Adam Walker feels like an outsider in his close-knit family, and it is his own doing. For years he has hidden a secret from them. How can Adam confide in any of them when revealing his guilty pleasures will tear them apart?
Nicola Evans arrives on Blue Mountain as the new marketing and events coordinator with a secret of her own. Yet, the woman with the forest-green eyes does what no one else has done - chip through all of Adam’s defences. Nicky is a temptation he cannot resist.
But secrets cannot stay hidden forever. The truth always comes out. And when Adam faces the biggest challenge of his life, Nicky must make a choice: stay on to help him or leave with her secret intact.
Will Nicky risk everything to help Adam finally break free from the chains of his past?
Release date: April 13, 2019
Publisher: Francine Beaton
Print pages: 160
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Kind of Blue: A Blue Mountain Novella
Adam gave up on suppressing his yawn. The next one he pretended to hide behind his hand, although he didn’t know why he tried. There was no one here to notice.
He rolled his neck to ease the stiffness, but it didn’t help. He was so darn tired. All he wanted was a shower to get rid of the results accumulated by thirty-six hours of travelling. It was so awful he could smell himself and probably worse than Reid’s locker room. Anybody who had been in a locker room after fifteen sweaty men played a tough game of rugby, would know what he was talking about. Sweaty socks. Body odours...
Ugh, he didn’t want to think about it.
Adam dropped his suitcase and briefcase on the floor and kicked off his shoes. Yep, as he expected. It smelled awful.
He got rid of the rest of his clothes, leaving them in a heap on the floor and strolled to the bathroom. He didn’t bother to cover himself. Since Matthew was working abroad, Adam had the bathroom to himself. He preferred it, thankful he didn’t have to share with his sisters.
He covered his mouth with his hand when another huge yawn overtook him. Why do your eyes close when you yawn…?
Shock replaced the useless speculation.
Adam’s eyes shot wide at the exclamation. He stared straight into the most beautiful green eyes he’d ever seen. Not only that, those eyes were so close, Adam noticed the tiny yellow specks lurking in their depths. His hands had reached out to stabilise himself and were now touching bare skin. Wet, naked skin and so smooth and feminine his fingers itched to caress it further.
His body behaved in the most obvious manner.
He couldn’t disguise it, because he and the woman he was touching were both as bare as the day they were born.
What guy wouldn’t react when he had a naked woman in his arms? A naked woman who fit so perfectly against him as if she was created for him?
She was smaller than him. Adam dropped his eyes from her face to where her breasts brushed against his chest. The hair on his chest added friction, causing his erection to engorge further.
When the woman sucked in her breath, Adam raised his eyes to find hers.
“Geez, you’re gorgeous,” he mumbled. Something sparked in him. He took in the elfin face with sharp cheekbones and a generous, tempting mouth, her hair cut in a short pixie haircut. She looked exquisite. Stunning. Gorgeous.
Hell, he shouldn’t feel anything, but he hadn’t held a woman for over two years. And this one felt perfect.
And he smells nasty, Adam thought with regret. It was in direct contrast to how she smelled—fresh with a hint of orange blossoms. Adam was close to pushing his nose into her neck to inhale her. He worried if he did that, it might not end there.
Her low, throaty voice pulled Adam back from his wayward fantasies, “You must be Adam?”
Adam returned, “Don’t tell me you’re Eve.”
Humour danced in her eyes as she struggled to conceal her smile, “Sorry, no. And no, I don’t have an apple.”
“You must have eaten it considering we’re both naked,” Adam quipped.
Where the hell did that came from? He hadn’t flirted with a woman in a long, long while.
She shook her head, this time not stopping the grin and the throaty laugh escaping her lips. Adam's eyes consumed her. She was exquisite. If he…
No, it couldn’t happen.
Although she was the first woman who had appealed to him like this, he wasn’t free. He shouldn't have erotic dreams about another woman.
He stepped back, snatching two towels from the rack and passing one to her. He stole another peek at her almost too slender body and long colt-like legs. Her breasts were small, though tantalising…
When her eyes flitted down his own body, Adam hardened further. He hastened to wrap the towel around his waist to cover his erection. He supposed he was too late because her eyes had widened. A flush spread over her cheeks, as she turned, wrapping the towel around her at the same time.
Adam cleared his throat, “So who are you and what are you doing in my bathroom?”
“I’m Nicola Evans.”
She didn’t have to add more than that. Adam knew who she was, and he suppressed a groan.
Nicola joined his marketing team while he was abroad. She specialised in events management and new ventures. Adam had looked at her resumé and did the background checks before he took off. His siblings attended the interview while he had been on a marketing tour in Asia for the past three months. An interview was actually unneeded according to what Adam heard. His sister Annie and their mom had worked with Nicola Evans before. They had supported her. Or, he should rather add, they raved about her.
“I thought you lived in the cottage?”
“I do. I did, but the geyser burst this morning. I’ll move back tomorrow.”
Thank goodness for that.
He wouldn't last long if she were so close. She was way too tempting for his sanity.
She snatched her toiletry bag and clothes from the shelf and stammered, “Let me go. You smell as if you’re in dire need of a shower.”
“A bloody cold one too,” Adam grumbled when she’s slipping through the door leading to Matthew’s bedroom. He might not have expressed it as low as he thought, because he could pick up her giggle before the door closed behind her.
Adam glanced down at himself. Yes, definitely a cold shower.
A few minutes later he admitted a cold shower wouldn’t work when he recalled how her body felt against his. Adam had no choice but to take matters into his own hands.
No woman had intrigued him as he had been now. His best bet was to stay away from Nicola Evans. How was he going to do that? They had to work together. She was a staff member. He had to remember that.
It didn’t help. Adam couldn’t get rid of the images of the pixie-haired young woman who fitted so perfectly in his arms. She invaded his dreams when he fell into a fitful slumber.
* * *
“Holy Crap!” Nicky muttered again when the door closed behind her.
Adam Walker was more handsome than she assumed. She had met most of the Walker- and Sinclair siblings and there were quite a few. Nine in fact, and all handsome and successful individuals. Even knowing that hadn’t prepared her for the sight awaiting her when she came out of the shower cubicle.
Well, the sight and the feel of him.
The tired lines on his face or the odour surrounding him couldn’t even draw her attention away from his good looks. His black hair was long and secured in a man bun. Combined with the five o’clock shadow he sported, he looked dangerous and utterly gorgeous.
Other men would have looked unkempt with that ponytail. Not Adam Walker. That look only highlighted the sharp lines of his face. He might not keep the stubble but she wished he did. Nicky would never have thought she would find that attractive but hell, it looked hot.
And his body? Perfect.
Nicky recalled his body odour. Considering he got off a sixteen-hour flight from Hong Kong, it wasn’t surprising he didn’t smell nice. He might have experienced a disaster or two along the way.
The lines around his navy-blue eyes were further evidence he didn't have enough sleep during the flight.
Adam was taller than her but not as big as Reid and Nathan. He was also not as muscled as those two brothers, but he was in great shape with muscles at all the right places.
Nicky remembered how he felt against her.
Fantastic and oh so very tempting.
If he hadn’t been her employer, Nicky might have considered a fling, but she had sworn never to travel down that road again. She’d been there, done that and had the scars to prove it.
It was a disastrous engagement to her ex-boss that brought her to Blue Mountain. Nicky resigned after her showdown with James Cabot, the owner of Cabot Communication. The memory of her then-fiancée’s allegation was still strong, even now, two months after she left his company. No, there was no way she would go there with Adam Walker. She was too thankful to Annie Walker for granting her this opportunity. She couldn’t muddle it up by getting entangled with Annie’s brother.
Nicky didn't know Annie had watched her encounter with James at the Cape Town Fashion Week. Annie called her aside later that afternoon. They had a lengthy discussion and Annie informed her about the vacancy at Blue Mountain. Nicky didn’t hesitate. She applied for it the Monday after the Fashion Week ended. She had a gruelling interview three days later. Everyone was there, except Adam and Matthew. After a brief deliberation, the position was hers. The position and the furnished cottage on the estate was a blessing.
Since Cabot’s owed her over two months of vacation days, Nicky went back to the office and resigned. Nicky took immense pleasure in informing her colleagues why she was leaving. James was livid.
She went back to the condo she shared with James and gathered the rest of her belongings. The next day she moved into the cottage at Blue Mountain.
The previous two months had been bliss. She loved the work, and the family and the personnel had received her with open arms.
She already represented Blue Mountain at some local wine fairs and liked it.
Her only contact with Adam had been by email. Nicky now wished she had gone to the trouble of searching for him online. At least she would’ve been better prepared for this afternoon’s encounter.
Nicky shook her head. No, she doubted anything would’ve prepared for the actual flesh and blood Adam Walker. No description would’ve done justice to the raw male magnetism she had bumped into. Or the instant flare of awareness she had felt when they touched.
Her only choice was to make certain she never got close enough to Adam Walker to grab him. And that was a real possibility.
Dusk was settling on the estate when Adam woke from his almost comatose slumber. He rubbed his eyes and reached to snatch his phone up from the bedside table. Noting the time, he sighed. It was nearly time for supper, and as it was Wednesday, the clan would be here. They were aware he came back today and would wait for his news.
He loved having such a big family, but Adam needed his own space sometimes. He won’t have it tonight though. It would be better to get it over with then he could come back to his bedroom.
With another groan, he got up. It was times like these he regretted moving back to the family home. He should return to his own house, but the thought of stepping into it caused his heart to clench. He wasn’t confident he was ready.
Would he ever be?
He dressed with jerky movements. He shouldn’t have let his mind drift there. It always put him in an awful mood. Combined with his messed up body clock, he could guarantee he wouldn’t be the best company tonight. He hoped his relatives wouldn’t give him a rough time.
His mood didn’t improve when his eyes settled on Nicola Evans when he arrived in the dining room. She was holding court with his brothers, who held onto every word she was saying. When she stopped, they all break into laughter without noticing that Adam had reached them.
As usual, Adam felt excluded—as if he didn’t belong.
The next moment those bright green eyes found his and Adam received a similar jolt as he had earlier. His siblings must have realised Nicola’s focus wasn’t on them and turned to follow her gaze.
Adam felt embarrassed about his brief feelings of not belonging. His family’s exuberant greetings proved they had missed him. For a minute or two, he could ignore Nicola as they all welcomed him.
Adam avoided glancing at Nicola until Luke introduced her, “Let me…”
Adam didn’t let him finish but managed, “We’ve met.”
Luke lifted his eyebrow, but Adam didn’t elaborate. He needed to get away from the woman. Adam's body reacted when he smelled the orange blossoms surrounding her. One glimpse into her eyes and he wouldn’t be able to hide it for long. He turned and murmured, “Excuse me, I haven’t greeted the parents yet.”
Adam made a quick escape. Luke watched them both with a thoughtful expression.
* * *
“What’s up with the long hair?”
“Who are you? The fashion police?” Adam scowled at her. Hell, the woman was driving him nuts. He had dodged her for the last week. No, amend that. He tried to escape her, but it wasn’t working. She had supper with the family every night, invading the limited space he had away from her at the office.
The rest of the time he bumped into her more often than he desired.
“Adam!” Anna scolded.
Adam scowled at Nicky before he flushed and mumbled, “Sorry.”
He wasn’t sorry. Not much anyway. All he needed to do was to get his mind out of the gutter with Nicky and reminded himself where he came from.
He rose and shoved in his chair. He had enough of the pretence. The whole family looked up when he glanced at his dad and declared, “I’m going to Bellevue.”
Adam knew what was coming and he wasn’t in the mood for a lecture tonight and definitely not in the presence of the woman who unsettled him more than he should be. He needed a reminder and a visit to Bellevue should do the trick.
“Adam…,” Anna started. “Do you have to?”
His mouth set, Adam grunted, “We’ve had this argument before. Please don’t go there tonight.”
“I know but…”
“Anna,” Marc warned. His father knew Adam was close to losing it. This wasn’t the first time they had this conversation in the last two years. He shoved his hair out of his face and strode out of the room. He could hear Anna’s loud sigh. She was disappointed but Adam had no alternative. This was his burden to carry.
It was time to move back to his own residence. He needed the space. More so, he needed his privacy to indulge in his own pleasures.
Adam stopped in shock. Where the hell did that thought come from? For two years he had suppressed his own desires. Why did he think about fulfilling it now?
He didn’t have to ask why.
Since he held Nicky in his arms—since he had seen her that first day—he had these fantasies. He could no longer suppress them. He had tried. After last night he couldn’t do it anymore.
He watched her in the fairy garden last night, dance to music only she could hear. He felt like a voyeur, but it was the most beautiful, sensual thing Adam had ever seen.
It was time. Maybe only once more?
He glared at the keys in his fist and decided. Instead of driving to Bellevue as he had planned, he took the route to his own home for the first time in two years. The house had been his refuge for many years until one disastrous night when everything blew up in his face. He hadn’t been back since, but Adam didn’t have to worry about the state of the house. His trusted housekeeper Lizzie, and Kotie, her husband, kept the place in shape.
* * *
Nicky’s shoe tapped on the tile floor as she waited for Adam to open the door. He was home as his car was out front. The lights were on and music filtered through the open windows.
She smirked. That wasn’t music she would have associated with Adam. With his look, she thought him to be a rocker guy.
Soothing—although loud—classical music filled the late afternoon air. Nicky didn’t recognise the piece, but it was music her mom would’ve approved of.
Adam might not hear her knock because the noise was blaring. Should she look if he left the door unlocked? What if he had someone with him?
Nicky shrugged. Then she had to handle it. She promised Anna she would find Adam.
In the month since Adam’s return, they had been skirting around each other. It became worse since the night she taunted him about his hairstyle. She shouldn’t have done it but Nicky hated that Adam was so grave, almost sullen. She loved to provoke him into a reaction.
Adam had moved back to his own home the following day although he still joined the family for supper. Joined might not be the right word even. He attended rather, but he didn’t speak to anyone, his mind lost somewhere only he would know. It was the same in the office.
Some days Adam disappeared into his own world. He was there but his mind was elsewhere. Now and again, like today, he vanished altogether. Nobody knew where he was or what he was doing. Anna looked so concerned about Adam this afternoon, and to ease her mind, Nicky volunteered to locate him.
She could understand why Anna felt like that. It wasn’t merely his periodic disappearances that provoked it. Everyone could see Adam didn’t sleep properly. He looked worn out with dark circles under his eyes. Something might bother him, but it didn’t appear as if Adam would confide in anybody.
He hadn’t returned for the meeting this afternoon and it was almost time for dinner. He wasn’t answering his phone either, so Anna got worried. Nicky hated to admit it, but she worried too. What if something had happened to him?
She snorted. It was a ridiculous thought. She shouldn’t concern herself about Adam’s whereabouts.
She shook her head and knocked once more when the music filtered out. It was too late though. Another piece of music followed the first, drowning her knock.
Well, she missed that opportunity, so she squeezed the handle. To her surprise, it wasn’t locked, and she pushed the door wide, calling for Adam. There was no response, but it didn’t surprise her. The noise could drown out a hurricane.
With a resigned grimace, she followed the music, around the corner and up the stairs. She called Adam’s name, to no avail.
She paused in the doorway, and her eyes landed on Adam. He hadn’t seen her as he was standing with his rear to her.
Oh my! What a view.
Nicky took a minute or two to appreciate it. A shirtless Adam Walker. What was not to enjoy?
His muscles rippled when he raised his hand holding a paintbrush to the canvas in front of him.
He was getting dressed or undressed when he got sidetracked by his painting. He was wearing dark trousers and loafers and a shirt lay crumpled on the floor at his feet. His hair hung in loose curls over his shoulders. Now and then he pushed it with an irritated movement from his face.
Nicky sneaked one last glimpse at his tempting backside and let her gaze flit over the room. It was much safer as she had to stifle the impulse to slip her fingers through his messy hair as she had craved to do since that first time.
Her eyes widened when she recognised the purpose of the room. It was an art studio and one belonging to a talented artist if she had to judge.
Without thought, she moved in behind Adam and shifted to her right. Her eyes examined each painting before it turned on to the next, and the next. Soon she was oblivious to the man behind her, the music and all else.
Nicky lost contact with her father a few years ago but before that happened she picked up enough from him to appreciate art. Her father was a renowned art connoisseur in the country and had written books about it. He was an expert, owning three of the largest art galleries in the Southern hemisphere. He might be a bastard but he taught his daughter enough during the brief periods he shared a home with her and her mum. She could now enjoy what she was looking at.
Nicky turned bewildered to the next canvas. She gasped and remained where she was. The music has died down and an eerie quiet now permeated the room. She was oblivious to everything: Of Adam studying her with a tense silence or the tears flowing down her cheeks.
It was so beautiful—and it was her. The only unusual object was the garland of blossoms and herbs in her hair and the woodland background behind her.
She heard someone spoke to her and she whirled around with a start, her eyes wide.
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