All Night Woman: A Contemporary Romance, p.1
All Night Woman
Published by Abbie Zanders, 2015.
This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places, or events are entirely coincidental.
ALL NIGHT WOMAN
First edition. January 21, 2015.
Copyright © 2015 Abbie Zanders.
Written by Abbie Zanders.
Table of Contents
All Night Woman
Before You Begin
Thanks for reading Miles’ and Liz’s story
About the Author
Also by Abbie Zanders
All Night Woman
Covendale Series, Book 2
Before You Begin
WARNING: Due to strong language and graphic scenes of a sexual nature, this book is intended for mature (21+) readers only.
If these things offend you, then this book is not for you.
If, however, you like a little sizzle in your romance, then by all means, read on...
Special thanks to Aubrey Rose Cover Designs for this amazing cover!
Also HUGE special thanks to Anjee, Deb, Shelly, Carol, and Cindy, (and a few of you who prefer to remain unnamed – you know who you are) for reading the first draft and making invaluable suggestions. I could not have done this without your unending patience, support, and encouragement.
“Honestly, Holly. Hot wax on the nipples is not everything it’s cracked up to be.”
Across the table that separated them, Holly McTierney swirled the straw in her unsweetened iced tea and barely batted an eyelash at her BFF’s pronouncement, but she did lean forward a little.
Liz Benning flushed and averted her eyes. They’d had dozens, possibly hundreds of conversations over the years – some downright scandalous – about things like this. This time it was a little different, though, because they weren’t discussing a scene in Holly’s latest book or hypothetically pondering the pros and cons of the latest in erotic gadgetry. This time, it hit a bit closer to home.
Her gaze landed on the basket of warm, buttery rolls. They were nestled in white linen and baked to a perfect, golden brown with a slight satiny sheen that appealed to the eye. A bit of steam rose up from the top, carrying with it an aroma that had her mouth watering.
Why did restaurants feel the need to put those on the table like that? Why couldn’t they bring out complimentary celery sticks or baby carrots instead? It was as if they were trying to sabotage the carb-shunning, post-thirty metabolisms of women everywhere by providing enough enticement to test even the greatest of wills.
She moved the deliciously offensive basket to the inside edge of the booth table and arranged the stand-up menu in front of it to reduce the temptation, then groaned. The glossy 5 x 7 picture of a fried caramel apple cheesecake wasn’t much better, and she needed to be good. She had a birthday coming up soon, and she was going to have cake. Or at the very least, cupcakes.
“Is it that new guy in your complex?” Holly prodded, sweeping a lock of chestnut-colored hair away from her face, her green eyes sparkling mischievously. “The financial analyst? Based on what you’ve told me about him, he sounds like a real-life Christian Grey.”
Liz had no idea if her new neighbor was into that kind of thing, but he did look as if it was a distinct possibility. With his stylishly-cut sable hair, panty-wetting hazel eyes, and tailored suits, he certainly projected the image of a “realistic” version of the fictional billionaire.
“No such luck,” Liz sighed. “I had a bad day at work and thought I’d soak in the tub for a bit, you know? I turned down the lights, got some scented aromatherapy bath crystals, lit some candles -”
“What kind?” Holly interjected.
Liz didn’t mind the interruption; she was used to it. As an author of hot and steamy romance novels, Holly was always interested in the details, especially those involving the senses. More than a few of Liz’s confidences had ended up in Holly’s books over the years.
“Vanilla honey crystals. Buttercream candles.”
“Mmmm, got it. Go on.”
“So I’m relaxing in the tub and the phone rings. And of course the phone is on the vanity, so I have to get out of the tub to get it.”
“Except those bath crystals had oil beads mixed in, too, and made the bottom of the tub slippery. I was halfway up when I lost my footing and went down on my ass. Of course I put my arms out to catch myself and knocked over a couple of candles. Voilà, hot wax on the nipples.”
Their server, an older, motherly-looking type, made a choking noise as she deposited their entrees rather hurriedly in front of them and scurried away. Neither Holly nor Liz paid her any attention.
“Oh Liz, were you hurt?”
Liz grimaced slightly and self-consciously patted the loose blonde knot at the back of her neck. “Just my pride. And my nipples. Well, the left one anyway. You know, because the wax was melted. And hot. I just don’t get why someone would want to do that on purpose. Unless you were into pain, I guess. Then it would make sense.”
The corners of Holly’s lips quirked. “You don’t use regular candles for that, Liz. They make special ones that don’t hurt.”
“Now you tell me. And how do you know so much, anyway? Have you tried it?”
Holly’s cheeks reddened guiltily. Liz’s eyes grew wide. “Holy crap, Holly! I can’t believe Adam is into the kinky stuff!”
“He’s not kinky. He’s...supportive. I do write romance novels, Liz. How can I write about something realistically if I’ve never tried it?”
Liz gaped, a dozen or so particularly graphic scenes from some of Holly’s novels taking over her imagination. “So...that alpha-SEAL novel you did with the parachute harness scene in the jungle...”
“Was purely conjecture on my part,” Holly assured her, but she didn’t meet Liz’s eyes. “Where would I get a parachute?”
The local airport seemed like a good place to start, but Liz refrained from saying so. Knowing Holly, she would feel the need to go down there and check it out. And of course Holly would drag her along, and Liz had no desire to run into Peter the Pilot, as she’d dubbed him. After their first date – which had held some promise – he had somehow talked her into a tandem skydive. It might have been pretty cool had he not been so focused on feeling her up on the way down that he nearly didn’t get the chutes open in time.
“So, was it him?”
Liz blinked, shaking away images of the ground rushing up to meet her at heart-stopping speed while Peter’s hands played at being D-cups. “Was what him?”
“The phone call when you were in the tub. Was it Troy-slash-Christian?”
“No,” Liz grimaced. They hadn’t even been properly introduced yet, but Holly’s optimism was heartening. “It was my mother. Ever try talking to your mother with hot wax on your boobs?”
“No,” Holly was grinning broadly now.
“I don’t recommend it.”
Their server, who had no doubt hoped the subject had changed by now, paused briefly and cleared her throat. “How is everything?” she asked.
“Great, thanks,” Holly answered, smiling up at the older woman innocently. She laughed when the woman breathed an obvious sigh of relief and moved on.
“I think we’ve just scandalized our server.”
“Wouldn’t be the first time,” Liz smiled, thinking fondly back on many such conversations she and Holly had shared over the years during their weekly Tuesday night GNOs (Girls Night Out). “Besides, that whole sweet-and-saintly mother thing our waitress has going on is just a little too much to be believable. I bet she goes home at night, squeezes all that - ” Liz made a vague hourglass wave with her hands “ - into some high-quality pleather and whips her husband’s backside while he howls like a wolf.”
Holly snorted in laughter, then quickly grabbed her napkin to stop the flow of iced tea trying to escape through her nose. “Hey!” she laughed. “You waited until I took a drink to say that. Iced tea burns.”
Liz grinned back unrepentantly. “Could have been worse. I could have said something while you were sipping your sangria.”
“That would definitely be worse,” Holly agreed, wiping the tears from her eyes. “Thanks, Liz. I really needed a good laugh.”
“Your mother?” Liz guessed. Holly was the only one of Colleen McTierney’s five children who wasn’t already married and dutifully providing grandbabies. Colleen’s poorly-veiled attempts to change that was a major source of contention between mother and daughter, and one of the reasons Holly had felt compelled to move an hour away from the rest of her family.
Holly nodded. The smile faded and a look of pure torment filled her eyes. “I wish we hadn’t told her about the engagement right away. She’s calling me ten times a day about flowers, caterers, and photographers. It’s only been a month since Adam proposed, Liz. I haven’t thought about any of that stuff.”
“Have you tried explaining that to her?”
Holly gave her a scathing look that suggested she should know better. “Tried to. Mention the word “wedding” around her and she gets the crazy eyes.”
“Yeah. They get all focused and steely. It’s scary as hell. Like Carrie-and-Freddie-Kruger-had-a baby scary.”
Liz shivered. “What about your sisters? They went through this with her, right? Maybe they have some advice.”
“Are you kidding? Nobody’s going to help because as long as she’s got her sights set on me, she’s not nosing into their business.”
“What about Adam’s mom?” Liz asked.
“I haven’t met her yet,” Holly admitted. “Adam is going to drive us up there next weekend. From what he’s told me, though, she’s nothing like my mother.”
“For your sake, I hope not,” Liz agreed.
* * *
Miles Grayson looked away from the stunning vista afforded by his five-star hotel room to glare at the mobile device currently vibrating atop the mahogany-wood coffee table. The small HD screen lit up with a soothing blue glow for several seconds before fading again as the call went to voicemail.
He sighed. His job as a sales and marketing rep meant he had to stay available at all times, but sometimes he needed a little downtime, too. Back-to-back meetings all day, including the requisite schmooze lunches and dinners, meant he had to be “on” all the time, and it got exhausting after a while.
Lisette - the British cutie with smoldering eyes, legs that went on forever and a thing for American accents had been a pleasant diversion for a couple of hours, but now all he wanted was to sit in his dark room, savor his Dewars, and gaze upon Big Ben and the London Eye over the river Thames.
Telling, that. Nearly forty years old and he preferred solitude and good Scotch over a willing woman’s company.
He sighed. Finding women who wanted to spend the night with him had never been an issue. Finding a woman he wanted to spend the entire night with was the bugger.
The phone vibrated again. If that was Lisette, he was not going to be happy. No meant no, no matter how much she pouted. Annoyed, Miles went over to turn the damn thing off when he saw the caller id displayed on the screen and froze.
Adam. His younger brother.
Dread pooled in his stomach. Adam never called, not unless it was something important. In the matter of a second or two, Miles mentally ran down the list of possible reasons Adam would be trying to reach him at this time of night. None of it was good. At the very top was that something had happened to his only son, Brandon, who was currently living with Adam while he went to college. Closely followed by that was the similarly unwelcome (but more likely) possibility that something had happened to one (or both) of their parents.
Miles tapped the phone to accept the call. “Adam.”
“Miles. Where are you, anyway?”
Despite his concern, Miles smiled at Adam’s gruff greeting. Some things never changed. “London. Everything okay?”
“Yeah, everything’s fine.”
Relief washed through him. “Then why are you calling me at midnight?”
“How the hell was I supposed to know what time zone you’re in? It’s only seven here.”
It was a valid point. Miles travelled all over the world, and didn’t make a habit of providing a detailed itinerary to anyone besides his personal assistant. It wasn’t that he was being secretive; just that no one ever asked.
“So what’s up?”
There was the briefest of pauses on the other end before Adam said, “I’m getting married.”
Miles almost dropped the phone. “Excuse me?”
“Do they have shitty reception over there in England or something?”
“The reception is just fine, but I think I might need to go in for a hearing check. I could have sworn you just said you were getting married.”
“Your hearing is fine.”
A different kind of unease settled into his stomach. Barely a month had passed since he’d last spoken with his brother, and Adam had been in a much darker place then. Adam hadn’t shown at the requisite family dinner at their parents’, and Brandon had been stubbornly close-lipped about it, saying only that Adam was ‘working through some stuff’.
The fact that Brandon hadn’t confided the details had stung a little. Brandon and Adam had always been close, but they were even more so now. Yeah, Adam had been there for Brandon through Miles’ marriage troubles, and was there for him now, but it still chafed a bit. He was Brandon’s father, even if Adam had done a far better job of acting the part the last few years.
“Brandon didn’t say anything.”
“You’ve talked to him lately?” Adam asked, probably knowing full well he hadn’t. Miles meant to call every week or so, but it rarely worked out that way. Between his job and the constant travel it required, time zone issues, and Brandon’s busy schedule, there just never seemed to be a good time for a chat.
“Not since Christmas,” Miles admitted, letting the all-too-familiar guilt grab hold. “Guess things have changed a bit since then.”
Miles waited for Adam to say more, but he didn’t. It wasn’t a surprise, really. Adam wasn’t the type to talk about personal issues - he was definitely more of a doer than a talker - and he hadn’t looked to his older brother as a sounding board for years. Sometimes the eight years that separated them felt more like a lifetime. There was no need to get into that now, though.
“So when’s the big day?”
“We haven’t set a date yet, but it can’t come soon enough for me.”
Miles asked the all-important question. “Is she pregnant, Adam?”
A heavy sigh on the other end. “No.”
“Fair enough,” Miles said evenly, tossing back the last of the quality Scotch. He would definitely be pouring another. “Tell me when and where and I’ll try to make it.”
“Well, that’s kind of why I’m calling. I’d
Miles stilled, his hand closing over the bottle of Highlander Honey. When the initial shock passed, he finally said, “What did you say?”
Adam laughed, a deep rumble that sounded so much like their father’s. “Maybe you really should get your hearing checked. I said I want you to be my best man.”
“Why?” The question popped out before he could stop it. He clamped his mouth shut and held his breath while he waited for Adam’s response.
“Because you are my brother, Miles.”
“Yeah,” Miles agreed, his voice slightly rougher than it had been only a few minutes ago. “Yeah, I am.”
“Will you do it?”
Miles wiped his hand down his face, feeling a bit shaken. “Yeah, sure. Give me some lead time, though, alright? I’m travelling all over and –“
“I know,” Adam interrupted. “That’s why I’m telling you now. No excuses, Miles. I’m counting on you.”
Liz adjusted the water temperature until it was just shy of unbearable, then poured in a handful of milk and honey-scented crystals. A hot soak with a good read was her favorite way of escaping reality. Remembering what had happened the last time she tried to indulge, she kept the aromatic candles out of immediate reach. A tattered Navy SEAL anthology was placed within reach as well, along with a couple of fluffy towels and a small glass of heart-healthy red wine.
Lights sufficiently dimmed, she slipped out of her clothes and climbed in, sinking down into the oversized tub until the water line rose just above her breasts. The Jacuzzi was the primary reason she had purchased this particular condo unit. Some of the others had better views or more space, but they couldn’t compete with twelve powerful, pulsating jets. Experiences such as this were as close to utter hedonism as Liz ever came (though that long weekend in Curacao came damn close).
She settled herself in, letting the silky heat envelop her tired and aching muscles. She had run close to five miles today, a personal best. Of course, she wouldn’t have made it that last mile if she hadn’t managed to catch occasional glimpses of Troy running in front of her, wearing those lovely butt-hugging sweats.