CharmaineLouise Books VIP Subscribers Exclusives!
CharmaineLouise Books VIP Subscribers Exclusives!
Glitzy. Glamorous. Steamy.
The Latest Trilogy in STEELE International, Inc. A Billionaires Romance Series:
Read on for your exclusive VIP Subscriber First Peek for Tempt My Desires Lachlan & Haley Part I Prologue, Chapters 1 and 2. The final sneak peek is here! The e-Book and paperback goes live on Tuesday, August 24! Click here to pre-order your copy today from Amazon. Then leave a review for other readers to know your thoughts.
Enjoy! xoxo Charmaine Louise
13 Years Ago — Southampton Village, NY
Haley — 16
“Oh hi, Malcolm!”
“Hey there, Harris!”
“Hello to you guys, too!!”
Shall I hurl now or later?
Cue the biggest eye roll in history!
If I’d known my friends would go gaga over my older brothers and my cousins, I would’ve told the girls we’d hang out at one of their beach houses instead of at mine. Give me a freaking break already…
Eyes batting; duck lips in full effect; cheeks flushed; bouncing on their blankets with uncontainable excitement.
Is this what I have to look forward to all summer???
Gag. Gag. Gag some more. Did I say… gag (all caps)?!
“Uh, hi, girls,” Sebastian says followed by similarly surprised greetings from the rest of the boys as they stride past in various board shorts, fit physiques on blast.
My eldest brother tosses the football to Roger—my third older brother after Malcolm—then ruffles my jet black, mid-back-length hair that matches the rest of my siblings. Our signature gray eyes—in me are soulful, set in my heart-shaped face with cheeks that display dimples when I smile or laugh—shine with brotherly affection.
“Hey, little sis. Where’s your one-piece?” Sebastian asks with a frown at my new hot pink, triangle string bikini. “What’s with theses bits of material, huh?”
Before I can respond, my fraternal twin chimes in.
“Oh, she went shopping the other day, Baz,” Harris says with a smirk. “Who are you trying to impress, little Haley?”
I scowl in consternation at both of them. But once again, I’m cut off before I can even open my mouth.
“Leave her alone, Harris. I think you look nice, Haley. Who says you have to follow the rules?” Malcolm demands, glaring at Baz.
I smile at my rebel brother Malcolm, also known as The Enforcer.
He and Baz used to go at it all the time. Malcolm hated they resembled one another from their muscular six-feet-four-inch frames to the stubble on their chins and their dominant personalities. Plus Malcolm felt he had to follow in our eldest brother’s footsteps, being a year younger and the second son. At twenty-three and twenty-two, many people confuse them or assume they’re twins. Not good at all.
I know how Malcolm feels since I’m the youngest of the Steele clan at sixteen. The baby of the family, as Harris likes to point out since he was born a few minutes before me. We are the double surprise for our parents, who had not planned on having more children. Then a twofer to boot. Roger is three years older and had been the baby of the family until Harris and I popped up.
“Shall we play football or bug Haley?” Roger asks, tossing the ball back to Baz as he winks at me.
Roger The Responsible takes his role as the middle child seriously. We can always depend on him to keep peace and order under his intense gaze.
I wink back at my savior, but swallow my words around the nervous butterflies that fill my belly suddenly.
“Yeah, leave Baby Girl alone, Baz, and get ready to have your ass handed to you, cuz!”
O… M… G! Lachlan!
The second oldest of the Jackson clan at twenty—he’s two years younger than their eldest sibling Lydie—and Baz’s best friend.
My heart skips a beat when he flashes his movie-star smile at me. Everyone says he resembles Cary Grant with his rugged masculinity and gorgeous looks.
His fit, six-foot-four-inch well-formed frame topped by a face so incredible it takes your breath away. Blazing green eyes lock in on you as your gaze takes in his thick, dark brown hair slicked back from his chiseled cheekbones and strong jawline. The cleft chin adds to his heartthrob persona.
“Screw you, Lach! You are going down, man!” Malcolm jeers.
Can Lachlan go down on me?
Oops, what??? Where the heck did that thought come from, Haley Steele! I admonish myself as a hot, crimson flush spreads from my hairline to the tops of my newly developed breasts. I duck my head to avoid my brothers noticing my reaction to Lachlan—especially Baz.
“Yeah, right, Malcolm! We’ll see about that, cuz!” Lucien retorts as he snatches the ball from Baz and tosses it to his younger brother Laurent, who laughs and shoulders past Harris.
They’re the third and fourth of the Jackson siblings at nineteen and sixteen and best friends with Malcolm and Harris, respectively. And just like Lachlan, they share the Jackson family traits of emerald green eyes, dark brown hair, and six-plus feet in height.
I hear the girls whispering about his hint of a Scottish accent—He’s so James Bond, OMG!!!—and cover up a gag with a cough. An unstoppable eye roll happens behind my glasses, though. I push them up the bridge of my nose.
Yeah, our cousins spend most of the year—and their lives—in Scotland where their family’s company is based in Aberdeen at the Jackson Town House. Like the Steeles, they have a multigenerational, multibillion-dollar company. Jackson Corporation’s repertoire is fine dining, distilleries, and vineyards worldwide. Their Irish and Scottish family created the finest single malt Scotch Whiskey and became billionaires years ago.
STEELE International, Inc. is my family’s luxury real estate development and management corporation based in New York City in The STEELE Tower with offices and properties around the globe. The Tower is also our family’s residence on the top three floors of the fifty-seven-story building. Morgan, our father, is the CEO and Chairman of the Board. In time, each of us will take on a leadership role within the company. For now, we intern during our school breaks to learn our family’s business from the ground up.
Our mother Michelle—known by friends as Shelley—insists we do more than as she calls it “lounge around the pool working on our tans” in Southampton Village during the summers. As the head of STEELE Foundation, she contributes through our philanthropic arm that builds and manages attractive, affordable housing for urban, lower-income families. My siblings and I help to construct some properties, too.
She and her best friend Lucinda—aka Lucie and the Jackson Matriarch—spent most of their adult lives together, forming a closer bond than they have with their blood siblings and relatives. Incredibly, our mothers met our fathers while working as a shopgirl in a STEELE retail space and as a bartender in one of the Jackson pubs. Both families became super close even without sharing DNA. Hence our cousin relationship and Aunt Lucie and Uncle Connor.
Not that I desire for Lachlan to be my cuz or for him to consider me a Baby Girl…
While my brothers and I are at our family’s private beachfront compound in the Hamptons, our cousins came over from Aberdeen for the last half of the summer. They’ll intern at Jackson Corporation’s New York City offices while we’re at STEELE International. Aunt Lucie uses the same playbook as our mother.
Baz and Malcolm and Roger are on break from Harvard University Business School and Harvard University, respectively. Harris and I are still in high school at Collegiate School and its sister school, The Brearley School. They’re all the Steele family’s legacy schools.
Lydie starts her first year at Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford in the fall. Lachlan is in his third year and Lucien in his second at Pembroke College at the University of Oxford. Laurent attends Gordonstoun School. All are the Jackson family’s legacy schools.
Tradition ranks high for our families.
“Haley, who is that fine specimen of a man?!”
My best friend Natasha Bond’s question and nudge draws me from my musings.
I sigh inwardly and plaster on a smile before I glance over at her.
She’s all gorgeous face, long blonde hair, big blue eyes, and willowy figure compared to my only now forming curves and gawky self. She’s tall like me, more so since she’s two years older at eighteen and not from my genetics. At first it shocked me the most popular girl at school wanted to be friends with me this past year. Oddly enough, others started asking me to hang out for lunch or sleepovers. I’d always been a bit of a loner, so it took me a moment to get used to their constant attention.
“Which one?” I ask with a hint of sarcasm.
My tone goes over Natasha’s head.
Did I mention she’s not the brightest lightbulb in the box…?
She elbows me with a giggle, and her big boobs almost pop out of her minuscule bikini top—I went with her shopping for my new bathing suits.
“The movie star one with the sexy Scottish accent, that’s who!” She giggles as she tilts her chin towards the boys playing near the surf.
Could this situation get any worse?!
I choose to ignore her question—rude, yes, but oh well—and rise to get a bottled water from the cooler.
Is Natasha serious with me right now?!
I uncap the bottle and let my gaze drift from my brothers and cousins—including my man Lachlan—to my friends, who whisper amongst themselves as they point at the sweaty boys and giggle.
With a harrumph, I gulp down half of the bottle.
It’s just not fair Lachlan only sees me as a baby girl and not someone he’s attracted to, like he’s eyeballing Natasha. She’s grinning at him all coy like as she adjusts her breasts in her bikini top.
Why can’t she back up off of him?!
Since I was little, I used to follow Baz and Lachlan around like a little stray puppy, just wanting to be around my eldest brother, who I’ve always admired. Until recently when I realized I wasn’t just following them to see what they were up to, rather to be near to Lachlan as much as possible. When he returned this summer, something just clicked inside of me. Suddenly, I wanted him to pay attention to me as more than his little cousin or Baby Girl.
I even picked out this bikini in hopes he’d see my new curves and want me.
Is it too much to ask for???
Lachlan — 20
Even while we play football, my gaze keeps going to the sexy as fuck blonde who all but drops her top for me. Baz sacked me good a minute ago when her feminine wiles distracted me, and I ended up on my ass in the sand.
It’s not like I don’t get laid whenever I want. Hell, girls—and women I might add—throw themselves at me. A Jackson male with billions in the bank and a more than willing ten-inch cock. Not that I’m interested in settling down with one female at the moment. No, ma’am!
Like my father Connor tells us, “Live life to the fullest, boys. But do not bring home any unexpected bundles…”
Yeah, not something he says to our eldest sibling, Lydie. He’s never hidden his intention to marry her off to improve Jackson Corporation’s business with some type of alliance. Can you say old-fashioned?
Even though Lydie is older than me and should be the heir to the family’s business, our father wants me to take over when he retires. My loyalty lies with my sister. So, we’ll see…
But this bird here.
No question. I would shag her in a heartbeat.
But she’s Haley’s friend, so she can’t be of age despite her banging body.
“Pay attention, Lach You dolt!!”
Laurent’s fierce growl and shove to my chest returns me to the football game at hand. Right.
“Okay, damn!” I retort, wiping the sand from my hands.
We play some more, and I remain focused despite the wolf whistles from our impromptu cheerleading squad. The Jackson clan wins, and we do a victory dance before both teams dive into the cool Atlantic Ocean.
When I come up for air, the blonde appears and wraps her arms and legs around me like a starfish.
“I knew you’d win!” She exclaims as she covers my mouth with her full lips in a passionate, no-holds-barred kiss.
I cup her ass and kiss her silly. Not once do I hide the burgeoning erection of my thick cock from her eager, hot snatch. Nor does she try to deny me access to her greedy core. Her hips pump to their own beat.
It’s good being a Jackson.
I tangle my tongue with hers as my hands caress her willing body.
“Damn, Lach. Is she even legal?”
Roger’s question pulls my mouth from devouring the blonde’s.
Damn, is she? I wonder.
She giggles and nips at my ear.
“I’m eighteen. No need to worry,” she pants, breathless from my domineering kiss.
When she whispers she’s on the pill, my cock twitches beneath the water.
“Um, Natasha. We need to go to the deck. It’s time for lunch.”
The sound of Haley’s soft voice makes me wince. I release the blonde and move away from her guiltily.
What is it about my youngest cousin that makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong or hurting her in some way?
To see Lachlan kiss Natasha makes me physically ill. I have to do something to stop them from going further. Or I really will hurl all over the sand.
“Um, Natasha. We need to go to the deck. It’s time for lunch,” I say lamely from a distance, praying he’ll let her go.
As though she’s a live wire, Lachlan releases Natasha quickly. She tries to cling to him. But he swims away without a backwards glance at either of us.
The butterflies in my stomach sink.
“What, Haley?!” Natasha demands angrily as she storms towards me.
I stare at her with my mouth agape.
“Just because you can’t have them doesn’t mean we don’t want a chance to be with them!” Natasha exclaims in a loud whisper as she approaches me. “Did you really think we were hanging out with you to be friends?! You’re some tech nerd who’s boring AF! We knew you have the hottest brothers. And now cousins too? Give us a break for wanting access to them!”
Now my mouth drops to the sand, and my eyes fill with tears behind my glasses.
I should have known it was too good to be true.
Why would the It girls of Brearley want to hang out with me—the geek—all of a sudden?
I’ve been friendly with girls at school, but not really friends. I had hoped to have a real best friend at last. I mean, Lydie is nice to me and all, treats me like her little sister since we’re united by the abundance of testosterone around us. But she’s so much older and always focused on acing her exams and work at Jackson. We don’t spend a lot of time together.
But I guess she’s better than this bunch of pseudo-friends…
“Well, you can’t cock block us!” Natasha shrills when she stands before me, and the other girls echo her sentiment.
I take a breath to calm myself before I lose all cool points.
“Well, then go!” I retort. “I don’t need friends like you, anyway!”
The girls glare at me, then gather their things and leave in a huff.
Natasha’s icy blue stare sends chills down my spine. But I glare gray shards of molten platinum at her until she grabs her things and stomps away.
My stomach lurches, and I rush from the beach to my bedroom suite. I’ve had enough for one day.
“Okay, let’s go now before Malcolm and Roger notice and want to tag along. I need a drink and to get laid pronto.”
Baz says before we creep out of his bedroom suite to go to a party.
We make it out of his rooms and down the dimly lit hallway past his parent’s wing.
Baz and I whirl around to find Haley sprawled out on the floor. A crystal vase shattered beside her.
Unbeknownst to us, Haley—who is forever tagging along with us since she was a kid—must have heard us when we passed her set of rooms. This time, it appears she tripped on the rug right outside of their parents’ bedroom and knocked the vase down when she reached for the table to catch herself.
“Haley? What the hell?!” Baz whisper shouts.
“Are you all right?” I ask, concerned.
When she turns her heart-shaped face up to me, tears shimmer in her platinum gray eyes behind her glasses. Her cute dimples disappear on her flushed cheeks.
As her chin wobbles, I crouch in front of her and cup her face. My hand tingles from the contact.
“Hey, Baby Girl, don’t cry,” I murmur as I stroke her cheek with my thumb. “It’s okay.”
Baz nudges me out of the way and reaches for her. His shocked anger replaced by his big brother concern.
“Haley, are you hurt? Did the glass cut you?” He asks as he checks her out.
“What’s going on?”
We jolt at the commanding voice of Uncle Morgan and turn to face the Steele Patriarch.
Aunt Shelley hurries past him and shoos Baz and me away.
Haley’s cries must have woken them.
As Uncle Morgan reprimands Baz and me, my eyes flick to Haley, who’s being led to her rooms by Aunt Shelley. As they walk away, Haley peeks at me over her shoulder.
My heart skips a beat, and I have a sudden urge to care for her, to protect her.
I shake my head, and I glance away, confused by my reaction.
Baz and I decide to forgo the party. Instead, we hang out at the bar and play pool on their mansion’s entertainment level.
“Ha! You lost, again, Lach,” Baz guffaws as he takes a sip of his Jackson Special Blend Scotch.
Yeah, my head isn’t in the game. It’s still churning over the emotions Haley brought out in me earlier. I shake it again and sigh as I take a drink from my crystal snifter.
“What the fuck’s eating you, cuz?” Baz asks.
I shrug, then plow ahead despite a niggling not to draw attention to my predicament.
“Doesn’t it bother you Haley could’ve cut herself?” I ask in return.
Baz’s eyebrows lift, and his eyes narrow on me. They turn a stormy gray. Carefully, he places his snifter on the ledge of the pool table.
“What do you mean, Lachlan?” He asks, still eyeing me.
I give zero fucks he’s going all Alpha male on me. I’m one too.
“You did not appear overly concerned for Haley, Sebastian,” I reply as I place my snifter down.
“Oh, so you think you can take care of Haley better than me?! She’s my little sister. I know what’s best for her, Lachlan, not you!” He retorts, as his face flushes in anger.
I don’t back down. Something urges me to defend Haley even over her eldest brother who I know truly loves her as he does all of his siblings. Hell, he prides himself on being their third parent.
But again, my mind is in a confused state.
“Yes, I can! She’s my—”
She’s my what? Not my little sister. And from the way my heart stuttered as her soulful gray eyes stared up at me—touching something deep inside of me—she’s not just my cousin anymore, either.
As I think more on it, she’s been acting differently towards me all summer, not like her usual self over the holidays and last summer. More shy; averts her eyes when our gazes meet; lingers near me with a faraway look on her face. It makes me wonder.
Haley cannot feel the same. Can she?
But she is Baz’s little sister—my best friend’s little sister. And I cannot have her. No matter what deep part of me she’s tapped into all of a sudden. No matter what I sense from her. Besides, she’s only a sixteen-year-old girl, and I’m twenty-year-old man.
I lift my face towards the ceiling and blow out a frustrated breath.
“Haley is your what, Lachlan?”
Baz’s menacing tone draws me from my errant musings.
“My youngest cousin who needs to be more careful, cuz,” I answer, schooling my face into a stoic expression.
Baz scans my face for any sign of deceit. None found, he nods and racks the balls.
“Ready to lose again, cuz?” He taunts with a smirk.
I return his smirk with one of my own and take a grateful sip of my Scotch.
Present — Aberdeen, Scotland
“Oh… My… God… Lachlan… Fuuuck!!!”
I continue to pound my rigid ten inches into the woman’s tight, soaking wet pussy, forcing an orgasm on the tail of the last one. Beads of sweat drop onto her back from my forehead as my torso hovers over her equally damp body. My grip increases on her narrow hips as I flex my fingers to hold her in position—ass up, head down.
Best to keep her faceless like the countless ones before her.
One hand raises to spank her ass.
Left. Right. Right. Left.
The toned flesh blooms a rosy pink. Not good enough.
Left. Left. Right. Right. Left. Left.
Now crimson and hot to the touch. Perfect.
Her gasps urge me on. Her mewls make my dick harder than a diamond-point drill.
Her pussy walls clamp on my cock like a vice, and I grunt from the erotic pain.
My hips snap as I command her body to cum for me again.
The sounds of skin on skin as my groin meets her heated ass and my balls slapping her engorged clit mingle with the woman’s breathless cries and my growls. The musky scent of our fucking wafts around us. It’s a heady carnal environment.
And I want more.
I reach around her hip to pinch her swollen clit between my thumb and index finger. Then I tug the sensitive bud once, twice, thrice, and she explodes.
Her body convulses beneath me as her elbows slide outward on the red silk sheets, unable to support her limp frame.
I palm her throat and grip her hip to secure the woman in place.
“We have not finished, yet, little toy,” I growl with my full lips pressed to the delicate shell of her ear. Then I nip the lobe, and she squeals.
With ease, I pull out with a slick pop, flip her onto her back, and drape her thighs over my broad shoulders. As I plank over her, she bends her knees to draw me closer to her tits The spreader bar taps the tops of my shoulders. I smirk.
Then slam inside of her in one brutal thrust. My condom-covered tip hits her cervix, and she squeals as her hips buck up to meet my stroke.
I drop my head and latch onto her puckered nipple. Strong suckling elicits a carnal cry and the walls of her pussy to flutter along the length of my turgid cock.
Damn, she feels good.
My cheeks hollow out as my wicked tongue pulls on her other nipple. Another set of flutters, and her back arcs from the bed as her thighs try to squeeze the sides of my head despite the spreader bar keeping them wide apart.
“YEEESSSS… Oh. My. God!!!”
The woman screams as I wring a final orgasm from her before I release my own.
My heavy balls draw up as a zing makes its way down my spine. Muscles flex in my back, ass, and thighs with pistoning strokes. When stars dance before my eyes and my hearing fades, I throw my head back and roar through my toe-curling release. My hips continue to jerk with the need to empty my balls in her depths completely. Every. Single. Drop.
I collapse on top of the woman, bracing myself on my elbows, and bury my face in her neck. Warm puffs of air blow her sweat-dampened tendrils around my face.
A final shudder wracks her body, and she sighs in erotic bliss.
“Oh, Lachlan, baby. So good… So good,” she murmurs, with her lips against my damp hair clinging to my temple.
The sensation of her fingernails trailing along my flanks and the way she settles in for a cuddle remind me it’s time to make myself scarce.
No interest in forging a bond with her or with any of the women I fuck regularly. Nope.
I extricate myself from her clutches and remove the full condom as I sit on the edge of the bed. A shudder goes through me when she caresses my shoulder.
Deftly, I jump from the bed and stride to the bathroom for a quick shower. I’ll release her from the spreader bar once I’m dressed and ready to go out the door. The BDSM piece serves more than one purpose, I chuckle to myself wickedly.
In less than ten minutes, I’m headed through the lobby of STEELE Aberdeen. I told the woman—no need for her name or her number—to spend the night at the hotel and have breakfast on me. She doesn’t have to rush out. She might as well enjoy the luxurious suite I keep reserved for my trysts. This is just another of my usual fuck-and-go rendezvous.
I nod at the concierge and tip the valet as he opens the back door of my Rolls-Royce Phantom Extended.
“Where to, Mr. Jackson?” Theodore Doyle, my driver, asks.
“Home, thanks,” I respond as I slip onto the sumptuous leather seat and let it envelop me. I’d rather cuddle with the seat than with a random little toy any day.
My gaze takes in the scenery as we drive through the streets of the Granite City headed towards my penthouse off Union Street near Jackson Town House, our corporate headquarters.
The images blur as my thoughts go back to the conversation I had with my father Connor the other day.
“Lachlan, you are thirty-three years old. It is time for you to settle down and to have heirs. As my eldest son, you have a responsibility to our family and our company to step up when I retire in a few years,” my father says as we have lunch at our gentleman’s club, The Royal Northern & University Club Aberdeen. “The time of living your life to the fullest ended with your twenties. There are some appropriate young women who would make a suitable wife for you. I arranged for them to attend our Jackson Foundation fundraising gala next week. Do you understand, son?”
I nearly choke on the piece of filet mignon and take a sip of my Jackson Special Blend Scotch to wash the beef down.
Inwardly I cringe, knowing how much Lydie wants the role of successor to Jackson Corporation. And she deserves it as hard as she’s worked over the years from the moment our father gave us a tour of Jackson’s first distillery at eight and seven, respectively.
I won’t go against my sister. My loyalty to her runs deeper than my father realizes. The past few years, I’ve stalled him. But obviously I cannot deter him any longer.
Not to mention the fact I’m not interested in getting married now. At least, not to any of the women he has in mind. There’s only one woman for me. And I can’t have her.
I shake my head to clear that depressing thought and refocus on my father, who’s still prattling on. Blah. Blah. Blah.
“—your age, I had your sister and you, and I was being groomed to succeed my father as CEO. I spoke with your mother after she met the young women at some function, and she agrees any one of them could be an excellent match for you. They come from old families and have the proper pedigree. And family businesses, of course,” my father adds with a satisfied nod. His dark-brown hair shifts with the movement while his green eyes glitter.
He’s a distinguished older man in his mid-sixties—and still very fit—from whom my siblings and I inherited the Jackson family traits of emerald green eyes and sable brown hair. And for Lucien and me, we gained his Alpha Dom inclination for submissives. Laurent is an Alpha male but doesn’t go the D/s route. Lydie, she’s an Alpha female—as she has to be to put up with our father’s old-fashioned mindset.
Our mother, Lucie, plays the buffer as is her personality. Originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, she moved to New York City to get away from her family with whom she rarely speaks of or to. With her independent streak and fun-loving ways, she counterbalances our father. Plus, being ten years younger than him, she’s not into his stodgy ways. Talk about opposites…
I’ll have a conversation with him separately about this new scheme my father has in play. For now, I give a noncommittal grunt and finish my lunch before a forgotten meeting forces me to leave early. Thank fuck!
My thoughts return to the present when Theodore opens the sedan’s door. I give him a nod of thanks and ask him to be ready in the morning to take me to Jackson Town House. Then I stride into the lobby of my residence. More greetings to the doorman and concierge, and I’m on my private elevator, undoing the Full Windsor knot of my silk Hermès tie.
The doors open to my entry foyer, and I place my palm on the plate by the front door to unlock it. Thanks to Harris and his technology, I have no need for keys.
He and Haley co-found STEELE Technology and Cyber Security. They share a similar love of technology with Haley being a hacker and Harris a coder. We tease them for being nerds, but they’re wizzes at what they do. As co-heads, they’re responsible for all of STEELE and external clients from around the globe, including Jackson Corporation. They’re smart as fuck and we’ve grown to depend upon them.
I groan at the thought of Haley and the beautiful woman she’s grown into over the years. My cock twitches at the memory of our last encounter a few months ago when she hugged me hello. She tempts me like no other.
Down, big boy.
I try to keep her out of my mind. Hence the nameless women I fuck who are the direct opposite of Haley with their blonde hair, slim figures, and not stellar brains. No one can compare to her, so I keep my trysts on the other end of the spectrum.
All these years, I’ve waited for her to exhibit a concrete sign of wanting to be more than my little cousin since that day at the beach with her friends. But nothing. Sometimes I wonder if I imagined the tingle in my fingers when I touched her face or the way she stared at me with eyes pleading to convey her need for me.
I chalk it up to mistaken emotions, nothing more. Besides, I’m out of time. Duty calls.
As I pass through my living room heading towards the bar, I toss my tie and bespoke suit jacket onto the leather tufted sofa. Then I roll back the sleeves of my custom dress shirt after I pocket the gold knot cuff links. A glass of my new blend of Jackson Scotch I’m testing will do me right before I go to my empty king-size bed.
I carry my Waterford Crystal snifter to the windows and stare out into the night. As I swirl the amber liquid in the glass, my mind drifts.
Each sibling works at Jackson Corporation: Lydie, Overall Vice President and Vice President of the Board; me, President of Liquor and Vice President of the Board; Lucien, President of Jackson Corporation Restaurants/Bars/Lounges and Third Vice President of the Board; Laurent, Director of Jackson Corporation Cigars Division and member of the Board.
The Steele Matriarch and our mother being best friends carry beyond us being cousins into our family businesses. STEELE serves and sells Jackson products in STEELE properties around the world as well as in our restaurants, pubs, stores, and businesses.
I love my job and want to make a lasting impact on our family business, but not at the expense of my sister. I also do not want to marry for a merger. Call me old-fashioned, I want to marry for love. And there’s only one woman who can fill that role for me.
I tip the snifter rim to my lips and finish my drink with a disappointed sigh. One last glance at the stars above, and I make a wish. When we were little, I would tease Haley for wishing upon a star. Now, I wonder if dreams can come true.
Doubtful, if Baz has any say in the matter…
Between the pressure from my father and pissing off my best friend, I’m screwed. And not in a good way.
Fuck me for real.
“Oh, Haley, come on! It’ll be fun. My husband says David is really nice. He might surprise you.”
Maribelle Hayes’ pleas with her hands clasped under her chin make me laugh as we stretch on mats after our indoor cycling class. My gym buddy has been trying to get me to go on a double date with her and her husband Calvin for months. Unsuccessfully…
I rarely go on dates since it’s been nonstop with graduating from Harvard undergrad followed by B-School then co-founding STEELE Technology and Cyber Security with Harris. I’ve thrown myself into doing well in school and advancing my hacking skills and understanding of code. Harris’ excellence in developing tech gadgets and his knowledge of code combined with my mind for manipulating the system could make our impact on STEELE a positive one.
Even after all of our years of internships through the company, neither of us wanted to lead a division that existed. We wanted to put our love of all things tech to the benefit of our family’s company. Fortunately, our father and Baz saw the lucrative potential of adding a tech division to our internal processes and for high-net-worth individuals and our external business partners. Both our father and Baz focus on the net net: will it add to STEELE International’s bottom line or subtract from it?
After our initial trial runs, Harris and I proved we could generate revenue for STEELE in ways no one ever thought of in the past. Especially since we use innovative technology. When Jackson Corporation along with two other key STEELE partners signed on with us, no one could deny our contribution. Our father and Baz granted Harris and me our subsidiary within STEELE a few months ago. Talk about success!
Recently, we thwarted an attempt to hack a Fortune 100 company. The word spread about our services and landed us multiple, eight-figure contracts. Harris and I had to expand our initial teams and office space within The STEELE Tower. They don’t call us the Dynamic Duo for nothing!
Our family celebrated with a surprise dinner at the three Michelin star Lecture Room and Library at Sketch in London’s Mayfair hotel. It’s my favorite restaurant in the world with its Special Treat menu that features eight courses of magnificent dishes paired with eight esteemed wines. Yum.
Work excites me, and I love what I do. With my laptop and tech gadgets, I can manage my business anywhere, at any time. Since our client base spans the globe, I travel frequently. Each day differs and brings new challenges to keep me on my toes. Who can beat doing what you love wherever in the world it takes you?
Sure, it’s not as satisfying as having a man in my life. But staying busy helps me to keep my thoughts of a certain someone at bay. He Who Shall Not Be Named remains locked in an impenetrable box buried deep within the outer recesses of my brain.
However, I can’t always avoid HWSNBN. Especially since our families are such a close-knit group. Birthdays, holidays, just because… Even with him based all the way across the Pond in Aberdeen, it’s just impossible to ignore him. A quick hug hello, and I preoccupy myself with catching up with Lydie or spending time with my mother and Aunt Lucie.
After that summer fiasco, I learned two things.
One: never ever trust these gold diggers who befriend me for access to my brothers and my cousins.
Two: Lachlan really doesn’t want me. At. All.
Despite the connection I thought we made when he caressed my cheek after my fall, and his touch sent a tingling sensation through my body. Not once has he mentioned that afternoon or behaved any differently towards me—still Baby Girl. If I were back in junior high school, I’d make the hugest eye roll in recorded history…
For friends, I have a couple I hang out with occasionally. Like Maribelle, who I met during gym classes. Since she has a dedicated, loving husband, there’s less of a chance she’s after the men in my life.
And trust me, from Baz to Harris to Laurent, they’ve had their more than fair share of run-ins with women who are after their near-limitless wealth with hopes of a wedding ring or compensation. Fake pregnancies, pretend slip and falls, you name it.
The media dubbed my brothers the STEELE Quaternity and my cousins as the Jackson Trio—the most sought-after of the world’s eligible billionaires.
Now I will eye roll until they almost fall out of their sockets.
Me and men?
Well, other than the fact I have pit bulls mixed with Rottweilers for guard dog brothers who block any man from me as unworthy, I’m not interested in a relationship with anyone. Unless of course a certain HWSNBN has an epiphany…
However, I am a red-blooded woman with carnal needs. I’ve made out with guys over the years—no penetrative sex. Call me a romantic, but I want to wait for the man I’ll marry. Okay, let me be honest completely… for HWSNBN. There! I admit it!
When my needs get too much, I turn to my trusty wand and fantasize about a certain someone taking me. Sometimes nice and sweet. Other times wild and rough. But one constant is my need to submit to his dominance. Give the control to him: to care for me and to satisfy my every erotic desire.
Unlike my brothers and cousins, who run off to a LEVELS club to get their freak on.
Malcolm and Lucien opened the flagship LEVELS New York five years ago that provides just what they need. They—along with the male siblings—are Global All Access Members. Me? Nope. My brothers forbid a membership for their little sister.
While completing his hospitality and culinary training at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Lucien thought of a BDSM/dance club with a restaurant. He figured the club would fill the void for safe, uninhibited sexual activities amongst the world’s wealthiest and most influential people. They convinced Sebastian a global, luxury, members-only entertainment venue focused on hedonism would add to STEELE’s bottom line. Baz, again the net-net guy, saw the potential and gave them the green light.
Their venture with a high profit margin proved it’s bigger than “a titty bar,” as Baz originally called LEVELS. Malcolm and Lucien opened additional locations in Paris and London. An idea Lucien, who’s now referred to as The Sexy Chef—as legions of his female followers dubbed him—literally cooked up is worth millions.
And I can’t partake. At least I haven’t had the guts to go, not even during Masquerade Night when I can shield my identity with an ornate mask.
Okay, I’ll give in to one final major eye roll.
I’ve been in a drought lately, so maybe Maribelle’s idea of a double date could assuage the emptiness in my pseudo-sex life. Plus, I just bought a cute little number the other day and will take any excuse to wear it.
“Okay. Okay,” I giggle at Maribelle’s puppy-dog eyes. “I’ll go. Text the restaurant name to me.”
I check the contents of my crocodile Hermès clutch while I wait in my penthouse’s entry foyer for our family’s private elevator to arrive on my floor. My full-floor residence spans the fiftieth floor of The STEELE Tower. Above me in order are Harris, Roger, and Malcolm with floors of their own, then Baz and our parents with duplexes.
As graduation presents from Harvard B-School, our parents gave each sibling a penthouse. Some may think it’s odd to live in the same building as your parents and siblings. But then those people never experienced the luxury of The STEELE Tower on Fifth Avenue and Fifty-Seventh Street aka Billionaires’ Row. Or the joy of a loving family—pit bull Rottweilers and all. Why would we want to live anyplace else?
Don’t hate the player, hate the game, as Harris says. I giggle to myself and snap the cabochon closure of my clutch closed.
The elevator doors ping open, and I come face-to-face with Roger.
He’s dressed immaculately as ever in a navy pinstriped bespoke Saville Row double-breasted vest suit that emphasizes his fit physique a white custom dress shirt with silk tie, and black A. Testoni Oxfords.
When his eyes meet mine, they widen in surprise. Then he slips his hands in the pockets of his trousers as his intense gaze takes me in from head to toe.
Normally, I don’t wear a figure-fitting outfit. But I feel a bit sassy tonight. My new number is a sky blue ribbed knit midi dress with a tank top bodice. It hugs my curves to my knees where it flares to mid-calf slightly. The matching long-sleeved sweater allows my cleavage to peep between its hem and the top of the dress. I paired it with crocodile strappy sandals to lengthen my toned five-feet-eight-inch legs. Minimal makeup with sheer pink lip gloss and my hair sweeping down my back in waves finish my look.
I push my glasses up the bridge of my nose and step onto the elevator.
“Hi, Roger, I didn’t know you were in town,” I say as I reach up on tiptoe to kiss his stubbled cheek. Like the rest of my brothers, he towers over me even in four-inch heels.
Roger spends only twenty percent of his time in New York City since he’s based out of STEELE Paris. So it’s always good to see my middle brother in person, not via FaceTime.
“I flew in a couple of hours ago. I have a last-minute meeting tomorrow morning with a developer for a new property in FiDi,” Roger responds, then raises his eyebrow and checks his Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Traditionnelle. “Where are you headed to at this time of night?”
Here we go…
“To dinner at Scarpetta on a double date with my friend Maribelle, her husband, and a friend of his from work named David,” I spew the full details with no animosity.
I’ve learned there’s no point hedging with my brothers. They’ll ask until they get everything, anyway. Then they’ll have their guy run an extensive background check on my said date.
As expected, Roger doesn’t miss a beat.
“What’s David’s last name?” He asks as he removes his mobile from his jacket’s breast pocket, fingers at the ready above the screen.
I suppress a giggle.
“I don’t know. Maribelle only mentioned his first name. How about I text it to you while I sit next to him at the table, hmmm?” I ask.
Intense platinum gray eyes snap to mine. The eyebrow raises higher.
“Sarcasm, Haley? How cute,” Roger replies. “You know it’s for your own good. Trust me.”
I reach up again and kiss his cheek as the elevator doors open at the lobby. With a smile, I loop my arm through his and steer him towards the Tower’s entrance.
“I know, I know. And where are you headed to, Big Brother?” I ask, not quite ready to cut out on my taunting The Responsible one.
Roger stiffens and coughs.
“Um… Out for a bit,” he responds, hedging.
I stop before our cars at the curb and glance up at him with my eyebrow arched expectantly. Oh, if I have to give it up, so does he.
Roger tugs at the collar of his shirt and clears his throat.
Without looking at me he says, “LEVELS New York. Here, let me get your car door.”
I giggle and tell him to have fun as I slip onto the back seat of my Bentley Bentayga.
Roger’s eyes narrow and he smirks, “I will. And you damn well better not!”
He shuts the door with a firm click and raps on the roof for Gary Jones, my driver, to pull away.
I lean back and laugh out loud.
Gotta love my protective brothers!
“Steele? As in STEELE International, Inc.?”
Oh, boy. Not what I needed: a fanatic…
David Ross: thirty-one; works at a Wall Street hedge fund; single; Yale University undergrad and B-School; oldest of three boys; from Wichita, Kansas.
All of this he told me within five minutes of our introduction. Well, eight if you include the pause he had to take as the hostess led the four of us from the bar to our table, where he finished his monologue.
Now that Maribelle could get a word in and gave him my name, he’s gobsmacked.
David’s bulging eyes bounce between Maribelle and Calvin. Both avert their gazes, embarrassed by his blatant fanaticism over meeting a Steele—the only female of the multibillion-dollar family. I’m sure the peals of wedding bells ring between his ears.
We’re saved from the pregnant pause by the server who asks for our drink orders.
Instead of a double shot of Gran Patrón Burdeos, I request a glass of Barolo. Maribelle suggests we get a bottle, and I couldn’t agree more.
David cuts in to ask for a bottle of Jackson Cabernet Sauvignon instead, and my heart stutters in my chest.
“It’s from the best vineyard. You’ll enjoy Jackson’s full-bodied red wine with dark fruit flavors and savory taste of black pepper. It has a smooth finish,” David says to impress me.
Little does he realize I’m more than impressed by Jackson’s President of Liquor and would more than enjoy his smooth finish in my mouth…
The thought brings a smile to my full lips.
David smirks, thinking he’s got me hooked.
Can I get one more eye roll? Pretty please???
“So, Haley, you’re a member of the Steele family?” David asks like a starved dog with a bone.
Too bad. He’s a nice-looking guy, fit, well dressed, smart. He could have been a pleasant distraction. Ah well.
“Yes,” I respond. “Do tell me more about your work, David. It sounds fascinating.”
The best way to deflect with a guy like David is to keep him talking about himself. Make him the focus, not me.
Happily, he takes the bait with gusto.
Our meal goes well enough despite Fan David. Maribelle and Calvin are so cute together. They finish each other’s sentences, and he stares at her with undisguised love. By the time we’re done with dessert, I wish I had a Calvin in my life.
“Haley, let’s go to dinner. How’s Friday night at 4 Charles Prime Rib? I know it’s hard to get a reservation, but I can get one easily,” David says as we leave Scarpetta, chest puffed up.
Again with impressing me…
Inwardly, I sigh. Outwardly, I plaster a smile on my face and shake my head with an air of dismay.
“I fly out to Hong Kong tomorrow for business. But thank you for the offer,” I respond, then turn to give Maribelle a hug and Calvin a pat on his forearm. “Thank you for dinner. It was lovely. Next time, it’s my treat. Mari, I’ll see you at the gym when I return.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I see David part his lips.
I pivot and give a wave over my shoulder as Gary opens the door to my SUV. I settle behind the cover of its tinted windows and throw my head back with a robust laugh.
No need for Roger to investigate this guy! No, sir!
I’ll end my evening with a pretty crystal glass of Jackson Reserve Scotch, my oh so magical wand, and the man himself making love to me in my mind.
Lachlan and Haley's Trilogy:
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