Tempt: a prequel

 

Tempt: a prequel

 

“You’re evil, Allison.” My best friend, Elizabeth, huffed through the phone. She was not taking my move to London well, and I was still hearing it while trying to catch my flight.

“I’m not evil. Stop saying that.”

“You’re abandoning me in this new apartment. You’re forcing me to make friends. You’re evil.” Elizabeth was being dramatic, but not overly so. She was a unique case and I loved her for it.

Let’s just say making friends and being “out there” were not her forte.

“You know, not everyone is out to get you. There are actually a few lovely people out there in the world. You should meet some of them.” Heaven help me if I ever met anyone else like her.

She groaned and I could picture her pulling the comforter up over her head. “Fine. Have it your way. Good luck. Call me when you land.”

“Love you.” I was really going to miss her.

“Love you, too.” Then she clicked off the phone.

I took a deep breath and glanced up at the red letters on the board behind the flight attendant. Everything was still on schedule. By dinner I would be in my new flat in a new country starting a new job. Well, not new. My firm was sending me over to work on a project for our London branch. They did things like this all the time, but it was my first time.

Six months living in London, working on one of the hardest projects I’d ever handled. I was taking a secondary design position of a new state of the art business complex that would be housing everything from a small museum, to labs, to offices. Everything had to as efficient as possible, all while being unique and aesthetically gorgeous. In other words, this was huge.

After my phone conversations with Luis Menendez I knew I was going to love my new project lead, but my new boss, Margaret Hickman, I wasn’t too sure about her. The “H” in HDM2 Architects, she was cold, clipped, and seemingly never happy. I don’t even know why she requested me if she was so damn unhappy with everything I’d ever designed. But I was coming in hot with some new ideas that I really thought were going to put this building—and me, by extension—on the map. That is if I had the guts to actually follow through and not play it safe.

“Are you on vacation?” The man beside me leaned a little closer. I think he was flirting with me.

Oh god, what if he was flirting with me? He wasn’t going to ask if I’m a member of the Mile High Club or anything cheesy like that, was he? “No, work.”

“Ah. In London, or are you headed on somewhere from there?”

“London.” I kept my answers short. This strange man didn’t need any more information—he could be a stalker.

“I’ve been working there for about a year now. I don’t think they’ll ever get me to leave.”

“And why is that?” Why did I ask that? I didn’t want to make this conversation any longer than it already was. Dumb. Dumb move, Riley.

“The city just speaks to my soul. It has a vibe. Have you ever been?”

I took a second to look him over. He wasn’t my type at all. Baby faced and slender, he was a handsome enough guy, just not what got me all hot and bothered. I preferred my men manly. Broad shoulders, deep voices, and dark eyes did me in every single time.

God, I hoped I didn’t meet anyone like that in London. I was there to work, not play. I had a goal. Shit was getting real with my folks and if I stood any chance of making architecture my life instead of Riley Cosmetics, I needed this to be big.

It wasn’t going to be enough to be good at my job. I needed to be great. I needed to be the best. It was the only ammunition I had against being forced into taking over my family empire and still keep a good relationship with the people I loved.

Did we have a great relationship? No. It was far from perfect. But they were my family and we were all trying our best. We usually made it work. My parents just happened to come from a world in which empires were built and passed on generation after generation. They couldn’t conceive of a world in which their only daughter wanted nothing to do with their company.

Not to mention they were still scratching their heads about my refusal to marry Tristan Whittaker. I mean, he’s a Whittaker. According them, we were a perfect match.

On paper.

And sure, I gave in and dated him briefly in college—back when I was still under the delusion I could be the daughter my parents envisioned—but the guy made my skin crawl. He was so boring. And obsessed with money and position. I could have gotten off a little bit if he was all about the power and control, but that wasn’t what got his juices flowing. It was money and superficial shit I didn’t care about.

Tristan was not an option. And neither were all the other guys my mom kept suggesting. I didn’t want an heir to a fortune as my partner in crime. I wanted someone with passion. Someone who took life by the balls and laughed at danger.

Okay, maybe that line was a little dramatic, but you kinda see what I’m saying, right?

I wanted more out of life than a stable merger of two companies.

The man cleared his throat and I realized he’d asked me a question. “I’m so sorry, can you repeat that?”

He smiled kindly. No, this man was not flirting me with me. He was lonely and making conversation to pass the time. “Have you ever been?”

“Yes, but it’s been a few years.” More than a few, actually. I hadn’t been since our family vacation in high school.

“Well, enjoy it. All work and no play…”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ll have some fun, too.” But not too much.

My phone vibrated in my hand. “Oh good god!” Elizabeth was photo bombing me pictures of naked men draped in the Union Jack.

The man chuckled. “Maybe not that much fun.”

I shrugged and powered off my phone before Elizabeth moved into porn. Maybe I could make time for a hot British guy or two. They did have sexy accents after all…