Authors: Elizabeth Lennox
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Contemporary Fiction
His Reluctant Lover
By Elizabeth Lennox
to register for news and free stories!
All rights reserved
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Any duplication of this material, either electronic or any other format, either currently in use or a future invention, is strictly prohibited unless you have the direct consent of the author.
If you download this material in any format, either electronic or other, on a non-sanctioned site, please be warned that you and the website are in violation of copyright infringement. Financial and punitive damages may be pursued in whichever legal venue is appropriate.
Table of Contents
He needed gills. Lungs just weren’t going to cut it in this humidity.
New Orleans might be one of the most beautiful cities he’d ever visited, but Dylan Alfieri was already regretting starting this particular project during the summer months. He should have adjusted his schedule so that it began in January or February.
Dylan rang the doorbell of the elegant mansion, thinking that the house had probably been built before the Civil War. “Good evening, Mr. Alfieri,” a dignified butler said as he opened the door. “Mr. Charding is waiting for you in the parlor.” The cool air from the home encircled Dylan’s body like a gentle, welcoming breeze, made even more refreshing in comparison to the nighttime humidity that never seemed to leave this city.
Dylan almost laughed as the white haired servant bowed slightly, an elegant, old-fashioned gesture that somehow seemed right here in the south. The reference to the parlor also fit. A house built more than two hundred years ago definitely needed a “parlor”.
Dylan was buying up several of the abandoned warehouses that Philip Charding owned. This dinner was simply a social way of concluding the business arrangement. Dylan wished he could avoid these sorts of social niceties. He would much rather be in his office going through the data for his next project, confirming the numbers on his current enterprises or even just sitting in his hotel suite, relaxing with a good, stiff scotch.
But the social niceties must be observed. Soothing any hurt feelings was just as important for future business ventures as having enough cash to get the job accomplished. This project in New Orleans wasn’t going to be one of the largest neighborhoods Alfieri Properties had done, but if he worked this correctly, it could be one of the more profitable projects. At only thirty-five years old, Dylan had created an extremely large empire already but he wasn’t done. Not by a long shot. He specialized in buying up abandoned tracts of land and building new neighborhoods that brought jobs and great living environments to aging cities. He loved to see areas that had once been riddled by crime and gangs turned into thriving communities again. He not only built the homes for families to live in, he also built the stores that would support those neighborhoods. His company worked with the municipal governments to ensure that schools and libraries were also built to support the new communities.
Dylan followed the butler into the large elegant room that obviously needed a great many repairs. Dylan suspected that the house was about two, maybe even three hundred years ago. Despite the obvious wear, he liked the house. It felt lived in and comfortable. Many of his acquaintances considered their homes to be a showcase, and this approach translated into the house feeling like a museum. Not this one. He could feel the vitality of the house, could sense the history and the generations that had grown up here and worn down the wood floors.
Stepping through the door the butler had led him to and was holding open, Dylan looked around at the tall windows and extra high ceilings, impressed with the “bones” of the old-style mansion. “Good evening, Philip,” Dylan said, walking briskly over to the older man who was sitting by the window in one of a group of winged back chairs that had definitely seen better days. “You have a lovely house.”
Philip took Dylan’s hand and chuckled, waving his cigar to indicate Dylan should take a seat in the other chair. “It’s a pain in my ass,” the man replied abruptly. “It’s old and needs about a million dollars in repairs,” he grumbled. “Bourbon?”
“Thank you,” Dylan replied. He actually hated bourbon but he didn’t want to be rude, so he would take the foul stuff and pretend to enjoy it.
Philip laughed again, a sound that was starting to grate on Dylan. “Bring the man a scotch,” Philip said to the butler who was already standing by a liquor table.
Dylan was startled by the older man’s perceptiveness. “How did you know?” Dylan asked, his eyes narrowed as he sat back in the leather chair.
Philip puffed on his cigar, leaning back in the wingback chair with a mischievous look to his old, blue eyes. “I read people, young man,” he explained. “I didn’t used to be this old and cantankerous. In my younger days, I was quite a shark.”
Dylan smiled slightly as he received the glass from the butler. It was true. The man had been feared. Philip had taken over Charding Industries from his father and had grown the business into a respectable empire. Not nearly as large as what Dylan now controlled, but it had been large back in the day. “About the sale,” Dylan started off.
Philip waved his cigar again. “All in due time,” he said, dismissing the subject for the moment. “You’re going to offer ten percent more than discussed earlier today when tonight’s dinner is over.”
Dylan almost laughed at the outrageous assertion, but he was also impressed despite himself. Did the older man have some information that Dylan would need? Or was he just losing his mind? Either was possible, he thought. “Doubtful, but I’m intrigued. Why would I offer you more than the agreed upon amount for the land?”
Philip chuckled and puffed again. “Because I have something even more important than my company,” he said mysteriously.
Dylan’s eyebrows went up. “And that would be…?”
Philip considered his words carefully. “You’re down here buying the Charding warehouses by the river.”
Dylan waved his glass of scotch, neither confirming nor denying the statement.
“But buying me out will only give you half of what you need.”
“What’s the other half?” Dylan already knew what he considered the other half, but he wasn’t going to give away his strategy.
“You need the land on both sides of the river. Wouldn’t do to have lovely homes looking out onto the mighty Mississippi, only to see empty warehouses on the other side. And you can only get that land by buying up one of three companies. Either Inus Corporation, which is probably too expensive for you right now, or Demisis, which isn’t for sale nor will it ever be. Acton’s land might be easier for you to acquire, but it is probably too small.”
Dylan intended to acquire all three of those companies, but there was no need to tell this man that. “Which do you think will suit my purposes the best?” he asked.
Philip’s eyes narrowed. “You probably need all three,” he said, knowing the answer. “But you can’t get them. You won’t even get one of them without my help.”
Dylan almost laughed out loud but held back, not wanting to offend this man. That in itself was unusual – he generally didn’t care who he offended. Business was business. Feelings had no place in the work place.
“What can you offer me to help me achieve the goals you think I’ve set for myself?” He didn’t mention that he was already in discussions with Demisis for the land on the other side of the river. No need to knock the man down when he felt he was on a roll.
There was a knock on the door and Dylan saw the moment of triumph in the older man’s eyes. “This is what I can give you,” he said in a lower voice. “Come in, Georgette!” the man called out.
Dylan turned and saw the doors to the parlor open. When the auburn haired beauty stepped through those doors, Dylan felt like he’d been beaten. He’d never lost a battle! But this woman seemed to bewitch him immediately with her sultry smile, flawless pale skin and her fascinating hazel eyes.
He didn’t realize he’d stood, the gesture automatic as the goddess approached. She walked towards him with a slight smile on her full, pink lips and a strange gleam in those hazel eyes. His own eyes traveled down her figure, stopping to admire her full breasts that pushed against the simple, black sheath dress. His gaze continued lower, wondering if her waist was really that small or if she wore one of those crazy contraptions women sometimes wiggled into that could make their figures look more slender. As his eyes took in her full hips, he knew that she was all woman. Not fat, not skinny but just soft and full and…lush. He couldn’t see her legs because the dress went below her knees, almost to the middle of her calves. But he noticed she had slender ankles and wore those pointed shoes that were supposed to make a woman’s legs look longer. They worked! Damn, he suspected she had incredible legs! Legs he wanted to get to know, intimately.
She’d stopped in the middle of the room, her body still while his eyes traveled back up her luscious figure. When his brown eyes collided with her hazel ones, he knew he’d infuriated the beauty with his blatant perusal. He could see the anger in those gorgeous eyes and his body was quick to respond. Possibly not in the way she wanted, but he suddenly realized he had very little control over his body right at this moment.
Georgette stopped several feet away from the man and her grandfather, her head tilting backwards and her chin jutting forward slightly, trying to appear confident when every cell in her body was quivering with…something. Georgette refused to accept that she might be even the slightest bit…disturbed by this man. He was too big and simply too rude for her to have feelings other than…annoyed.
She couldn’t believe the insulting visual examination the man had just performed! She wanted to turn around and walk out of the parlor or perhaps even walk right up to him and kick him in the shin. But good manners had been drilled into her all her life. Her grandmother and mother, both elegant women themselves, would never be caught dead either running away or kicking. Her only recourse was to stand very still, hoping that the he would be dropped through some trap door or swallowed by a highly localized earthquake! That would eliminate that look of confidence on his strangely handsome face and, hopefully, obliterate this rude man from the face of the earth!
Luck was not on her side tonight, however. The man continued to stare at her as if she were a chocolate bar and he was ready to devour her. She hated the heat that suffused her body with his dark, intimidating look, wishing she could remain aloof and reserved.
Since the tall, imposing and rude man was not ceasing his insulting survey of her person, and she didn’t like the way her body trembled under that blatant visual undressing, she decided that ignoring him was her best course of action. Turning to her grandfather, she smiled gently at the beloved man. “Hello, Grandpapa. How are you tonight?” she asked, stepping around the man and his irritatingly broad shoulders.
Dylan had thought the woman was the image of beauty and perfection even before she spoke. But the lilting, southern drawl of her words sent a surge of pleasure through his body so intense, he couldn’t breathe for a long moment. He just stood there, absorbing her words, tossing her accent around in his mind. Instead of pronouncing each syllable, she said the words like a song. One syllable words turned into two or three while some of the vowels or consonants rolled together, floating off her lips, hitting him with a wave of lust so strong, he thought he might actually pick her up and carry her off, just so he could listen to her speak in private.
Philip chuckled, his eyes dancing with merriment as he stepped up to greet her. “Georgette, you look lovely, as always.”
Georgette bent and kissed his wrinkled cheek, then stood back, her eyes latching onto the cigar in his hand. “I thought the doctor said you weren’t supposed to smoke anymore.”
Philip grunted and looked at his cigar, then back up at his granddaughter hopefully. “How about if we keep this our little secret?” he suggested.
Georgette shook her head and plucked the cigar out of his hands, mashing the end in the ash tray until it was extinguished. “Not going to happen, Grandpapa.” She looked at the man’s other hand. “And bourbon?” she asked with exasperation. The man was a legend in business, but he wasn’t the kindest to his body. He broke every rule, including some she wished she didn’t know about.
Philip was drawing the line there. “Don’t even try it, missy,” he warned with good humor but with a tone that conveyed he was not going to relinquish the glass of alcohol under any circumstances.
Georgette laughed, the sound sending a thrill of something base, something elemental, throughout Dylan’s body and ending right in his groin. The sound was soft and husky, not at all girly although everything else about this woman was pure female. He’d bet his entire net worth that the woman even painted her toenails. Pink, he guessed. Then looked at her full hips and mentally shook his head. Red. Definitely red. And then his mind was instantly picturing what she would look like in just those sexy black heels and hidden, red-painted toenails. Nothing else but her smile. Damn! He’d never realized how good his imagination could be.
Georgette slowly moved over to the liquor table and, to Dylan’s astonishment and amusement, she poured herself a strong glass of scotch. “If you can’t stop em,” she said with a twinkle in her eye for her grandfather, “then I gotta join ‘em, right?” And she took a long sip of the amber liquid, glancing surreptitiously at Dylan over the rim of her glass.
“Where are Mother and Grandmamma tonight?” she asked, moving closer once again. One hand gently waved towards the chairs, giving the signal that both men were now allowed to sit. She waited for a fraction of a second, then sat herself in a chair the butler had magically placed behind her. Dylan watched the movement, entranced by the way her body almost slid down onto the edge of the chair. Her back was ramrod straight, her knees angled demurely to the side, and her legs crossed only at the ankles.
She was the epitome of elegance, wrapped up in a sensual, sexy package. If she only knew the erotic fantasies her grace and figure were conjuring up in his mind, she would probably slap him. And he would deserve it.