Authors: Harper Cole
Text copyright 2014 Harper Cole
All rights reserved
I swear I had never seen so many stuffed shirts and inherited privilege all smashed together in one room before; not even that time I was giving a presentation at some Ivy League place. Everyone there had been called Howard Howardson the Fourth and when they spoke, their mile-wide ivory smiles just stayed nailed, unmoving, to their impossibly chiseled faces.
Here in London, though, they were probably all called Giles de Vere de Cholmondeley-Smythe or something and their kids were doubtless paddling in
fucking shallow gene pools.
I nearly smiled.
I must remember all the details. Carlee is gonna pee her pants when I tell her what England is like
, I thought. My best friend was back in the States but she demanded frequent updates as to my progress.
And thinking of progress, I reminded myself that I had a job to do. I pushed my speculations aside, and snapped the laser pointer on, playing the red dot like a sniper's mark across the presentation screen. I was here from the States to sell my company's Business to Business Information Services, and this was supposed to be my big break - opening and extending our reach to Britain, and beyond.
The financial auditing firm I was currently courting was one of the biggest in Europe, and I had yet to meet another women in any position higher than secretary-cum-whore. Admittedly, my tour of the building had been brief and perfunctory, but I'd felt those male eyes on me in every room we had entered. Hungry, arrogant and appraising.
Like I'd look twice at any one of these gray-haired hereditary assholes.
I parroted on, autopilot kicking in. My speech had been vetted for weeks before I flew the Atlantic and ended up here, this supposedly jewel of a city. London was gray, wet and noisy, and the people were downright rude.
Talk, talk, nod, figures, numbers, corporate jargon, blah and blah and blah.
I would have laid money on the fact that they were staring at my sheer white blouse, not my careful graphs.
I had been here less than a week and I already hated the place. I missed warm weather, decent candy, and Carlee.
Too bad my promotion meant this was now my home.
* * * *
I couldn't just drop my load and run. After the presentation came the obligatory schmoozing. I didn't even have time to run to the bathrooms to check my make-up; I was right in the thick of it, being introduced to a succession of interchangeable middle-aged men in Saville Row suits.
When I was finally facing a man who didn't look like he'd been unearthed from a dusty corner of the Bullingden Club, I wanted to wrestle him off to a corner, clinging to him like a drowning woman. This guy was younger - not, like, really young, but early thirties at a guess, and he smiled at my face, not my tits. Thank God.
"Jasmine Turner," I purred.
He extended his hand and for a moment I wondered if he was going to kiss it, dropping to his knee like a mediaeval knight. His hair was not as short as all the other corporates in the room, giving him just the slightest air of devil-may-care. Still, his suit was tailored around every curve of his muscular body, and when he dropped his hand from mine, the gold Rolex slipped from below his crisp white sleeve, lodging on the sharp jut of his wrist bone.
I don't know why but I am a sucker for a nicely turned wrist. How fucking Victorian is that?
I tore my eyes away. He was doing me the courtesy of looking at my face not my body; and dammit, he was the only man in the room I realized that I didn't mind staring at my tits. I straightened up even more.
"Andrew Walker-Wilkinson," he said, his accent like an old movie. I'd been shocked when I had stepped off that plane to discover that London was a hideous mish-mash of voices, and the prevalent one was some strange blend of old Cockney and new Urban with a side order of nasal threat. At least this guy had the decency to have a proper British accent, one that hinted at very thin sandwiches and a tendency to beat the maid.
Still, the double-barreled thing must have made me roll my eyes, because he said, "If you think that's bad, you should hear my middle name."
"It's Giles, isn't it?" I couldn't resist, even though it was a private joke made with myself alone, just bookmarked in my head to share with Carlee later. I guess I'd gotten used to living in my own little world already. Yet loneliness still ached, and it hadn't started when I'd stepped off the plane.
I'd been alone for a while longer than a week.
"Giles?" He was watching me and smiling warmly. "Oh no. Far worse than that. Florian."
"You have got to be kidding me. Say it all."
"Andrew Florian Walker-Wilkinson."
"Your parents hate you or something?"
His left eye twitched, but I wasn't sure if that was some kind of nervous tic, or if I'd hit a sore point. He played into my stereotyping by saying, "Oh no, they barely know me. I was closer to my nanny than my mother. And I was packed off to boarding school at four years old, you know."
He might have been joking. He might not. His face was dead pan now. I watched him for a moment but he didn't crack a smile.
"So, what's your role in this company?" I asked him at last. I had to remind myself I was here for professional reasons. I needed to know if this guy was worth giving a business card to.
I had no idea if that was going to be a useful contact or not. Sounded boring as fuck. Well, better make it count. "Can I give you my card? I hope that your company appreciates the benefits we can offer to your Information Infrastructure and that our systems can improve everyone's productivity. Even yours."
Whatever the hell yours is
, I added privately.
He took the card from my fingers, not lingering or letting his skin brush mine. He was the very model of propriety and suddenly I was tired of all that. Everything in business life was starched and fake. Sometimes I'd want to get up in the middle of a meeting and fling my high-heeled shoes right across the table, scream some obscenities, and walk out, pulling on people's neck-ties as I went. Just for something to do.
I reined myself in, each time. I had a purpose. I had a role.
I had an
and mostly that aim was to not end up scrabbling for a living in poverty like my mom had done. That's why I was single, and that's why I only had one friend; work came first. Work
to come first.
"May I walk you to a taxi?" he said, and I jerked my head in surprise. Already the post-presentation soiree was over, and the room was emptying. I hadn't noticed. It was nearly four in the afternoon. The real workers would be at their desks for a few hours yet, but those who held the purse strings were clocking off to go to big dinners where the influential networking happened.
"No, thank you. I'm pretty sure I can make my way to the door without assistance."
"I insist," he said, and there was something in the way his stare pinned me down that made me shiver. I bucked against it, immediately.
"No one insists I do anything," I said, hearing a sassy vibe thicken my American accent. I'd be waving my finger and wiggling my hips from side to side at this rate. "Thank you Mr. Walker-Wilkinson-"
Jeez what a mouthful
"-I'll go get my things now."
So yeah, I had to admit to myself that he was as hot as fuck. It wasn't just the contrast he made in the room of desiccated old men. He'd look hot in Hollywood. He must hit the gym pretty regularly, because that well-made suit just accented his broad shoulders. A man that could tower over me, in my heels, was a sure-fire winner. That, with the dark hair that was not-quite-perfectly groomed, and those piercing blue eyes, would have dampened an old school-ma'am's panties.
But I was way past falling at any man's feet. I stalked across the room and set about gathering my notes, packing them into the laptop case with my assorted electronic paraphernalia.
He followed me. I was already torn, arguing in my head. I could have this guy for breakfast - all I had to do was turn on the charm. He'd already shown me he was interested. And God knows, I didn't have anything else to do in this place yet. I wasn't looking for any kind of relationship - never was - but I guessed he knew his way around a woman's body. He might make an interesting diversion, perhaps.
There was just something about him that made me pause, though. Something that warned me off. I couldn't tell what it was. Not in a creepy, don't be alone with this man kind of way; I didn't have any intuition as to that.
He could be dangerous to my heart, I decided, and then laughed at my stupid melodrama.
"Nice meeting you, sir," I said to him, and tipped my head back, setting out for the door.
He kept pace with me, and stretched out just before we reached the exit, swinging the door back in a grand sweep.
That made my mind up for me. I stopped dead, and looked him up and down. "This is the twenty-first century," I said stiffly. "After
He didn't say a word, the infuriating bastard. He cocked his head and now he was smiling, his previously impassive expression replaced by sheer amusement. His eyes were sparkling as he simply stood there, waiting for my next move.
I tossed my head. "I don't have time for chivalrous, sexist games," I muttered at last, and strode through the door, determined to not let him have it as a victory. But I couldn't outrun him, and there he was again at the elevator, pressing the button to take me to the first floor.
And we rode down that elevator in silence, and I refused to look at his smug face.
He trailed me to the reception desk, where I handed over my pass, and he was there at the grand double doors, though this time the doorman on the steps outside held the doors for me, and that was okay, because it was his job to do that.
"You are not going to call a goddamn cab for me," I told him.
He grinned like I'd just made a joke. "Of course not. I'll get you a
And there he was, waving his arm, and a black hansom cab came to a halt at the bottom of the wide stone steps. "You just don't get it, do you?" I said. "I bet you have women falling at your feet just because you have a swanky name and talk old-fashioned."
"Of course not." He skipped down the steps and opened the rear door for me. He leaned on the top, and bent his head as I approached. "Women fall at my feet for far deeper, more complex reasons than that."
I raked my gaze up and down. "Deep? You? I gotta see that."
It was a flippant remark but he seized on it. "Tonight. Eight. We'll dine at Claridge's."
"Oh, like you can just snap your fingers and get a table
" I laughed at him as I slid further along the back seat of the cab.
"Yes, I can," he said simply, his smile replaced by a look of flat, deadly seriousness.
I shivered. So, maybe he could. I had to get back and google this guy, that was for sure.
"I'll send a car to collect you."
Not a cab? A car sounded like he had a driver or something. "You don't know where I'm staying."
He lifted his eyebrows. "You're about to tell me," he replied.
I rolled my eyes again, openly. "Okay then. Just to get you off my back, you know?" I meant it, too. This guy needed to learn a lesson about modern women. No doubt he was expecting some kind of sexual payment for tonight's little seduction, and I decided that it was time he had his bubble burst.
She amused me. I was still smiling to myself as I ran back up to my little suites of offices at the back of the building, taking the stairs rather than the lift -
, I laughed to myself,
in her language
. I'd been training, out hitting the streets early that morning, and my legs were stiffening up. They needed to move, to flex, or I'd be in no fit state for the weekend's triathlon.
This was supposed to be the week of "tapering" - taking it easy before a big event. I understood the science but there was no way I was ever going to take anything
And that Jasmine Turner thought she was so tough. I laughed again.
In the outer office, my intern, Craig, was flicking at his smartphone. I'd known his father, and his uncle, and his older brother too - they'd mentored me as I started out in the City. Craig had no idea about finances but he was learning, fast. Right now we were colleagues and friends.
One day, he'd have to take me down.
But for the moment, we had an easy banter.
"You're grinning. She was hot," he said, not even looking up from his screen.
"You've been in here the whole time. I assume the reports are done?"
He shrugged. "As part of my development I feel I ought to be conversant in all aspects of the business here. So I sneaked in at the back of the presentation."
"I see. And what do you think to her presentation?"
"Haven't got a clue what she said. Nice body, though."
"One day you are going to be hauled over the coals on a sexual harassment charge. And I shall stand at the side and laugh my cock off."
Craig thumbed at the screen, and the light died. He shoved it into his pocket and stood up. "Hey boss, can I knock off early?"
"No, you may not. I've got business to attend to. You need to stay here and answer the phones."
* * * *
I waited just outside Claridge's, merging in with the gawping tourists and celebrity wannabes. I'd pulled strings to get this table, and there was a Russian tycoon who was going to be very upset that his table booking had mysteriously gone astray. I don't know why I even said Claridge's - she would have been as impressed at any swanky London restaurant. I shook my head at my own folly. She needed taking down a peg or two, but I could hardly waste too much time on her.
Still, I was looking forward to seeing how she was going to react to being delivered to the front door in a long black Lexus. How cool could she play it? I knew she was going to try to be unruffled.
I'd ruffle those feathers by the time the night was out.
There she was. I stepped forward and nodded to Amjad, my driver, and he raised a black-gloved hand in acknowledgement as he opened the rear door.
She glanced around as she straightened up, as elegant as a swan. Her blonde curls were piled up on her head, skewered by diamante pins and one small peacock feather, the blue matching her satin dress perfectly.
There wasn't much to her dress, truth be told. It skimmed her body, clinging and hugging her rounded buttocks, and nipped in around her full breasts. It was a sculpted body but when she walked, all of her moved - I didn't think she'd had any surgery done, and I was impressed.
I extended my hand. "Miss Turner," I said formally. "I trust the journey was satisfactory?"
"Ms.," she corrected me, as I knew she would. She was so easy to tease. "But do call me Jas."
I raised one eyebrow and decided not to suggest that she call me Andrew. I wanted to see what she'd do, if she weren't instructed, one way or the other.
Previous partners, obviously, soon grew used to calling me "Sir."
We pressed past the gawkers and the onlookers. I kept hold of her hand, and steered her into the hallowed halls. I was full of a bubbling feeling of potential, and delight, until I saw the new Maître D'.
"Mr. Walker-Wilkinson," the jaundice-looking man oozed as we approached his little lectern. He glanced at his book but I knew it was show; Arthur was one of the best in the business, and he would already know every guest that was expected here this evening. Arthur was the reason I avoided the Savoy. How had I not known that he'd moved here?
"Good evening, Arthur. A change of scenery for you?"
He smiled with his narrow lips drawn tight to his face, not showing any teeth. "One grows tired, moves on, you know how it is. Your father asks after you."
"I am sure he does. Our table?"
"Mm. This way, if you please."
He led us to the table, a task he would usually delegate to another waiter. I knew he was studying both me and the woman beside me; no doubt he'd scurry to report back as soon as he was able. I could let nothing slip.
Arthur couldn't linger. I waited until he had had to return to his post, and then turned to speak to Jasmine, but she began before I had any chance to open my mouth.
"So, your daddy is someone, is he?"
"Everyone's father is
"You know what I mean." She looked at me, darkly. I had expected her to be staring around, taken in by the understated opulence of our surroundings, but she wasn't remotely bothered. She was focused on me.
She really needed teaching some manners.
The waiter brought the wine list and menus. I ordered a relatively decent bottle of red, and passed her a menu to peruse. Now she was looking furious, and I had to bite my smile back as she began along her predictable rant.
you order wine for me!"
"I'm paying," I said. I allowed myself a small shrug, calculated to offend her even more.
"I'm drinking," she said, somewhat illogically.
"Excellent. You'll enjoy this one."
"No, I mean, if I'm drinking, I ought to be allowed to choose."
I sat back and cocked my head to one side. "Pray explain."
"I … what? Wait. I don't need to explain. There's nothing to explain. It's obvious."
"Allow me the indulgence of being able to treat you as an honored guest," I said.
"Now, be calm, and
She narrowed her eyes at me, but turned her attention to the menu. She was biddable. She was clearly out of her depth. She had no idea the control I was going to be able to exert over her - and how much she'd enjoy that.
I tried to focus on my own menu. This was a one-off. A little game to amuse myself, for one night only. I was starting to imagine a relationship with this woman, and I didn't want that; for various reasons. For all the usual reasons. I didn't need another new little subby to train up, only for her to turn on me and stab me in the back. Like colleagues.
* * * *
I steered the conversation into pleasant, light waters as we dined. She watched me, and I could tell she was itching for a fight - she had something to prove, and she wanted me to slip up so she could call me out for being some kind of horrific bore. Or boar. Either way, she was already convinced I was an over-privileged animal stuck in an outdated feudal system.
I saw nothing wrong with that system.
When the desserts were delivered, I leaned closer to her, and maintained eye contact. She had a fire in her belly that was frankly adorable; I wondered how hot those flames could burn.
"I'm sorry?" I said.
She put her small silver fork down with a clatter. "Stop watching me eat," she complained.
"I'm sorry," I said again. "Your lips are captivating."
"What?" Her voice rose and she glared, but there was a light in her eyes.
Yes, my dear
, I thought:
everyone loves a compliment. Pretend to be horrified if you like, but you want more of this.
I merely smiled and lowered my gaze for a moment; then looked back at her, pinning her with the full force of my attention as I leaned in ever closer, and whispered, "I am surprised that every man in this place isn't watching the way your mouth moves."
I didn't need to add any reference to crude sexual acts. Her imagination was on the same track as mine; I could tell by the way she had to shift in her seat.
"Oh, give it up already," she said, crossly, and continued with her food.
I gave her a few moments of respite, allowing her to finish the exquisite cheesecake before resuming my attack.
"You seem tense," I said.
"I am not," she said, her shoulders immediately squaring; by saying it, I had made it true.
Oh, so biddable.
"It's all right," I said, reassuring her. "I'm simply surprised. The impression I had of Americans was that they were a casual, relaxed sort of people. You, on the other hand, seem awfully straight-laced."
"Okay," she said, planting her elbows on the table, ticking off her points with her long fingers. "For one, I think stereotypes and generalizations suck, okay? And two. You don't know shit about me, so there's that. And three, the sort of person I might or might not be is none of your fucking business. Got it?"
A few heads wobbled - no one would be so crude as to look in our direction, but I knew the ears of the other diners were pricking up. I didn't want to give them a public show, so I shifted around and caught the waiter's eye.
He was a professional and he knew when his guests needed a quick exit. Within moments, my card was charged and another minion had brought Jasmine's wrap for her; we were hustled out of the door with smooth efficiency. She had the decency to hold back her argument until we were outside once more.
She whirled around to me, clutching her pashmina to her body. "I don't know where guys like you get off," she hissed. "Are you fucking negging me or what?"
I had no idea what that might mean, so I ignored it. Instead I did what I had been wanting to do all night; I stepped forward, grabbed her shoulders, and pulled her into a deep, brutal kiss.
She pushed at me, but her lips parted, and after a brief moment of resistance she was kissing me back, her scent clouding my nostrils, her heart beating so hard I could feel every pulse below my fingers.
Then as she relaxed into me even more, I pulled back. "This is where guys like me get off," I told her, growling low into her ear. "With women like you."
"Just what do you mean by that?" She was struggling to keep her voice level.
I nuzzled into her neck. "Fire. Passion. You stand up to me. You fight me. I want to fuck you, Jasmine Turner."
When I kissed her again, there was no resistance. Her arms went around me, pulling my neck down, curving her body into mine. I felt her toned muscles and her soft, warm breasts. Her tongue darted into my mouth and my cock was already hard, and I pressed it slightly against her.
She stifled a tiny gasp - just the lightest breath of air - as I released her.
"And you want to be fucked, Jasmine Turner," I said.