Exposed: A British Bad Boy Romance

EXPOSED

A British Bad Boy Novel

 

By
Sennah Tate

 

Copyright 2016 Sennah Tate

Copyright Sennah Tate 2016

Cover design by Sennah Tate

 

 

This book is a work of fiction. All the characters in this book are fictitious and any similarity to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidence.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law.

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Author’s Note

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Dedication

 

For my very own tattooed bad boy chef -- Love you, Josh!

 

 

EXPOSED

CHAPTER ONE

Susie

I
lean back in my office chair and glare at my computer screen. On it is a picture of some starlet — I can’t keep their names straight — with a bright red circle around her lower belly.

“BABY BUMP?” screams the bright yellow headline that my editor’s already put on the photo. Next to it is my contribution so far: “She probably just ate a burrito.”

Now I just need another 194 words speculating about whether or not this famous person is knocked up. Instead I sigh and delete what I’ve written, leaving the page blank.

I can’t believe I went to journalism school for this
, I think.

“Hey Susie Q!” Marcel’s voice says. In the maze of gray cubicles it’s hard to determine where exactly he is, but then he pops his head into my cube.
              “Hey, Marcel,” I say, and lift my I’m Silently Judging Your Grammar mug to my lips. The coffee’s gone lukewarm but I drink it anyway.

“I heard it’s your big day,” he says, his slight Cuban accent rippling out of his mouth.

My eyes flick to my computer screen with its red-circled starlet and I raise one eyebrow. It sure doesn’t feel like my big day, but Marcel does,
somehow
, always manage to get the scoop before anyone else around here.

“What do you mean, my big day?” I ask. I try to play it cool, but my stomach tightens, just a little.

“Well,” he says, coming into my cubicle and leaning against my desk. “You know Martha, up in ads?”

“Yeah,” I say. I don’t, but I can already tell it’s not important to the story.

“I got coffee with her this morning, and
she
told me that Phillipe
downstairs
heard from Alessandra
upstairs
that Veronica — she and William are dating, you knew that, right? — booked a photoshoot with a certain
someone
.”

I want to point out that it is, literally, Veronica’s job at the
Global Weekly News
to book photo shoots.

Instead I twirl a pen in my hand and ask, “What certain someone?”

Marcel leans toward me, grinning. I nibble my pen mindlessly, hoping not to appear too eager for his gossip.

“Jasper Wild,” he says.

I chomp down on the pen and it cracks, spewing blue ink all over.

“You okay?” Marcel asks. He grabs the pen from my hand and puts it back on my desk while I frantically try to spit ink out of my mouth.

“Shit,” I croak out, and Marcel pats my back until I can finally speak again. “Jasper Wild is gonna be
here
?”

“I’m not finished yet, honey,” he says. “They want to run an in-depth interview along with the photoshoot. The usual guys were going to draw straws for it, but…”

He grins at me again, and my stomach twists harder. I hold my breath, because I think I know what he’s about to say but I’m really, really hoping he’s just fucking with me.

“A little birdie put your name into the hat, and guess who’s getting that byline?” he says. He leans back against my desk, arms folded in front of himself, like he’s done me a
favor
, but I just stare at him, open-mouthed.

“Fuck!” I whisper, and look down at my ink-spattered shirt again. Then I leap out of my chair and power-walk to the women’s bathroom.

“Susie?” Marcel calls after me, but I ignore him.

I can’t believe he did this to me.

This is what you get for telling Marcel how hot you think Jasper Wild is
, I think.

Jasper Wild is just a chef, but he’s in and out of all the tabloids anyway —
that’s
how much trouble he is. He’s the youngest-ever chef to get two Michelin stars, but the real reason he gets any attention from a publication like ours is that he’s loud, he’s brash, he’s a domineering asshole, and he’s left a trail of famous pussy in his wake.

It’s doesn’t hurt that he’s covered in tattoos, built like a goddamn marble statue, has a smile that pretty much dissolves panties, and has a habit of not wearing a shirt.

Tabloid gold, right?

I grab a paper towel, run it under cold water, and start blotting at my blouse, thanking the powers that be that I wore black-and-white stripes today. Slowly, the ink begins to fade and the door swings open. Marcel walks in.

“Wrong bathroom,” I say.

He ignores me and holds out a stain removal pen. After a moment’s hesitation, I take it.

“Sorry about your shirt,” he says quietly.

“I wish you’d asked me first,” I say, not looking at him in the mirror.

“It was a spur-of-the-moment thing,” he says, leaning against a sink. “I was in this meeting, and I thought, ‘Who do I know who could
nail
an interview with a notoriously difficult subject?’”

I glare at him in the mirror, stabbing my shirt with the stain remover.

“You know he’s impossible to interview,” I say.

“I know
other
people think he’s impossible,” he says. “But you’re Susie Q, Reporter Extraordinaire, the most charming spitfire this side of the Mississippi, and the best damn writer this two-bit rag has ever seen.”

I make a face at him, but the flattery is working. His heart is in the right place, and God knows I’ve been telling him for months that I want a real assignment that I can sink my teeth into.

I could sink my teeth into Jasper Wild
, I think.

Unprofessional.

“Okay, fine,” I say, and I turn to him. “But if he refuses to say a single thing and I get relegated to writing about baby bumps for the rest of my life, it’s your fault.”

He grins.

“Deal,” he says, and we walk out of the women’s bathroom.

 

At my desk, my phone is ringing and I answer it.

“Ivan wants you in his office now,” says Jan the moment I pick it up, and then the line goes dead. I roll my eyes at her, if only to mask the sudden knot in my stomach.

If my boss is calling me into his office
right now,
it can’t be good. I grab a pen and notepad, adjust my still-wet blouse, and walk to the elevators.

When one opens, there’s already someone in it and I step in.

“What floor?” he asks. He’s got an accent. British, sounds like.

“Seventeen,” I say, then see that it’s already lit.

“What’s a nice girl like you want with a rag like
Weekly Gossip
or whatever its name is?” he asks. He’s wearing a hat, sunglasses, and a zipped-up jacket but there’s still something vaguely familiar about him.

“I write their trashy articles,” I say.

“I see,” he says, and he smiles slightly. “Who’s fucking who this week?”

I laugh.

“I can’t keep track,” I say. “Everyone’s always fucking someone new, or fucking someone old, or
not
fucking someone. It’s not exactly hard-hitting journalism, but it pays the bills until I can get outta here.”

“Celebrities not your thing?” he asks.

I shrug, and for some reason, tell him the truth. “They’re vain, self-important, and not very smart or interesting,” I say. “They just care about being the next headline. They don’t care whether it’s good or bad.”

He nods, and the elevators ding. He lets me walk out first, and I go up to Jan’s desk, looking down at her stupid, pointy face.

Hat-and-sunglasses walks right past her and down the hall toward the editorial offices. Jan’s eyes follow him for just a little too long.

Something’s gnawing at me about that guy, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Soccer star? Hard-partying actor? D-list celebrity? Who
else
would be coming here?

“Is Ivan ready for me?” I ask.

Jan finally looks at me, then looks at the ink staining my lips and the wet spot on my shirt, then back at me.

“Yes,” she says, her nose wrinkling a little. “You’ve got something on your shirt.”

“Thanks,” I say, and walk past her down the hall. She thinks she can be a bitch just because she and Ivan are fucking — or so the rumors go.

I reach the heavy wooden door that says IVAN BOROVICH in big gold letters, like he’s the Editor-in-Chief of the New York Times or something. There’s loud laughter behind it, and I swallow hard, look one last time at my damp blouse, and push it open.

“You wanted to see me?” I ask.

Besides Ivan, there are two other men in the room. One’s older, lanky, with silver hair and a boyish grin.

The other is Jasper Wild.

There’s a leather jacket draped over the back of his chair, a hat on the ground next to him, and sunglasses on his head.

What the fuck is he doing here today?
I think frantically.
I thought I had a couple of weeks to prepare!

“Suzette!” Ivan booms. “Come in. Have a seat. Drink?”

On his desk is a crystal decanter of amber liquid: Scotch. I can smell it from where I’m standing. All three men are already sipping from matching glasses.

Some places will always be a boys’ club.

“No, thank you,” I say, even though I’ve never needed one more. I walk to a chair and sit, notebook on my lap.

I just told Jasper Fucking Wild that all celebrities are vapid idiots
, I think.
Oh, and that I think my job is stupid.

Today’s going great so far.

“Suzette, this is Jasper Wild,” Ivan says, leaning back in his chair.

I nod at him and hold out one hand.

“Charmed,” he says, taking it. His eyes linger on my mouth a beat too long and I wish I’d done a better job of getting rid of the ink.

“Suzette Quincy,” I say, even though Ivan just told him my name. My heart’s beating so fast that I’m certain he can hear it.

“Suzette’s going to be writing our feature on you and your new restaurant,” Ivan says. “Part of our new experiment with longform journalism.”

I raise my eyebrows. No one told
me
about this experiment.

“Excellent,” Jasper says, looking at me. I can feel myself turn red. “It must get tiring writing about vain, self-absorbed celebrities who only care about the next headline.”

“Every so often I meet one with surprising depth, and it makes the job worth it,” I say, looking right at him. “It’s rare, but it happens.”

I shut my mouth before I say
I doubt that will be the case here
, but Jasper locks eyes with me, and I can tell that the last part came through loud and clear.

“If there’s someone who can plumb surprising depths, it’s me,” Jasper says, and he grins at me.

I swear my panties dissolve, just a little.

“If you’d ever like an unprofessional demonstration, just say the word.”

“I’d prefer this be a strictly working relationship, Jasper,” I say.

“Then I’ll just let you know who I’m fucking this week upfront,” he says. “And I really prefer ‘Chef.’”

“And I prefer ‘Madam Quincy,’ so I guess we’ll both have to accept disappointment,” I say.

I know I shouldn’t be mouthing off in front of my boss, but I can’t help it. I’m not going to let this asshole walk all over me, no
matter
how hot he is.

“Get a room, you two,” Ivan says with a chuckle that makes my blood boil. He’d never say that to one of the
male
writers on staff. “Suzette, thanks for coming up. You’ll be setting up Jasper’s interviews with Elliot, his manager.”

He nods at the silver-haired man to my right, and we shake hands.

“I’ll be in touch,” I say, and he hands me a card.

I look at Ivan again, and he nods.

I understand when I’m being dismissed, so I stand, thank everyone, and head for the door.

As I’m heading through, I hear Jasper speak up again.

“So you thought I’d give an interview if you got a pretty bird to do it?” he asks, and then the door shuts.

 

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