Authors: Jackie Ashenden
Tags: #leukemia, #Older hero, #younger heroine, #erotic, #new zealand, #ballet
Her temptation…his salvation.
Living In…, Book 2
At twenty, Lily Andrews has already lived a lifetime. Her battle with leukemia put her three years behind her ballet career, and now that the grueling treatment is behind her, she’s eager to put her dancing shoes back on—literally and figuratively.
One man has been her personal light at the end of her tunnel, the one man she’s sure will help her rekindle her passion for life. Kahu Winter. And she’ll let nothing stand in the way of having him—not even Kahu himself.
When Kahu catches Lily sneaking into his club, the desire in her eyes tells him it’s more than a delayed act of youthful rebellion. Her lively spirit calls to him, but Kahu is too cynical, too jaded, too broken for a sweet young thing like her.
But Lily won’t take no for answer so he’ll make her a deal: She’s got one month to seduce him and after that, he’s moving on—figuratively and literally.
There’s just one thing he forgot to keep out of her reach. His heart…
Warning: Contains a hot older man in need of some anti-cynicism pills, a snarky younger woman who’s going to get past his defenses and make him beg, more forbidden lust, and naked ballet dancing. Advanced WTFery for experienced users only.
Living in Sin
This one’s for the Ashendens.
“She’s here again.”
“Oh fuck, really?” Kahu Winter leaned back in his office chair and stared at Mike, the bouncer who’d been working the door at the Auckland Club for the last five years.
Mike, a huge Tongan guy who used to do a lot of pro-wrestling, folded his arms. “Yeah. And she says she wants to see you.”
Since that’s what she’d been saying for the past couple of nights, Kahu wasn’t surprised. Jesus Christ. What a pain in the ass.
He had more important things to do than fuck about dealing with Rob’s daughter. The guy was Kahu’s business partner and would not be happy at the thought of his twenty-year-old daughter hassling for entry into one of Auckland’s most exclusive private-member’s clubs.
What the hell was she doing here? What the hell did she want?
“That’s the third time this week.” Kahu threw the pen he’d been toying with back down on his desk. “And I’m getting pretty fucking sick of it.”
Mike was unimpressed. “Perhaps if you go out and see what she wants, she’ll go away,” he pointed out.
Not what Kahu wanted to hear. Christ, the last two nights he’d paid for a taxi to take her home and if she kept this up, it was going to start getting expensive.
Of course, he could go out there and speak to her. But he liked being manipulated even less than he liked being told what to do. And he
being told what to do. Especially when the person doing the telling was a spoiled little twenty-year-old on some mysterious mission she wouldn’t talk to anyone about other than him.
Jesus, it made him feel tired. And pretty fucking old.
“Goddamn. I’m going to have to speak to her, aren’t I?”
Mike lifted a shoulder. “Up to you, boss.”
Yeah, he was going to have to.
Cursing, Kahu shoved his chair back and got up. The work he was doing, going over the club’s accounts, could wait. And he probably needed a break anyway.
In the corridor outside his office, he could hear the sounds of conversation from the Ivy Room, the club’s main bar and dining area. Friday night and the place was packed with members having a post-work drink or seven.
The sound of success. Anita would have been so proud.
Yeah, but not so proud of the fact you’re planning on ditching it, huh?
No, probably not. She’d left him the club thirteen years ago, when she’d first realized she was getting sick. A gift he’d promptly thrown back in her face by fucking off overseas, refusing to accept the responsibility or the reality of her illness. It had taken him five years to come to terms with it. To come back to New Zealand, to take on the club, and most importantly, to care for her. The lover who’d rescued him from the streets and given him the stars.
On the other hand, Anita was six months dead and what she didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her.
As he approached the club’s entrance—a vaulted hallway with stairs leading to the upper floors, a parquet floor, and a chandelier dominating the space like a massive, glittering sun—people greeted him. Since he granted all memberships to the club personally, he knew everyone. Some more than others, of course, but he prided himself on the fact that he knew everyone’s names at least.
He ostentatiously kissed the hand of a politician’s wife, slapped the back of a well-known actor, air-kissed with a socialite and shook hands with an awestruck nobody. But then that’s what the Auckland Club was like. Nobodies and somebodies, all mixing together. It appealed to his sense of irony. And, fuck, it was a nice distraction if nothing else.
Kahu pushed open the big blue door that was the club’s famous entrance and stood in the doorway, looking down the stairs to the sidewalk. There were no lines of people waiting to get into the club since it was members only, but tonight a lone figure sat on the bottom step, her back to him.
It was mid-winter and cold, his breath like a dragon’s, a white cloud in the night.
Not as cold as London, though.
A random memory drifted through his head, of the European “cultural” trip with Anita. Of being in London in February during a snowstorm, and she’d tried to insist on going to some kind of classical music concert at Covent Garden. He’d seduced her in their fancy Claridges hotel room instead and they’d spent the rest of the evening in bed, away from the storm and the cold…
Kahu let out another cloudy breath, trying to shake the memories away.
He’d grieved when Anita had died. But the woman in that chair in the rest home wasn’t the Anita he’d known and loved. That woman had died a long time ago.
The person sitting down on the bottom step suddenly turned and his drifting thoughts scattered. A pale, pointed face and eyes an indeterminate color between green and gray looked back at him. A familiar face.
He knew her, of course. Had known her since she was about five years old, her father Rob being a close friend of Anita’s, and who’d managed the club while Kahu had been sulking overseas. Who’d become a valued business partner since.
A quiet, watchful girl who stayed out of the way and did what she was told, if he remembered right. He hadn’t seen her for five years, though, and clearly things had changed. Namely that she didn’t do as she was told anymore.
Lily stood and turned around. She was wearing a black duffel coat, the hood pulled up against the cold, and dark skinny jeans, a pair of Chuck Taylors covered with Union Jacks on her feet. And a very determined look on her face.
“Lily Andrews, as I live and breathe,” Kahu said lazily, standing in the doorway of his club and crossing his arms. “Does your father know you’ve been sitting on the steps of my club for the past three nights straight?”
Her hands pushed into the pockets of her coat, brows the color of bright flames descending into a frown. “If you’d spoken to me earlier it wouldn’t have been three nights.”
“I have a phone. Though perhaps young people these days don’t use such outdated technology.”
“What I want to ask you is better done in person.”
“That sounds portentous. Come on then, don’t keep me in suspense. What do you want?”
She didn’t speak immediately, her mouth tightening, her eyes narrowing. As if she was steeling herself for something.
Jesus, whatever it was it had better be good. He had shit to do.
After a brief, silent moment, Lily walked up the steps, coming to stand in front of him. The light coming from the club’s doorway shone directly on her face. She wore no makeup, her skin white, almost translucent and gleaming with freckles like little specks of gold. She looked sixteen if she was a day.
“Can I come in? I don’t want to ask you out here.”
“What, into the club? Sorry, love, but it’s members only.”
She shifted restlessly on her feet. “So can I be a member then?”
“Are you kidding? You think I just hand out membership to any fool that comes to my door?”
Her forehead creased into a scowl. “I’m not a fool.”
“If you’re not a fool, then you’ll understand that there’s a reason it’s taken me three days to speak to you.”
“I just want to ask you a question. Nothing else.”
“Then send me an e-mail or a text like any normal teenager. Now, if you don’t mind, I have a few things I—”
“I’m not a teenager, for Christ’s sake. And what I want to talk to you about is…personal.”
Kahu leaned against the doorframe, eyeing her. “If it’s personal then why aren’t you talking to your dad or a friend or whatever? You hardly know me.”
Rob had been Anita’s lawyer as well as her friend. Kahu had met him in the context of dinners, where Anita had brought Kahu along and he’d sat there silently at the table while she and Rob talked, unable to join in because he didn’t know what the fuck they were talking about—the dumb, uneducated Maori kid from the streets.
Sometimes at those dinners Lily had been there, a small seven-year-old with big eyes, whom he’d ignored mainly because she was a child and he had nothing to say to a privileged white kid from Remuera, born with a silver spoon in her mouth.
Then, after he’d come back from overseas and had reconnected with Rob over the management of the Auckland Club, he’d sometimes see her as he talked business with her father. A slender teen with a sulky mouth, who appeared to lurk permanently in the hallway whenever he arrived or left, big gray-green eyes following him when she thought he wouldn’t notice.
She’d grown up a bit since then, the rounded features of adolescence morphing into the more defined lines of adulthood. But that mouth of hers was still sulky and she was still small and slender. And her eyes were still wide and big as they met his.
“Yeah, I realize that. But…” She shifted again, nervous. “What I want to ask concerns you in particular.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Me, huh? Well, spit it out then.”
A crowd of people came up the steps behind her, laughing and talking. Kahu moved out of the way as they approached the door, greeting them all by name and holding out his arm to usher them inside.
Once they’d all gone in, he turned back to Lily, who remained standing there with her hands in the pockets of her coat, glaring at him almost accusingly.
He could not, for the life of him, work out what her problem was, but one thing was for sure: he was getting bloody sick of standing there while she continued to dance around the subject.
“Okay,” he said, glancing at his watch. “You’ve got ten seconds. If you haven’t told me what you’re doing here by then, I’m going to go inside and ring your father, and ask him to come and get you.”
“All right, Jesus,” Lily muttered. “You don’t have to be such a dick about it.”
Kahu refrained from rolling his eyes. “Ten, nine, eight, seven…”
She turned her head, looking back down the steps, clearly checking to make sure there was no one around.
“…six, five, four, three—”
“I was kind of wondering if you could perhaps seduce me.”
The words came out way too fast and not at all like she’d prepared, which was annoying. Even more annoying when he burst out laughing as if it was the funniest thing he’d heard all year.
Still, she’d expected this kind of reaction from him and if she’d been in his shoes, she’d probably have done the same. The daughter of a business partner, a woman he barely knew, coming up to him and asking to be seduced…yeah, funny as hell. Especially when all he saw when he looked at her, no doubt, was the kid who used to hang out in the hallway at home whenever he visited her dad.
No wonder he was laughing.
Lily stayed where she was, waiting patiently until he’d finished. He was going to say no, of course, and that too she expected.
It had taken her at least a week after her failed ballet audition to make the decision to come here. A week of much soul searching as she tried to put the bitter disappointment of not getting into the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company behind her.
Your dancing lacks passion,
they’d told her.
You’re trying too hard
You’re holding back.
Lily gritted her teeth against the memory. The feedback had been painfully hard to take, her dreams of a dance career dying before her eyes. Because they were right, she
been pushing herself. She had so many missed years to make up for and the ballet world was so horribly competitive that if she wanted any kind of dancing career, she
to get a place in one of the major ballet companies now.
But no, one failed audition didn’t mean the end. She’d beaten the leukemia that had nearly killed her. She w
achieve her dreams as well.
And Kahu Winter was the key. That’s why she was here. They’d told her she lacked passion? Well, she was here to find some and hopefully from him.
“Glad you’re amused,” she said as his laughter eventually wound down. “I guess that means no, right?”
“I’m sorry, that wasn’t at all sensitive.” He made a show of wiping his eyes. “But then I don’t often get girls I barely know coming up to me and demanding to be seduced.” He paused. “Or at least, not these days.”
Lily curled her fingers tighter inside the pockets of her coat. She was cold and sitting on the steps for the past twenty minutes had made her even colder. “Can we discuss this inside now, do you think? I’m freezing.”
But Kahu didn’t move. “We’re not discussing this anywhere. You’re not a member, you can’t come in. And if you’re cold, I suggest you go home.”
“You heard what I said though, right?”
Kahu pushed himself away from the doorframe, his arms still crossed over his broad chest. “Yeah, sweetheart, I heard. And though the offer is lovely, if somewhat random, I’m going to have to refuse.”
Yep, there it was. Refusal right on schedule.
Kahu Winter was famous for his list of lovers but she knew he’d probably baulk when it came to adding her to it. She was, after all, the daughter of his business partner and quite a bit younger than he was.
Then there was the whole virgin thing, which she was going to have to tell him about, because when it came to experience, she had none and it was going to show.
So yeah, all good reasons for him to say no. Which meant she was going to have to work hard to convince him otherwise.
You could just try someone else.
A simple answer to a not-so-simple question. Because the problem was, she didn’t want to try someone else. She’d been lusting after Kahu since she’d been old enough to understand what lusting meant. And even before then, as a wide-eyed seven-year-old, she’d found him fascinating. So different to the men she was familiar with. They all wore suits and spoke carefully, as if they were tasting their words before they let them out.
But Kahu wasn’t like that. Tall and muscled like a superhero from a comic book, a Maori tribal tattoo on one arm, he didn’t speak carefully. He didn’t speak much at all and when he did, his voice sounded like he had a throat full of sand.
He was a grown-up and hadn’t taken much notice of her, but she hadn’t been able to stop looking at him. He was so big and looked so strong. Like he could carry the world on his shoulders. And yet, as he’d sat at dinner with her father and her father’s friend, Mrs. Howard, she had the idea that he was just as bored with the conversation as she was. That he didn’t understand what they were talking about either. Once, during one of those interminable dinners, he’d looked at her, his eyes full of darkness and secrets. It was like looking into a black cave and had scared her a little. Until he’d winked, making all her fear vanish. Making her feel like they were in this together. A heady moment for a child used to being alone.