Notorious in Nice - Excerpt

Posted by Jianne Carlo | 5:03 PM | 6 comments »

Wealth.

The bay teemed with it.

Yachts, luxury sailing ships, ritzy sports cars in colorful hues blurred the sweeping vista facing Su-Lin.

Monte Carlo; she pinched her forearm, overwhelmed by her good fortune.

Today they started a three-week cruise on an actual yacht captained by Terrence O’Connor, her future lover. Staring at the boat, she stepped onto the immaculate cement dock.

Su-Lin took in the resplendence of the yacht, the proud curves, and the three tiered decks. Her heart, already joyful at the prospect of sailing the Mediterranean, vaulted over a full-fledged hurdle when she glimpsed streaked blond hair glinting red highlights and walnut-toned biceps framed by a tight black T-shirt.

Her eyes focused on Terrence puffing on a cigar, blowing smoke rings, which disappeared as they rose against the perfection of a powder blue sky. She never noticed her uncle unpacking their luggage, didn’t acknowledge her relatives’ presence, but followed them on autopilot. On board, she came to a stop in front of a lanky, handsome man wearing a brown Stetson set at a rakish angle.

“Welcome to the Glory,” he drawled in this sexy, send-shivers-up-your-spine voice. “Harrison Ford, first mate, at your absolute disposal. I saw you on the beach in Antibes a while back, sugar. Amazing performance. Surely you’re Olympic material?”

His palm enfolded her small hand, and he brushed full lips over the throbbing vein at her wrist. Bemused by the way he said the word “sugar,” like it had no R and a host of Hs, shug-ah, her lips curved, hoping he’d say it again. She paraphrased it in her mind, shug-ah, and drew in gulps of his Acqua Di Gio aftershave as her stomach did a giddy slide into his twinkling honey eyes.

She rushed out, “I made the team four years in a row but had to drop out. Then I shot up. I’m too tall for Olympic competition.” She stifled a groan, too much information. It still amazed her how rich people conducted a conversation. They asked questions as greetings but didn’t expect answers, far less the truth.

“An itty bitty thing like you?” Liquid caramel eyes glistened sympathy beneath arched eyebrows. “Shucks, sugar, that’s their loss. I took a shot of you on my cell. Remind me, and I’ll show it to you later.”

He had taken a picture of her? This man with rock-star looks and Indiana Jones charm?

Su-Lin fell back when her uncle stepped forward.

“I’m James Lockheed, and this is my wife, Emma, my niece, Su-Lin.”

“Nice to meet y’all. Terrence O’Connor’s the captain, but he’s tied up for the moment. I know you chartered the Glory for the coming three weeks, Mr. Lockheed, but Geoff, Terry’s partner, seems to have scheduled a cruise with another party for the same period.”

“Well, I hope we can settle this mix-up quickly.” Aunt Emma started tapping her Clarks pump on the teak deck.

“Not to worry, Terry’ll sort something out.”

“We’ve already paid for this cruise,” Uncle James announced. “We’re not going anywhere.”

Tap, tap. Her aunt’s drumming intensified. Su-Lin rubbed her left temple.

“Jimmy, do you see what I see?”

Something about the strange way her aunt and uncle looked at each other bothered Su-Lin, but she couldn’t quite identify what.

“Well, I’ll be,” her uncle muttered. “He’s the spitting image of Terrence.”

Su-Lin followed the direction of their gaze and saw Terrence with shorter hair, dressed in beige trousers and a white linen shirt, climbing the inclined gangplank. Her head spun to the boat’s second level where another Terrence in black slacks and a black shirt puffed on a cigar. Nothing made sense.

Su-Lin chewed her lip and grabbed the handrail as her knees buckled.

A crew member approached bearing a tray of martini glasses.

More confused than ever, on autopilot, she absently curled her fingers around a chilled stem, glanced at the blue liquid sloshing side to side, her mind slipping and sliding in a mimicking rhythm.

Every fear about her mental stability surfaced. Had she dreamed all this?

The sound of pounding footsteps snapped her gaze to the second deck, and she spotted Terry stomping down the metal stairs, hair flying, mouth a thin, flat line, and the other Terry striding onto the Glory’s deck.

Two Terrences?

She’d gone over the edge, crossed the line into living her dreams. She had too much of her mother in her, after all.

“What in damnation are you doing here?” an angry Terry barked.

“Nice to see you again, brother. Didn’t you know? I chartered the Glory for three weeks.”

Twins, identical twins; her pulse steadied, beating faster than normal, but not jumping and starting like it had seconds before. She gripped the crystal flute in her hand so hard, she feared it would break.

“Damn it, what the hell is going on here, Thomas? You’re the other charter?”

“Calm down, Ter. There is a reasonable explanation.”

“Sod off, you prick. I don’t want to hear it. And,” he growled, his voice lowering, “you brought Father. How could you?”

Through all the shouting and fists stabbing the air, Su-Lin discovered dissimilarities between the identical twins.

Thomas, though muscular, didn’t have Terry’s powerful biceps, nor were his shoulders as broad. His hair barely brushed his nape and fell into a side part. He personified the suave Ralph Lauren type, urbane and sophisticated. Terry, even in repose, oozed a primitive sexuality braided with a leashed rage and hunger.

Fisted hands balled on his lean hips, Terry scowled at his father and brother.

Harrison held out a cell phone. “It’s Geoff. He wants to speak to you.”

Terry spoke into the receiver for three minutes, issuing words in a fierce staccato. He snapped the phone shut and cursed, his brogue so thick Su-Lin couldn’t understand a single word.

“Well, well, this is interesting,” Aunt Emma drawled. “It complicates matters.”

Su-Lin’s stomach listed. “I don’t understand.”

“I’m sure you don’t, Jennifer,” her aunt said.

Terry dragged both hands through his hair and turned to face her. “We meet again. Welcome to the Glory.”

Shock kept her speechless as she realized she wasn’t welcome on board his boat, not by a long shot. She needed to escape, find a safe place, hole up, and block the humiliation shattering her fragile self-confidence.

Gritting her teeth, Su-Lin lifted her chin and said, “A most gracious welcome. Thank you.”

At least he had the grace to blush, although that proved poor solace for her bruised ego.

“James and Emma Lockheed, Su-Lin, meet my brother, Thomas, and my father, the Earl of Arran, Nigel Gore.” He appeared to be speaking through clenched teeth.

“Nigel, good to see you again,” Uncle James said, extending a hand.

“You know each other?” Terry asked, gaze whipping between the two men.

“Business acquaintances,” the earl replied.

“Harry, Austen, show our guests to their rooms,” Terry ordered.

The cowboy, Harrison, intervened. “I’ll show you to your cabin, Su-Lin.” He crooked an elbow. “Terry has to show his father and brother to theirs, and Austen, our bosun, is showing your relatives to the upper deck.”

“Thank you.” She refused to sneak a look at Terry and smiled at Harrison Ford. “What’s a bosun?”

“The Glory’s foreman. He organizes the other crew members and reports to me.”

“Oh,” she said. “Like a manager.”

“Bull’s-eye, sugar,” he drawled, gifting her with a crooked grin.

Su-Lin wondered if this gorgeous man had any physical flaws.

“Has anyone ever told you that you look like Indiana Jones?” A Harrison Ford look-alike without the cragginess or the twisted nose.

“Pure luck, as my mama named me after him.” He winked at her. “I even took archaeology as a minor in college.”

By this time, they’d reached the end of the stairs leading below deck, and a long, carpeted corridor faced them.

“You’re at the far end. The Glory’s staterooms are divided evenly between this deck and the upper one. Our level is separated by this entertainment area.” Harrison paused and waved a hand in the direction of a bar, a sectional curved couch, and a wide plasma screen blaring CNN Headline News.

“Where is my aunt and uncle’s room?” Su-Lin asked.

“They’re on the upper deck, as are the rest of the guests. Austen and I are on this level. You’re next door to the captain’s cabin.” He pointed to the left. “Terry’s decided on a different itinerary, one that’ll keep us closer to the coast where you can do day trips. We’ll head out soon. Someone will bring the bags down later. Dinner’s usually around eightish. Join me for a drink on deck in half an hour, sugar? Wanna get married?”

“I beg your pardon?” Shaking her head didn’t seem to clear it. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“Wanna get married?”

She did that back of the throat thing to clear stuffy ears and shot him a smile-grimace. “Did you just ask me to marry you?”

“Durn right, sugar. My father left me a fortune, which I inherit the day I marry. My stepmama inherits if I’m not wed by thirty.”

“Oh,” she muttered, digesting this interesting but peculiar tidbit. “I take it your birthday’s coming up?”

“Yep. And that bitch ain’t getting a cent, not even if I have to marry a freakin’ octogenarian.”

Hysteria spurred a sudden fit of giggles. “Have I just arrived in some sort of parallel universe? This must be a surreal dream.”

“I’m serious. You have a chance to save me from hunting down a wife in an old folks’ home.” He winked at her again.

“You’re impossible,” she said. “Even if what you’re saying is true, why not marry a friend and then get divorced?”

“Proof of consummation is part and parcel of Daddy’s will. The old fart put it in black-and-white.”

“Oh,” she muttered. “Hold on a second, there’d only be proof if the female was a virgin.”

“One of the requirements is an untouched woman.”

“What makes you think I fit the bill?”

One forefinger traced the outline of her mouth. Their gazes tangled and he shook his head. “Ah, sugar, you radiate innocence. And you have a hunger in your eyes. It makes a man burn to be the first.”

“Sod off, Harrison. Above deck, pronto. You,” Terry barked. “Come with me.”

Where had he come from?

Everything happened so quickly, Su-Lin’s mind reeled. He scooped her into his arms and then the two of them were alone in his cabin.

6 comments

  1. Mary Ricksen // March 20, 2009 at 5:41 PM  

    I don't know why, but I really especially liked this character. She hooked me from the beginning. There was a dynamo hidden in that innocent persona. And this story is hot, hot, hot, and all without the C word, which I really don't like to see.
    Jianne you did it again, and you make it all seem so easy.

  2. Mona Risk // March 20, 2009 at 5:56 PM  

    Nice setting Jianne and good plot. I want to read more.

  3. Mary Marvella // March 20, 2009 at 6:52 PM  

    Wow! This is gonna be a good one!

  4. Edie // March 20, 2009 at 8:14 PM  

    A fun scene. Love the Harrison Ford character!

  5. Scarlet Pumpernickel // March 21, 2009 at 6:18 PM  

    Love the setting and the story!

    Scarlet

  6. Joanne // March 22, 2009 at 8:58 AM  

    Gorgeous setting. I love the heroine. Really enjoyable to read.