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Authors: Joss Wood

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It Was Only a Kiss

BOOK: It Was Only a Kiss
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The most distracting boss of all…

For driven businessman Luke Savage success is the only option. So when gorgeous marketing intern Jess Sherwood waltzes into his office and casually informs him that his newly inherited vineyard has an image problem he’s outraged! She’s naive, overly ambitious, a know-it-all… And all Luke can do to stop her talking is kiss her senseless.

Eight years later the vineyard needs a boost—and Luke needs a hip new marketing strategy to save it. Jess may drive him crazy but she’s the right woman for the job. Their only problem is how to keep their minds on work and off that kiss!

SNEAK PEEK EXCERPT FROM

IT WAS ONLY A KISS

Luke suppressed his smile at her stubbornness.

Within twenty-five meters those spiky heels would be stuck in mud and her stockings would be flecked with dirt.

Luke swung his leg over his bike and turned the key. He gave Jess another up-and-down look and watched for her response. Her expression remained stoic while her eyes heated. He wondered what it would take to get her to lose the mask of sophistication she'd acquired.

He leaned on the handlebars on his bike and spoke casually. “Do you ever think about what we did the last time we met?”

He didn't need to spell it out…she was a smart girl. Luke watched carefully and saw her composure slip for a fraction of a second before her lips firmed and her eyes narrowed.

“No. Do you?”

“No,” Luke replied.

My, my, my,
Luke thought as he pulled away.
Look what good liars we've become.

Dear Reader,

This is my first outing for Harlequin KISS and I am so excited to be part of this new series!

Jess, the heroine of this story, is fairly headstrong and she first meets Luke Savage, the new owner of St. Sylve vineyard, when she tells him—from her lowly position of a marketing intern—that his marketing plan is rubbish and that his company will run into trouble if he doesn’t change his strategy. Luke thinks she’s a stuck-up, arrogant little witch. Sexy, though… One moment they are arguing about marketing, the next they are kissing each other senseless.

Roll on eight years and Luke’s still keeping his generations-old vineyard alive by subsidizing it with money he makes from other business deals. He needs a marketing campaign to sell more wine and he desperately needs professional help. And who is the best at these types of campaigns? Jess Sherwood, of course.

Luke and Jess are opposite sides of each other’s coin. He’s strong enough to cope with her success and she’s tender enough to break through the walls he’s erected. But they are both anti-relationships for different reasons and quite resistant to commitment, and I had to drag them—especially Luke—to their happy ever after!

I hope you enjoy Luke and Jess’s story as much as I enjoyed writing about them.

Happy reading and best wishes,

Joss

xxx

Facebook:
Joss Wood
Twitter:
@josswoodbooks

It Was Only
a Kiss

JOSS WOOD

ABOUT JOSS WOOD

Joss Wood wrote her first book at the age of eight and has never really stopped. Her passion for putting letters on a blank screen is matched only by her love of books and traveling—especially to the wild places of Southern Africa—and possibly by her hatred of ironing and making school lunches.

Fueled by coffee, when she’s not writing or being a hands-on mum, Joss, with her background in business and marketing, works for a nonprofit organization to promote the local economic development and collective business interests of the area where she resides. Happily and chaotically surrounded by books, family and friends, she lives in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, with her husband, children and their many pets.

This and other titles by Joss Wood are available in ebook format—check out
Harlequin.com

For my children, Rourke and Tess,
who are all things bright and beautiful.

PROLOGUE

Eight years ago...

‘So, in conclusion, I think the marketing strategy your people presented to you is hackneyed, stupid and asinine, and pays absolutely no attention to your demographics, to the market research or to where your competitors are placing themselves. It's under-researched and knocked together, and if you follow it I guarantee that you will lose most of your market share in five years' time—if not your business.'

Luke Savage looked across his messy desk at the earnest young woman perched on the edge of her chair, her face animated with youthful zeal and a healthy dose of arrogance. What was her name again? He glanced down at the file in front of him. Jess Sherwood. She was twenty-two, he read, and was currently doing her MBA in Marketing. The file did state that she was over-blessed with brains—her school and university achievements were, to put it mildly, impressive—but it failed to mention that she was solidly gorgeous as well.

A true brown-eyed blonde.

She was quite a parcel and, boy, did she know it.

Luke kept his face impassive as she draped one long, slim leg over the other and lightly linked her hands around a bare knee, an index finger tapping away. She wore a short, flouncy dress, falling off one shoulder and showing a thin purple bra strap, and belted at slim hips by a broad leather belt. Falling to mid-thigh, it was too short, too casual, and too sexy an outfit for work—but she wore it with careless confidence.

Luke, who was seldom surprised at much, was taken aback by her self-importance and her balls-to-the-wall chutzpah. She'd been placed as an intern for the summer holidays, to gain work experience within St Sylve's marketing department—
his
marketing department, since he'd recently inherited the generations-old family vineyard. She'd ambushed him as he'd been about to leave, barged into his office and said that she felt ‘morally obligated'—he curled his lip at the phrase—to tell him that his decisions sucked and his marketing plan was dreadful. And now she had the temerity to predict the failure of his business.

Her mobile rang and Luke hissed his annoyance as she dived for her bag and pulled out the phone, squinting at the display. She flashed him a wide smile that was charming but devoid of apology. ‘Sorry—I have to take this.'

Whatever—I'm just your boss. Why don't I just wait while you finish arranging your social life?

He felt twenty years older than her, rather than six, and he probably was in experience. University was a dim and distant memory, clouded by the fourteen- to sixteen-hour days he'd been working for the past seven years.

Lately he'd felt perpetually exhausted, but if he'd had the energy he'd have got up and yanked her mobile from her ear and torn her a new one. Which he intended to do when she finished cooing into her mobile.

Her words rattled around his brain...
You will lose most of your market...

Hell, he was losing St Sylve. It was failing... Not his fault or his failure, because failure wasn't what he did—well, it wasn't what he'd been allowed to do. Sport? He'd excelled at most. Academics? Scholarships and huge job offers had translated into his being able to set up his own company three years ago...one of the youngest venture capitalists in the country. Marriage? Okay, he'd dropped the ball on that one, but in a couple of weeks the divorce would be through and he'd be rid of the credit-card- digesting monster he'd married.

Now, if he could get this other creature out of his office without strangling her, he'd consider himself a saint.

Jess snapped her mobile closed, slipped it back into her bag and looked at him expectantly. Stuck-up, arrogant little witch.

Sexy, though....

Luke's boots dropped from the corner of his desk to the floor and he stood up slowly, knowing that his face displayed none of his anger. As a child, living with his volatile, demanding father—his mother had died when he was three—he'd learnt early that showing emotion of any sort could be used against him, so he'd perfected his stoic mask.

He watched her through half-closed lids. She looked relaxed, leaning back in the chair, a small smile edging the corners of her very sexy mouth upwards. Give her a couple of years and she'd be hell on wheels...if she could keep her cocky opinions to herself.

‘Interesting perspective,' Luke said mildly. He saw her mouth open to speak and lifted a finger to silence her. ‘If I cared.'

Mouth open but no words emerging...it was a start, Luke thought. Placing his hands on his desk, he leaned forward with a gesture that was meant to be intimidating and finally allowed her to see his fury. He felt marginally appeased when her eyes widened and she bit her bottom lip.

‘You arrogant, snotty child!' He deliberately kept his voice even, knowing that harsh words delivered coldly had more of an effect than ranting and raving. ‘How dare you walk into my company and my office and presume to tell me what to do with my business and how to do it? Who the
hell
do you think you are?' he suddenly roared, and Jess winced as his words bounced off the walls.

Jess lifted up her hands and he noticed that she didn't look particularly scared. Hell, she didn't look scared, period.

‘You don't understand—'

‘What I understand is that you are a bright young thing who has always been told that she's wonderful—clever and bright and talented. Pretty too. After so much unstinting admiration and affirmation, how could you think I wouldn't want to hear the pearls of wisdom that fall so effortlessly from your lips?'

Jess jumped to her feet. ‘Luke, I—'

‘It's Mr Savage to you! I'm your boss, not your friend! If you want to get anywhere you'd better bloody learn some humility and some respect! I have my own MBA, sunshine, and I've run a successful company for years. I have put in the sweat and tears and the work to earn the right to have an opinion. You haven't!'

‘Stop yelling at me!'

Luke looked at her and shook his head. A part of him—okay, all his boy bits—thought she looked magnificent, with her heaving chest and wild eyes, fury staining her high cheekbones like the rasp of a lover's beard. She looked furious, but not intimidated, and a part of him had to admire her courage.

A very small part of him.

‘It's not my fault your marketing plan sucks! I'm just telling you that the St Sylve vineyard will suffer if you do not adjust your strategy!'

‘Because you say so?'

‘Yes! Because I'm damn good at this. I just know it won't work!'

Luke rubbed a hand over his chin. ‘So, now you have a crystal ball as well? Can you tell me if I'm going to get skinned in my divorce or whether the price of oil will drop?'

‘Of course you will get skinned—that's what happens when you marry a gold-digger! And, no, the oil price is going to keep climbing. The markets are too unstable at the moment to allow a drop,' Jess replied.

Luke could not believe that she hadn't picked up his sarcasm. ‘For someone who's only been here a couple of months, you seem to be firmly plugged in to vineyard gossip.'

Jess sent him a cheeky grin. ‘Thank you.'

‘It wasn't a compliment.'

‘I know.'

He was going to kill her. Luke stalked around the desk and gripped her slim shoulders with his much bigger hands. ‘I'm not sure whether to strangle you or smack you.'

Jess tossed her head of honey-coloured curls and looked up at him with bold and defiant brown eyes. A brown so deep it could almost be black.

‘You're not the type to hit a woman.' Jess lifted one shoulder and sent him a look that was as powerful as it was ageless. ‘And you're just annoyed because you know I'm right.'

‘Annoyed? I'm way past annoyed and on my way to incandescently livid.'

Under his hands Jess lifted her shoulders. ‘But why? I'm just telling the truth.'

He was exasperated at her cheek, but he was even more furious because she had his blood pressure spiking and his pants jumping.

‘You are cheeky, conceited, smug and vain,' Luke muttered as his lips edged their way down to hers. He could see the challenge in those eyes that held his...and as well as not tolerating failure, he also never backed away from a challenge.

Jess tipped her chin up and he could feel her breath on his lips. She felt slight and feminine in his arms, and while he knew that he was playing with fire he couldn't let her go.

‘Then why are you going to kiss me?'

‘Because it's either that or put you over my knee,' Luke growled.

‘But you don't like me,' Jess stated.

‘God, how old are you? Attraction has nothing to do with liking someone.'

‘It should.'

‘You're naïve.'

‘Kissing me would be a mistake,' Jess whispered even as her lips lifted to his.

‘Too damn late.'

Electricity arced and thunder rolled as he yanked her slim frame into his solid chest, burrowing his hands into her hair to move her head so that he could deepen the angle of the kiss, could touch every corner of her sexy mouth with his tongue. His hand dropped to her lower back and he pulled her against him. His stomach swooped when he felt her hips against his, her small hands sneaking under his shirt to feel the skin of his back and shoulders.

He'd never been this hot this quickly for anyone. Luke closed his eyes as her quick tongue tasted his bottom lip, then tangled with his in a long, lazy slide. One hand held the back of her head and the other skimmed the side of her torso, its thumb sliding over the swell of her—

This had gone too far, Luke told himself. He had to stop this. Now.

Instead he ran the palms of his hands up the back of her silky-soft thighs and gripped her butt.

Holy hell, he thought as his hands encountered nothing but warm skin. Where were her panties...? Their kiss deepened and went from crazy to wild. He massaged her as he pulled her up against him and...oh, there it was. An ultra-thin strand of cotton. He traced his fingers upward and found the T of her thong, embellished with what seemed to be a fabric heart flat against her lower back. Luke hooked his thumb under the T and rubbed that gorgeous patch of skin. So soft, so smooth... He could snap the cord with a quick twist...

Luke wrenched himself away from her, sucked in a breath and hoped that she didn't notice him gripping the edge of the desk for balance. She looked glorious, with her flashing eyes, swollen mouth and mussed hair. He could take her right now, right here in the late-afternoon sun.

It shook him how much he wanted to see her naked, sprawled across his desk, her body exposed to his hot gaze, her creamy skin flushed with pleasure.

Luke summoned up the last reserves of his self-control and slowly felt his self-restraint returning. When he felt his big brain had the edge over his little one, he stood up straight and wordlessly pointed to the door.

Jess nodded as she straightened her shirt. ‘Right—time for me to leave.' She rocked on her heels, then dug in her tote bag and pulled out a large envelope which she placed on his desk. ‘A marketing strategy—an alternative to what you have now. Maybe we can discuss it another time?'

Un-frickin'-believable.

Had she heard anything he'd said before he'd kissed the hell out of her? Obviously not.

Luke shook his head. ‘I don't think so.'

A tiny frown appeared between her arched brows. ‘Why not?'

Luke walked around his desk and flopped into his chair. ‘Because you're fired. Pack up your stuff and get off my property. Immediately.'

BOOK: It Was Only a Kiss
6.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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