Publish Date: August 2014
The ultimate walk of shame…
After a party to celebrate her career freedom–aka telling her arrogant boss exactly where he can stick his job–Izzy should be waking up with just a hangover. Instead she finds herself in bed with said boss: Harry Mitchell.
Harry doesn’t sleep with employees, and waking up with Izzy is not the start to the day he imagined. But having her sprawled beneath him feels like heaven. Even better is the fact that since Izzy’s resigned Harry can break his own rule–over and over again…!
The Flat in Notting Hill series — Love and lust in the city that never sleeps!
Copyright © 2013 by Nikki Logan. Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.
The Morning After the Night Before
Would Satan wear eleven-micron wool?
Izzy Dean could tell, even from this side of her boss’s expensive desk twelve storeys up her firm’s London high-rise, that Harry Mitchell’s flash, charcoal suit would be as soft as a kitten to touch. Her fingers practically itched to stroke the expensive fabric.
Maybe she could cop a feel as she leaned in to smack that smug grin off his designer-stubbled face.
‘Careful, Dean, you look like you want to deck me.’
‘Do I?’ Izzy feigned. Not that he’d believe innocence from her for one moment. He was way too used to sparring with her.
Lord, as career-enders went, wouldn’t that be a spectacular way to go? Bunch up all those muscles she’d developed cleaning fast-food kitchens as a kid and—pow—set Mitchell right on his sanctimonious, perfectly sculpted arse right here in his own fishbowl office. She’d storm out amid a standing ovation from the entire, downtrodden department.
A large face loomed in her blurred vision and she snapped her focus back to steady blue eyes—oasis, according to the ‘what colour are his eyes?’ chart in her favourite, battered, old chick magazine. With flecks of cougar blue.
Not that she’d looked him up, specifically…*cough*
He even had eyelashes like thick, fringing palm trees to go with the whole oasis thing. Except there was nothing at all quenching about Harry Mitchell’s piercing stare. Instead, it smouldered like a volcanic spring that radiated heat towards her at the most inopportune moments.
Like right now.
‘And that’s why you get the big bucks, Mitchell,’ she simmered, ‘that incomparable attention to detail.’
‘Funny that you should mention detail—’
‘There is nothing wrong with my report!’
‘Not technically, no…’
She tossed her short hair back and stared him down. ‘Are the numbers right?’
‘You’re the go-to person in the office when your colleagues can’t solve something.’ He glared. ‘Of course they’re right.’
‘Then the report is fine. I see no reason to waste my time doing it again.’
He speared frustrated fingers through his hair and released a waft of something delicious and masculine into the small, glass office.
Not delicious smell, she told herself. Boss smell. Bad.
‘Is “fine” really the way you’d like to be thought of up the food chain?’ he asked.
Oh, come on. ‘I’ve worked here a lot longer than you. They know my work.’
‘This work?’ He held up her most recent report. ‘Or this one?’
Izzy glanced at the plain folder he’d picked up with his other hand. ‘What is that?’
Though her bottom lip apparently knew exactly what it was. It snuck in between her teeth and surrendered to their gentle gnaw. Mitchell’s focus faltered for half a heartbeat.
But he was a fast rebounder. ‘I pulled one of your reports from your first months at Broadmore Natále. It’s outstanding.’
Finally! Some acknowledgement… Only twelve months in the making.
But he wasn’t done. ‘It’s nothing like today’s effort. How long do you imagine you’ll be able to continue trading on your early reputation, Dean?’
She flattened her hands on his desk and leaned closer. ‘I don’t recall a Pulitzer Prize being in the essential criteria for this role.’
The folder hit his desk with a thud and his accent grew more pronounced, the way it always did when he was bad-tempered. He moved around the desk to her side and glared down at her. ‘Your report is flat and dull and I want to know why.’
Izzy fought hard not to let the sexy Aussie twang distract her. ‘Perhaps you’d like me to write you a report on the subject?’
On that piece of comeback brilliance, she turned and slammed out of the glass door of Mitchell’s office—everyone in the place had probably lip-read the entire discussion anyway—and crossed straight back to her desk, slumping into her comfy chair where she did her best thinking.
Infinitely better than whenever she was caught up in Harry Mitchell’s orbit, anyway.
No one in this office was spewing out works of sublime prose in the endless reports he tasked them to produce. Maybe, once, she’d been about the technique of it all but she was all about bottom lines and pound symbols now. The facts and only the facts, because that was what got the job done and the salary paid, right?
Her shoulders slumped.
Since when was adequate enough for Isadora Dean? She hated that her malaise was clearly starting to leak through in her work but she absolutely loathed that it was Harry Mitchell calling her to attention on it.
As if he needed anything further to pick at.
She glanced around the office at all her fellow employees doing a dreadful job of pretending they weren’t interested. Mitchell was right: they all brought their documents to her for a quick check over. Because she was good.
But good did not automatically equal happy.
No matter how many times you did the math.
She flicked the little ornamental hedgehog on her desk and sent its head nodding madly. Then she snapped off the ID card pinned to her jacket and stared at it. At the bright, optimistic, enthusiastic, first-day-in-a-new-job face that stared back at her. And she remembered how she’d once felt about what she did. How grateful she was to have a good job at such a prestigious firm. How she’d totally ignored her parents’ concerns when they’d replied to her emailed news. How drunk she’d got with the girls to celebrate.
What had happened to all that enthusiasm?
She clipped her ID card back on her jacket. Next to the hedgehog, her phone dinged to let her know she had a message. She absently flicked it open and scanned to the top.
WHEN YOU’RE THROUGH SULKING COULD YOU RETURN SO THAT WE CAN FINISH OUR DISCUSSION, PLS?
The whole building pitched as if London were built on a fault line, and her free hand clutched the edge of her desk. But, with those few typically supercilious and irritating words, something indefinable shifted in Izzy’s brain. Everything just went…left…an inch and a half, and she saw her life more clearly than she had in years.
This wasn’t petulance. This was pure, unadulterated misery.
Mitchell was right. She had lost her mojo. And she didn’t even notice it going. No one wanted a lacklustre employee on their hands. Maybe she should just suck it up and go in there and promise to do better. Work on ways of getting a bit of reward back in this job.
Her phone dinged again.
She lifted her focus past her colleagues and straight to Mitchell’s office. All six feet of him leaned, ankles crossed, on his desk-edge, his phone still in his hand, those blazing eyes fixed steadily on her. And, as it always did, his regard boiled her blood even as it heated less willing bits of her, too. And she realised that this was part of why she even bothered coming to work. The daily zing she got from sparring with Prince Harry through the glass of his high-altitude corporate eyrie. Or on email. Or in team meetings. Like a caffeine hit for her soul shooting straight through the numbness of the eight-till-six grind.
Reminding her that she was, in fact, still alive.
Part of his job involved telling her how to do hers. It wasn’t personal. So why was she making it that way? Yes, he was a pain and, no, he wasn’t the most supportive leader she’d ever had but it was hardly Mitchell’s fault that she’d cast him as her own personal defibrillator.
For the numb days.
Maybe she could work with him instead of against him and find a happy place again deep within the relentless wheel of corporate finance.
Maybe he’d make a better ally than enemy?
But, as she stared, something in the way she was regarding him—or the reluctant acceptance he could see in her, maybe—caused three little lines to appear between his brows and he pushed away from his desk slightly, one hand half reaching towards her.
Her gaze dropped to her phone.
BEFORE THE ICE AGE RESUMES, DEAN!
Her fingers began trembling immediately and she eased the phone onto her desk before it slipped onto the plush carpet.
So much for allies…
Then, as she sat there, seething, the most brilliant idea bloomed to life in her mind.So brilliant, she couldn’t for the life of her think why it hadn’t struck earlier. She’d wasted so much time and energy. And all the time she could be doing…this!
She pushed to her feet a little unsteadily, smoothing her pencil skirt demurely down her thighs, and lifted her gaze back up to Mitchell’s. Then she channelled every bit of Scarlett Johansson she could muster into the slow-motion glide over to his office and up the carpeted steps to the glass wall where he still stood, tense with irritation, and she stopped the toes of her strappy heels directly in front of his Italian leather. So they’d be touching if not for the glass divider.
She held his gaze the whole way.
Every person in the room watched her, not least Harry Mitchell, whose frustrated annoyance had been replaced by suspicious confusion. And something else. He’d watched her Scarlett-walk with incredibly satisfying interest.
Izzy wet her lips, knowing he was the only one that could see, and then leaned more closely into the glass and let her breath mist over on it.
Mitchell’s voice box lurched.
She lifted her index finger to her lips and sucked it gently into her mouth, then dragged it back out down her full, moist bottom lip.
His chest rose and fell. Blue eyes remained riveted on hers. Full of the usual heat. Full of new speculation and anticipation.
And she wrote seven letters backwards in the mist on the glass.
Just two words.
One of them bad. One of them very bad.
Mitchell’s smouldering gaze flickered down to the glass and then flared as he read her backwards statement.
‘I trust that is prosaic enough for you, sir,’ Izzy said without raising her voice.
His left brow arched high. No question that her latest written submission was unambiguous in its brevity. And no question that she was through at Broadmores regardless of whether she’d just quit.
Which she had.
She erased the misty evidence with her jacket sleeve and turned from all the sex simmering between them, ignoring the open-mouthed stares of her stunned colleagues, and crossed back to her desk on winged feet.
Three bits of scrunched-up paper tumbled out of her upended waste-paper basket and bounced across the floor only to be replaced with her phone, keys, hand lotion, still-nodding hedgehog and a photograph of herself, Tori and Poppy at school.
And then she just…walked out.
There was no ovation from her fellow downtrodden, and if anyone said goodbye she didn’t hear it through the furious rush of blood past her eardrums.
She stepped into the lift and turned to the front, giving her a direct view of Harry Mitchell, still standing, agape, in his glass fishbowl, staring at her with a complicated mix of creases on his face.
Disappointment—the kind she was used to from her parents.
Stunned disbelief—the kind reserved for anyone who stepped off the rooftop of their career as she just had.
She frowned. The kind she felt right now, for something she couldn’t begin to understand, as the lift doors whispered shut on everything she’d thought she’d wanted from life.