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by Christy Poff
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Romance
Description: Masked Desires Ava's invitation to the company's annual costume ball sends her reeling, while Matthew wants to make her the one of his dreams. Will Mardi Gras' masked desires bring these two together, or hide the truth? A Cowboy's Desire When she learns the hotel she's grown to love has been sold to a corporation, Sutton Carey becomes the transition team leader. Rod Keaveney buys his friend's hotel looking forward to meeting the woman chosen to handle the period between owners. When he invites her to his ranch, they get work done?just not dealing with the hotel. Can a cowboy's desires break the ice or anger her more?
eBook Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press, 2012
eBookwise Release Date: March 2012
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [107 KB]
Reading time: 60-84 min.
"You can't be serious!" Kate gasped.
"I am very serious," Ava Clinton stated emphatically. "Steven's gay. I caught him with his lover and believe me--I couldn't wait to get away from them. If only he'd been honest..."
"But why did he hide it? The company's so open about different lifestyles."
"Except when you're trying for a huge promotion and appearances mean everything."
"But surely it's not like that," Kate argued.
"Evidently it is very much so," Ava said. "He needed the perfect girlfriend to impress Matthew Lord."
"I'd take that as a compliment if he..."
"I wouldn't have minded if he'd only been honest and upfront."
"Hey, ladies," Jaime Earl said as she passed by on her way to the copy room. "Are you going to the costume party?"
"What costume party?" Ava asked.
"The annual one the Lords host. It always falls after the last krewe marches in the Krewe of Bacchus Parade. It's a lot of fun."
"I doubt I'll go," Ava said. "I hate going alone and besides, aren't most of those parties by invitation only?"
"I'm sure we can get you one," Jaime assured Ava.
"Don't go to any trouble. I'm not sure I want to party at this point."
"That's exactly what you need to do," Kate stated. "After Stevie boy, you need to get out and see what life has to offer."
"You make me sound like I'm a damned basket case. Besides, if I do, I'd be crashing some party I'm not invited to."
They chatted a few moments more before returning to their desks after lunch. On Ava's desk sat a white envelope with gold lettering, her name written in flourishes and swirls. She took it and slid it into her desk drawer, not wanting the others to see it and start making a fuss about it.
In New Orleans, gala parties after the parades usually raised money for various causes and most people who attended had lighter wallets when they left to go home. She knew she couldn't afford to go so she resigned herself to attending one or two of the larger parades then going home and watching the highlights on the local news channels the night after. All-in-all, she enjoyed her life but she'd taken a hit to her confidence when she learned exactly who Steven Ridge pretended to be. Why didn't he just come out and tell me? I would have helped him...
Ava went through the stack of papers on her desk dealing with Lord, Limited. A small but very influential firm, they dealt with high-tech electronics for the auto industry and several other fields. Her boss happened to be the son of the owner--Matthew Lord, III--a tall man with light brown hair, brown eyes to match and a smile that melted her every time she saw it. She'd heard him sing once, remembering his gorgeous baritone voice. She preferred his take on Sixteen Tons because it sounded to her like he'd gone just a little lower on some notes than Tennessee Ernie Ford did in the original.
She caught herself watching him at times, trying to act nonchalant about the fact he sent heat through her just by saying hi. She pushed these thoughts aside, sorting the stack of papers into piles then filing them. She picked up a piece of paper he'd written some notes on, jolting from the heat she felt coming off the paper. What the...
"Ava, could you get me the file for Jaguar?"
"Yes, sir," she said before she stood and walked across the office to the file room and the cabinet where the file she wanted sat. Finding it, she took it into his office and placed it on his desk then turned to leave.
"Thank you, Ava," Lord said. "Will you be available for a business trip the Monday after the ball?"
"I don't see a problem so, yes," she answered, not needing to look at a calendar. As far as she knew, her social calendar would be open for a long while.
"Good, make reservations for you and me in London."
"The usual hotel and..."
"Yes, whatever," he said, not once taking his eyes from the document he read.
"Right away," she said. She walked out of the office closing the door behind her.
Yeah, right--me with him? Never happen...
Matthew Lord watched her out of the corner of his eye, his cock straining to find comfort inside the woman he'd been in love with for months. Considering his father's policy on interoffice relationships, he'd tried extremely hard not to betray his true feelings for Ava Clinton but each day it became more and more impossible.
She promoted to her present position as his personal secretary when Mrs. Cleary suddenly passed away. His mother had offered to help find a replacement but Matthew quickly told her he'd take care of it. He didn't tell his mother he'd seen the perfect replacement and wanted to get to know her on a more intimate level--years before, his father would never hear of anything like that. Matthew kept his feelings secret, hired Ava eight months before and lived in agony ever since.
Physical desire had gotten the better of him and pushed him to secretly placing a gold-engraved invitation to the Lord, Limited's annual costume ball on her desk while she went on break with two friends. He watched her slide the envelope into her desk drawer, obviously not wanting the others to know she'd received it--definitely a point in her favor.
He realized if anything happened between them, her friends might be involved in one way or another and he'd decided if keeping them in the loop so to speak would help keep her in his life, he'd bear their presence. He had never been overly fond of them, feeling they truly didn't appreciate Ava. He'd found Ava Clinton to be a caring, gentle and giving woman who had the misfortune of befriending the wrong people.
Matthew Lord, III, had never been a snob but he was a good judge of character. Jaime and Kate could be very nice but they wanted what Ava had and he could tell she sometimes mistook their emotions for something innocent. He knew both had been openly jealous of Ava's promotion and it bothered him--Ava didn't need betrayal.
He thought of Steve--her recently outed ex-boyfriend. By accident, Matthew learned of Steve's relationship with his male lover and the reason he'd kept it hidden. Another wanting a promotion, he went old school and found someone who could be considered the perfect girl to be with in order to get where he wanted. Because of some extremely calculated timing on Matthew's part, Ava had walked in on Steve and his lover in her bed.
I hate that it happened but you needed to find out...
Matthew had gotten rid of two thorns in his side when Ava learned the truth. First, how could he honestly trust a man in a high-level position when he couldn't be honest about his love life? That alone told Matthew more than he needed to know about the man. Second, it got the asshole out of Ava's life. Now I can see if she'll even consider me.
He had taken the first step by inviting her to the ball. Now will she go?
Matthew saw her through the small side window at the door and could no longer take their close proximity. He called her, told her he planned to leave for the day then hightailed it out his private entrance. He walked down the street to a door leading to a private men's club and went inside.
He'd been a member for years--another secret kept from his father. If only you knew about this... What he adored about the place--it had been kept as the original owner intended. Brant Dalton opened The Men's Club in the twenties as a way he and his friends could enjoy vices while Prohibition loomed. Membership had been by invitation only and had remained that way to the present. Brant had made a haven for men to go eat, drink and be happy--in more ways than one.
Right now, Matthew needed some relief. He hoped this would be one of the last times he'd have need of Valerie's attentions but if the encounter at the ball didn't work out, he knew he'd be back.
Ava pulled the white envelope from her desk drawer and slipped it into her handbag. After grabbing her jacket, she put it on then left the office for another uneventful night at home. Since her break-up, she'd experienced many of them and this evening would be no exception.
Stopping for Chinese take-out on the way home, she decided if the envelope turned out to be what she thought, she'd go and enjoy the evening. Hell, a masked ball--no one will know me...
Once home, she ate her dinner while it was still hot--won ton soup and cashew shrimp did wonders when she felt down. After that, she took a long hot bath, soaking in magnolia-scented bath oil. Afterward, she went to her bag and finally looked at the mysterious envelope--hand addressed in gold script.
Slowly, she slid the contents out discovering a coveted invitation to the Lords' Annual Masked Ball. She couldn't believe it though she wanted to know why after all this time. She'd been at the office for the better part of eight years and had never received an invitation. Now she trembled holding it.
She felt something strange--an erotic feeling coming from the paper. What the hell?
Regaining herself, she read the card.
You are cordially invited to the annual masked ball to be held at the Aster Crowne Plaza immediately after the end of the Krewe of Bacchus Parade.
The invitation took her breath away, especially the hand-written Hope to see you there.
Ava Clinton sat on the side of her bed, her towel falling to her waist, stunned by what she held in her hand. She could not begin to figure out who'd sent the invitation but at the moment, she had other things on her mind.
Heat coursed through her when she touched the handwriting, her stomach tightening. Who the hell are you and why do you have this hold on me?
She lay back, trying to determine what costume she should wear. With the ball in a few weeks, she knew she'd better get one soon or there would be no decent ones left in the entire city. Different ideas came to mind and she quickly pushed them aside. She saw beautiful images before her but she didn't feel in the mood to go as a Southern Belle, an angel or anything her friends might expect her to go as.
She knew from talk the day after the previous year's ball that masks remained on all night--a quirk of the host who had a reputation for loving mystery. Somehow, Matthew Lord, III, didn't strike her as a mystery lover unless he'd chosen to continue his father's tradition.
Ava got up and crossed the room to where she'd put her laptop. Ignoring her nudity--it didn't matter, no one would ever know--she sat in a comfortable chair, curled up with her Dell and looked up costumes. One struck her as unique, though Ava kept looking. The more she looked, the more she settled on the unique outfit she kept returning to.
She enlarged the picture and stared at it--a gothic sorceress. The gown had two distinct pieces--a low-cut little black dress and a sheer deep purple and black overcoat which flared out as it fell to the floor. If she got rid of the witch's hat, added the right mask and a slinky pair of black stilettos, the costume would be perfect--sexy while not slutty, wild yet mysterious.
She tried calling the costume shop and after talking to the owner for a short while, she had the costume put aside for her to try on the next day.
"Thank you, Mister..."
"Lovelace," he said, "and you're very welcome."
Ava hung up, shut off her computer and sat back. She pictured herself in this costume, her body aroused by the idea and the possibility her mystery man would help her experience an unforgettable evening.
The next day, she walked out of the costume shop with her costume and the perfect mask to accompany it. Down the street, she entered a shoe store and bought a pair of stiletto sandals to finish the look.
"Are you sure you want to wear these all night long?" the clerk asked.
"Right now, I'm not sure of anything."
Ava left the store, went home and tried on the entire outfit to make sure it fit and that nothing lacked. Liking what she saw, she took it off, hung it up and walked over to pick up a robe from her dressing table chair. She stopped when she caught her reflection in the full-length mirror--her naked body wearing nothing but stiletto heels. She picked up the mask and put it on gasping.
The sight in front of her reminded her of the movie Eyes Wide Shut with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. She remembered the countless naked girls walking around a huge mansion waiting for the caped men to give their commands. Her nipples hardened at the thought and strangely enough--she loved how she felt.
"Maybe this won't be such a bad thing after all."