Apr 25 2014 12:00pm
Frisky Business: Exclusive Excerpt
There he is again
No more rich men for Marley Cartman. Absolutely not. Thanks to her dad, her ex-fiancé, and the overbearing donors she schmoozes for a living, she's had more than her fill. From now on, she wants blue-collar men with dirt under their fingernails. But when Marley makes a break to handle donor relations for a wildlife sanctuary, she finds herself drawn to the annoyingly charming—and disturbingly wealthy—chairman of the board.
The kind of man she doesn't want
Judging by his hipster T-shirts, motley assortment of canine companions, and penchant for shaking up stuffy board meetings, you'd never guess that William Barclay the Fifth is a brilliantly successful businessman. Will has good reason to be leery of scheming women, and as he and Marley butt heads over the wisdom of bringing grumpy badgers to charity events, he can't help but wonder if his new donor relations coordinator is hiding something other than a perfect figure beneath that designer suit...
Get a sneak peek of Tawna Fenske's Frisky Business (available May 6, 2014) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.
At the sound of Marley’s scream, Will dropped the giant pink bunny he’d lugged all the way to her front porch. The massive stuffed rabbit landed with its ear flopped over Will’s crotch as its glassy eyes leered with undisguised glee. He shoved the animal’s head aside and grinned at Marley, who gaped at him from the doorway.
“Sorry about that,” he said. “I take it you weren’t expecting company?”
Marley blinked and looked from Will to the bunny and back to Will again. Her hair was tousled and her feet were bare, and Will was certain he’d never seen her look so beautiful.
“I wasn’t expecting a four-foot pink rabbit at the door at eleven p.m. on a Thursday night.”
“Good point. Giant pink rabbits generally appear on Wednesdays at noon.”
“Will, what the hell is this?”
He rested one hand on the rabbit’s head and tried to keep his eyes off Marley’s cleavage. She was still wearing that black dress with the billowy neckline that gave him small glimpses of her flesh whenever she moved just right. Maybe if she stooped down for a closer look at the rabbit…
“Rabbit,” Will said, struggling to direct the blood back into his brain. “That’s a very good question, though. One I asked myself at least four times as I drove here with a gargantuan pink rodent in the passenger seat of my car. For the record, she wore a seat belt.”
“I’m glad to hear it. But why is the gargantuan pink rodent on my porch?”
“Bed insisted,” Will said. “She wanted to make sure you got the message that she was pleased with how you handled the party this evening. She also wanted an extra special way to present you with this.”
He lifted one of the rabbit’s floppy arms, waving it in Marley’s direction until she looked down and spotted the envelope safety-pinned to the creature’s pink paw. He watched her brows lift, and she studied the envelope with a quizzical look before glancing back at Will.
“That’s for me?”
“That’s for Cheez Whiz, but Bed wanted to be sure it was delivered to you personally.”
Marley licked her lips and bent down to unpin the envelope. The neckline of her dress gaped open, and Will felt himself grow dizzy. He diverted his gaze to a huge bronze statue that looked like a pterodactyl preparing to crash into the wall, and he studied it intently as Marley tore open the envelope.
“Oh my God,” she said.
Will looked back at her, relieved to see she was standing at an angle that kept her tempting flesh off display. Her face was pale, and when she raised her eyes to his, they were wide and stunned.
“Is this for real?” she asked.
“I believe so.”
“Is she joking?”
“Bed never jokes,” Will answered. “I didn’t see the amount, but I trust it’s either embarrassingly large or she just enrolled you in a jelly-of-the-month club?”
Marley blinked again. “This is more than ten times the biggest donation of the night. And that’s saying something, considering we had some very generous donors this evening.”
Will nodded, not particularly surprised. “Bed does love the grand gesture. Hence the ugly pink rabbit.” Will looked down at the creature again, then back at Marley. “Do you mind if I bring this inside? I don’t want your neighbors to see it. They might get jealous, and before you know it, they’ll all expect me to show up on their doorsteps with massive pink stuffed animals.”
“Right. Um, how about right here against the wall?”
Marley pointed at a spot in the foyer next to the airsick pterodactyl, and Will bent down and picked up the rabbit. He half-carried, half-dragged it to the wall and propped it up beside the statue. Marley shut the door behind him and turned to study the arrangement. One of the bunny’s massive ears flopped over its button eyes, and Will tucked it back along the side of the creature’s head. The ear promptly slid back.
Will shrugged. “A word of warning—it has those eyes that look like they’re following you no matter where you move. It’s kinda creepy.”
“Creepy doesn’t even begin to describe it.”
Will laughed as Magoo trotted over to inspect the new arrival. The dog sniffed one of the massive feet, then the other. He gave a tentative lick to the fur on the creature’s belly, then sneezed. He trotted to the other side and surveyed the animal’s massive leg. Hoisting himself up with a grunt, Magoo began to hump it enthusiastically.
“Magoo, stop that!” Marley hissed, giving him a light nudge with her toe.
Magoo was undaunted. He closed his doggie eyes in bliss and readjusted his position. The rabbit bounced pleasantly as the ear flopped back and forth over its beady eye.
Marley grimaced and tried in vain to shoo her dog away. “Magoo, stop it! Go on—get.”
Magoo ignored her and shifted positions.
“There’s no stopping true love,” Will said. “Or puppy love. Or in this instance, a strong case of salax.”
Marley stopped shooing and looked up at Will. “Salax?”
“It’s Latin,” he said. “It means lecherous, lustful, lascivious—”
“Why am I not surprised you know the Latin word for horny?”
Will looked back at Magoo, who seemed to be picking up speed. “You have to admire the effort. Impressive stamina, Magoo.”
Marley frowned and clapped her hands. “Magoo, seriously—stop.”
The command fell on deaf ears, though Will had the sense she didn’t really mean it. They both stood for a moment, watching as Magoo released his grip on one leg and moved to the other side of the rabbit. With a delighted snort, he heaved himself onto the rabbit’s other leg and got back to work.
“I suppose the rabbit should be grateful Magoo is neutered,” Marley said. “Did you know rabbits are capable of conceiving starting at three months old, and the average gestation period is thirty-one days?”
“And now I understand where the term ‘breeding like rabbits’ comes from. Are you always such a font of trivial animal facts?”
“Since I accepted this job, I’ve been doing my best to develop and demonstrate my wildlife knowledge.”
“You know Cheez Whiz doesn’t require you to be an expert on everything, right?”
Marley flushed and looked back at the rabbit, which was still clenched in Magoo’s passionate embrace. “Does the bunny have a name?”
“I’m glad you asked. Bed wanted me to be sure and let you know Pookie is from her personal collection. She has more than 600 rabbits, in case you’re wondering.”
“None of them living, I hope?”
“Fortunately not. Had she sent a live rabbit, things might be going differently for Magoo.”
Marley frowned down at her pet. “I’ve never had a dog before. Should I… um… make him stop?”
“He isn’t hurting anything.”
“I didn’t get a chance to walk him today, so I guess it’s good exercise.”
“That’s the spirit.”
They both looked away from Magoo, and Will felt his gut clench as their eyes met. He didn’t blink, and Marley’s eyes held his with the same intensity. Something shifted between them, and Will felt the temperature in the room rise at least twenty degrees.
He wasn’t sure which of them would speak first, or if he was even capable of speech. He caught the faint scent of blueberries in the air and breathed deeply, filling his lungs with warm air. Marley blinked and touched her fingertips to the base of her throat. An odd gesture, but one that left Will aching to trail his own fingers over that heated patch of flesh.
At last, he found his voice. “It’s a good thing we’re standing here witnessing one of the least romantic displays imaginable.” His voice sounded dark, strained. “Eliminates any urge we might have to repeat the scene from your kitchen.”
Marley bit her lip. “Totally.”
“A dog humping a giant pink rabbit—definitely a mood killer.”
“Not that there was a mood to begin with.”
Neither of them looked at Magoo. Their eyes stayed locked together, and Will realized for the first time that Marley’s were the most beautiful shade of hazel with flecks of amber. She bit her lip and tucked a strand of blond hair behind one ear.
Will took a fractional step closer, not sure what prompted him to do it.
Okay, he had a pretty good idea.
“It would be a really stupid idea for us to kiss right now,” he said.
“There are strict company policies against it.”
“Absolutely,” Marley breathed. “I can’t afford to lose my job.”
“It would be highly unprofessional for the board chairman to break such an important rule.”
“And I’m avoiding men who have more money than God.”
Will took another step closer. “I can’t actually vouch for the current balance in the Almighty’s bank account.”
Marley took a shuddery breath and moved a fraction of an inch closer. “How much do you really oversee my position?”
They lunged for each other at the same time, their teeth colliding in a most unromantic fashion as Magoo grunted and skittered between their ankles.
This shouldn’t be hot, Will thought.
But it was.
If their first kiss had been tentative, this one was nothing like it. The intensity of it left Will panting and dizzy, his hands fumbling to touch every inch of her at once. He slid his palms to the sides of her face and he kissed her hard and deep, his tongue tangling with hers. Marley pushed him back against the door and molded her body against his, her lush curves fitting perfectly against his chest. She pressed her body into him, and Will groaned as her hipbone grazed his growing arousal.
Will broke the kiss, panting hard, eager to feel his mouth against other planes of flesh. He kissed his way down her throat, pausing to savor the throb of her pulse against his lips. Her skin was the softest thing he’d ever felt, and she smelled faintly of blueberries. He breathed her in, feeling dizzy all over again. He moved his lips at last, kissing his way across her throat before brushing his lips against her earlobe. Marley whimpered and gripped his shoulders hard, pressing her body against his, driving Will mad with the gentle pressure of her pelvis against the fly of his jeans.
Will traced his tongue against the soft skin behind her ear, breathing her in, feeling her gasp against his throat. He slid one hand up and nudged the strap of her dress across her shoulder, exposing two more inches of flesh. He devoured it like a starving man, grazing the bone with his teeth to feel her writhe against him. Marley gasped and dug her nails into his shoulders, urging him on.
God, she feels amazing.
Will slid his hands around her back, his fingers tracing her spine to where her bare flesh disappeared beneath the fabric of the dress. He found the top of the zipper and he hesitated there, waiting for some sign from Marley.
It wasn’t the sign Will had in mind, and the sound definitely hadn’t come from the woman in his arms. Will drew back and blinked at the tall, gray-haired stranger standing with arms folded over his chest in the alcove between the foyer and the kitchen. He wasn’t holding a shotgun, but he wasn’t offering a glass of wine, either.
Will nodded, not entirely sure what etiquette called for in these circumstances.
“Sir,” Will said. “Nice evening.”
Copyright © 2014 by Tawna Fenske
Learn more or order a copy of Frisky Buisness by Tawna Fenske, available on May 6, 2014:
Tawna Fenske traveled a career path that took her from newspaper reporter to English teacher in Venezuela to marketing geek. An avid globetrotter with a fondness for the sea, Tawna is the author of the popular daily blog Don't Pet Me, I'm Writing and lives in Bend, Oregon.