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Romance Novel Excerpts: 9-Inch Addiction by Jamila Jasper

Romance novel excerpts here give you a preview of what's to come, but this free sample is just the beginning of the action in this ultra-steamy interracial romance novel. If you're a BWWM (swirl romance) fan with a taste for HOT alpha male billionaires and confident black women who can stand up for themselves, you'll enjoy this read.

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DESCRIPTION: 

“I make the rules around here… And you’ll do well to listen to them.” 

CHUCK

My father’s brown-skinned CFO thinks she’s my boss.

I’ll have her bent over her desk begging for more before she knows what hit her.

If anyone finds out about my intentions with her, I’ll be out on street and shipped off back to London.

But I can keep a secret…

I bet she can too with these come-hither brown eyes that she can’t keep off me.

Nobody says no to Chuck Banks.

It’s only a matter of time before she’s MINE.

IDA

My boss thinks I have nothing better to do than look after his son.

Chuck Banks is the type of guy that put me off dating forever…

He’s arrogant...

Demanding…

Bossy…

And one of the only men on the East Coat who can close a $50 million dollar deal at a 100% success rate.

We need him here.

I’m keeping my distance, but I have a feeling he’s trying his hardest to get closer.

Too close, and the career I’ve worked so hard for will come crumbling around me.

I can’t let this happen.

Romance Novel Excerpts: 9-Inch Addiction

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

“No can do.”

 

I folded my arms as I listened to Monty’s three-word response to my thirty minute proposal. That was it? I’d spent weeks crafting the perfect list of reasons I needed a raise, and demonstrating how much I added to the Banks & Wiltshire Group.

 

“That’s it?” I responded, aghast.

 

Monty puffed his cigar and coughed, releasing a cloud of tobacco across his desk.

 

“‘Fraid so.”

 

I’d been with the company for over ten years after the merger. I knew Monty as more than just my boss, the CEO, but as a friend. 

 

“Monty… Are you serious right now? I know what the numbers are saying, where’s all that money going?”

 

He shrugged, “Expenses.”

 

Seeing that I wouldn’t budge, he leaned back and offered me a drink.

 

“Whiskey?”

 

“No thanks.”

 

Not only were we at work but it was hours before noon. Monty Banks helped himself, taking his cool time to unscrew the bottle while he poured it into his glass — no ice, no chasers, straight whiskey.

 

“Sit down, Ida.”

 

I sat. He drank.

 

“Listen, I don’t mean to give the impression that we don’t appreciate you here.”

 

“Monty, you know that I’m loyal to you. I’ve always been that way. I just want to move up. I have goals… aspirations…”

 

Monty nodded and waved as he drank more.

 

“Yes, yes, yes,” he replied, “I understand completely.”

 

“If you understand, why won’t you budge?”

 

Monty cleared his throat and drank more.

 

“Hm… Ida, why don’t we make a deal here?”

 

“What kind of deal?” I raised my eyebrows. 

 

“One where you get some money.” 

 

“I’m listening,” I replied. 

 

Money was what I wanted. Why was I the only one at the company who seemed to be struggling? New York was killing me.

 

“Early bonus.”

 

I folded my arms.

 

“That’s it?”

 

Monty sighed, “I’ll increase by $6,000.” 

 

Now we were getting somewhere. The figure was nowhere near as close as I’d asked for. But it was $16,000 that I needed… bad.

 

“I’ll think about it.”

 

“Think about it?”

 

Monty finished his drink. 

 

“Yes,” I held my voice steady, “I’ll think about it.”

 

Satisfied, Monty poured himself a second round.

 

“I have something else to discuss with you.” 

 

He spoke the way white people did when they were about to ask you to do something. He avoided eye contact. Then I knew he was going to ask me to do something I didn’t want to do.

 

“What is it Monty,” I huffed.

 

“Don’t get short with me Ida,” he glared, winking to let me know he wasn’t serious.

 

“Spill. And don’t add more to my plate.”

 

“Heh,” Monty coughed.

 

I waited. He drank some more and then stalled.

 

“Mind if I get another cigar?”

 

“No problem.”

 

I could wait. Playing to Monty’s good side couldn’t hurt my case for a raise. He took his time, clipping the tip of his cigar and then rolling it between his palms before lighting.

 

“Want a puff?”

 

Monty knew I didn’t smoke. So I didn’t respond. He sat across from me and then started talking.

 

“We value your work in the marketing department here at Banks & Wiltshire. The billboard in Times Square project, the Jamaica, Queens community outreach, it’s all been fantastic. I’ve come to trust you Ida… The day you throw in the towel will be the worst day of my life.”

 

He was buttering me up now, and I knew then whatever he planned to ask me was something big.

 

He smoked, drank a little more and I waited, settling into the chair and staring at him. Monty was getting older. At 60, he was still a silver-foxed scamp. His cigar and whiskey before lunch were only the beginnings of his problems.

 

Monty was cursed with being both too smart and too good-looking for his own well-being. I’d like to pretend his charm didn’t work on me, but he was a difficult man to resist.

 

“I want to entrust you with a matter that’s more… personal.”

 

“Personal?”

 

While Monty and I were friends, there were some boundaries that had never been crossed between us. Most “personal” situations fell firmly within that territory. Monty hadn’t told me about the time his wife lived in their beach house for a year because he’d knocked up their maid. I hadn’t told him about my sister’s third DUI. 

 

We kept our dirty laundry out of each other’s view. In the corporate world, the personal is always just out of reach. No matter how personal you pretend to get with your coworkers, when you head home for the night, they usually just become your coworkers.

 

70-hour work weeks were the only thing that stood between me and more distance between my coworkers.

 

“This is a delicate issue Miss Bell, so I’d appreciate your discretion.”

 

Now my interest piqued. I clasped my hands over my knees, hiding the impatient tapping of my legs and fidgeting with my class ring from Columbia. 

 

“You know I can keep a secret, Montgomery.”

 

Monty nodded, “Excellent. You might want to have a drink.”

 

“No thanks,” I urged again.

 

“Hm,” he responded. 

 

Before he could go on, his phone rang. I could hear Pippa’s voice on the other end, loudly asking Monty if he was free to meet a woman who wanted an afternoon appointment. Monty declined, they had another conversation about Monty’s flights to the Maldives, then he hung up.

 

“Where was I?”

 

“Something personal.”

 

“Yes, yes…” he mumbled, coughing gently and filling my face with tobacco smoke again.

 

“This is a special assignment for you Ida. If you can manage this,” Monty paused to chuckle, “I’ll definitely consider a raise.”

 

“What is it?”

 

I was starting to get impatient and what’s worse, bad at hiding it. Monty tapped his cigar, the ash falling gently into his engraved Harvard ash tray.

 

“My son is flying back from London today. He should be arriving at Grand Central before the stock exchange closes.”

 

“Great,” I replied, unsure how this news applied to me.

 

“He’s coming to work here, for Banks & Wiltshire.”

 

“What?”

 

I folded my arms, ignoring Monty’s smirk. 

 

“I need someone responsible to keep an eye on him.”

 

“You are his parent,” I grumbled.

 

Monty chuckled, “Darling, I’m half drunk before twelve o’clock, I can’t have anymore on my plate.”

 

I hated when Monty called me darling, reminding me that no matter how many decades I’d busted my butt to get here, he’d always believe the company was an old boys club.

 

“Which son are you talking about?” I narrowed my eyes.

 

Monty smirked, “Not Santi.”

 

I averted my gaze this time. Monty rarely acknowledged his illegitimate child and I had no interest in pursuing the subject further.

 

“I’m not equipped for this Monty.”

 

“I believe you are, Ida. No one here knows me better than you.”

 

I frowned, and didn’t respond.

 

“Back when you were new ‘round here, maybe we got in each other’s way a few times, but you know how I respect you.”

 

I said nothing, staring him dead in the face, hoping he’d give me a reason not to walk out of his office.

 

He stood up and walked around to me, touching my face.

 

“Ida, darling, I’m asking you a favor.”

 

It had been years since Monty touched my face like that. We’d shared one kiss — one — at my first office party here. Then I found out he was married. With kids. And for weeks, I hadn’t spoken to him. After putting our differences aside, we’d become friends. Close, true friends.

 

But his hand on my face brought me back to all those years ago when I’d been young and foolish. He’d been a charming, older, executive and for a moment, a brief moment, I’d entertained the notion of what life could be like with a man like him. Even as his mistress, you’d be taken care of. A more careless woman would have plunged into an affair.

 

But I believed in love back then, and I still did, and I knew I wouldn’t find it in the bed of a married man. His touch reminded me of what I gave up for a Prince Charming who’d never arrived. 

 

I turned my cheek away from him, considering for a moment that no matter how angry I was with him, bitterness wouldn’t serve me.

 

“Monty,” I replied, “Tell me what you need me to do.”

 

He dropped his hand and smiled, the gentle flirtatiousness he’d used to get his way was exposed as a ploy, but neither of us minded. 

 

He beamed from ear to ear, towering over my seat looking proud of himself before he walked over to his window and cast his gaze over Manhattan.

 

“It’s Charles,” he muttered.

 

“Charles?”

 

Now that was a name I hadn’t heard in a while. I knew all about Monty’s sons. The eldest, Townsend Banks, worked as a freelance party animal and only left East Hampton once a month to come into the city and collect his check from his father. 

 

He was tall, roguish, with long brown hair and brilliant green eyes like his red-headed Scottish mother. Townsend, the lazy son, wouldn’t have been horrible to look after. He was too lazy to get into trouble and no job he’d had ever lasted anyways. I wondered what good his Cornell education had been.

 

Monty’s youngest son, Santiago, had been born from his dalliance with a Guatemalan maid, a beautiful woman who had been lambasted in the media for her affair with the big-name CEO. Monty took the boy in, easily using his multi-million dollar net worth to sway the courts into garnering full-custody.

 

Santiago, ever aware of his humble roots, wouldn’t have been a problem either. He was the only one of Monty’s sons who hadn’t been kicked out of Andover, and would have been a delight. Of course, Buffy would have never allowed him to work here. 

 

When you’re the one who’s been cheated on, you tend to have the final word in those matters.

 

When I realized Montgomery was talking about Charles, I froze. Was he trying to send me to an early grave?

 

He saw my silent worry and met it with a smile.

 

“He’s mellowed since Yale.”

 

“Oh that’s a relief,” I shot back, rolling my eyes.

 

“His time in London has done him good,” Monty continued.

 

Was he trying to convince me that his son was a good person, or was he trying to convince himself?

 

“I want you to keep an eye on him, Ida.”

 

I joined Monty at the window, my arms folded. The city buzzed beneath us as we stood tall and powerful over New York. At that moment, I didn’t feel powerful. Denied a raise, and then given an impossible task. Monty held all the cards and he knew it. There was no way I was going to quit, risk starting over the career I’d spent decades building.

 

He knew me too well and he knew how to play the corporate game instinctively, like any big success did.

 

“What do you mean keep an eye on him?”

 

“I want you to keep him out of trouble.”

 

“What do you think I can do that you can’t?”

 

Monty looked over at me and smirked.

 

“Get through to him.”

 

I snorted.

 

“You’re tough Ida. You’ve got balls. Charles will respect you.”

 

“Wishful thinking,” I muttered.

 

“What did you say?”

 

“Nothing, Monty.”

 

He nodded, “Good. So it’s settled.”

 

He thrust his hands into his pockets after running them through his silvery gray hair. His eyes reddened from the liquor and the tobacco smoke. He let out another cough and then patted his own chest.

 

“Make sure he keeps his nose clean. No public affairs. No drugs. No fights.”

 

“Sounds like a job for a nanny.”

 

“I’m serious, Ida.”

 

“With all due respect Monty, if he’s so much trouble, why is he working here? We’ve both got a lot on our plate and with the Shanghai deal coming up —”

 

“That’s exactly why we need him,” Monty interrupted, “The Shanghai deal.”

 

“Is something wrong?”

 

Monty shook his head, “No. There isn’t. But Charles managed to do something amazing in London. Working with Vanderbilt & Scott he closed every single $50 million deal with a 100% success rate.”

 

“Whoa.”

 

“He’s damn good at mergers.”

 

Damn good? He sounded better than good. We’d been struggling to close our international markets for upwards of two years. We’d used every top negotiator in the world, including those trained by the FBI and military negotiators who’d served in Iraq.

 

“Why hasn’t he come here earlier then?”

 

Monty cleared his throat and scowled.

 

“Personal problems.”

 

From his scowl, I knew he meant that we wouldn’t be discussing these personal problems and they were likely to do with Charles Banks frequent unfavorable media appearances and his run-ins with the law.

 

“This is a lot to ask, Monty.”

 

“I know.”

 

He patted me on the back.

 

“If we pull through, we’ll all be rich.”

 

I folded my arms and raised an eyebrow. Monty was already rich. He’d been born rich, just like his granddaddy and daddy before him. Not every thought needs to be said out loud so I just smiled and stared out over New York with him.

 

“Thanks, Ida.”

 

I left his office, returning to mine with a sense of confusion. I’d walked into Monty’s office intending to get a raise. I’d received no raise, the possibility of an extra bonus and even more work than I already had. I was swamped.

 

As I sat at my desk, Pippa knocked on my door. It should be easy for you to guess why Philippa Wiltshire worked at Banks & Wiltshire. After failing to find a job and spending half a fortune of her four Masters of Fine Arts, I’d been gifted an assistant.

 

Pippa helped, and she was a sweet girl, although not the brightest tool in the shed for one who had attended Barnard, NYU and Columbia.

 

“Sorry to disturb Miss Bell.”

 

“You aren’t disturbing anything, I just got back from my meeting with Monty.”

 

Pippa turned a bright red to match her shock of red hair when I mentioned Monty’s name. Her tortoise shell glasses fogged up and she took them off to clean them on her button down, pulling it out of the corduroy skirt to use the ends.

 

“What did he say?” She asked, squinting at me as she cleaned her glasses. 

 

“Work, work and more work. Now hurry on up with those glasses, ‘cause I’ve got work for you too.”

 

“Yes ma’am,” Pippa replied, hastily replacing her glasses, tangling some of her red hair in the process.

 

“Oh… Before you start,” she muttered, searching for her notebook in her pockets.

 

“It’s on the desk.”

 

She lunged forward and grabbed the notebook, flipping a few pages before she spoke.

 

“Ah yes. Uh… You have a date tonight with Chad Corbett and he called making sure you were still on.”

 

“Cancel it.”

 

“Cancel it?” Pippa asked.

 

Was my dating life that desolate that a cancelled date sent my assistant into a near panic?

 

“Yes Pippa, I meant what I said.”

 

She tucked her shirt back into the corduroy.

 

“Are you sure? He sounded nice on the phone.”

 

I glanced up from my computer at Pippa. Her naive twenty-eight year old mind couldn’t fathom why an unmarried woman over forty would cancel a date. A few more years on the New York dating scene and I was sure she’d start to understand…

 

“Working late tonight, Monty’s orders,” I replied, passing the blame onto work as I usually did.

 

“Yes ma’am.”

 

“Great. Now I need you to head down to HR and pull up everything you can on that new junior copywriter.” 

 

“Yes ma’am.”

 

“Then I want you to call the New Jersey branch and ask them to send over last month’s financial statements.”

 

“Yes ma’am.”

 

“I want some hazelnut coffee in here by 11 — almond milk, no sugar.”

 

“Yes ma’am.”

 

She stood staring blankly for a while. I toyed with remaining silent myself, just to see how long she’d stand there before getting started. I sighed and instead said patiently, “You can move along now Pippa, thank you.”

 

“Yes ma’am.”

 

Pippa the broken record stepped out of my office. I sighed. No more date with Chad, but at least I’d get my raise early. I opened the top drawer to my desk and reached for my emergency bar of chocolate. At my office, that was a necessity and far better for me than Monty’s emergency whiskey, or emergency cigar.

 

I unwrapped the chocolate when I heard a familiar voice calling outside my office.

 

“Is that chocolate?!”

 

Letty. You couldn’t crack open a soda, a chocolate bar, a sandwich, or anything without her ambling over and asking for a piece. The girl was hopeless. Sweet girl, but hopeless. She entered my office and we shared the chocolate together.

 

Letty was the only other black woman in my office and the only listening ear who could appreciate how much I struggled.

 

“How’d it go?”

 

“No can do,” I snorted.

 

“Are you serious?”

 

I nodded.

 

Letty shook her head.

 

“These white folks… Something’s gotta give.”

 

“I need to stand up for myself,” I replied, “And get out of here.”

 

“Amen to that.”

 

I wondered why I was the only executive in the office who seemed to be struggling to hold it all together. Despite outranking Letty in the corporate structure, she was the only one I could relate to about wanting more for my money.

 

New York ain’t cheap, and it ain’t getting any cheaper. I had to find a way out of this mess and a way to show Monty that I deserved more pay. I just had to. 

 

My phone buzzed.

 

“Whose that?”

 

“Chad,” I grumbled, glancing at my phone and ignoring it.

 

“Sexy Chad?”

 

I glared, “Just Chad.”

 

“What’s up with him?”

 

“Cancelled our date,” I grumbled.

 

Letty raised her eyebrows and cast a shady side-eye in my direction.

 

“Okay girl, you do you.”

 

Her message was clear: She thought I was just as crazy as Pippa did. 

 

Could a woman catch a break around here?

TO BE CONTINUED...

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Romance Novel Excerpts: Wild Winter Lust by Jamila Jasper

bwwm romance novel new release kimonoWild Winter Lust is available now at a discounted price!

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Description: 

I never expected my Swiss Holiday to end up like this…

In his arms…

In his bed…

A killer on the loose, and a suspect in my bed will make this holiday more interesting than I bargained for.

I trust him.

I love him.

It can’t be him… can it?

Dream’s Swiss holiday takes a turn for the worse when her new lover Axel is accused of a murder she knows he didn’t commit. 

Take a peek inside this ultra-steamy BWWM romance for the intriguing, page turning, panty-dropping romantic suspense you’ll need to stay warm this winter.

Excerpt | Wild Winter Lust:

VOSS SKI RESORT:

“The avalanche means we will be here another two weeks,” Camille sneered, “This will be at no additional cost to you Meess Weelleeyums.”

 

“Except the cost of my time,” I snapped.

 

The Swiss indifference conflicted with my American sensibilities about punctuality and efficiency.

 

A man peered out from the back office. 

 

“Problem Camille?”

 

“No Axel,” she huffed. 

 

“Will I at least get to eat for free or do I have to buy two more weeks of these overpriced prison meals?”

 

“Non mamzelle, you eat for free,” Camille muttered.

 

She glanced up from the register with cold, swampy green eyes. She tucked a few strands of blond hair out of her face. Tiny pink lips pouted in my direction.

 

“Would that be all ma’am?” Axel asked in her stead. Camille’s eyes cut daggers and neither of us wanted to talk to the other for much longer. The prospect of another two weeks in Switzerland sent worry shooting through my chest.

 

“There’s an awful noise in my radiator, can I get that fixed?”

 

Axel rounded the counter, “I can come and help you now, mademoiselle.”

 

He stretched out the French word long and slow, then he smiled at me. My face still scrunched in rage, I could only muster a grimace.

 

“Show me to your room. Camille will get you sorted.”

 

Axel’s commitment to appease me caused me to look upon him with greater favor than Camille. I hated her brusque attitude and constant pout. I sound harsh, bear with me. I’d seen the way she looked at me, one of two black guests at the resort. She didn’t think I belonged. The other guests hadn’t had to go through half the trouble I did after the storm passed. I’d had to revisit the front desk three times to stop the excess charges. I’d started to think she inconvenienced me on purpose… 

 

Her co-worker, the ski instructor Axel Olson, was far more agreeable. After two tumbles with him down the bunny slopes, I’d decided skiing wasn’t for me. I needed to stick to what I was good at — writing. Axel didn’t agree with me and each day he pestered me about taking another ski lesson with him. If the lessons he gave had less to do with skiing, I would have accepted his offer gladly.

 

“Third floor?” he asked as we stepped into the elevator.

 

“Oui,” I replied. 

 

I hadn’t learned much French besides the basics. German and Italian lay beyond my scope too. A few phrases were all I could muster to converse with Axel in his native tongue.

 

He pushed the button and the doors shut. Being alone in an elevator with Axel made my palms sweaty. He was far too good looking to be tucked away in the Swiss Alps. In my younger, more reckless days, I would have spent every minute flirting with him. Now I admired from afar — an appropriate distance.

 

“You speak English well,” I complimented him as the elevator pulled to a stop.

 

“Around here, we get a lot of Americans and English.”

 

He pronounced the words Ameri-canes and Een-gleesh. My stomach flipped as I heard his husky voice enunciate the vowels with that gorgeous Swiss French accent.

 

“I’m the last room on the left,” I muttered.

 

He followed me down the hallway, then he muttered something to himself in French.

 

“Huh?”

 

“I’ve been meaning to talk to you,” Axel spoke.

 

“Uh…okay.”

 

I slipped my card key into the lock and pushed my door open. Axel brushed past me as he entered. As he brushed past me, a strange tingling erupted in my chest. The scent of his cologne, the culprit for my emotional spike, was a fresh pine and dry cedar scent with leather base notes. The wintery outdoors mixed with his cologne to create… heaven. 

 

“Mmm,” I blurted out unwillingly.

 

I slapped my hand over my mouth the moment the sound came out.

 

“What was that?” Axel asked, grinning at me from ear to ear.

 

I scowled and didn’t respond, rushing over to the radiator on the back wall of my room against the window.

 

“It makes this awful banging sound all the —“

 

On cue, the radiator began its clattering noise. BONGBANGBINGBINGBONGBONG.

 

“Ah, this is easy to fix,” Axel assured me.

 

I nodded, “Great. Then fix it.”

 

I fluttered away from him, keeping my eyes on him as he got to his knees and pulled a couple tools out of his belt.

 

“This room has this problem a lot,” he told me.

 

“Oh?” I feigned aloofness.

 

“Can you help me grasp this pipe?”

 

Our eyes met as he asked me. Color rushed to my tawny cheeks.

 

“Uh… what?”

 

“Right here,” Axel gestured to the pipe he held in place with one hand, while wrenching with the other hand.

 

“Sure.” 

 

I crouched next to him, so close I could smell all the notes in his cologne. The pine sap smell was from his hands. As I grazed his hands to hold the pipe, a few sticky bits of sap pressed into my fingers. I gripped the pipe and he continued to screw it shut.

 

“Are you enjoying Switzerland?”

 

“I was only supposed to be here a week.”

 

“So no?”

 

I shrugged, “I’ve got trouble back home, that’s all I can say.”

 

“What kind of trouble?” 

 

He let go of the pipe and stood up.

 

“Are you finished?”

 

“Yes.”

 

He folded his arms, still staring at me.

 

“What kind of trouble?”

 

“What’s it to you?” I narrowed my eyes, wondering why he cared.

 

Axel shrugged, “I am curious. America is another world. I imagine you have city girl troubles — troubles that are lightyears away from me.”

 

I smiled — I couldn’t help it. His arctic eyes gleamed as he fantasized about life across the Atlantic.

 

“Book trouble, that’s what I’ve got.”

 

“Hm?”

 

“I’m here ‘cause I’m a writer. My second book didn’t get picked up by my publisher and I need to figure out how to fix it.”

 

“So you’re a real writer?”

 

“Mhmm.”

 

I glanced at my door, not wanting to converse too closely with a hotel employee in my room. It seemed gauche. I walked towards the door and opened it. Axel held the door and ushered me out of the room.

 

“I want to hear more about this writing.”

 

“Why?” 

 

“Because… you’re interesting.”

 

He stared at me as he said interesting. I saw a flash of desire in his eyes (or perhaps imagined it). He brushed his chestnut brown hair out of his face.

 

“Tonight, come down to the lobby. You will tell me about it.”

 

I shrugged, “There’s nothing else to do here.”

 

“Ciao.” 

 

He took my hand and kissed it. As he released my hand, I wondered if he was flirting, or if this was European politeness. 

 

He turned and walked down the hall towards the elevator. I didn’t follow him, but I watched as he walked away. Axel’s tall body was formidable and bulky from his hours on the slope. I’d never noticed how much of a giant he was until he disappeared down the resort’s hallway, ducking to avoid the light fixtures as he approached the elevator.

 

I re-entered my room and sank into the chair at my desk, appreciating the silence — welcome relief from the cacophonous radiator.

 

I shot off an email to my editor. Paul recommended I go on this pricey retreat in the first place. I wondered how he’d react when he found out I’d be forced to stay here another two weeks. The storm served as both a pain in my ass and a blessing in disguise.

 

After I sent out the email, I sniffed and took in the lingering scent of pine from Axel standing in my room. Mm. Now that was a good smell — much better than the Axe body sprays my exes used to douse themselves in. 

 

I shook the thoughts of Axel’s alluring Swiss frame out of my mind. My stomach grumbled and I left my room in search of a meal. I pushed my door open, sliding the keycard into my pants pocket and securing my denim jacket around my curvaceous frame. The jacket, snug at first, had loosened since the storm.

 

As I neared the staircase, I saw one of the other guest. A small bunch of us had been stranded together and I felt it best to make myself familiar with the names and faces. It was too cold outside for me not to be warm. Her face pouted miserably and tears stained her cheeks. Her blonde hair whipped around her shoulders like a ferocious mane.

 

“Good afternoon!” I greeted her with a cheerful smile.

 

Bunny Wharton sniffed and glared at me, curling her upper lip in disgust.

 

“Yes,” she replied, “I suppose it was.”

 

She stormed past me, leaving the distinct scent of her Chanel No. 5 perfume in her wake. I turned to watch as she stormed past.

 

What a rude person. I thought to myself.

 

She continued clomping down the hall as I made my way to the stairs. Since I was trapped for two more weeks in this wintery castle, I figured I should keep my heart rate up and exercise. Lord knows my trainer back on the mainland would be happy that I did something while I was away.

 

I  pushed open the door to the stairs and started to walk down the flights of stairs. The distance between each floor was immense. I didn’t get one floor down when I ran into Charlene Frost — the only other black woman at the resort.

 

“Hey Charlene,” I greeted her.

 

Charlene smiled and widened her eyes, looking nervously from left to right before replying.

 

“H-h-hi,” she said.

 

“You alright?”

 

She swallowed and nodded.

 

“Mm, yes. Quite creepy isn’t it? The whole avalanche… being trapped… I won’t get in these elevators either. Nuh-uh not me. My aunty from Queens got into one of those and she was stuck between floors for two days. Can you believe it? Two days. No one thought to look for her. I take the stairs whenever I can.”

 

“Uh… Okay.”

 

“How are you? Did they sort out your room?”

 

“Yes, finally. That front desk chick has a bit of an attitude.”

 

Charlene glanced over her shoulder, then returned her fickle attention back to me.

 

“Uh huh. She don’t like black folks much. I can tell. Something ‘bout the look in her eye. Reminds me of this black woman my cousin told me about down in Georgia. She had a white maid from Slovenia — one of those countries. The woman got so jealous that she killed her.” 

 

Charlene let out a loud and awkward laugh. Haw-hee-ha-ha! 

 

“Can you believe it?” she finished, “Racism can push people so far.”

 

“I guess so.”

 

“See you around, Dream.”

 

“See you Charlene. Take care.”

 

“You too. This place is spooky.”

 

She stepped up past me and then pattered off down the hall to her room. I worried for that woman. Charlene, despite her dark eyes and her beautiful, cocoa colored skin struck me as an unwell woman. It wasn’t just the sallow deep bags under her eyes, but the way conversing with her reminded me of being on a merry-go-round.

 

I continued my descent. One floor above the lobby, I heard hushed voices. I slowed my movements so that my feet barely made a sound. 

 

“If I don’t have this abortion, it’s over!” The voice hissed.

 

“Can you calm down?”

 

“No, I cannot calm down! Pregnancy was never part of the agreement.”

 

I stopped. This I had to hear. Call me nosy, but I’m a writer. The resort had no new entertainment since the blizzard and being stir-crazy meant I’d do anything for something new and different. The search for my next story turned me into an amateur sleuth, like the leading lady, Annette, in my novel.

 

The voices hushed.

 

“You’re crazy!” The woman huffed again.

 

 

She shouted, “Stay away from me. Stay away from me or I swear you’ll regret it!” 

 

Footsteps away. Then I heard heels coming in my direction. I had no time to hightail it back the way I came. I proceeded down the stairs, trying to keep my expression aloof. Four steps down and I ran into the female voice.

 

“What the hell are you doing here,” Nari Long sneered at me.

 

The woman’s appearance was stunning, in stark contrast to her attitude, which was worse than Bunny’s.

 

“Headed downstairs,” I replied, “Is that okay with you?”

 

She sneered.

 

“Were you listening in on a private conversation?” 

 

Her black eyes were shiny buttons in her deep sockets. Her cheeks flushed scarlet.

 

My face blanked.

 

“What conversation?”

 

“Good,” she hissed, “If you’re lying to me, and you did hear any of it, remember that I’m not the kind of woman you want to mess with.”

 

Her raven-black hair cut into a blunt bob framed her face and highlighted the sharp angles of the Korean woman’s cheekbones. Her deep tanned skin glowed in the dim light of the staircase.

 

“I told you,” I replied coldly, “I didn’t hear anything.”

 

“Good. Then we have no trouble here. I can’t believe they let just anyone stay at a place like this,” she sniffed, before storming up the stairs past me.

 

The true colors of the guests started to emerge since the storm. I knew some of them tossed snide glances my way, not appreciating that “their” luxury resort was occupied by someone they didn’t think belonged there. I kept the success of my first novel a secret from all who I spoke too and no one connected the dots between me and Dream Williams, the successful author.

 

Good. I liked when people kept their dirty, rotten personalities right near the surface where I could see it. When hatred lies covert, that’s when you really get hurt. Bigotry on the surface had always been a part of my life. I couldn’t let it bother me — not while I was supposed to be coming up with the next award-winning idea.

 

After Nari stormed off, I hurried down the stairs to the lobby. There was no sign of who she might have been talking to — I assumed it was her husband. The couple appeared mismatched from the first time I saw them. Mortimer Long was around thirty years older than her with a raspy, shaky voice. It was clear their arrangement was financial. Poor Mortimer hadn’t wised up to that fact. Charlene had mentioned speaking to the man and how desperately in love he was with the cold woman I’d just spoken to.

 

I couldn’t imagine why.

 

In the dining room, I ordered a veggie burger with a healthy serving of French fries. I knew my trainer would kill me if he could see this. But I was in Switzerland. On vacation. I couldn’t deny myself every bit of pleasure now, could I?

 

I ate alone this time. Across the dining room, Axel sat in an engaging conversation (in French) with the two married detectives who were guests on the second floor. I couldn’t help glancing over at him. Axel’s French, although incomprehensible to me, sounded so… spectacular. After Switzerland, I’d be eager to learn the language — if I made it out of here alive.

 

Satiated, I returned to my room for an evening writing session. I sat at my computer like a prince about to slay a dragon. A mystery novelist must meet certain expectations that her readers have. My first book had done that spectacularly. The publisher hated my second book. They wanted a series. I wanted to leave my main character, Annette, right where she was.

 

I toyed with ideas for finishing up the series for an hour. Nothing stuck out to me. My riveting African American female detective was just as stuck as I was — balanced precariously in the world of fiction. I closed my laptop. As if on cue, as the laptop shut I heard a blood curdling scream.

 

“AIEEEEEEEEEEEEE.”

 

My heart stopped.

 

“AIEEEEEEEE!”

 

The scream reminded me of a pig sent to slaughter. I leapt out of my chair and rushed to the door, sticking my head into the hallway to discover the source of the screams.

 

“YOU ASSHOLE!”

 

THUMP.THUMP.THUMP.THUMP.THUMP.

 

No stuck pigs or damsels in distress. Teenagers. An American doctor, Vanessa Sullivan, brought her twin boys Jay and Kyle to the resort. As the youngest guests, they were often the most annoying. Two more weeks of their antics could push me to the bank of insanity.

 

Seeing my head peering into the hallway, they slowed their gallop to a trot.

 

“Hi Miss Williams,” they muttered politely.

 

“Good night. Quiet evening?” I asked.

 

Kyle brushed his brown hair out of his face, “Uh… Yeah. This place sucks now.”

 

“Yeah it’s lame,” Jay grumbled, brushing his wheat colored hair from his face.

 

“Right,” I replied, “Mind keeping it down a bit? I kind of like boring.”

 

“Yes Miss Williams, sorry,” they grumbled in unison.

 

“No worries,” I continued, “You boys are reminding me I need to get some air. But don’t let your mama hear you.”

 

I walked out of my room and past the boys whose heads lowered sheepishly. Their mother Vanessa was friendly enough, but she ruled her sons with an iron fist. They took any minute away from her to rebel — loudly. 

 

I left my room to head downstairs. The dining room lay in silence. A fire crackled and the dark wood enveloped the room in a comforting mahogany scent. I’d been hoping for a night owl to spend some time with. I sat alone, pulling my notebook out of my denim jacket in an attempt to brainstorm my way out of writer’s block. Dream became lost in a daydream. 

 

A voice whispered into my ear, “Can’t sleep?”, yanking me from my day dream.

 

I whipped my head around, ready to yell at whoever had disturbed my peace. Then I saw Axel.

 

I sighed.

 

“You scared me.”

 

“Sorry,” he replied.

 

“Not with that grin on your face you’re not.”

 

“Accompany me outside?”

 

“Outside? It’s cold.

 

“Take my parka.”

 

He took his parka off and stood before me in a grey henley shirt that hugged all his muscles. (Muscles that I hadn’t realized existed).

 

“Okay, sure,” I replied, desperate to get a break from my failed brainstorming.

 

“Perfect. We can go to the balcony off the lobby.”

 

“Sure.”

 

I slipped into his parka. I gasped as the coat hugged my curves. I did a poor job of avoiding time alone with Axel. As long as I didn’t act on my urges, my attraction to him couldn’t hurt.

 

“It’s warm.

 

“Best parkas for the slopes.”

 

I agreed and followed him outside. He pushed the door, letting me slide past him. I caught a whiff of his pine and leathery scent again. Mm.

 

We stood on the balcony. I shoved my hands into the pockets of his coat and looked out at the Alps. Switzerland had given me mixed feelings, but I had to admit, the beauty was unlike anything I’d experienced in the United States. The crisp air was manageable. 

 

The mountains stood potent and erect, surrounding the resort with protective strength. In the distant village at the base of the mountain, warm orange lights flickered. Cold wind whipped around us, forcing me to sink into the fluffy parka. Axel stood stoic and unbothered by the cold. This was his element. 

 

I turned to Axel and asked him, “What do you want to know about me?”

 

“Everything.”

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