BOOK #2 IN THE MELBOURNE AFTER DARK SERIES
For one night only, Imogen Hargrove is a sexy spy. She’s donned a mask for the Carmina Masquerade Ball, where she hopes to catch her sister’s cheating fiancé, Daniel, in the act. But she’s the one who gets rumbled when she strays too close to her target—only to realize she’s been tailing the wrong man. A searing kiss makes her forget her mission altogether, and the mysterious stranger awakens something inside her: a burning passion she hasn’t felt since the brutal breakup of her last relationship.
Imogen is mortified to discover that the man behind the mask is her colleague, notorious womanizer Caleb Allbrook. He’s the last person she wants to get close to, and she doesn’t need another playboy in her life. But that kiss has her curious—besides, Caleb knows her sister’s fiancé and could prove very useful in digging up dirt.
She makes a deal: she’ll go on a date with Caleb in exchange for information on Daniel’s affair. But Caleb’s irresistible charm turns a casual conversation into a night of sultry seduction. Imogen knows Caleb is bad news—yet he makes her feel sexier than any man ever has. Can she pull herself away from yet another toxic relationship, or will Caleb prove there’s more to him than just sex appeal?
CAN THIS BE READ AS A STANDALONE?
Yes! Both books (and the companion short story) in this series take place at the same time, so they can be read in any order.
Is this book available in languages other than english?
Italian (coming soon)
IS THIS BOOK AVAILABLE IN AUDIO?
Not at this stage.
Excerpt from HARD DEAL
As far as Imogen Hargrove was concerned, this week could take a long walk off a short pier. Or go into space and take its helmet off. If she was a potty-mouthed kind of woman, she might’ve had a few more words to employ in explaining exactly how much she’d hated this week.
But alas, she could taste the soap in her mouth before any four-letter words had the chance to form.
“Breathe,” she said to herself as she tidied her desk. “The day is almost over.”
Most days she loved her job. Being an executive assistant to the CEO of the most respected architecture and construction firm in Australia had its perks. Like getting to work with a host of amazingly talented, smart and passionate people. Not to mention the little blue box that appeared on her employment anniversary every year.
But today had been the cherry on top of a giant pain-in-the-butt sundae. Not only had she managed to spill her morning cappuccino all over herself, but then she’d missed the start of the management meeting because she’d been frantically trying to get the stain out. Which wouldn’t have been so bad, except that her arch-nemesis had swooped in and made her look disorganised by handing out the wrong agenda. Imogen was positive he’d done it on purpose. Then—like a sign from the gods that she really should have stayed in bed—her boss had demanded she shuffle his entire afternoon five minutes before he was due to present at the finance team’s quarterly town hall.
Thank God Jason had been able to step in. Imogen bit back a smile as she thought of the CEO’s son. Apart from being a total hottie, he was being groomed to take over the company. Good looking and ambitious, traits that went together like peanut butter and chocolate as far as she was concerned. Chances were she’d be working for him. Intimately. All the long hours and late nights trapped together in the office sounded like a scene straight out of one of those raunchy books her friend Lainey loved to read.
You could do with something a little raunchy in your life. You’re one bad date away from becoming a born-again virgin.
Ugh. How was it her fault the dates she’d been on recently had less snap, crackle and pop than her morning bowl of Rice Bubbles? She’d tried to be funny and interesting and cute enough for a guy to take her to bed…but either she was picking the wrong guys, or she had no idea how to be any of those things.
She brushed her hands down the grey pencil skirt that covered her knees and matched the pearls around her neck. Her friends teased her for her “limited colour palette” but Imogen knew what worked for her. Monochrome made her mornings easier. Besides, it was important to look professional. She had a feeling Jason would appreciate that about her.
“What’s got you looking so dreamy, Imogen? Wait, don’t tell me.” Caleb Allbrook sauntered into her office with a swagger that made Imogen’s thighs automatically press together. “Daydreaming about me again?”
Then there was the CEO’s other son. The one who managed to get her feminine hormones singing like an opera of canaries at full volume even though he was bad news in every sense of the word.
The guy was trouble enough for an entire Taylor Swift album.
“I can barely restrain myself,” she said drily, not even attempting to keep the disdain out of her voice. “You should leave before I throw myself at your feet. It would be best for us both.”
Caleb raised a brow. He was as handsome as his brother, without a doubt. But whereas Jason was all serious, moody glances and smooth, in-command tones, Caleb was his polar-opposite. The younger Allbrook brother was always quick with a snappy comeback, and he didn’t take anything or anyone seriously. The guy oozed so much sex appeal he should be listed as a controlled substance. He was cocky as all get-out and most women in the office swooned whenever he walked past, which only inflated his giant ego further.
“Who am I to turn down a woman in need? Should I close the door or do you want an audience?” He wrapped a hand around the doorknob and waited for her response.
It was times like this that Imogen wondered if she should start swearing, because it seemed like the perfect time to use the F-word. Preferably with either a “you” or “off” following it. “What do you want, Caleb?”
His full lips curved into a wicked grin and Imogen had to tamp down the excitement zipping through her. Dammit, when was her body going to get the memo on this one?
Caleb Allbrook is not your type. It doesn’t matter if you never have another date in your life, he’s not for you.
“A moment of your precious time, Ms. Hargrove.” He walked over to her desk and planted both palms on the smooth, wooden surface.
“Single and loving it, huh? Good for you.”
She oscillated between wanting to run her fingers through his thick, wavy hair and needing to slap him across the face with her binder. As usual. The guy was her kryptonite. In every other scenario, Imogen prided herself on her poise and level-headedness. On her ability to be the cool cucumber in a room full of ticking bombs. But around Caleb Allbrook, her brain cells packed their bags and flew on a one-way ticket to Fiji.
“Can we get to the part where you tell me what you need so I can do it and go home?” she said, huffing.
“It’s dangerous to agree before knowing what I’m going to ask.” He chuckled. “Okay, fine. Enough with the death stare. I need you to help me find the marketing materials from the fifty-year anniversary campaign.”
“Shouldn’t someone from your team be able to assist you with that?” She raised a brow. “I assume at least one of the people you hired will have the requisite technical skills to navigate our shared folder system.”
“Now, now. There’s no need to be snippy, Miss Hargrove.” He smirked. “And I need the originals, not the files.”
She groaned internally. That meant a trip to the archive room in the building’s basement. The CEO was paranoid about people having access to it. Something to do with a fire-related accident before her time that resulted in a ton of tax paperwork being lost. Never mind the fact that smoking was now prohibited in offices and that they had sprinklers and fire alarms in every section of the building. Oh, and technological advancements meant they had electronic copies of everything. Regardless, there were only three keys to the archive room in the whole company. The CEO’s, Jason’s and hers.
Caleb hadn’t made the cut.
“Does it have to be done now?” she asked, glancing at her inbox. Imogen had a rule about Friday afternoons: never leave the office with outstanding tasks on the to-do list. But today she was itching to get out of there.
An image flickered in her mind—a mask hanging from her bedroom door. The white feathers, crystals and shimmering lengths of rose-gold chain were all waiting to adorn her.
“It’ll take five minutes,” he said, motioning for her to follow him. “If it gives you any more motivation, it’s for Jason. I believe you convinced him to present to the bean counters, so he couldn’t make the request himself.”
She sighed and pushed up from her chair. “Fine, but make it quick. I’ve got somewhere to be.”
Hardly. After her last few dates had ended with a “you seem like a nice person but there’s no spark” conversation, she’d started to wonder if it was worth the bother. There was only so much rejection a woman could take before getting paranoid that she had some third head only other people could see. Just once she’d like a guy to get all hot and bothered over her. Just once she’d like to be the object of someone’s desire. Was that too much to ask?
No, tonight was definitely not a date. But she wasn’t about to tell Caleb about the sorry state of her love life. Undoubtedly, he’d laugh in her face. Because as much as he joked and teased and flirted, he’d never once asked her out. Never once made an actual move.
Why do you care? It’s not like you want him to ask.
Sure. But Imogen was sick of being ignored. Unfortunately, that seemed to be her lot in life. In any case, she’d put aside worries over her own lack of love life to focus on someone else’s love life. Her sister, Penny, was getting married in ten short weeks to Daniel the Duke of Douchetown.
It was bad enough that her future brother-in-law’s stuffy old-money family had given Penny hell when they’d first gotten engaged. She’d ended up at Imogen’s place in tears on more than one occasion after they’d made her feel unworthy. But now Imogen had a sneaking suspicion that her fiancé was cheating. She’d spotted him flirting with a blonde woman at a bar when he’d lied to Penny and told her he was in Sydney for work.
So, she’d hatched a plan to catch him in the act. In disguise, of course.