About the Book:
All is fair in love and texting…
When Aimee Tompkins loaded up her old catering van and pulled into Manhattan, she had her sights set on becoming one of the best (and most lucrative) caterers to ever serve crudités and creampuffs in the Big Apple. But after a year of leaving fliers all over town, she’s not only running out of money, she’s running low on hope. So when she lands a gig at a big architecture firm, Aimee’s certain her luck is about to change.
Noel Fitzwilliam is pitching the most important project of his life—the type architects dream of. Everything has to go right, so when he finds the new caterer naked in his office bathroom right before the meeting, he’s torn between thrilled and extremely irritated. He doesn’t have time for romance, no matter how incredible she looks without her clothes on.
A mix-up means Aimee is accidentally given his cell number instead of his assistant’s. So when she starts texting Noel about how much she hates him, he decides to have a little fun with her. The last thing he expects is for her to turn his world upside-down. But that’s exactly what happens as the pair start sharing their deepest secrets and their greatest fears, and Noel discovers he can share so much more over the phone than he can in person. But what will happen when she finds out who he really is?
It’s a case of opposites attract, even when they repel.
Walking through the clear glass doors of Fitzwilliam and Associates is very impressive. Sleek furniture primarily in black leather and chrome adorn the lobby and the walls are painted a grey so light it almost looks silver. The paintings on the walls are modern splashes of color that probably cost more than I make in a year, not that that’s much.
I look out the window at the Brooklyn Bridge and am momentarily paralyzed as a wall of amazement hits me. This is the big time, Aimée, don’t screw it up.
A tall brunette in a pencil skirt so tight it looks painted on, pulls me out of my trance by asking, “Who smells?”
I’m about to covertly sniff my armpit, when she clarifies, “Who dared to where perfume today?”
Byron looks at her, and says, “Cindy, that’s my bad. I forgot to tell Aimée here that WL Senior is severely allergic to scents.” Turning to me, he says, “Do you have anything else you can wear? After we get you washed up that is.”
“I…I don’t,” I stutter, horrified to have made such a bad first impression. I always used to keep extra clothes in my catering van upstate, but I haven’t exactly had a run on business since I’ve been here.
“Oh, for God sakes,” Cindy sneers. “I have an extra pair of slacks in my office if you can find her a shirt.”
I’m pretty sure Cindy is at least six inches taller than I am and probably two sizes smaller. I’m guessing I couldn’t decompose to her size until I’d been dead for a year. There is no way I can wear her pants.
“Go get them,” Byron tells her. “Meet me in the boss’s office. She can shower in there.”
I’m suddenly whisked away to some inner sanctum while leaving Teisha in charge of the food. I could die of mortification.
“Mr. Fitzwilliam will be out for the next hour, so you can use his private bathroom to see to things.” He waves his hand in front of me like he’s either casting a spell or trying to read my aura. Then he hurries out of the room.
The office is so elegant and so unlike the lobby, I take a minute to walk around and look at the bookshelf and the desk. I even sit on a loveseat across from the desk for about thirty seconds. Everything looks antique and awfully expensive. I’m half tempted to lay down and roll on the Oriental rug to see if it’s as soft as it looks.
I cannot imagine being this important. I only hope the short bald man—because the boss is always short and bald for some reason—who calls this office his own, appreciates how good he has it.
When I open the door to the bathroom, I let out an audible gasp. The shower is as big as my entire bathroom and it looks out onto the East River. Getting naked in here is going to make me feel like I’m on display for the world to see.
I hurriedly pick up my phone and text Teisha.
Me: Are you okay?
Teisha: I’ve got everything under control. Don’t worry about a thing.
Me: Are you wearing any perfume?
Me: Okay, I’ll be out as soon as I can. You would not believe the office I’m in!
Teisha: Pretty flashy, huh?
Me: You could say that.
I slowly start to take my clothes off while hoping that Byron finds a fat woman’s pants for me to put on. Once I’m in the shower, I scrub myself as quickly as I can. The soap is an old-fashioned bar of Ivory and I run it all over my body before giving myself a good rinse.
I’m about to step out of the shower when I hear. “For the love of God, Byron, leave me alone. I’m in a hurry.”
The voice is right outside the bathroom door! Holy crap, did I lock the door? I step out of the shower in hopes of making sure no one can get in. As soon as my wet foot hits the shiny marble floor I slip and slide across the room like I’m starring in Frozen on Ice. Let it Go!!!
As luck would have it, that’s the exact moment the door opens, and I fall into the arms of the most devastatingly handsome man it has ever been my pleasure to lay eyes on— thick dark hair that looks like not even one strand would dare to stray from where he wants it, moss-green eyes with flecks of gold and coffee-colored rims, and—oh, wow—a chiseled manly man jawline peppered with two-day stubble. I gawk up at him with sheer disbelief. I’m so blinded by his gorgeousness; I’m temporarily rendered mute.
With his arms around me, he calls over his shoulder, “Byron, you left one of your desperate strays in my en suite.”
Two things. One, his British accent is so dreamy, it almost makes me want to swoon even though he just tossed out one of the worst insults anyone has thrown my way. And two, he smells so damn good, I want to rub myself all over his neck. Then of course there’s the other thing. I’m naked.
Is it possible to die from shame? Because if so, I might be experiencing my last few moments on earth. I had to dampen Cindy’s pants so they could stretch enough for me to get them on. It didn’t work, so I had to run them under the faucet to get them totally wet. That barely worked. Now I’m standing in front of the man who could possibly hold my financial freedom in his hands and am being dismissed like I’m—what did he call me, a desperate stray?
Noel Fitzwilliam is a douche. I’m not one to throw vulgar terms around lightly, but this man is going out of his way to make me feel two inches tall. He deserves every nasty word I can come up with and then some. I’ll have to consult Teisha for more. She’s a veritable word wizard when she wants to be.
As Byron leads me out of the lion’s den to the kitchen, I trip on Cindy’s pant legs four times. “Maybe Cindy has some heels we can borrow,” Byron suggests looking concerned for my safety.
Please no! I want nothing more from that evil woman with the size two pants. As it stands, she would be off my Christmas card list if she’d been a nice person, and you know, I actually send Christmas cards. “I’ve got heels in my purse,” I tell him while hiking up the pant legs like they’re a ball gown and I about to drop into a deep curtsey.
Byron’s last words after showing me the kitchen are, “Let me know if you need anything. Anything. I’ll be at my desk in front of Mr. Fitzwilliam’s office.” He looks down at me with such compassion and kindness, I feel like the desperate stray I was moments ago accused of being.
Teisha turns around to greet me and drops the stack of trays in her hands—luckily, they’re empty. “Honey,” she looks me up and down. “You’re going to get a nasty yeast infection wearing pants that tight.”
My eyes fill with tears. Not because of the truth she just shot me, but because this day is going so badly, and I need it to go so well. Running toward me, my friend pulls me into her arms and holds on tight. “You got this, girl. Come on, buck up. We’ll figure out something together.”
With her hands on my upper arms, she pushes me away from her and announces, “I’d bet you a week of tips that skinny-assed Cindy couldn’t even fit into those pants.”
“You think she purposely gave me tiny pants?” What would be the point?
With her eyebrow quirked in a question mark, Teisha answers, “I don’t know what her motivation would have been, but she’s so cold she could freeze hot lava just by walking by it. I wouldn’t put anything past that one.”
“How’s everything going in here?” I ask, desperately needing not to think about the wet pants digging into my lady business.
“Everything is ready to be put on the trays and taken out. I set up a buffet and drink station in the conference room. I figure these corporate types aren’t going to want to pass stuff around the table like their having Sunday dinner at home.”
I nod my head in agreement while pulling the heels out of my bag. Maybe an additional four inches will help me feel like the warrior I need to be today, as well as keeping me from doing a header into someone important. I need this tripping to stop.
Spotting a chair in the corner, I sit down to switch out my footwear. Cindy’s pants respond to the shifting junk in my trunk and wait for it, the crotch totally gives way. Teisha stares at me like she’s witnessing a particularly horrific car accident. “No! What more can happen to you today?” I hope to God she didn’t just challenge the universe and that even as we speak, hordes of evil spirits are lining up to have a go at me.
Standing up, I offer, “The good news is they’re a lot more comfortable now.”
“The bad news is your hooch is hanging out.”
I look down and sure enough my pink peekaboo undies that I bought on clearance are showing. “What in the fresh hell do I do now?” I demand.
Teisha takes off her apron and hands it to me, “Put this on.”
Following her orders, I ask, “What about my butt?”
She grabs my apron off the table and throws the loop over my head so that it’s covering my backside. I must look like I’m wearing a sandwich board.
“Perfect!” my friend declares.
“Don’t you think people are going to wonder why I’m wearing two aprons and you aren’t wearing any?”
“Psh,” she releases her breath like a leaky tire. “I highly doubt these folks are even going to see us. We’re just the background. But if you’re worried, you can stand by the buffet and serve. I’ll do all the wandering around refilling drinks and bussing the dirty dishes.”
“Thanks, Teish,” I tell her feeling all kinds of love. “You’re the best friend a girl could have.”
“Damn straight I am! Now get those shoes on and help me get the food ready.”
Turns out Cindy’s pants are still too long for me with my heels. Teisha notices and walks out the door shaking her head. When she comes back, she’s holding a stapler. “Sit down,” she orders.
“You can’t staple the hem! You’ll ruin the pants.”
“Says the woman who just added an air conditioning feature to the booty.”
She’s got a point. I hold out one leg at a time while T hems the trousers. I’m going to have to offer to pay Cindy back for these things and I know for a fact she didn’t buy them at Filene’s Basement. The tag said Prada which means replacing them will take all my profits from this lunch, if not more.
By the time I’m finally put together—not unlike Frankenstein’s monster—it’s go-time. Teisha and I get all the food out and are standing in the corner of the conference room with only seconds to spare before the suits come in.
I stare at her words, trying to choose an appropriate response. Clearly it’s from Aimée who believes she’s texting my brother. She would hardly thank me for my part in her shower adventures. It appears likely that Byron gave her the memo meant for Walter Jr., which would be a total Byron thing to do. I make a mental note to contact Jr. myself.
Back to Aimée. Obviously, I should tell her who I am. It’s not like I want my shirt back—I get a secret thrill thinking of her wearing it. I just don’t appreciate her running out on me before I could talk to her. Not to mention I should probably give her dress back to her. (I hung it in my closet, but not before inhaling the lovely perfume that was the cause of much distraction for me today. Whatever that scent is, it’s utterly feminine but not at all what I’d call sweet—kind of like her).
I start to write I’m not sure how you got my number. This is Noel, then delete it. Scratching my chin, I find myself grinning. She’d delete the number in a heartbeat if she knew it was me, and I feel like having a little fun. Besides it’s Friday night, and for once, I have nothing to do this weekend. After months of working on One Rosenthal day and night, I am left with free time. I mute the sports update I was watching on the telly and walk over to my kitchen to grab a beer out of the fridge. I twist the cap off and have a long pull on the bottle, then glance back down at my mobile, knowing she’s waiting for a reply. She left me quite the opening with the whole I really appreciated all your help in getting me showered.
How could a guy pass that up? I assign her the very appropriate title of SexyCaterer before typing back.
Me: The pleasure was all mine.
SexyCaterer: Your boss scared the life out of me. Is he always so, so…
Me: Devastatingly handsome? Virile?
SexyCaterer: I was going to say cold and intimidating. He’s not the warm fuzzy type, is he?
Me: One can’t afford to be warm and fuzzy in this business.
SexyCaterer: Well, most people manage to strike a balance between overly friendly and total a-hole.
Me: To be fair, your presence in the bathroom was quite the surprise.
SexyCaterer: I could forgive that part, but the way he acted later—seriously rude. Good thing he has you to make up for his shortcomings. I nicknamed him BM for boss man (and the other way of using those initials together – lol). Anyway, why did you want me to wait until Tuesday to text you? Do you have another job for me?
Hmmm…how to answer that? I should just tell her the truth. I start to type no, but for some stupid reason, I can’t seem to force myself to press send. I have another sip of beer, her nude body appearing before me in my mind. I get lost in the image until my phone dings and I look down to see she’s written: Byron, are you there?
Teisha and I get from her apartment on 112th St. to the Spring Street stop on the subway in just under 25 minutes. A horrible thought hits me. Now that I’ve moved eighty blocks north of my old apartment, it’ll probably take me two hours to get to the financial district for catering jobs. Crap! If I get a steady job with Fitzwilliam & Assoc., I’m going to have quite the haul until I can afford my own apartment again. But that’s future Aimée ’s problem. For now, I shop.
Spice-zing! is a tiny little hole in the wall. If I didn’t have the address, we would have totally missed it. There’s no sign, and as we walk in, it feels like we’re walking into a secret opium den.
The smells are to die for though. Thick, smokey, earthy, and pungent. Without even looking I know they have a lot of cumin and coriander. “Hey dudes,” says a young surfer boy looking guy. You here for the special special?”
“What’s a special special?” T demands like he just offered to give her a flu shot with a dirty needle. Her mouth is curled up into a look of horror.
“Special special is today’s special spice flavor. You buy one, you get a free matsutake. Gnarly, am I right?” How is this guy in New York City and not lining up to catch the next wave on a Southern California beach somewhere?
“You’re giving away a free massage when you buy spices?” Teisha grabs my arm. “I don’t think this is the place for us, Aimes.” She leans in and whispers, “I bet once they get you into the back room, they drug you and sell your ass on the black market.”
I roll my eyes at her and ask the proprietor, “Matsutake mushrooms? I can hardly ever find those!”
“Right? It’s like the raddest special special ever.” I’m guessing someone sparked a dooby before we came in.
“So, no massage…” T needs confirmation.
“Not unless you want to catch a drink with me tonight.” He shrugs his eyebrows flirtatiously.
“Are you even legal?” T asks.
“Totes, mama. Legal as they come.”
T cocks her head to the side. “Let’s start with the special special and see where that takes us.”
My friend is an African American goddess who does not discriminate as far as men are concerned. She likes white guys, black guys, Hispanic guys, Asian guys, and apparently she might have her eye on a barely legal surfer dude.
“Can you point me in the direction of your curry selection?” I ask.
He nods his head like it’s connected to a windmill and he’s trying to create enough power for the lower West Side. “Righteous! Love me some curry.”
The room is so narrow, we have to stand single file. He says, “Dude, you gotta move. The lady here needs her curry.”
“Yes, of course.”
I can’t see who’s answering him, but I know that voice. It’s deliciously familiar and British. “Mr. Fitzwilliam?” I ask, practically choking on the question.
“Yes? Do I know you?” He still can’t see me, so he says, “Skippy, can you step aside so I can see who’s talking to me?” This kid’s name can’t really be Skippy, can it?
Skippy answers, “Dude, unless you want me to jump up so you can look under me, it’s not going to work. We need to evacuate the premises so this bae can’t get her curry.” Then he pushes past me causing me to do a faceplant against an apothecary jar of dried tien-tsin red chiles which knocks over a vial of saffron threads—ooh saffron threads! Once he’s gone, I look up. Yup, there he is, the BM himself, Noel Fitzwilliam is standing in front of the curry selection in probably the most exotic and off-the-beaten-path shop in all of New York City.
“What are you doing here?” I demand sounding angrier than I’d intended to. “Did Byron tell you I’d be here?”
“Why would Byron tell me you’d be here?” He looks as confused as I am. “And how would Byron even know you’d be here?”
“Why are you here?” I demand again, ignoring his second question.
“Well, Ms. Tompkins, I’m not sure that it’s any of your concern, but I’m in the mood for a good curry and I thought I’d make myself one.”
“You cook?” The man I met, and by “met” I mean laid naked in his arms, doesn’t strike me as a person who knows his way around the stove. A woman’s body though…
“Yes, as shocking as that may be to you. It was the only way I could get decent food at Oxford. Great school. Horrible restaurants.” He leans down and practically sniffs my neck before saying, “Now that you know why I’m here, would you mind telling me why you’re here? You aren’t, by any chance stalking me, are you?”
“As if!” I push him away before thinking better of it. He is, after all, my potential gravy train. “What I mean is, of course I’m not stalking you. I have a luncheon to cater on Monday and I’m making a curried chicken salad.”
“Mmmmm,” he groans. “Don’t forget the raisins. Something spicy always need a little something sweet to go with it, don’t you think?”
My limbs start to feel like they’re full of helium and are floating around me. The last time I felt like this was my big Elsa moment in his bathroom. My brain short-circuits and I lose all train of thought which is why I stand there starting at him like I’m mute.
Standing in the elevator on the way down to the parking garage, I lay some truth on myself. I didn’t want to stop talking to Noel; I just had no reason to stay. It’s not like he offered me a drink or anything. He just kept talking about cookies. I feel flush at the very thought of it.
Noel Fitzwilliam is a sexy, sexy man even though he tends toward rudeness with bouts of verbal diarrhea. My phone pings when I pass the twenty-second floor, so I pull it out of my purse and read.
FitzAssoc: Hey pretty lady. The boss just messaged me and asked if you could come back upstairs for a few minutes. He said he’d pay your parking ticket if you get one.
Aimée T: What does he want?
FitzAssoc: He didn’t say, but who knows, it might be work related.
Aimée T: Yeah, okay. I’ll go back up. I missed seeing you. I hope his Highness isn’t running you ragged.
FitzAssoc: Obviously, he is. But he’s such a hunky and loveable guy, I’d do anything for him.
Aimée T: Um, okay.
FitzAssoc: Give him a big wet kiss for me when you see him.
Aimée T: !!!
FitzAssoc: I’m not kidding. It would make the old boy’s day. His year actually.
Aimée T: I don’t think that would be very professional of me, do you?
FitzAssoc: Sounds like you’re not opposed to the idea.
Aimée T: I’m almost back at the office. I’m going to stop talking to you now.
FitzAssoc: Go tap that, girl.
And just like that, the doors open and I’m staring right at Noel Fitzwilliam as he puts his phone in his pocket. He looks up at me with a crooked smile. “Byron said you had something for me.”
“What? No!” Byron didn’t tell him about his kiss idea, did he? Oh my god, I’m probably beet red. “He said you wanted me to come back up.”
“That I did,” he says. “It occured to me that even if we don’t get the new contract we’re bidding for, I’d like to host a Friday lunch for my staff every week. They work hard and I want to let them know how much I appreciate them.”
“Really?” I’m so glad I came by here today! “Every Friday?” I pull out my mental calculator and start crunching numbers. If it’s for the same number of people as the lunch I already catered, after paying for food, gas, and other sundries, that weekly meal alone would add nearly two thou in my pocket every month. Multiply that by twelve, if I can get it to last a full year, mama’s going to be back in her own apartment with at least two separate rooms this time. That whole living room/kitchen/bedroom combo I had going before was depressing.
“Well then. Would you mind joining me in my office so we can hammer out some of the details?”
“Tonight?” I ask feeling my mouth go as dry as the Sahara. “Don’t you want to go home?”
“Traffic is horrendous this time of day, I prefer to stay at the office late so I’m not sitting in the back of Town Car fighting motion sickness.”
“You have a driver?” I blurt out. Slick, Aimée . Obviously, he has a driver if he’s in the back seat.
“It makes sense for expediency sake. If I’m not responsible for making my own way to the office, I can fit in a couple extra hours of work every day.”
I follow behind him. “Sounds like you work too much,” I tell him.
“I love what I do. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”
“That’s sad,” I say before I can stop myself. I wonder if verbal diarrhea is contagious. I hurry to add, “I’m sorry. That was inappropriate of me to say that.”
Back in his scrumptiously expensive office, he says, “No offense taken. You’re not the first person to suggest I have a problem.” Then he points to his couch with a thoughtful expression. “Maybe I do. My sofa folds out into a bed in case I want to stay the night. Is that normal?”
He offers me a mock confused smile, but instead of laughing, I glance back at the couch. Now both of us stand there staring at it silently. I don’t know what Noel is thinking, but I’m wondering what that bed looks like pulled out. I shrug out of my cardigan before I get so hot I spontaneously combust. Finally, I remember to answer his question. “I’m sure it’s fine as long as you also make some time for fun.”
About the Authors: Whitney loves to laugh, play with her kids, bake, and eat french fries — not always in that order.She lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her husband, Jimmy, where they raise children, chickens, and organic vegetables.
Melanie Summers also writes steamy romance as MJ Summers. In her previous life (i.e. before having children), Melanie got her Bachelor of Science from the University of Alberta, then went on to work in the soul-sucking customer service industry for a large cellular network provider that shall remain nameless (unless you write her personally – then she’ll dish). On her days off, she took courses and studied to become a Chartered Mediator. That designation landed her a job at the R.C.M.P. as the Alternative Dispute Resolution Coordinator for ‘K’ Division. Having had enough of mediating arguments between gun-toting police officers, she decided it was much safer to have children so she could continue her study of conflict in a weapon-free environment (and one which doesn’t require makeup and/or nylons).
Melanie resides in Edmonton with her husband, three young children, and their adorable but neurotic one-eyed dog. When she’s not writing novels, Melanie loves reading (obviously), snuggling up on the couch with her family for movie night (which would not be complete without lots of popcorn and milkshakes), and long walks in the woods near her house. She also spends a lot more time thinking about doing yoga than actually doing yoga, which is why most of her photos are taken ‘from above’. She also loves shutting down restaurants with her girlfriends. Well, not literally shutting them down, like calling the health inspector or something–more like just staying until they turn the lights off.
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