Seduction on the Cards
Gamble on this goodie!
When journalist Kerri is assigned to interview a seriously rich anti-gambling crusader, she imagines a grandfatherly tycoon with a comb-over. But hunky Alex Beaufort has plenty of hair - and enough of everything else to make her mouth water.
Irrepressible Kerri decides to find out exactly how much, and a sizzling game of strip-poker soon has them both peeling off their layers of self-protection. Seduction is definitely on the cards - but who's seducing who? And what are the odds? Good enough to take a chance on?
Warning: Contains sexy Frenchman, tropical heat, and enthusiastic outdoor fun and games.
Seductive and Steamy!
'Seduction on the Cards' is a fast-paced, steamy read that had me totally engrossed from beginning to end. I enjoyed the sprinkling of humor and Alex is simply the sexiest French hero ever. Loved it - can't wait for this author's next book, I'm hooked.'
Five stars on Amazon.
Chapter One — Hiccups from Hell
Kerrigan Lush felt the ripple of unease start on her scalp, tingle down her neck, trickle along her spine...and then slide down each leg until her toes curled in her scarlet stilettos.
Get a grip, Kerri, she snapped at herself. It’s only a building. You’re here to interview the man who donated it to Gamblers Anonymous—not because you’ve a little gambling problem yourself.
She patted her pocket. Yes, the mini-recorder was safely there. She checked her watch. Jiggled her keys. And still those scarlet shoes weren’t willing to cross the street.
Finally, she took a deep breath, tossed her dark hair, clenched her fingers around her briefcase handle, and stepped out.
Bet I get right across before that taxi draws level.
Bet Alexander Beaufort will be about seventy-five with a bristling white mustache and a comb-over.
She flashed her press ID at the forty-something receptionist. “Kerri Lush, to interview Alexander Beaufort about his very impressive gift.”
Her pulse lurched to a hectic rhythm as she caught sight of the ‘Gambling wrecks lives’ poster on the wall. Could the woman see Kerri’s own life was a mess?
She climbed the half flight of stairs to where glasses clinked and voices brayed in animated conversation. A local TV crew had set up their gear. Other familiar media faces were in evidence. Maybe this was a bigger deal than she’d thought?
She lifted a white wine from a passing tray and sipped with caution in case it was Chateau Cardboard. To her surprise, it tasted crisp and dry and delicious. More brownie points to Alexander Beaufort.
And was there food? She’d missed lunch because of a tight deadline and the sudden re-assignment of this job. A little something to nibble would be wise in view of the wine’s attractions.
She sauntered to a serving table and found the other guests had already made fast and loose with the goodies.
One lonely cracker with a sliver of avocado and a couple of shrimps sat amongst a tide of parsley sprigs, empty kebab sticks, and crumbs. Kerri grabbed it before anyone else could, swallowed her remaining half glass of wine, and claimed a refill.
Seconds later the woman at the reception desk approached the podium and the noise-level ebbed away.
“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,” she began. “I’m Addictions Councilor Lydia Herbert, and I’d like to welcome you all here today to view our wonderful new facility. A safe financial future for Gamblers Anonymous New Zealand is possible because of the generosity and far-sightedness of one man. Please welcome Monsieur Alexandre Beaufort.”
Enthusiastic applause broke out.
Kerri’s eyes roamed over the assembled males, seeking a suitable old johnnie with a big moustache and a gleaming pate. Alexandre? Not Alexander then—so much for her boss’s haphazard keyboard skills.
And he was French? She took an appreciative swig from her second glass of wine and washed a lingering cracker crumb down the wrong way.
Spluttering, bent double, furiously embarrassed, she missed the tall dark man who strode in from a rear doorway brandishing a mobile phone.
But she heard him.
“Apologies, mes amis, technology is taking over our lives, no?” he said in a voice so husky it caressed her skin like a fine sprinkling of toasted hazelnuts settling over ice-cream.
Despite his sexy accent raising every hair on Kerri’s body she continued to cough and snort. Wine slopped over the edge of her lurching glass and onto the new taupe carpet. God—this was all she needed on an already bad day!
So far out of breath that her face almost matched her scarlet shoes, and half blinded by the sting of running mascara, she registered faces staring in her direction, wondering who the unfortunate fool was.
She prayed for a distraction.
His speech did not begin.
When she regained her composure, she found herself being inspected by a riveting pair of dark blue eyes. Alexandre Beaufort was not in his dotage as she’d assumed. Not bald. Not mustached, although he did have a most attractive dusting of dark stubble on his determined chin and top lip. Neither was he in a suit like most of the assembled men. He wore motor-cycle leathers.
Kerri hiccupped with surprise and clapped a hand across her mouth. The addictions councilor bustled up with a big glass of water—surely for the coughing and not the newly arrived hiccups? And Monsieur Beaufort smiled and said in the voice that had Kerri all on edge, “Young lady, you ‘ave stolen my thunder.”
If she could have sunk through her patch of wine-spotted carpet, she would have. This not being an option, she took a grateful sip of water, swallowed, cleared her throat in the deafening silence, and gave another huge hiccup.
“Some more?” Lydia Herbert suggested.
“Sorry!” she gasped in Alexandre Beaufort’s direction. “Please ignore me if you can. Perhaps I’d better leave?”
“Good heavens, no,” Lydia Herbert murmured, placing a restraining hand on Kerri’s arm. “You’re here to interview Monsieur. Do stay.”
Kerri nodded, and hiccupped again, managing to hold the sound inside her rather better this time.
“I bet my mascara’s running,” she whispered.
“Hardly at all,” Lydia soothed.
“How much?” Kerri enquired, emitting an ear-splitting hiccup on the ‘how’.
Some of the audience had now given in to helpless laughter, and Alexandre Beaufort had still not started his speech. Indeed he’d left the podium to stride toward her like a darkly dangerous road warrior, all sneer and scowl and quietly creaking leather.
Merde! she muttered. It was the only French curse she knew, and it summed up his disturbing effect on her perfectly.
The nearer he prowled, the taller he seemed. Way taller than her five foot three. Way more impressive than any other man in the room, despite his casual clothing.
She looked up into his heavy-lidded dark blue eyes and felt a delicious shimmer of danger thread itself through her embarrassment. Those eyes seemed to be suggesting all sorts of very private things they could do together.
Private things she’d never had much interest in until now. Private things that would require her to undo those sexy silver zippers in the black leather until she’d stripped him down to his no doubt beautifully tanned skin...
“My grandmere had a foolproof cure for hiccups,” he said, taking the glass of water from her and dragging her back to reality. “You drink it—like this.” He bent over and demonstrated.
“I’ll spill it,” she objected, as her skin-and-zippers fantasy went up in smoke.
“No more than the wine,” he suggested, placing a large hand on her nape and pressing so she was obliged to bend double. Being too out of breath to battle his insistence, Kerri found herself almost buried in his snug leather trousers. Hastily she began to drink the water.
“Swallow hard,” Alexandre Beaufort ordered.
Kerri didn’t see how she could swallow any other way with her head upside-down. Anyhow, her brain seemed to have gone on holiday, and she sensed that meek compliance was probably all that would get her through such a ridiculous situation. She managed half a dozen strangled gulps, which emptied the glass.
His hand slid to her shoulder and patted, in a way she found totally condescending. He allowed her to stand up again, and swept those all-seeing eyes over her hot and bothered face.
She seethed at being made to appear even more of a fool, and held her breath. The hiccups did not return.
“Good old Granny. Thank you,” she finally snapped. Their eyes remained locked for a few extra electric seconds.
Bet it would feel good kissing that curly French-looking mouth...
A smattering of applause erupted from the rest of the room as the road warrior swept back to his microphone.
Kerri stared with resentment at his broad shoulders and very long legs as he walked away from her. The soft leather flexed around a powerful body that escaped being bulky because of his height.
God—those shoulders...that accent...those eyes...
She trembled all over but had no idea if it was from anger or suddenly wakened lust.
Kerri didn’t do lust. Had never met a man who affected her like this one so inconveniently did.
She tried to cut him down to size in her fevered brain. He was only someone she’d been sent to interview. Full of himself, obviously. Arrogant enough to make her teeth curl.
What kind of man attended a formal occasion dressed this way? How did he expect anyone to take him seriously in head-to-toe biker gear?
But as Alexandre Beaufort turned to his audience Kerri saw he was deadly serious. His sapphire eyes roved around the room until he had total attention. The silence became absolute.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began. “We have now had three examples of how easily life can be disrupted. First, the Wellington arrival of your inter-island ferry was unexpectedly delayed. I’ve been touring your beautiful South Island by motor-cycle, and have had no time to change my clothing for this auspicious occasion. I am literally ‘off the boat’.”
He ripped the long front zipper of his jacket open and spread his arms wide to indicate his embarrassment. There was a murmur of understanding and forgiveness from his audience. As the leather swung apart, Kerri’s eyes zeroed in on the white T-shirt stretched over his beautifully defined chest.
Bet he does lots of weight training.
“Second, I received a most important phone call only seconds before I was to speak. Happily I can return to that in a few minutes.”
The crowd chuckled and nodded.
“And third, our proceedings were delayed by a charming young lady whose ticklish throat decided to misbehave at the wrong moment.”
You bastard! I’ve only just got myself together and you’re poking insults at me again.
She dropped her gaze to the floor as everyone’s eyes once more swiveled in her direction as though she’d just smashed a killer forehand on Wimbledon’s centre court.
So he’d picked her out to make fun of? She really didn’t need that. She was tired, horribly broke, unfed apart from that one fateful cracker biscuit, and filling in for someone else anyway. The last thing she wanted was any more agro.
“But each of these is a small disruption indeed compared to the upheaval families suffer when gambling gets out of hand,” Alexandre continued. “Kiwis are willing to bet on anything. Slot machines whirr and jangle constantly in the gaming rooms of bars. Your casinos attract both international and local punters to their blackjack tables and roulette wheels. You can legally place bets on horses and greyhounds and the outcomes of any number of sports events. There are card games and lotteries and various other activities that are dangerously addictive to many people.”
He paused a second or two. And then with consummate effect added, “My New Zealand-born mother, Isabelle, was among those unfortunate souls.”
There were some gasps at this, and Kerri’s wide brown eyes raced back to lock with his dark blue ones. That was quite an admission he’d just made—and an excellent angle for the article she’d been so hurriedly assigned to write.
“You can have no idea,” he continued, “how difficult it was being the son of a compulsive gambler. Sometimes there was money for dinner, and sometimes not. When her luck was in, my mother was the happiest woman in the world. When her luck ran out, and the money ran out, she was among the most desolate.”
With those few devastating words he’d snared the sympathy of the whole room. Kerri tried to imagine such a big confident man as a scared and hungry little boy. It was impossible.
The story behind the book.
This is a contemporary romance where opposites definitely attract. I wondered what would happen if a wealthy half-French philanthropist donated a building to Gamblers Anonymous in memory of his addict mother. The last person who should have been sent to interview him was journalist Kerri. She had a gambling habit herself - just a small one - but enough to keep her scrambling for her next pay-packet. Her life is disorganized, and her finances tight. Where did she come from? Well, I’m a bit of a gambler myself, and my dad loved a bet on the horses, and lottery tickets and scratch-cards, so there’s a little bit of both of us there. We never had Kerri’s luck though...
Alexandre Beaufort presumes he's visiting New Zealand for some quick sight-seeing, some Beaufort Technologies business, an interview or two, and a speedy departure via tropical Noumea in New Caledonia. He doesn't reckon on Kerri's lush body or feisty personality. Doesn't expect to be hit by such a fierce attraction. Certainly doesn't expect a game of strip-poker will turn his life upside-down.
When Alex leaves New Zealand, he can't forget Kerri, so he issues an invitation for a further weekend together. Kerri has never visited beautiful New Caledonia. Beaches, palm-trees - and LEGAL CASINOS! While he's attending to business, she sneaks off, and it's all downhill from there.
But there's more to the story than this, and I'm not going to spoil it for you here. Have I been to New Caledonia? Oh yes – and can’t wait to go again.
Seduction on the Cards is a sexy romp about two people who can't leave each other alone. It’s set mostly in my home city of Wellington, and Alex and Kerri enjoy sailing on our fantastic sheltered harbour. The marina they leave from is on the extreme right of the photo below. The area of big old timber houses on the hill (Mt Victoria) is where she'd love to live. There are lots of fantastic houses high up to the left. Circling the whole city is our 'town belt' - an area of greenery that will never be built on. Great for walking, jogging, mountain-biking etc. I used to live right next to the big building with the cross on it. Full of monks in those days, but not any more.
Here's a different shot of beautiful Cathedral Cove - the place I chose for the new cover. Nowhere near Wellington at all! I'm spreading our scenery around.
Our famous Sevens Rugby Tournament features in the book, too. It’s an annual city-wide party, and I shot this straight off our TV screen. The costumes are something else! Imagine 35,000 people all in fancy dress. One of the players has dived over the railing here to grab a kiss. What a romantic city Wellington is...
Each time I set out to write a book, I make a collage to put me right into the setting. Here's the collage I made for Seduction on the Cards - those fateful red shoes, the casino atmosphere, a glimpse of Paris and New Caledonia. The Kerri and Alex I eventually found for my cover are different from these people, but her cheeky face and his general air of Gallic charm remain the same.