Anything but Vanilla - By Liz Fielding Page 0,1

too late for modesty and on the point of demanding who the hell the man leaning against the prep-room door thought he was, she decided against it.

Silence was, according to some old Greek, a woman’s best garment and, while it was not a notion she would generally subscribe to, hot blue eyes above a grin so wide that it would struggle to make it through the door were evidence enough that he’d been filling his boots with the view.

Whoever he was, she wasn’t about to make his day by going all girly about it.

‘Out of luck? What do mean, out of luck?’ she demanded. ‘Where’s Ria?’ Brisk and businesslike were her first line of defence in the face of a sexy male who thought all he had to do was smile and she’d be putty in his hands.

So wrong—although the hand propping him up against the door frame had a workmanlike appearance: strong, broad and with deliciously long fingers that looked as if they’d know exactly what to do with putty...

She shivered a little and the grin twitched at the corner of his mouth, suggesting that he knew exactly what she was thinking.

Wrong again.

She was just cold. Really. She hadn’t stopped to put on the cute, boxy little jacket that completed her ensemble. This wasn’t a business meeting, but a quick in-and-out pick-up of stock.

While the jacket wouldn’t have done anything for her legs, it would have covered her shoulders and kept her warm. And when she was wearing a suit, no matter how short the skirt, she felt in control. Important when you were young and female and battling to be taken seriously in a world that was, mostly, dominated by men.

In suits.

But she didn’t have to impress Ria and hadn’t anticipated the freezer diving. Or the audience.

The man lounging against the door frame clearly didn’t feel the need for armour of any kind, beyond the heavy stubble on his chin and thick brown hair that brushed his shoulders and flopped untidily around his face.

No suit for him. No jacket. Just a washed-out T-shirt stretched across wide shoulders, and a pair of shabby jeans moulded over powerful thighs. The sun streaks that brightened his hair—and the kind of skin-deep tan that you didn’t get from two weeks on a beach—only confirmed the impression that he didn’t believe in wasting his time slaving over a hot desk, although the suggestion of bags under his eyes did suggest a heavy night-life.

‘Ria’s not here.’ His voice, low and gravelly, lazy as his stance, vibrated softly against her breastbone, as if he’d reached out and grazed his knuckles slowly along its length. It stole her breath, circling softly before settling low in her belly and draining the strength from her legs. ‘I’m taking care of things.’

She fumbled for the edge of the freezer, grasping it for support. ‘Oh? And you are?’ she asked, going for her ‘woman in command of her environment’ voice and falling miserably short. Fortunately, he didn’t know that. As far as he knew, she always talked in that weirdly breathy way.

‘Alexander West.’

She blinked. ‘You’re the postcard man?’

‘The what?’ It was his turn to look confused, although, since he was already leaning against the door, he didn’t need propping up.

‘The postcard man,’ she repeated, desperately wishing she’d kept her mouth shut, but the nickname had been startled out of her. For one thing he was younger than she’d expected. Really. Quite a lot younger. Ria wore her age well, but wasn’t coy about it, describing her fortieth birthday as a moment of ‘corset-loosening’ liberation. Not that she’d ever needed a corset, or would have worn one if she had. ‘That’s what Nancy calls you,’ she explained, in an attempt to distance herself from her surprised reaction. ‘Ria’s assistant? You send her postcards.’

‘I send postcards to Nancy?’ he asked, the teasing gleam in his eyes suggesting that he was perfectly aware of her discomfort and the reason for it.

‘To Ria. Very occasionally,’ she added. Having regained a modicum of control over her vocal cords, if nothing else, she wanted him to know that she wasn’t impressed by him or his teasing.

It wasn’t the frequency of their arrival that made the postcards memorable, but their effect. She’d once found Ria clutching one to her breast, tears running down her cheeks. She’d waved away her concern, claiming that it was hay fever. In November.

Only a lover, or a child, could evoke that kind of response. Alexander West was a lot younger than she’d