Intimate Exposure. Simona Taylor

Intimate Exposure - Simona Taylor


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       Her mind lurched back to that kiss on the hospital floor, and the tender, comforting feel of it.

      It had been the kind of kiss that soothed away her fears, acknowledged her anxieties and offered her a place to rest and refuel her tired soul.

      This was not that kind of kiss. It was raw and lusty. It sent shock waves of pleasure down her spine and into her shoes, waves so intense she didn’t dare open her eyes. It sent a web of tingles across the surface of her skin, a hundred fiery darts of excitement and sensation. It was the kind of kiss where the sun could have dropped out of the sky and she wouldn’t have noticed.

      With one arm around her waist, he slipped the other under her legs and carried her over to the couch. He fell onto it with her on top of him. She swung her legs across his and straddled him, while he cradled her head with one hand.

      She looked down at him before he pulled her forward and kissed her again, even harder. Even longer.

      Dear Reader,

      Thanks for picking up Intimate Exposure. I hope you enjoy it—I especially hope you got a kick out of Shani and Elliot’s getaway to romantic Martinique. You might know I’m West Indian—I live in sunny Trinidad, in the southern Caribbean. Like most West Indians, I like to show off my islands every chance I get, so you’ll often see me squeezing in a reference whenever I get the opportunity. I’m especially happy when the plot allows my characters to travel, because then I can play hostess and show you around some of my favorite places.

      Even if you can’t hop on a plane and come visit for yourself, you can pass by my website, www.scribble-scribble. com. There’s always a breath of fresh Caribbean air waiting there for you.

      I’d love it if you dropped me a line and let me know what you think about my books. You can reach me at [email protected] While you’re at it, feel free to friend me on Facebook, MySpace or Shelfari. I also have an author page on www.Harlequin.com and www.Amazon.com.

      If you prefer good old snail mail, you can reach me at: Roslyn Carrington (or Simona Taylor, either one will reach me), P.O. Bag #528, Maloney Post Office, Maloney, Trinidad and Tobago.

      Till then, as we say in Trinidad, hold it down.

      Simona

       Intimate

      EXPOSURE

       SIMONA TAYLOR

       www.millsandboon.co.uk

      MILLS & BOON

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      Dedicated to my father, Trevor Carrington, who died by accident while I was working on this novel. I think it’s significant that a primary theme of Intimate Exposure is fatherhood, and the many ways in which the relationship between fathers and their children shape their lives. My father was prouder than anyone when I became a writer, and that meant a lot to me.

      Daddy, I miss you terribly every day.

       Chapter 1

      It was all Yvan’s fault. Yvan the Terrible, Shani called him. The world’s only half Irish, half Russian, all chauvinist soul food caterer. Yvan thought his waitresses looked better in low-cut French maid uniforms, except that instead of severe black fabric under their white lace aprons, they wore dresses made of kente cloth. He insisted it made them look “more ethnic.” Which was bad enough, except that even if you let the hems down (which Shani had) the skirts were all of ten inches long.

      Yvan said it would bring them more tips. He was probably right, and Lord knew Shani needed them. But the scant piece of fabric that barely covered her well-shaped butt also brought more male attention—and that was the very last thing she needed right now.

      So if there was anyone to blame for her current situation, it was Yvan. Backed up against a kitchen counter, clutching a silver tray loaded with Louisiana crab cakes, trying to squeeze past the inebriated owner of the sumptuous house in which she was working tonight, all she could think was: there’s really got to be a better way to make ends meet.

      She’d been working for Yvan for almost a year, so she was used to handling octopus-armed partygoers, but putting an overfamiliar man back in his place with a swiftly delivered slap would be an express ticket to the breadline. Yvan was ruthless if he felt his staff weren’t playing by his many rules. Matter of fact, if you survived more than eighteen months on his payroll, you deserved a medal.

      So her best course of action was diplomacy. “I really ought to …” she began.

      “Don’t worry, honey. There’re four more lovely ladies working the party. My guests are being well fed and watered. Don’t they sound happy?”

      They did, indeed. It was a quarter of twelve, and the party had been going on since seven. It had started out as a sedate business affair, with some of the city’s better-known corporate raiders, city officials and politicians politely nibbling at their butterflied shrimp in Creole sauce and cocktail-size yam balls on toothpicks. But after a few hours, with expensive liquor flowing, most of these upright citizens were well on their way to being plastered. Past the man’s shoulder, the crowd swayed, hands in the air, booties swinging to the hip-hop beat.

      But that was no excuse. She was paid to do a job. She filled her lungs with sweet, smoky air, calmed herself and insisted, “Mr. Bookman, I have to get back to work.”

      “Stack.”

      “Excuse me?”

      “Stack. My first name’s Elliot, but you can call me Stack.” His teeth were white against skin that was the color of warm sand, and his black eyes mirrored his seductive smile.

      “I’d prefer not to—”

      “Relax,” he cajoled. “Yvan works you girls too hard.” He held up the wineglass that had been his opening gambit in the current conversational impasse. “Come on, try it. Italian wines are very good—some of the best.”

      “You don’t say.” She tried to hide her irritation. Just who did he think she was? Some little dimwit who couldn’t recognize a good wine? She’d have him know she was a grown woman, a married woman—technically—who’d had her share of good red wines. But in the interest of keeping her job, she bit back the retort and instead trotted out the standard response. “Sorry, but we aren’t allowed to drink on the job.”

      His response was loaded with suggestion: “I’m sure there’re lots of things you aren’t allowed to do on the job.” He waved the glass of red liquid under her nose. The bouquet of the wine rivaled the scent of stronger alcohol on his breath. “But I’m not gonna tell anyone if you don’t.”

      His mouth was intimately close to her ear. She could see his lips move as though he was speaking in slow motion. “I like ‘em dark, you know,” Stack confided. “Beautiful girls, dark as berries.” He moistened his lips. “Black men in my position,


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