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Hired by Lily Harlem

Hired
Hot Ice, Book 1
by Lily Harlem

Ellora’s Cave

eBook ISBN: 9781419929793

One hundred grand to babysit bad boy Logan “Phoenix” Taylor on a paradise island—seriously, how bad could he be?

Turned out Logan was so deliciously bad that he was oh, so good and when temperatures sizzled, I had to keep it secret that I’d been hired…even if it shattered my heart.

Buy Now:
Ellora’s Cave

Chapter One

My best friend Giselle is a call girl. A very high class, very discerning call girl but still, that doesn’t change the fact that she sells her body for money—lots of money. Of course, that wasn’t her dream when we were in high school together, never what she wrote on her career forms. But her destiny, like everyone’s, was set out in the stars, and she had no choice but to follow the winding path it took her on.
I love and respect her and have long since accepted this part of her soul. If she’s happy and healthy it doesn’t matter to me what she does to keep a roof over her head. Fate brought Giselle and me together the day I moved to my Aunt Belinda’s in Orlando. It was exactly one week after my parents had been killed in a car crash, and she was the only kid on the block brave enough to knock on the front door and call for me. Barbie in one hand, Ken in the other, she asked if playing mommies and daddies would make me feel less sad. Of course it didn’t, but having a new friend when I’d lost everything made me feel a little stronger about the future.
As the years went by, I realized the spirits had given me a sister in Giselle, and now, as I watched her fussing over a trailing display of exotic flowers on her marble mantel, I thought once again how lucky I was to have her.
At the moment I was officially down on my luck, my karma was all over the place and I was living in her sumptuous apartment after finding the courage to leave Sam. He’d cheated and lied time and again, and looking back I couldn’t understand how I’d put up with it for three miserable years. He’d been the worst sort of man, charming and good-looking with an easy tongue for declaring love and a quick mind for creating lies.
Naturally, living with Giselle in the apartment where she entertained clients wasn’t the best arrangement for either of us and couldn’t go on indefinitely. Luckily I tended to be at The Grill most of the time scraping tuition fees together, which left her to do her job in private. I had dreams of nursing college and was preparing for the entrance exam, but with so little time to study and a dire lack of money for tuition, I couldn’t help but wonder if it would ever happen for me. Perhaps my destiny was never to move on from becoming a waitress in a greasy cafe.
“What do you think?” Giselle asked, stepping back and scrutinizing her final arrangement. “Too many stems hanging down?”
“No, not at all, it’s lovely.” I tipped my head. The pink orchid display was a feast for the nose as well as the eyes and must have cost a fortune. Of course she hadn’t bought them, they’d been a gift from a very satisfied client she’d serviced over the weekend. But the streaks of pink were a perfect match with her aura, which I saw as a soft, powdery pink with a hint of silver when she was content and relaxed. “I think you might want to turn down the air-conditioning, they’re tropical plants and they need jungle warmth.”
Giselle always had the air-conditioning on shivering cold. She didn’t have to worry about expense and she hated the Florida humidity the way most people hated toe fungus, whereas I was longing for heat. Constantly having goose bumps was getting old, but I couldn’t exactly complain when I was living at her place rent-free.
The Batphone, the telephone number Giselle gave to clients, trilled to life and echoed over the tiled floor and up the high ceilings. If the other phone rang, her silver mobile, then it was family or friends and she answered without the coy simper in her voice.
“Oh, Fergal,” she said on a sigh. “I’ve missed you, it’s been three weeks.”
She went quiet and coiled her finger into one of her long, auburn curls. “I know, I’m looking forward to it.” She giggled. “Any particular type of cream?” Her eyes caught mine and rolled ever so slightly. “Whipped, that’s perfect, it’s my favorite.”
I buried my head in my book and sank deeper into the black leather sofa. Giselle hated cream—not the taste or texture, the calories. She was vigilant about her svelte figure. It was, as she was fond of saying, her livelihood. I on the other hand had long ago embraced my curves. It seemed a much better option than fighting them, not to mention a lot less effort.
“Well, no, of course I couldn’t go and I wouldn’t want to,” she was saying behind me. “Not with our date in the calendar for next week. But give me a few minutes and I might just be able to help you out.”
My ears pricked as I sensed the energy in the conversation shift.
“Yes, okay, Fergal, yes, I understand, urgent, yes, I’ll call right you back.” The phone clicked down.
“What was that all about?” I asked as she rounded the sofa and perched on the far end. She knotted her hands on her lap and her dark brown eyes penetrated mine.
“Now don’t be mad,” she said, tugging at her bottom lip. “This is only a suggestion and until you’ve heard me out don’t make a decision.”
“I don’t understand.” I upended my book on clinical pharmacology and cocked my head. “What decision?”
“That was Fergal on the phone.”
“I gathered that much.”
“Fergal owns the Orlando Vipers.”
“And?”
Giselle sighed. “Oh, Brooke, you really should pay a bit more interest in the state’s best ice hockey team.”
“I don’t have time to follow a group of grown men on skates.” I frowned. “So what’s Fergal owning the Orlando Vipers got to do with me making a decision?”
“Fergal’s best forward, Logan Taylor, has had a rough time lately on and off the ice.”
I shrugged in a So? kind of way.
“So…Fergal’s sending him to his private beach villa to get his head and body together. A bit of time out. Get himself back in the zone.”
I held my palms to the ceiling and widened my eyes. “And?” I’d never heard of the guy, but how bad could life be with the megabucks NHL players earned?
“He needs a companion.”
“Who does?”
“Logan Taylor.”
I clicked my tongue, either my mind was processing really slowly or Giselle was communicating in a foreign language. “Stop talking in riddles, Giselle, it’s irritating. And what’s this possibly got to do with me?”
“Fergal asked me if I know anyone who’d be interested in going with him. Obviously he doesn’t want me to go, we have a cream party planned on Wednesday afternoon when Sheila is at the hairdresser…” She paused and twisted her hands together. “I thought maybe…”
“You thought…” My mouth hung open as my jaw muscles slackened. She couldn’t be serious. “You thought…maybe I’d go?”
“Now this is where I said don’t get all prissy on me,” Giselle said firmly. “Not until I’ve told you the whole deal.”
“Prissy?” I didn’t know if I objected more to being called prissy or to Giselle thinking I’d consider taking a deal from one of her sugar daddy clients.
“Yes, prissy. This is not about sex, Brooke, this is about companionship. Fergal doesn’t want Logan skulking around all week, moping and brooding, watching reruns of bad games and drinking himself into a coma every night. The place is really isolated, quite beautiful, but totally tucked away.”
I’d have to come back to the prissy thing later. Remind her that I was incredibly unprissy. Probably the most unprissy best friend she could ever have. “You’ve been there?”
“Yes, last year, remember that weekend away in the spring? Sheila was away on a charity convention and he flew me there on his private jet to join him.”
I nodded even though I couldn’t remember. Giselle’s movements were hard to track. “But,” I said, getting my head back to the more pressing matter. “But why would I go? Why would Fergal, or Logan, want me there?”
“Fergal wants a woman about the place, a distraction for Logan. His wife left him a while ago and he’s had several injuries this season which have threatened his form. He’s down, his mood is black and his temper frays when he’s in a game. It’s going to cost him his career if he spends any more time in the sin bin. No one will want him, including Fergal.”
“How do you know all this?”
“Fergal likes to chat after sex.” Giselle shrugged. “Anyway, Brooke, if you went and hung out, did your reading,” she gestured to my discarded book, “caught some rays, had a dip in the sea, nothing more than that, it would be worth…” She dragged in a breath and arched her perfect brows. “One hundred thousand dollars.”
“What!” I leapt up from the sofa.
“One hundred thousand, Brooke. One. Hundred. Thousand. Dollars.” She stood, punctuating each number by stabbing her finger in the air.
“But, but, why?” Now my head was really buzzing. “Why would anyone pay that much for someone to just hang out? It’s ludicrous, ridiculous.”
“Because,” Giselle said. “This guy cost Fergal over a million dollars when he bought his contract two years ago, and each season his wages are double that. One hundred thousand to help Logan Taylor get his mojo back is chicken feed to Fergal.”
“Not to me it’s not.”
“Exactly.” Giselle stepped over. She took my hands in hers. I hadn’t realized mine were shaking until her slender fingers squeezed them still. “One hundred thousand would set you straight. It isn’t even really a week, just Monday to Friday. You could forget about the few hundred Sam owes you, chuck in your job at The Grill, and concentrate on nursing for the next three years knowing you had a healthy nest egg to see you through.”
I swallowed down a lump of nervous apprehension mixed with excitement. I did need my own little apartment. And I needed money for tuition, fees, textbooks, food and bills—the list was endless. “I wouldn’t have to sleep with him?” I asked quietly, not believing I was even contemplating the suggestion. My biorhythms must have been completely knocked out of whack from too little sleep and too many hours on my feet. “We’ve had this conversation many times, Giselle, you live your life one way and I live mine another. I can see how this looks too good to refuse, but I will refuse it if I’m expected to have sex with a guy for money.”
“No, I promise you won’t have to, because the beauty of it is Logan won’t even know you’re being paid to be there.”
I squinted. “How is that going to work?”
“Logan isn’t the sort of guy to, er, use a woman like me. Fergal will tell him you’re the daughter of an old college friend and he’d promised the villa to you for a week of study before an exam. He’ll apologize for the double-booking but point out the place is so big you could both rattle around and barely see each other.”
“And Logan will buy it?”
“Sure, why wouldn’t he?”
I took my hands from Giselle’s and ran my fingertips over my brows. I could feel a throb starting in my temple. But I was tempted, I couldn’t deny it. Giselle had promised I wouldn’t have to sleep with this overpaid, bad-tempered jock. So if all I had to do was be there, then the thought of a sunny beach and lapping waves, peace and quiet, a future, was all very enticing. Not to mention it didn’t sound like a whole lot of hard work.
“The only trouble is I need a decision quick.” Giselle nodded at the mantel clock. “Logan flies out tomorrow morning and Fergal wants you, or whoever takes the job, to be on the plane with him. Something about only one lot of airport tax.”
I opened my mouth to speak.
She beat me to it. “Just call Max at The Grill and take your overdue leave.”
I stared at the clock and then the orchids. Could this backfire on me? Could this go really wrong? I couldn’t see how—it did seem the perfect solution to my dilemma. Money beyond my wildest dreams, a holiday in paradise and the chance to cram my head full of pharmacology and models of care for the long-awaited exam, now only two weeks away.
“Okay,” I said drawing in a huge breath. “I’ll go and hang out. I’ll be polite to him, this Logan Taylor. I’ll interact if conversation is intelligent but that’s it. Nothing more, separate bedrooms, separate bathrooms, everything.”
Giselle grinned, flashing expensive teeth. “The place has five beds and four baths, Brooke. I don’t think avoiding him will be a problem if he’s as surly as Fergal makes out. And it’s just for a week then the rest of your life is sorted. How fab is that?”
I swallowed, my mouth dry. Had I really just said yes?
Giselle’s face dropped and she placed her hand on my arm. “Seriously, I wouldn’t have suggested it if I thought there was any chance you’d have to sleep with him. Just be polite and if he hunkers down and mopes all week so what? I’ll just tell Fergal you did your best to cheer him up. Logan Taylor is important to Fergal but not to me, not to us.” She reached for her phone. “I couldn’t care less if he’s kicked off the team and rots in a miserable depression. You’re the one I care about, and this will set you on your way to your nursing dreams.”
I walked into the kitchen to pour a glass of water. My tongue had stuck to the roof of my mouth. As I drank I heard Giselle simpering on the phone again. She was full of coos and reassurances and proclamations of excitement for the upcoming creamy date.
When she’d finished, she strolled back into the kitchen, Gucci handbag in hand. “Come on,” she said, shoving her feet into brown leather sandals. “We’ve got three hours before the mall shuts and you need new clothes.”
“No I don’t.” I put my hands on my hips. “I’ve got enough bits to throw in a suitcase for a week on the beach.”
“Yeah, old, faded bits. You need some nice new things. It’s a posh place and you’re supposed to be from a wealthy family. Now come on.”
“I can’t afford it.” I leaned back against the counter. “I don’t have the money yet and even when I do I’m not going to blow it on clothes, Giselle.”
“I can’t remember when I last saw you in something new, and as for affording it, shove it on a credit card and if Fergal’s not good for the money at the end of the week I’ll settle the bill for you.”
“I can’t let you do that.”
“Of course you can, because if you go to the villa with Logan Taylor and don’t get paid it will be my fault.”

Buy Now:
Ellora’s Cave

3 Responses to Hired by Lily Harlem

  1. New Release: 17 December 2010

  2. Congratulations on winning the December 2010 Reader's Choice for Best Cover and Best Overall First Chapter!!!

    ~ Renee

  3. Lily Harlem says:

    Thanks so much. I am absolutely thrilled to have won December 2010 Reader's Choice for Best Cover and Best Overall First Chapter.

    Pop the champagne!

    Lily x

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