Just One Night
by Elle Casey
Just One Night Serial
Genres: Adult, Romance
Jennifer is sexually frustrated and disillusioned with love, a very dangerous combination. Convinced there’s no such thing as Prince Charming, and against her best friend’s better judgment, she places a personal ad seeking a one-night stand. No strings, no commitments, no second dates. Her goal? To restore her faith in men by setting up a single night of fantasy that can never be tainted by reality.
William is a busy executive, newly arrived in the United States from England. Life for him is all about minimizing complications. He doesn’t have the time nor the inclination to share his life with anyone, to have obligations outside of work, or to become entangled in a relationship with an emotional basket case of a woman who’s desperately seeking her Prince Charming. But he does see the value in having an attractive woman in his arm for networking purposes …
*This ebook is Part 1 of the serial romance novel, JUST ONE NIGHT, approximately 25,000 words or 100 paper pages long. The story continues with additional Parts which will be published in 2-3 week increments.
**DUE TO SEXY SITUATIONS AND CONTENT, THIS BOOK IS DEFINITELY NOT APPROPRIATE FOR YOUNGER READERS
Elle Casey is a prolific, NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestselling American writer who lives in Southern France with her husband, three kids, and several furry friends. She writes in several genres and publishes an average of one full-length novel per month.
What readers are saying about Just One Night: Part 1
“As usual, Elle Casey delivers. Smokin hot male gets together with super cool chick and the sparks fly from the get go. Love the way the story develops and can’t wait to read the next installment. I can’t recommend this author enough…” ~ Amazon reviewer
“This book is like Pringles! Once you read it, you can’t stop! This is seriously addicting!” ~ Ana on Goodreads
“… tightly packed with a lot of great, yummy and sexy romance. I loved it, can’t wait to see where this serial goes.“ ~ KarlynP, Book blogger and Goodreads librarian
Excerpts from Just One Night, Part 1 (The novel is told from alternating points of view: Jennifer, who’s American, and William, who’s British. The excerpts below should give readers a taste of each character’s voice.)
I have this plan. It’s not exactly your run-of-the-mill kind of situation, but to be honest, neither is my life. Sure, I could sit around and wait for things to happen to me, but I’ve been doing that for years and I’ve got nothing to show for it but disappointment.
It’s time to take the bull by the horns and make some big changes. I’m so sexually frustrated right now it’s not even funny. And yes, I’ll admit … this pent-up sexual energy may be adding fuel to the fire for this hare-brained idea that sprouted up in my mind last weekend, but I don’t care. I’m doing it anyway.
I ignore the call coming through from my best friend Mia. She’ll tell me it’s a terrible idea and talk me out of it, and I don’t want her to do that. I can make my own decisions … good ones, as a matter of fact. The lecture she gave me last week about considering some therapy made me really cranky. I don’t need a shrink; I need some seriously hot sex with a ridiculously hot guy. I’m totally taking the responsibility for my happiness into my own hands, and no one’s going to stop me.
My computer screen is glowing, lighting up my face in the dark bedroom, the tiny corner of which hosts my laptop sitting on a piece of plywood balanced on two piles of books. It’s the middle of the night and I’m hiding. From whom? No one. Myself, maybe.
I live alone in a tiny apartment, the new home sweet home I had to sign on the dotted line for with very little notice. Why did I do this when I was happily ensconced in a fifteen hundred square foot, fully-loaded condo in the trendy part of town? Well, when I found out my fiancé of way too many years was sleeping with a girl who looks like she should still be carrying textbooks in a backpack, I took that as a sign that I should move on. Cheating rat bastard that he is, Hank left me no choice but to start all over at age thirty-five. I wasted the best years of my life on that asshole. The man I used to love with all of my heart is now el numero uno on my shit list.
I’m still weighing the pros and cons of running him over with my car. I don’t need to totally flatten him to get satisfaction. Maybe just a tap would be okay. How much trouble could I get into over just a tap? I could make it look like an accident. Oh, hi, fancy meeting you here, Hank, in the middle of the road … with the grill of my car. Did that hurt? Muahahahahaaaaa… I’m pretty sure if a jury heard my story, they wouldn’t convict, especially if it had any women on it. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and we’ve all been scorned at some point in our lives, haven’t we, ladies?
Ugh, I cannot think about him anymore. At least not right now. I’m on a mission to take back my life. No more pity parties allowed.
My phone beeps. Mia has left a voicemail. Against my better judgment, I play it out on the speakerphone.
“Jennifer, I know you’re there. Why didn’t you pick up? You better call me back, ho-bag. Are you doing that personal ad thingy you talked about after your third martini last weekend? Because if you are, just stop, okay?”
I don’t remember telling her my plan. Dammit. I can’t even keep secrets from myself.
Her message keeps playing, much to my chagrin. “You aren’t cut out for one-night stands, you never were. Remember Mike? Remember Jake? Remember that guy … the one with prematurely gray hair and the flat butt? Shit, I can’t remember his name. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. You fell apart. You liked them right away and then your heart broke when they didn’t call a second time.”
Yeah, that’s helpful, Mia. Thanks for reminding me what a loser I am. I could stop the message from coming out over the speaker to fill my room, but I don’t. I wallow in the unpleasant memories she’s dredging up.
“I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with you, so don’t even go there. They weren’t the right kind of guy for you. Seriously. Call me. You’d better not be doing that ad. I’m going to come over there and mess you up.” The message ends there.
I laugh at my friend’s fake bravado. She’s always threatening bodily harm, but as far as I know she’s never even hurt a fly. She says all of God’s creatures have value, even the ones that start out as maggots.
Of course I’m going to ignore her every word. The old Jennifer would hesitate and worry, but the old Jennifer would also date a turd like Hank and that’s not going to happen anymore. My life is about to change … like, right now.
Okay, back to business. My brilliant plan is to restore my faith in men by setting up a single night of fantasy that can never be tainted by reality. I have the whole thing figured out; now I just need a willing partner.
My fingers hover over the keyboard and I wiggle them around to get them warmed up. Magic will be flowing from these babies in about five seconds. My approach has to be short and sweet, clear and up front. I’m not interested in frills. No flowers, no candy, no diamond rings, thank you very much. I just want one amazing night with an amazing guy who I can walk away from and never see again.
I click on the ‘New Listing’ button to start my ad. Chewing on my lip, I consider my options. How much do I really want to expose of myself? Do I want this mystery man to know I was recently dumped in a very embarrassing way? No, that would make me pitiful. That would bring in the vultures. Vultures do not make sexy dreams come true. I should know, seeing as how I lived with one for six years.
I start typing. ‘Single, attractive, successful woman …’ Stopping there, I chew my lip some more. Should I say I’m successful or should I be more circumspect about that part of my life? It’s not like I’m a millionaire or anything, but I do okay in the real estate business. Well enough that I can support myself, anyway, and every year my client list gets longer. I try not to be bitter over the fact that I had to change brokers. Wanting to kill one’s boss is never conducive to a good working environment. Hank took more than my self-esteem and my heart from me.
Typing once more, I force myself to have more confidence. This is easy. Why am I over-thinking it? Just make it happen, Jennifer, make it happen.
My fingers fly over the keyboard. ‘Single, attractive and successful businesswoman seeks very short-term, intimate and discrete affair. No strings, no commitments, no second dates.’ I sit back and read the ad over and over about ten times. Is it too cold? Too short? Not short enough? Misleading in any way? Ridiculous? Pitiful? Sassy-awesome? I vote for sassy-awesome.
Huffing out a breath of frustrated air, I put my hands back over the keys. It’s not like anyone who reads it will know who I am, right? I have a throw-away cell phone that I bought today just for this project, and I’ve used a post office box for my address to set up the online account. I’m untraceable. Anyone I meet will be checked out in advance by me anyway via telephone so I can conduct a psycho test on them. Plus, we’ll meet for the first time in a very public place, so it’s all good. Safety first, I always say.
My finger floats over the enter button. The angel on my shoulder is crying over the fact that I’ve given up on love. The devil is doing a tap dance telling me to go for it … life is too short to wait around for a Prince Charming who doesn’t even exist.
I tend to agree with that little devil more and more these days. I press the button with only a slight twinge of fear in my chest. Now all that’s left to me is the waiting game.
The unnecessary chit chat is undeniably the very worst part of my workday. The snickering, the giggling, the twittering… And no, I’m not talking about the online tweeting kind of twittering. I’d much prefer that to the constant chinwagging I can hear filtering through my door, for the very reason that it’s quiet and it wouldn’t interrupt my workflow. Although truly, I don’t understand the fascination with expressing oneself in one hundred and forty characters or less. Who honestly believes there’s a single other person in the entire world who gives a monkey’s uncle that you just bought a carmel macchiato at the local Starbucks? Only someone irretrievably deluded, that’s who. What a load of rubbish.
Where the secretaries find the time to engage in this nonsense when we have so much to get done is beyond me. The work’s not going to complete itself, that’s for certain. The bone-idle really get me wound up, can you tell? I wasn’t born to privilege; my family worked its way to it from near to nothing.
“Rachel,” I say, pressing down on the intercom button, “could you come in here please?” If she has time to giggle, she must need more work to do, and I will more than happy to remedy that little oversight on my part.
“Yes, Mr. Stratford?” Rachel stands in my doorway, far enough away that I can’t hit her with my paperweight with assured accuracy. Believe me, I’ve considered attempting it anyway on more than one occasion. If her head had any more helium in it, she’d float right out of the building. It’s beyond frustrating. She’s the fifth personal assistant I’ve had this year and we’re only to June.
My lips stretch to mimic a tired sort of amusement. A very, very slight level of amusement. “While I’m pleased to know that you’ve settled into your new position enough to feel comfortable gossiping with your colleagues, I believe you have several other tasks which require your attention, and it would please me beyond measure to see you accomplishing said tasks.”
Her face morphs into something that looks very uncomfortable. Is her skin made of rubber? These American girls never cease to amaze me with their expressive natures. It’s fascinating, really. Like a visit to the zoo or a science museum.
“Sir, I wasn’t gossiping. I was working.”
Obviously, she believes me to be a dunderhead. “Is that so? And what, perchance, were you working on, might I ask?” Leaning back in my chair with my arm extended over the desk, I begin to wiggle my pen between my fingers, first slowly and then with more speed. My eyebrow goes up as I wait for her excuses to pour forth.
Expecting to see her squirm under the pressure, I admit to being a little disappointed when she doesn’t indulge me. She counts off on her fingers as she relates her activities of the last few hours, her eyeballs rolling up to the ceiling. “Well, let’s see … I collated all the reports from the weekly and monthly sales and made projections for the next quarter based on the information there. I entered all the new client information into the database. I synched your phone and your e-pad to your computer wirelessly. I scheduled eight meetings for next week and put them on your calendar. By the way, one of them is a charity ball thingy on Friday night, so I also scheduled the dry cleaner to come by and get your tux so they can have it ready for you in time.” She perks up and stops counting, her eyes coming back down from the ceiling to look at me. “Oh, and I found you a date.”
My pen drops from my hand and lands on the desk blotter with a muted clatter. “Pardon?” A large hunk of hair falls over my eye and I slowly smooth it back as I stare at her. Surely I’ve mis-heard.
She sighs heavily and enunciates slowly, as if speaking to someone who needs a little extra help. “I said I collated all the reports …”
I gesture in frustration. “Right, right, I caught that part. It’s the last bit that I’m confused on. Care to repeat the last item on your list?”
She dazzles me with a big smile. There appear to be too many teeth in her mouth, and they’re blindingly white. I glance at my sunglasses on the desk but decide against putting them on. All I need to do is give the secretarial pool more fodder for their chinwagging. If I so much as sneeze it becomes headline news in the office, so wearing aviators indoors is a no-go if I want to continue striving towards the goal of relative obscurity.
They don’t realize it, but I hear everything. Not only do I have my inside sources, but the employees are under the mistaken notion that I’m deaf, dumb, and blind as well. Discrete, they are not. Being the newly appointed CEO and the son of the founder obviously makes me an interesting topic for the unofficial company grapevine, so I try not to let it bother me. I hope after a couple more months they’ll realize there’s no story here and that their gossip time is better spent on other subjects. Like on my younger brother, for example. Of course, for them to gossip about him, he’d actually have to show up here once in a while…
“Oh, yes! That’s right! I forgot to tell you!” Rachel advances into my office with several short, choppy strides, holding out a piece of paper from a stack that’s in her arms. “I was talking to some of the girls, and they told me you never get out and that you’re always working, so I took the liberty of finding you someone. A date, actually. If you like her you could bring her to the ball. You really shouldn’t go solo to something like that, you know. You can network better with someone on your arm.” She extends the paper in my direction, still with that blinding smile going. “You can totally find a date online these days. You won’t even have to leave the office to start the process. Isn’t that awesome?”
My nostrils extend slowly out to either side as my color rises. This is how a British gentleman expresses his extreme distaste. My upbringing forbids me from saying the things that should be said to this pleb. I cannot tell her that she is as obtuse as she is annoying, that she’s completely out of line, and that she’s begging to be made redundant. Perhaps she understands British body language, though, because the wattage of her smiling-bulb dims to just a crumb.
“Are you mad?” The foolish grin is gone and the cringe has taken its place. I’m very pleased with the result. She’s catching on a lot quicker than her predecessors.
I give her a perfunctory smile. “Mad? No. I am in complete control of my faculties. Perhaps you mean angry?”
“Yes, that’s what I meant.”
“No. I’m not angry. For me to be upset with you, your actions would have to actually mean something to me, which I can assure you, they do not. But your suggestion that your function here includes searching out female companionship for me leads me to believe that perhaps you misunderstand your role.”
“Oh, no, I understand perfectly, Mr. Stratford. Your father was very clear when he hired me. He said I was to do all the tasks you asked me to do on time or before deadline if possible, make sure your calendar is kept updated at all times, and to help you assimilate into American culture.” She’s back to smiling again.
I search my desktop. Where has that paperweight, gone to?
“Going out with American women will help you assimilate much faster.” She shrugs once and tilts her head, obviously very proud of herself.
I stand, knowing that my height will put me at a distinct advantage over her. I’m pleased to see her grin disappearing again. “I assure you, Ms. Meechum, that should I determine at some point in the future that I am in need of a date as you say, I will neither need your assistance nor your opinion on the matter. Do I make myself clear?”
She starts to back up towards the door. “Yes, sir. Crystal clear. I get you loud and clear. Ten four, over and out.”
“Why all the numbers?” I ask, wondering if she’s cluing me in to some appointment I’ve yet to notice on my calendar.
“Nothing. No numbers. Disregard. Is there anything else you need? I’m about to leave.”
“Leave?” I look at my watch; it’s only seven p.m. “Where are you going?”
“Ummm, home?” She smiles. “Come on, William, it’s seven o’clock on a Friday night. You really don’t expect me to stay until ten every night, do you? I have a date tonight, and I have to get ready.” She points at her horribly frizzy red hair. “This kind of magic doesn’t happen overnight, you know.”
“No. I suppose it doesn’t,” I say under my breath, afraid of what might come out of my mouth next if I give it enough volume. This girl is destined for the rubbish heap that contains all my other former assistants. Certainly, she’s done well in her short time here, but egads … she’s picking out dates for me now? What on earth could the numbskull have been thinking?
She’s almost gone before I deliver my parting shot. “Ms. Meechum?”
“It’s Mr. Stratford.”
“Ummm … what?”
“You used my given name when you were speaking to me earlier. I don’t believe that’s appropriate, do you?”
She turns a light shade of pink. “No, sir. I’m sorry about that. We’re just a little casual around here sometimes.”
“No, in point of fact, we’re not. Not in this office and not in this company.” My stern look comes out to drive the point home.
“No, of course not.” She has the grace to remain pink-cheeked. “Have a nice weekend, Mr. Stratford.”
“And you do the same, Ms. Meechum.”
See? I can be gracious when the situation calls for it. There’s a time and a place for casual relations, but that time is never when I’m working, and that place is never here. It’s my duty to keep the office running smoothly, and observing certain formalities can assist in that endeavor.
My father entrusted me with his multi-national real estate investment firm that he built from nothing, and I will not let him down. I’ve trained my entire life for this position, and no one will stop me from getting it exactly right, especially not some bird brain, barely-graduated American midwesterner who doesn’t know her place in the chain of command.
I’m once again alone in the office, staring at my heavy oak door. My assistant closed it behind her, and for the first time all day, there’s silence. Sighing heavily, I sit down at my desk and stare at my computer screen. The desktop is glowing out and reflecting off my tired eyes. I’ve been here for thirteen hours and I have much to do before I’m done.
Imagine … someone thinking I need help in the date department. An inelegant snort escapes me as I remember the overly enthusiastic approach I received on the lift just this morning from a totty who works on the next floor up. Her business suits and fine leather attaché case scream solicitor or lawyer. As is my usual course, I let her down easily; when she asked me to meet her for a drink after work, I explained that I’m otherwise engaged.
I’m always otherwise engaged. Engaged working, engaged traveling for work, engaged sleeping or eating. That’s what I do. That is the life I have chosen for myself and I couldn’t be happier. When I need female companionship I find it on my own and it’s always the uncomplicated sort.
An inter-company instant message pops up on my screen interrupting my thoughts. I lean in, my eyebrows creasing as I note the sender’s name. Apparently, Ms. Meechum has not yet left to create her hairstyling masterpiece. Perhaps she’s changed her mind about working late.
‘He seriously needs to get a life outside this place. He’s going to grow old and wrinkly all by himself without any friends or anything. I tried to tell him about the date but he threw me out of his office.’
My chin withdraws into my neck as my brain attempts to determine what I’m seeing. My eyes scan the small instant message window and note that it’s definitely my assistant sending it, but I cannot for the life of me understand why it’s coming to my computer.
Another window pops up to replace the first.
‘Oh my effing god! Mr. Stratford! I’m so sorry! Please don’t fire me! I didn’t mean to send that to you!’
My emotions are … unsettled … to say the least. I lean back in my chair and rock for a bit as I tap my pen rhythmically on the blotter. Am I angry with Ms. Meechum? Yes, of course I’m angry. Old and wrinkly… I’ve at lease twenty years before that eventuality. And I’m certainly not friendless. I’ve loads of friends and lovers. The little bint truly believes she’s a do-gooder? Honestly, her cock-up is more pitiful than anything. She’s completely gormless.
That’s what helps me decide how to react. I’m no longer angry. I’m embarrassed for her. She hasn’t a clue how a man like me gets satisfaction from his life.
I will say nothing at all. Let her stew in her humiliation. Nothing I say could possibly be more effective than what she’ll come up with on her own.
My first genuine smile of the day erupts across my face as I rest secure in the knowledge that I’ll be getting nothing but nose to the grindstone, dedicated effort from Ms. Meechum for at least the next two weeks. I’m actually quite pleased she’s useless in the technology department and doesn’t know how to properly use the messaging system I had installed last week.
I stand up and walk quietly over to my door, cracking it open so I can see her leave. She’s halfway across the room full of cubicles, the last person in the office aside from me. She appears to be running, and I cannot help but allow the chuckle to escape my throat. Oh, life can be so sweet sometimes. I can almost understand why my father left our family for the Americas when I was just a teen.
A stack of papers on the corner of her desk catches my eye. Knowing it’s the one that she had in her arms when she came to visit, I’m lured out of my office to look through it. If she lied about the work she allegedly completed, that’s a serious, job-losing offense. Apparently, I can be intimidating enough that it causes people to lie about things. At least that’s what my last assistant said.
Reading through the short paragraphs on about five different papers, I realize Ms. Meechum actually had the gall to print out personal ads from some online source. Apparently, my perfect date is comprised of someone who likes long walks on the beach, poetry, and true love.
“Bollocks,” I say out into the empty room. She’s definitely going to be fired on Monday. I’m tempted to send her a text now and just be done with it, but I won’t. Let her suffer for two days over her gaff and then come in to be fired. That will be a much more effective lesson for the whole office to learn than letting it happen now.
I toss the pile onto her desk and start to walk away, but one of the papers separates itself and floats down to the floor, landing at my feet. Grabbing it on my way into my office, I crumple it up in a ball and toss it at my rubbish bin. Unfortunately, all the years I spent playing cricket have not paid off. I miss by a good twenty centimeters.
As I sit, I lean over and grab the paper, throwing it up onto my desk. It remains there as I consult my calendar, send off five separate emails to various clients, and confirm my racquetball match for Sunday.
It’s eight o’clock when I sit back in my chair again and look around the office. I have such big plans for this place. By the end of the year it’ll be too small for our operation. My father was content to keep things what he calls ‘intimate’ and ‘friendly’ but I have other ideas. And since I’m the fresh blood he brought in to make things happen, I expect zero resistance to my suggestions. So far, he’s been a hands-off owner. He’s more interested in golf these days than real estate anyway, and that’s just dandy with me. Out with the old and in with the new. No disrespect meant, of course, but instant messaging was just the tip of the iceberg for what Stratford Investments will see in the next ten months.
That crumpled paper is the only thing marring the perfect harmony that is my office. I flick it with the end of my pen, but it doesn’t flip over towards the bin like I want it to.
“Stubborn little thing, aren’t you?” Leaning over, I push the paper open, smoothing it out over the surface of the desk. “And who exactly are you, that you warranted a blind date with William Stratford?” It’s possible the late hours I’ve been keeping are making me a little loony. It’s the only explanation I have for even opening this paper, let along talking to myself about it.
‘Single, attractive and successful businesswoman seeks very short-term, intimate and discrete affair. No strings, no commitments, no second dates.’
I frown. This is supposed to be my date?
A whirlwind of emotions slides across my consciousness. My first reaction is to be impressed. Ms. Meechum has been paying attention. Maybe I shouldn’t fire her.
I read the ad three more times.
My second reaction is annoyance. Does she honestly think I need to resort to online ads to find a date? My gaze flicks over and catches the charity ball appointment on my calendar. Maybe I should take the solicitor from the fifteenth floor.
I shake my head immediately. No. She’d expect something after that, a second date, a third date … and we work in the same building. That would be awkward. Too many complications.
Life is all about minimizing complications. I don’t have the time or the inclination to share my life with anyone, to have obligations outside of my work, to become entangled in some relationship with an emotional basketcase of a woman who’s desperately seeking her Prince Charming.
I read the ad again.
Of course, Ms. Meechum is right about one thing; networking is much more effective when done with an attractive woman at one’s side, and the ad does in fact say that she’s attractive.
But that could mean anything, couldn’t it? She could look like Medusa and I’d never know until it was too late. I’m quite sure networking with a woman ugly enough to turn a man to stone would hinder the effectiveness of my networking. It’s probably a terrible idea to pursue this person.
It says she’s a businesswoman too, but these days people think working at a coffee shop qualifies. How could I be sure she’s telling the truth? I couldn’t, that’s how. People lie all the time. People tell you who they want to be, not who they really are. And honestly, I’ve never met a woman who truly wanted a one-night stand. They all go into the arrangement with hope for the future, diamond rings on the mind and all that nonsense.
What strikes me about this ad, though, is that I don’t believe this person is looking for those things, mainly because she specifically says so. She had the forethought to attack the very arguments I’ve come up with for looking the other way. For some reason, I can almost believe this woman means what she says. It’s a revelation to me. A woman who doesn’t even want a second date.
Knowing my assistant has access to my emails, I pick up my phone. I have the perfect solution to my dilemma. First, I’ll phone this person and have a short conversation, chat her up a bit. If she sounds relatively normal, I’ll arrange to meet for a cuppa. Then, if she passes muster, I’ll suggest she accompany me to the charity event. Done and dusted. I am nothing if not decisive.
I smile as the call rings through. Things always have a way of working out exactly how I want them to. There’s no reason to suspect that this will be any different.