The other super-date of May that I'd been looking for is finally here - May 29, and the day my first 1Night Stand short story with Decadent Publishing comes out!
I'm a huge fan of the 1NS series, and have lots of my writing friends contributing to that line where a special lady, Madame Evangeline, pairs up the most perfect couples for a 1-night-stand blind date... and love comes knocking in the process.
My trusted CP, Lynn Spangler, pushed me to try my hand at a 1NS storyline, telling me she'd love to see a story set on my native island, Mauritius. I then ran the idea by fellow 1NS authors - Rebecca Royce, Jessica E. Subject, JoAnne Kenrick - and they all pushed me in the same direction...
...to submit this story ASAP to Decadent.
Shortly after, the story was contracted, and I was a Decadent Publishing author!
That was back in January, and I'd been dying for the day when the book would come out... now here it is!
With absolute big huge fat thanks to my editor, the fantabulous Kate Richards, who took what I wrote and brushed it into shape with her beyond-amazing editing skills, here's the story of Lars Rutherford, and Simmi Moyer.
This is how they've always appeared to me - Lars as the Danish model, Morton Berthelson, and Simmi as Maghred-origin French pop singer, Sheryfa Luna.
Come read their story - you can find it here!
But first, allow me to introduce you to them...
“You need a shag.”
Lars Rutherford stifled a smile. He rolled his eyes and watched his Skype correspondent/boss/friend, Stellan Elriksen, do the same on his laptop screen. Behind Stellan, in the posh office of the Kensington flat, Magnus Trammell traipsed stark naked in a hangover haze. After dropping that one slurred line, he stumbled out of the office, probably in search of more booze to ease his hangover.
“What’s he doing at your place at—” Lars peeked at his watch and figured the time difference, “—one p.m. on a Saturday afternoon? And how come he’s even awake at this time?”
Stellan shrugged. “He hit the button for the wrong floor, as usual. Heard him trying to get in at ten this morning. He was so wasted, I let him crash here rather than take him up to his flat.”
Magnus strolled back into the office, still unclothed and clutching a green Heineken bottle. Taking a long swallow, he perched on the back of the executive chair, peering over Stellan’s shoulder. “You’re both in need of a good shag. How the hell can you go for so long without a woman?”
Lars chuckled, finding Magnus the dose of lightness both he and Stellan needed, the perfect merry complement to their posse. The three musketeers, their mothers called them. The women had grown up together in Sweden, gotten married around the same time, and even had sons within a month of one another. The boys had shared cribs, playpens, bedrooms, dorm rooms, and holidays between England and Sweden, for as long as they could remember.
Their first thirty years had been filled with fun and parties, but Lars’ thoughts focused on the past five years, when they’d come into themselves as grown men. Stellan, a shipping magnate who’d recently taken over his father’s business. Lars his trusted right-hand man and second in command, while Magnus sailed on his family name and fortune to be known as one of the most famous playboys of the European jet-set society.
“Don’t tell me there aren’t any women on that island of yours,” Magnus said.
Lars exchanged a glance with Stellan. Their business meeting had come to a striking close—serious and Magnus mixed like oil and water.
“There are,” Lars replied.
“And?” Magnus prompted. “You’ve been there, what? Eight months now?”
“Seven and a half.” And a long seven and a half months it had been, too. He’d been happy when Stellan asked him to take charge of the new division in Mauritius. Delighted to make his home for a while on the tiny island hailed as the Tiger of the Indian Ocean, even though he missed spending time with his friends. But he hadn’t realized that the culture there would also deprive him of the company of women.
“Not even one hookup?” Magnus continued.
Lars shrugged. For all Mauritius came across as a modern and thriving business center, its society still lay entrenched in the mores and norms of a traditional one. He encountered more society mamas intent on getting their daughters married than ladies who wanted a tryst. Not looking for love, or a permanent relationship, he found it safer to avoid the locals, who would only want to take him on a trip down the aisle.
If the right woman came along, he’d reconsider. But he doubted he would find her here.
Magnus put an arm on Stellan’s shoulder and leaned forward. Stellan shrugged him off and stood. After another swallow of beer, and appearing nonplussed, Magnus slid into the vacated chair and faced Lars with a smile on his face. “I know what you need.”
“A shag. I know.” He leaned back and laced his fingers behind his head. His freewheeling friend cooked up the most incongruous schemes; he looked forward to some entertainment.
“Right. And I know just how to make it happen.”
“He doesn’t need you to tweet to the party crowd in Mauritius he’s looking for a bed partner,” Stellan said on a sigh.
“Piss off,” Magnus replied with a wave of his free hand. “I’ll get in touch with Madame Evangeline.”
Lars sat up straight. “I beg your pardon? You’re gonna get me an escort? Thanks, but I’m not that desperate.”
Magnus slammed the beer bottle on the table. “Will you just shut up and listen? Madame Eve does not run an escort company. She owns an exclusive online dating service called 1Night Stand. When you sign up, she makes sure you’re hooked with someone perfect for you, for one night. I’m telling ya, the woman does magic. I know people who’ve met up through her, and now they’re getting married.”
“Excuse me, but I’m not looking to get married,” Lars said.
“I’ll get in touch with her for you. You’ll thank me for it!”
“No, mate. Listen—”
The screen went blank. Magnus had cut the call.
Lars sighed as he stood. What would that idiot get him into? His antics had kept him from talking to Stellan about this week’s incoming cargo and the specifics of the trade route. He paced the office, and then stopped by the window to gaze at the cosmopolitan skyline of Port Louis.
His cell phone rang. The screen displayed a long number with the international + and 44 England code. Stellan—they still needed to iron out some details. “About Tuesday’s cargo—”
“You’re all set,” Magnus blared into his ear.
Bloody hell, no. “What are you talking about?”
“I’ve contacted 1Night Stand and placed a request for you. Madame Evangeline might even be able to find a woman for you to meet on the island. Can you believe that?”
He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Listen, mate,” Magnus said, suddenly serious, voice sober and not slurring. “If it works, it works. One night, no obligations, no ties, no expectations beyond the morning. What have you got to lose?”
“You know it doesn’t work that way.”
“At 1Night Stand, it does. Trust me.”
Lars sighed. “We’ll talk about this later. Can you put Stellan on the line?”
There were sounds of shuffling.
“That idiot is glowing like the cat that got the canary, damn it.”
He could picture Stellan shaking his head. “Listen, about Tuesday’s load. Custom’s being a bitch to clear it.”
“Don’t worry about that. I’m on the ball with the authorities,” Stellan said. “What time is it there? Five o’clock?”
“Well, pack up, and go home. Take a weekend off for once. There’s nothing you can do from there right now, and I’ll look into this.”
“Okay, mate. Look after Magnus, will ya?” They treated the first class pain in the arse as a younger brother, despite their similarity in age.
Lars cut the call and slid the phone into the inside pocket of his jacket. As he grabbed the garment, he glanced around. The company had done an excellent job with the offices. Only the finest, as usual. Acquiring the entire fifth floor of the Barkly Wharf building, right on Caudan Waterfront, left no doubt of their intent to make a success of their presence in this customs-free zone for re-exportable goods in the African and Indian Ocean region. Still, it was a relief to get outside, away from the stuffy leather and magnificent wood furniture, the impeccable courtesy of the employees, and breathe.
On the ground floor, he pushed his way through the crowds bustling inside the commercial shopping area and with a few steps was out in the roasting tropical sun, the soles of his shoes no longer gliding on the smooth marble, but clip-clopping on cobblestones of the quaint alleyways. On his way to the uncrowded open-air esplanade, he sidestepped the water fountain with the horrible blue-green sculpture. Within a few minutes, he reached the guardrails on the edge of the former landing docks area, the murky, green waters of the harbor lapping gently at the concrete edge.
Lovey-dovey young couples strolled on the promenade along the classy, tall-windowed façade of the Labourdonnais Waterfront business hotel, and children ran with joyous laughter while their parents tried to keep up with them. Lars smiled. He liked this island, liked the courtesy and general good manners of the people.
His tall, Viking build and blond hair, and tailored business attire immediately placed him as a foreigner. Not many men, not even the executives, wore suits here. He stood out even next to the white inhabitants, something about him screaming expatriate from a mile away.
If the women he met in his business and social circles weren’t intent on getting a big diamond out of him, life would have been perfect here.
Lars took in a deep, salt-filled breath as he emerged on the marina, near the cinemas with the paintings of retro actors on its walls, and the two-story, colonial stone edifice of the Blue Penny Museum. He headed toward his Athena 38 at the far end of the pier, the thirty-nine-foot-long catamaran the only vessel still docked today. Good weather, a mild breeze and no clouds, made it the perfect time to take an afternoon sail, before the cyclone season kicked in with full force in December, a few weeks away.
But even the anticipation of a trip on the clear blue waters of the Mauritian lagoon failed to lift him up, and unbidden, his thoughts went back to Magnus’ words.
Bloody hell—he did need a shag, and if one came along without the probability his one-night partner would drag him down the aisle, he’d take it.
What on earth was I thinking?
The question rolled forth and ebbed like a giant tsunami wave, gathered force then hurtled itself against Simmi Moyer’s head.
The answer clattered inside her brain with even more strength—she was bent on escaping her mother’s recriminations. The long, sideways glances from the old goats she called “Auntie” at every wedding, funeral, gathering, or party in their family. The whispers of the younger crowd who labeled her a dried-up, frigid, and cold bitch—the Ice Dragon.
At thirty-three, it didn’t matter if she had already reached the post of Vice-President, Legal Affairs, of the biggest conglomerate on the island. That she had scores of people working under her authority. That she closed deals day in, day out with efficiency, always making her company emerge the winner. Or that she earned a salary of over two hundred seventy-five thousand rupees every month when the average annual household income in Mauritius hovered around four hundred thousand rupees.
No—Simmi remained unmarried and childless, and nothing else mattered. Worse, she didn’t even have any prospects for matrimony. Men were wary of her because of her job status, women hated her for achieving so much so young, and society mamas ticked down her biological clock loudly. They looked for the mothers of their future grandchildren, not for their sons’ happiness with a well-suited woman.
In less than a month, on December thirty-first, she would turn thirty-four. On a whim, she’d decided to celebrate and not give a damn about society or her mother. She’d booked a trip to France and bitten the bullet—she had contacted Madame Evangeline’s 1Night Stand and placed a request. She’d figured Madame Eve would hook her up with someone in Paris, but she’d been wrong. The woman had found someone for her right on the island.
As she stepped out of the thatched-roof reception area of the Mauritian branch of Castillo Resorts and Hotels on the rugged southern coast of the island, a gust of wind propelled her toward the waiting golf cart. Her villa stood at the far end of the property. Secluded and private—exactly what one expected for a one-night tryst.
Heat crept up her body and stung her cheeks. She lowered her head so her driver wouldn’t see the shame turn her pale complexion crimson. She’d managed to hold her dignity intact at the reception desk, despite her certainty the front office clerks knew her purpose for visiting the resort. She’d debated whether to wear a disguise, but since Madame Eve had signed her up under her real name, any attempt to alter her appearance would be pointless. And, she did have her pride, thank you.
But now, the situation had caught up with her.
Around her, the wind picked up. A few leaves hit her arm. Had she been nuts to come? There was a Cyclone Warning Class 1 in effect. Mild in the big scheme of things, it did imply a storm in the area and held the possibility the weather would deteriorate.
But who would she contact to cancel the date? Madame Eve? The woman’s nice and distinguished aura shone across her emails. Simmi hated to disappoint her. Madame Eve must have gone to a lot of trouble to pair her up with a man in Mauritius itself—and she prayed, with eyes closed tight, not someone she knew. How would she hold her head up then? A tryst with a stranger in Paris embodied one thing. Meeting a man she likely knew, given how everyone in the one-point-three-million population knew someone who knew someone, presented another matter altogether.
But the pang of being so alone on a reefed island amid a sea of people rattled in her heart. As things stood, she hovered between two worlds, and instead of being the bridge between them, neither one embraced her. Her late father had been white, and her mother of Indian descent. Almost upstairs hooking up with downstairs. At his death, his upper-crust world had shunned her and her mother. The Indo-Mauritian society had welcomed her mother back, but Simmi always felt she existed on the edges of that world, that the people kept her at arms’ length, wary of her “colonist” blood.
Did having someone in her life seem like too much to ask? She’d been on dates, looked for companionship. Men either wanted to get into her knickers to brag about the new notch on their bedpost, or they saw her as a stepping-stone into the high-powered world of corporate executives. Lose-lose, everywhere. So if she had to sign up for a one-night stand to feel the comfort of another human being, the strength of a man’s arms, the possibility of letting go for a few hours, then by Jove, she’d do it.
Did it, in fact. And now, here she sat, at the opposite tip of the island from her home, overlooking the craggy, basalt-black cliffs of the south coast across the lush emerald green of the eighteenth hole of the golf course....
The driver stopped the cart in the meandering driveway in front of a stone-fronted, thatched-roofed villa reminiscent of colonial houses. Simmi took a deep breath and stepped out of the vehicle. She tipped the driver, and as she watched him steer the cart back to the reception area, the sudden urge to run after him and beg him to take her back gripped her throat in a stranglehold. Right then, she didn’t want to meet the man who waited for her inside the bungalow. How could she have thought she could do this? A one-night stand, with a stranger? Seriously, Simmi?
Fallen leaves swirled in a small tornado a few feet from her. The wind slapped them onto her long skirt while she stood still, unable to budge. The gales grew stronger, and in the distance, turbulent waves crashed on the rocks. She imagined the delicate hiss of the sea spray as the white froth dissolved back into the tempestuous waters.
The storm is coming.
Simmi turned toward the villa’s front porch—compelled by some force beyond her ken.
The door opened as if in slow motion.
Her mouth went dry, and she gulped. His big frame filled the doorway with barely an inch to spare on either side. Twilight threw shadows everywhere. A soft glow radiated from behind him. Against the light, his silhouette should’ve appeared imposing and threatening, but it didn’t. Maybe because of the casual rest of his broad shoulders, outlined in a well-fitted T-shirt, and the relaxed way he propped a jean-clad hip against the doorframe. He held a glass in his hand, which he brought to his lips to tip back the contents. She still couldn’t make out his features, or even the color of his hair.
I want to know what he looks like. Simmi ran the tip of her tongue along her lower lip, and in the distance, he straightened.
With a soft nod, he beckoned her to approach.
I can’t. Apprehension and anxiety warred inside her, but under his steady perusal, her steps, though slow and cautious, were regular. His mere presence held an unbreakable pull over her, and her feet seemed to hover over the chipped gravel.
Each step brought her closer to him, but none enabled her to see him any clearer. With the light behind him, shadows were his friends. They cloaked him and hinted at the real man.
At last, she stood on the porch, a few feet away from him. The minute she moved under the corrugated tin awning, the darkness around him melted, revealing his features.
Simmi hitched in a breath. He stood tall and broad, at least twice her size and weight. If the way his jeans and T-shirt hugged his body gave any indication, he packed nothing but solid muscle under the garments. Her gaze moved from his waistband, up his torso, to his face, and she bit her lip.
Beautiful. She had no other way to describe him. His tanned features were taut and chiseled, the square jaw emphasized by his close-trimmed, golden beard. His mouth begged kisses, sensual, but not girly. A patrician nose, eyes that, in the cloaked dimness of the porch, looked like deep pools of blue ink…. His dark-blond hair seemed mussed, as if he’d run his fingers through the strands a minute earlier.
“Hello.” His deep, male rumble sent tingles down her spine and along her arms.
He’s a foreigner—white, yes, but a local white man would’ve addressed her in French, not in English, and not with such a crisp accent in the word.
Now she knew how Madame Eve had been able to pair her with someone on the island. Simmi had mentioned her concerns about meeting someone she might know, so Madame Eve found the perfect solution—an expat.
A foreigner on her island—what were the chances she’d ever meet him again?
Tension drained from her shoulders, and a measure of calm and competence seeped through her. She could—and would—do this.
He gave a soft nod. “My name is—”
Simmi crossed the distance between them, and placed the tips of her fingers against his mouth, cutting his words.
“No. Don’t say it. I don’t want to know.”
***** End of excerpt *****
Go grab your copy at the Decadent website!
Thanks for letting me share this big day with all of you! You rock!
From Mauritius with love,