Authors: Jasmine Hill
Tags: #Erotic Romance Fiction
Lucy was like a breath of fresh air. She was mature, witty and intelligent. Her whole demeanour was self-confident and sophisticated. She knew what she wanted out of life and she went for it. She stood on her own two feet and had built a successful career through hard work and determination.
He thought about some of the women he’d had relationships with over the years and couldn’t help but compare them to Lucy. Most of his previous partners paled in contrast, many of whom had been spoilt rich girls thrown into his path by their families, as if, owing to status and birth, it would only follow that they should enjoy each other’s company.
Over the years, while he had matured and forged his career, he’d realised that he was missing something. The silly, sometimes rudderless women whom he often associated with had started to irritate him. They only seemed to be interested in his money, status and looks, and how he could further their society connections. Of course they hadn’t
been that shallow, but too many had fallen into the self-absorbed category. It hadn’t bothered him when he was younger and he’d preferred the company of a beautiful woman and an enthusiastic fuck and couldn’t have cared less about interesting conversation. He needed more now. He wanted to feel a connection, both physically and emotionally, and so far Lucy Whiticker was ticking all his boxes.
He was concerned that Lucy obviously had issues with their age difference. He had tried to assuage her apprehension, and God knows it was obvious that he found her physically attractive. He couldn’t keep his hands off her, so she shouldn’t be worried about that aspect. He would just have to prove to her that the age gap didn’t matter to him and that everyone else could be damned. He hoped that the invitation he’d left for her earlier that morning would go towards easing her anxiety.
He shifted in his seat and glanced out of the window, keeping one ear trained on the conversation around him whilst his thoughts continued to wander.
He had one other concern. He had no idea what he was going to do about Camille.
* * * *
Lucy had set up a workspace in a corner of Rhett’s office suite. They had discussed it the previous evening and given that Rhett was often out of the building, it made sense for Lucy to set up her laptop there. She didn’t always set up shop on-site, but this job was significant. It was a priority for her that the task be managed closely, and she had decided to dedicate her time exclusively to overseeing the design project.
She strode into Rhett’s office and immediately noticed the long-stemmed red rose lying on her closed laptop. Attached to the stem by a ribbon was a note with her name on it.
She smiled and, picking the rose up, brought it to her nose and inhaled before she detached the letter.
Hunter & Associates are sponsoring a Valentine’s Ball. It is held every year and we use the event to raise money for breast cancer research, which you know is a cause that I hold dear. I would love for you to accompany me. Please say yes…
A warm glow engulfed her at Rhett’s invitation. Earlier that morning, she had been musing about past Valentine’s Days spent alone, so it was beyond pleasurable to receive an invitation to spend the next one in the company of sex god extraordinaire Rhett Hunter. She knew that his mother had passed away from breast cancer so she could appreciate his dedication to raising money for research. She felt honoured that he’d asked her to accompany him and thought about how best to answer. In the end, she decided on sending him a simple text message.
U made my day! Got your invite. I would luv 2 do Valentine’s with u.
She was checking her emails when Robert Hunter strode into the room.
“Good morning, Lucy. I didn’t expect to find you here. I was looking for my son.”
She looked up from her laptop and smiled in greeting. “Robert, hello. I believe Rhett is in a meeting this morning. He has graciously allowed me to share his office,” she said in explanation of her presence.
Robert nodded. “Ah, I forgot that he was tied up. How is everything going?”
“Very well. I expect to start clearing some of the offices this afternoon so we can start on the painting tomorrow. Everything is on schedule.”
They had decided to start the redecorating project in the two spare offices and move staff around to the redecorated suites. This would allow her to gradually progress through the workspaces, while keeping disruption to a minimum. All the employees had a copy of the schedule so that they could plan around the interior design tasks as much as possible.
“Will you be available for lunch today?” Robert asked her. “I can book a table at my club.”
“That will be lovely, thank you.”
“Good. I’ll come by and pick you up at midday.”
Lucy worked steadily through the morning, sifting through samples, placing orders and confirming contractors. When she next glanced at her watch, she was surprised to note that it was a quarter to twelve. She located her makeup bag and touched up her face. She’d just finished fixing her hair when Robert knocked on the door.
She grabbed her handbag. “Let’s go.”
* * * *
It was after twelve before Rhett made it out of his morning meeting. He was hoping that he could persuade Lucy to have a quick lunch with him before he had to meet with another client that afternoon. When he turned on his mobile phone, he was relieved to find Lucy’s message agreeing to accompany him to the ball. Perhaps if they went on a few dates, it would convince her that he wanted to take things to the next level. He just hoped that she felt the same.
As he entered Hunter & Associates, Annie passed him a handful of messages and followed him down the hallway to his office suite. When he entered, he immediately looked towards Lucy’s makeshift desk.
“Your father and Ms Whiticker have gone to lunch,” Annie informed him. “They left about fifteen minutes ago. I believe Robert made a reservation at the club.”
Rhett let out a long breath. Well, seeing that Lucy was otherwise engaged, he would grab a quick sandwich for lunch and use the time to work on his notes and answer his emails.
“Thank you, Annie.”
“Remember your two o’clock,” she said, handing him a file.
Rhett settled behind his desk and brought his computer back to life. He hadn’t realised how much he had been looking forward to seeing Lucy. Even though they had spent most of the previous evening together, he’d wanted to see her to cement the emotional connection he believed they had made the previous night.
As he started to trawl through his messages, he thought about her having lunch with his father and a wave of jealousy swept through him. He was startled by the ferocity of the sensation and felt at once irritated and slightly ashamed of himself. How could he feel envious of his own father? And since when did he have feelings of jealousy over a woman?
He sighed and pushed a hand through his hair in exasperation. But he couldn’t halt his errant thoughts. His father, at fifty-seven, was closer in age to Lucy than he was. Robert was also handsome and distinguished and kept himself in great shape and, since Rhett’s mother had died five years ago from breast cancer, his father had been relatively slow to start dating. Rhett and his brother had tried on several occasions to encourage him to get out more, but he had always resisted, using the excuse of work to avoid entering into any serious relationships. Rhett now hoped fervently that his father hadn’t decided that Lucy might be the one to break his dry spell!
He recognised that he was being unreasonably paranoid, but he couldn’t help himself. Sighing heavily, he pushed the thought of Lucy and his father to the back of his mind and focused on preparing for his afternoon meeting.
Lucy enjoyed her lunch with Robert immensely. He was a true gentleman—attentive and gracious. After spending some quality time with him, she could tell where Rhett had picked up many of his mannerisms. He was very much like his father, both in looks and temperament. However, Robert was closer to her age than Rhett and their lunch date had only emphasised that fact. She felt less conspicuous in Robert’s company and felt less as though people were judging her, although Robert did not make her breath stutter and her heart rate gallop with just a look. Only Rhett had ever done that. But perhaps Robert was a safer choice. He definitely seemed as though he could be interested in her and something in the back of her mind made her wonder if what she had going with Rhett was only temporary.
She was slightly disappointed to find that Rhett was once more out of the office when she returned from lunch, but she was busy in the afternoon and soon immersed herself in a whirlwind of activity.
When she got back to his office to finalise some last-minute details, it was past five o’clock. As soon as she entered, she noticed a hamper sitting in the middle of Rhett’s desk. It was very large and, from what she could see, quite extravagant.
She cast a furtive look over her shoulder, then walked into the office and over to the desk to inspect the gift, her curiosity overtaking her good manners.
Presented in a basket, and nestled in red tissue paper, was a startling array of epicurean delights. The first item was a bottle of Dom Perignon. Scattered around the champagne were various gourmet treats including caviar, Swiss chocolates, water crackers and Molives olives. The entire hamper was professionally wrapped in clear cellophane and completed with a large, red satin ribbon. It was clear to whom the gift was intended. An envelope attached to the ribbon read: Rhett.
Her initial assumption was that a client had perhaps sent the basket, but when her closer inspection revealed the inclusion of luxury bubble bath, scented candles and other items obviously used for seduction, it was clear that the offering was intended for Valentine’s Day.
Her heart rate increased and her mind swirled wildly with possibilities to explain away the intimate gift, but she could come up with no explanation. The hamper had clearly been sent by a female who appeared to have feelings over and above friendship towards Rhett.
As the realisation was sinking in, a movement in the doorway caught her attention. She spun around and was surprised to be confronted by a tall, slim woman. Her black hair fell in a silky veil to just past her shoulders, she had high cheekbones and lovely brown, almond-shaped eyes. She possessed a refined, elegant beauty that instantly made Lucy feel inadequate and lacking.
The woman walked into the office. “Oh, you must be Rhett’s new assistant. I didn’t realise Annie had left,” she said dismissively.
Lucy was staring in surprise at the visitor when Rhett arrived. And by his agitated expression, it was clear that the newcomer was unexpected.
my new assistant,” he snapped in irritation. “Lucy is our interior designer.”
Upon hearing his voice, the woman spun around to face him. “Oh, Rhett, darling,” she purred and sashayed towards him. “I was hoping I would find you here.”
“Now is not a good time, Camille,” he said, sidestepping her to avoid her intended embrace.
With sudden clarity, Lucy realised that this female, Camille, was the sender of the seduction hamper. Surely only a woman who had history with Rhett would send such a gift. It was too intimate and far too personal for a mere acquaintance. Instinctively, she knew that the lovely Camille and Rhett had been in a relationship. She suddenly felt extremely uncomfortable and the need to get out of Rhett’s office and away from what was sure to be an awkward scene became a top priority.
“I’m s-sorry,” Lucy stammered. Stooping, she picked up her handbag and swung it onto her shoulder. “I’m finished here for the day. I’ll give you two some space. Have a lovely evening.”
She hastily made her way to the door. Her mind was reeling with questions but she would keep those for another day. At that moment, she just wanted to leave the office. But Rhett blocked her way. “Lucy, please,” he implored, his gaze boring into hers. “Don’t go.”
“Rhett, let the poor woman leave, for heaven’s sake,” Camille said in exasperation. “She obviously has a home to go to, and I need to spend some private time with my fiancé,” she finished, her voice turning husky and seductive.
Rhett winced and Lucy gasped audibly. If she had thought that things couldn’t get any worse, she’d been sorely mistaken. She felt like the wind had been knocked out of her. It was bad enough that this woman was obviously planning a seduction, and clearly she had some history with Rhett, but her last pronouncement had been like a slap in the face.
“Please, Rhett,” Lucy whispered. “I’ll see you tomorrow, perhaps. Have a nice night.” She didn’t wait for him to say anything further but pushed past him. Without looking back, she walked briskly down the hallway and to the elevator that would take her to the lobby and to the safety of distance.
Lucy stumbled to her car in a daze. Her fingers were shaking and tears blurred her vision. She fumbled with her keys, until eventually she managed to unlock the driver’s door.
Once in the seclusion of her car, she let the tears flow unchecked. She couldn’t describe the sensations swamping her—mortification, betrayal and indignation came close. Why would Rhett deceive her like that? What had he hoped to gain?
Lucy started the car. She needed to leave. She didn’t want Rhett to follow, then a high-pitched laugh escaped her. Why would he even attempt to come after her, given what she had just discovered? In fact, he and his fiancée were probably laughing about the old lady’s gullibility. Her mortification level increased and a searing pain shot through her at the thought.
How could I have been so stupid?
she mentally castigated herself.
I knew that this younger man was too good to be true. Why would anyone like Rhett Hunter be interested in me?