Temptation: Does having the right to do something make it all right to do?
A WITH BENEFITS Excerpt
Schoenegg Swiss Quality Zermatt Chalet Hotel
Two Weeks Later
Britt lounged on the bed in her hotel suite, gazing between her knees at Idris Elba playing Luther on the television as she nibbled on a piece of the absolutely most exquisite chocolate she’d ever tasted. It was a sample provided by one of the candy makers bidding for the STC contract. She was thinking that the only way her day could be better was if Idris were sitting next to her on the bed feeding her the chocolate when Quentin Loroupe called her room.
She’d met Loroupe that morning, at the first meeting between the New World Labs Passion Project team, representatives of the three Swiss chocolate makers vying for the Passion’s Kiss contract, and representatives from St. Christopher Enterprises’ London branch: Julian St. Christopher’s British cousin Bethany Arthur, who was Director of STC Enterprises, London, and Quentin Laroupe, the company’s London-based attorney.
Rumor had it that Julian’s cousin Beth—a wisp of a woman around Britt’s age with a smile that could light up a football stadium at midnight—would be moving to the States to run the two New Jersey STC Technologies divisions. Since she wouldn’t be involved with New World Labs, Britt’s only interest in her was that she would be Kyle’s boss. Britt planned to pay attention to Beth so that she could give Kyle the lowdown on her.
So far she was impressed by Beth. She was friendly, but in this morning’s introductory meeting demonstrated that her rise to power wasn’t just family nepotism. The woman knew her stuff.
So did attorney Quentin Laroupe. And, he was PHine, with a capital P-H. Britt’s first impression when he accompanied Beth into the hotel conference room was that whatever his duties, he was the perfect representative for the Passion’s Kiss meeting because he looked like a walking, talking hunk of dark chocolate.
He stood just over six feet tall, with a shaved head, a salt and pepper goatee, football player shoulders, a dazzling smile and that British accent that would make the panties of American girls melt down their legs.
Britt figured Laroupe would be nice eye candy, something fun to look at for a week during their meetings, the next of which was scheduled for 3:00 that afternoon. But there was no reason for him to be calling her.
“Dr. Chandler, I hope I’m not calling at an inconvenient time,” Laroupe said.
Britt sat up on the bed, said, “No, it’s okay,” and wondered why the attorney would be calling her at all. If it was about business regarding their team he should be calling Glenda, their project manager.
“Good, good…” Laroupe said.
He sounded apprehensive. His tentative tone—such a contrast to the swagger he’d displayed in the meeting this morning—put Britt on alert. “How may I help you, Mr. Loroupe?”
“Call me Quentin, please. I was wondering, Dr. Chandler…and please forgive me if you feel I’m stepping beyond the boundaries of what is appropriate…I wonder if you would care to join me for lunch in the hotel dining room.”
Okay, whoa. “Lunch?”
“Yes. In the dining room.”
“You and I?”
“I’m sure there will be other guests in attendance—just not at our table.”
Now she heard a trace of humor in Laroupe’s tone. Maybe because she hadn’t slammed the phone in his ear he was feeling more confident. Should she slam the phone in his ear?
“Do you think that’s appropriate?” Britt asked, then realized that by even asking she’d given up control by lobbing the ball over the net instead of spiking it and making him scramble. If he were quick enough he’d fire back a return.
“Are you married, Dr. Chandler?”
“Are you romantically involved?”
I have a new good friend that I like a lot and love to sleep with. Does that count?
“Mr. Laroupe, since you’re asking about my personal life, let me ask you: why do you want to have lunch?”
“You mean why do I want to have lunch with you, don’t you?”
Wise ass. “Okay?”
“Because you’re an impressive woman, Dr. Chandler. For one thing, your credentials would be a point of pride for someone twice your age. I won’t be so rude as to ask your age, but you look barely old enough to be out of school, much less in practice and again, with your impressive accomplishments.”
He’s really laying it on thick, Britt thought. “So you want to have lunch to discuss my education and work history?”
“Well, for another thing, Britt…may I call you Britt?”
“You just did.” And how did I get to the closet, and why am I looking at things to wear?
“I’m a man who believes in being straightforward—in being honest, even at the risk of appearing inappropriate.”
“How do you reconcile your honesty with the fact that you’re a lawyer?” I should just wear whatever I’m going to wear for the three o’clock meeting. I don’t need to impress this guy.
She heard Laroupe chuckle. “Touché. The other thing is that I feel no shame in admitting that in this morning’s meeting I was awestruck by your elegance, even while you were the consummate professional, and even more so by your beauty. You are so beautiful, Dr. Britt Chandler, so much so that I could barely focus on the briefing because I was trying desperately not to stare at you like some smitten schoolboy. I ask you to lunch because I want to be in your presence again, but without the distraction of our professional duties. This is me being as honest as I know how to be. I’m a man who’s not afraid to speak his mind, or to go after what I desire.”
“I promise you my intentions are honorable, that is, unless my desire to be able to appreciate your beauty in person is dishonorable. If that’s the case, then I’m guilty.”
Britt opted for a knee-length wrap skirt over black hose and a cable knit pullover, something she could wear to the afternoon meeting after lunch and more important, conservative enough that Laroupe wouldn’t think she was trying to impress or encourage him. She wasn’t going to roll like that, no matter how handsome he was with his dark chocolate skin or how smooth he was with his lines.
As Britt sat on the end of the bed slipping on her stockings she watched Idris on television, looking so handsome, and good enough to eat.
Like dark chocolate.