Unconventional Fling (A Working Girl’s Guide, Book 1), page 1
A Working Girl’s Guide Book 1
Published by Liquid Silver Books, imprint of Atlantic Bridge Publishing, 10509 Sedgegrass Dr, Indianapolis, Indiana 46235. Copyright © Published 2013, Allyson Lindt. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Liquid Silver Books
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.
Jade is in Nashville on her third week of a month-long business trip. She doesn't mind seeing a new city every week, but she's dragging after so many without a break. When a sexy stranger wants to share her breakfast table, she welcomes the change in scenery. The easy banter and teasing that dances behind the eyes of the handsome voice actor have her wondering if just this once, a one-night stand might be worth her time.
Brandon is tired of the playboy image that comes with his cult-celebrity status. When he meets a business woman with a travel schedule as hectic as his, she lights a spark deep inside. The problem is, he's hoping for something long-term, and she's hesitant to start anything that will become long-distance. With less than three days before they go their separate ways, Brandon has to show Jade there's more to them than just an unconventional fling.
For my eternal dragon.
I could never finish a story if it weren’t for the incredible people who support and assist me in the writing endeavor.
So, thank you to my amazing sweetheart, Ay, for the unending support. And to Rae and Sofia for always letting my creativity run rampant but keeping it from being completely nonsensical, and Rosanna for reading and loving this story and its characters.
And thank you, as always, to my amazing editors at Liquid Silver Books for helping me make my books shine, and to everyone on staff for continuing to believe in my work and help it make its way into the world.
Real food. Not day-old muffins and cheap donuts, but eggs and toast. Jade slid into the line for the hotel’s hot breakfast buffet, grabbed a couple pieces of fruit, and a glass of juice to top off her meal. The hotel she was staying in next week wouldn’t have anything like this. She was going to enjoy this leg of her business trip for all it was worth.
Shrieks and giggles echoed from the adjoining lobby, bouncing in her head and making her eardrums wince. She scanned the dining room for an empty table. Maybe she should just take her food back up to her room. But this was her favorite way to mentally prep before an all-day meeting at a client site. She spotted a free chair and cut straight for it. Why were there so many people here? Friday morning in a hotel for business travelers. And why were so many of them wearing Halloween costumes? In the middle of August.
Her gaze tripped around the room as she picked at her food. The girl who had checked her in last night had mentioned something about a convention, but Jade had assumed it was some kind of business function. A group of three girls, dressed in less fabric between the three of them than the whole of her T-shirt and yoga pants, brushed by, giggling, pointing, and draping over each other.
Some of the businessmen nearby scowled into their newspapers or snarled and pointed as they talked to each other. The stuffy old suits needed to chill. Contagious energy surrounded the costumed girls. An entire lobby filled with people who were having fun. What a novel idea.
“Is anyone joining you?” A smooth tenor interrupted her people-watching.
Jade’s attention snapped to the owner of the voice, and she struggled to keep her expression impassive. Drool worthy. Nice. It was tough to tell while sitting, but he was probably at least six inches taller than her five-six. A black T-shirt hugged a narrow waist, defined chest, and solid arms, and it might be illegal in some states for a guy to wear jeans that well. She forced her attention to his laughing brown eyes and spiky hair. Not any less distracting.
“No.” The single word scraped through her suddenly dry throat. “Help yourself.”
He dropped into the seat across from her instead of dragging it to another table to join someone else. She hadn’t expected that. Wait. Was he there with the crowds of people in bright colors or the businessmen?
“Thanks.” He plopped a plate of eggs and a Styrofoam cup onto the fake-wood surface. “Can’t believe it’s already so packed in here.”
Already? “It is a little nuts.” She managed to find her voice. No reason to stare. It wasn’t like she didn’t see gorgeous guys in every airport and half the war rooms she walked into when she traveled. She wiped her fingers on the napkin draped over her knee and extended her hand. “I’m Jade.”
His calloused palm was warm and firm without gripping too tight. “Brandon. Thanks for the seat.” His touch lingered a moment longer before he finally returned to his coffee. “It’s a silly ritual, but I enjoy the people watching. Wait. That makes me sound creepy. I just…there’s an energy about it, you know?”
“It doesn’t sound creepy at all. I get it.” She relaxed as her surprise at being approached ebbed. The view was still incredible, like the twitch of the corner of his mouth when he smirked. “I just wish I knew what the big deal was. Why are they all here?”
His gaze raked over her, lingering long enough to raise her skin temperature. “That answers that.”
“You’re a suit.”
She’d wondered the same thing about him—which group he was with. “Guilty as charged. In about forty-five minutes I’ll be stuffed into a room full of programmers and business analysts, convincing them their management didn’t make a mistake buying our product.”
His brow furrowed, and the lilt vanished from his voice. “Sounds like…fun?”
Maybe she could’ve made her job sound a little less dull. She laughed at his reaction. “It’s not bad. There are worse things than being paid to see the country.”
“Now, that I can agree with.” He knocked back a long swallow of coffee. “Attractive and reasonable. Rare combination.”
She ducked her head, heat rushing under her skin. At least she wasn’t the type to blush visibly. She forced herself to meet his gaze again. “Does that mean you’re here with them?” She nodded at a group with gravity defying hair. “What kind of costume do you have? Is it like an un-Halloween thing?”
He ticked off his answers on his fingers. “Yes, what I’m wearing is as close as it gets for me, and it’s an anime convention.”
He laughed, the rich sound raising her blood pressure another notch. “Do you know what a Star Trek convention is?”
“Some of the programmers I work with go to sci-fi conventions.” She couldn’t believe how out of her element she felt. But, at the same time, it was comfortable talking to him.
“Same thing, but for Japanese animation. Some of these people are local, others—like me—are from out of town.”
“Oh.” She wasn’t sure what else to say. She’d heard of people traveling across the country to watch their favorite teams in playoff games. This must be something similar. “Do you do it a lot? Go to these things?”
She smiled at the implication that he was enjoying the conversation as much as she was. “It’s not scaring me off. I spend 75 percent of my life on the road because I wanted to see the world when I was younger. I don’t judge anyone else’s hobbies. Besides, it’s fun, right?”
His brow furrowed, and he studied her for a moment. The corner of his mouth pulled up. “Yeah, it’s a lot of fun.”
What a gorgeous crooked smile. She could imagine swapping stories with and learning from him for hours. Listening to that voice, watching that mouth move…
A motion behind him caught her attention. The hotel elevators were glass, rising up the open center of the building. The most vibrant array of hot pink, neon blue, and lime green she’d ever seen filled the glass box heading up.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him shift in his seat to follow her gaze. She turned to him, studying the line of his back as it led to his shoulder. It would be nice to have those strong arms pin her to a wall and…She pushed the thought away. What was wrong with her? Letting her hormones and lust run rampant because of some guy…
His eyebrows rose as his eyes met hers. She pulled her gaze away, studying her breakfast, but not before she caught the hint of a smile tugging up his mouth.
“So, you like to watch.” Teasing lined his question. “People, I mean.”
Say it or keep it to herself? What the hell. It wasn’t like she was ever going to see him again, and the flirting was fun. “I could go either way.”
He chuckled. “I like that. Would you let me watch?” He raked his fingers through his hair. “Sorry, that was probably a bit much.”
The sudden hesitation just made him more charming. Was she really having this conversation first thing in the morning, in the middle of a crowded room? “I might.”
She glanced at her watch and frowned. Dammit.
He leaned in, forearms resting on the table, lines creasing his forehead. “Did I say something wrong?”
“Definitely not. But I have to get to work.”
Every time his attention lingered on her, her temperature rose another notch. His jaw worked up and down, he shook his head, and snapped his mouth shut.
She blinked at the conflicting body language.
He stood when she did. “I can at least see you make it to your room safely.”
She wouldn’t mind spending the rest of the day in her room with him.
What was wrong with her? She tried to keep her gait casual when he fell into step beside her on the short path back to the elevator. He was close enough that his arm occasionally brushed hers, and the soft scent of soap and cinnamon teased her. The group waiting for the next available car grew, and he pressed closer, arm resting against her back, to make more room for the people around them.
“So.” His voice was low enough she was certain only she could hear it; his warm breath brushing her ear. “You don’t mind being the one on the other side of the glass?”
The tentative rein she had on her imagination snapped, images and possibilities danced through her thoughts. She kept her response soft. “If the situation is right.”
The doors slid open, and people spilled into the waiting car. He maneuvered himself behind her, his chest close enough to her back to brush her shirt, but not quite touching her. His question was hot against her skin as the car rose. “For instance, someone directly behind you, where the only thing anyone on the outside sees is a glimpse? A hint?”
She didn’t know what was more enticing, the fantasies he was evoking or how close he stood. The elevator slid to a stop. He rested a hand on her hip. “My floor. Enjoy work.”
He stepped around her and was gone, the doors closing behind him.
Too much fun. The conversation lingered in her thoughts as she reached her floor and made her way back to her room. She stripped off her tank top, pausing in front of the bathroom mirror. Too bad she didn’t have an extra few minutes to enjoy the fantasies he’d left her with. It would have to wait. At least the memories would make the day go faster.
Brandon flopped back on his bed with a laugh. Not what he’d expected, but he certainly wasn’t complaining. It had been luck that one of the few empty seats in the dining room had come with a stunning view; straight black hair brushing her shoulders, hips and an ass that made her yoga pants look like they were made for her, and the non-stop teasing that danced in her hazel eyes.
But the turn the conversation had taken. Wow. He laughed again. He hadn’t expected her stern mask to crack. Incredible. Maybe he should’ve indulged his impulse to ask if she needed help in the shower.
What would it be like to spend the entire weekend tucked away in a room, escaping reality and pretending they were the only two people in the world? No, that was a bad road for his thoughts to go down. There were reasons he didn’t consider weekend flings.
Besides, he liked the panels and autographs that were part of the convention, and she wasn’t there anymore. It wasn’t the attention of his fans that drew him to these shows. He loved meeting people. The kind of passion that induced that level of fandom was contagious and intoxicating.
Besides, if he ran into Jade again…
Which he wouldn’t. As a business traveler, she’d leave the office at three or four and head straight for the airport. Oh well.
A buzz echoed through the room, and he shot straight up, heart hammering at the abrupt noise. He grabbed his phone off the nightstand. “Yeah.”
“How was your flight?” Michelle’s voice tickled his ear.
That was a bad sign. Too perky meant his agent was pissed. What did I do now? “It was good…”
“So glad to hear it. You’re set for your panel at eleven and then autographs for most of the afternoon?”
“Yes.” Things he already knew. Things she usually trusted him to remember.
“Perfect.” The single word sounded like sunshine being forced through a pinhole at high velocity. “And you’re keeping your hands to yourself?”
Raw irritation rose in his throat. That’s what this was about. He’d kept his hands to himself last time, and that had been the problem. The woman had thrown herself at him during a con in the Midwest, and then told her local anime club what an ass he was when he’d turned her down. She complained in forums and to anyone who would listen that he’d pursued her relentlessly just so he could walk away. Why would he do something that cruel?
“Have you checked the con hash tag?”
“I was at breakfast. Can’t say I have.” The buzz from his conversation with Jade evaporated, leaving annoyance in its vacated spot.
He made sure his sigh echoed off the mouthpiece of the receiver and trudged the few feet to his laptop.
“Oh, good.” Her irritation crept into the fake joy she’d greeted him with. “You don’t even have to scan the feed. They tagged you.”
He dropped into the chair, wood creaking under his exhausted flop. He couldn’t afford to let this conversation take so much out of him; it was too early, and he had too much to do. After a few seconds, he found what she was talking about. Someone had already posted pictures of him having breakfast with Jade. Good shot. They’d caught her profile, bottom lip between her teeth. Would it be stalker-creepy to save the image? Probably. “It was just breakfast. It was the only open table.”
“Then have breakfast in your room the rest of the weekend.” All the phony cheer disappeared. “Your career can’t afford the negative publicity.”
“Yeah, I get it.” One of the companies he’d worked for–Funami–had stopped letting him do casting calls already, saying they couldn’t support someone who couldn’t keep it in their pants; something about it not mixing with their “family values” image. Or some other crap that didn’t make sense when he considered the line of violent, innuendo-laden anime they released.
He tossed his phone onto the bed. It bounced on the white comforter a few times before tumbling to a stop. So much for mingling with the crowds between obligations. What were the odds he could blend in and no one would recognize him?
He glanced at the photo on his laptop again. Probably not something he could get away with.
* * * *
Brandon took his seat with his colleagues behind the autograph table. It felt good to have an excuse to not be confined to his room. The chatter and squeals around him were rejuvenating. The panel had been fun, he liked working with this group of people, and now he got to mingle.
His mood lightened as he talked to people, took pictures, and exchanged jabs with fans. This was what he loved about conventions.
He lost track of how much time had passed, but it didn’t look like the line was getting any shorter. One of the volunteer staff slid into an empty spot next to him behind the table.
“Excuse me.” Her voice was timid.
“Hey.” He tried to make sure his smile was friendly and open. “What’s up?”
“Um…” She twisted her fingers together, not quite making eye contact. “I know you’re only scheduled to be here until four, but we were wondering if you could stick around a few hours longer? We’re bringing in pizza.”
“Of course, no problem.” Perfect, another excuse to not be chained to his room. Why was this even an issue? Oh, right, he couldn’t afford to piss off another animation studio.
His gaze wandered around the hotel lobby as the next person in line dug through her bag for something for him to sign. Brandon’s smile grew when Jade stepped through the front doors. She hadn’t left for the weekend after all. Nice.
She looked up, and he thought he saw her exhaustion fade when their eyes met. Her mouth twitched in a not-quite smile before she turned toward the elevators.
How likely was it he could run into her again without it earning him an angry phone call? Or maybe it was worth the risk.
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