Cosmo has teamed up with Harlequin to bring you this red-hot read from erotic fiction author Helenkay Dimon. In this exclusive extract from Dimon’s novel Everything You Need to Know, lead character Jordan McAdam feels cagey as she attempts to know Forest Redder better over an intimate dinner. While he struggles to penetrate her steely mood, Jordan finds it impossible to fend off the desire that’s growing – without her permission – as the night goes on. Especially when they begin reminiscing over their recent late night in the office where things got a little more than steamy.
“I’m thinking a guy like you can have his pick of any woman.” The amusement in her husky voice faded. A thread of anger weaved its way in. Normally he’d skip over the comment, but something about her tone had him stopping and investigating.
“What kind of guy am I?”
She studied her menu. As he watched her, Forest heard an occasional laugh rise above the crowd noise and the clink of silverware as the people two tables down dug into their steaks.
“Well?” That’s all he said. He knew she ignored the question on purpose. No way was he letting this one slide.
Jordan lowered the menu and stared at him over the top. She didn’t pretend confusion. “Rich, powerful. Born wealthy and used to getting what he wants.”
All of it fit in a way, but didn’t in most others. “Sounds as if you’ve been checking up on me.”
Her head tilted to the side, sending her hair slipping over her shoulder. “Would that offend you?”
“Oh, come on.” She balanced her elbows on the edge of the table and leaned in.
“Are you referring to checking me out on that website, Need to Know?”
Her smile faded as her expression went blank. “Maybe.”
“Look, I can understand a woman wanting to know about the man she plans to invite into her bed. Women do need to be careful. I just think a website can’t replace getting to know someone in person.”
“Agreed. I poked around and got the vitals, like school and family and dating history.”
He doubted she knew one sentence more than his PR department put out there. “Did your investigating tell you I’m the black sheep of the family?”
Those sexy eyes narrowed. “You’re a successful businessman. Unless you killed someone, I have a hard time seeing why you’d be considered a disappointment
to your parents.”
He’d been disloyal, which was much worse in his father’s eyes. “You’d be surprised.”
Jordan smiled as she took a sip of water. “What, you were a bad boy, so you can’t attend the annual family yacht race or something?”
The way she said it pushed him to prove her assumptions wrong. “Being born into a family with money doesn’t solve everything.”
Her hand froze in the middle of putting her glass down. When it finally hit the table it smacked against the wood with a sharp crack. “You never went hungry and always knew you’d have a bed to sleep in that night.”
Looked like he wasn’t the only one with a messed-up personal history. He’d refrained from picking her life apart, thinking old-fashioned dating and getting to know each other might be an interesting twist, but now he regretted the decision. “Are you saying—”
She waved him off. “Just offering a response to your general comment.”
Wen and a few others knew, but Forest rarely shared the details of his life with anyone, certainly not with a woman he just met and was trying to impress. But for some reason he craved honesty with her, so he supplied the barest of information.
“It’s a well-kept family secret, something no one in the Redder family talks about at parties, but I assure you my younger brother is the heir. Except for some communication with my baby sister, I don’t have any contact with my parents or anyone else in the family. They no longer consider me their son.”
Noise rattled around them, but a quiet settled around the table. Jordan moved as if stuck in slow motion. “Are you playing me?”
After a few beats of silence, she reached across the table and covered Forest’s hand with hers. “In that case, I’m sorry.”
He hated the sympathy he saw in her eyes, but the warmth of her skin mixed with his and he couldn’t pull away. “I’ve learned to accept it.”
“Maybe one day you can tell me how to do that.”
“Accept a rough family dynamic and not let it define you.”
The longing in her voice got to him. “If you need me to, I will.”
“You always seem to say the right thing.” She sat back in her chair, putting as much distance between them as possible in the small space. “I’m wondering if that’s practised or real.”
“What does the website say?” When her eyes widened, he continued. “I’m assuming you’re a member, since I’ve heard you use the tagline more than once and, well, from the article I read today about it, it sounds as if every single woman in town is on it.”
“Hardly, but yes. I’m a member.” Her hands slipped from her lap to the arms of the chair and back again. “And no.”
He was so busy watching her fidget, he missed whatever she said. “Excuse me?”
“You’re not on it… yet.”
The playful teasing came zipping back into her voice. He welcomed the break to the tension snapping at him. “Will I be after tonight?”
She shrugged. “We’ll see.”
“Then let’s come to an agreement.” Since he had no intention of making a general announcement to the crowded restaurant, he leaned in. His finger traced the outline of her silverware against the stark white tablecloth. “After dinner I will drive you home, not because I think paying for dinner gives me rights with you, but because I’m not a dick and want to make sure you get back to your place without incident. I’m still kicking my arse for not insisting I see you home after our office run-in.”
“I thought you’d prefer that to me mentioning how close we came to having sex in front of the cleaning crew.”
This time she wrapped her long fingers around the armrests. “Very sweet. OK.”
He ignored the “sweet” part because he feared that led them down the wrong path. One that didn’t finish in a bed. “And anything that happens after I drive up is your call. A kiss, me coming up with you — whatever — you have all the control. I’ve made my play and my intentions can’t be a mystery.”
“You want me to be the aggressor.”
“Oh, I’m happy to take the lead.” If she sent him the right look, he’d be all over her. “You’ll just need to tell me I can.”
“I only agreed to dinner.”
But she understood. He saw it in every muscle and the glint in her eye. She got his message. She was in charge.
He nodded. “Then let’s order.”
Jordan had no idea how she forced more than two bites down during dinner. Even as they chatted about safe topics, a part of her mind wandered to what would come later. It sucked for him, really, because he gave her his full attention. He didn’t stare at other women. Didn’t say or do anything inappropriate. He’d kept his word and at the end of the evening pulled up to the lobby of her building to drop her off… until she invited him up.
Not that the decision hit her in the car. No, she’d excused herself more than a half hour ago and texted Elle to go over and hide all website evidence in the condo. “Let me do that.” Forest reached around her and took the keys from Jordan’s shaking fingers.
She didn’t realise a small tremor ran through her until the jangling of metal echoing in the hallway stopped and her front door opened. “Sure.”
Despite her desire to remain calm and in control, she almost bolted inside. The goal was to get to the bedroom and hide the eleven outfits she’d tried on before this dress. Right now they lay scattered all over the floor and draped over the exercise bike she used as a very expensive hanger.
He held the door for her to go in first. She walked down the short hallway past the kitchen on one side and den on the other and into the open family room. The place looked clean. Certainly picked up. That had to be Elle’s doing, because Jordan had long ago given up the battle with clutter. Working from home made stacks of papers inevitable. Not that you could tell at this moment.
Jordan peeked into the bedroom to her left and saw a stack of pillows and a clear comforter. No discarded underwear. If Elle hadn’t been her best friend before, she’d have won the title tonight.
Forest’s hands fell over her shoulders as he whispered against her hair. “I like your condo.”
“Me, too.” Her breath stuttered in her chest. A few more minutes of that and she’d start wheezing. Not exactly the perfect set-up for sexy times.
His mouth found her neck. Hot breath skipped over her skin right before his lips went to work. The gentle suction had her knees buckling and her head falling back against his shoulder. The way her body melted into his should have embarrassed her. After all, she’d made some sort of vow… not that she could remember a line of it right now.
“Tell me what you want.” His voice vibrated against her skin.
To buy a copy of Everything You Need to Know head to harlequinbooks.com.au/cosmo.