Heat Exchange (The Alpha Billionaire's Virgin Book 1), страница 1
Table of Contents
ABOUT THIS STORY
(The Alpha Billionaire's Virgin
by Deana Farrady
ABOUT THIS STORY
What would you do if you were stuck in an elevator with a gorgeous billionaire?
Nyall Anderson, Seattle's tech startup king, doesn't do commitment and never loses his cool. He absolutely has no time for chatty virgins who blurt out their life stories in elevators.
Curvy caterer Janey Pankowski knows all about hot, rich dynamos like Nyall. His type never looks at boring virgins like her, which is good, because all she wants is a nice, normal guy she can settle down with in the suburbs.
Then the elevator gets stuck...
Now Janey's considering the most tempting proposition of her life: Let this gorgeous playboy teach her how to heat up the sheets. All she has to do is show him how to heat up the kitchen. A totally fair exchange, assuming they can both keep a lid on the steam...
Janey stared at the her phone, feeling tears well up in her eyes. The email had just come in as she'd been waiting on the ground floor for the elevator.
TO: Janey Pankowski
FROM: Vince Edelston
SUBJECT: Your Invitation
Hey, Janey. Got your message about the concert. I'm kind of busy this week so I'm afraid I can't make it. But thanks for thinking of me. That birthday cake was awesome. We'll definitely use your company for goodies when the holiday season comes. It was great to meet you and your assistants.
Smith Greggor Systems
Janey deleted the email, sniffing. It was her third rejection from a man she'd asked out on a date in as many months. She guessed it served her right for trying to move forcibly past her own shyness with men. She'd figured if guys wouldn't come to her, then she'd try going to them and ask them out. What could she lose but what little ego she had left as a 29-year-old virgin?
So what had happened? Fail, fail, and fail.
This time she'd been really assertive, too. "Would you like to go with me," she'd said clearly to Vince's voice mail system. Not "Why not join us" or "Hey, drop by if you feel like it." She'd made it super obvious that she was asking for a date. The least the man could have done was acknowledge that he was refusing a date, not a casual invitation. And returned her call instead of sending a cop-out work email.
Guys. They made no sense to her.
She didn't get why the good guys ignored her and only the sleazy ones came on to her. Even the sleazy guys just wanted to grope. Not date her.
It wasn't like she was hideously ugly. Her face was average. True, she didn't go to the trouble of plucking her eyebrows, but she wasn't overly hirsute in the first place. Her hair was brown. And sure, she didn't have the best body in the universe—her breasts could in no way be called perky and too many samplings from her catering gigs ended up in her rear end and thighs. But she didn't look that far different from her sisters and they didn't have problems attracting guys—guys that in some cases, Janey had actually found for them! So what was it about her that said she's not girlfriend material?
She blinked back the tears as she tucked away her phone, then looked back and forth between the elevator doors, waiting for one to ding. The only other person standing nearby waiting for the elevators was a tall young man with a briefcase. Her eyes passed over him, then did a double-take because, well, who wouldn't look twice at that? Dark brown hair tousled from actual wind rather than artfully styled, wire-framed glasses, wide shoulders, and a tanned, shadow-stubbled face that was lean, angular, and sensual all at once. Whew. While not pretty, the guy was beyond cute and well into the land of magazine-cover hot.
He seemed about Janey's age, but that's where the similarities ended. He wore a pair of loose khaki trousers that defined his hips and legs just enough to show that he was athletic but not bulked up. His ecru shirt looked plain, but it had shell buttons and was some kind of sheeny Italian fabric, obviously not off the Walmart rack like Janey's. He wore a nice, simple narrow belt low on his waist. His shoes were those black leather ones that actually looked stylish and comfortable, like they'd been custom-made for his feet.
So she wasn't surprised that he didn't seem to notice her, even though she was the only other person waiting. He was out of Janey's league in all ways.
Unfortunately, her body didn't seem to have gotten the memo. It was on full red alert as she gaped at him. Until the elevator dinged and the door in front of him opened.
Almost too late she realized she'd been standing there like a star-struck teenager. She grabbed her totes and scrambled onto the elevator, feeling her face heat. Three people were running from the lobby towards the elevators as the doors slid shut. Hastily she hit the button to keep the doors from shutting, but too late. The doors closed before the elevator chasers made it and the elevator started ascending.
Hoping her face wasn't still too blatantly flushed, she hit the button for the seventh floor and glanced over at the elevator's other occupant with a rueful look meant to convey, too bad, I wasn't quick enough.
She did manage to catch his eye, whereupon he gave a token curve of his lips. She recognized that distant smile well, having dealt with her share of business clients. Not unfriendly, but not interested in chit-chat, either.
Janey shrugged. At least the elevator guy was honestly antisocial. Unlike Vince. Vince was friendly and—she had thought—nice. And he'd seemed interested. He'd actually patted her hip in his company's break room. That had struck her as tacky, but it made her think at least it was worth a shot. Sadly, in retrospect Vince now seemed to be one of the sleazebags instead of the good guys.
The elevator rose slowly past one, two floors. The old downtown building had only twelve stories. She thought she'd better get her act together fast if she was going to face her clients, a group of lawyers who'd have zero tolerance for their hired caterers crying all over their fancy plastic dishware.
She stared down at her bags, not really seeing the supplies. How, how, how had she reached this advanced age in this state? Her hormones functioned perfectly well. Sure, she'd never felt any kind of raging, irresistible passion for anyone. But she did like guys. And guys liked her well enough as friends. But only a handful of them ever wanted to date her and never had she had a real boyfriend. Guys just weren't interested in her that way. It was some kind of law of the universe.
Except, she reminded herself ruefully, for the attached ones. Janey had had more than her share of invitations from taken men, but that was her idea of an insult, not an opportunity.
All her friends told her she was just too picky, or not sending out the right signals. Maybe it was true. But secretly she was sure she knew the reason. She was just too boring. Nice, decent, and attractive guys simply weren't wowed by size 12, un-suave girl-next-door types. They went for the exciting girls. Janey couldn't think of a single case where a guy chose somebody less happening then they were.
The elevator jerked and stopped suddenly and Janey stumbled. That halt had come with a stronger-than-normal impact. Startled, she c
"Oh, no," she blurted.
"Fuck," the elevator's other occupant said simultaneously.
Janey was taken aback. The man ignored her, staring at the button panel. He let go of his briefcase, letting it drop to the floor, and stepped forward to read the instructions on the panel. A moment later he was pressing one of the floor buttons. Nothing. He pressed a red flat panel button. Static came on, then a male voice speaking over the intercom.
Speaking in a low, smooth, velvety voice—Janey could easily imagine it coming from a movie theater's sound system- her elevator companion traded information with the security staff member. The exchange was brief, clipped, polite. At one point Janey was asked if she had any medical conditions.
"No," she responded clearly.
"We're good," the man said and continued the discussion. A minute later, the static ceased and the intercom clicked off.
Janey observed the whole thing with fascination. Except for that initial expletive, the man had kept a lot calmer than she was managing to and was undeniably efficient.
"Did I just hear him say it might be hours?" Janey said.
The man had his phone in his hand. He glanced at her then as if in surprise that she was still there. Janey's hackles rose. Where did he think she'd gone, through the floor?
"Could be hours," the man said. "Probably more like one. We have electrical and connectivity, so it can't be that bad." He put his phone to his ear, waited a minute, and started talking into it.
"Well, that's not good," Janey muttered to herself. She crouched down and peered into one of the totes. There were no perishables, of course, but the clients would be short of dinnerware for their luncheon. She nibbled her lip, then reached for her own phone.
A few minutes later, she was reassured that her head assistant would take care of matters in her absence and make a special trip down to the van for the supplies Janey had been fetching. Janey had warned Leese to take the stairs just in case. With three staffers freely roaming, the boss getting stuck in an elevator was a minor inconvenience and shouldn't mean any disastrous delays. Now all she had to do was deal with being in a confined space for at least one hour with a stranger.
She glanced up at the ceiling and at the walls. It wasn't a tiny elevator, but it wasn't one of those huge deals either. The building was hardly a modern office tower.
"Are you claustrophobic?"
Janey looked at the man, startled to find him looking at her. He was leaning against the back of the elevator casually.
"Me?" she said. His eyebrows arched upward and she flushed, realizing what a ridiculous question that was. "Oh. Uh, no. I'm fine. Not claustrophobic. How about you?"
He shook his head and glanced back down at his phone. Naturally it was one of those jobs from which he could have his choice of watching videos, running an office, and planning world domination. Janey's phone was a reject from one of her friends from the era when phones were still more phone than computer.
She looked away politely. After about ten minutes, though, her gaze wandered back to him. He was still interacting with his mobile and ignoring her.
"I've never been stuck on an elevator before for longer than a couple of minutes," she blurted. "Have you?'
There was a delay before he looked up. When he did, his eyes surveyed her from top to bottom in a lightning-quick look that Janey told herself was a simple reminder to himself of where he was—not the kind of once-over that a guy gives a girl he's attracted to. That didn't stop it from making her spine stiffen and her skin feel suddenly sensitized. "Yeah, once or twice," he drawled in that smooth timbre. "There's nothing to worry about. It might get a little warm in here, but there's enough air even if we're in here till evening."
"Till evening?" Janey had been okay before at the idea of an hour, but now she started to panic. "Maybe we should try to pry open the doors and climb out, like in the movies."
Again his brows rose and amusement lit his eyes. "Maybe we shouldn't."
That amused expression did something to her. Her breath caught and she felt her nipples tighten beneath the jacket of her suit. It was a warm day in early September and the elevator suddenly felt stiflingly hot.
The effect only went one way, apparently. The man's attention returned to his phone. Janey wasn't surprised. While she'd never had such a strong and immediately sexual response to a guy before, the man's own reaction was just business as usual as far as her life went.
Maybe she should just go ahead and get her name changed to Janey Ho-Hum, she thought idly.
She fanned herself discreetly with her hand. She gazed around again. Elevators were very empty places. The only thing interesting was in the top corner of the elevator, a tiny round object.
"I wonder if that's a camera," she said aloud.
This time his reluctance to look up was obvious. Janey flushed. She hadn't really been talking to him. Exactly. But there was no need to make her feel like she was intruding. She wasn't exactly here voluntarily.
"Yes, it is," he said without bothering to glance up at the ceiling.
"Amazing that in a building this old there's that kind of technology. And look at this panel. You wonder if we could go flying like in Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. That was a fun book." Why couldn't she stop chattering? Maybe she was more panicked than she realized.
Or maybe being stuck in an elevator with a delectable male hottie who wasn't the slightest impressed with her nonhottie self right after being rejected by a far less appealing guy by email was beginning to take its toll. Janey felt those tears well up in her eyes again.
She turned away from the man quickly, facing the doors, and crossed her arms over her chest.
"Surveillance is everywhere these days," he said tersely—and, she'd bet, went back to doing whatever he was doing with his device. She didn't turn around to confirm it. She determined not to talk to him at all for the rest of the time they were stuck here unless it was an emergency.
The next several minutes passed in silence except for the tapping of the man's stylus on his phone and the occasional beep, which she could hear over the soft rush of the ventilation system. She reluctantly admitted that the guy was right; it was getting uncomfortably warm in here.
Giving up any pretense of poise, she plopped down on the floor and shrugged off her oversized jacket, revealing the white shell blouse she wore underneath. It was semi-sheer, but she didn't worry about it. If her companion on the elevator even noticed, she didn't fool herself he'd be bothered even a little.
Janey had what she thought of as an invisible body. There was nothing technically wrong with it, but even at the beach while she was wearing a swimsuit, she was never the center of attention. That was reserved for the skinny, flat-bellied girls, or the robust athletic ones, or even the softer, fun party girls. She wasn't any of those. She was just Janey.
She reached into one of her totes and pulled out a bottled water. She opened it and drank the whole thing down. It was warm, but better than nothing.
She glanced around and saw the guy was still leaning against the wall, still all into his phone. Guilt made her rethink her position on the silent treatment. If she was thirsty, he probably was, too. It was, after all, lunch time.
"Do you want some water?" she offered.
He glanced up, frowned when he didn't see her, then found her on the floor. Wow. He'd seriously been unaware of her if he didn't even know she was sitting down now. Janey took it in stride. The story of her life.
"No, thanks, it's—" he broke off, his eyes narrowing as they took in her see-through blouse. Then he seemed to catch himself and moved his gaze to her face. "No," he said slowly.
"Are you sure? I have extra. I've already had one." She dug into the bag and held out the bottle to him.
A shiver traveled through her as she caught his gaze on her again. He was definitely noticing her lack of a jacket, looking at her breasts through the shell in the
But she didn't fool herself about it. It probably just meant that her own version of Murphy's Law had struck again and he wasn't available. Of course he'd be attached. Rich, good-looking, thirtyish guys like him were never single. Well at least, if they were, and they were heterosexual, they never gave her a second look. The fact that this one was doing so now had to be due either to the very boring scenery in here or her Curse of Attracting Sleazeballs.
Janey seriously wanted to cry now.
He spotted the empty bottle she was crumpling in her hand. "That? You drank that whole bottle?"
"It's not that big," she sniffed. He didn't need to talk about it like she was a lush, for goodness sake.
"Nor are bladders," he said dryly. "And we don't know how long we're going to be on this thing."
"Oh. You're right. That wasn't too bright." Her voice broke a little.
He stared at her. His phone made a sound and absently he glanced at it, tapped something, then tucked it in his pocket. "You are claustrophobic," he said abruptly.
Janey became aware then that the tears she'd been fighting since she read Vince's email were now trailing down her cheeks. "No," she said. "I'm sorry. It's nothing to do with being in the elevator."
The tears weren't stopping. She bent her knees, wrapped her arms around her legs, and tucked her head between them. "I'm just having a bad day. Ignore me," she said in a muffled voice. "You can go back to your surfing. I won't disturb you again."
"I wasn't surfing, I was working," he said. To her surprise, his voice came from lower down. She lifted her head and found him sitting against the side wall of the elevator with his knees up. "Do you normally burst into tears in the middle of the day?'
"Whenever I haven't eaten," she said. "Missing meals makes me weep."