just some (I admit way beyond the usual standard) good-looking guy lucky enough to inherit the hotness gene. I could deal with him.

  I stared at the urns overflowing with blossoming flowers lining the sidewalk outside our window and inhaled the clean, morning air wafting in through the open door. Bellagio was so beautiful and serene; I felt I could deal with anything…until Jett smiled that lopsided smile of his that screamed trouble. I frowned. Why was his gaze lingering on me longer than was acceptable? His gaze dipped slowly from my eyes to my lips and then to my shirt—or what I hoped was my shirt rather than my breasts—before shifting back to meet my eyes. My heart skipped a beat.

  “Do you like your room?”

  I nodded, not quite understanding the sudden change in topic. “It’s beautiful.”

  “I want you to pack your bags.” He stood and held out his hand to help me up. I ignored it.

  “Why? Where am I going?”

  “No need to waste company money on a hotel when I own a property on Lake Como. It’s very private. Very secluded. I’m sure you’ll like it even more than this place.” He signed the bill on the table and tossed the pen on top of it, then turned to me. Danger shimmered in his eyes, and for a moment he reminded me of an eagle closing in on his prey. I felt like butter melting under his sexy gaze full of dark and sinful and forbidden promises.

  “You have half an hour. Can you do that?” Jett asked, breaking our eye contact.

  “You could have told me last night,” I said, trying to keep my voice strong. All I could think of was Jett and I, alone in a secluded place with no one to bother us. No one to ask questions. No one to watch what we were doing. Why did the outlook seem so erotic?

  “I could have told you.” His gaze bore into mine again and a flicker of amusement played on his lips. “But I didn’t.” My mouth went dry as I tried to read his enigmatic expression. An inner voice told me he wasn’t as unpredictable as he pretended to be. It was just a game. But there was something about him that kept me on edge, wanting—waiting for his next move, reaction, word— anything that might give away what was going through that damn mind of his. Either he liked to keep his employees on their toes or this was nothing but an experiment to test my patience, devotion, and consequently my aptness for the job.

  I raised my chin a notch and stared him down. He could test all he wanted. I was born to do this job, and nothing he said or did could break my reserve.

  He peered at his watch, signaling I was wasting his time.

  “I’ll be back in twenty.” I hurried past, my heart thumping in my throat. Private and secluded were two adjectives I’d rather avoid with Jett Mayfield around, and yet here I was—running to do as he bid instead of protesting and insisting I stay behind, even if it meant paying for my room out of my own pocket.

  Could you have afforded it?

  I smirked. Not likely.

  As I passed a mirror in the hall, I noticed how incredibly ridiculous I looked with that grin on my face.

  There’s nothing to be so excited about, Steward. It’s just a job. A job for which you get paid.

  For some reason I couldn’t shake off the feeling spending time with Jett came at a price, and sooner or later I’d have to decide whether it was worth it.

  ***

  Jett’s reluctance to engage in business conversation rather than focus on the road ahead was understandable, given that we were stuck in his convertible Ferrari driving down the narrowest, most winding, cobbled paths I had ever seen. I would have literally soiled my pants sitting in the driver’s seat and was thankful for the fact that driving didn’t seem to be part of my job duties.

  During the half hour drive, he kept our conversation businesslike and mostly focused on my duties as his personal assistant. Upon my asking, he mentioned our job here was a deal running in the millions, but he remained tight-lipped on the details. He gave me a short verbal list of important names to remember and an even longer list of names he didn’t want to be bothered with. His deep, smooth voice kept conjuring the wrong pictures in my head, so I remained mostly quiet, as I tried to focus on his instructions.

  It was late morning when he finally took a sharp turn and parked the car, then held the door open. I stepped out gingerly, minding my step on the gravel stones.

  “What do you think?” Jett asked.

  Inhaling the air thick with the smell of trees, water, and sunshine, I spun i
n a slow circle as I tried to take in the picturesque scenery stretching out in front of us. To me professional meant not wearing my emotions on my sleeve. But how could I keep my cool with mountaintops covered in sparkling snow surrounding a shimmering Lake Como as a backdrop, green ivy climbing up the sides of the balcony, and blossoming flowers at my feet?

  “I love it,” I whispered because no other words could convey how I felt. My answer seemed to please him because he smiled. As he held the door open so I could enter, I thought I caught a glint of lust in his dazzling green eyes.

  “After you,” Jett said, still staring at me.

  I nodded, unable to bring out a simple ‘thank you’ under the spell of his gaze.

  What Jett had called ‘his place’ was in reality a three-level villa situated on a raised, secluded spot overlooking the lake and beach below. As I moved from one immaculate room to the next, I could smell the sultry scent of lavender, roses, and other fragrances you’d normally only find in expensive Eau de Toilette. Eventually, we stopped on the patio overlooking Lake Como.

  “This is my favorite view in the world,” Jett whispered in my ear. I turned my head to look up at him, expecting him to gaze at the scenery ahead, and was surprised to find his eyes focused on me. His heated gaze penetrated the cotton material of my suit and sent shivers down my spine. I froze to the spot as everything else faded to nothing. His lips were slightly parted. His tongue left a shimmering wet trail where it flicked over his lips. I stared at that moisture, wondering what it would taste like. What his skin would smell like.

  I noticed how quiet we had become. How his gaze seemed to remain glued to me. How his fingers lingered on the small of my back. A few moments later, he leaned forward until his hot breath caressed the corner of my mouth. We were so close. Inches away. My gaze focused on his lips, pleading with them to kiss me. A moment passed, then another. My breath hitched in my throat with anticipation.

  “You smell great,” Jett whispered, his deep voice turning my knees to melted cream. The smell of his body and the feel of his breath on my skin sent a shudder through my body, rocking me to the core. I longed to touch him, and yet I didn’t give in to the strong urge.

  And then he pulled away. I exhaled the breath I didn’t know I had been holding.

  “Let me show you the office,” Jett said. His voice was back to its nonchalant self, and his expression was casual, friendly, but distant. How could he be so unaffected when I was boiling with want inside? Maybe he wasn’t as attracted to me as I was to him. The thought hurt, particularly since no other man had made me feel this way. I couldn’t figure him out, which scared the hell out of me because I had no idea how to react to it.

  He grabbed my hand and pulled me into the living room, completely unaware of the electrical current piercing my skin where his fingers briefly touched me. As I followed a step behind, I barely managed to avoid stumbling over the white leather sofas set up in front of a huge fireplace. I had to get over this ridiculous attraction to him before I made a fool of myself. And I would start right away by focusing on other things, like the interior design.

  The floors reminded me of light ivory with only a splash of color in the form of thick rugs, and marble urns filled with stunning flower bouquets. The large abstract painting in various shades of red hanging over the fireplace looked familiar. Similar paintings, only smaller in size, hung in the hall.

  “This is it,” Jett said opening a door. Careful not to touch him, I walked past him into the bright but small office with two desks set up opposite from each other. On top of one laid a laptop, a phone, pen, a notebook, and nothing else.

  “I hope you don’t mind spending so much time with me,” Jett said. “I promise to be good, and I won’t be too hard on you.” His tone oozed amusement as he added, “Unless you want me to.”

  My cheeks burned. I turned away so he wouldn’t catch my panic. Being in the same secluded house was bad enough, but we’d be basically sitting in each other’s lap. How could I turn off the steady stream of hot emotions washing over me every single time he so much as smiled at me? How could I possibly work with him obstructing my view and keeping my mind occupied all day long?

  CHAPTER NINE

  I never thought I’d get to miss my old boss, James, but an hour into my new job and already I felt like calling him and asking for a return to my realtor position with Sunrise Properties. Not that it was on offer, but a girl could at least give it a try. James was a snarky bitch most of the time, however he was also a friend and a sucker for tears and drama. He had cried his way through The Notebook, and I figured I could find a good enough excuse (think a relative’s last wish) so he’d take me back.

  And risk Mayfield backing out of their deal to buy James’s company? Fat chance.

  If James liked anything more than drama, it was money. And Mayfield’s offer would persuade anyone to reconsider employee contracts and friendships.

  “Don’t be a wimp,” I mumbled to myself as I neared Jett’s bedroom door with a certain trepidation. It’s not every day that you’re being summoned to your boss’s bedroom to assist him with ‘choosing clothes’. Technically, yes, that was mentioned as part of the job description, but I figured I’d get to advise him in the safety of a department store with lots of other people around. No one mentioned I’d be locked up with him in a stunning Italian mansion, surrounded by romantic views of mountains and lakes that basically invited you to let down your guard and enjoy a fling.

  And I had no doubt Jett was up for a fling all right. I could read it in his heated gaze whenever he so much as glanced in my direction.

  What did he see that other men didn’t? I had no idea, and if he wasn’t my boss I might have asked. But as things stood, this attraction was unwelcome, and I’d be damned if I’d admit it to him by blatantly talking about it. No matter how much his undressing looks invited me to get closer to him, he was my boss and I wasn’t going to sleep with him. Again.

  Jett’s bedroom was situated on the first floor, mine was on the second. Thank God for that. The few steps and extra ceiling between us provided a bit of protection, albeit a weak one. I had no doubt he’d be professional about the whole situation and wouldn’t impose on me without my explicit permission. The sad thing was that I sure as hell would give it to him if only he proposed. Which he wouldn’t, of course.

  I knocked on the door gently. When he didn’t answer, I knocked once more, this time a bit louder.

  “Come in,” he called. His voice was low and slightly choked as though he was in the middle of a workout.

  “Am I interrupting? I don’t mind coming back later,” I said, hesitantly pushing my head through the open door and scanning the room. It was about the same size as mine and looked almost identical, but with stark masculine furniture, cherry hardwood floor, wide bay windows, a cream ceiling, and spotlights. A wide king-sized bed with a thick, cream spread and two rows of cream cushions was set up in the middle. The padded chair, night tables, and a mirrored chest were all a few shades lighter than the floor and built a beautiful contrast to the white walls.

  By the balcony door was a computer desk. The notebook sitting atop it was still running. When Jett didn’t answer I entered the bedroom but left the door ajar. Ignoring the notebook’s screen and email inbox, I headed for the mirrored chest. And that’s when my gaze fell upon the walk-in closet to my left. Holy cow, it was huge, and by that I mean it would have served as a whole apartment in New York. No wonder the guy was out of breath searching through what looked like the whole floor of a department store.

  “How can a man have so much stuff?” I mumbled, scanning rows over rows of shirts and slacks and expensive shoes. He’d made a fortune selling them on eBay.

  “In my position you can’t be seen wearing the same suit day in, day out,” Jett said. My gaze snapped sharply in his direction, and I almost choked on my breath.

  Apart from his navy CK pants, which were so snug they left nothing to the imagination, he was naked. I knew I was
staring at his naked chest like an idiot, and yet I couldn’t force myself to peel my gaze off his glorious body.

  He was all bronze skin and defined muscles. I bit my lip as my gaze wandered down his sculpted chest to the three rows of hard muscles on his abdomen—muscles my nails itched to graze and bury themselves in. My gaze followed his happy trail to the narrow hips. His underwear hung so low I could see just a hint of neatly trimmed hair and then a well-defined bulge—and a big one at that. Heat traveled through my abdomen and pooled between my legs. My pulse picked up speed, and a rush of excitement washed over me. I had never stared at a man like this. Then again I had never met such a fine specimen. Did I want to pull off his pants and see whether the real deal was as hot as the one conjured by my imagination?

  Hell, yeah.

  Would I do it?

  Hell, no. Or at least I hoped not.

  “Like what you see?” Jett asked, a little hoarse.

  His voice jerked me back to reality. I was furious, as much at his cockiness as at my own reaction to the mere sight of hard muscles and taut skin. I bit my lip so hard it hurt, and finally managed to avert my gaze. “I think you asked the same question a while back, and I told you my answer back then.”

  “Yeah, but your answer was a lie, and we both know it.”

  “Was it?” It was a feeble attempt at hiding the fact that he was right. The question was meant to shake his oversized ego, maybe even leave a tiny dent in it, but it only managed to summon a crooked smile to his lips.

  Dammit.

  I loved those lips.

  He inched closer until he stood mere inches away and his breath almost caressed my face. We were so close I could smell his manly scent—a mixture of shower gel and deodorant and him.

  It was intoxicating. I wanted to bathe in his scent and to spread it all around me. To have it inside me.

  “Was it, Brooke?” he whispered.

  My breath hitched in my throat. I loved it when he said my name like that. It evoked all sorts of emotions in my lower abdomen and between my legs. I swallowed hard, probably too loud, but I didn’t care. All I wanted was—

 
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