Authors: Nicole Flockton
Bound By His Desire
www.escapepublishing.com.auBound By His DesireNicole Flockton
From Nicole Flockton, author ofBound by her Ring –the last thing he wants is an emotional attachment to his new assistant, but it might be the only thing he truly needs.
Nick Rhodes has been burned before, so when he hires a new assistant, he has one rule: no emotional attachments. On either side. Pamela Bishop is everything he needs in a professional colleague, and comes with an ironclad guarantee – she absolutely will not fall in love with him.
Pamela Bishop has only one goal in her new job: getting on top of the mountain of debts incurred through her mother’s medical expenses. Jeopardising this chance by falling in love with her arrogant, if handsome, employer is the last thing she would ever do.
But as the lure and romance of New York City surrounds them, and Pamela and Nick find themselves spending more and more time together, they can no longer ignore the attraction flaring between them. Nick has always lived by his own rules – can he learn to break them in time to grab this one chance at happiness?About the Author
On her very first school report her teacher said, ‘Nicole likes to tell her own stories’.
It wasn’t until after the birth of her daughter and after having fun on a romance community forum that she finally decided to take the plunge and write a book.
Nicole writes sexy contemporary romances, seducing you one kiss at a time as you turn the pages. She enjoys taking two characters and creating unique situations for them.
Apart from writing, Nicole is busy looking after her very own hero — her wonderfully supportive husband — and her two fabulous kids.Acknowledgements
First off, I’d like to thank Kate Cuthbert, Belinda Holmes and the team at Escape Publishing. I am so honoured to be part of this fabulous publishing house. The cover art department totally rocks. Thank you for liking my stories.
Writing is tough and there are times when you are ready to give it up. That’s when you send out a SOS to friends and they pull you back from the ledge. I have a few of those people in my life. Thanks Kristen for always being at the other end of an email to make me laugh and realise that I can do this writing thing. To Sara and Sasha: our sticker wars are the best.
My Freaky Shey Houston. Goodness girl, I heart you so big! I’m so glad that we connected on Facebook and am so happy that we’re friends. I can’t wait to experience more freaky fun times with you!
Rachael Botson, you’re an absolute joy to know. I’m lucky to have your support and the gorgeous bookmarks you make for me.
To my Ninjas — you truly are the best with your support — read stealthily!
Kat, my website goddess. Quite simply, I would be lost without you. You are always there to tweak my site, help me with promo items. I can’t thank you enough for everything you do for me.
Jonathan Marlow, thank you for answering my real estate question, enabling me to come up with a workable solution for this story. You are an amazing father and I know it will all work out for you and you will come out on top.
I can never say thank you enough to Jason and my children for cheering me on, and dealing with me when they talk and I don’t hear because I’m immersed in writing my story.
Finally to you, the person who is reading this acknowledgment now. Thank you for picking up my book and reading it — I hope you enjoy the journey I take you on. I love hearing from you and you can find me at my websitewww.nicoleflockton.comor follow me on twitter athttps://twitter.com/NicoleFlocktonand Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/NicoleFlockton?ref=hl. Or drop me an email at[email protected].
To Mum and Dad: thank you for always believing in me.Contents
About the Author
Bestselling Titles by Escape Publishing…Chapter 1
Nick Rhodes felt his body stirring to life when he spied the woman standing in the doorway of the church. Her green dress accentuated and enhanced her curves. Her hair fell softly in curls over one shoulder in a waterfall of caramel. She held a small posy of flowers and he figured she must be a bridesmaid he hadn’t met at the rehearsal dinner the previous evening. Although that seemed strange, seeing as Luc only had him as his best man. There appeared to be no one standing behind her. He knew Jasmine’s assistant was to be a bridesmaid too. Whoever this girl was, he would remedy the lack of introduction as soon as the ceremony had finished. Maybe a quick fling would take the edge off his anxiety about what was happening in New York and the disaster that awaited him when he returned.
The music started and the woman walked with slow measured steps down the aisle. As she got closer to him he had to stop his jaw from dropping. He knew the woman. It was Pamela Bishop. The same woman who had been two seats down from him at the dinner, who had worn an outfit that had ensured she blended in with the background of the room. The same woman who hadn’t said ‘boo’ to him, but had managed to change the rehearsal dinner from chaos to calm in a matter of minutes. The same woman who Luc assured him would make a perfect new assistant.
It didn’t seem possible.
His body didn’t care what Nick’s mind thought, all it cared about was the stunning woman walking towards him, and he wanted to get to know her in the most primal of ways.
The closer she got to him, the more he could see and feel her nerves radiating out towards him. Her eyes were darting all around the church, looking to see if she could find a quick exit. Everything shouted out to him she wasn’t accustomed to everyone looking at her. When her gaze caught his, he sent her a smile. Nick hoped it was reassuring. He felt his lips widen when he noticed a soft pink glow bloom in her cheeks. He shifted slightly to relieve the unexpected pressure in his pants, hoping no one noticed his discomfort.
Once Pamela reached where he and Luc were standing and took her place opposite them, the music changed and theWedding Marchswelled loudly in the church. He watched in amazement as his friend, the hardest, most ruthless businessman he knew, almost melt at the sight of his wife walking towards him. He couldn’t blame Luc, Jasmine looked beautiful in the soft pink dress that emphasised the evidence of Luc’s impending fatherhood. He was excited and happy for his friend and, for today only, he gave himself permission to push business aside and enjoy the ceremony and evening ahead. Tomorrow he could find a new assistant and fix the deal before it completely fell apart.
He may have to reconsider his thought about approaching Pamela to be his assistant, though. If she turned up to the office each day looking like she did right at that moment, he might find himself throwing his own rule about getting involved with his assistant out the window.
The thought pulled him up short and the murmuring of the priest, reciting the wedding vows, faded to the far recesses of his mind.
How could he even think about pushing aside his rule to never get involved with an assistant? He knew how destructive an office affair could be. He’d lived it once, he wasn’t going to live it again. He’d sacked too many assistants recently who’d started looking at him as a meal ticket to a life of luxury. He would never go down that route and, if he did end up offering Pamela the job, he’d make it abundantly clear to her that if she was harbouring any ideas of holy matrimony, to cast her line well away from him.
The clapping of the congregation pulled him out of his thoughts. He looked across as Luc swept Jasmine up into his arms and kissed her soundly. He saw Pamela discreetly wiping her eyes. He never understood the emotions weddings raised in people. While he wished his friend well, he knew he’d never get married. Marriage and love could be devastating. Even Luc had almost been destroyed by the emotion. Perhaps there were exceptions to the rule, but it didn’t mean he had to explore the institution of marriage. The loss of freedom to come and go as he pleased was something he couldn’t imagine relinquishing for the sake of a woman. No matter how attractive he found her. He was thirty-three and free and wasn’t planning on changing his single status soon. Marriage definitely wasn’t a feature on his life to-do list.
The next few minutes passed in a blur as he and Pamela joined Jasmine and Luc as they signed the wedding register. Before he knew it, he found himself walking towards Pamela and holding his arm out to her to walk out of the church together.
His body flared to life again when they linked arms.
‘Wasn’t it a beautiful ceremony? I’m so glad it went off without a hitch. I planned it so carefully.’
‘Yes, a beautiful ceremony. Did you liaise with the wedding planner?’ Nick asked hoping the mundane conversation would have the same affect as a cold shower on his body. It had been a while since he’d last been with a woman. What other reason could explain his body reacting like a teenager’s the first time he found himself standing next to his first crush?
‘Oh no, I organised everything. Jasmine was looking at planners but I told her I’d do it and she wouldn’t have to pay me. I’m her assistant after all. Oh, well, I was,’ her voice trailed away.
Nick felt the sigh ripple through her. He recalled his conversation with Luc from the previous evening, about how Pamela was considering resigning now Jasmine had stopped working. ‘What do you think you’ll do now?’
They were outside the church while everyone congregated around the happy couple, standing off to the side.
‘I’m not sure,’ Pamela replied, as she pulled a piece of paper out of her purse and looked at the words written on it. ‘I’ll have to make a decision soon. I’ve got some savings but it won’t pay — ’
She broke off as if she’d recognised she’d said more than she wanted to. ‘Won’t pay what?’
‘It doesn’t matter. If you’ll excuse me for a minute, Nick, I need to speak with the photographer about where the photos are taking place.’
Nick watched her rush away. According to the conversation he’d had with Luc over breakfast, Pamela was an extremely efficient and well-organised assistant. He recalled how she’d gotten everything into shape last night at the rehearsal dinner. Luc had urged Nick to consider taking her to New York with him. She may not be familiar with the details of the current deal Nick was working on, but Luc assured him it wouldn’t take Pamela long to get up to speed on the intimate details. Nick wasn’t totally convinced, although if she took him up on his offer, they would have a long flight he could use to brief her.
He had been seriously thinking about everything Luc had said, until he’d seen her all dressed up. Then again, they were at a wedding and everyone dressed differently attending special occasions. No one glammed up to the same extreme in their day-to-day life. He may wear a suit every day, but he only ever wore a tux at formal events.
He let the thoughts of talking to Pamela about seeing if she was interested in becoming his assistant flow through his mind while he stood beside her for the photos. With every passing minute of their bodies being in close proximity to each other, his vibrated incessantly with the need to claim her and make her his. To own her and never let anyone near her again.
He would fight the urge, though. Fight it with everything he possessed. His mind would be stronger than the urges of his body.
Pam watched as Luciano and Jasmine swayed on the dance floor. She knew when the song finished she and Nick would be invited to join the happy couple on the dance floor. She couldn’t avoid the custom of the bridal party joining the bride and groom, no matter how much she wanted to. She’d managed to keep her distance from Nick ever since the photo session ended. Her body pulsated with electricity whenever he’d touched her. Sitting next to him through dinner had been torture. The man was seriously gorgeous and he wore his tux as if he had been born in it. He exuded confidence and wealth, and was so far out of her stratosphere it wasn’t funny. Nice to have a dream, though, that maybe one day someone like Nick might be interested in her.
‘Are you ready?’ The words were whispered close to her ear and her senses fired to life like fireworks going off on New Year’s Eve. She was twenty-eight and she’d never felt like this. Even when she’d been seeing Wayne, and he had been the man she’d almost given her virginity to. Wayne had dumped her when he’d finally grasped that instead of being a wealthy woman on her mother’s death, in all likelihood Pam would be struggling to make ends meet, which was how it had turned out. After the hurt had subsided, she’d been glad she hadn’t slept with him. Especially when she’d heard, through friends, he’d been sleeping around on her and bragging that she was going to be his meal ticket and he’d put up with her boring personality and plain looks.
It wasn’t like she’d been saving her virginity for any special reason. Life had happened and she’d decided she needed to lose it before she turned thirty. Nothing worse than being thirty and still a virgin. She thought Wayne could be the one, because when he kissed her she’d felt more excited than she had with any of the other men who had kissed her. Not that she could call being kissed by five guys a lot of experience. She hadn’t had too many opportunities to date through school because her mother had disapproved of it, had threatened to kick her out if she let a boy influence her. She didn’t want Pam getting distracted from her studies by boys who were after only one thing. Her mother kept drumming it into her until the thought of dating, and the consequences she could face, scared her more than it did her mother. When she’d started working she’d gone on the occasional date, but they’d never developed into anything serious. Always, in the back of her mind, she remembered her mother’s bitterness towards men and her warnings to never become a slave to a man’s needs. Her mother tarred all men with the same brush as her father, who’d run off with a waitress from a gentlemen’s club when Pam had only been thirteen.
Then, when she turned twenty-three, she thought she could move out and start her own life. Still her mum seemed to control Pam’s life. Mum had gotten sick, and life had become all about work and taking care of her ailing mother. Now her mum had gone and she potentially had no job, because with Jasmine leaving she felt she had no other option but to resign. Did she really fit into the glamour of Morelli Corporation? The only reason she’d been accepted was because of Jasmine. She really shouldn’t resign, not when she had debt collectors banging on her door every week chasing payment for her mum’s medical expenses. Did they have no sympathy? Why couldn’t they give her a little time to sort out all her finances? She had plans to pay them — eventually. But what choice did she have?
Yes, she really was doing a great job with her life right now.
Nick’s voice again pulled her from her thoughts. She’d been sitting there pondering the mess her life was, Nick had been standing beside her waiting for a response. He must think her so vague.
She summoned up a smile and took the hand he held out. ‘Yep, let’s do this.’
Pam couldn’t describe what it felt like to be held in Nick’s arms. It was like Christmas and her birthday all wrapped into one. His hand warmed the bare flesh of her back. His other hand held hers loosely, and all she wanted to do was lay her head on the solid strength of his chest. She wanted his arms to pull her close so his heat and strength enveloped her. She wanted Nick to kiss her.
The thought of his lips taking possession of hers had her heart rate increasing and she stumbled. Nick tightened his hold and pulled her closer, just as she’d wished only seconds ago.
‘Are you okay?’ he murmured against her hair.
Words were impossible so she just nodded. All too soon the music merged into another song; instead of letting her go, Nick still held her. They danced a couple more songs together. Words weren’t spoken between them. A silence enveloped them in its sweet embrace. To Pam it didn’t feel awkward at all — it felt nice.
‘Do you want to get some fresh air?’
The question came out of the blue, and Pam leaned back to look up into Nick’s eyes. They were like pools of melted chocolate, a chocolate so tempting she felt she could dip into it and taste the sweetness.
Nick fingers entwined with hers and together they made their way through the crowd, towards a side door. He held the door open and she walked out ahead of him. The night had cooled; she shivered, wishing she’d thought to swing by the table and pick up her wrap. She heard the soft rustle of fabric, and in the next instant warmth cloaked her as Nick wrapped his jacket around her shoulders. She snuggled into the satin lining. The spicy scent of his aftershave floated up and surrounded her. She could stand shrouded in his jacket all night.
He inclined his head and gripped the top railing of the decorative wrought-iron fence surrounding the balcony.
They stood like that for a few minutes; this silence wasn’t as comfortable as the silence that had encased them when they’d been dancing. Pam opened her mouth to say she needed to get inside, when Nick spoke.
‘I’ve got a proposition for you.’
It was the last thing she expected to hear from Nick and she didn’t know what he meant. Did he want to see her again? Did he want to sleep with her? She almost laughed out loud at the thought. No way he would ever want that to happen. She was pretty sure she wasn’t his type at all. ‘What sort of proposition?’
She could hear the uncertainty in her own voice. She hated sounding like a naïve idiot. Why couldn’t she be confident and coquettish and bat her eyelids at him? Say something flirtatious like,Whatever you’re proposing, the answer is yes.But she wasn’t like that. She didn’t have the confidence to carry off something so forward.
‘I know you’re looking for a job. You alluded to that earlier, after the ceremony.’
A little part of her started to cry on the inside. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise he wouldn’t want to see her after the wedding, or even kiss her or take her to bed. No doubt he knew beneath the gloss of the hair and make-up and beautiful dress lurked ordinary, reliable Pamela, called on by everyone when they had a problem to be solved.
‘Yes, that’s true. What’s it to you?’ Wow, she shocked herself with her bitchy comeback. She put it down to the disappointment slowly building inside of her. In the muted glow of the balcony, she couldn’t tell whether her response surprised him or not.
‘Well, I happen to be in need of an assistant and wondered if you may be interested, but now I’m not so sure.’
He wanted her to be his assistant? The man who was Luciano’s business partner wanted her to work for him. She so didn’t see that one coming. And she knew the reason for his reluctance in offering her the job was because of what she’d said to him. It was probably just a pity offer anyway, but it wouldn’t hurt to find out a little more about it. She knew he’d flown in from overseas just for the wedding; perhaps there could be travel involved, that would definitely enable her to tick off one of the boxes on her new life to-do list.
Pam knew before she could ask about the specifics of the job, she needed to apologise for her outburst.
‘I’m sorry, Nick, I shouldn’t have spoken to you the way I did. Put it down to still being stressed about organising the wedding and making sure it all runs smoothly. But if I can go back and answer your original question again, the answer would be — yes I am going to be in the market for a new job. Do you know of one that’s available?’
Pleasure quickly replaced her disappointment when Nick laughed and lightly touched her arm. ‘Now, that is a better response, and I accept your apology.’
‘Thank you. So you need an assistant, what will the job entail?
Pam wasn’t sure she was suitably qualified for the position. Yes, she’d been Jasmine’s assistant, but Jasmine had been the Director of Marketing. Nick’s assistant would be required to do a hell of a lot more than her previous job had involved.
‘You’ll be required to do the usual things like vet emails and calls, deal with responses to invites, organise my day so that it runs smoothly, attend meetings, take notes, etc. But what I’m really after is someone who can keep her focus entirely on the job and not get distracted by me.’
She took a step back. What the heck did he mean by that comment? Had he just insulted her, subtly? Or was it a warning of some sort?
‘I’m sorry, but what do you mean by “get distracted by me”?’
Pam watched in amazement as Nick seemed to squirm, almost embarrassed by her question and what he’d said to her. She had to be imagining it. No way could this man, who had confidence oozing out of him, be embarrassed.
‘I’ve had to fire the last two assistants I’ve had because they had grand ideas about falling in love with me. The last one used her position to try and entice me to fall for her, and when I wouldn’t take the bait, she gave highly confidential information to a person who used it to their advantage. Her desire to “make me pay” for not seducing her has led to the untenable situation I’m currently in with our latest deal. I feel confident you won’t get any ideas of trying to lure me into the marriage trap. A trap I have no intention of falling into anyway, which is why I think you’d be perfect for the job. You dress the part of an assistant and have a quiet efficiency about you, which suggests your focus is definitely on the job and not on your love-life.’
Right on the heels of remembering her failed relationship with Wayne. Nick’s words stung, and they weren’t meant as a boost to her self-confidence. He made her sound like the most boring person on earth, and she’d had enough of their conversation. Not on her life would she work for a man who had such a big ego.
She slipped off the coat he’d given her and held it out towards him. ‘Thanks, but I don’t think I want to work for someone who thinks all I can bring to a job is efficiency because I’m a plain Jane and dress conservatively. Tell me, Mr Nick Rhodes, did all your other assistants dress the part and look efficient, or did they all wear designer clothes with designer haircuts that cost more than a week’s pay?’ She paused a moment to catch her breath. She was on a roll and she wasn’t planning on stopping, even if it meant she’d just killed her hopes of ever getting a job again. At this moment in time she didn’t care if she had to be a check-out chick at the local supermarket. ‘I don’t imagine a person in your position wants an unattractive, boring assistant, but you’ve just basically told me that’s what I’d be and that’s the only reason you’re offering me the job.’
Mortification swept over her, her vision blurred by the tears welling up in her eyes. She wasn’t going to let Nick see them, so she whirled around and all but ran through the doors. Once she got inside the ballroom, she stopped and took a moment to catch her breath, willing the tears not to fall. She needed to get to a bathroom quickly.
Pam headed in the direction she needed to go with her head down, not wanting anyone to see her. She walked out of the ballroom and towards the hallway where the bathrooms where located. One tear slid down her cheek and she swiped at it, as if it was an annoying fly. If only she could swipe away the hurt that easily. She’d known she wasn’t attractive, but today she’d felt beautiful and Nick had crushed it with a few simple words.
Pam was reaching out to open the door when someone grabbed her arm and turned her around so quickly she gave a little yelp in surprise. She found herself wrapped up against a warm, hard chest. A chest she recognised because she’d wanted to lay her head on it earlier.
‘Wha — ’
Pam pulled back a bit so she could lift her head and look into Nick’s face. ‘Pardon?’
‘What I said to you was unforgiveable. I don’t think you’re plain at all. You look absolutely stunning today.’
For a moment there she thought Nick was on the right track, and then he had to say she looked stunning — today. Of course she looked stunning today, she’d had professionals work on her hair and make-up and had on a designer dress. Anyone would look stunning after that treatment. If he’d just told her he thought she was beautiful then she’d probably believe he truly meant his apology.
‘Yes, today I look stunning. I had help, but you know what? It doesn’t matter what you think. I won’t work for you, Nick.’
She made a move to step out of his embrace, but instead of loosening his hold, Nick tightened it.
Pam’s breath caught in her throat as he reached out and caught the tear that had fallen from her eye.
‘Don’t cry,’ he said on a whisper, as he leaned forward and kissed the spot where he caught the tear. Her skin tingled and the hair on her arms stood to attention. ‘I don’t usually make women cry.’ He peppered each word with a kiss down her cheek until the last one landed on the side of her mouth.
She froze, unsure what was going to happen next. She could turn her head a fraction and their lips would collide. She’d already decided she wasn’t going to work for him. What would it matter if she gave into the little part of her that wanted to know what he tasted like? The little part of her that wanted to know what it would be like to be kissed by a wealthy, gorgeous man. The little part of her that wanted to know what it felt like to be desired.
‘Nick?’ She whispered his name and he knew exactly what she was asking for. He moved the millimetres needed and melded her lips with his.
His touch was gentle, testing the waters to see if she would pull back and slap him for being forward. She wasn’t going to do that. She wanted this kiss. She’d asked him for it. She pushed her breasts against his chest and his arms tightened their hold on her. His lips moved over hers, enticing hers to open beneath his. She did. As his tongue slipped between her teeth, Pam wrapped her arms around his neck, her fingers entwining into his hair to keep him from moving away from her.
Her nipples peaked against her dress and she wanted Nick’s hand to move from her back and cup them. Feel the fullness of her breast and tease her nipple until she was crying out in desire. His body stirring to life against her belly gave her the power to get up on her tiptoes to deepen the kiss even further. Everything she did, every action, was purely on instinct, not experience. Feelings were overtaking her sensibilities.
‘Oh, get a room, you two.’
The words were spoken behind them but it was enough for Pam to remember where they were and what a spectacle they were making of themselves.
‘I’m sorry, that shouldn’t have happened.’ Nick’s muttered words had the effect of a bucket of water being thrown over her. Pam pulled out of his arms and smoothed down her dress. She heard a muffled groan coming from him. She looked up and found his eyes focused on her chest. She looked down and her nipples were standing proudly against the silky fabric. Pam cursed the soft material and the fact she couldn’t wear a bra underneath the halter gown.
‘You don’t have to apologise, Nick. I was with you every step of the way.’
‘Still, if I want you to work for me, I shouldn’t be kissing you.’
He still wanted her to work for him? After everything she’d said and done? It didn’t seem possible.
‘You’re still offering me the job, even though I said wouldn’t work for you?’
‘Yes,’ he ran his fingers through his hair. She knew how soft it was to touch. ‘I’ve spoken to both Luc and Jasmine, they both say you’re a fantastic assistant. Neither wants you to resign. I need someone I can trust to help me get this deal, which is falling apart as we speak, back on track. I think you’re the person who can help me achieve that.’
Pam should feel honoured that both Luc and Jasmine thought so highly of her. But part of her still held back, and she didn’t know why.’
‘You don’t even know me. Why are you so sure I can be the one to help you?’
‘I saw what you achieved last night. I walked into the rehearsal dinner and all I saw was chaos. There seemed to be something going on, I don’t know what, but there was anxiety in the air. When we sat down for dinner, not ten minutes after I arrived, the room was calm and peaceful. And today this wedding has gone off without a hiccup, which, from my understanding of weddings, is amazing. Jasmine is so calm and serene, enjoying her day the way a bride should. All because of you and your organisational skills. You’ve managed to keep this wedding on track without even getting a hair out of place, and you’ve managed to keep up with your maid of honour duties too. I’m seriously impressed.’
So was Pam, that Nick had noticed everything he’d mentioned. She also felt pride swell up inside her. It had been her goal to make sure that happened for Jasmine. If he’d told her all of those things outside on the balcony, then she would’ve jumped on the job straight away.
But you wouldn’t have experienced his kiss if he had, a little voice inside of her insisted. It didn’t matter what that voice said, there was no way they were going to kiss again.
‘Thank you, Nick, that means a lot. I’m blown over you think me competent enough to do the job. But there’s still so much going on here. Can I think about it, overnight?’
‘Sure, that would be fine. Do you want to meet for breakfast here tomorrow morning?’
Seeing as she was staying at the hotel, courtesy of Jasmine, it seemed like a good idea.
‘Yep, that will be fine. What time do you want to meet?’
‘Say about eight thirty? I’m flying back to New York the day after tomorrow, so I would like this sorted out before I go.’
‘New York? Does that mean if I took the job I’d be going to New York?’ The prospect of seeing a place she’d heard so many people rave about was too good to be true.
‘Will it sway your decision if I said yes it was?’ Nick asked with a teasing glint in his eye.
‘It may.’ Pam surreptitiously pinched herself. She couldn’t believe they were having this conversation in front of the ladies room.
‘Then, yes it is. The job with me is in New York, currently. After this deal is completed, who knows where I’ll be headed. I could be headed back to Sydney or back here in Perth and head office, or I may have to go to Europe. Depends what deal Luc wants me to work on next.’
The job was becoming more and more tempting with every word Nick uttered. She’d wanted to travel the world, experience new places, but had lacked the freedom and the funds to do so. Now she had one, and the other looked like being a perk of the job. It really was too good to be true. Plus being on the other side of the world would give her the necessary breathing space she needed to sort her finances out, and hopefully keep the debt collectors at bay.
However, she didn’t want to get too ahead of herself. They still had a lot of things to work out. Come tomorrow morning, Nick might have had a change of heart and not want to proceed with the offer. It would probably be best if she finished up the conversation before she blurted out she’d take the job and bugger the consequences.
‘Okay, as I said, let me sleep on it and we can talk about things in the morning. I still have a lot of things to think about.’
Nick nodded. ‘Sounds good. Oh, one more thing,’ he paused and she wondered what he had to say next. ‘It’s about the kiss we shared.’
She wanted to say, what about the most amazing kiss I’ve ever experienced in my life, but somehow knew that wasn’t the direction he was heading. ‘Yes, what about it?’
She hoped she sounded casual.
‘It can’t happen again. If you’re going to be my assistant, we draw a line in the sand, forget everything that has happened before and start fresh.’
Was he saying that he regretted the kiss? She had too much pride to ask. He couldn’t take the kiss back. He may think by drawing the metaphorical line in the sand the kiss could be forgotten, but she knew it had happened. It would always be there between them. But she also knew if she wanted the job, and quite frankly she did, then she would have to agree with him.
‘Yes. I can work with that.’
‘Good. Well, I’ll see you back in the ballroom. I think there’s still cake to be cut?’
She laughed and nodded. ‘Yes, I’ll see you back there.’
As he turned and walked away, Pamela wondered if he would look back and if he did, would it mean something, like everyone talked about in the movies. How if a guy looked back as he walked away, it meant he wanted her?
Her breath caught when Nick looked back over his shoulder and winked.Chapter 2
Pamela looked at herself in the mirror wearing her plain black trousers and sensible white blouse. They were perfectly suitable clothes for the office; understated, efficient and boring. They would work for the breakfast meeting she had with Nick, but she wished she had a sexy little dress. The type of dress some of the girls in the office wore. Wraparound dresses which accentuated the body, but were still demure enough to be worn in a professional capacity.
She sighed and pinned her hair back with a boring black clip. She recognised the girl in the mirror. It was the girl she’d always seen. But after yesterday, experiencing what it felt like to be all dressed up and looking beautiful, she wanted to be that girl again.
The room phone ringing had her pulling her attention from the mirror and walking over to answer it.
‘Good morning, Pam, I hope you slept well?’
Pam gripped the phone a bit tighter, her heart beating a little faster as it recognised the voice on the other end of the phone.
‘Hi Nick, I slept well, how about you?’
Such a mundane conversation they were sharing, so domesticated and a little surreal.
‘I slept fine. I wanted to let you know I’ve got to make a quick call before I can meet you. I didn’t want to let you get down there and think I’d forgotten we had arranged to meet up.’
‘Oh, okay, no problems. Do you want to change the time to meet?’
Pam was crossing her fingers in hope he would agree and she’d have time to run down to the hotel boutique, to see if they had something a little more fashionable for her to wear.
‘No, it’s fine, you go down and order and I’ll get there as quickly as I can.’
‘Right, I’ll see you then. Bye.’
She hung up the phone on the sound of Nick saying goodbye to her. She shouldn’t feel disappointed there was no time to go down to the hotel boutique. What was she trying to prove anyway? The way she was dressed today was who she was. She was discreet, reliable Pamela Bishop. The girl no one ever saw in the office. The girl who went about her duties, each day, in a quiet and efficient manner. The girl who caused no ripples or disruption to the mechanics of how the office operated. She laughed when she realised she’d pretty much echoed the same words Nick had said about her last night. They were true and, up until yesterday, she had always been proud of her achievements and how she conducted herself in her professional life. Why, all of a sudden, was she finding herself lacking? Why was she feeling so out of place in the corporate world?
Pam pulled herself out of her funk. It was probably the let-down from the buzz of organising the wedding. It had been exciting to go over the plans with Jasmine. To hear the way she spoke about Luciano, love infusing each and every word. She wanted that type of love in her life, and maybe taking off to the other side of the world could be one way to achieve the dream. Perhaps her knight in shining armour was waiting for her in New York right now. Biding his time until they met. Perhaps her new and exciting future was about to begin.
Nick finished up his call and put some papers into a folder. He was anxious to get back to New York and sort out the mess he’d left behind. He was picking up some of the pieces here and sorting them out. Once he got back on the ground in his office, everything would go back to normal.
As he made his way down to meet Pam, he tried not to let his mind wander to how it had felt to hold her in his arms. The way her lips had tasted sweet under his, a combination of champagne and strawberries from the dessert.
He felt his body stir to life again and he forced himself to remember what had happened to his family when his father had gotten involved with his assistant. He wouldn’t let that happen again. Last night was one of those odd nights. When the romance of the evening had somehow gotten under his skin. He wasn’t romantic. He wasn’t the type to let his emotions get the better of him.
Nick paused at the entry to the hotel’s restaurant, trying to locate Pam. He felt calmer when he spotted her sitting at a table next to the window, which looked out over the hotel’s indoor garden.
He breathed easier and a little portion of the tension taking up residence in his shoulders eased when he saw Pam wearing her no-nonsense clothes. He’d been stunned yesterday by how beautiful she’d looked in comparison to the rehearsal dinner. Today she still looked lovely, but efficient and capable. The traits he was looking for in an assistant. Seeing her sitting at the table waiting, he knew Luc had been right. Pam was going to be the perfect assistant for him, and he wouldn’t have to worry about her falling for him. Nor would he be reminded of the kiss they’d shared. Or how good it felt to hold her in his arms. The way his body responded to the scent of her. His reaction to her yesterday had been an aberration. If she maintained the look she was sporting today, there was no way he’d compromise his beliefs. As his assistant, she would be untouchable.
He weaved through the tables and put a smile on his face as he approached her.
‘Sorry to keep you waiting.’
His smile widened a little bit when he saw he’d made her jump a little. He wondered what she’d been thinking so deeply about.
‘No, it’s fine, I haven’t been here long. Did you sort everything out with your call?’
Straight to business, he liked that. Nick placed the folder on the corner of the table and took the seat opposite her. As he spread the napkin out over his lap, he scrutinised Pam. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail; unlike the other evening when there had not been a strand out of place, some wisps were falling softly around her cheeks. Unlike the other night, her hair fell softly over her forehead. She’d definitely had a style change for the wedding. But a haircut was only a haircut. He knew it wouldn’t change how she worked in the office.
‘Do I pass your inspection, and is this something I’ll have to deal with every day if I do decide to take you up on your offer?’
‘You’ve had a haircut.’
He could see he’d surprised her; he had surprised himself. What the hell was the matter with him? He was always all about business and he needed to get his focus back on why he was sitting at a table opposite Pam.
He needed an assistant, an assistant who wouldn’t cause any problems. Or do something stupid like fall in love with him.
Nick cleared his throat and straightened in his chair. ‘Let’s order. While we’re waiting for the food to arrive, I’ll tell you exactly what I need, want and expect from my assistant.’
Once he had her agreement, he picked his menu up and looked over the contents. Whatever had come over him in the last day and half could only be put down to stress. There was no other explanation. When he was back in New York everything would make sense again.
The waiter arrived and they placed their order for food and coffee. As he left, Nick picked up the folder beside him. He handed it over to Pam.
‘Here is a preliminary work contract. It outlines the position, your salary and what my expectations are. There’s the standard three-month probationary period clause in it. In addition, I’ve added another clause that states if, for some reason, either one of us feels this arrangement is not working out, either party can give one week’s notice. I think you’ll find all the benefits to be quite generous.’
‘If I take this position, how long will I be away for?’
‘Well, as I said last night, how long I need to get back to New York for is up in the air; it could be two months, it could be two weeks. The length of time we’re there is determined by how quickly we get the deal sorted out. Then it depends on what else we have in the pipeline. The longest I’m in one place is usually three months. Will this be an issue?’
Her throat moved up and down, like she had something stuck. He had a feeling she was going to decline and he couldn’t help but feel disappointed. The more time he spent with her, the more he thought she would be a perfect assistant.
‘I’m not sure,’ she said finally. That he could work with. He negotiated million dollar deals. He could get rid of any worries she had.
‘Look, check out the contents of the contract and we can discuss any concerns you may have.’
He gave her some time to look over the papers he’d handed her. He tried not to drum his fingers on the table. He wanted her to agree so he could make arrangements to see if he could get the pilot of the company jet to lodge a flight plan so they could start their journey that evening, instead of the next day.
‘When were you thinking of leaving?’ Pam asked, and he wondered if she had been able to read his mind.
The waiter arrived with their food, halting conversation. After they’d both started their meals, Nick answered her question.
‘If you agree with what’s in the contract, and seeing as you don’t have to give any notice, as this will be a straight reassignment, my plan is to leave this evening.’
Her eyes widened at his response. ‘That’s impossible.’
‘What do you mean it’s impossible? I have a deal I need to salvage. I took valuable negotiating time out to come to the wedding and I — ’
‘The wedding of your best friend, from what I understand. I wouldn’t have thought it would’ve been a hardship,’ she interrupted him coolly.
Nick sighed. ‘No, it wasn’t, and I’m really happy for Luc and wish him a long and happy marriage. I hope he has better luck than my parents. But business is business and if this deal falls through then it will cost the corporation a lot of money, and I for one don’t want that to happen.’
‘As much as I would love to take you up on the job, I’m afraid I’m going to have to decline. It’s impossible for me to get everything sorted out with my house to leave by this afternoon.’
‘So you want the job?’
‘Well, yes, it sounds like a wonderful challenge and the opportunity to travel is something I would love to experience,’ she paused and he saw the hesitation again. ‘But if I could have a week to get things sorted then I would accept right this minute.’
‘I don’t have a week to give you.
‘Then I guess this is over. I’m sorry, Nick. It would’ve been great to work with you.’
She went to stand, but Nick wasn’t one to give up easily. He reached across and placed his hand on hers, ignoring the heat shooting up his arm. ‘Do you have a passport?’
Pam nodded. Her eyes clouded in confusion. ‘Yes, I got one last year. But what has that got to do with anything? I still can’t accept the job.’
‘The main issue with you not taking the job has to do with your house, am I correct?’
‘Yes, I have a mortgage to pay, I have things to see to.’
‘Rent it out.’
‘Renting out my house would be great, but I can’t sort it out in a few hours. I have to interview real estate agents. Not to mention pack up my house. I’m sorry, Nick, but I really am going to have to decline.’
It didn’t matter how much she argued. He wanted Pam as his assistant. He knew, without a doubt, that with Pam by his side the deal would be completed and he would have his office running more efficiently than it ever had. He would be the envy of everyone he came in contact with. He would do whatever it took to get her agreement. He had contacts in real estate and he knew every single one of them would bend over backwards to give him what he wanted.
He wanted Pamela Bishop as his assistant, and he was going to have her.
‘I’m not taking no for answer.’
‘I’m sorry?’ Pam questioned. ‘I don’t believe you have any say in how I run my life.’
‘I know you want this job and I know you’ll be good at it. That’s the end of the conversation. I’ll have a car come and pick you up at four this afternoon. I’m pretty sure we can get a departure time around five or six to start our trip to New York.’
‘I don’t think you’ve heard a word of what I’ve been saying. If, and at this moment it’s a huge if, I do take this job, I have a house to pack up, things to move into storage, a real estate agent to contact to make the necessary arrangements to rent my house out. I can’t do all of that in a few hours. I’m not even sure I could accomplish it all in a week.’
‘Let me take care of everything,’ Nick said, as he stood and flicked back the cuff of his jacket so he could look at his watch. ‘I have to make another call, but before I do let’s sign this contract.’
Nick pulled the folder towards him and signed his name at the bottom of the last page. He turned folder around and held the pen out to Pam. She crossed her arms, refusing to take it from him.
‘I don’t have all day. You know you want to sign. I promise you everything will be taken care of. You just need to go home and pack up everything you want to bring. Don’t forget you’re going to the mecca of shopping. You can buy anything you need there.’
Still she refused to take the pen from him. His patience was wearing thin. He was going to bend over backwards to get everything sorted out for her. The least she could do was sign on the dotted line.
‘Am I going to have any say at all in what happens to my house, or are you going to bulldoze me into agreeing with you?’
‘No, I will speak to the necessary people and then you can leave detailed instructions with them.’ He looked at his watch again, hoping Pam would take the hint time was being wasted. “I’m trying to help you. Make things easier as I know this is a big move for you.’
‘Fine, but don’t think you can walk all over me all the time in New York, Nick. Or I will catch the first flight back, without giving you any notice. I will be your assistant and I deserve to be respected as such.’
He almost smiled at her outburst. Satisfaction filled him when she took the pen from him and signed her name.
Once she handed the pen back to him, he capped it and put it in his pocket. He collected the folder and pulled out her chair for her.
‘I’ll see you this afternoon. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got calls to make.’
With a nod, he slipped the folder under his arm and walked out of the restaurant. Like all negotiations he’d handled in the past, this one with Pam was no different. At the end of the day he always got what he wanted. He’d wanted Pam and now he had her.
Pam snapped the lid shut on her second suitcase and glanced around her bedroom. The top of her chest of drawers was bare, as were the shelves where she’d had some photos and other knick-knacks on display. She’d packed them up in the boxes herself, even taking a few wrapped in clothes and putting them in her suitcase so she had a little piece of home with her on the other side of the world.
A knock sounded at her door.
The door opened a crack and one of the movers poked his head around the door. ‘Miss Bishop, there’s a car here for you.’
‘Right, thank you. Tell the driver I’ll be right out.’ She was surprised her voice didn’t break with the nerves assailing her. Butterflies sped to life in her belly. The moment had arrived. She’d been hoping Nick would call and tell her he hadn’t been able to get a departure time for the evening and they would be leaving the next day. Her phone rang, but it wasn’t Nick. The only calls she had received were from the people Nick had contacted to pack up her house and the real estate agent who was going to find tenants for her.
‘Sure, Miss Bishop.’ The door closed as the mover went to relay her message.
She glanced around her room once more, making sure she hadn’t missed anything, had packed all she wanted and needed. She’d left instructions with the packers that the clothes left in her wardrobe were to go to Goodwill. She had decided Nick had a point, the shopping would be amazing in New York and she could buy some clothes there.
Her only regret was she hadn’t been able to contact the hair stylist and make-up artist from the wedding. She’d really wanted to take them up on their offer to get some pointers from them, but she was sure there were people in New York who could help her if she wanted to get some advice.
Pam opened her handbag and confirmed her passport was safely tucked inside. It was. There was nothing else left to do but pick up her cases and leave. But her feet seemed to be glued to the ground. Afraid to move because she had no idea what was going to be waiting for her beyond her closed door.
At that moment, her closed door was flung open. She whirled in surprise. Nick stood in the doorway, and he looked far from impressed.
‘Are you coming? I don’t want to miss our scheduled departure slot.’ His words were clipped and she could feel the annoyance radiating out towards her. Second thoughts about working with him filled her. She wasn’t sure she wanted to work with a man who bit her head off at every opportunity. Not to mention the attitude changes he seemed to have every time she saw him.
Pam straightened her spine and met his thunderous glare head on. Yesterday his eyes had looked like melted chocolate; today they looked hard and impenetrable, like slabs of dark granite. ‘I was making sure I had everything. I didn’t want to get to the airport and find that I’d left my passport here.’ She picked up her backpack and slung the strap over her shoulder, and grabbed the handle of the small duffle she was using as her carry-on.
She headed towards the door. Once she got there, she put her luggage at Nick’s feet. ‘Be a darling and carry my bags out to the car.’
She didn’t wait for an answer, just headed down the hallway towards her front door. She passed her living room and glanced in. All her furniture was covered in plastic, ready to be moved out and put in storage. It was really happening. She’d made a huge life-changing decision only hours ago. The day had a dreamlike quality to it.
As she walked through her front door, she didn’t look back; if she looked back she knew she’d probably cry. She kept her eyes forward, trained on the black car purring on the side of the road. A new future awaited her the moment she stepped into the car. A new future full of a million possibilities. A new future, where she had the opportunity to change her destiny.Chapter 3
Pam checked her seatbelt was fastened and sat back against the soft leather of her seat. When Nick had mentioned a departure time, she’d naïvely assumed that was executive talk for a normal flight on a commercial airliner. She had been so wrong. She looked around the private jet and wondered if she’d stepped into an alternate reality.
Two days ago she’d been running around making last minute arrangements for a rehearsal dinner, all the while thinking about maybe having to find a new job. Never in her wildest imaginings would she have thought two days later she’d be sitting in a private yet waiting to go to New York.
‘We’ll be taking off soon, do you want a drink before we leave?’ Nick asked as he took the seat beside her. She hoped he wasn’t going to sit there the whole flight. She wasn’t sure she would be able to deal with his close proximity.
‘No, I’m good. You don’t have to sit next to me. I’ll be fine. I mean who wouldn’t be? These seats are amazing. More like lounge chairs than the upright, sparsely padded, uncomfortable chairs you find on most standard international flights.’
Pam shut her mouth quickly. She was rambling like a girl who’d just come off the farm.
‘Luc always likes to feel comfortable when he flies. Although he won’t be doing much now he is about to become a father. He’ll be leaving that up to me.’ He pointed to the door at the end of the cabin. ‘There is a bathroom and bedroom if you want to sleep. We have a long flight and we’ll have to make a couple of stops to refuel.’
‘How safe is it sleeping on a bed? What if the plane hits a patch of turbulence?’ As much as the thought of spreading out and getting some decent sleep on a long flight appealed to Pam, the thought of being tossed around, like a leaf on a strong breeze, getting injured, had her disregarding the idea of using the bed.
Nick laughed. ‘I’ve done it many times and haven’t had any issues.’
‘There’s always a first time, and knowing my luck it will happen to me.’
Pam tried not to imagine Nick sleeping naked between the sheets. If things were different and she had a chance with the guy, she could achieve two milestones. Join the mile-high club and lose her virginity. That fantasy was never going to happen. Not with Nick anyway.
She sighed and reached for the magazine she’d stuffed in her purse. It wasn’t enough to keep her occupied for an over twenty-four-hour flight, but she figured in a slick jet like the one they were in, there’d bound to be movies she could watch and inevitably she’d sleep.
She stopped herself from squirming at the thought of Nick watching her sleep. It was unnerving to think he may watch her. She could always return the favour, she supposed. Would he even sleep? He’d have to. There would be no possible way he could go the whole flight without sleep. Would he go into the bedroom?
The engines whirring up to full speed stole her attention from the thoughts of Nick and bed. She pulled on her seatbelt to make sure it was tight and secure. She closed her eyes and took a couple of deep breaths. She wasn’t normally a nervous flyer, then again, she’d only ever been on two planes and they were your normal, domestic-sized carrier, not on a plane one third of the size.
‘You’re not afraid of flying, are you?’ Nick asked, as his warm hand engulfed the one that was gripping her armrests.
‘Not normally, but this is the first time I’ve been on a jet this size, so it is a little nerve-racking. I’m sure I’ll be fine once we get in the air.’
‘I can assure you Luc prides himself on having the best of everything, including the maintenance staff of this plane, and the pilot as well. You’re extremely safe. You have heard it’s more dangerous to cross the street than it is to fly?’
Pam laughed, like she was supposed to, and a little of the tension that had taken up residence in her shoulders eased slightly. ‘I had heard that.’
She didn’t say anything else, just gazed out the window as they made their way down the runway in preparation for lift-off.
Nerves of a different kind assailed her. She was about to embark on a job where she was expected to look and dress the part. She cringed when she thought about the serviceable clothes she had in her suitcase. When she was working with Jasmine they had seemed fine. But now she was working for a high-powered executive. A billionaire, and her off-the-rack suits would make her stick out like a sore thumb. She wondered if there might be time before their first appointment for her to visit a shop and buy something. Maybe the hotel they were staying at had a boutique.
The plane taxied down the runway, gathering speed as if running from demons. Pam tried to let her concerns stay behind. It didn’t matter what she looked like or how she dressed, she was there to help Nick. She would push aside the secret part of her that wanted him to find her attractive. She couldn’t let that thought take root and spread through her. If she did, she’d be like every other assistant he’d had. Thinking herself in love with him and ending up being fired. She wasn’t going to waste this opportunity. Besides, the chances of Nick finding her sexy enough to take her to bed were slim to none. He had probably already forgotten about the kiss they’d shared at the wedding. If only she could. His kiss had been amazing. It was highly unlikely that he had been affected by it as much as she had. To him it would’ve been just another kiss.
As the plane rose in the air, Pam let her eyes close and she made one wish — that while on this adventure she would finally experience what it was like to lose herself in a man’s arms.
Nick rubbed his eyes as the figures on the sheet of paper in front of him started to blur. He moved his head from side to side, then up and down, feeling the neck muscles crack as they loosened themselves after being locked in one position for so long.
Out the corner of his eye, he noticed Pam curled up in her seat; she looked as uncomfortable as he felt.
Nick collected up the papers and stuffed them back into his briefcase. Undoing his seatbelt, he stood and placed the case on the chair opposite his seat. He made his way to the front of the plane where the pilots were.
‘Hi Darryl, how much longer before we have to stop to refuel?’
‘About another six hours, Mr Rhodes.’
That was enough time for him to get some sleep and then to get back into work. ‘Will we be flying into some bad weather or does everything look smooth?’
‘The radar shows that everything looks pretty clear, but you can never tell. Are you thinking of sleeping?’
This was the reason he’d never been jolted out of the bed by bad weather — he always informed the pilot, and if they knew they were flying into any bad weather they would wake him.
The pilot nodded. ‘If we see anything we’ll let you know.’
Nick turned and walked back to the main cabin, stopping beside Pam as she slept. He couldn’t let Pam continue to sleep the way she was. She would only wake up even more tired than if she had no sleep at all. He needed her ready to go when they arrived. It wouldn’t be helpful to have an assistant who fell asleep at their first meeting.
He reached over and gently undid her seatbelt. She stirred but didn’t wake. He removed her shoes, tucking them into a side pocket, before gently scooping her up in his arms. She was soft and pliant from sleeping. His body automatically responded to having Pam in his arms again. Strands of her hair tickled his nose; sniffing, he caught the light scent of oranges. The desire to keep her in his arms took him by surprise.
This was no good. He needed to move. Nick made himself think of the frigid air on the outside of the plane, instead of Pam and what his body wanted to do with her. It didn’t do anything to cool him down.
He strode down the small aisle and, with his fingertips, flicked the door handle down. He shouldered through the small gap he’d made and walked over to the bed.
He’d used the bed on numerous occasions and each time he’d been alone. This time he was going to be sharing it with his someone — his new assistant. He had to keep pounding that into his mind. She was his assistant and that was all she could ever be. No matter how sexy she looked sleeping. He’d never been tempted to do anything but deal with his work issues with any of his other assistants. He had to remember what he’d walked into that fateful afternoon, a sight no teenage boy should ever see. He shuddered as he recalled the look on his mother’s face. Her eyes so empty and dull.
Nick pushed the thoughts aside. He couldn’t let himself go there. It hurt too much and he was done being hurt by his past.
He placed her gently on one side of the bed. He pulled the covers back and then gently moved her so that she lay on the bottom sheet and not the covers. Once he had her settled, he unbuttoned his shirt and trousers. He hung them in the small wardrobe and returned to the bed. Pam had curled up on her side. Though she was still fully dressed, she was looking infinitely more comfortable than she had in the chair.
Nick slipped in beside her, lying on top of the sheet that covered her and under the bed’s comforter. In his mind, the barrier of the sheet was the same as a thick layer of concrete: no matter how badly he wanted to, he couldn’t penetrate it to get to the treasure that lay beneath.
A yawn shook his body and the weariness he’d tried to keep at bay overcame him. He settled himself on his back and closed his eyes. His last thought was a mental reminder to wake up in a couple of hours.
Pam stirred and tried to work out what had woken her from her sleep. The bed beneath her was soft and didn’t feel like her normal bed. There was a heat behind her and something heavy lay over her stomach. She didn’t know if she was dreaming, but she felt so safe and secure that she snuggled back against the warmth. In response, the weight over her stomach tightened its hold.
It didn’t feel right, yet it did. She was missing something. Something significant about the whole situation.
She pulled a hand from under the blanket and touched whatever was laying over her. When she came in contact with flesh, covered in soft hair, she pulled her hand back as if it had been burned. She opened her eyes fully and tried to take in the strange surroundings. She wasn’t in her bedroom.
A knock sounded at the door.
‘Mr Rhodes, we’re preparing our descent so we can refuel. You need to move back to your seats.’
The body beside her, which only seconds ago had been soft and relaxed, now became tense, like a piece of unbreakable steel.
‘Nick?’ she whispered, as she rolled over and bit back a gasp at the sight of a bare-chested Nick. She’d known from dancing with him he was well-muscled, but seeing him without his shirt had her mouth drying out in seconds.
In a blur of movement, he flung the cover back and was up and at the small closet in the room. Her view now was of an impressive back and an even more impressive butt, clad in black boxer briefs.
‘You’ll need to get up, too.’ His words were clipped and cold. The warmth she’d felt while she’d been lying beside him gone.
As she moved out of bed, she saw she was still fully clothed. She looked like a rumpled mess.
Great, just great, she thought.He’s going to look as fresh as a daisy and I’m going to look like that final dandelion before it’s ripped to shreds by the first winter squall.
It was then she also remembered she had fallen asleep in her chair and now she was in the bedroom and had slept in the same bed as Nick.
‘How did I get here?’
‘I carried you. Let’s continue this conversation in our seats. We’ll be landing to refuel soon and then we’ll be taking off again. We should be in New York in another few hours.’
He walked out the bedroom and left her staring at the closed door. A little jolt as the plane hit a patch of rough air had her moving into action quickly. She hurried from the room and made her way back to the seat she had occupied earlier.
She noticed that Nick had taken the seats on the opposite side of the plane. If that wasn’t a glaring, I’m-avoiding-you gesture, she didn’t know what was.
Pam shivered as she sat back down. The seat had cooled in her absence and she missed the warmth of the bed.
‘There’s a blanket under your seat if you want it.’
She stole a look over in Nick’s direction; he was busy reading through some papers, blatantly ignoring her.
Fine, let him be a jerk. It wasn’t like she’d asked him to take her to bed. She’d been asleep when he’d carried her. She stopped her thoughts right there. She’d been carried to bed by Nick Rhodes. He had held her in his arms and she’d slept through the whole thing.
It was probably going to be the one and only time he would ever carry her and she’d missed out on the whole experience. Pam sighed and slammed the door on the thoughts. There was no point going there, nothing was ever going to come of it.
Another shiver swept over her, so she reached under her seat and pulled the blanket out. She huddled beneath it and lifted up the window shade. She had no idea where they were but the sun appeared to be setting over the horizon. The sky was a beautiful combination of reds and pinks and purples. The clouds beneath the plane were like fluffy beds of cotton wool. The scene so beautiful and tranquil. It made her aware she was such a small part of an amazing world and she was seeing something so few people got the opportunity to see, much less appreciate. Everyone was always so busy these days, they never took the time to appreciate the beauty surrounding them.
Keeping her look firmly fixed out the window, the plane slowly descended. Trees and buildings became larger the lower the plane got. Only when they’d touched down did she risk a glance at the man sitting opposite her. His eyes were locked on her and she couldn’t quite read what was in their chocolaty depths. For long seconds they contemplated each other. She thought she saw something akin to longing, but with a quick lowering of his eyelids the moment was gone. When his lashes flicked back up, his eyes had returned to chips of granite.
Even with the blanket covering her, coldness seeped its way into her bones. She turned back to the window as the plane taxied to a halt. Gone was the beautiful sunset she had watched and now all she saw was blackness. She hoped it wasn’t an omen of what was going to happen on the rest of the trip. Had she made the right decision to take this job with Nick? Or had she made the biggest mistake of her life?Chapter 4
Even in her jet-lagged state, the buzz and excitement of actually being in New York was something Pam couldn’t ignore. They were travelling in a large black SUV, but all around her were the yellow cabs synonymous with New York.
She tamped down the strong desire to press her nose against the window to take in everything. Imprint it on her brain, so when she was back in a boring job she would remember the small time in her life when she had taken a leap of faith and worked in one of the most vibrant cities in the world.
She had to contain her excitement. She didn’t want to seem gauche to the cool and sophisticated Nick Rhodes.
‘Even though it’s only been a few days since I was last here, the excitement of this city gets right into your soul.’
Words spoken so softly, but they surprised her. She’d thought for sure this would be a normal occurrence for Nick. She looked at him to see if she could decipher the meaning behind his words.
Was he mocking her because he could feel her excitement? Or was he indulging her and her fascination with being in the city?
‘I’m surprised you say that.’
‘Really, why is that?’
Pam pulled her look from Nick and back out the window. They were stuck in traffic, but she hadn’t expected anything less. ‘I would’ve thought after all this time and countless visits,’ she waved her hand around. ‘All these people and this traffic would become second nature and nothing could surprise you anymore.’
‘Clearly, you don’t know me,’ he replied in a clipped tone.
She almost recoiled at his words. No, she didn’t know him and the deep-freeze he’d been sending her way since they’d gotten into the car only reinforced her thoughts. He was never going to be interested in her.
There was no more conversation as the traffic started moving again. Before long, they were pulling up towards a large building. The bottom of the building held shopfronts, and she was pleased to see that some of the shops were boutiques and were still open. Perhaps she would have time to get something new to wear for tomorrow. She recalled the old song about New York being the city that never slept. Hopefully that song was right and the shops would stay open long enough for her.
Pam let her eyes travel up and saw that it was a mid-rise building, but didn’t blaze a neon light representing a hotel.
‘Where are we?’
Her hand had been on the door handle, ready to open it, but she pulled it away. What was happening here? Was he being dropped off first and then she would be taken to a separate hotel? If that was the case, how was she going to find her way around? Where was the office they were going to be working from?
‘Your apartment? Where am I staying?’ She thought she’d done a good job at leaving her panic out of her tone, but even she heard it.
‘You’re staying with me.’
That didn’t alleviate her panic any more; it only increased it. She was going to be living with Nick? How professional was that?
‘I’m staying with you?’
Her door was pulled open and she jumped slightly in surprise. It was the last thing she had been expecting.
Nick’s hand touched hers briefly, the first contact they’d had since she’d woken up beside him on the plane. He had kept his distance from her after the plane had taken off from their refuelling stop. She’d fallen asleep again in her chair and the hostess had woken her when they were approaching New York. It had been abundantly clear to her Nick regretted taking her to the bedroom. But she hadn’t asked for it, so his attitude grated.
‘It will be fine, Pamela. We’ll discuss everything inside. I’m sure you want to take a shower after the long flight.’
He was right. They couldn’t have this conversation while they were seated in the car. She stepped out and immediately noise engulfed her: horns beeping, the muted sound of people talking as they walked past and music playing from a street vendor’s cart. Her first experience of New York, and it was everything and more than she had expected.
Nick’s hand landed on the small of her back; her skin hummed to life under the lightest of touches. He guided her towards the entrance of the building. The door immediately opened and a distinguished looking, uniformed doorman smiled in welcome.
‘Good evening, Mr Rhodes, and welcome back.’ The doorman paused and inclined his head in her direction. ‘Miss.’
His expression held no hint of surprise at seeing her standing beside Nick. She had no idea whether this was a normal occurrence — Nick bringing strange women to his home. She imagined discretion to be part of the doorman’s job.
Pam nodded in return, not sure what else to do. Would Nick introduce her or not?
‘Evening Rob, can you see that our bags are taken up to my apartment?’
No, he would not, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t. ‘Hi Rob, seeing as Mr Rhodes here has forgotten his manners, my name’s Pamela Bishop.’
‘Pleasure to meet you, Miss Bishop.’
Nick nodded toward Pam with a wry smile. ‘Forgive me my bad manners. Thanks, Rob.’
He slipped some money into the man’s hands and again placed his hand on her back, guiding her through the foyer. That was one thing she’d have to ask him about. Who did she tip and how much did she tip them? It was something she wasn’t used to, but Nick handled it with the ease of a man well used to the protocols.
They made their way to the lifts, past the glass shopfronts. In one of them she spied a beautiful dress. She slowed and let her eyes linger on it before following Nick to the elevators.
‘How long do the shops stay open?’ she asked once they entered the lift. When she saw the disc lit up had the letter ‘P’ on it, she bit her lip. ‘P’ stood for penthouse. With every passing moment she spent in Nick’s company, the more aware she became of the sheer wealth of the man standing behind her. It intimidated her a little.
‘I’m not sure, but I think most shops stay open to around eight or nine in the evening. Why?’
‘Oh, no reason.’ No way did she plan on letting Nick know she wanted to go shopping for clothes so she wouldn’t look out of place. No way at all.
The lift ride was over far too quickly for Pam’s comfort. The doors slid open; instead of opening into a hallway, they opened to an impressive foyer, bigger than her bedroom and bathroom put together. She hesitated taking the step that would put her into an environment she’d never been in before. Nick’s hand was on her back again, encouraging her to enter his home.
‘Do you rent this place or own it?’ Somehow she knew the answer, but she wanted to hear it from him.
‘It’s mine. It was one of my first purchases when I made my first million. It was an absolute dump so I got it cheap. It stayed empty until the building was remodelled. I then sunk the money into it to renovate it. By then the company was doing well. I could afford to get the best of everything for it.’
His explanation should’ve sounded arrogant, but he was so matter-of-fact. She wondered if he had an emotional tie to the place at all or whether it was strictly an investment property.
As she looked around, Pam’s mind boggled at the thought of all that money being sunk into this place. It must have cost him a fortune. Her mortgage debt was huge to her but to the likes of Nick, it would be pocket change. It reminded her, again, how far out of her league he was. In normal circumstances, no way would he possibly be interested in her. He wouldn’t even give her a second glance. Even if she had a decent social life, their paths wouldn’t have crossed at any social event.
What was she doing here?
The deeper she walked into the apartment the more her breath was taken away. She had never seen such luxury in her whole life. The décor had pure bachelor written all over it. There were black leather sofas placed strategically to take in the view of the city lights. The splash of colour from the bright cushions in the corner of each sofa surprised her. She thought he would go for a traditional black and white feel, but as she looked around she saw more splashes of colour. It gave the whole apartment a modern yet chic vibe, while still stating a bachelor lived there.
Pam mused that if she lived here she’d never want to leave. She turned and found Nick studying her with a hooded expression. She couldn’t tell what was going on in his mind. It unnerved her slightly.
‘Is this your permanent place of residence?’ It didn’t look lived in but it also didn’t feel abandoned.
‘Whenever I’m in New York I stay here. When I’m off travelling or know I’m going to be in Australia for a certain period of time, I do short-term executive leases. It works out well and the place gets used.’ Nick strode over to the bar, which was located in the corner of the room, and set two glasses on the gleaming wood. ‘Do you want a drink?’
Somehow the thought of sharing a drink seemed too intimate, which was ridiculous since they’d slept together on the plane. What she really wanted to do was have a shower and go downstairs and see if she could have a look at the dress she’d spied. It probably wouldn’t look any good on her, but part of her wanted to try, to step out of the comfortable, boring clothes she wore. She was starting a new job in a new city, so why not start it off with a new wardrobe. She wouldn’t have to go over the top, just a couple of new pieces.
‘Actually, what I’d like to do is take a shower and — ’ She broke off. She shouldn’t feel so embarrassed about saying she wanted to look at the shops. ‘I want to check out the shop downstairs, I don’t, umm, I didn’t pack some accessories so I wanted to see if they have something.’
It sounded lame and she thought Nick would see right through her flimsy reason. Instead he raised an eyebrow, as if he didn’t expect her to be the type of girl who would be even remotely interested in shopping.
‘Okay, I’ll show you to your room then.’ He stepped out from behind the bar and walked towards her. ‘The doorman should be here soon with our bags. When he does, I’ll leave them in your room while you shower. You have your own bathroom.’
As she walked down the hallway she became aware of how huge the apartment was. It was probably twice the size of her house. It seemed so big for one person, but then again, it fit the image she had of how the very rich lived.
Nick opened a door and the first thing that caught her eye were the ceiling to floor windows. There seemed to be no window coverings on them. How was she supposed to sleep with the evening lights and then the sun shining through?
‘Are there no curtains or blinds on the windows?’
Nick laughed and she cringed at how naïve she sounded. What did it matter if there were no window treatments? The view was of the city, not of another building; no one could look in and see her.
Nick pressed a button next to the door and a small whirring sound filled the room. Pam watched as sleek blinds slowly unfurled down, covering the windows. They muted the city lights immediately.
‘Oh,’ she said.
‘I like my privacy, and although the designer tried to tell me that with the double-glazed tinted windows no one could see in, even with the lights on, I told her I wanted some coverings. She came up with these electric blinds and I have to say I’m really happy with how well they work.’
‘They certainly beat the heavy brocade curtains in my house.’
Pam walked over to the huge bed; it had to be a king-size. She imagined she’d only use one quarter of the bed. She was so used to sleeping on a double. She would bet her first week’s wages that the sheets were of the finest cotton. The bed looked inviting with its silky purple and pink bedspread.
‘It’s a beautiful room, Nick, and your apartment is amazing. I don’t know how you can leave it. If it were my place I would never want to go anywhere else.’
‘Thank you. At this point in my life it’s more an investment. I can’t afford to get too attached to things. I’ve got a business to run.’
Pam looked at him, not totally surprised by his no-nonsense tone, but it was sad somehow. Sure, he was a partner in an international company and probably a billionaire. Didn’t he know there was more to life than work? Even Luciano had built a home for him and Jasmine to share. Surely one day Nick would marry and settle down and have a home base. Maybe here in New York — he might find a beautiful socialite on this trip.
A stab in the region of her chest surprised her. She’d known the man for less than a week, she had no claim on him and if he found his future wife this trip, what did it matter to her? She, herself, had a plan to find someone to have a fling with. To take that walk on the wild side and have a no-strings-attached affair to finally rid herself of her virginity.
‘Here’s your bathroom.’ Nick’s statement pulled her from her thoughts of affairs and weddings.
Pam peeked through door and, by now, wasn’t shocked by the luxury of the room. It wouldn’t take long to get used to the amenities living here would provide.
The soft ding of the elevator arriving reached through the apartment to where they were. ‘That will be our bags. I’ll leave you to it.’
In a matter of seconds he was gone and she was left standing by herself in the middle of the room. She was beginning to see that Nick Rhodes was a complex man. A man who focused on his work and only his work. She couldn’t help but think it was a lonely existence. Travelling the world to glamorous places, living in apartments you couldn’t make your own because you were never there long enough to leave a personal imprint. Suddenly the life of the wealthy businessman didn’t seem so impressive. Perhaps being a struggling assistant was a much better way to live.
Pam gave herself a mental shake. It didn’t matter how Nick chose to live his life, she was there to do a job and she’d do it well. She was going to have a shower and go check the store downstairs.
She was going to make the most of her time in this fabulous city, and for the first time in her life she wasn’t going to worry about the fact that she had her mother’s outstanding medical bills and a mortgage hanging over her head. At least here the debt collectors couldn’t hassle her. She should look at selling the house. It would wipe out all her debt and then she could start making positive moves in her life. But her heart didn’t really want to sell. The house had been her grandmother’s and her mother had made her promise not to sell, no matter how bad things got. But surely her mum would forgive her if she knew her only daughter was sinking under a mountain of bills. Her mother had had no idea how expensive her alternative medical treatments were in addition to the traditional ones. Pam hadn’t wanted to worry her in her final days so she’d told her their medical insurance was covering it. She’d hated lying to her mum but she hadn’t wanted her to worry. Now the inability to pay those expenses was weighing her down. How much of her life was going to be spent in debt?
Nick knew he should be making sure Pam didn’t need anything or any help. He’d seen her briefly in the kitchen, after she’d had a shower. She had been wearing jeans and a sweater that accentuated her breasts. He had wanted to walk over there and sample her lips again; he’d been thinking about her taste since he woken up on the plane with her in his arms. It had been a bad idea to lie down next to her. But he couldn’t help himself.
When she’d been unconsciously nibbling on her bottom lip as he showed her her room, he’d wanted to stride over there and replace her teeth with his and tumble them both on to the bed.
Then he forced himself to remember the wild-eyed maniacal look on his mother’s face and the look of horror on his father’s when his mother had found out what her husband had been up to. The affair he’d been having with his assistant. Nick hadn’t wanted to stick around for yet another argument so he’d taken off down the street to the park. What would’ve happened if he’d stayed at the house? Would the outcome have been any different? What would’ve happened to him if he had stayed? Would his mother have hurt him too?
‘Nick, I’m going downstairs. I won’t be long.’
Pam’s soft voice shoved the thoughts of the day that changed his life, made him grow up quicker than he should, away. Back to the recesses of his mind, where the sordid memories belonged. Nothing good would come of remembering and wondering. He thrust away from his desk, knowing he wouldn’t be able to get any work done. ‘Give me a couple of minutes to change and I’ll join you.’
‘No.’ The word burst out of her and he was surprised when she blushed. What was she hiding? It’s not like she’d had the opportunity to meet anyone, they’d only been in the city for a couple of hours.
‘I mean, look, I know you’re busy and I’ll only be a few minutes. I’m just going to get some earrings.’
She was avoiding him? Why?
‘Can’t do that I’m sorry, it’s your first night here and it wouldn’t be right of me to leave you alone. Besides, you don’t know New York, it can be dangerous out there. It would irresponsible of me not to do everything I can to keep you safe.’
‘Oh please, aren’t you taking this boss/employee relationship a bit far? I’m only going downstairs, Nick, not trawling the streets. I’m not that stupid. Besides,’ she shrugged her shoulders, causing the sweater to tighten across her breasts. ‘If you’re that worried about me, ask the doorman to stop me from leaving.’
Nick couldn’t help it, he laughed out loud at the thought of Rob stopping Pam. But she had a point, she wasn’t going far and he could ask Rob to keep an eye on her. Not that he didn’t trust her, he did. But he couldn’t help the way he felt. He knew this was Pam’s first trip out of Australia. New York could be crazy for a first-time visitor. He had to believe her when she said she wouldn’t go far. Letting her go by herself went against everything he believed in to keep her safe, but he couldn’t shadow her every move.
‘Fine, why don’t I call up for some takeaway to be delivered, and then when you’re done shopping we can eat.’
Nick could see Pam’s shoulders visibly relax, and again he was puzzled as to why she seemed so reluctant for him to go with her.
‘Sounds great. I’m pretty easy so you can choose whatever for dinner. I’ll see you later.’
She walked out of the room, when another thought hit him. He followed her out and down the hallway. ‘Pam, wait.’
When he reached her side, he stretched a hand out and brushed a piece of her silky hair behind her ear. He didn’t know why he did it. He just wanted to feel a little closer to her before she left his apartment. He knew he’d overstepped his mark when she stepped away from him.
‘I’m thinking you probably don’t have any US dollars. Let me give you some so you can buy whatever you need. We’ll arrange for a bank account to be opened tomorrow.’
‘It’s fine, Nick. I don’t need a bank account, I’m not going to be here that long. Besides I have a credit card. I’ll be fine.’
Nick was surprised at the stubborn streak Pam was showing. It was clear she was making it known she didn’t need or want him spending too much time with her. But he knew while they were in New York there’d be functions they’d have to attend, so they would be spending time together whether she liked it or not.
‘Fine. But just be careful, and if you need anything at all go to Rob and he will call me.’
She nodded and walked out the door. As the door clicked shut, silence descended around him. Frustrated with himself and the way he was feeling out of sorts, he turned and headed for his room. He’d take a quick shower and then he’d order dinner. He should thank Pam for keeping things neutral between them. He had picked Pam as his assistant because he needed someone focused to get the deal back on track. He didn’t need someone who leaned on him to keep them entertained. He should be pleased Pam wanted to be independent, but somehow he wasn’t. Part of him wanted her to need him. The part of him that was too much like his father. He had to remember the danger of getting involved with an assistant. He had to remember what he’d seen when he’d walked back into the house that day. If he didn’t remember, he could see the order he had in his life unravelling. And that was the last thing he wanted.Chapter 5
Pam smoothed down the dress she’d purchased the previous evening. Her hand hovered above the side tie of the crossover design. She should change. She should put her normal work uniform on. But the dress was gorgeous and it hugged her in all the right places. The sales assistant had been insistent the size she was wearing was perfect for her. She had pushed Pam’s concerns aside when she’d asked for the next size up. Now Pam wished she’d put her foot down.
The more she looked at her herself, the more the doubts crept in. What if Nick laughed at her attempt to change her style?
No, she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t wear the dress. She would change into her plain black skirt, adding her serviceable yellow blouse to it. With the matching black jacket, she’d fade into the background like a good assistant was supposed to do. The striped pattern of the dress she wore would make her stand out, and she was sure that was the last thing Nick wanted her to do.
Thinking about Nick, she let her mind drift back to last night. He’d been in the kitchen when she’d made it back up to the apartment, so he hadn’t seen the multitude of bags she’d returned with. She had never spent so much money on clothes in her life. She had to admit, it was a lot of fun. Now she had three outfits, with matching shoes and accessories. Feeling as uncomfortable as she did in this one, she should probably take the others back.
Her hand lowered to the tie, ready to undo it and get changed. If she didn’t change, she’d spend the whole day fidgeting and feeling uncomfortable. Not the sort of impression she wanted to give to her new boss.
‘Pamela, we need to leave, now.’ Nick’s demanding voice sounded through the closed door.
‘Damn,’ she whispered in frustration. She couldn’t change now; she had spent so much time dithering about what to do, the opportunity to change had passed. She’d just have to suck it up and face the music. She was pretty sure Nick wouldn’t notice her much anyway. ‘Coming,’ she called out, and gave herself one final look. She would have to do.
Walking with a confidence she didn’t feel, Pam opened the door. Nick was busy looking at his phone, his thumb moving in an upward movement as he scrolled through what she imagined would be a ton of emails.
‘Morning, sorry to keep you waiting.’ Pam held her breath, waiting to see if Nick would notice the way she was dressed and if so, what he would say.
He looked up briefly and then flicked his attention back to his phone. ‘It’s fi — ’
Nick turned back to her and stared. His eyes narrowed, almost like thinking the view would look better through squinty eyes. He took a step back and the relaxed stance of only seconds ago was gone. Before her eyes, Nick appeared to have turned to stone. His shoulders were tense and his hand visibly tightened around his phone.
Her heart sank. She looked stupid. Why oh why had she even considered she could look attractive and efficient at the same time? She should tell him to book her on the next flight back to Australia.
Silence stretched between them.
‘I’ll, umm, I’ll go change. I won’t be long.’
Pam turned quickly so Nick couldn’t see the tears that had started to form in the corners of her eyes. She hadn’t taken a step when a hand landed on her shoulder.
‘We don’t have time,’ his tone clipped, solidifying Pam’s thoughts of how Nick looked at her — as someone trying to be something they’re not. ‘You look fine.’
His removed his hand and she heard him retreating down the hallway to the main part of the apartment.
She sighed, her hand reaching out for the door. It would only take her a moment to change. She could do it.
‘Pamela, I don’t have all day.’
Nope, the bell signalling the arrival of the elevator had sounded and come what may, she was going to be going into meetings dressed like a ridiculous clown. But she might as well make the most of the experience of working with Nick. She was pretty sure that after today, Nick would put her on the first flight back and her opportunity to prove herself would be gone.
Nick drummed his fingers of one hand on the table while he lifted his glass of water to his lips with the other. He was hoping the cold water would temper the heat and longing coursing through him. He’d been in this state of arousal since he’d looked up from his phone and seen Pam standing in front of him in a dress, looking like a million dollars.
He was angry with his body for reacting in the most primal of ways and he was angry with Pam for changing her appearance. Was she trying to tempt him like his other assistants? Had her thoughts about him changed upon seeing his apartment? Was she now looking at him as if he were only made of money? Would anyone ever see past the dollar signs to the real man? Did he even want that?
No, he didn’t. He was perfectly happy with his life the way it was. He travelled the world. Had affairs with beautiful women whenever he wanted, and he had fabulous homes in many cities. His life was full and he didn’t need anyone to complete it. He especially didn’t need another assistant who was trying to dress to impress. He was immune to that type of behaviour now. He wouldn’t let her get under his skin.
He observed Pam moving around the room with the quiet efficiency she had displayed at the rehearsal dinner and the wedding. This was the reason he had listened to Luc and hired her. At least she was doing that part of her job. She stopped and chatted briefly to a couple of the older gentlemen, laying a hand on one man’s arm. Her action surprised and increased his anger. Was she now trying to see if she could hook her teeth into an older man? Had he been completely wrong about her? Had Luc and Jasmine been fooled by her as well?
Nick stopped those thoughts immediately. He was starting to let the paranoia of what happened between his father and his father’s assistant cloud his thought processes. Pam was only doing her job. Easing the clients’ concerns, as he’d asked her to do when they’d travelled to the meeting.
He went to stand when he saw another, younger man approach her. Nick could see the look of admiration and desire in his eyes. Ethan Webster. Ethan was the leading lawyer for the company they were negotiating to purchase, and he was a player. Not to mention a cutthroat lawyer looking for a weakness, and Ethan had found the weakness in his former assistant, flirting with her and enticing information out of her. Nick had been considering getting rid of her because of her forward action towards him, but giving the enemy information just because Nick wouldn’t fall for her seductions had been the last straw. Her actions had come close to destroying the deal, and now Nick was working furiously to get the deal back in their favour.
Somehow, Nick knew Ethan’s attention to Pam was completely different. Ethan wasn’t treating Pam in the same way he had his previous assistant. He wasn’t going to flirt with Pam to use her. Ethan wasn’t stupid enough to try the same trick again. Nick had a pretty good feeling this time Ethan’s motives were purely desire-based and for his own personal gain, not for the betterment of the deal.
Nick gripped his glass a little tighter as he watched Ethan slip an arm around Pam’s waist. It was a forward move and he allowed himself a small smile when Pam discreetly moved a step so Ethan wasn’t touching her so intimately.
He couldn’t hear what the other man said, but the blush and laughter coming from Pam told him Ethan hadn’t asked about the weather.
Nick pushed back his chair, allowing instinct and emotion to take over him when Pam relaxed and leaned slightly towards Ethan. He had studied body language to give him the upper hand in his negotiating skills. Now his knowledge was coming into play. Pam was getting interested and he wasn’t going to allow it. Ethan Webster would chew her up and spit her out. Nick had brought her to New York and New York was full of sharks. He wanted to protect her. He would make Ethan regret making a move on Pamela.
As he strode towards them, a small, rational part of him yelled at him, telling him he wasn’t thinking, he was reacting in a manner that was out of character. Nick squashed the voice down. He didn’t care what his mind was telling him. All he knew and felt was — no one touched his Pam.
To anyone watching, his approach towards Pam and Ethan appeared to be very relaxed and casual. Those who knew Nick would know he was anything but relaxed. Pam’s laughter touched his ears again. His jaw tensed when he saw Pam had closed the distance between her and Ethan. She was getting more and more interested in the smooth-talking lawyer and he was having none of it.
He laid a proprietary hand on her arm and stood next to her. Their shoulders brushed and he was very much in her personal space. ‘Everything okay here, Pam?’
‘Everything is fine, Mr Rhodes.’ With the same sort of discreet movement he’d admired from her previously, Pam took a little step away from him. This time he wasn’t pleased. He was annoyed because the movement put her even closer to Ethan.
Nick nodded towards the other man, sending him a ‘back off’ look. Ethan raised his eyebrow, but didn’t back down as Nick had expected. Instead, he inclined his head towards Pam.
‘I was just getting acquainted with your lovely, new assistant. She’s different from your other ones. I like her and find myself quite taken by her lyrical accent. In fact,’ Ethan winked at Pam; the flirtatious move ignited the already simmering anger in Nick into a full-on five-alarm fire, ‘I was trying to entice her to come out with me tonight. Introduce her to the exciting sights and sounds of New York.’
‘Oh, Ethan, that would be wonderful. I only got a glimpse of the city yesterday when we arrived, but I’d love to walk around and experience it all. I can’t wait to visit Times Square.’
‘I’m afraid that’s impossible.’ Nick cut in. He wasn’t going to let Ethan Webster get his hands on Pam. No way in the world. Pam was here to do a job and that job wasn’t going on dates with the first man she spoke to. ‘Tonight I have a function which I require Pamela to attend with me.’
He glimpsed the look of confusion on Pam’s face. He’d gone over the day’s schedule with her and he hadn’t mentioned this evening’s function. He had received an invitation to attend a charity event being held at the Empire State Building. He had planned on not attending. Now he would, if it meant he could prevent Pam and Ethan from going out on a date.’
‘Are you sure, I don’t rec — ’
‘Yes,’ he interrupted her before she could say anything else. He glanced over at Ethan, who was looking at the two of them, watching the exchange with interest. He could see the speculation going through the other man’s mind. Nick needed to get the situation under control and the meeting back on track. ‘Our break is over. Webster, let’s get back to sorting through the list of requirements your client is asking for and deleting most of them.’
‘You can try, but my client is pretty firm on what they want,’ Ethan paused and directed his regard to Pam, infuriating Nick even further. ‘And I usually get what I want.’
Nick recognised a challenge when he heard one. Ethan Webster had just crossed a line and Nick would make sure he and his client paid for it.
‘So do I,’ Nick returned accepting the unspoken challenge Ethan had issued. ‘Now if you will excuse me, I have to speak to my assistant.’
Nick waited until Ethan had walked away and then he looked at Pam. ‘I trust you know the duties I require of you, Pamela?’
Hurt flared in Pam’s eyes. He steeled himself from feeling any remorse. It was bad enough his previous assistants had decided to fall for him. He didn’t want Pam falling for the first New Yorker who showed some interest in her. She had an air of innocence surrounding her. He put it down to her not having travelled the world.
Yes, sir, I knowexactlywhat is required of me.’ Pam’s tone could’ve frozen the lake in Central Park. ‘And I know what is in your schedule. I studied it this morning and I know there is no function you have to attend this evening.’
‘That’s where you’re wrong. I’m always making last minute additions to it. Don’t assume what you review first thing in the morning will be the same a couple of hours later. I suggest we discuss this later on. We have a roomful of people and I don’t appreciate having my assistant question me in front of them. May I remind you that you are here to work and not to flirt with the opposition.’
Nick turned and walked back towards his seat. He hadn’t really handled that well, but being reasonable had died the moment he’d seen Ethan’s hand on Pam. If anyone was going to touch her it was going to be him. And only him.
Pam sat back down at her desk and flicked through the notes she’d made on her tablet. She had no idea how she achieved it, but she’d made it through the rest of the meeting without falling apart and crying a bucket load of tears.
In the quiet of the office she examined what happened, trying to understand the way Nick acted. A couple of days ago he’d been determined to get her to work for him. She should’ve recognised his determination as arrogance. She could leave and go back to Perth. But after half a day on the new job she was enjoying the challenge of her new position. Plus the money would help her a lot.
Still, Nick’s words had cut so deeply. He had embarrassed her in front of Ethan. She had been flattered by Ethan’s advances. She’d never had an attractive man seek her out to talk to; it had felt strange but exhilarating at the same time. She had found Ethan interesting and thought he might fit the bill for a brief no-strings-attached fling during her stay in New York. She may be a virgin but even she could tell Ethan had ‘player’ written all over him and wouldn’t be looking for something long-term. He could educate her and then she’d move on. She had tried flexing her flirting muscles and, until Nick arrived with a thundercloud surrounding him, was feeling pretty confident she had been succeeding. Part of her was at first flattered she had two men seeming to want her, but then she worked out Nick wasn’t angry at Ethan for flirting with her. Oh no, Nick was angry with her for flirting with Ethan. How ironic was that? If only he knew just how inexperienced she really was in the art of dealing with men.
‘I need you to make sure all the points we discussed today are covered in the contract.’ Nick’s brusque tone brought her back to the present. He had still been talking to a couple of people when she’d slipped past him. She had hoped he’d be a little longer so she could get her emotions back under control.
With him standing in front of her, she had no plans to let him see how much his words had hurt.
‘I’m reviewing my notes now. I’ll list them out and run them past you and if you need to add anything more to them you can.’
‘Come into my office and we’ll review them together. I want that contract to the lawyers this afternoon. I know it will come back. That’s the way Webster works and it’s why this deal is taking longer than it should. He’s nitpicking when there’s no need, using confidential information he shouldn’t have, thanks to my last assistant, to draw out contract negotiations. I’m tired of it. I want this deal done.’
He didn’t give her a chance to respond to his outburst. He walked into his office, the expectation that she follow him clear. She knew she should, but she needed a few minutes to get herself composed. A yawn wracked her body. Exhaustion pummelled her tired bones. What she wouldn’t give to lie down for a few minutes. Not only was she physically tired; she was emotionally raw from what Nick had said to her. Perhaps her tiredness was making her super sensitive to what had happened between them in the meeting.
Pam closed her eyes for a few seconds, wishing she could lay her head on the desk and have a power nap. That wasn’t an option. If she didn’t get her butt into his office he’d probably come thundering out and bodily lift her up and deposit her on a chair in his office. At least she’d remember what it felt like to be held in his arms.
With a sigh, she collected up her notepad and pen. She reached out to open the door when it was opened for her. With her forward momentum she lost her balance and stumbled, immediately captured by a pair of strong arms.
Her skin burned from his touch, the thin silky fabric of her dress no barrier against the heat emanating from Nick. Pam took a deep breath and was immediately transported back to the wedding and being wrapped up in Nick’s jacket. Her mind quickly drifted to the kiss they’d shared. She chanced a look up at him and immediately wished she hadn’t. Fire burned within the depths of Nick’s eyes and she didn’t know whether it was from anger or something else. Dare she hope he found their embrace as disturbing to his equilibrium as it was to hers? His fingers tightened their hold, before loosening and his thumbs moved in a circular motion, hypnotising her.
She should step back, push her hands against his chest. If she followed through on her actions, she wasn’t sure she wouldn’t clutch the lapels of his jacket to keep him close.
The decision was taken from her when Nick dropped his arms and abruptly turned and walked back to his desk. Confusion coursed through her about his actions towards her, running hot and cold with how he spoke and treated her.
‘Are you planning on standing there all day?’
Pam had had enough. ‘Are you planning on being a jerk to me the whole time I’m working for you?’
The look of surprise on Nick’s face was priceless; if she wasn’t so annoyed with him, she’d almost laugh at it. Clearly he hadn’t expected her to talk like that to him. He probably wasn’t used to an assistant speaking to him that way. He was probably used to them sending him a sexy smile and asking if they could massage the tension out of his shoulders. Well, not her.
Nick took two steps toward her, his voice deadly quiet when he spoke. ‘I don’t think I heard you correctly there, Pamela. I didn’t just hear you calling me a jerk, did I?’
Pam knew she should back down. It was the sensible thing to do. But, for once, she was going to stand her ground.
‘You heard what I said, Nick. Yes, I called you a jerk because that’s what you’re being and I don’t deserve to be treated or spoken to the way you have. You may be used to assistants falling at your feet but you’re not going to get that from me. Wasn’t that the main reason for employing me? I’m not your usual type of assistant. If you don’t want me to speak my mind then you shouldn’t have asked me to join you here.’
A small smile broke out over his face. Pam ignored the warmth starting to build in her belly. She’d said her piece. Shown him she was more than willing to stand up to him. Now it was her turn to get them back to the reason she’d walked into his office. To sort through the notes from the meeting and get this deal finalised.
‘Shall we go over these notes?’ Without waiting for an answer, she brushed passed Nick and took a seat in a chair on the opposite side of his desk. The chair was a welcome relief as her legs were shaking with adrenaline from her outburst. She’d never spoken to Jasmine the way she’d just spoken to Nick. Then again, Jasmine had been so easy to work for.
‘I think I’m going to enjoy working beside you.’ Pam jumped at the sound of Nick’s voice. The words were whispered so closely to her ear, she knew if she turned her head she would connect with either Nick’s cheek or lips.
Do it.Turn your head and take what you want for a change. Don’t be a mouse. You asserted yourself once, keep doing it, a little voice inside of her head taunted her.
She started to turn her head but was too slow, Nick had already moved towards his desk. The moment lost and it was probably just as well, she could imagine what Nick would’ve done if she had turned her head. He’d have probably moved back quicker than a jackrabbit.
‘Right, let’s get started.’ The impatient Nick had returned. She must remember she was here to do a job and her job didn’t include her flirting with the man. No matter how tempting or sexy she found him.Chapter 6
The next couple of hours passed in a blur for Pam. She’d been impressed with the way Nick handled the meeting. As they went through the process of deciphering her notes and what he wanted to add to the contract, her respect for him grew. The man was dynamic. She could understand why his other assistants focused on him and not on their work. She found her attention straying to his fingers as they moved over the keyboard and she had to give herself a mental shake when her thoughts drifted to him moving his fingers over her body. Stroking down her side and then cupping her breasts. It was never going to happen so she shouldn’t even let the thoughts take hold.
Now she sat at her desk, finalising the document and wondering if Nick would mention anything to her about the so-called function they were attending that evening. She clicked save and printed out the document for Nick to go over again.
‘Are you done yet?’
It took everything in her not to roll her eyes at Nick. Really, she’d walked out of his office a half hour ago. Yes, it was done and she would take great pleasure in handing the document to him, passing the test she suspected he was giving her.
Pam stretched across to the printer and pulled the papers off the machine. She gave it a quick snap on the desk to get it in line and, with an efficient click of the stapler, handed it to him.
‘Yes, it’s right here.’
She had the pleasure of seeing the shock on Nick’s face.
‘This is,’ Nick paused as he flicked through the papers and hitched a hip on her desk, ‘impressive.’
‘Of course, it is. Now about tonight.’
‘What about tonight?’ So engrossed in reading through the document, he wasn’t fully paying attention to her.
‘The function you’re, I mean,we’resupposed to be attending?’ She waited a few moments and when he still hadn’t answered her, she reached over and pulled the papers down, out of his line of vision.
‘Do you mind?’ Irritation laced his voice and he pulled the papers away from her hold.
‘Yes, Nick, I do mind. I asked you about this evening’s function. You know, the one that’s not in your diary, but the one you assured me exists. Are we still attending and what sort of function is it?’
‘The function is a charity event at the Empire State Building. It will be a formal affair and a car will come and get us around seven this evening. If that will be all, I’d like to finalise this contract.’
Without waiting for a reply, he turned and walked back into his office. Pam wanted to scream in frustration. The man may be an excellent businessman, but when it came to giving details that would help her, he royally sucked.
She hadn’t brought anything formal with her because she certainly hadn’t expected to be attending any events. The clothes she’d bought the previous evening weren’t suitable either. They were more geared for the office, and the one evening-type dress she had bought was more for a cocktail party or dinner at a nice restaurant than a formal affair. She wished she’d thought about packing her bridesmaid dress. It wouldn’t matter that Nick had seen her in it before. At least she knew she looked good when she wore it.
Pam pushed away from her desk and moved towards Nick’s door. She rapped quickly and then opened it.
‘What now?’ he asked, without looking up from the contract he was making notes on.
‘Nick, I didn’t bring anything formal to wear when I packed for this trip. If I’d known there was a possibility of this type of event happening, I would’ve packed the dress I wore to Jasmine’s wedding. I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to go by yourself.’
Her comment had him looking up quickly. ‘No, you are coming tonight, Pamela. Leave everything with me. When we return to the apartment later on, everything you need will be there.’
He turned back to the papers and made a couple of quick notes before picking it up and holding it out to her.
‘If you can make these final changes, we can send this contract off and hopefully close the deal.’
Pam couldn’t believe the man. He thought he could wave away her concerns with an off-hand comment about getting everything sorted for her. How could he possibly do that? Was he going to go shopping for her?
She almost snorted out loud at the thought of Nick flicking through racks of clothes. No, he probably had some sexy looking stylist on hand who jumped when he called.
She walked over and took the pages out of Nick’s hands. ‘One question before I leave.’
‘Just how do you propose gettingeverything I needwhen I can’t try things on?’
He waved his hand in the air as if he was shooing an annoying fly. ‘It will be fine. The contract?’
‘But, Nick, I’m no — ’
‘Enough, Pamela. You have a job to do and arguing with me is not part of it, even though you seem to enjoy that pastime. Trust me, everything will work out.’
She knew there was no point in trying to get the man to see reason. He was determined to cast aside her concerns.
‘Fine,’ she huffed. ‘But if the dress is hideous I’m not going.’
She turned and walked out of the office, the sound of Nick’s laughter ringing in her ears.
Nick flicked the cuff of his tux back to check his watch again. The car was due to arrive any minute and Pam still hadn’t come out of her room. She’d been locked in there since they’d arrived home two hours ago.
The stylist he’d spoken to had assured him she would find the perfect outfit for Pam from top to bottom. He’d emailed the stylist a photo he’d taken of Pamela at Luc’s wedding. He wasn’t a sentimental person, but he’d caught a glimpse of her looking dreamy-eyed as she watched Luc and Jasmine pose for photos. She looked so vulnerable watching them, it had called out to him. So he’d taken a photo. After he’d taken it he’d immediately gone to delete it but stopped himself from following through on the action. Now, hopefully it was enough for the stylist to work out what size Pam needed for her clothes. These people were professionals and knew what they were doing.
The in-building phone buzzed three times, the signal the car had arrived.
He was about to walk down the hallway and knock on Pam’s door when he heard the faint sound of the door opening. He turned in the direction of the sound and waited, anxious to see what the stylist had chosen for Pam.
She had looked amazing today in her simple wraparound dress. He didn’t think she understood how attractive she had looked. How tempting she had been. When he’d whispered close to her ear, after she’d stood up to him in his office, it had taken everything in him not to lift her face and kiss her. She was tempting him to forget his hands-off-assistant rule. Whenever his previous assistants had tried to put the moves on him, he had been repulsed and had turfed them out pretty quickly.
Pam was different, she stood up to him and challenged him, firing up his blood, and that made her extremely dangerous to his equilibrium.
As in in the church, Nick watched as Pam made her way down the hallway towards him. In the dim lighting he couldn’t quite see the colour of her dress, but it didn’t matter to his body. Whenever she got within five metres of him, his senses stirred to life; walking into the living room, a certain part of him sprang to full attention. He cursed his body for its carnal reaction to Pam. Never in his whole life had he had this strong a reaction to one woman. He didn’t like it. He didn’t like to be unable to control his body’s basic desires around Pam.
‘What do you think?’
Her voice shook with nerves as she spoke.
‘You look,’ he paused, trying to find the right word. ‘Stunning, beautiful, amazing.’
And she did. The stylist had knocked it out of the park with her choice for Pam. The dress was the colour of sapphires and it complemented the caramel honey of her hair beautifully. The design so simple yet unforgettable, the fabric hugging her neck like a silken caress. The material skimmed her breasts and waist before falling in soft folds to swirl around her legs.
‘Turn around,’ he muttered. He swallowed a groan when he saw the back, a perfect cut-out showing the smooth flesh of her back. She’d put her hair into a soft knot at the base of her neck, with loose tendrils escaping to fall gently around her cheeks.
‘The dress is all wrong for me, isn’t it? I never know what suits me,’ she said as she looked over her shoulder at him. He could see the disappointment in her eyes, the telltale glisten of tears. Why did she not believe she looked beautiful? Is that why she dressed to blend in with the background? She certainly hadn’t done that today at the office and she wasn’t going to fade into the background tonight.
A possessiveness he’d never known before swept over him. He would make sure Pam knew how attractive she looked, and make her feel comfortable in the new environment she’d find herself in at the charity event.
He wouldn’t leave her side.
Nick took two swift steps and turned her so she faced him. Reaching out, he ran a finger down her cheek. ‘The dress is perfect. You look perfect. I don’t want you to change a thing about yourself.’
He smiled when a blush stole over her cheeks. Her lips shone and he wanted to lean down and taste them. Would the gloss have a flavour? How would she react if he kissed her again?
Nick moved his finger under her chin and tilted it up. He closed the distance until his lips were almost touching hers, and whispered against her glossy red mouth. ‘You look beautiful.’
He closed the tiny gap and fused his lips with hers. She tasted like strawberries. Sweet and tart and he couldn’t get enough of her. He flicked his tongue out to persuade her to open beneath him, like she had at the wedding. She acquiesced and opened up and allowed his tongue entrance. He swept it across her teeth, revelling in the feeling of having her in his arms again.
He hand slid down the smooth flesh of her back until he cupped her firm arse. He pulled her closer and swallowed her moan. The desire to scoop her up in his arms and peel away the dress overwhelmed him. Kiss every inch of flesh he exposed, and once he had familiarised himself with her body, he would sink into her and lose himself like he never had before.
She’s your assistant, are you your father’s son?The words whispered through his mind. It could’ve been his mother standing beside him.
He pulled his lips from Pam’s and pushed her away until there was a good metre between them.
‘Nick?’ Desire filled that single word. His name had never sounded so wonderful coming from someone’s lips. He wanted to disregard all sensible thought and follow through on his thoughts of losing himself in her. He feared she would make him lose all control and he couldn’t afford to let that happen to him. He couldn’t succumb to the desire coursing through his blood like the finest of wines.
He wasn’t going to turn out like his father.
With a quick look at his watch, he dragged his focus from the beautiful woman in front of him and back to what was supposed to be happening this evening.
‘We’ll be late,’ his words terse and in complete contrast to what had happened between them only seconds before. Hearing her swift intake of breath, he knew his actions confused her. He couldn’t blame her. He was confusing himself. He had to get himself under control. He had to protect Pam. He had a feeling she wasn’t used to the situations they were heading into. Or dealing with men like him.
‘Fine, let’s go then.’
She turned abruptly, and his body flared back to life at the sight of the back of her dress again.
It was going to be a long night.
Pam couldn’t keep her eyes off the amazing sight of New York all lit up. The urge to keep pinching herself to see if it was real and not a dream was strong. Never in her wildest imaginings had she thought she would be standing on the observation deck of the Empire State Building sipping champagne, attending a party where the net wealth of the people in attendance was probably more than she could ever envision spending in her lifetime.
Looking at the view ensured she kept her mind off the kiss she’d shared with Nick back at the apartment. She hadn’t wanted the kiss to end and when Nick had pulled her up against his body, she could tell he had been enjoying the moment with her. She’d hoped he would take it further. She’d hoped to feel his hands move over her, touching her in the most intimate way a man can touch a woman. She’d hoped he would make her feel special.
Then he’d pushed her away and had spoken to her so coldly. As if the moment they’d shared had never happened.
She should really catch the next plane back home. She didn’t belong here and she especially didn’t belong in Nick’s arms. No matter how much she hoped it would happen.
‘This is a nice surprise.’
Pam whirled around at the sound of the voice right behind her, surprised someone was speaking to her. She smiled when she saw who had addressed her. ‘Ethan, I didn’t know you were going to be here.’ She laughed quietly. ‘Actually, that was a silly thing to say when I don’t know anyone here but Nick, and well, now, you. Was this what you meant about showing me New York?’
She clamped her mouth shut. She was babbling like a naïve teenager.
‘Not at all, and this isn’t seeing New York. If you’d have been free I wouldn’t have come, I would’ve sent them a generous cheque.’ Ethan paused and looked her up and down. Her pulse quickened slightly, but not to the same pace it had when Nick had roved his eyes over her earlier. When he’d looked at her she’d almost melted at his feet. Then he’d kissed her and all rational thought had left and all she was left with was a multitude of feelings she was sure no one would ever make her feel again.
But he pushed you away, didn’t he? He didn’t take the extra step and make you his. Ethan may not make your blood sizzle, but he isn’t going to push you away.
‘Plus,’ he continued on, ‘it would’ve been a grave disappointment not to see you dressed as beautifully as you are in that dress. It looks stunning on you.’
Ethan’s words were almost exactly the same as the ones spoken by Nick, but they didn’t give her the same thrill as they had coming from Nick.
‘Thank you.’ She didn’t know what else to say. She’d never been in this sort of situation before and wasn’t quite sure how to handle it. She wasn’t stupid enough to think Ethan didn’t know what he was doing. Even with her limited experience, she could tell he was a man who knew his way around a woman, and he could probably teach her and guide her through her first experience of making love.
Did she have the guts to take that walk down the path with him? Why the sudden desperation to lose her virginity? It had never been an issue before. Why now? Was it because of her mother dying she wanted to feel something life affirming? Was she rebelling against the constrictions her mother’s dislike of men had put on her life? Was her reasoning all wrong and should she wait?
A light touch on her cheek had her returning to the present and pushing her thoughts away.
‘You were so far away. What were you thinking?’
Ethan’s voiced washed over her and heated her blood. No way was she going to share what she’d been thinking about with him.
‘Just how amazing the view is. I feel like I’m on top of the world.’ As a quick excuse for her silence, it fitted well.
‘I never tire of looking at the view.’ Ethan responded, and when she turned saw he was looking at her and not the view.
‘I think you’re being rather fresh with me, Mr Webster.’ He laughed at her attempt at flirting.
‘Can I get you another drink? Or maybe we can skip the rest of the party and I can make good on my offer to show you the city.’
Maybe it was her earlier thoughts about taking a chance, but the thought of blowing off the party and seeing the sights with Ethan was very tempting.
‘I’d like that.’
Ethan stepped closer and took her hand.
Nick’s blood boiled when he saw Ethan take hold of Pam’s hand. He had been watching the whole interaction between them. Enough was enough.
He put his glass down on the tray of a passing waiter and walked across the room to where Ethan and Pam stood.
He thought Pam had taken note of what he’d said to her earlier about Ethan, and his instructions not to fraternise with the opposition.
He stopped a metre or so away from them, blocking their path. They walked towards him, unaware of his presence. Ethan pulled up abruptly seconds before he ran into Nick. Nick wanted the other man to run into him, then he’d have a reason to push him away. Show Ethan Webster no one touched Pamela.
With a smooth move, Nick had pulled Pam to his side and tucked a possessive arm around her waist. ‘I was just looking for you, Pam.’ He lowered his head and placed a soft kiss on the corner of her mouth. When she gasped in surprise, he tempered the urge to take her lips with his, to taste her again, as he’d been wanting to since he’d kissed her at his apartment. Try as he might to remind himself she was his assistant, the desire to take her and have her couldn’t be denied. He hoped his kiss was enough to put Ethan off and to tell him Pam was off limits.
He tightened his hold when Pam tried to pull away. His eyes were on Ethan’s; Nick registered Ethan had seen Pam’s attempt to move away.
‘It doesn’t look like Pam was looking for you, Rhodes. In fact, we were about to leave. You understand, don’t you?’
When Ethan went to take Pam back, Nick all but growled at him.
‘That is it!’ Pam declared and pulled herself away from his side. ‘I have no idea what’s going on between the two of you, but it stops now. I’m not a toy for you two to fight over in the playground like a couple of bratty kids. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try and find someone to talk to who won’t treat me like I’m a prize in a pissing contest.’
Nick tried hard to prevent the small smile wanting to break out over his mouth as he watched Pam walk away. Her hips swayed with each step, and his hands itched to reach out and pull her back. He liked it when Pam got all fired up. It only made him want her more, and he wondered if she was this fiery in bed. His body immediately responded to the thought of Pam using that unleashed passion on him. A vision of her riding him in his bed came to mind. A vision he wouldn’t mind coming true, even if it did mean going against everything he vowed he wouldn’t do. Perhaps he was his father’s son after all.
‘What are you playing at, Rhodes?’
Ethan’s question pulled Nick from the thoughts of Pam, having her way with him and him with her. He focused on the man in front of him. He wasn’t going to waste words with him. In no uncertain terms, he planned to let Ethan know Pam was off limits to him.
‘I’m not playing at anything.’ Nick stated mildly. ‘You’re the one always playing the games. Isn’t that how you make sure you earn your big fat retainer? Delay contracts until the other party gives into your requests. Pity I’m not like them. Ialwaysget what I want.’
‘I wasn’t talking about business, but you should know I’m the same. I, too, always get what I want.’
‘Not this time.’ Nick stepped closer. ‘I’m going to say this once and once only. Stay away from Pamela.’
Nick didn’t wait for a response. He turned and left Ethan standing there. Pam had headed towards the elevators — he only hoped the elevators were slow and she was still waiting. He walked out into the lobby but the area was deserted.
‘Damn.’ He punched the button and willed the elevator to arrive. He was getting anxious. He never should’ve let Pam walk out. She wasn’t familiar with the city. She didn’t even know where he lived.
Finally the elevator arrived and he punched the button for the ground floor. He hoped he wasn’t too late. He hoped Pam was still downstairs. He would never forgive himself if something happened to her.
He reached the ground floor and strode out of the building. He looked up and down the street. Why had he let her walk out? Why hadn’t he stopped her? Was putting Ethan in his place more important than ensuring the Pam’s safety?
Finally he saw her, on the opposite side of the street, looking lost and alone. Whether she sensed his perusal or not, she looked up and they locked eyes.
His heart beat triple time at the look of relief that came over her when she spied him. She went to move towards him and he shook his head. He would go to her.
As he made his way to the edge of the sidewalk so he could cross the street, Nick knew he was taking a step towards changing his life. Whether it was going to be for the better or for the worse, he didn’t know. All he knew was that he was willing to take the step. Could he convince Pam to take the step with him?Chapter 7
Pam had been standing on the sidewalk, wondering where to go and what to do next, when she’d looked up and seen Nick standing across the street. Her relief had been instant. It had been so stupid of her to walk out, but she had been so annoyed at the way Ethan and Nick had been acting. If she was truthful, part of her was flattered that both men seemed to be fighting over her. She’d never experienced that before.
Lost in her thoughts, she didn’t notice Nick had made his way across the busy street until he spoke.
‘Are you okay?’ he asked softly, as he reached out and gently cupped her cheek.
Relief stole through her and she wanted to take the necessary steps so she was up against him and could wrap her arms around him.
‘I am now.’
As his arms enveloped her, she laid her head on his chest and sighed. It felt so good to be held by him. Oblivious to the people swirling around them, they stood holding each other. Pam closed her eyes, savouring the moment of being held. She had been craving his touch since they’d kissed earlier. She’d thought she may take the plunge with Ethan, now she knew she’d never have been able to follow through with it.
There was only one person she wanted touching her. Kissing her. Holding her. And that person was Nick.
She knew he liked kissing her; he’d kissed her twice already and seemed to enjoy it. His body had. Would he be willing to take it further with her? Should she even tell him she didn’t have much experience in the bedroom?
A laughing couple ran into them on the sidewalk, jolting them apart. Pam looked up as Nick looked down. She could lean up and capture his lips. Could she do it? Would she take that forward step?
She went to rise up when they were jostled again.
‘Let’s get out of here,’ Nick muttered. He kept hold of her hand as they headed down the street. Pam couldn’t believe, even though it was late in the evening, the streets still had a heap of people walking down them. She guessed, being a Thursday night, most people were getting into the weekend spirit.
Nick held up his hand and whistled. In a few seconds a cab pulled up. He held the door open for her and she slipped in, hitching up her dress so she could slide along the bench seat. Once Nick was settled beside her, he told the cabbie their destination.
‘Times Square?’ she asked. ‘You’re taking me to Times Square?’
She was sure they were going to be heading back to his apartment.
‘I know you want to see the city and you need to see Times Square at night to get the real feel of it. The lights from the big screens. The people milling around. I can’t describe it. You have to experience it.’
Excitement bubbled up inside of her. She couldn’t wait to get there and experience it for herself.
After what seemed like forever, because of the traffic, the cab let them out a block down from Times Square. Nick requested it so she could experience the moment of walking towards the vibrant part of the city.
‘Are you ready?’ he asked, as he got out of the car and stood beside her.
Nick grabbed hold of her hand and her fingers tingled at the touch. He was being so gentlemanly and polite. So different from the man who had been bristling with anger when he’d stopped her and Ethan’s departure from the charity event.
They started walking down the sidewalk. Pam knew her eyes were getting wider and wider with every step they took. Nick was right. It was impossible to describe what she could expect to see. She definitely had to experience it.
The sidewalks were full of people, plenty of tourists, she was sure, as so many seemed to have ‘I heart New York’ t-shirts on. She couldn’t believe how many tourist shops there were and each one had customers trawling through their aisles, picking up various knick-knacks, t-shirts and caps.
They stopped near a tiered seating area, full of people talking and laughing. Music played and people were dancing to the tunes. Looking down the street, Pam saw a sea of people, and the screens she’d seen so many times on the television. She turned around, amazed at the amount of screens flashing brightly.
‘This is incredible,’ she whispered as she grabbed hold of Nick’s arm. ‘Pinch me, please. Pinch me so I know I’m not dreaming this and that I’m actually standing here in the middle of Times Square.’
Nick laughed and gathered her close in his arms. ‘It’s real, trust me. You’re here.’
Pam couldn’t help it. She laughed too and pulled out of Nick’s embrace, wanting to explore more. She started to head further down the street so she could get closer to the big screens. She stopped when something registered with her. In front of her, standing tall, was a column of screens all lit up, displaying various adverts. On top was a spire with a large crystal ball on the top. It, too, was alight and she wanted to see it close up.
‘Is that the ball you see on TV at New Year’s Eve, you know the one that “drops” at midnight?’
‘Yes, it is.’
Pam stood spellbound. Never in her life had she thought she would ever see something so iconic.
‘This is unbelievable,’ she whispered.
‘Let’s move a little closer,’ Nick suggested, and once again placed his arm around her waist. She was so glad she was sharing this experience with Nick and not Ethan. It wouldn’t have been the same.
They walked through the crowd, and when they stopped she leaned back against Nick’s warm, hard chest and looked up at the glittering ball. She imagined during the daytime it would still look beautiful, but not as spectacular as it looked that night. She wished she had a camera so she could take a picture.
‘I wish I had my camera,’ she murmured as she looked around, imprinting the image onto her brain.
‘I’ll take one on my phone.’ Nick let his arms drop and reached into his pocket. ‘Pose and smile.’
Pam struck a pose and smiled big. Nick took a couple of photos before he pocketed the phone again.
She stared one last time at the ball and walked up to Nick. She went up on her tiptoes and placed her lips against his for a soft kiss. ‘Thank you for bringing me here.’
She went to step away but Nick pulled her close. ‘My pleasure,’ he uttered as he claimed ownership of her lips again.
She sighed into his embrace, wanting it so much. She wound her arms around his neck and sunk her fingers into his short hair, caressing the nape of his neck. Pam shivered as his hand gently stroked her bare back. Everything faded out of her consciousness. Her awareness turned inwards on the sensations of Nick’s touch. Her blood sang with exhilaration as his lips moved over hers, encouraging a response from her, which she gave freely. How did they always end up in each other’s arms? She’d only known him a handful of days, but sometimes she felt as if she’d known him a lot longer.
This felt so right, sharing a kiss with the most handsome man she’d ever met in the middle of Times Square. A dream come true.
Nick pulled his mouth away from hers and kissed along her jawline until he reached her ear, where he gently blew into it. Her whole body shuddered in reaction to his breath. She wasn’t sure what she should do next. Whenever she and Wayne had kissed, the excitement she’d thought she’d experienced with him was tame in comparison to the excitement of Nick’s kisses. Wayne hadn’t seemed to want to take their relationship to the next level, which was why she had planned to try and seduce him, but then he’d broken up with her, making her glad she hadn’t followed through with her seduction plan. Of course, him screwing around on her was pretty much the reason why he didn’t want to sleep with her.
‘Either I’m doing a really bad job of kissing you, or you’re embarrassed that we’re making out in Times Square.’
Unaware her body had tensed the moment she’d thought of Wayne, she wanted to kick herself for letting her ex ruin this special moment. How could she let her mind wander to a man she hadn’t seen for months when Nick was kissing her and touching her in a way that set her body afire?
‘I’m sorry,’ she said softly. She went to say more but Nick stepped away, letting his hand trail down her arm until he found her fingers. He interlaced his fingers with hers.
‘Let’s go home.’
She nodded, giving the ball one last look before turning to face the crowd. In the short time they’d been kissing, the crowd seemed to have doubled in size. For the first time since they’d arrived at Times Square, Pam felt a little uncertain to be surrounded by so many people.
Sensing her nervousness, Nick pulled her closer, let go of her hand and put his arm back around her waist.
‘Don’t worry, I’ll keep you safe.’
Pam had no doubt he would. Nick protected her from the people jostling around them as he weaved through the crowd like a pro. Within minutes, they were safely back in a cab, heading towards his apartment.
‘Thank you for taking me there, Nick. It was out of this world. I don’t know how to describe what was running through me. Seeing all those lights and screens and the New Year’s Eve ball. Not to mention the people. My God, I can’t believe so many people are out so late.
Nick chuckled and lifted her hand to his lips. Her body sizzled at the soft touch of his lips. What would happen when they returned to his apartment? Would he take in his arms and kiss her like he had in Times Square? What would he do if she kissed him instead? If she took the first step and undid the jacket of his suit, pushed it off his shoulders and started to unbutton his shirt?
They arrived at his apartment without talking. The silence should’ve been awkward but it appeared that Nick was as lost in his thoughts as she was.
Nick paid the cab driver and got out of the cab, holding out his hand for her. She took it, once again experiencing the jolt of excitement she got whenever she touched him.
They walked up to the building and the doorman opened the door for them. Before they even got through it, a woman rushed up to Nick and threw her arms around his neck. Nick abruptly let go of Pam’s hand and grabbed the other woman by her waist.
Any confidence Pam had for taking the attraction between her and Nick further was quickly forgotten. The way Nick had grabbed at the other woman and held her tightly told Pam she was someone important to him. If that was the case, then why the hell had he been kissing her? Touching her and acting all Neanderthal-like with Ethan?
With tears burning her eyes, she brushed past Nick and hit the elevator button. She didn’t want to witness the touching reunion between Nick and his girlfriend. What she wanted to do was get out of this stupid dress and forget she’d ever spent the last couple of hours sharing new sights and sounds with a man who was as much of a dog as Wayne was.
Was she destined to always make stupid mistakes when it came to men?
‘Rob, what’s going on?’ Nick’s voice was hard as he spoke to the doorman and tried to extract himself from Caroline’s arms. What the hell was his former assistant doing waiting for him in the foyer of his building? And how did she know where he lived?
‘I’m sorry, sir. I tried to get her to leave but she was adamant that you had asked her to drop by.’ The doorman leaned closer to Nick. ‘She’s been here for about two hours. I thought she would’ve left, but she has astounding resilience and patience.’
He knew from experience how persuasive Caroline could be when she wanted something. He’d been on the receiving end of her advances more times than he could care to remember.
‘Thanks, Rob, perhaps you could arrange for a cab to deliver Ms Devlin back to her residence?’
Once Rob had moved away Nick turned on his former assistant. ‘I don’t know what game you think you’re playing, Caroline, but it ends now. I thought you would’ve worked that out when I fired you.’
His blood curdled when she sent a sexy pout his way. If she thought he found it attractive she was mistaken. ‘But Nick, I know we’re perfect together, and I’m sorry I slipped those documents to Ethan, I was just so mad at you.’
Her whiny tone grated on his senses. Why on earth had ever thought she was a suitable assistant for him? ‘Enough, Caroline. I don’t date my assistants, or former assistants, and I especially don’t date someone who thinks it’s fine to share confidential information with people who shouldn’t have it.’ He looked up and saw Rob inclining his head to let him know the cab had arrived. ‘Your cab is here, I suggest you leave and don’t bother coming back.’
‘You don’t date your assistant? Remember yourrules,’ Caroline paused before continuing. ‘I think you’re full of rubbish and your rules are a load of crap. If you don’t date your assistant, then what the hell was that I saw you and your new assistant doing? It certainly looked like you were returning from a date. You had your arm around her. She had that “just kissed” look about her too.’
Nick was surprised Caroline knew Pam was her replacement, and how could she tell what they’d been doing? Not that it mattered. His former assistant didn’t matter to him, and neither did her opinions. He wanted her gone. ‘What I do and who I do it with is none of your business. The cab won’t wait for much longer.’
She scoffed and sneered at him. ‘Don’t try and deny she’s not your assistant. I heard all about the “new” girl you brought back with you from Australia toassistyou. You’re a hypocrite, Nick Rhodes. You say one thing and do the absolute opposite. Good luck with sticking to yourrules.’
With that parting comment, she turned and stomped out of the foyer. Once she was in the cab, Nick turned back to Rob.
‘Never,everlet her in this building again.’
Nick walked towards the elevator and wondered what the hell he was going to say to Pam. Before the run-in with Caroline, his only thought had been to get Pam upstairs and to pick up where they’d left off at Times Square. The entire drive back to his apartment he’d been thinking about peeling the dress away from Pam’s delectable body. Kissing every inch of her skin and making her call out his name. He’d had to restrain himself from taking her in the cab. He was sure she didn’t want to give the cab driver another display of affection.
What spell had she cast over him that made him lose his mind? That made him want to throw everything he believed in out the window? That made him want to give himself to a woman as he’d never done before.
Now, thanks to Caroline and her reminder Pam was his assistant and his no-getting-involved-with-his-assistant rules, all his plans were discarded. His desire had cooled and clarity had returned.
What he now planned to do was check on Pam and ensure she was settled in her room. A quick knock, ask if she was okay, then back away. It’s all he had to do. Then he could go to his room with his integrity still intact. It didn’t matter that he would be in bed alone. If he was to remain true to himself, then Pamela Bishop was untouchable. He couldn’t afford to let his emotions get the better of him. He wouldn’t ruin his life as his father had ruined his mother’s life, and his own.Chapter 8
Pam sat in Nick’s kitchen, nursing a glass of juice and looking out the window at the view of the city. She stifled a yawn. Sleep had been minimal last night. She blamed it on jet lag but she knew it was more to do with what had happened downstairs when they had arrived home.
Who was that woman who threw herself at Nick? Was she a former lover? Did it really matter who she was? The other woman had been beautiful, stylish and everything Pam wasn’t. She’d known that the moment she’d seen the other woman. She also didn’t want to witness the lips that had been kissing her, not half an hour before, kissing another woman.
For a few hours Pam thought she was like the other woman, dressed in a gorgeous designer gown. Out on the arm of a gorgeous man. Living a fairytale. In the cold light of day, she knew fairytales weren’t real. She wasn’t a princess. She was plain, boring Pam. Instead of wearing one of her new outfits, she’d gone back to what she was comfortable in. Her sensible navy blue skirt with matching jacket. The proper attire for an executive assistant. The complete opposite to the dress she’d worn yesterday, something she imagined the girl from last night who had been waiting for Nick downstairs, would look dynamite in. No, today, in the clothes she had on, she felt moderately in control of herself and the way her life was heading.
Pam looked up as Nick entered the room carrying his laptop bag. Dressed in a black suit with a pale blue shirt and dark grey tie, he looked sophisticated and breathtakingly handsome. She wanted to walk over there and put her arms around him. The look in his eyes stopped the urge quickly. He looked so hard and untouchable, it made her think he regretted touching her last night. Maybe he felt guilty he had his hands all over her when he was already spoken for.
Pam hated feeling like this. Feeling like she was theotherwoman, the woman responsible for other people’s heartache. Making her as bad as the woman who’d broken up her parent’s marriage. She had always promised herself she wouldn’t get involved with a man who was in a relationship; clearly, she’d done exactly that.
Well, it didn’t mean she had to be that person. If Nick wanted to play it cool then she’d play it cool too. She would be his perfect assistant. That was her role.
‘Good morning. If you give me a couple of minutes I’ll be ready to leave.’
He nodded his head, moved to the coffee machine and poured himself a cup. ‘About last night.’
Pam held up her hand. She didn’t want to discuss last night. She’d had an evening where she’d experienced almost every emotion possible. She had no desire to relive each and every one as Nick told her how it had been a huge mistake to kiss her. To take her to the event, when he could’ve taken his lovely girlfriend. She didn’t need him to try and let her down gently. She’d landed already, and it was with a great big thump of reality.
‘There’s nothing to talk about, Nick. I’d rather put it down to the excitement of seeing the city and leave it at that.’
She got up from her stool and moved over to the sink, where she dumped the remainder of her juice down the sink. As she moved past him, he stopped her progression with a hand around her wrist.
She froze as, with that slightest touch, her body was back remembering what it had felt like to be in his arms. To feel his lips trailing soft kisses over her jaw. To feel his hardness against her belly. At the time she’d thought it was because he desired and wanted her. Now she knew it was something completely different. It wasn’t desire, it was simply a man’s natural reaction to kissing a woman.
‘Please, Pam, let me explain Caroline’s presence downstairs when we arrived home.’
She didn’t want to hear about Caroline. Caroline was probably the daughter of a rich billionaire who went to all the right places, said all the right things and dressed all the right ways. Complete opposite to Pam. Pam, who dressed in sensible clothes. Pam, who’d never made love to a man before. Pam, who was drowning under a mountain of debt with no end in sight.
‘I don’t want you touching me again, Nick. Please let go of my hand.’ Her voice was an octave above a whisper. But the meaning behind it was clear. Nick dropped her wrist, and she continued on her way out of the kitchen to her room.
Somehow she’d get through the rest of the time they were in New York sorting out this deal. The moment it was finalised, she would bring into play the clause he’d had written into the contract and leave this position.
Last night had been an eye-opener in many ways. After experiencing the buzz of Times Square she wanted to see more exciting places, and she couldn’t do that while she owed so much money. As much as it would kill her to lose the home that had been in her family for generations, she knew she had to sell it. It was the only way she could live her life. If she didn’t, she’d never have financial freedom. She’d made the decision to contact the real estate agent to instruct him to sell her house. Once the house was sold she’d pay off her mortgage and her mother’s medical bills. The debt collectors would be off her back and she would be free to do what she wanted.
It was time to take control of her life and not let people like Nick Rhodes think she was something they could play with. For so long she’d done what her mother had told her to do. When she should’ve been experiencing life, she’d been looking after her mother.
For the first time in her life she could do things for herself. She didn’t need to answer to anyone.
It was time to find who Pamela Bishop really was.
Pam curled up on the couch with a slice of pizza and flicked through the channels on the television. Nick was out again and she hadn’t asked him where he was going. Ever since their night at the Empire State Building, he’d pretty much gone out and left her by herself. The first couple of nights he was out hadn’t bothered her, she was still adjusting to the time difference and full-on workdays, so she’d been happy to order from whatever takeaway menu she found in the junk drawer in the kitchen. After she’d eaten, she’d curl up with a book and fall asleep. She had no idea what time Nick came home. Many times she’d expected him not to come home, but he was always in the kitchen before her every morning.
Now it was Friday night, she’d been in New York over a week, she was full of energy and she didn’t want to sit around. She wanted to go and try the nightlife.
Turning the television off, she put the pizza box in the fridge and walked to her room. She would speak to Rob and ask where the best and safest place for a single woman to go to. She figured he would probably try and talk her out of it, but she wasn’t going to be swayed. She was following through on her earlier declaration that she was going to find herself. She’d emailed the real estate agent and told him to put her house up for sale instead of rent. She could cover the mortgage for a couple more months, and had emailed the debt collection agency advising them she was placing her house on the market so she would be able to pay them in full in a couple of months. She’d also included a copy of the sellers contract with the real estate agent so they knew she wasn’t lying.
For once they’d been open to her making a small payment to keep them happy until she’d sold the house and could finally pay them in full. She hoped the agent sold it quickly.
Pam pushed thoughts of her house and money problems away. She was going to put on her cute cocktail dress and have some fun.
Nick walked into his apartment building, thinking about taking a shower after yet another after-work gym workout, trying to ignore the guilt gnawing at his gut. He had left Pam home alone again, just as he had since their night in Times Square. He’d hoped his workouts would tire him out so when he got home he wasn’t tempted to knock on Pam’s door. They hadn’t. He’d lain awake for most of the nights knowing that Pam lay only a few feet away from him.
‘Mr Rhodes, I’m so glad you’re back.’ The doorman rushed up to Nick the moment he walked through the door.
He immediately went on alert, his instincts telling him something had happened to Pam.
‘Is Pam all right?’
‘I don’t know, sir.’
Nick tried not to shake the other man. ‘What do you mean you don’t know?’
‘She wanted to go out to a popular nightspot. I tried to talk her out of it but she was adamant she was going out and if I didn’t give her location of a good, but safe, place to visit, she’d find one herself.’
Through his anger, he had to admire Pam for her assertiveness. He’d seen it the couple of times she’d raked him over the coals for the way he’d treated her. Over the last week, he’d been nothing but polite and she had been the same to him. They might as well have been strangers, with the amount of conversation they’d shared. He should be happy with their situation. After all, it was what he had been striving for, total professionalism between them and nothing more. But he couldn’t help feeling if Pam got hurt tonight it would be his fault because of his need to keep her at arms-length.
‘Where is she?’
‘I told her the best place to go to was The Loft on Fifth. I know it’s one of the safest nightclubs for young, single women to go to by themselves.’
Nick knew the place well. He’d been there with quite a few of his dates and he’d given the owner some financial advice, so he always had a standing invite to attend the club. Out of all the nightclubs in the city, Rob was right, it was one of the safest, and Rob was probably aware that Nick knew the owner, hence his recommendation to Pam. But still, she was new to the city; she didn’t know how the city or clubs worked. She’d mentioned she’d been caring for her mother for a couple of years, inhibiting her ability to travel and explore the world. He had a feeling she hadn’t experienced a lot of life. The thought gave him pause and he wondered just how much experience she’d had with the opposite sex.
Nick shook his head. He didn’t need to think about what experience she’d had. He needed to get down to the nightclub to make sure Pam was safe.
‘Can you arrange for a cab to be here in fifteen minutes to take me there? I’m going to go upstairs to shower and change, and then I’m going to get Pam. Thank you for telling me, and for looking out for her.’
‘My pleasure, sir. Miss Bishop is always friendly when she comes home in the evenings. I have to admit I’m quite partial to her, maybe it’s her accent.’
Nick laughed. He had the same accent as Pam; somehow he didn’t think Rob was quite as ‘partial’ to him as he was to Pam.
Nick returned downstairs in ten minutes, a yellow cab waiting at the kerb through the glass doors.
He walked over to where Rob was standing and reached into his pocket, pulling out some money and handing it to him. ‘Thanks again for everything.’
‘All part of my job, sir.’ Rob replied, pocketing the money as he walked over and opened the door for Nick to leave.
Nick strode out and gave the cab driver the address. He hoped he wasn’t too late and nothing had happened to Pam. He hadn’t even given her a damn mobile phone so she could contact him in an emergency. Not that it was likely she would, the way he’d frozen her out all week. But it was for the best that he’d kept his distance.
When they pulled up to the nightclub, Nick once again handed over cash to the driver, telling him to keep the change.
He stepped up to the entrance of the club, bypassing the long queue of people to get in. When the doorman saw him, he unlatched the thick red rope that closed off the entrance and Nick walked through, nodding his thanks to the man as he went past.
He made his way through the dimly lit entrance to stand at the opening of the nightclub. The music thumped a bass rhythm in his ears. People were talking loudly to be heard over it. Trying to find Pam amongst all these people would be a challenge. He was confident he could do it: failure wasn’t an option. He surveyed the room. He had no idea what she was wearing. He should’ve asked Rob if he remembered what Pam had on. He was pretty sure she wouldn’t be wearing the blue evening dress she’d worn the other evening, and if she wore one of the usual black suits she wore to the office, finding her would be difficult. Maybe she was wearing that dress she’d worn the first day. His body stirred in remembrance of how the dress hugged and accentuated her curves.
A figure in a white dress caught his eye. He could only see the back of the dress, which was scooped low, showing a generous amount of skin. The dress finished about mid thigh on killer long legs encased in strappy silver sandals. The straps curving around her slender ankles like a lover’s fingers. What would it be like to gently undo those straps and caress the instep of her foot? The dress hugged her bottom and his hands itched to smooth over the gentle swell. The woman’s hair colour was hard to distinguish in the subdued lighting of the club, but he could tell it wasn’t blonde.
His feet wanted to move in her direction. He wanted to get close to see if the skin of her back was as soft to touch as it looked. He had so many fantasies going through his mind it shocked him. He was here to find Pam, not to hook up with a random stranger. The woman who’d captured his interest turned her head to the side and he caught her profile.
She looked carefree, tossing her hair and laughing at something the man to her right said in her ear. Now he knew why his body went into desire mode the moment he saw her. His body recognised a potential mate in Pam and he had to finally acknowledge he wanted her in the most basic of ways. The way a man wanted a woman, under him, writhing as he drove into her. Right at that second he didn’t care that Pam was his assistant. He’d been denying his need for her all week. He could deny it no longer. He wanted her and he would have her. Rules be damned.
He threaded his way through the crowd, his eyes never moving from his prize. He could see the front of her dress, shocked by what he saw. After seeing the back he’d expected the front to be as low-cut. He couldn’t have been more wrong. The straight neckline of the dress was even more tempting. It hinted at what lay underneath the fabric.
He finally reached Pam’s side as she was about to head to the dance floor. Her hand was in another man’s. He didn’t plan on letting that stop him getting what he wanted. He wanted to take Pam home.
He slipped his arm around Pam’s waist, the fabric of her dress silky beneath his fingers. He tightened his hold when he felt her pulling away. He sent the other man a look that told him to back off. He was smart enough to take Nick’s hint.
‘Nick! What do you want? I’m about to go for a dance.’
Her tone exuded her displeasure at his interruption. As he looked down at her, he noticed her eyes were glassy. He wondered how many drinks she’d had, and hoped none of the people she was keeping company with had decided it might be fun to slip a little something in her drink. If he found out they had, heads would roll.
‘I asked what you were doing here, Nick.’
‘The dance can wait.’
‘No, it can’t. I want to dance and I want to dance now.’ Pam ground out as she made a move to pull away from him.
He smoothed his hand up her back until he connected with the warm flesh of her back. ‘I’ve come to get you.’
With a gentle tug, he had her flush against his body. Her hands rested on his chest and she craned her neck so she was looking up at him. For a moment there was clarity in her vision; maybe she hadn’t had as much to drink as he’d thought.
‘You always spoil my fun.’ She all but shouted at him. ‘Why are you here?’
He smiled; feisty Pam was in the house. As he stared down into her face he lost himself in the green pools of her eyes. The sounds of the music thumping through the club faded out of his conscious hearing. He reached one hand out and gently cupped her cheek.
‘I told you, I’ve come for you.’
Confusion glazed her green eyes and a sigh rippled through her.
‘Why do you do this to me?’ she asked, and leaned up to take possession of his lips. Surprise at her bold move kept him still for a moment, before instinct took over. He sipped at her, enjoying the sweet taste of her lips. A combination of the cherry gloss she wore and the champagne she must have drunk. He gathered her closer and weaved his fingers through the soft locks of her hair. He wanted to lose himself in her. For once he didn’t want to think about all the reasons why this could be wrong. He was tired of being sensible. He never let himself lose control with a woman. For Pamela he was willing to. She fired his soul like no other had ever.
He trailed his lips to her neck, enjoying the essential Pam he was getting to sample.
‘Nick,’ she moaned, and it broke the thrall he had been trapped in from the moment her lips had touched his. He lifted his head and saw they were attracting the attention of the people Pam had been talking to. He recognised some of them as people from the office. He could imagine what the main topic of conversation around the water cooler would be on Monday. Somehow, he didn’t think Pam would appreciate it. At least he didn’t have to worry about someone trying to slip something in Pam’s drink. He was grateful some of them had been there to keep her safe.
Pam laid her head on his shoulder, her body relaxing against his. He could tell she was getting tired.
He nodded to the people standing near them. ‘See you Monday. And this,’ he waved his arm around the club, ‘stays here.’
There was a collective sound of agreement from everyone present. Satisfied Pam would be able to hold her head high at the office, he turned them away from the group and threaded his way through the crowd. He wondered if she was actually aware of what was happening. Any thoughts of taking up where they had left off with the kiss were rapidly departing. He had a feeling the champagne she’d been drinking had caught up with her and she was becoming more unaware of her surroundings with each passing second. When he had Pam in his bed, and he would, he wanted her to feel and remember every touch and every caress he gave her. In her current state he didn’t think that was likely.
They got outside and the doorman flagged down a cab for them.
‘Where are we going?’ Pam mumbled into his shoulder once he had her settled on the bench seat beside him.
He reached up and stroked her hair. ‘Home, sweetheart, home.’
She shook her head, the movement dislodging his hand from her hair. ‘I don’t have a home, I’m selling my house. When it’s sold I’ll be free.’
He didn’t know if it was fact or the alcohol talking but her words piqued his interest. What had she meant by free? Now wasn’t the time to discuss it.
The cab drive to his apartment passed in silence. Pam had settled herself against his shoulder and he could feel her body slowly drifting into sleep. He tightened his hold around her shoulders. The fabric of her dress was thin and silky against his touch and his fingers ached to push the fabric aside so he could feel her warm flesh.
The cab stopped and he gently woke Pam. ‘Sweetheart, time to wake up.’
Pam opened her eyes, and what he saw in the green depths had him brushing her lips softly with his. He pulled away before he was tempted to take it further and ravish her in the back seat of the cab. Not a good idea.
‘Let’s get you inside,’ he murmured against her forehead, where he lightly touched his lips again.
He opened the door and slid across the seat, his arm firmly around Pam. He helped her out and made his way to the front door of the building.
As he reached the door, Rob opened it quickly.
As he walked through, Pam stumbled and he quickly scooped her up in his arms, enjoying the feeling of having her there again.
‘Is Miss Bishop all right, sir?’
Nick looked at the woman in his arms. ‘She’s fine, just a little too much excitement for one evening. She’ll be fine in the morning.’
He wasn’t sure how he was going to be in the morning. Not after tasting her and having her in his arms. He couldn’t go back to keeping her at arms-length. It was impossible. He’d had a taste and feel of heaven and he wasn’t going to let that go.Chapter 9
Pam woke slowly. Her head was pounding and she was sure she had a whole basketball team in her head bouncing the damn ball around. Something warned her that once she opened her eyes, another team would join in and it would make things worse. Much worse.
She rolled to her side and became aware of her state of undress and the fact she was in her bed. The last thing she coherently remembered was being in Nick’s arms and kissing him. The pounding in her head eased a little bit when she recalled the feel of being back in Nick’s arms. So warm and safe, like she’d found nirvana and hadn’t wanted to let go. Their lips all but devouring each other. With a shaky hand she brought her fingers to her lips. They felt the same.
She pulled her hand away and tried to decipher through the fog in her brain exactly what happened after Nick had turned up at the club.
I’ve come for you.
The words echoed in her mind. Had he really said that to her? Or were they words she wished he’d said to her? Did it really matter if they were true or not? They had kissed. She was home in bed in her underwear, which could only mean one thing — Nick had undressed her.
She squirmed in embarrassment as it finally hit her: she’d passed out like a common drunk and Nick had had to put her to bed. There was no way he was going to be interested in taking anything further with her. Why would he, when she couldn’t handle a few glasses of champagne without acting like a fool?
Had she initiated the kiss? Had Nick had been totally embarrassed by it? She wanted to discount the thought because she recalled he kissed her back. Or maybe that’s what she wanted to remember. Maybe he had been trying to let her down gently. After all, she had been standing with some people from the office. Relief had filled her when she’d turned up to the club and had seen them standing in the line. They’d been happy to see her, too. They’d welcomed her as if she’d been working with them for ages and not a week. They were totally fine with her joining them. What must they think of her now? It didn’t matter. She was only here for a short time and, after last night, it was pretty likely Nick was going to send her back to Perth, so she may as well prepare herself for that. He probably didn’t appreciate his assistant throwing herself at him in front of his employees. But she would fight him on it. She would ask for a second chance. She had found she liked the challenge of working with Nick. She wanted to experience all the places he’d tempted her with when they had first discussed her taking this position. She wanted to see the world and she knew this job would be the way to do it.
Determined to put all that had happened the previous evening behind her, she cracked opened her eyes. The pounding, though still there, seemed to be co-operating with her efforts to get moving, as it had softened with every passing second. Throwing back the covers, a cool waft of air swept over her body, bringing it to wakefulness.
Swinging her legs over the side of the bed she gasped, like she had every morning she’d woken here, at the view of the city of New York. The urge to pinch herself to make sure she was dreaming had definitely subsided, and she gave herself a few moments to enjoy seeing the city in the morning sunshine.
Pam hoped her house sold soon. Then she could enjoy more views like the one she currently woke to every morning. She would have to give the real estate agent a call and see what was happening. It may only be the start of the weekend in New York, but it was halfway through it back in Perth. She could call later today but it might be better to wait until Monday to find out what the status of the deal was. Hopefully it would be good news and she had an offer on the house. Then she’d be able rid herself of the debt and begin to see the world, with Nick by her side.
Pam pulled herself up short with that thought. Nick was her boss. She had to remember that, no matter how tempting his lips were. No matter how attractive she found him. No matter how her dreams tempted her to believe he’d come for her last night at the club.
Nick was out of her league and it would do her good to remember that. He wouldn’t be interested in a virgin.
Pam was on her second cup of coffee, contemplating what to do for the day, when Nick wandered into the kitchen. She gripped her mug tighter at the sight of a bare-chested, bare-footed Nick, in low-slung soft denim jeans that tempted her hands to touch and find out what hidden treasures lay behind the material.
She had rested her hands against that chest. Had rested her head against it. Knew the strength that lay beneath the business shirts he’d wore. For all her imaginings, though, seeing it was another thing.
He held a piece of paper in his hand, reading as he walked in, and he hadn’t noticed her standing against the counter.
‘Morning,’ she mumbled out.
His head jerked up in surprise, the paper falling silently to the floor. As his eyes narrowed, Pam wondered if she’d spilled her coffee down the front of her top. She quelled the desire to look down and check.
Nick took a couple of steps closer to her, the paper he’d been reading forgotten on the floor. ‘How are you feeling?’ he asked.
She noticed he spoke softly, conscious of the possibility of her having a hangover. Her shower had been a wonderful tool in clearing away the after-effects of a few too many champagnes. The coffee and toast she’d consumed had helped as well.
‘Fine.’ She rocked back on her heels, trying to stem the flow of embarrassment at the state he’d found her in last night. ‘I, uh, I want to apologise for passing out on you last night.’
Pam cringed at the words after they’d left her mouth. Couldn’t she think of something more sophisticated to say? No, she couldn’t. She acknowledged within herself she didn’t have worldly experience, and that included knowing what to say in uncomfortable situations. She’d never found herself in this sort of predicament before. It wasn’t one she wanted to find herself in again.
‘You’ve nothing to apologise for,’ Nick murmured on a soft laugh. ‘It was probably for the best.’
His words confused her. Why was it for the best that she passed out? No sooner had she finished the thought, than the meaning of what he truly meant sunk in.
She had initiated the kiss at the club and her passing out on the way home had saved her from Nick having to rebuff her clumsy attempts at seduction.
‘Are you working today?’ she asked, deciding it was best to leave all discussion of the previous evening behind. Nothing good was going to come of rehashing what might have been, what could have been and what actually was.
‘I’ve got to deal with a couple of things, but I thought,’ he paused and cleared his throat, almost like he was unsure of how she was going to take his next words. ‘I thought we could spend the day doing some of the touristy things — together.’
‘Yeah, you know, go see the Statue of Liberty. Visit Time Square during the day. Go to the top of Rockefeller Centre and have a picnic in Central Park.’
Pam was rendered speechless. The last thing she’d expected Nick to do would be play tour guide for her.
‘Sounds like a full day, but if you’ve got a lot to do you don’t have to play nursemaid to me. I can take an organised tour, that is if you don’t need me to help you with what you have to work on.’
She stood her ground as Nick stalked towards her. She kept her eyes locked on the cupboard above his left shoulder. If she looked lower she would be tempted to reach out and touch his chest, to see if it was as hard as it looked. A vague memory of her body resting against him filtered through her mind, like sunshine through the smallest crack in curtains. So fleeting she was unable to grasp it and find out if it was true or if it was a wish.
When he stopped in front of her, she held her breath, waiting to see what he was going to do next.
‘Pam,’ he paused. When it continued for a while, she finally looked up at him. A slow smile broke out over his face. ‘I want to do this with you. It’s the weekend and I’m not that much of tyrant to expect you to work continuously. Give me ten minutes and then we’ll leave.’
Words were impossible for her so she nodded her agreement. All she wanted to do was reach out and clasp her hands around his head and bring it down so she could sample his lips.
He moved backwards for a couple of steps, with the same stealth he’d shown walking towards her, before turning and heading back to where he’d come from, stopping only to pick up the piece of paper he’d dropped. She’d never known a man to move with such grace and ease.
When he left the kitchen, she gripped the kitchen counter and concentrated on breathing in and out. How on earth was she going to last the day without wanting to lose herself in his arms?
Nick watched the delight breaking over Pam’s face as the ferry got closer and closer to Liberty Island and the wonder of the Statue of Liberty. He felt the same way. There was something spectacular about the grand old lady watching over her city of Manhattan.