Resisting nick, p.1
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       Resisting Nick, p.1

           Kris Pearson
 
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Resisting Nick


  Resisting Nick

  Kris Pearson

  Nick Sharpe’s personal and business lives are in disarray. He owns a chain of fitness centers, and plans to expand offshore. Bad-boy cheek, charm, and ferocious drive have brought him success, but when he offers to donate bone-marrow to help his desperately ill niece, the doctor gives him the shocking news that he’s adopted.

  To make matters worse, his P.A. has just walked out. Fate gives him Sammie as a replacement, and she has no intention of becoming another name on Nick’s long list of conquests.

  ISBN 978-0-473-22324-3

  For more information about me and my books, visit https://www.krispearson.com

  Sign up here for my newsletter and receive two FREE novels – the first books in my Wellington and Heartlands series – plus my bear shifter novella ‘Sniffing Her Out’.

  Love and thanks to Philip for the unfailing encouragement and computer un-snarling. And to my writer friend Gracie O’Neil, website whizz and fellow traveler on this exciting road.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is co-incidental.

  Copyright © 2012 by Kris Pearson

  Cover design by Robin Ludwig Design Inc.

  www.gobookcoverdesign.com

  All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the US Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior permission of the author.

  CHAPTER ONE — BODY TO DIE FOR

  Sammie Sherbourne took the stairs at a half-run, hoping jeans with a polo shirt and Nikes were appropriate for the sporty atmosphere of the fitness center. She bounced up into a deserted reception area and slowed to watch through the long glass wall as clients stretched, pedaled, and grunted at the various machines. One dark-haired man finished his workout on a cross-trainer, slung a towel around his neck, and moved toward her with a loose-limbed stride.

  She tried not to stare, but his dampened shorts and tank showed off a tall, sculpted body that appeared hard-disciplined and a great advertisement for the place. The nearer he got the better he looked. A month here, before she escaped from New Zealand, might be no hardship at all!

  She dragged her attention away from his powerful thighs and up past the sweaty tank that showcased his gleaming chest and shoulders. Then found bristling stubble, an impatient scowl, and snapping black eyes.

  “You’re the replacement temp?”

  She nodded. “Samantha.”

  “Nick. You made it on time. Good.”

  He scrubbed the towel over his hair, and Sammie darted another glance downward. So this was the boss?

  He got as far as saying, “If you can—” and his cell phone rang. He wrestled it from his shorts pocket, which pulled the thin fabric mouthwateringly tight, and waved a hand at the desk.

  Sammie took this as in invitation to sit, and watched from the swivel chair as he stalked off sounding far from pleased about something.

  She waited. And she waited. Ten minutes passed before he reappeared.

  In that time, she’d checked the desk drawers and stowed her bag in the bottom one which was empty apart from a box of staples.

  She’d answered the ever-ringing phone. Yes they were open; no, Nick wasn’t available right now but she’d take a message; yes, their special $299 package ran until the end of the month (because she’d read the poster on the glass wall); no, Nick wasn’t available right now but she’d make sure he phoned back as soon as possible; no, she wasn’t Julie. Or Tyler.

  Where the hell had he got to?

  He came back still barking into his phone, but now smelling sexy as sin and wearing a black suit, charcoal shirt open at the neck, and beautiful shoes. He leaned over the desk while he continued his phone conversation, raised an exasperated eyebrow at her, rummaged amongst some papers, and produced a list that he thrust in her direction.

  “Okay?” he mouthed silently.

  She shrugged, nodded, and handed him the phone-message slips. He jammed them in a pocket, took the stairs at a lithe run, and disappeared.

  And thank you too, she muttered to herself.

  Sammie found the list only partially helpful. In slashing black writing it bullet-pointed ‘clear mail box’, (where?) ‘accept no calls from Gaynor or Brian Sharpe’, ‘April promo’, and a number of other items which looked well within her scope but lacked useful details.

  As she answered the phone for about the twentieth time— ‘BodyWork Fitness, Samantha speaking’—a very pregnant dark-haired woman appeared at the top of the stairs and lowered herself gingerly onto the reception-area sofa.

  “Sorry,” she said once Sammie had concluded the call. “Meant to be earlier, but…” she patted her belly in explanation. “I’m Tyler, Nick’s old assistant.”

  Sammie sent her a doubtful smile. Did this mean she no longer had a job?

  “I thought you’d left.”

  “Yes, I did—three weeks ago. I’m ready to pop. I’m not Julie.” She pulled an exasperated face. “She replaced me and then walked out, leaving Nick totally in the crap.”

  Sammie nodded, only partially enlightened. She took the sheet of paper across to Tyler. “He gave me a list of duties but it hasn’t been much help so far.”

  “Riiiight...” Tyler’s lips twitched. “He meant well, but a few more details would have helped you. Second drawer down has the mailbox key. The box number’s on the tag, and it’s the big Marion Street depot a couple of blocks away.”

  “If you’re here now should I go and clear it?”

  “Closer to lunchtime’s better. First up—coffee machine lessons. If Nick doesn’t get his coffee he’s not nice to know.” She heaved herself off the sofa.

  “Maybe that’s why he hasn’t been too welcoming yet…”

  “Too much on his mind. He’s launching another fitness center in Auckland next week. Sussing out Sydney for possible expansion, too. There are family things he’s trying to sort with his brothers. And Julie leaving of course. God knows what else by now.”

  The phone intruded again.

  “BodyWork Fitness, Samantha speaking.” She listened a few seconds. “Personal trainers, yes. Hold just a moment please.”

  Tyler took over with the ease of long experience, and Sammie learned what she could. “Got a bag?” Tyler asked as she disconnected. “Follow me and I’ll find you a locker.”

  She led the way along a carpeted corridor and waved a hand toward the rear of the building. “That’s Nick’s office—big, but no great view.”

  Sammie saw the name Nick Sharpe on the door. Nick Sharpe? Something prickled in her brain.

  “Rich Richmond, money-man for the whole chain,” Tyler continued as she passed another door. “Not an early starter.” She puffed out a sigh and rubbed her lower back. “Bathrooms there, staffroom in here. The end locker’s spare. If you’ve brought lunch, there’s a fridge.”

  Nick Sharpe. The name danced and shimmered in Sammie’s subconscious as she listened to Tyler’s coffee-maker instructions. Surely he couldn’t be Nicky from Grandpa’s orchard? Nicky the surly kid who didn’t want to be there, didn’t want to work without being paid, and definitely didn’t want to be trailed around by a lonely little girl all those years ago. Was his name Sharpe? Or something similar?

  ‘Her’ Nicky had been dark-haired, too. Dark-haired, dark-eyed, often angry. Sixteen when she’d last seen him. A squat, powerfully built boy with hormones running rampant, hair darkening his jaw and chest, and a chip on his shoulder the size of the Pacific Ocean.

  She’d been total
ly enthralled by him.

  At thirteen she’d been getting curious about boys. A glimpse of Nicky skinny-dipping in the river on the north boundary of the orchard was a thrill beyond anything she’d ever imagined. Catching him peeing into the hedge...seeing him with his shirt off as he flourished the sprayer at the weeds around the edge of the huge packing shed...things like that had made him seem so grown-up, so out-of-bounds and fascinating.

  But best of all were their times together in the dark, deserted implement shed. She’d shown him the numbers to the combination lock on the side door, and if she saw him slip in she’d shyly follow. Although he always pretended to be annoyed, she thought he was maybe pleased to have company sometimes. Because he did such exciting things.

  Nick bounded up the stairs again soon after nine. Sammie got such a fleeting look at his face that comparisons with Nicky from the orchard were impossible.

  “You want coffee?” Tyler called after him.

  “Yup.” And he disappeared.

  Rude bastard, Sammie thought to herself. “Shall I make it?” She rose to her feet.

  “Please.”

  “When’s your baby due?”

  “Two days ago.”

  Sammie grimaced. “I’d better make good use of you while I have you, then.”

  “Bring one for each of us,” Tyler called after her.

  The machine co-operated, the coffee looked and smelled like coffee, and she carried a mug into Nick’s office a few minutes later. Without looking up from the keyboard he was furiously pounding, he prodded the top of the desk as an indication of where to set it down. Sammie obeyed, finding no reason to review her opinion of him as unpleasantly arrogant when she received only a distracted grunt in place of thanks.

  He just might be Nicky. He’s rude enough.

  His jacket hung over the back of his chair, and he’d pushed his shirt-sleeves up to expose strong, dark-haired forearms. Although freshly shaven, his jaw still showed a heavy beard shadow. He’d looked tall in his shorts and tank. Too tall to be Nicky. Did boys grow much after sixteen?

  “Nick’s still working full-speed,” she said to Tyler as she set down their coffees. “Does he ever thank you for anything?”

  Tyler tipped her head on one side. “Sometimes. He’s a fair-enough boss. You always know where you are with him. He’s not mean with money, and if you need time off for important stuff he never quibbles.” She rubbed her bump. “Stop that,” she said sternly to whoever was inside. “Do you want to see the Outwards Payments next? We do it all on-line so it’s pretty straightforward. The Inwards is a bit messier because some people still insist on sending checks in the mail.”

  An email pinged through.

  ‘Samantha.’

  She raised an eyebrow at Tyler. “Is that what he always does?”

  “You’ll get used to him. He’s busy.”

  “A ‘please’ would have taken half a second.”

  Tyler grinned.

  “Yes,” Sammie snapped from Nick’s doorway. Her tone brought his head up, and he regarded her coolly with glinting dark eyes. His too-gorgeous lips quirked with slight amusement. Well, tough if he didn’t like her attitude. She didn’t like his either.

  “Come in.”

  She shrugged and approached his desk.

  “Take a seat.”

  She sat.

  “You’ll be clearing the mail?”

  “Yes—Tyler said to do it close to lunchtime.”

  He nodded at that and continued to inspect her. She felt sure his eyes were lasering through her shirt to check out her breasts. She cursed silently as her nipples responded to his long, candid stare, hoping the T-shirt bra would do its work and hide them.

  “Should I have dressed differently?” she asked when the silence stretched too far for comfort. “I thought this would be okay.”

  He looked at her a little longer with those suggestive eyes. Damn but he was a hunk.

  “No, you’re fine like that. I’m only togged up today because I have a couple of guests for lunch. When you get the mail can you stop off and buy some sushi?”

  She waited for the ‘please’ but it never came.

  “Sushi and some decent sandwiches,” he continued. “And fresh fruit. Maybe a pineapple you could slice up, or seedless grapes. There’s a good place just past the mail center.”

  “Fine. Enough for three? Anything to drink?”

  He shook his head, apparently still amused by her. One corner of his wide mouth crooked up into less than a grin, but it transformed him from forbidding to dangerously attractive. “Enough for…five?”

  Earlier, memories of Nicky in the orchard shed had made her skin tingle with long-suppressed awareness. Now her new boss’s slow-burning smile had set her deliciously on edge. What was wrong with her today?

  She moved on her chair, too aware of her body’s reaction. “When are your guests arriving? Do you want something to drink then or food straight away?”

  “Close on one. Straight away’s fine, thanks.” That was a real gangster grin on his face now, full of licentious intent. “Get Tyler to find you some cash before you go.”

  “That’s all?” She couldn’t wait to be out of his unsettling presence.

  “For now.”

  Oh for some high heels to flounce off in! Sneakers just didn’t do it. As she turned away, she easily imagined her butt being given the same intent inspection her breasts had received.

  “Guests for lunch,” she said as she returned to the reception area.

  “Did he say who?” Tyler asked. “He’s trying to swing a big Sydney deal; it must be them. You’ll probably be going to Australia with him in the next week or so.”

  A giggle bubbled up from somewhere, and grew until Sammie was laughing with genuine mirth. “Fat chance of that—I don’t have a passport. I applied about a week ago so it’ll be ages yet.”

  Tyler grinned. “Don’t depend on it. They come through quite fast sometimes. My sister Kelly had to renew hers for a trip to Hawaii and it was done in no time.”

  Pictures of palm-trees and blue ocean floated through Sammie’s brain. “Hawaii,” she said wistfully. “That’s definitely on my wish list.”

  “Kell’s leaving in a couple of days.”

  “Lucky her. My parents loved traveling. They had National Geographic pages pinned up everywhere at home. They always said they’d rather travel than have a fancy house.” She stopped abruptly as the pain of losing them rampaged through her yet again.

  “Where did you go to?”

  Sammie closed her eyes for a second or two, the picture of her tall suntanned father and her much shorter mother, full of excitement and happy tears the last time she’d seen them, imprinted on her eyelids.

  “I had to stay home for school,” she said, trying to sound as though it hadn’t mattered so much. “But they went all over the place. Australia of course. Brisbane, Darwin, right across to Perth. To Broome where the pearls are. And various places in Asia.”

  They’d never taken her with them. Always used her education as an excuse. Not once had they chosen to travel during the school holidays. She’d loved spending those times with Grandma and Grandpa, but even now her parents’ easy desertion rankled. Couldn’t they have included her just once?

  “Hong Kong and Thailand,” she continued. “And they were keen to see Vietnam once it opened up. Dad started building an ocean-going yacht when I was thirteen. In the yard at home.”

  “Awesome.”

  “I suppose. My older brother Ray already had a job in New York by then.”

  “Wow.”

  Sammie hesitated a moment.

  What the hell—she’s nice. She’ll understand.

  She drew a deep breath. “When I was fifteen they set off on a trial voyage to Fiji. Once I’d left school we were all going to sail around the world together and see my brother on the way.”

  She pressed her lips together, as though it would somehow hold the hurt back.

  “That
must have been amazing.”

  She shook her head. “Not really. They never made it as far as Fiji. Simply disappeared. Got hit by a whale or bashed into a floating container at night or something. There were no storms in the area. No signal from their emergency beacon.” She glanced across at Tyler and found warmth in her steady gaze. “So...” She shrugged.

  “Oh honey, that’s tough. Fifteen. Awful.”

  “Yeah.”

  “And your brother came home after that?”

  “No, I went to live on my grandparents’ orchard. Then my Grandma died. Grandpa said she pined away after losing Mom, but she was always kind of delicate. They had a housekeeping lady for as long as I can remember.”

  “What sort of orchard?”

  “Apples, up in Hawkes Bay.”

  “It’s lovely there. Cam and I stopped off on our honeymoon.”

  Sammie straightened her shoulders from the despondent slump they’d settled into. “I’d often had school holidays with them because Mom worked full-time. To help fund the boat and the traveling, I guess. After a few years, Grandpa had a bad stroke and the orchard was sold. I ended up living with him until he died. He needed someone in the house at nights. End of story.”

  She raised her chin and sent Tyler the sort of look that dared her to offer any further sympathy.

  She took the hint. “So have you just moved down to Wellington?”

  “Mmm—last week. I had to clear the house out first.”

  Tyler shook her head slightly. “No wonder you want to get away. Where are you staying now?”

  “With my brother who’s finally back here with one of the big New Zealand broking houses, and my sister-in-law. They have two boys who fight like crazy. It’s not ideal, but it’s not for long.”

  “Would you...” Tyler stopped in mid-sentence. “Let me make a phone-call.”

  Another email dinged through.

  ‘Samantha.’

  Sammie rolled her eyes. “What the heck does he want now?” she asked, rising and heading toward Nick’s office.

  “Yes?” She kept the enquiry clipped short.

  He looked up from a stack of papers. Again, the corner of his mouth curled, and Sammie found she had to fight hard to suppress an answering smile.

  “You asked if we needed anything to drink. I find we do. Some cold beers?”

  He lifted a set of keys from his desk and held them out to her, shaking them so they jingled like a lure to draw her closer. “Take my car and get a chilled twelve-pack from SuperLiquor. They’ll be too heavy for you to carry on foot.”

  She stepped forward to take the keys. A flutter of unease rose in her throat; driving in Wellington wasn’t the same as driving at home. She’d made it to Ray and Anita’s in her little hatchback but hadn’t attempted the CBD yet. And she just bet Nick’s car would be something expensive and damage-attracting.

  “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather Tyler drove?”

  “She’ll never fit behind the wheel.”

  His smile was broader now. So he’d decided to turn on the charm to see if he could defrost her? Oh, he was so obvious!

  “Brand of beer?” she demanded, more attracted than she wanted to be.

  “Stellas?”

  “And you’re parked where?”

  “Back of the building. Alley on the left.”

  She reached for the keys. They were hooked over his thumb, and his impatient jiggling had caused the ring to slide down past his knuckle. There was no way she could just lift them off. After a couple of futile attempts, she grabbed his hand to hold it steady and started to work the key-ring deliberately upwards.

  “You’ve got really big hands,” she said to fill the awkward silence. His flesh burned hot against hers and he made no effort to help. Holding hands with the boss on her first day wasn’t what she’d planned at all. And especially not with this over-muscled, over-worked, less-than-grateful boss. “Big thumbs,” she added unwisely.

  “And you know what they say about men with those.” His eyes flicked up to hers and his expression changed to one of deliberate innocence.

  “No, of course I don’t.”

  Skite. Men with big cocks don’t have to boast.

  But somehow she just knew he’d be impressive. Knew she’d be x-raying his pants as soon as he wasn’t looking. Could already feel herself heating from imagining what was there.

  Then she saw the scar and prickled all over.

  He was definitely Nicky. No doubt about it. She remembered how he’d gotten that scar. Remembered it had been her fault he’d just about hacked off his forefinger because she’d surprised him as he’d been cutting polythene sheeting up for Grandpa.

  Nicky! The shivers of old memories chased themselves up and down her spine.

  He’d waved the dressing at her every time he’d seen her for days afterwards. Made her look at the stitches when he’d eased it aside the day he was going to have them removed.

  Her thirteen-year-old self had peered at them with fascinated horror—wanting to see what they looked like, and wanting even more to know his finger would be whole and healthy again. She’d felt guilty and thrilled to have his attention, so she’d looked without flinching. And then embarrassed herself by pressing a kiss onto the back of his hand as an apology and a good-luck token and a shy sign of the fascination she felt for him before she’d run off.

  It seemed not a lot had changed.

 
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