Tue
Sep 5 2017 2:30pm

Tara Leigh Excerpt: Penthouse Player

Tara Leigh

Penthouse Player by Tara Leigh

Abandoned by her mother and spurned by her father, Reina St. James is tired of being treated like a dirty little secret. It wasn’t easy making her way into the high-risk, high-reward Wall Street world ruled by financial kings and trust fund tyrants. But now that she’s got a stiletto-clad toe into one of the swankiest firms in Manhattan, Reina is determined to prove she’s more than just a pretty face hiding an ugly past.

For Tristan Xavier Bettencourt IV, escaping the shadow cast by generations of family fortune has been difficult, and success hasn’t come without sacrifice. Tristan has always put business before pleasure… Until Reina’s curved lips prove an invitation he can’t resist.

Walking away from their explosive night together won’t be easy, even if the heat between them might consume both of their careers. Will Reina and Tristan risk everything by betting on each other?

Get a sneak peek at Tara Leigh's Penthouse Player (available September 5, 2017) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.

“Let me guess, you’re one of the prizes being auctioned off tonight? You know, pay a fortune to spend the night with Mr. Wonderful.”

“Mr. Wonderful?” Good thing my ex wasn’t here, she’d quickly set Reina straight. “I’m flattered. How much cash would you spend for a night with me?”

“That would depend.”

“On what?”

“Just how wonderful are you?”

Leaning forward, I lowered my voice. “I’ll happily give you the opportunity to find out for yourself.” This time I enjoyed the flush that crept above her collarbone. I had to curl my hand into a fist to keep from tracing the pink path up her cheek.

She recovered well. “I guess this is a good time, then.”

“For what?”

“To warn you that I’m rather discriminating about the opportunities I choose to accept.”

The lights flashed, temporarily putting an end to our playful banter. My father had bought four tables, at a cost of $50,000 each, and was now firmly bunkered down, surrounded by several senior Bettencourt employees and their wives. Among the tables, two chairs stood empty, reserved for me and the date I’d chosen not to bring. I could have easily led Reina to them, but I didn’t.

She would have been welcomed. More than welcomed, actually. But I decided to save the women from having to watch as their significant others spent the entire evening undressing Reina with their eyes. Or maybe it was that the thought of a casually leering smile tossed in Reina’s direction made me want to put my hand through someone’s face.

There were several speeches I didn’t hear, including one by my stepmother, followed by a slide show I didn’t see featuring the children or animals, probably both, who would supposedly receive the money raised here tonight. And then a live auction that seemed to last forever. I bought something, a box at the Stanley Cup I think. But it could just as easily have been a behind-the-scenes tour of Versailles or a ride in the Goodyear blimp. I raised my paddle once or twice and would surely receive the details, along with an exorbitant credit card receipt, via messenger tomorrow.

A soggy salad was followed by an inedible steak, although each course was preceded by a fresh drink courtesy of my new favorite bartender, who eagerly pocketed the hundred I gave him every time. After pushing my plate away in disgust, I finally asked the question that had been bothering me all night. Every word that came out of Reina’s mouth led me to believe she was older than she looked, but in good conscience I couldn’t take her home until I knew for sure. “How old are you?”

She answered my question with a question. “How old do you think I am?”

“Oh, no.” I’d seen too many Dateline exposés to fall for that. “I don’t get my rocks off by robbing the cradle.” Never mind that my last name practically guaranteed that any sleazy liaisons I engaged in, unwittingly or not, would be irresistible fodder for Page Six of the New York Post. A scandal was just about the only thing I couldn’t afford.

“Twenty-five.”

That put eight years between us, just shy of cradle-robbing territory. I could work with that. “And you live here, in the City?”

She nodded. “You?”

“Yes.”

“Of course, I don’t know why I bothered asking.”

“What makes you say that?”

Reina looked around, laughing. “This isn’t exactly a bridge and tunnel crowd.”

“Only someone from the tri-state area would say that.”

“You got me, I’m from Long Island. And let me guess, you’re from Connecticut. Greenwich, right? Although you look like a boarding school brat, so you probably haven’t spent much time there since your Little League days.”

I watched as she took another sip, ice cubes sliding down the glass and making contact with her lips. I never knew it was possible to be jealous of ice, but I was. Oh man, I was. I cleared my throat. “Am I that obvious?”

She looked me up and down, unapologetically taking her time. “Kinda. Want me to guess your position?”

This time I did choke. “Excuse me?” Over the course of the evening, Reina and I had slid our chairs close together so as not to shout over whoever was holding the microphone. At this range I could easily pick out the glints of gold in her green eyes, and right now they sparkled with mischief. I felt myself hardening inside my pants, which I’d just discovered were cut slightly too close for comfort while being teased by a she-devil.

“I meant from your hockey team,” she chided coyly.

“Oh.” I swallowed. “Sure. Take a guess.”

“Definitely offense. But not center.” She leaned into me, her breath warming my neck. “Something tells me you rarely approach things head-on. That you like to watch and strategize, hunting down weakness in your opponent’s defenses. And when the opportunity arises, you seize the moment and take control.” Reina sat back in her chair, a cat - that - ate - the - canary smile spread across her face. “Right wing.”

Fuck. There was only so much a man could take. I reached out to wrap my hand around the upper frame of her chair, my wrist resting lightly on her shoulder, and leaned toward her. Another two inches and I could lick the gloss off her pouty, pink lips. Close enough for Reina to push me away. Or better, close the distance between us. She did neither, instead meeting my stare head on. But was it an invitation or a challenge? “I’m going to be a good guy here, Reina, and give you one warning.”

I paused, looking for the slightest hint of fear or hesitation in her flawless face. There was none. To hell with it. “If you’re going to play games with me, I’ll happily share my strategy with you. Not only will I discover every single nerve and crevice in your vulnerable, and very naked body, I will devour and exploit every one of your weaknesses. I won’t merely control you, Reina. I will own you.”

I released my hold on her chair and forced myself to back away. But I didn’t get far before Reina hooked a polished fingertip beneath my bow tie and pulled me back, even closer than before. Her lips parted and I watched as a glistening pink tongue swept slowly across them. When she spoke her voice was low and throaty, exactly how I imagined it would sound if I made her beg for release.

“Prove it.”

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Copyright © 2017 by Tara Leigh.
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Tara Leigh attended Washington University in St. Louis and Columbia Business School in New York, and worked on Wall Street and Main Street before “retiring” to become a wife and mother. When the people in her head became just as real as the people in her life, she decided to put their stories on paper. Tara currently lives in Fairfield County, Connecticut with her husband, children and fur-baby, Pixie.

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