After Office Hours is coming Feb 12, starting with Desire Actually, Book 1! I’m announcing a brand new Jennifer Skully series! As you all know, I love office romance, probably because I worked in an office for over 20 years. I love all that juicy office gossip!
I’ve got the first three covers for you to preview. Thanks to the fabulous Rae Monet!
Up first is Desire Actually. The idea came to me when a friend, Lisa Salvary, casually mentioned that it would be fun to read a book where the man is less experienced than the woman! And poof, the whole story blossomed in my mind. That’s how it works with writers, one little snippet, from a friend, an overhead conversation, something on the news, whatever, and away we go! I loved writing Grady and Jordana’s story. They made me laugh, and they made cry a bit, too. They’re journey was also inspired by a trip I took to Crater Lake and the Lava Beds National Monument. A very pivotal scene came to me as my husband and I were crawling through lava caves. I won’t say anymore, you’ll have to read to find out! But I will tell you how fabulous those caves were, so visit if you ever get a chance. But be sure to take hiking boots, a flashlight, a helmet, long-sleeved shirt, and long pants. Those caves can get a little hairy!
Here’s a blurb about Grady and Jordana’s story in Desire Actually. And I have to thank Lisa Salvary again for the fabulous title!
What does a red-blooded, All-American male do when his wife asks for a divorce—by email, no less—claiming he's too vanilla in the bedroom?
He gets a sexy tutor for after-office-hours sessions, of course.
Enter Jordana Davis, a work colleague who offers to share the mysterious secrets of what women really want—Desire, Actually. Grady Masterson is more than willing to listen to every seductive suggestion.
He aces sexting and phone sex as the sparks start to fly between them. Then Jordana imagines that Grady could be the one she hadn't been looking for. If only he wasn't taking lessons from her to win back his wife.
How far would you go to win the one you love?
After Office Hours, Book 1
© 2016 Jennifer Skully
Grady Masterson stared at the email on his monitor. After eight at night, the office was as silent as a stadium once the fans of a losing team had all gone home. Empty and let down. The quiet gave him time to stare at the email longer than he might have if it had arrived in the middle of the day.
He simply couldn’t understand it.
He was forty-two years old, a college graduate and Vice President of Business Development for a Silicon Valley start-up that had the potential to make billions. He occupied a corner office on the second floor, with a window and a wood desk instead of plastic cubicle furniture. He owned his own home and came from a large San Francisco Bay Area family who’d never been scandalized by divorce in the ranks—of course, two of his brothers hadn’t married yet. He paid his taxes without fudging a single deduction, and he wasn’t stupid. At least he’d never thought so until now, when he simply could not comprehend what the email was telling him.
Dear Grady, she’d written. I’m divorcing you. We’re not compatible anymore. Since we don’t have kids to worry about, it should be a simple matter. I’ll have my lawyer call yours. She’d signed it as Your Wife.
Your wife. As if he was too stupid to recognize the email address. They’d been married fifteen years. Career-oriented, they’d never had children. Right from the beginning, when they were in college, Darlene had told him she wasn’t the mothering type. He didn’t mind, though his mother had never truly come to terms with the fact that she wouldn’t get grandchildren from her first born. He and Darlene had a good marriage. They didn’t fight, not about money, not about sex, not even about religion or politics or in-laws.
Then suddenly, without a single warning shot, they weren’t compatible and she wanted a divorce.
It defied explanation—or even logic. He understood each individual word. He grasped the overall meaning. What he couldn’t fathom was the context, the why.
Swiveling his desk chair, he stared out his window. It wasn’t quite dark yet, the late summer sun still streaking the western horizon with the last of the day’s rays.
He was more angry than hurt, though he was sure the hurt would come later, after he’d processed the whole thing.
Had she been distant lately? Busy at work, sure, since Darlene was an analyst at a brokerage house. She was always distant when the market was down, which it had been for the last few months. Maybe he’d been distant, too, without even realizing it. A start-up created a huge amount of work and stress, but he’d made time for her. He’d factored that in when he accepted the job eighteen months ago. He usually didn’t arrive home until after seven o’clock, or even later. Neither did Darlene. They were happy workaholics. They shared a good meal, usually take-out from one of the nicer restaurants along University Avenue in Palo Alto. They enjoyed a glass of wine together—a new vintage they’d found during a Sunday trip up to Napa in the spring—and tuned into an interesting show on PBS. Or a British mystery. Or… it hadn’t really mattered because they both went through email in front of the TV.
He couldn’t detect the chink in their marriage. They’d seemed comfortable and well-matched. Maybe they were a little routine, but he was satisfied with that.
The email had left him totally, freaking clueless.
And suddenly he was pissed as hell. It wasn’t mere anger. Emotion chewed up his gut like something bad he’d eaten for dinner. It threatened to spew up and out, burning his throat with acid.
He clicked his mouse to force-close his computer. He was done staring at his inbox.
What kind of woman divorces her husband over email? Not the woman he thought he knew, not the woman he’d loved.
Love. The word sent him over the edge, and he grabbed his cell phone off the desk. Jabbing in the pin number to unlock it, he found her name in his favorites and stabbed the icon of her smiling face.
It rang so long he thought she’d let him go to voicemail. Until she said, “Hello.” Politely. As if she hadn’t even looked at the caller ID.
“What the hell is going on, Darlene?” The sharpness of his voice sliced holes in the quiet office.
“Grady.” She paused long enough to communicate her annoyance. “I really don’t think we should discuss it over the phone.”
“Right. So you can divorce me by email, but we’re not allowed to actually talk about it.” His fist was so tight on the phone that his knuckles cracked.
“I knew you’d be like this. That’s why I sent the email.” Because she didn’t want to listen. He’d heard the subtext in her tone.
“You can’t just make up your mind without even talking about it.” He felt his back teeth grinding as he closed his mouth on the words. “Most people would at least try a little counseling. We don’t even have any problems.”
“That’s why we can’t do counseling, Grady. Because you won’t admit the truth. We’ve been off for months. Years, in fact. We’re little more than roommates. But you’re so complacent with the status quo that you don’t even notice.”
Complacent? He rose and began pacing the office because he couldn’t sit still as he listened to her. “Right. We’re roommates who have sex once a week. Like clockwork.”
“That’s what I’m talking about. It’s like clockwork. Routine. Complacent.” Her voice hissed on the word, like a snake slithering into his comfortable, complacent world beneath a rock.
Pulling the phone away from his ear, he stared at her icon a moment. Her snide voice didn’t match the smile. It was like she was some other woman. “So this is all about sex?”
“It’s not all about sex. But I could use a little more variety in the bedroom. It doesn’t always have to be Saturday night. It doesn’t always have to be step one, step two, step three, we’re done. We could be spontaneous. It’s all too vanilla.”
“So now I’m vanilla, too?” Where did she even come up with that word? “All right, fine. I’ll come home and we’ll have sex right now. We’ll do step three, then step two and step one.” He didn’t even know what the steps were. Their love life wasn’t clockwork. He only chose Saturday because on Friday they were both tired from a long workweek and Sunday night they had to get up early the following morning. And he mixed things up. She’d stopped wanting to kiss, jumping right into things, asking him to put his mouth on other parts of her body instead of on her lips. He’d happily obliged. More than happily for both of them.
She gave a long-suffering sigh, like the mother of a teenager who’d told him to clean up his room for the millionth time. “You really don’t get it. When I try to explain what a woman wants, you just don’t listen.”
“I’m listening now. Tell me what a woman wants.”
“It’s too late.” She snapped out each syllable.
He had to be the calm one. They’d never work things out if they were sniping. “We’ve been married for fifteen years. We should at least talk face-to-face before we bring in the lawyers. I’m coming home now.”
“I’m not at home.”
“You’ve already moved out?” This time his teeth ground so hard, he thought he heard one of them chip.
“I’ve got a hotel room.”
It was too freaking weird. “Just like that?”
“I told you’ve I’ve been thinking about it.”
The idiot lightbulb over his head finally flashed on. “There’s someone else, isn’t there?”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” Which translated to: Yes, there is.
“How long has it been going on, Darlene?”
“I told you there isn’t anyone else.” But the softness of a lie had slipped into her tone.
“I am telling you.”
“Someone from work?”
“Of course not.”
“I told you there isn’t anyone.”
But he knew her. He might not have paid enough attention over the past few months, he might be complacent, but with his eyes suddenly wide open—actually, it was his ears—he recalled the subtle differences, clothes ever so slightly sexier, the loss of five pounds, a new tint in her hair.
“I assume he’s not vanilla in the bedroom like I supposedly am.” His voice snapped like a rubber band.
“Grady, I’m not—”
He knifed through the lie. “You are. But you should know there’s not going to be a divorce until we talk. Honestly and openly. Call when you’re ready.”
He didn’t hack at the phone. He simply ended the call with a push of his finger. Then he tossed his cell phone on the desk with a thunk.
She was having an affair. He’d claimed he wasn’t a stupid man. But he was. He’d missed all the signs. There’d been nights she hadn’t come home until ten, but he’d had those late nights himself, for business. Over the last few months, the Saturday night intimacy had been at his initiation, and now he wondered if she’d faked her climaxes, too.
He swore, slapped his hand on the back of his chair and rammed it into the desk. Then he grabbed his phone, shoving it into his suit pocket.
They needed to talk. He couldn’t leave this hanging. But he didn’t even know where she was.
He slammed his office door on the way out. It felt damn good. He relished the sensation as he turned, taking two long strides toward the door
And smacked into a wall that shouldn’t have been there. A supple, yielding wall that crumpled to the carpet with a woomph of breath and a soft shriek.
* * * * *
Jordana Davis fell on her butt.
“Sorry. Are you okay?” Grady Masterson stretched out a hand to her. With his executive-short dark hair and sexy five o’clock shadow—make that eight o’clock—the guy was totally hot. She’d always thought so. But he looked especially good from her vantage point down on the carpet. She adored big, tall men, and Grady was at least six-two compared to her five foot seven.
“I’m fine. It was my fault.” She let him pull her up, her fingers engulfed by his warm, oversize hand. It was most definitely her fault. If she hadn’t been eavesdropping on his entire phone conversation, she would have left before he figured out he wasn’t alone.
His cheeks turned ruddy, as if he suddenly realized that she’d probably heard everything, right down to the fact that his wife thought he was vanilla in bed.
A wave of heat blushed her face. He had to be wondering why she was here so late. She jerked a thumb over her shoulder, pointing at her computer. “I was polishing Rhonda’s Power Point presentation.” The excuse was inane. It didn’t explain why she’d kept herself hidden. “For the quarterly company meeting tomorrow,” she added, which didn’t make anything better.
She was executive assistant to the Human Resources VP, whose office was straight across from Grady’s. A cubicle wall separated her desk area from Ivy, Grady’s assistant. They had identical cubicles, each with a short reception desk in front, desk tops all around, hanging file cabinets, and an opening that faced directly at their respective VP’s office. Beyond that was a warren of cubicles housing the Accounting department and a row of offices along the opposite wall while the copy room and conference room flanked the entrance to this upper quadrant of the building.
Grady blinked with eyelashes that were long and dark. “Sorry for startling you when I slammed the door.”
She waved away his apology, giggling like a silly schoolgirl. If she hadn’t jumped up, he probably would have rushed through like a mini tornado without ever seeing her and saving them both from the embarrassment.
But he’d ended the call, and she’d heard him swear. She’d thought she could slip away without being noticed. What an idiot.
So, was it best to acknowledge what she’d heard or pretend she’d been engrossed in Rhonda’s presentation? That might be a lie too hard to swallow.
He shifted feet. “I didn’t hear you out here on your computer.”
She had a very quiet keyboard. “I should have been louder.”
His dark coffee eyes seemed to glow with tiny slashes of green. Instead of dropping his gaze, he looked at her directly. She counted the long, long seconds of silence. “You heard it all, didn’t you.” His voice didn’t rise into a question but remained flat.
It was less embarrassing to simply nod her answer. She’d heard every dirty detail of his side of the conversation. It wasn’t hard to deduce that his wife had sent him a Dear Grady email because he was boring in bed and she was having an affair. Or maybe she was having an affair because he was boring in bed. Or… his wife made her affair his fault by saying he was a bad lover.
His jaw flexed, and he breathed deeply enough to flare his nostrils. She’d never seen Grady Masterson angry. He was big, he was toned—oh yeah, he was toned—but he wasn’t a pushy loudmouth. Tonight was the first time she’d heard him raise his voice, his speech clipped and harsh.
“So tell me,” he said, his gaze intense enough to create a wash of heat deep inside her. “What do women really want?”
She thought about tossing her purse strap over her shoulder and making a run for it. Or throwing him a bone, something like We want equal pay for equal work, or We want to be taken seriously. But that wasn’t what he needed to hear.
He’d asked sincerely. And since she’d blatantly eavesdropped on his very personal conversation—because of course it never occurred to her to leave—he deserved an honest answer.
“A woman wants to be desired.” Her words came out breathy, sexy. She bit her lip. It wasn’t how she’d meant to sound, but there was a change in the atmosphere swirling around them that brought out the huskiness in her voice.
His eyes got darker, the streaks of green receding into the deep cocoa, turning his gaze into something earthy and potent. “How does a man do that?”
“You can’t do it. You have to feel it.”
“But how?” He spread his hands, which she realized had been clenched. “Flowers? Chocolate? Fancy dinners?”
“You have to be desperate. You have to be intense.” She felt his intensity now, like heat shimmering off concrete.
He shook his head, a short, sharp jerk. “What does that mean?”
On a college essay, she’d once gotten the comment that her reasoning needed to be more compelling. What the heck did that mean? Same applied here. What did desperation and intensity mean in concrete terms, especially in regard to the subject matter?
Her breath felt rough in her throat. Then she went for it. “A woman wants to be shoved up against a wall and taken.” She swallowed her embarrassment, concentrated on the heat of his earthy gaze. “Tear her clothes off. Like you can’t wait one more second to get your hands on her. Just pull up her dress and make her scream with pleasure.”
His eyes were all pupil now. She could almost see her reflection in the blackness. “How?” he murmured.
“With your mouth,” she whispered. “It’s all about her, for her. You don’t even get off. You just need to taste her. Right this minute.”
There was a scent on the air, his male musk, hers, mingling, pulling them closer.
His lips moved. “That’s just lust.”
“You can’t have the love if you don’t have the lust first, because then you’re just friends with benefits.” That was her preferred modus operandi. Relationships were too fragile and potentially disastrous. She didn’t have time for disaster.
Grady stepped closer, invading her personal space. His heat arced into her, surrounded her, seduced her.
“And you’ve been desired liked that?” he asked so softly his voice was like a feather stroking her erogenous zones.
The question didn’t merely invade personal space, it assaulted personal everything. She could have told him her answer was theoretical. She could have lied. But in this moment, they were too intimate for lies.
“Yes.” She was a desire junkie. “It was the biggest high in the world.”
Desire Actually will be coming your way on Friday, Feb 12, just in time for Valentine’s Day!
Dead to the Max, Max Starr Series, Book 1 is still free!
And that’s not all! Two more freebies, one from Jennifer Skully and one from Jasmine Haynes!
Check out the fabulous new cover for She’s Gotta Be Mine. Thank you for a whole new series look, Rae Monet! Try Book 1 of the Cottonmouth Series for FREE!
Try Somebody’s Lover, the first book in the The Jackson Brothers Trilogy for FREE!