Jan 9 2017 12:00pm
Calista Fox Excerpt: Seduction: A Bayfront Billionaire Novella
100 Shades of Sin...
Delicious and hot, the seductive Bayfront Billionaires need one thing, and one thing only: the woman made for them, the one woman on earth who can complete their trio of passion and desire. Lily Hart has taken a temporary position as a live-in butler for billionaire musicians Jackson Sterling and Lexington Alexander. She expected to be on call day and night. But what she did not plan for was that these two billionaires would be as handsome as sin and hell-bent on having her in their bed. Entirely skilled at the art of seduction, they make Lily burn for pleasure in ways she never knew she could.
Get a sneak peek at Calista Fox's Seduction: A Bayfront Billionaire Novella (available January 10, 2017) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.
What to do when the door is only partially open?
Liliana Hart stared at the massive double doors of the music room on the second floor of the mansion Jackson Sterling, her new employer, had recently purchased in the hillside cove of Bayfront, California.
His über-efficient estate manager, Greta Hamlin, had told Lily to never disturb Mr. Sterling. Or the musician he was creating compositions with for a highly anticipated CD, Lexington Alexander.
Lily had been instructed that if the doors were closed, she should leave the afternoon tea service on the table to the right of the entryway. If they were open, it was acceptable for her to proceed and set the tea.
But goddamn it, Greta hadn’t said a word about what to do when one door was closed and the other was cracked open.
Lily’s teeth ground. It was her first official day as a lady-butler for both Sterling and Alexander. Two internationally acclaimed classical musicians, who apparently had more money than God. Not that Lily was unaccustomed to being surrounded by the rich and affluent. The majority of the paternal side of her family were butlers. Lily was the first female Hart to don the tails and white gloves, though she wore a short black skirt in lieu of sharply creased pants.
Regardless, she was impeccably dressed—Greta and a designated tailor had ensured it. Her white shirt was crisp with an abundance of starch, and she wore a black silk tie tucked behind the line of shiny silver buttons on her snug-fitting jacket, the cutaway material miraculously moving with her so it wasn’t cumbersome. Low leather heels and tights also all in black completed the ensemble. Her dark hair was pulled back in a tidy bun at the nape of her neck and she’d methodically applied her makeup, with the complement of crimson lipstick and a smoky accent to her tawny eyes.
Her appearance was only one critical part of the position she now filled. Greta had spent the last week intensively training Lily on every nuance of serving the two men who occupied this top floor of the mansion. Both had been in Manhattan on business while Lily had gone through the daily routines with Greta. Now they’d returned and here she was, standing at the end of the mile-long, pale-gray-and-alabaster marble corridor, staring at her first conundrum.
She was tempted to set aside the fancy silver tray she held in her hands and phone Greta to ask for directions. But a drawn-out, beautifully wrought chord on a violin kept her rooted where she stood, at the end of one of the many expensive Persian rugs.
That would be Jackson Sterling playing. He was the violinist.
Lexington Alexander was the concert pianist.
The chord eased gracefully into another. Equally drawn out. And another.
The music ribboned through her belly, twining upward, stealing her breath. There was a chilling vibrato behind the notes. Mysterious and evocative, yet . . . painful.
Captivated, Lily listened intently as the soft notes hinted at a fragile love affair that could be shattered at any moment. She could easily envision naked bodies entwined, hearts and souls consumed by the sensual music. But the euphoria was only meant to be temporary. This was the type of composition reserved for tragic endings and heartbreak. Loss and devastation.
The hallway filled with emotion, wrapped around each intimate chord. Lily had always been deeply moved by haunting music. That was why she was an avid fan of the opera and had considered herself fortunate that her inaugural foray into the world of butlers had been with Sterling and Alexander.
Her skin tingled and a gentle shiver cascaded down her spine.
But before the brilliant crescendo of torment came . . . there was silence.
A heartbeat later, the partially opened door slammed shut.
Lily jumped at the unexpected gesture. The sudden volatile, resonant sound riding the heels of such a stirring piece.
The handles of the tray she held slipped from her gloved fingers and the afternoon tea service crashed to the marble floor, the crystal vase holding a single red rose exploding into tiny shards, the silver pot spilling its contents, the delicate china cups and saucers splintering.
There was her tragic ending.
She whipped off her gloves to keep them pristine and stuffed them in her pocket. Then she crouched on bended knees, reached for the elegant teapot, and set it upright on the tray. She draped the two linen napkins over the puddle on the floor.
“Don’t touch the glass.”
Lily started again, taken by surprise. The warm timbre of a male voice came from behind her. She hadn’t heard anyone approach, so distracted was she by the violinist and the seductive web he’d woven.
“I was actually about to grab the rose,” she managed to say, her own voice a bit breathy.
She laid the fresh bloom on the tray as well but didn’t lift the heavy, ornate creation. Instead, she stood, smoothed a hand over her skirt, then turned to face Lexington Alexander, boss number two.
The air rushed from her lungs in one quick stream. Lily had to fight the gaping of her mouth.
He was even sexier in person than he was in photos on the Internet.
Taller than she’d envisioned, towering over her by a good six inches. He had broad shoulders and rock-hard biceps that strained against the short sleeves of his light-blue polo shirt, which went wonderfully with his glowing cerulean eyes.
He had sandy-brown hair, a tad on the long side. An engaging smile that revealed perfectly straight white teeth set against an insanely handsome, tanned face.
He was gorgeous.
Her already racing pulse skyrocketed at the sight of him.
Remembering that her reasons for being in the mansion were strictly professional, she thrust a hand toward him and said in a distressingly awestruck tone, “Liliana Hart, sir. At your service.”
His palm slid across hers.
Damn it all to hell, she’d taken her gloves off. So she felt the heat of his skin and the strength in his long, tapered fingers. And it sent a jolt through her.
“Pleasure to meet you, Liliana,” he said, his smile still vibrant and welcoming.
“Lily is fine.” She still couldn’t breathe properly.
Perhaps it was the residual mesmeric effects of the music that made her heart hammer in her chest and her pulse echo in her ears.
Yeah. You keep trying to convince yourself of that.
Because it’d be seriously disastrous if she was instantly hot for one of the men who signed her paycheck.
Lexington Alexander told her, “Have Greta send Henry up to clean the glass and polish the floor.”
“Of course.” Lily nodded.
Henry was the only one from the maintenance crew allowed in this restricted area, unless absolutely necessary. And the housekeepers permitted in the wing were all to finish their work prior to noon, when Sterling and Alexander returned from their morning ritual of weight lifting, followed by racquetball, showers, and brunch. They’d missed all of that today, however, since they’d flown into San Francisco from New York—and Lily hadn’t needed to cater to them during meals yet. So this was her first meeting with either of them.
And not an impressive one at that on her end.
She said, “I apologize for the mess and the noise. I haven’t dropped a tray since I was sixteen. But Mr. Sterling’s music was riveting . . . and then he slammed the door. Caught me off guard.”
“An understandable reaction. And I apologize for both of us startling you. I didn’t want you to cut yourself on that vase. As for Jax . . . Well. He’s been in a bad mood for seven years. Don’t take it personally.”
Lily couldn’t tell if he was joking. His demeanor was causal, unassuming. He appeared to be very good-natured. Laid-back even. Surprising considering how intensely he played the piano. She’d studied up on both men and had found herself inexplicably lured into the compositions she’d randomly downloaded—though, admittedly, she hadn’t been nearly as moved as several minutes ago with that entrancing violin.
That sort of raw emotion had not been captured in the music she’d listened to prior to coming to the estate. There was a poignant sense of yearning behind this particular arrangement that had drawn her in. And left her longing for more. But no sound came from the music room now.
Pulling herself together, Lily gathered up the tray and said, “I’ll return shortly with fresh tea and leave it on the table.”
“Don’t bother. We’ll take a pass this afternoon. Jax and I are headed into the city. We won’t be back to the estate until one or two, so we won’t be in need of your services this evening.”
“Cocktails and dinner before the opera and then a VIP party afterward,” she recited. “Greta informed me of the events. Your tuxedos, overcoats, and scarves were delivered from the cleaners this morning and I’ve hung them in your dressing rooms. Shined your shoes. If there’s anything else you need, please don’t hesitate to ring me. Even when you return. I’m available to you both twenty-four seven.”
That was a huge commitment, but not uncommon for a live-in butler. And for what they were paying her . . . Christ. She wouldn’t sleep for the entire two-month assignment if that was required of her.
Her father had instilled a sense of duty in her from a young age, but the dollar signs were also flashing in her eyes. Lily had a grand plan for the money she’d make before spring rolled around, and she wouldn’t let anything derail her fully plotted-out adventure.
Making it imperative she do a top-notch job here—and not lust after her boss. Or bosses. Because if Jackson Sterling was as striking in real life as Lexington Alexander . . .
Oh, good Lord.
She bit back a moan.
Didn’t help matters that Alexander’s penetrating blue gaze slid over her a bit too slowly, a bit too suggestively. A spark between her legs was the absolute last sensation she needed to feel. But she did—and it rocked her to the core.
She barely contained a gasp.
He said, “We’re happy to have you on board, Lily.” There was a playful glint in his eyes as he added, “Don’t let Jax rattle you, all right? He slams a lot of doors. You’ll get used to it.”
Alexander turned on his heels and sauntered off toward his suite at the opposite end of the hallway.
Lily stared after him, thinking she might have gotten in over her head with this job.
Because even though one employer had affected her deeply without so much as showing his face and the other had already disappeared behind his bedroom door, she continued to experience the aftershocks of Sterling’s taunting music and Alexander’s tantalizing gaze.
All bad and wrong.
She tried to shake off the scintillating sensations as she bypassed the sweeping grand staircase and instead took the discreetly tucked-away service elevator directly to the kitchen.
The second she entered the enormous room with its comforting hustle and bustle, Greta descended upon her. No doubt anxiously awaiting Lily’s return from setting the tea. How disappointed the older woman was going to be.
Greta took one look at the travesty that was Lily’s tray and exclaimed, “What the bloody hell happened!”
“Little accident.” Lily skirted the slender, stylishly coiffed salt-and-pepper-haired woman and put the tray on a sidebar.
Between clenched teeth, Greta said in her thick British accent, “You told me you don’t have ‘accidents.’ You were a server at the famed Cliff House in San Francisco for nine years. One of the reasons I recommended you for hire.”
“Everyone has accidents, Greta. Mine are just typically out of my customers’ view—you know, like slicing my finger open on the foil of a Merlot bottle I’m uncorking in the cellar to decant or knocking over a bowl of clam chowder while expediting an order. I don’t tend to just lose my concentration and drop a tray, because, because . . . fuck.” She mumbled the last word.
Greta’s brow crooked.
Lily had already discerned that behind the very uptight appearance, Greta Hamlin had a keen and feisty wit. It jumped out from time to time, though she clearly worked hard to keep it under wraps.
Thus far, Lily hadn’t seen or heard her slip in front of the other staff, the very stoic, singularly focused legion of chefs, servants, housekeepers, and landscapers. But for whatever reason, Greta had apparently taken a liking to the newest, youngest addition to the crew, and on occasion she let her innate sarcasm break through.
Lily had adored her from the second they’d met.
Greta wasn’t exactly a maternal presence. Though she held the potential.
Since Lily’s mom had died twelve years ago, when Lily was just thirteen years old, she’d certainly missed out on that sort of relationship at a crucial juncture of her life: puberty.
Such a wretched time as it was. Amplified by the loss of her mother.
Pushing all that aside, she said to Greta, “I need Henry to take care of the mess upstairs. Then I’m going to do everything in my power to not be a bumbling fool the next time I’m with Mr. Alexander. Or Mr. Sterling. It’s the music,” she vehemently contended. “My God. It’s not just soul stirring. It’s soul gripping. And I only heard a couple minutes of it.”
Greta sighed. “And they believe they’re creating rubbish.” Her gaunt features turned even more severe. “I’ve worked for Lex for seven years, since he left the orchestra he’d toured with and moved to New York City. I was a fan to begin with, but every year that has passed, I’ve felt he’s produced even more exquisite music. Now he’s collaborating with Jax, and it should be spectacular. But for some reason, Lex insists the compositions aren’t flowing the way they ought to—yet neither he nor Jax can pinpoint the missing ingredient.”
“I wouldn’t have been able to, either. But then again, I’m no expert. Though whatever sound they’re striving for . . . If it’s more heart wrenching than what I just heard, they’re going to blow the world away.”
“That’s the intent.”
“I might have to start investing in Kleenex on the stock market,” she only half joked.
“Don’t rush out to do so just yet. There are some . . . complications.” Her peridot-colored eyes clouded briefly. Then she waved a dismissive hand in the air. “Nothing I can divulge. They’re struggling, Lily. Do your best to stick to the fringes. Be available for them, but don’t make your presence overwhelming. Do you understand?”
Lily nodded, duly noting Greta’s ominous sentiment about the two men they both served. “Blend. I get it. My dad is excellent at it. He discreetly lingers. There to anticipate and execute any need or silently await a request, but not distracting in any way. I promise I won’t interfere with their work. I’m just here to make their lives easier.”
“They’ll appreciate that. So, too, will their fans when Jax and Lex finally hit their stride together.”
Lily stared at the house manager a few moments, then said, “You’re completely enrapt by the music, too, aren’t you?”
“How can one not be?” she insisted. “It’s precisely the reason I fought tooth and nail to land this position with Lex initially. And I’m quite thrilled Jax took his recommendation to put me in charge of the household when Jax closed on this estate.”
“I wanted my job for that reason, too,” Lily told her. “Well . . . that and the fact that I need the money.”
Greta gave a knowing smile. “There’s always that, darling. Now let’s set up the tea service again.”
“They’re not interested, since they’re leaving for the evening. Which means I’ll be twiddling my thumbs before I turn down their beds later on. What can I do for you?”
“Since you asked . . .” Greta’s look turned appreciative. “We have a grand New Year’s Eve soiree to prepare for and—”
“Ah, you’re in luck!” Lily said, excited to have something to occupy her time. “I used to prep for the chefs at the restaurant before or in between my shifts as a waitress. Please, put me to work. A little adult ADD makes an entire free evening a living hell. I will do whatever you want me to do.”
“Words I love hearing in this kitchen,” Greta quipped. Again, a rare thing, Lily had learned, except when she was around. Which endeared Greta to her even more.
The estate manager found Lily an apron while she divested herself of her jacket, undid her French cuffs, and rolled the sleeves up to her elbows. She ditched the tie and slipped a few buttons through the holes at her throat. Then she dove into slicing, dicing, and anything else required of her.
When eleven o’clock rolled around, Lily was exhausted, but at least she felt as though she’d been productive and had perhaps, in an indirect way, redeemed herself from the massive faux pas earlier in the afternoon.
She discarded the apron, grabbed her jacket from the back of a chair, and trudged up the stairs to turn down the beds, yanking the band from her hair along the way and letting the thick strands tumble around her shoulders and along her back. It felt good to undo the constricting hairstyle Greta had advised her to wear.
Lily reached the top floor and walked the ridiculously long hallway. Luckily, her feet didn’t ache, because she was used to endless hours on them. Not to mention, the rush she’d gotten helping out in the busy, hectic kitchen kept the energy pumping through her veins.
She entered Jackson’s suite first. Jax, as Lexington called him. Or Lex, as Greta called him.
The nicknames helped to humanize the icons.
Well, Lex’s megawatt, playboy grin did that quite nicely, too.
As she thought of him, what Lex had said about Jax earlier popped into her head: He’s been in a bad mood for seven years. Don’t take it personally.
Through Lily’s research when her father had told her of this job opening, she’d learned that Lex and Jax had grown up together in a wealthy household in Paris as child prodigies. Their instructor later became their conductor when they’d turned nine and had been invited into the international orchestra they’d toured with for numerous years. The large ensemble was so popular that it was featured on PBS and HBO, and had produced an extensive catalog of chart-topping CDs, DVDs, and digital recordings.
Yet she’d also read that Lex and Jax hadn’t collaborated with each other since they were twenty-one.
Seven years ago.
So what had happened to make both men abruptly leave the orchestra and go their separate ways . . . and yet Jax remained so full of angst and torment after all this time?
Has to be a woman.
And perhaps that was why they were presumably struggling to work together.
Intrigued, Lily’s imagination churned with all sorts of romantic ideations, particularly the potential of a love triangle. She took that thought a step further and wondered if the two men had shared a woman—one who’d ultimately had to choose between them.
The shattered love affair she’d conceptualized while listening to Jax’s music returned to her. There’d been unmistakable passion and pain in his execution of each note.
A hell of a lot of passion.
A hell of a lot of pain.
A little tremor ran through her as her curiosity mounted.
And against her better judgment—though she simply couldn’t help herself—sinfully delicious scenarios began to play in Lily’s mind . . .
Copyright © 2017 by Calista Fox.
Learn more about or order a copy of Seduction: A Bayfront Billionaire Novella by Calista Fox, available January 10, 2017:
Calista Fox is a former PR professional, now writing fast-paced, steamy books to set your pulse racing! Her publishing houses include St. Martin’s Press, Grand Central Publishing and Harlequin. Her debut SMP trilogy opens with BURNED DEEP and concludes with book four, starring the trilogy’s secondary hero! She is an Amazon bestseller and has won many Reviewer’s and Reader’s Choice Awards, as well as Best Book Awards and other competitions with publication as first prize. Calista is a college graduate and teaches online writing classes. She is also a Past President/Advisor of the Phoenix chapter of the Romance Writers of America national organization.