That First Kiss, Page 1J.C. Valentine
That First Kiss
by J.C. Valentine
Copyright © 2013 by J.C. Valentine
Cover and interior book design by J.C. Valentine
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the above author of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
For my love,
Thank you for showing me that unconditional love exists.
That was the foremost thought running through Piper Donovan’s mind as she fought to keep her hands from tugging at the stiff material of the tailored business suit. That and the handsome thirty-something currently scrutinizing every line of the glowing three page résumé complete with recommendations—recommendations that had absolutely nothing to do with the job she was applying for. Her colorful history as a barista, a cashier, and a brief stint as a hostess for a local five-star hotel, hardly qualified her as anyone’s personal assistant. The only reason she even applied was because she needed a job, badly.
For the last year and a half, Piper spent her time bouncing from job to job, trying her best to make a go of city life. She loved apartment living, loved public transit, loved the congested streets and…Okay, what she loved was being as far away from her Alabama roots as the last three hundred dollars from her childhood piggy bank could carry her. Anything beat the stale, backwater, small town living waiting for her back home, and if she didn’t land this job, that’s exactly where she would be headed. Frankly, she wasn’t sure she could handle returning to the double-wide, two bedroom tin can complete with meddling mother after experiencing all the world could offer her.
Simply speaking, she had to have this job.
Piercing eyes found hers as Felix Sinclair rested the thin stack of papers in a neat pile before him. Piper’s stomach did a nervous flip as he regarded her with a soft smile.
“You’ll have to bear with me. Normally, Mr. Bradshaw does the hiring around here, but with the increase in business revenue and…” He waved his hand through the air. “Boring business stuff, sorry. Long story short, the job has fallen to me.” His voice was deep and smoky, refined. Piper quite liked it. “What do you say we begin with a few basics?”
“Excellent.” He grinned, showing off even white teeth. “I promise to make it as painless as possible. So, tell me a little about yourself, Ms. Donovan.”
Quite possibly the hardest question ever. Her gut reaction was to spit out something eHarmony worthy, but ended up saying “I’m originally from Wilcox County, Alabama. It’s a small town that’s short on opportunity but big on spirit. I like to think I got some of that spirit.” Encouraged by Mr. Sinclair’s answering smile, she continued. “From my earliest memories I have enjoyed working with people. I’m organized, efficient and I really want this job, Mr. Sinclair.” The note of desperation in her voice made her cringe, but it couldn’t be helped. Chewing the inside of her cheek, Piper hoped the slip-up hadn’t completely ruined her chances. Employers could be funny like that sometimes.
“So would you say that you work well with others?”
Piper nodded enthusiastically. “Oh, yes. I haven’t met a person yet that has been able to get me riled.” That wasn’t exactly true, but from her standpoint, what didn’t make it into the paperwork wasn’t worth mentioning.
“Hmm…” The sparkle of amusement in his eye made her curious, but he went on without elaborating. “It says in your résumé that you quit your last place of employment?”
Piper chewed her lip. “Well, it was either that or let them fire me.”
Reclining back in his chair, Felix studied her until her fingers betrayed her growing nerves and began fidgeting with the hem of her restrictive suit jacket. “I like your honesty, Ms. Donovan,” he said at last. “To be honest, I checked out your references before having my assistant schedule this interview, so I already know about the reason for your departure.” The reason was that one of her coworkers who had her eye on her promotion accused her of fudging the books. After a long and heated struggle to clear her good name, Piper had decided it was time to move on. “Between you and me, I think you made the right choice.”
Frankly, she thought so too, but it surprised her to hear him say it. “Thank you, Mr. Sinclair.”
“Please, call me Felix.” Rising from behind his desk, Felix’s long, nimble-looking fingers fastened his suit jacket around a narrow waist. Moving around his desk, Felix planted himself directly in front of her, crossing his arms over his chest as he perched on the lip of its glossy wood surface.
“I suppose if you are going to work here, it is only fair that I tell you what you can expect.” Piper sat up a little straighter, a spark of excitement making her twitchy. Was he saying she had the job? “Bookish Temptations represents more than two hundred authors, a handful of which are nationally recognized best sellers. But you know all of this already, I’m sure.” Piper nodded. She had, in fact, done her research before submitting her application, so she knew that everything Felix was telling her now was not only truth, but just a scratch on the surface of the type of success the company actually enjoyed.
“Good. Then that brings us to your employment.” Standing, Felix strode to a bank of tall windows that overlooked the impressive cityscape. “While we love all of our authors, there are a select few that we choose to focus on more than the rest. Writing, like any art form, is oftentimes a strenuous process and we like to make sure that our writers are comfortable and well cared for. Their job is important, which is why we want to relieve as much burden from their daily lives as is possible.” Pivoting around, the smile Felix offered her should have been warm and comforting, but all Piper felt was an inexplicable nudge of warning tickling her senses. “And that is where you come in.
“As assistant to one of our best and brightest, your main concern is that your charge has everything he needs to support his writing process. Now, I have to warn you, he is a little…ah, difficult to handle.” Felix laughed, a short and humorless sound, and Piper’s eyes narrowed on him in response as she tried to puzzle out what it all meant. “This job is not for everyone. We’ve already had two assistants quit on us less than a month into the job, so I am sure you can imagine that this position will take someone with the persistence and drive to accommodate him.”
“Um…” She was beginning to feel like she was a part of a military briefing. Next she would be told to suit up and hit the trenches. This man sounded like some sort of nutcase, or at the very least an eccentric. Maybe it would be wise to just walk away.
“You will make yourself available all hours at times, but the details of when and how often will be left for the two of you to work out,” Felix continued. “You will make sure that he makes any and all meetings and interviews, which you will be in charge of scheduling. Last but not least, you will also be in charge of making sure that he maintains a good public persona.” Felix went on to list a handful of other requirements before finally turning a wide smile and bright, hopeful eyes on her. “So, what do you think? Does this sound like the kind of job you can handle?”
The job sounded more like adventures in extreme babysitting i
f you asked her, but she needed it, so she couldn’t exactly turn it down. Not unless she wanted to reserve a room at chez double-wide for the foreseeable future. “Absolutely,” she said emphatically. “I’m a tough cookie. I can handle anything you throw at me.”
“I hope that’s true.” Stretching his arm out to her, Felix grasped her hand in a firm handshake. “Let me be the first to welcome you on board, Ms. Donovan.”
After going over a few more details with her—a handsome salary, plus overtime and benefits and the occasional all expenses paid business trip—he walked her to the elevators with a promise to see her bright and early Monday morning.
On the walk home, Piper couldn’t keep the smile from spreading across her face. She could feel it in the air—this job was going to change her life.
“To Piper!” Raising their drinks, Piper and her best girlfriends clinked glasses and downed the shots. They grimaced as the tequila blazed a path down their throats.
“Yeah, baby! Another round over here!” Lynn shouted down the bar.
Tipping his head, the yummy tall, dark and handsome behind the counter finished serving a couple of dimly attractive men then returned to their corner of the bar and poured another series of short glasses.
Lynn flashed a large bill. As the young bartender reached to take it, Piper watched in mild amusement as her friend yanked her hand back at the last-minute then knelt on the bar stool. Leaning forward, Lynn motioned him closer with a crook of her finger, said something she didn’t catch, and a moment later was locked in a searing kiss that made Piper press her own knees together. Only then did she fork over the dough.
She, like her friends, was on the prowl. Also like her friends, she didn’t mind taking what she wanted. Life was too short for anything less.
To celebrate her being hired on as an assistant to a famous—or nearly famous—author, they planned to get drunk and get laid. Hey, if men could do it, there was absolutely no reason in the world that they should have to sit home on a Saturday night eating buckets of ice cream and watching reality TV reruns when they could be getting hot and heavy with a perfect stranger.
Jules passed her another shot glass and Piper wasted no time tipping it back. Normally, she preferred the lighter taste of beer, but tonight was all about getting wasted, and there was no quicker way of achieving that goal than through multiple shots of tequila.
It didn’t take long for her body to heat and her brain to fog, but that didn’t stop her from accepting yet another drink from her bestie. Sure, the drinks were costing her a small fortune and rent was coming due, but now that she had secured herself a job and a reliable paycheck, she wasn’t the least bit worried about it.
Vacating the crowded bar, Piper tripped her way over to one of the empty booths dotting the edges of the dance floor and slid inside. Right behind her, her equally tipsy friends crowded in as they waited for another round of drinks to be delivered.
“Oh, my feet are killing me!” Shelia shouted over the thumping beats of Flo Rida.
Shelia was gorgeous at five-foot-nine with a thick mane of vibrant red hair. Tonight she shined in a silver sequined mini dress and matching six-inch heels that would be better suited to the mannequin that had modeled them. It didn’t surprise Piper in the least that they were pinching the ever-loving crap out of her friend’s feet less than two hours into what she hoped would be a very long night. By the time they left the club, they would all likely look like something out of a Thriller video.
“That’s why you should have worn those cute wedges I suggested,” Piper told her. She had decided on a nice pair of sensible four-inchers with a peep toe, because there was nothing cute about hobbling around the dance floor with a guy unless an overabundance of alcohol was to blame.
Shelia made a face while reaching under the table to peel off the offending shoes. “Wedges are so last season,” she said in her best Valley girl voice.
A brief hush fell over the table when one of the waiters approached. After he finished depositing their drinks in the center of the table, Lynn jumped on the opportunity to flirt, winking and smiling prettily at him. “Thanks, cowboy.”
“Cowboy?” Reaching for her appletini, Piper laughed.
Lynn shrugged. “When I picture him in my bed, I see a Stetson and a saddle.”
Something well-known among their group, ever since she watched John Travolta in Urban Cowboy, she was on a mission to secure herself her very own cowboy.
“I bet you see a branding iron too,” Jules snickered.
Lynn’s thoughtful, lust-filled gaze trailed after him as he returned to the bar for more drinks.
Piper grinned around her straw, loving the easy connection she shared with the women around her. As a kid, she didn’t have many girls as friends, but the few that she had couldn’t occupy the same space for longer than five minutes without tearing into each other over something petty. She was glad that in her adulthood she was able to find a classy group of women who could hang out for hours, if not days, without ripping the extensions out of one another’s head.
Patti, the smallest and arguably the prettiest of the bunch with her rich blue eyes, pale hair and flawless skin, leaned across the table. “So how hot is your new boss?”
“Seriously,” Lynn chimed, pointing the straw from her long island tea at her. “Dish. You didn’t really think we were going to let you get away with that crap detail you gave us, did you?”
Actually, she had hoped a short listing of how her interview went would be enough, because it made her slightly uncomfortable just sitting there picking apart every little morsel of yummy male hotness that was her boss when she shouldn’t be looking at him as anything other than her employer. Really. But he was hot, and she was only slightly opposed to a closer examination of that which was Felix Sinclair. Besides, if a girl couldn’t dish the dirt with her gal pals, then who could she dish it with?
As she divulged everything, lingering on certain details and embellishing on others, Piper couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched. The fine hairs on the back of her neck prickled and she found her gaze straying toward the dance floor where the music was loudest and the sexual energy pulsed like a living thing, heavy and impatient for a body to unleash its fury on.
Warmth crept across her skin as she caught the blue-eyed gaze of a man leaning against the wall near the entrance. Even across the room, she could see the heated look flash in his eyes. The connection was instant, a visceral reaction that needed no words to convey what the other was thinking. Instant arousal spiked her blood faster and stronger than the liquid courage she had fueled herself with.
“Damn,” Lynn said, drawing the word out appreciatively. Piper wrenched her eyes back to her friends, who were now tracking where she had looked moments before. She could tell by their wide eyes that they had found their mark.
One by one, each of the women pinned her with expectant looks. Sheila spoke first. “Seriously hot piece of ass.”
“I’d do him,” Patti confessed unabashedly. “All. Night. Long.” She made an obscene gesture that Piper was glad no one else could see.
“I could see him in a cowboy hat,” Jules said cheerily.
Piper smacked her arm playfully. “You are so bad,” she stage whispered.
“Seriously, if you don’t go over there and scoop up that hottie with the body, one of us will.” Looking extremely serious, Sheila motioned to herself and the others. “Believe me, if you don’t want him, one of us will be more than willing to take one for the team. Besides,” she continued, swirling the last of her drink, “you need to get laid.”
She couldn’t disagree there. It had been ages since Piper had hooked up with a man. Not since ditching the best apartment she had ever lived in after leaving her no good, lying, cheating ex-boyfriend begging on his knees for her forgiveness while his white trash floozy and her former roommate zippered herself into a skin-tight dress that flashed her disease-ridden goodies to the world. Nearly two months ago and she
still fumed when she thought back on it. What she needed was someone who was capable of pounding that particular vision into oblivion.
Peering toward the door, she was disappointed to find an empty wall where her mystery man had been.
An hour and two appletinis later and Piper and her friends were ready to hit the dance floor. As a group, the women bounced and swayed to the music, heedless of the beat and lacking any rhythm whatsoever—fun was the goal of the night.
Skin flushed and blood pumping hard, Piper soaked in the delicious feeling of a carefree night. Her head felt light and a little swimmy, her mood elevated—she was on top of the world. When the hard body mashed into her from behind, Piper went with it, grinding her ass against the hard ridge pressing against her backside.
Strong hands enveloped her waist, pulling her firmly against a broad chest. Body heat seared her back, sending shivers of excitement shooting through her. Her lungs constricted as her breaths grew shallow. She couldn’t see who she was dancing with, but she didn’t care. She was lost to the feel of the male body wrapped around her, to the heavy beat of the music vibrating in her chest, the way his hands and hips guided hers into a smooth, sensual rhythm. Leaning her head back, Piper closed her eyes and let the feeling of his arms around her and the constant pulse of the music lure her toward a state of bliss.
Existing in their own little world, the song playing overhead about an electric touch was the only thing that penetrated. Piper concentrated on the fiery sensation of strong hands drifting over the curves of her body, the spicy scent of liquor on his breath as it left his lips to caress her ear and neck. The gentle scrape of stubble against the curve of her shoulder teased her sensitive skin, and when one hand left her hip and pressed into her belly, forcing her hips to fit tighter against his, all rational thought fled from her mind.
His breathing grew heavier as Piper swirled her hips, rubbing him in all the right places. She let out a startled yelp when his teeth nipped the side of her neck, and when he followed the playful bite with a swipe of his tongue, her legs trembled. His throaty laugh did inexplicable things to her insides and she couldn’t resist reaching back to grab his firm ass and hold him to her.