Authors: Liz Fielding
“It’s your body that I want to draw, not your clothes.”
Well, that’s what she was afraid of! Hardworking estate agent Natasha Gordon finds her reputation in tatters when an ad she created gets bungled. She’ll do anything to restore her good name—even beg seriously sexy artist Darius Hadley to give her another chance to sell his ancestral home. Only, he drives a hard bargain: Natasha must pose naked, for his eyes only…!
He’s asking Natasha to take him on trust. But she’s learned the hard way not to trust men—particularly those she’s working with…and let alone men she’s taking her clothes off for!
Darius’s next outrageous statement? “I will, too—if it will make it easier for you.…”
SNEAK PEEK EXCERPT FROM
For His Eyes Only
He was expected to laugh, but it was taking all his concentration just to breathe, because she’d forgotten not to look at him.
And then he could see that it wasn’t just him. They were both struggling with the zing of lightning that arced between them.
“Since Plan B was a threat to sue me for malicious damage—” Her voice was thick, her pupils huge against the shot-silk blue. What would she do if he reached out and took her hand and held it against his zip? If he sucked her lower lip into his mouth? “—I didn’t think there was much point in hanging around.”
He turned away, crossed to the kettle, picking it up to make sure there was some water in it before switching it on. Any distraction from the thoughts racketing through his head. The same thoughts that had driven him from her office amplified a hundred times.
He had no problem with lust at first sight. Uncomplicated, life’s-too-short sex that gave everyone a good time and didn’t screw with your head. This was complicated with knobs on. He should never have let her stay.
But he could not have sent her away….
I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to bring you
For His Eyes Only
as part of the Harlequin KISS series.
One of the joys of writing is research, and the setting for Hadley Chase was inspired by a visit to historic Ashdown House, where my guide was historical novelist Nicola Cornick. On the Wiltshire/Berkshire borders and set in the beautiful countryside, the house was visited by Charles II and Prince Rupert, who went there to hunt and have a good time. The house at Hadley Chase was a gift from a visit to Great Chalfield Manor, just down the road from my home. Gorgeous scenery, lovely gardens and brilliant fun.
It was enormous fun to stretch myself a little in new directions, too, and I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know Natasha Gordon and Darius Hadley as much as they enjoyed getting to know one another! If you’d like to see some of my inspiration for the book, do come and take a look at their “board” at Pinterest.
ABOUT LIZ FIELDING
Liz Fielding was born with itchy feet. She made it to Zambia before her twenty-first birthday and, gathering her own special hero and a couple of children on the way, lived in Botswana, Kenya and Bahrain—with pauses for sightseeing pretty much everywhere in between. She finally came to a full stop in a tiny Welsh village cradled by misty hills, and these days mostly leaves her pen to do the traveling.
When she’s not sorting out the lives and loves of her characters, she potters in the garden, reads her favorite authors and spends a lot of time wondering,
For news of upcoming books—and to sign up for her occasional newsletter—visit Liz’s website,
Other Harlequin® KISS™ titles by Liz Fielding:
Anything but Vanilla
This and other titles by Liz Fielding are available in ebook format from
With thanks to Kate Hardy and Caroline Anderson
for their never-failing belief.
And to Gail McCurry Waldrep for the fudge frosting.
Miles’s knickers in a twist?’ Natasha Gordon poured herself half a cup of coffee. Her first appointment had been at eight and she’d been on the run ever since. She had to grab any opportunity to top up her caffeine level. ‘I was on my way to a viewing at the St John’s Wood flat when I got a message to drop everything and come straight back here.’
Janine, Morgan and Black’s receptionist and always the first with any rumour, lifted her slender cashmere-clad shoulders in a don’t-ask-me shrug. ‘If that’s what he said, you’d better not keep him waiting,’ she said, but, shrug notwithstanding, the ghost of an I-know-something-you-don’t smile tugged at lips on which the lipstick was always perfectly applied.
Tash abandoned the untouched coffee and headed for the stairs, taking them two at a time. Miles Morgan, senior partner of Morgan and Black, first port of call for the wealthy flooding into London from all corners of the world to snap up high-end real estate, had been dropping heavy hints for weeks that the vacant ‘associate’ position was hers.
Damn right. She’d worked her socks off for the last three years and had earned that position with hard work and long hours and Janine, who liked everyone to know how ‘in’ she was with the boss, had casually let slip the news on Friday afternoon that he would be spending the weekend in the country with the semi-retired ‘Black’ to discuss the future of the firm.
‘Down, pulse, down,’ she muttered, pausing outside his office to scoop up a wayward handful of hair and anchor it in place with great-grandma’s silver clip.
She always started out the day looking like a career woman on the up, but haring about London all morning had left her more than a little dishevelled and things had begun to unravel. Her hair, her make-up, her shirt.
She tucked in her shirt and was checking the top button when the door opened.
‘Janine! Is she here yet?’ Miles shouted before he realised she was standing in front him. ‘Where the hell have you been?’
‘I had a viewing at the Chelsea house first thing,’ she said, used to his short fuse. ‘They played it very close to their chests, but the wife’s eyes were lit up like the Blackpool illuminations. I guarantee they’ll make an offer before the end of the day.’
The prospect of a high five-figure commission would normally be enough to change his mood but he merely grunted and the sparkle of anticipation went flat. Whatever Janine had been smiling about, it wasn’t the prospect of the office party Miles would throw to celebrate the appointment of the new associate.
‘It’s been non-stop since then,’ she added, and it wasn’t going to ease up this side of six. ‘Is this urgent, Miles? I’m showing Glencora Jarrett the St John’s Wood apartment in half an hour and the traffic is solid.’
‘You can forget that. I’ve sent Toby.’
‘Toby?’ Her occasionally significant other had been on a rugby tour in Australia and wasn’t due home until the end of the month. She shook her head. It wasn’t important, but Lady Glen... ‘No, she specifically asked—’
‘For you. I know, but a viewing isn’t a social engagement,’ he cut in before she could remind him that Lady Glencora was desperately nervous and would not go into an unoccupied apartment with a male negotiator.
‘Forget Her Ladyship,’ he said, thrusting the latest edition of the
into her hands. ‘Take a look at this.’
The magazine was open at the full-page advertisement for Hadley Chase, a historic country house that had just come on the market.
‘Oh, that came out really well...’ A low mist, caught by the rising sun, had lent the house a golden, soft-focus enchantment that hid its many shortcomings. Well worth the effort of getting up at the crack of dawn and driving into the depths of Berkshire on the one day in the week that she could have had a lie-in. ‘The phone will be ringing off the hook,’ she said, offering it back to him.
‘Read on,’ he said, not taking it.
‘I know what it says, Miles. I wrote it.’ The once grand house was suffering from age and neglect and she’d focused on the beauty and convenience of the location to tempt potential buyers to come and take a look. ‘You approved it,’ she reminded him.
‘I didn’t approve this.’
She frowned. Irritable might be his default mode but, even for Miles, this seemed excessive. Had some ghastly mistake slipped past them both? It happened, but this was an expensive full-page colour ad, and she’d gone over the proof with a fine-tooth comb. Confident that nothing could have gone wrong, she read out her carefully composed copy.
‘“A substantial seventeenth-century manor house in a sought-after location on the Berkshire Downs within easy reach of motorway links to London, the Midlands and the West. That’s the good news. The bad news...”’ She faltered. Bad news? What the...?
‘Don’t stop now.’
The words were spoken with a clear, crisp, don’t-argue-with-me certainty, but not by her boss, and she spun around as the owner of the voice rose from the high-backed leather armchair set in front of Miles Morgan’s desk and turned to face her.
Her first impression was of darkness. Dark hair, dark clothes, dark eyes in a mesmerising face that missed beauty by a hair’s breadth, although a smile might have done the business.
The second was of strength. There was no bulk, but his shoulders were wide beneath a crumpled linen jacket so old that the black had faded to grey, his abdomen slate-flat under a T-shirt that hung loosely over narrow hips.
His hand was resting on the back of the chair, long calloused fingers curled over the leather. They were the kind of fingers that she could imagine doing unspeakable things to her. Was imagining...
She looked up and met eyes that seemed to penetrate every crevice, every pore, and a hot blush, beginning somewhere low in her belly, spread like wildfire in every direction—
Miles’s sharp interjection jolted her back to the page but it was a moment before she could catch her breath, gather her wits and focus on the words dancing in front of her.
...the bad news is the wet rot, woodworm, crumbling plasterwork and leaking roof. The vendor would no doubt have preferred to demolish the house and redevelop the land, but it’s a Grade II listed building in the heart of the Green Belt so he’s stuffed. There is a fine oak Tudor staircase but, bearing in mind the earlier reference to wet rot and woodworm, an early viewing is advised if you want to see the upper floors.
Her heart still pounding with the shock of a sexual attraction so powerful that she was trembling, she had to read it twice before it sank in. And when it did her pulse was still in a sorry state.
‘I don’t understand,’ she said. Then, realising how feeble that sounded, ‘How did this happen?’
Her question had been directed at Miles, but the response came from Mr Tall, Dark and Deadly. Who
‘Hadley,’ he said, apparently reading her mind. Or maybe she’d asked the question out loud. She needed to get a grip. She needed an ice bath...
She cleared her throat. ‘Hadley?’ His name still emerged as if spoken by a surprised frog, but that wasn’t simply because all her blood had apparently drained from her brain to the more excitable parts of her anatomy. The house was unoccupied and the sale was being handled by the estate’s executors and, since no one had mentioned a real-life, flesh-and-blood Hadley, she’d assumed the line had run dry.
‘Darius Hadley,’ he elaborated, clearly picking up on her doubt.
In her career she’d worked with everyone, from young first-time buyers scraping together a deposit, to billionaires investing in London apartments and town houses costing millions. She knew that appearances could be deceptive but Darius Hadley did not have the look of a man whose family had been living in the Chase since the seventeenth century, when a grateful Charles II had given the estate to one James Hadley, a rich merchant who’d funded him in exile.
With the glint of a single gold earring amongst the mass of black curls tumbling over his collar, the crumpled linen jacket faded from black to grey, jeans worn threadbare at the knees, he looked more like a gypsy, or a pirate. Perhaps that was where the Hadley fortune had come from—plundering the Spanish Main with the likes of Drake. Or, with the legacy now in the hands of a man bearing the name of a Persian king, it was possible that his ancestors had chosen to travel east overland, to trade in silk and spices.
This man certainly had the arrogance to go with his name but, unlike his forebears, it seemed that he had no interest in settling down to live the life of a country gentleman. Not that she blamed him for that.
Hadley Chase, with roses growing over its timbered Tudor heart, might look romantic in the misty haze of an early summer sunrise, but it was going to take a lot of time and a very deep purse to bring it up to modern expectations in plumbing, heating and weatherproofing. There was nothing romantic about nineteen-fifties plumbing and, from the neglected state of both house and grounds, it was evident that the fortune needed to maintain it was long gone.
On the bright side, even in these cash-strapped days, there were any number of sheikhs, pop stars and Russian oligarchs looking for the privacy of a country estate no more than a helicopter hop from the centre of London and she was looking forward to adding the Chase to her portfolio of sales in the very near future. She had big plans for the commission.
Miles cleared his throat and she belatedly stuck out her hand.
‘Natasha Gordon. How d’you do, Mr Hadley?’
‘I’ve been stuffed, mounted and hung out to dry,’ he replied. ‘How do you think I feel?’ he demanded, ignoring her hand.
‘Angry.’ He had every right to be angry. Hell, she was furious with whoever had meddled with her carefully worded description and they would feel the wrath of her tongue when she found out who it was, but that would have to wait. Right now she had to get a grip of her hormones, be totally professional and reassure him that this wasn’t the disaster it appeared. ‘I don’t know what happened here, Mr Hadley, but I promise you it’s just a minor setback.’
‘A minor setback?’ Glittering eyes—forget charcoal, they were jet—skewered her to the floor and Tash felt the heat rise up her neck and flood her cheeks. She was blushing. He’d made her blush with just a look. That was outrageous... ‘A
setback?’ he repeated, with the very slightest emphasis on ‘minor’.
His self-control was impressive.
Okaaay... She unpeeled her tongue from the roof of her mouth, snatched in a little oxygen to get her brain started and said, ‘Serious purchasers understand that there will be problems with this type of property, Mr Hadley.’
‘They expect to be able to view the upper floors without endangering their lives,’ he pointed out. He hadn’t raised his voice; he didn’t have to. He’d made his point with a quiet, razor-edged precision that made Miles’s full-blown irritation look like a toddler tantrum.
‘Natasha!’ Miles prompted, more sharply this time. ‘Have you got something to say to Mr Hadley?’
‘What?’ She dragged her gaze from the seductive curve of Darius Hadley’s lower lip and fixed it somewhere around his prominent Adam’s apple, which only sent her mind off on another, even more disturbing direction involving extremities.
Do not look at his feet!
‘Oh, um, yes...’ She’d tried desperately to get her brain in gear, recall the notes she’d made, as she stared at scuffed work boots, jeans smeared with what looked like dry grey mud and clinging to powerful thighs. He’d obviously dropped whatever he was doing and come straight to the office when he’d seen the ad. Did he work on a building site? ‘Actually,’ she said, ‘there’s more than one set of stairs so it isn’t a problem.’
‘And that’s your professional opinion?’
‘Not that I recall there being anything wrong with the main staircase that a thorough seeing to with a vacuum cleaner wouldn’t fix,’ she added hurriedly when Miles sounded as if he might be choking. Come on, Tash...this is what you do. ‘I did advise the solicitor handling the sale that they should get in a cleaning contractor to give the place a good bottoming.’
A muscle tightened in his jaw. ‘And what was their response to that?’
‘They said they’d get the caretaker to give it a once-over.’
Some property owners did nothing to help themselves, but this probably wasn’t the moment to say so.
‘So it’s just the woodworm, rot and missing lead flashing on the roof that a potential buyer has to worry about?’ Darius Hadley raised his dark brows a fraction of a millimetre and every cell in her body followed as if he’d jerked a string.
Amongst a jangle of mixed messages—her head urging her to take a step back, every other part of her wanting to reach out and touch—she just about managed to stand her ground.
‘Actually,’ she said, ‘according to the paperwork, the woodworm was treated years ago.’ Something he would have known if he’d taken the slightest interest in the house he’d apparently inherited. ‘I think you’ll find that it’s the cobwebs that will have women running screaming—’
Behind Hadley’s back, Miles made a sharp mouth-zipped gesture. ‘Mr Hadley isn’t looking for excuses. What he’s waiting for,’ he said, ‘what he’s
to, is an explanation and an apology.’
She frowned. Surely Miles had already covered that ground? She assumed she’d been called in to discuss a plan of action.
‘Don’t bother; I’ve heard enough,’ Hadley said before she could get in a word. ‘You’ll be hearing from my lawyer, Morgan.’
‘Lawyer?’ What use was a lawyer going to be? ‘No, really—’
Darius Hadley cut off her protest with a look that froze her in mid-sentence and seemed to go on for an eternity. Lethal eyes, a nose bred for looking down, a mouth made for sin... Finally, satisfied that he’d silenced her, his eyes seemed to shimmer, soften, warm to smoky charcoal and then, as she took half a step towards him, he nodded at Miles and walked out of the office, leaving the room ringing with his presence. Leaving her weak to the bone.
She put out a hand to grasp the back of the chair he’d been sitting in. It was still warm from his touch and the heat seemed to travel up her arm and spread through her limbs, creating little sparks throughout her body, igniting all the erogenous zones she was familiar with and quite a few that were entirely new.