Authors: Krista Caley
A Weekend Temptation
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
A Weekend Temptation
COPYRIGHT © 2013 by Krista Kahler
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
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Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com
First Champagne Rose Edition, 2013
Digital ISBN 978-1-61217-736-6
Published in the United States of America
Ava Carson tried not to watch the way he walked—sure of every step, the ground sinking under his silent feet. But every day was like the last; she was drawn to Joel Stanfield, to the way his signature black suit fit and how his black shirt concealed well over six feet of lean solid muscle.
Powerful muscle she’d imagined touching, tracing, since she’d started working at Stanfield Corporation over twelve months ago.
He stepped closer.
His broad shoulders were the kind of shoulders a woman could sink her fingers into and hang on tight.
He stopped close enough to loan out his body heat and laid his hand on the back of her chair. Sizzling volts of electricity arced through her. With a will of its own, her gaze raised to meet his. His eyes captured hers and darkened, so black his pupils all but disappeared. Her heart drummed in her ears. Her body flushed.
Ava forced air into her lungs, and she dragged her gaze lower to drink in his full, sensuous mouth. She remembered, like she did every morning, that his taste was better than the finest wine and way more intoxicating. Only slightly better than the way he smelled.
He was so close she could slide up the lean hard length of him, reach up, tug on his silky black tie, and draw his mouth down to hers. She could finally allow her fingers to run wild through the dark wavy hair that fell against his collar.
She bit back a groan. No man had the right to have a face that chiseled or a body that scalding hot. So hot, the devil would be jealous of such a powerful partner.
“Good morning, Ava. It’s six thirty. You don’t need to come in so early.” His deep, smooth, bedroom voice sent out a vibration that settled deep in her tummy, making her blood buzz underneath her skin.
“I did today.” With shaky fingers, she pretended to pick lint off her navy skirt.
“You look tired. Want some coffee?”
Out of the corner of her eye she could see his smile. A smile made for a magazine cover, his perfect white teeth a sharp contrast to his gorgeous olive skin. She swallowed hard.
And he had offered to make her coffee. Damn, he was a good boss. If only there was another way. If only she could silence her raging hormones. Redirect them to someone appropriate. Someone who could fall in love with her. Because she shouldn’t want him. She shouldn’t remember how his lips possessed hers and how he tasted. Or how his body moved against hers.
“No.” Coffee wouldn’t help. Nothing would, except what she’d already done.
And she couldn’t take the suspense any longer. But she was too much of a coward to scream out the truth before he saw it for himself.
“No. I’m fine.” Her voice didn’t sound fine, it sounded strangled.
He watched her for a long second then shrugged and turned away. She listened to his office door click closed. Now she could breathe. The air felt ten degrees cooler with him gone.
Her thoughts were also clear without him lurking. They were free to scream out. Had she done the right thing?
Of course, she had. It had been twelve long months at his side, and obsession had pounded her every minute.
So why did it feel like she’d swallowed a box of tacks? Why had the letter been so hard to write?
A line of cold sweat dripped down the valley of her breasts. She resisted the urge to scratch at it, knowing it would stain her ivory silk shirt. She was glad she’d chosen her best navy jacket and pants. Her sleek, designer power-suit would disguise her nervous reaction.
The phone rang.
She jumped. Covered her eyes with her hands, pretended to rub them, then moved her fingers, so she could read the phone’s caller ID.
Such a chicken. And it wasn’t even him. She dragged in a deep breath.
For the first time since she’d started as Joel Stanfield’s personal assistant, she let the call go to voicemail. He’d need her as soon as he read the letter.
Joel’s phone buzzed three times, then the call went to voicemail. He shook his head. Ava must have gone on a coffee hunt. For once, she looked tired. The dark circles under her eyes marred her usual peaches-and-cream complexion.
He shouldn’t be thinking of her or wanting to ease her tension. He sure as hell shouldn’t be wishing he could kiss her again. But his mind wandered back to that single kiss they’d shared, seven months ago, on the anniversary of the accident that had stolen his life and his ability to care about anyone.
It was the one night he couldn’t help but feel. Loss splintered him.
Ava had come back to the office to find him slamming drinks, and she’d helped him into his limo. He’d been weak, his judgment blurred. He’d hauled her against him and kissed her until they were both dying for each other.
While his tongue had owned her mouth, he’d lost himself in her taste, an intoxicating blend of sweetness that made him hot and harder than he’d ever been. She’d melted to him like she’d belonged to him. Then with a breathy passion, she’d cried out his name and brought him back to reality, to what the hell he was doing with his assistant, the woman he was responsible for employing, not screwing.
Then he’d pulled away.
Now the unresolved ache she’d instilled in him, still tormented him and hardened him to the point of pain each night he spent without her.
If he made love to her, would he finally be free?
But he couldn’t have her. He was in a position of power, and he wouldn’t take advantage of that. Besides, Ava was too caring to be the right woman for him. She didn’t want detachment, and he didn’t want to hurt her. He liked and respected her too much. If they had an affair it would end, and she’d leave to find another job.
With a deep breath, Joel grabbed his Mont Blanc pen. Time for business. Time for a new challenge. Nothing he loved more than a dangerous gamble.
What should he buy this time? Was there something he could do that the so-called experts on Wall Street were saying was impossible?
Business Weekly Magazine
had called him fearless when it came to his business dealings. No one else took the kind of risks he did. Of course, no one else had made the kind of fortune he had because of it. But they didn’t understand why he took the impossible chances no sane businessman would.
He had no fear.
Why would he?
He was an invincible man who’d lost everything that mattered. Sure he still had looks, connections, and wealth. Most men would say he had everything. Not really. Not even close.
On his desk Joel found a suicidal power-deal ready for his perusal. Finally a good challenge. He was ready to skydive in, when he noticed the one letter not in a pile, with Ava’s wavy signature at the bottom.
He read it twice then dialed her extension.
“Ava, my office. Now.”
Ava fumbled with Joel’s door handle. For once, she hated the sheer size of the cavernous office because he drilled her with his eyes as she made her way to his desk. As her heels clicked over the marble floor, she hoped he couldn’t see the way her knees wobbled and made each step clumsy. Claudia LeMure, Joel’s college educated, supermodel fiancée, was ultra graceful on stilettos. Ava not so good on low pumps.
He hadn’t moved his guest chair. It still loomed right next to his executive chair. Just yesterday she’d sat in that seat as they’d proofed Stanfield’s quarterly report side-by-side.
While she longed for distance, she wouldn’t make a show of moving the chair. She sat as straight as her spine allowed.
“You can’t quit,” he said in a stiff, matter-of-fact tone.
“I just did.” She forced her gaze to meet his.
When his eyes drilled into her, it felt like he could retrieve her thoughts, like he could own them the way he owned half of New York’s prime companies and real estate.
“It’s because I forgot to take you out for your work anniversary.” He leaned back in his chair.
“With buying the ring and proposing to Claudia, it slipped my mind.”
Did he have to remind her? It was bad enough he’d told her about the engagement the first time. Fresh waves of pain sliced into her, and her heart twisted.
“Don’t be mad. You know, you’re the last person I’d want to hurt,” he said. Hello! That was the point. Just being around him was poison. How could she stay and watch the beautiful Claudia hang on him while they planned their nuptials? How much longer was she willing to watch his face for any sign of love as he held Claudia’s manicured hand? She knew it was only a matter of time before she’d find evidence, and that would destroy her.
It was time to end it. Before it got worse.
And it would. She and Joel worked together. He’d invite her to his wedding, and if she stayed, she’d be forced to attend.
No way in hell would she watch him vow to love another for the rest of his life. Not when it hurt to watch him touch another female. Which meant her heart was being constantly splintered, because Joel always touched Claudia.
Who could blame him? Claudia LeMure was the alpha supermodel, the glorified cream of her crop. There wasn’t a magazine on the stands that didn’t sport her flawless face and tantalizing figure. And when the stunning super couple posed together holding hands, it was like looking into the sun—blinding.
Wanting him was foolish. Not just because he was engaged, but because she could never have him. Even if she could, she shouldn’t. Everything about Joel Stanfield screamed he was not the one. He was a billionaire who locked his feelings away.
But his biggest sin was that he kept secrets. She could feel it, see it, when she’d asked certain probing questions. She’d learned to read the same damning signs from her father. She’d worked for Joel for twelve months and knew nothing personal about him except that he was engaged to “the supermodel.” She was through with secrets and being their victim.
Joel smiled, interrupting her thoughts. His easy grin was unaffected as if she hadn’t just quit. “Make us reservations at Château, you love that place.”
“I’d rather not,” she said through gritted teeth.
“Why not? Are you sick? You do look a little pale today.” He leaned closer, and his chair squeaked.
Ava pulled back, adding more distance between them. “I’m nervous. I don’t quit my job every day.”
“You’re not quitting it today.” He returned his attention to his computer screen. “Fill out the Increase Form. Give yourself a twenty percent raise.”
She swallowed. She was already overpaid. But no amount of money would keep her. “That’s not enough.”
He smiled as if he liked her negotiation skills. Even his icy smile lines were deadly. “Okay. Thirty percent.”
She sighed. “My last day will be next Friday.”
“Tell me what you want. I’ll give it to you.”
“Nothing.” What should she say?
Be a different person. Be single. Be an honest, open book. And be in love with me.
He couldn’t give her what she wanted. “But I do have something for you. I bought you and Claudia a wedding present. It’s at my des—”
“Take it back,” he ordered.
“Because I’m quitting?”
“Because Claudia and I are no longer engaged.”
No way. Of course he was marrying Claudia. What man wouldn’t? “What happened? Did you two have a fight?” Did the man even care enough to fight with anyone? She shouldn’t feel tension drain from her shoulders because he was no longer engaged. But she did.