With barely weeks to go until Publication Day for French Blue, here’s a sneaky peek at French Blue. Enjoy Book #2 in the Study in Seduction Series!
Copyright © 2014 Natasha Bond
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Lisa hung on the fringes of their conversation, suddenly unsure what to do with any part of her body, hands, feet or brain. She’d been thrust back to the gauche, shy girl that had emerged from her boarding school, not the woman who was almost as sought after—if Mimi was to be believed—as the man now looking at her with intense interest. The tall, lean man with jet-black hair curling onto his collarless white shirt. The man with the black, buttoned waistcoat that emphasised his broad shoulders and slim waist. The man with the fleur-de-lis pendant hung around his tanned neck. Olivier Lemaitre, artist, renowned patron of the arts and gallery owner.
And to the privileged few in the know, the most desired Dom in Paris.
Mimi tucked her arm under Olivier’s. “We can do business later, but I have something even more important than parting you from fifty thousand Euros for my latest good cause. This is my friend, Lisa Archer, to whom I promised to introduce you.”
“How did I guess? Bonsoir, Lisa.”
Lisa expected the double kiss. She’d worked in Paris for six months now, but the brush of Olivier’s lips on each cheek, though fleeting, still made the skin tingle all over her body. His greeting was customary, expected and not in any way threatening, but it still didn’t stop her heart from thumping, now she’d finally met—and touched—the man she hoped would fulfil fantasies she’d kept hidden for so long.
“So. You’re a fan of the French impressionists?” Olivier nodded at the painting next to them on the gallery walls.
“Who isn’t?” said Lisa, painfully aware that every word she uttered might be a test. “I know some people think they’re unfashionable and populist, not that anyone would admit that at this launch.” She tried to keep her tone light, but the smile on her face was so forced, it almost hurt her face.
“No one would dare upset Roman after he’s loaned his private collection to the gallery for this charity exhibition,” said Mimi, tucking her arm through a smiling Olivier’s. Mimi had said she and Olivier were just old friends, but Lisa wasn’t so sure, judging by the chemistry she detected between them. Did it bother her that Mimi and Olivier might have been lovers? It shouldn’t concern her at all, because a no-strings and, more importantly, limited-term arrangement was exactly what she was looking for with Olivier.
“Lisa is being modest. She’s a true Monet connoisseur,” said Mimi.
Lisa laughed. “I do like Monet and Renoir, but I wouldn’t say I’m a connoisseur. Mimi will give you the wrong impression about me.”
Olivier’s eyes sparkled. “I hope not.”
When he spoke, Lisa felt as if she was shimmering inside, just like the beautiful Asian girl’s dress.
“Oh, Lisa just loves the Impressionists, and she’s very eager to learn more, aren’t you?” Mimi’s innuendo was so heavy-handed that Lisa wanted to dissolve into the marble tiles, and then Olivier smiled again.
He was old-fashioned handsome, as her grandmother used to say, with eyes the colour of darkest caramel, backlit with a wicked charm. He reminded her of a classic French movie star, laid-back yet effortlessly sexy. As for his voice, Lisa had lived in Paris for the past six months, but she still found his blend of French and English accent mouthwatering. He was the epitome of unself-conscious male allure and, she reminded herself, a Dom.
The moment she framed the word in her mind, her composure crumbled. If he was a Dom, that meant he enjoyed dominating and disciplining women. Mimi had said he wasn’t into the Paris fetish-club scene and preferred short-term private arrangements with a very select few women.
Wasn’t that what she wanted too? To abandon her desires and needs to this man? To be stripped of the outward shell she had built up, and become the sensual being she really was? To experience the fantasies that both terrified her and set her on fire with need?
As her mind struggled to work out her response to Olivier, her body answered loud and clear. Her nipples hardened, nudging the thin fabric of her dress, and the sudden urge to touch herself shocked her. A chill skittered along her spine. If he was as experienced as Mimi claimed, surely he could tell how she felt, no matter how cool she acted?
“Shall I get you some more champagne? Your glass is almost empty,” he asked, still perfectly at ease and polite.
“That would be good.” Damn, was that her voice? It sounded higher than usual. She’d trained herself to lower it and suggested many of her female clients do the same. It made you sound calmer, added gravitas to your words and ensured that people took you seriously, both men and women.
Mimi popped her hand over her glass. “No, thanks. I’ve reached my limit, and I need a clear head for the rest of the evening, unlike Lisa, who is most definitely off duty tonight. And I see a Paris banker over there who I’ve been trying to persuade to sponsor my medical foundation. Olivier, can I leave Lisa safely in your hands?”
Olivier raised his eyebrows. “Maybe I’m the one who should ask if I’ll be safe in her hands?”
Mimi laughed and toasted him. “I doubt it, but you can have fun finding out. A bientot.”
All she needed now was for Mimi to give a theatrical wink, thought Lisa, but what had she expected? Mimi knew what Lisa was looking for, or thought she did, and it was too late now. Olivier was next to her and no doubt assessing whether he wanted to take her on—or not.
Realisation slammed into her. He had to take her, no matter how badly her head warned no, she needed this. She wanted him.
He pointed at Lisa’s almost empty glass. “So, shall I get some more champagne?”
“Thanks.” She let him take her glass, feeling as if she’d just handed over more than a glass to him.
He swapped the glass for a full one from a passing waiter and gave it to her. “Then I think it’s best if I put you out of your misery, don’t you agree?”
Wow. Lisa ran a tongue over her dry lips and then realised he was watching her intently. If she’d thought she was a good student of body language, this man was a native speaker.
“I don’t normally do this kind of thing, you know…” she stammered.
“What kind of thing is that? Drink champagne? Come to a gallery opening? No one is forcing you to do anything, and if you want to back out, then say so now. I won’t take on any partner who doesn’t know fully what she’s getting into.”
“I do know what I’m getting into,” Lisa said, stomach swirling at the idea he might walk away as much as at the sudden bluntness of his words. “I’m just…unsure.”
His gaze seared into her. “Unsure as in unwilling, or unsure as in curious?”
“Curious,” she shot back. Wow, that was emphatic. Maybe it was the wine making her bold, or maybe she’d finally decided she wasn’t going to lose this chance.
“Then, let’s lay our cards on the table. I want you to know how I operate and if what I’m offering is truly what you want.”