I’ll be honest – I spent all spring blocked. I couldn’t read. I couldn’t write. I’d try new books and abandon them. I kept getting jerked out of the story by people doing normal things. You know…
Going to work. Shaking hands. Standing close together. In my head I kept yelling at them to be more careful.
I needed a story that acknowledged our locked-down reality without being too heavy on the day-to-day reality. And what’s a better distraction that a little sexytime? 😉
On 11/25, you get to meet Kelsey, the first heroine in Confined with the CEO & the Bodyguard luxury romance series. This book is $2.99 on all platforms.
Remember this Dior Homme ad from a few years ago? Well-dressed CEO-looking type meets a blond woman in an elevator. A quick fantasy takes place, but it’s all in her head. Voila! I had my inspiration to write the book I needed to read.
I wrote it. Then I wrote four more stories. Watch for Gabriela’s book coming on December 20th!
Now you can enjoy an excerpt from this 1st POV, steamy MFM contemporary romance.
The email came through late on Thursday afternoon. Starting Monday, Harden Real Estate’s offices were closed indefinitely due to a virus that was rampaging through Manhattan. It had started elsewhere in the world and spread, unnoticed, for months. Hospitals were on the verge of being overrun with sick patients.
When there’s a military ship moored in the harbor, it’s hard to deny that your country feels like it’s two heartbeats away from a George Romano movie.
My in-person audition for a lead role in an upcoming film is probably canceled, but until I have formal notice, do you think I’m giving up on my dream?
No way in hell.
Top secret, the production assistant had insisted. I can’t send you a digital copy. This is a confidential project. I’d rolled my eyes, then rolled over, because this could finally be my breakthrough role. Even if I have to audition by video conference, I want it bad.
I’ll make it in showbiz no matter what. There’s nothing I love more than sinking into a character and making an audience feel. Tears. Anger. Hatred.
Yet I’m always being cast as the “Trophy Wife” or “Sister.”
This script is different. I had tingles when my agent described it to me. It could be my big break—the result of years of scrimping, saving, and working my way up the agent and acting ladder.
First, there had been small roles in minor theater productions. Then, I landed a couple of commercials. When those were dropped from circulation I lost the residual earnings I had relied on to pay rent.
I came so close to giving up once. I won’t do it again.
Since waiting tables isn’t really my speed—I don’t do perky and social—I got licensed as a real estate agent. My revenue is feast-or-famine, but my schedule is my own. Leasing overpriced Manhattan shoeboxes to recent transplants is my specialty. I work mostly weekends and on commission—or did, until the virus took out my income overnight.
If I have to quarantine on a movie set for weeks to land this part, so be it. But first, I have to show the director and producer that I can play it better than anyone.
That’s why I’m here, batting my eyelashes at the security guard. A beard pokes out from beneath a makeshift mask. I peer at his name badge and say, “Phil, it’ll take five minutes. I print the documents I need and I come straight back down. Promise.”
He scowls. His eyes dart to the discreet display of cleavage visible between the plackets of my cream silk blouse. I had rushed over from a showing. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a balcony and a doorman for the bargain price of just five thousand dollars a month. They took it on the spot, fearing to risk seeing any other apartments. I have a check in my pocket which, after handing over my split to Harden, will cover my bills long enough to rehearse during lockdown. It was worth the effort of jamming my feet into the heels which are killing my arches and zipping up the pencil skirt that hugs my ass and shortens my stride.
“Technically the building isn’t closed until Monday,” I point out.
Phil stares me down. I briefly contemplate offering to suck his dick, but I am not sunk that low—yet. Besides, the idea doesn’t appeal. I like giving head, just not to random men.
I really do need that script though.
“Five minutes, Ms. James,” Phil huffs, but he scans his pass card to let me through the gate. All employee IDs have been disabled in an attempt to control the number of people coming in and out of the building.
“Thanks, Phil. I owe you.” I hustle through and blow him a kiss, forgetting about my own mask until I touch it. Not being stupid, I hit the up arrow with my elbow. My heavy purse falls down my shoulder. I hike it up with a grunt.
The elevator deposits me on the third floor. It’s where the executives are housed, including the CEO, Sam Harden. My desk is near his secretary’s. According to her, the only thing bigger than his cock is the size of his ego. I guess he’s earned it though, because Harden Real Estate has seen exponential growth over the past several years. She has no discretion at all, so I hear more than I should.
Like how he prefers young women. According to Brenda he’s a predator, but then, as far as I can tell, she thinks any attractive man is a threat. The one time I saw Sam he was on his way out of the building. Broad shoulders. Dark hair curling over the collar of his jacket. Bodyguard four inches behind him, max.
The bodyguard is the one who captivated me. I think about him from time to time—not innocently.
But men are not my primary concern as I exit the elevator and bypass my desk, though. Assuming I’m alone, I remove my mask and put it in my bag as I wobble on high heels to the mailroom.
The script package is sitting in my mail cubby. A sigh gusts out of me. I tear into the manila envelope before I get out of the hallway.
A hard object rams into me like a linebacker, before I can even glimpse the title.
“You’re not supposed to be here,” a rough male voice declares. My heart hammers in my chest. I try to jerk away but the two big hands wrapped around my upper arms prevent me from moving an inch. Slabs of muscle beneath my palms. His masculine voice cuts through the fog of my obsession with the script.
“Neither are you,” I snap before I look up.
Blue eyes bore into mine. His hands are manacles on my upper arms. Transfixed, I shove the paper back into its envelope. Slowly, he releases his grip. I take a step back. My middle finger touches the bridge of my glasses to nudge them up my nose.
His brows knit together as though he thinks I’m giving him the finger, which maybe I am, a little.
Then, he gives me a slow smile. I am dazed by the rush of desire that courses through me.
Forget the bodyguard. The man who ran into me is sex on stilts.
My knees go weak. I almost collapse. If I were to fall, there’s a high chance I’d unzip his trousers—and I don’t even know his name.
He smirks, and I feel it in my solar plexus. Heat scorches my innards and renders me hollow. As I said, I don’t give random men blowjobs, but I’d make an exception for this one.
“I’m Kelsey James. KJ to my friends. I work for Harden Real Estate Group,” I say formally. My shoulder bag fell on the floor when we crashed into one another. My personal effects are scattered across the floor. They include a collection of Harden-branded pens, the glossy printed floor plans from today’s showing fanned out next to my lipstick, spare nail polish, and a makeup bag.
“Nice to run into you, KJ.” says the stranger in a deliberate drawl. The hair on the back of my neck prickles. I feel his voice like velvet stroked over my shoulders. It’s weird. I’ve never felt this before.
“KJ to my friends,” I shoot back. I don’t know why I’m being so scratchy. This man threw me off-kilter within seconds, and I’m unsure why. I don’t normally antagonize hot men on purpose.
“I’m not your friend,” he says flatly.
“No. So you can call me Kelsey until further notice,” I say.
“Ms. James,” he begins, and recognition crashes through me.
This is the CEO.
I’m so shocked that I lose my grip on the manila envelope. It slips out of my hands. I glance down and find my precious script on the floor. I crouch to retrieve it. He meets me at eye level, three feet from the industrial carpet.
Warily, I avoid his gaze while I check my script’s integrity. It’s safe. But I am starting to think I’m not. “Yes?”
He gives me a peculiar grin, as though he knows I’m figuring it out. “I’m Sam Harden. This is my company. You work for me. The city has been ordered into lockdown. I don’t like the idea of sheltering alone in my penthouse. It’s too big. I’d be…lonely.”
His gaze flicks to my cleavage. Unlike when Phil did the same thing, a current of excitement races over my skin.
I think of my crappy little studio apartment and how much I don’t want to spend weeks there by myself. My family is in Arkansas—too far to go without giving up on the life I’ve built here. Besides, I wouldn’t want to bring this damn virus with me.
“What exactly are you proposing?” I ask, my pulse thready. I brush my long, dark hair back and nearly fall over. He grasps my arm again to steady me.
“Quarantine with me,” he half-asks, half-orders. Transfixed by his blue eyes, I freeze.
“And do what?” I demand. But I don’t try to pull away. I let him hang onto me because I like the firmness of his hold. The smirk etches deeper lines into his face. I don’t want to give him the satisfaction of saying yes, but the prospect of being alone for an indefinite amount of time makes me weak. I’d rather have company, too. Especially if it’s the kind I think he’s offering. The only obstacle is that I have the audition of my life to prepare for. I can’t afford a sexy distraction like Harden.
“Anything you want, Ms. James,” he says in that voice like smoked sin. “Anything at all, and nothing you don’t want to do.”
I shift on my aching feet. My gaze falls away from his, drifting down the expensively cut shirt buttoned to his throat. The insane need to grasp his tie and pull his face close to mine almost overwhelms me. I resist. Barely.
Should’ve kept that mask on.
At the front of his trousers is a ridge the length of my forearm, I swear. It’s pointed toward his left hip bone. My eyes widen.
Here’s the thing. I love sex more than anything except acting. It’s been a problem in my few relationships. In my senior year of high school and the first two years of college, I had a boyfriend whose sex drive matched mine. He dumped me when he decided he was going to flunk out if he didn’t find a less-physical girlfriend.
I know. What an idiot, right? Well, it didn’t feel that way at the time. I was utterly devastated.
Things got worse as I tried dating after graduation. Men said I moved too fast or wanted too much from my partners. I’m actually a very relationship-oriented person but after a couple of breakups it was easier to take care of my needs with porn and an ever-growing collection of toys. Maybe I didn’t get a lot of satisfaction, but I avoided the emotional scars of constant rejection.
So the sight of a mind-numbingly sexy man with a partial erection offering me anything is much more appealing than weeks of loneliness. I am actually salivating. Still, I hesitate.
“You’d have your own room with a working lock.” He raises his hands, palms out, shoulder-height. “If I do anything to annoy you, you’ll still have access to the private jacuzzi on the terrace, the chef’s kitchen and the in-apartment gym.”
“Well, that beats my little nest,” I mumble. “But I have a personal project to work on over the next few weeks. I’ll need time to focus.”
“You’ll have it,” Harden agrees, too easily. Why does he want me there so badly? Sure, apparently he likes my tits, but I could be a raging bitch for all he knows. Anyone who wants to be quarantined with a complete stranger in a pandemic is asking for trouble.
So why am I considering this?
Sensing my hesitation, Harden adds, “I don’t like to be alone. I need to have people to talk to. Not over screens. Of course, if you wanted more…” He grins. My breath catches.
I’ve seen a lot of charismatic and handsome men in my acting career but no one like Sam Harden, who gestures almost apologetically in the general direction of his crotch. “We could always Netflix and chill.”
I feel an answering smile stretch my mouth upward at the corners. I don’t want it to, but there’s nothing keeping me at my home. No pets, no roommates, not even a houseplant to water. “Okay.”
I suck in air, my lungs tight. He stills.
“Yeah. Unless you’re taking back your offer?” I fix him with a meaningful stare.
“No, not at all. I’m just surprised you’d accept.” He relaxes visibly. “And grateful. I, uh, should tell you that there’s someone else who’ll be with us.”
“Someone else?” I ask skeptically, mentally preparing to renege on this agreement.
“Hugh. My bodyguard. I’ve had a little trouble over a business deal gone wrong in Moscow.” Sam grimaces, but before I can protest his hand presses lightly against the small of my back. “We’re both safe. I don’t like to take up test kits in these circumstances, but because we had traveled recently we took tests yesterday afternoon. The results were clear this morning. We’re not infected.”
“I’ve been taking every precaution possible,” I say, which is true. Mashed in between those floor plans in my purse are boxes of disposable masks and gloves. They’re as precious as gold.
Besides, if Hugh is the bodyguard who has haunted my fantasies for months, then I am definitely down to Netflix and chill for a few weeks.
“Come on, then. My car is in the garage,” says Sam.
“Mine is, too. I’ll follow you.”
“No.” Harden’s reaction is forceful and commanding. I stiffen. I don’t like being deprived of my independence—in this case, my twelve-year-old secondhand Lexus. It’s my baby. Part of my carefully crafted image, which is upscale and discreet. No one needs to know I’m as poor as a church mouse.
“You’ll ride with me,” he declares. “Your car will be safe here.”
And like that, it’s decided. I want to protest but I know I shouldn’t. I let Harden swipe his pass on the elevator control panel. Notably, his is still working. We can’t maintain six feet of distance, but that precaution is moot anyway. He’s already touched me. Been close enough to kiss. I click my car open and pop the back door.
“I said, we’re taking my car,” Harden says behind me. I feel his gaze burning through the fabric of my skirt as I shimmy into the back seat. I drag out my gym bag. It’s nothing fancy, but it has a change of clothes I’m going to need. I wiggle out and hold it upright with one hand .
Relief smooths his brow. He’s older than me. I’m guessing thirty-five. I am twenty-six. Getting old to make my acting break, frankly. I push the thought aside and hand my gym bag to him.
“Lead the way,” I say.