Here’s a section from chapter one – I hope you enjoy it!
Dean Montgomery had been saving Madeline Lewis for the past twenty years. He was done playing Sir Galahad. This time he was going to let her fall. He leaned back in his scientifically designed office chair and raised a sceptical eyebrow in her direction.
‘I don’t think so.’ He sounded firm because he felt firm.
‘Come on Dean. I need your help. This is a great idea; even you can see that.’
Maddie’s brown velvet bob made her look a lot like Velma Kelly from the movie Chicago. The comparison was right on the money. He’d often imagined that under her carefully maintained exterior beat the heart of a man eater. Although she was batting her cow length lashes at him in a picture of innocence, he knew better. Dean tented his fingers in front of him, a look that intimidated boards of directors.
‘It’s time you got a real job, or better yet finish any one of the degrees you’ve started.’
The look in her eye told him she was regrouping, working on a new tactic to suck him into her latest misadventure. He gave a mental eye roll; if only Charlie was here to deal with her, but he was in Afghanistan for at least another month. Dean couldn’t help wonder if Charlie had chosen the easier option.
‘Just listen to my pitch okay?’
Although he’d seen her enthusiasm before it still weakened his resolve.
‘Fine, I’ll listen. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to support you.’
A wide Julia Roberts grin lit up her face. He felt a tightening in his stomach. Man, she was breath-taking. Her pencil skirt was the colour of mulled wine, slit to mid thigh. She’d teamed it with the cashmere sweater of the same colour that he’d given her last Christmas. Get a grip, he ordered himself as he tried to focus on her words.
‘So, it’s like this. The hours people work in the city are long then there is the commute on top of that. There often isn’t time to do domestic chores, like shopping, or paying bills, or taking clothes to the dry cleaner. I thought I could offer a service that took care of all that. Kind of like a personal assistant for your life. What do you think?’
‘Or a butler?’
Her hair caught the light as she shook her head, bringing out the golden hues.
‘Nope. A butler works with one person at a time and most people can’t afford to keep a member of staff on full time. I’m talking about something else. You register and pay a fee to be part of the service then you pay as you use it. So a client would only have to pay me for the time I spent picking up her dry cleaning, not for the whole week.’
She didn’t bounce around in her seat the way she did when she was a kid, but the same intense energy was still there.
‘What do you think?’
‘It might work,’ he said sceptically.
He couldn’t stop his mathematician’s brain from going over the possibilities. He had a lot of colleagues who could probably use a service like the one she described. And she was right; the commute from the centre of London to the suburbs did eat up a lot of time. His eyes narrowed. She was hooking him. He was a bloody fish. Again.
‘I don’t want to be involved.’
As he sat forward in his chair he could feel his shoulder muscles strain against his suit jacket. He really had to make the time to get it altered. Maybe he could get his secretary to run it over to his tailor later. No, that definitely wasn’t her job. He reluctantly admitted to himself that the service Maddie was offering might actually come in handy. He shook his head. The fact the idea had merit wasn’t the point. This time he was taking a stand. Maddie’s wide eyes pleaded with him. She’d definitely learnt to work the charm over the years. When she was a kid she barrelled over everyone to get what she wanted; now she tried gentle cajoling first.
‘Come on Dean, it’s a great idea. I’m sure it’s going to pick up momentum quickly. I can see a proper office in my future. I’ve got a website all planned, a friend of Laura’s is building it for me, and I’m having a leaflet designed by a professional. But right now I lack credibility. It won’t be easy for people to trust a stranger with their personal lives. That’s where you come in. I need someone to vouch for me. All you have to do,’ she said as she leaned across his wide Scandinavian style desk, ‘is recommend my service to some of your colleagues. Get me started.’
‘That isn’t going to happen.’
There was a flicker of a frown. Any minute now she would decide she’d had enough and order him to comply. He had to actively stop himself from grinning.
‘Only a couple of people, then once the word is out I’ll get customers through my website.’
She drummed her red nails on his desk as her patience began to slip. That didn’t take long.
‘I’m not letting you try out any more business ideas on the people I know. My reputation is getting screwed by association.’
‘That’s not true.’
She crossed her long legs and folded her arms over her breasts. They squeezed together and Dean felt his mouth go dry. He’d been in a perpetual state of semi arousal around her for years. Not that she would ever notice. He concentrated on the matter at hand.
‘There was the adventure therapy idea. Deal with your stress by doing something daring for a day. Dave MacIlvoy broke his hip hang gliding.’
‘He was very old and no one held a gun to his head.’
As she huffed, he counted her efforts off on his fingers.
‘There was the aromatherapy at work idea. Ten minutes to get away from it all with the smells and sounds of the rain forest. The candles set off smoke alarms. The fire brigade came.’
‘Again, not my fault. The smoke detectors were too sensitive.’
‘And then there is my personal favourite,’ he drawled. ‘Alpaca walking in St James’s Park as a lunchtime diversion.’
She leaned forward, cheeks flushed in earnest.
‘That man swore they were alpaca. How was I to know that llamas weren’t as friendly, or as trainable, as their family members? Alpaca and llama do look very similar.’
‘It took my lawyer and a lot of money to make that fiasco go away.’
She got up from her seat and came around to his side of the desk. As she perched her perfectly round behind on the corner, Dean momentarily lost track of the conversation.
‘Look, this one is different. No animals. No dangerous sports. No fire hazards.’
She was seriously kissable. How did women get lipstick to match the colour of their clothes anyway? Was it like buying paint? Did they take in a sample of the colour and an assistant mixed the shade to match?
There was clicking. She was snapping her fingers in front of his face. Now she was tired of playing nice.
‘Am I boring you?’
‘No, but it doesn’t change my answer.’
Her eyes narrowed.
‘Dean Montgomery, you are being annoying.’
The last time she said that he ended up with a head full of peanut butter, but she was only ten at the time. He suspected that now the punishment wouldn’t involve a jar of food. He cleared his throat.
‘I’m being sensible.’
If you enjoyed reading about Maddie and Dean, and would like to buy Mad Love, you can find it here.