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About the author:
Louise doesn’t care what genre she writes in so long as the characters are endearingly real, the heroes are scorching hot and the sex is good!
What inspired you to write your book?
I have great girlfriends in my life, and I wanted to write a series of erotic romance novels about girlfriends who are indispensable in each others’ lives. They drive each other crazy, but they’re there for each other, no matter what! I live in Australia so I wanted to showcase our great landscape, from glitzy Sydney and Surfers Paradise to the dry, dusty outback and lush beauty of Byron Bay and Belandera. Then there’s the Aussie hunks my girls fall for. Anyone who’s ever fallen in love with a Hemsworth or Hugh Jackman will understand what’s to like about Aussie men. And I’ve thrown in a Brit bad boy for good measure. So this series features all of my favorite things, and then some!
Here is a short sample from the book:
I had worked my way through all my male staff and half the suppliers of the teahouse. “I’m open to new experiences,” I said.
Angela smiled at me, but it was an odd expectant look. “Then I may have just the right man for you. A friend of Tug Dunn…” That was the television interviewer who’d given her a spot on his morning show. “…A British food critic who’s agreed to visit Bohemian next week on his Colonial Kitchens documentary series.”
Jill was smirking as if she already knew, but I was clueless.
“Food critic?” I asked.
Angela smiled and said two words I would never wanted to hear in conjunction with Bohemian Brew.
“Max Banks?” I barely got the words out.
Angela was looking at me as if she’d just given me chocolate, and even Jill was smiling, but…Max Banks!
I shook my head. “Why would you…” I shook it again, trying to quiet down the hysteria that was bubbling up. “He’s a bastard. He only ever says bad things about restaurants. That’s what he does. Why would you inflict that—”
“Hey!” Jill grabbed both my flailing hands. “I’m the one who agreed. Don’t blame Angela, and this isn’t his Worst Restaurants of Europe series. He’s only featuring restaurants he likes. This could be huge.”
“He’ll hate us,” I whined, remembering that stubble-framed sneer and those cold pebble eyes from late night television, imagining him disdaining the contents of my cake cabinet and throwing quiches at my customers. “We have Himalayan alpaca tea cozies and crystal teapot stands for Chrissake. He’ll make us into a quaint joke.”
Angela was frowning in earnest now, and I suddenly realized I was spoiling her wedding day. It took a wrench to turn my rant around, but I managed to stop myself cold, then even produce a weak smile. “Listen to me,” I said. “As if I’d care what anyone thought. And besides, what’s not to like about BoBrew?”
“Exactly,” Jill said, and turned to Angela with a beaming smile of her own, showcasing her glorious tan against those super-white teeth. “It will be amazing for the shop. Thank you so much for organizing it.”
It took Angela a few more seconds to catch up with my belated enthusiasm, but then she gave us a tentative smile back. “So long as you’re sure.”
“One hundred percent,” Jill said for the both of us, then she gave my hand a squeeze when I didn’t respond.
“For sure!” I added a touch too enthusiastically. “I can’t wait to meet him and show him around. I’m sure he’ll love the place.”
“I hate it.” Maxwell Banks turned on his heel in a slow three-sixty swivel to take in every Moroccan lamp, Persian rug and framed Mandala in Bohemian Brew. He was so out of place in his elegant black suit and crisp white shirt, he looked like a time traveler. “Who designed this? A backpacker from Nepal?”
I expected his tiny blonde assistant to snort, but when I flicked a glance at her she had a non-expression on that smooth, boyish face, as if she and her impressive biceps couldn’t care less what happened in my teashop.
I was less serene, breathing in slowly through my nose, keeping my lips tightly pressed together so I couldn’t tell him to Piss off and take his stupid Brit accent and his muscly sidekick in her intimidating black singlet and jeans with him.
“Beanies?” He plucked a multicolored Alpaca wool specimen off the shelf beside the cake display and twirled it between two fingers before letting it fall back down.
“Tea cozy—” I said from between gritted teeth.
He barked a laugh that sounded very much like derision.
“—because it is a Tea House,” I added.
In case you hadn’t noticed, you supercilious twit!
He shook his head, clearly appalled, and flicked a glance over my row of staff lined up behind the counter, some of whom immediately straightened. They wore clean and tidy uniforms of either harem pants or a skirt in an earthy tan color, teamed with a loose white shirt. Not one of them had a hair out of place, not even our dreadlocked chef Sammie, whose personal standards had dropped since I’d slept with him a month ago.
Typical of my managerial style, I couldn’t care less if his shirt was ironed, so long as his creations were superb, but today I wanted everything perfect. Luckily for me, it was. From my newest waitress to my front-of-house cashier Desiree who’d been with me from the start, they were all united in their terror of Maxwell Banks, and as a consequence they were turned out impeccably.
If anyone was looking less than professional it was me, and that was pure rebellion. Instead of my usual uniform of tan and white, I’d worn pink because I’d read somewhere that the high and mighty Maxwell Banks found that particular color childish. Louella had bought me a designer pink sundress during our holiday in Rome, and I’d teamed it with teal high-heeled sandals and masses of silver bracelets. My hair was down, but it was clean and combed into the loose ringlets that occurred naturally.
I’d even worn makeup which wasn’t like me, but I was damned if I was going to look like a country hick next to him, and seeing the stylishly cropped black hair and sartorial elegance he’d brought to my tiny regional town, I was very glad that I’d bothered, although I hadn’t been quite sure I was doing the right thing.
After breakfast I’d sent Jill a selfie to check, because I didn’t want to let her down—Bohemiam Brew was her investment—but she’d told me I looked ‘classy’. That didn’t particularly match the laidback style of the teahouse, but Mr. Snooty Banks hadn’t sneered at me, so I assumed I was up to scratch, even if my restaurant wasn’t.
Before I could take comfort from that however, he snapped, “The lighting is shit,” and turned back to face me.
“Lunch?” I said as calmly as I could, and pointed to a booth at the back. “Perhaps you’d like to sit at the table where Noah Steele eats when he’s in town?”
Suck on that Mr. High and Mighty. You’re not the only celebrity we’ve had in here, and you’re far from the most important.
His pebble black eyes narrowed under those jet-black brows. “I heard you’d been lucky—”
“One visit is luck,” I cut over him. “Four visits means Noah is a regular.”
The blond assistant pulled a phone out of her pocket, and I immediately held out a hand to stop any texting she might do. If the newspapers got hold of that tidbit, Noah would stop coming. I hadn’t even told Jill that he’d liked the lack of paparazzi so he’d come back. I’d thought I couldn’t trust a blabber like her to keep it secret, and now look at what I’d just done. I’d blabbed about it myself!
The blond with her slick ponytail glanced at Max, as though seeking permission, and I had a horrible premonition that the future of Bohemian Brew could collapse with a single tweet. I was blushing madly but I forced myself to sound calm as I lowered my voice. “Naturally that must be kept secret.”
Max’s arrogant expression hadn’t altered, as if it had been frozen onto his face in shock. I expected him to tell me off for my indiscretion, but he simply said, “Then perhaps you should tell me in future if there are ‘off the record’ comments, so we can speak…privately.”
He’d leant forward marginally to say this, and had also lowered his voice into a gravelly rumble, which did startling things to my stomach. It immediately started to quiver, and then as he held my gaze—seemingly to impress his statement on me—I smelt his aftershave and my lips dropped open.
He smelt like wood-fire and hot skin and…brandy? Something alcoholic and expensive.
Sweet baby Jesus, I’m thinking about sex. Shut it down! Stop looking at his lips…
But they were pursed, and sexy as sin.
“Mr. Banks,” the blond said in her husky voice, and he turned to her.
Just like that, the spell was broken and I sucked in a slow, shuddering breath as I watched them interact. She was pointing at something on her phone and their two heads—dark and light—were close together as they whispered.
No one was looking at me so I took the opportunity to check him out, starting at his glossy black hair that had been cropped in a classic manly style that I wanted to think of as ‘old school’ but which actually suited him perfectly.
He’d begun to frown, drawing together those dark eyebrows over eyes that suddenly didn’t look like black pebbles. They were softer, more…soulful. And sexy. Definitely sexy eyes. I’d woken up this morning wanting to hate the hell out of him, and I was suddenly realizing while women swooned.
Watching him on tv, I’d only thought he was a pretentious braggart and an arrogant know-it-all. But now I was thinking I wonder what those broad shoulders and slim hips look like out of a suit? I wonder if that hair is as silky and soft as it looks? Even worse, I wonder what you taste like.
“I’m not doing it,” he snapped, breaking me out of my sensual daze to notice he was pointing at her phone. “Tell them to go fuck themselves.”
I switched my attention to the assistant whose non-expression hadn’t altered, but it suddenly occurred to me, that could be the look of someone hiding their emotions.
Certainly,” she said, as if he’d asked her to get him a coffee. Then she excused herself and strode off.
All I could think was, Bastard. He’d better not talk to me like that, conveniently forgetting that I swore like a trooper. It was reverse sexism, but I didn’t like it when men used bad language.
So I was feeling quite self-righteous when I said, “Actually…” and pushed my shoulders back, determined not to be cowed by a bully. “…I’m busy. So there’s the booth.” I pointed. “Make yourself comfortable and I’ll send over a waitress to take your order.”
I turned on my heel and was about to storm off when he said, “Join me.”
I kept my back to him, breathing through my nose again, acutely aware of all my staff watching me.
“Please,” he said softly, so softly they wouldn’t have heard him.
Surprise sent a shiver across my shoulders and I turned back to see the soft look in his eyes again, along with an equally soft grumbling tone that added, “I’d like to discuss the suitability of your teahouse.”
All of a sudden he sounded like a different man. Like someone rational. Normal.
I couldn’t stop myself raising my chin. “Don’t fuck with me,” I said equally softly, “or things won’t end well.”
I have no idea where I dredged up the courage to say that, but if I’d expected a dramatic response, I was going to be surprised.
Those amazing lips quirked into an almost-smile that lit up his eyes, and then all I could think over the sudden throbbing inside my chest was Holy hell. No wonder he doesn’t smile on television. Women would be fainting in their thousands.
“I like you.” He glanced at my dress with its tight bodice and what the sales lady had called a ‘flirt skirt’, down past my exposed knees to my strappy teal sandals. “Even if your dress sense is eccentric,” he added, ramping up the smile so I saw a flash of white teeth as his attention returned to my eyes.
Then I wasn’t breathing—through my nose or otherwise. I was just standing stiff and breathless in front of him, thinking, panties. My panties are melting.
“Fritha?” he said in that crisp British accent, the smile now deflated to a half-smirk. “Lunch?”
Was he playing me? Did he have any idea that my heart was thudding and my face was hot?
“Max,” I immediately countered. Then I thought Shit, should I have said Mr. Banks?
But then, why? He wasn’t my boss, and looked to be mid-thirties like me. So he didn’t get any respect points for age.
“Shall we?” He gestured toward the booth, but the way he was looking at me was so smoldering, I felt my shoulders droop. The resistance was leaking out of me, and in the end I just went to the booth and slid in, staying close to the edge as a form of self-protection so he couldn’t sit beside me. Right in that moment I felt so overwhelmed by his presence, I needed the personal space.
Thankfully, he sat across from me as if he’d always intended to, but his smirk remained. This time it had a look of triumph about it, as if he was used to manipulating women and was pleased with himself that yet another annoying female had fallen for his tall-dark-and-stubbled manly charms—which niggled me no end.
My instinct was to take him down a peg, but I knew how much being featured in his documentary series would mean to Jill, so I kept my trap shut. Despite aforementioned aversion to smarmy Brit food critics, my job was to smile sweetly and pretend to be amenable, ignoring the whole hot-and-bothered thing he’d ignited.
Louella could keep a lid on her emotions. Surely I could emulate that for half an hour? How hard could it be?
“Pet…” He leant across the table and put one hand over mine, looking me straight in the eye with those soulful I can give you the best night of your life peepers. Skin against skin made my heartrate kick up, just when I’d started to settle it down, so I had trouble concentrating on his words.
“Your little town has charm, so external shots will be easy, but inside your shop…” He glanced around with a pitying glance. “Looks like a rainbow vomited across it. And I hate mess. So…” He patted my now-stiff hand twice, then withdrew his. “If you clean up all the shite you’ve got lying around, and assuming your food isn’t rubbish, we might have something to work with here.”
I slowly pulled both my hands off the table and pressed them down onto my thighs, hard, telling myself that I absolutely could not resort to violence, despite the fact that I very much wanted to smack the smirk right off his stubbled face.