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Chapter One


 

Kiki hit the enter key on her laptop and smiled. The proposal was done. Sent. And she’d finished it the afternoon it was due rather than waiting until was already late and working all through the night. That was a first. She took a little sip of her hot mocha and sat back, waiting as the wireless connection indicator blinked, sending the file.

The little coffee bar was quiet in the hour before most people got off work. The baristas were working to get things ready for the evening commuter traffic, and they worked in a friendly and efficient way with the one customer who stood at the counter. Most of the tables were empty, but a lone man sat a few tables away, contemplating a newspaper. He was joined by the fellow who’d been at the counter and they sat talking amiably.

The file was not sending. Kiki hit the enter key again, but nothing changed. The little wireless connection thingy just kept whirling around and around. The file wasn’t nearly big enough to account for this extended sending time. She hit the enter key again…and again. She stabbed at it, increasingly concerned and impatient. She lifted the laptop up and gave it a shake, then put it back down roughly. As she watched, horror stricken, a blue-screen-of-death appeared, full of coded gobbledygook and error messages. Her computer had quit working!

“Fuck! Son of a bitch! Damn, damn, damn! You sorry-ass piece of shit!” She smacked the laptop forcefully. “Work, damn you!” Nothing happened. “You goddamn mother-“

“Excuse me, Miss.”

She looked up, a snarl and a frown making her face feel distorted. It was the man who’d been at the counter a few minutes previous. He was a tall man, wearing a black t-shirt and a good quality black suit—a little Hollywood, but appealing. He smiled at her, teeth white in a healthy, tanned face. His dark hair was neatly brushed back in a queue. “What the fuck do you want? Can’t you see I’m busy?”

His eyebrow arched over a twinkling blue eye. “Yes, I can see that you’re having some trouble with your computer. Perhaps I can help?”

“What? Are you with Geek Squad or something?”

“Something like that. My name is Jim Chesterfield.” He said it like she ought to know him, so she looked at him for a moment, narrowing her eyes as she thought.

“Jim Chesterfield…James Chesterfield? The James Chesterfield?”

A slightly embarrassed look washed over his face, followed by a playful grin. “That’s what my mother calls me. Most people just call me Jim, though.”

Flustered, she looked down at the blue screen on her computer then back up to him. James Chesterfield was, perhaps, one of the best known computer geeks in the U.S. He had a huge software business, providing alternative operating systems to hundreds of thousands of users worldwide. It was rumored that he was branching out into hardware in the next few months and that it would cement his place as an international icon. What the hell was he doing in a Coffee Cart store? “It stopped working. I was trying to send an important proposal and it just went dead.”

“Would you mind if I look at it?”

“Well…why the fuck not? Thanks.” She turned the computer to face him as he sat down at the table, smiling at her genially. He was a handsome son-of-a-bitch, finely sculpted and broad-shouldered. She’d read somewhere that he’d been a programming prodigy, but by now he must be around forty years old. Kiki thought it was an amazing thing for plain ole her to be sitting with him, actually having him poke around on her cheap laptop. She blinked and surreptitiously pinched her arm just to make sure she wasn’t dreaming. No, she was awake. It still seemed surreal. Her best friend, Madhuja, was not going to believe her.

“Ah, I see what happened.” He pressed a sequence of keys and the screen went black then showed an icon in the middle as the operating system engaged again. “You said you were sending a file?”

“Yeah. It was a proposal I was sending to my boss. He has to present it to the board in the morning and I was supposed to get it to him by close-of-business today. With this fuckin’ broken computer, I’m screwed.”

“You didn’t leave yourself much time.” His blue eyes—really remarkable with his dark hair—were focused on the computer. Kiki wondered what it would feel like to have him focus that attention on her. That thought got squashed vigorously. He is probably married to a super-model or something.

Shaking herself out of her reverie, she responded, “Well, actually, I’m usually late on these things. This is what I get for congratulating myself on being early for once.”

He grinned, looking over at her, and she got flustered again. “I think we can recover your file. Did you back it up?”

Kiki shook her head, feeling fairly stupid. Maddie had told her to get a USB key and keep backups of her files, but she’d been hesitant to spend the $30 on something she figured she’d lose anyway.

“Too bad. You should always back up things you can’t afford to lose.” Jim was focused on the computer once more. “This computer is a little outdated.”

She snorted, perversely realized it was unladylike, and tried to cover it with a cough. “Yeah, but it’s what I’ve got.”

He nodded, looked over at her for a little while, his eyes roving over her face. “Do you want me to recover your data?”

“Can you?”

“Yes. For a price.”

Well, that was really the topper. She couldn’t afford another cup of mocha, let alone a fee for saving her proposal. She was doomed. “You’re one of the richest fucking guys in the country, and you want to bill me? I can’t pay you!”

“I think you can.” His smile was open, easy.

She shook her head, hair tickling her cheeks. “Oh please. I’ve got maybe five bucks to my name.”

“Are you married?”

Ah, now she could see where the conversation was heading. She would have thought he could get his kicks with someone more lofty. She bristled. “No, but let’s not go there. I don’t fuck for favors.”

“You really need to clean up your language, young lady.”

Kiki frowned. “Who the fuck are you to tell me what to do?”

Shaking his dark head, he turned the still-malfunctioning computer toward her and sat back in his chair. “You know what you need?”

“I’ll bet you think you know.”

He nodded. “You need a good spanking.”

She snorted, this time not even trying to cover it up. “Good luck with that, Mister James Chesterfield.”

Grinning, his confidence didn’t slip a hair. “What’s your name?”

Kiki thought about the safety of telling him for a moment. He wouldn’t be a stalker; he was too prominent for that. “Kiki Mackenzie.”

 “Well, Miss Kiki Mackenzie,” he said. “I’ll recover your file if you’ll agree to go out with me three times.”

The file was important. Her boss, Ted Keeting, had made it very clear that one more late project and she was out the door. She only had an hour—no, forty-five minutes—to get it where it needed to go. “Three times?”

Nodding, he confirmed, “Yes, three.”

“No sex?”

“Not unless you want it. I’m not in the habit of forcing women.”

Publicity for his bad behavior would be huge, so she figured he was telling the truth. A new job would be hard to find in the current economic climate, and her experience level as a junior PR person was minimal. Not to mention the fact that her boss wasn’t thrilled with her and probably wouldn’t give her a good reference. “Yeah, fine. Three times. No sex.”

“Okay. Hit the F3 key.”

“The F3 key?”

“Yup.”

“That’s it? Just tap a key?”

He smiled. “Mmhmm.”

“You’re a sneaky bastard, making me agree to those dates for one damn keystroke.”

“Did you know to hit the F3 key? Would you have figured it out by yourself?”

“Well…no.”

“Then go ahead.”

Skeptically, she reached out and gently depressed the key. Her dark computer screen lit up and opened the mail application and her presentation program application. New mail was waiting, and her proposal was right there, just as she’d left it. “Holy shit!”

He smiled, but reprimanded her. “All that cursing. Tsk.”

She quickly attached the proposal to an email and sent it off. This time, it went without a hitch. “Fan-fuckin’-tastic!”

“I’m glad I made you happy.”

“You saved my life! I could have lost my job.”

There was a brief pause in the conversation as she turned back to the computer, grinning from ear to ear.

“Is your real name Kiki? It’s very unusual.”

Her cheeks got a little hot. “Well, actually, it’s Kitten Kimberly Ann Mackenzie.”

He didn’t laugh or even smirk; that was kind. “Your parents must have liked cats.”

“Um…yeah.” Kiki’s smile was a little forced. Her name was a permanent thorn in her side, but she refused to change it. Her mother had so loved the name she gave her daughter; it made Kiki feel like a traitor to consider modifying it more than with a nickname.

“Where shall I pick you up for dinner tonight?”

“Huh?”

“Dinner. A date.” His look was indulgent. “You know, the first of the three you agreed to.”

“Oh, right! So soon?” Apparently he was serious about that. It made no sense. She was fairly ordinary. Pretty, maybe, but not a knockout. Her legs and behind were okay—she bicycled to work and home every day—but her boobs were too small and her shoulder-length chestnut-colored hair and gray eyes were common enough. Well, whatever.

She gave him her address. “What time?”

“Seven.” He took out a pen and a business card, scribbled something on the back, then handed it to her. “In case you need to reach me. Use the cell phone number on the back.”

Kiki looked at the card, and mumbled his engraved name. “James Aaron Chesterfield. Yeah, okay.” Folding up her laptop, she pocketed the card and stood up from the table. Her coat and purse went over her arm. “I guess I’ll see you later…Jim.”

He nodded and smiled, boyish but mature at the same time. “Until then, Kiki.”

* * *

Watching her sweet behind sway out the door, Jim sat at the small table for half-a-minute, then returned to the table where his brother, Cal, was once again reading his newspaper.

“Reminds you of Isabella, doesn’t she?”

Jim thought about his dead wife wistfully for a moment, then nodded. “In some ways.”

“Same color hair, same lanky body.”

“Same foul mouth,” Jim pointed out with a smile.

Cal laughed. “Oh yeah. She’s got that in spades.”

“Except Isabella cursed in Italian.”

“Like a truck driver.”

“A very pretty truck driver.”

“No argument about that.”

Jim drank his cold coffee. “I’m taking her on a date tonight.”

Cal’s dark eyebrows, so like his older brother’s, shot up. “That was fast.”

“I like her.”

“I guess so!”

Jim smiled. “She’s got no artifice. She just is what she is.”

“What’s her name?”

“Kiki.”

Nodding, Cal moved the newspaper around, folding it neatly, though it had already been folded with precision. “Are you ready for this, Jim?”

He had to think about that. Was he ready? Isabella had been dead for two years. But he’d been prepared when she passed. She was horribly sick for the entire year before. When he buried her, he thought he’d never find anyone as vivacious, as beautiful, and as sensual as her again. Maybe that was still the case. Maybe this Kiki Mackenzie was nothing special. No…there was something different about her.

“Yeah. I think I’m ready. It’s been two years.”

“True, and you’ve hardly been celibate.”

The coffee tasted good as it went down. “No.” Women had been eager to climb into his bed, each for her own reasons, and none of them honorable. They weren’t interested in him, just his money and prestige. He needed what they were offering—sex—but he didn’t need a trophy wife or someone who didn’t sincerely care about him. Isabella had cared. “I had to coerce Kiki.”

“After she knew who you were?”

Jim nodded. “Yup.”

Cal sat back in his chair. “Wow.”

“Yeah, wow.”

Standing, the younger man gathered his coat. “Good luck, brother. This one’s different.”

“I’ll call you tomorrow.”

* * *

Jim never drank alcohol when he was driving. If he planned to have wine or cocktails, he had his man-of-all-work drag out the Rolls-Royce or the Lincoln. He had several cars, and the Rolls was perhaps his least used. Purchased on a whim, it was elegant, but not very practical. Generally, he liked to fly under the radar and avoid paparazzi by using less flashy cars but, on the other hand, he didn’t ever want to be arrested for drinking and driving. That would be a publicity nightmare. So, since he hoped to have wine with his dinner with Kiki, the Rolls got shined up and his man, Ernie, put on his best suit.

They arrived at Kiki’s place at seven-oh-five owing to Silicon Valley traffic. Jim knocked at the apartment door, a little nervous, which was a change for him. He wanted this woman to like him. Really like him for himself.

The door opened the width of the security chain and a gray eye peeked out. “Hi, Jim. Hold on a sec.” She closed the door, and Jim heard the rattle of the chain being pulled away.

When he saw her, he felt a stirring that had little to do with the romantic pleasure of enjoying the company of a lovely woman, and everything to do with pure lust. He had to grit his teeth a bit to remind his parts to behave. She wore a dark blue, knit dress, low cut in the front. It showed off her curvy hips to perfection, and made her long, gorgeous legs look even longer.

A little tongue tied, all he could think of to say was, “Hi.”

“Hi there. Want to come in?”

“Sure. Are you about ready to go?” The apartment was small. No, it was tiny. It appeared to be one room, an open kitchen, and a bathroom. He’d lived like this in college, unwilling to believe that the software he’d invented would be more than a flash in the pan. In Kiki’s case, every available space, except for a spot for the bed, was taken up with bookshelves. She had hundreds of books.

She pointed to her feet and held up a pair of strappy black shoes with ankle bands. “I just need to get my shoes on. The goddamn buckles are driving me crazy. They’re so fuckin’ small, I can barely deal with them.”

 “Let me help you, then. And honey, watch the language.”

Her teeth worried her lower lip for a moment, then she agreed, dropping the shoes on the floor.

He squatted down and helped her with the left shoe, enjoying the smooth curve of her delicate feet as he slipped the shoe on, and the turn of her ankle as he fastened the ankle strap buckle. He did the same for her right foot, then stood, smiling. “Done. Grab your purse.”

Kiki’s smile warmed him to his core. She slid into her sturdy cloth coat and they made their way to the car. Her eyes widened as she took in the expensive vehicle, then she looked suspiciously at him. “No Volkswagens for you, I guess.”

Jim felt his face flush. Maybe he should have simply eschewed drinking and driven himself. “We could take a cab, if you’d prefer.”

“You don’t drive?”

“Not when I plan to drink. I thought we’d have a little wine with dinner.”

She appeared to ponder this. “Well…here you are, and I guess it’ll be okay this once. We’ll take your car.”

He grinned. “I’m glad you see it my way.”

Although she mumbled, he understood her when she said, “Fuckin’ rich guy, thinks he can get in my panties by showing off his goddamn car.”

“Language,” he said softly as Ernie opened the door.

Kiki shot him a dirty look then slid in.

They rode silently for a few minutes and then Cal called. Jim considered letting the call go to voicemail, but he didn’t like to do that with his little brother. Well, maybe he was not so little.

“Joe’s morgue. You stab ‘em we slab ‘em.” It was an old joke, but it always got a chuckle out of them both.

“Dinner at Mom’s on Saturday. You coming?”

Jim thought about it, looking over at Kiki. His parents weren’t ready for her potty mouth. More was the pity, too. Cal would get along with her, though. “I don’t think so. How about the Rosicrucian’s new exhibit opening?”

“You’re going to that? I thought it might be kind of dull.”

“Maybe. But I’m going anyway.”

“Okay. I’m dating someone new. Ginny is her name. You’ll like her.”

“I’m sure. Hey, I’ve got to go. Bring Ginny to the Ros, why don’t you?”

“Good idea. ‘Night, bro.”

Jim rang off, hoping that Cal would finally find a girl he could be serious about. Jim didn’t like to give advice about Cal’s love life, though. It wasn’t really any of his business unless Cal brought up the subject first.

He turned to Kiki with a smile. “Sorry about that. The restaurant isn’t far. You’re familiar with the Crescent Inn?”

She pushed a silky-looking lock of hair off her face; a slight hint of her perfume wafted toward him—vanilla and cloves. “I’ve heard of it, but I’ve never been there.”

“I like it because the chef is a guy I went to elementary school with.”

“No kidding?”

“Really. His name is Ozzie. We were in third and fourth grade together. Inseparable.”

“And you’re still friends?”

“Yup.”

“Neat. My family moved a lot as I was growing up. I wasn’t able to keep most friends from grade school. But I still have college friends.”

Jim reached out and stroked her hand, noting that it was fisted on the seat next to her purse. “You’re tense.”

“Yeah, I guess so. I don’t often go on dates with millionaires.”

He hated to talk about money. At least this appeared to be one woman who wasn’t particularly motivated by cash. “Just forget that stuff for tonight. I’m just Jim. Jim, the guy down the block.”

She snorted, then looked askance at him. “Sorry.”

He grinned, charmed by her lack of guile. “Just be yourself.”

* * *

The restaurant was elegant, and Kiki immediately felt uncomfortable. The Maitre d’ greeted Jim like royalty, leading them to Jim’s “favorite” table. The sommelier brought three bottles of wine for Jim to choose from. Also his “favorite” selections. His friend, Ozzie the chef, came out and served them the evening’s amuse-bouche himself, then stood and chatted amiably with his childhood pal for a few minutes.

Kiki didn’t even know such a thing as an amuse-bouche existed before their date, but it seemed to be a very tiny appetizer. Tasty stuff. She’d have liked to have more of it, but the dishes just kept coming. They were small portions, but there were so many of them, by the time they got to a cheese plate and dessert wine, she was stuffed.

“How the fuck do you stay thin?” she asked Jim.

“Language, young lady. You really need to fix that.”

“I’m not a kid, Jim. I resent that you call me ‘young lady.’ I’m twenty-six years old.”

He frowned. “Let’s have this conversation in the car.”

“No, let’s have it right now!” She tried to keep her voice low; she didn’t want to embarrass herself, but he was being insufferable.

“You’re acting like a spoiled little girl.”

“You’re acting like a fucking pompous jackass.”

His frown deepened and he slid out of the booth, dragging her by the arm. “You deserve a spanking. Into the car. Now.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” she hissed.

“Oh, but I do dare.”

He pulled her along by the hand and they exited the restaurant quickly. “Don’t you need to pay the check?”

“They run a tab for me. Don’t change the subject.”

They’d reached the car and Ernie opened the door for them. “Thank you, Ernie. Take us on a trip around the local shore.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Get in, Kiki.”

“What if I don’t?” She pulled her hand free and crossed her arms over her chest. The nerve of the man. He’d as much as promised to spank her once they were in the car, and he expected her to actually get in?

His voice was low, almost a growl. “Then I’ll leave you here to take a cab home. And that will be the end of that.”

She was being difficult and she knew it. She didn’t think he’d really spank her, though she did deserve a little telling off, maybe. It seemed like she’d lost control of herself, and it was not the first time. Her foul language had bothered him all along, and now she was using it to keep him at arm’s length, sabotaging any chance of simply having a good time and seeing what the other half lived like. But he was pissing her off with his parental attitude. She wasn’t a child. Still, if he left her in the parking lot, she’d have to call a cab, and she had no money to pay for it.

“You know I don’t have money for a cab!”

He pulled out his wallet, and offered her a $20.00 bill.

She was instantly furious. “As if I’d take money from you for a date! Fuck you!”

“As if I date hookers,” he replied tightly. “Take the cab money, or get in. Your choice.”

It looked like taking a chance and getting into the damn Rolls was her only alternative to feeling like the financial failure she really was. She hated having no options. “Yeah, okay. But quit with the spanking crap.” She slid in and he followed. The car rolled out of the parking lot sedately, and Jim pressed a button to raise a smoked glass partition between the front and back seats. They were effectively alone now.

“You need to learn to control your tongue,” he told her.

“If you don’t like the way I am, you don’t have to go out with me.”

“Raise your skirt,” he said, looking at her, his lips set in a grim line.

“You must be kidding.”

“No. You’re going to get the spanking you deserve.”

“But…”

“Yes, on your butt. Raise your skirt and lay down on my lap.”

Nothing had changed between the parking lot and their current location. She had been bratty and vulgar, and he was going to spank her. She hadn’t been spanked since she was eight years old. This was different. Being half-naked on his lap lent the idea a kind of sexual mien, and she was actually getting excited about it. It was an amazing idea. She wasn’t sure she should explore it, but, maybe it would be interesting. He was damned attractive, after all. And a few swats on the butt were not like falling into bed with him.

Slowly, grudgingly, not understanding why she didn’t simply hit him, she squirmed her skirt up over her hips and then, as gracefully as she could, draped herself over his knees. Maybe this would be playful. A little dominance game.

His hand slid over her behind and she began to relax. She was no fragile virgin, and his touch on her bottom seemed sensual. The first whack on those tender globes, though, was a shock.

“Ow! That fuckin’ hurt!”

“Watch.” He punctuated his orders with slaps on her behind. “Your. Tongue.”

Every strike hurt worse than the last, and they just kept coming. He wasn’t holding back; he was punishing her. Her bottom was on fire after two minutes, and she shrieked with every slap. After three minutes, and who-knew-how-many hard whacks, she started to cry in earnest.

“I’m sorry! Ow! It hurts so much!”

“It’s supposed to hurt, Kiki, it’s a punishment. Don’t let me hear you cursing again,” he told her, finding her sit spots with another series of stinging slaps. “Every time you do, you’ll end up over my lap.”

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I won’t curse anymore!” Her butt was in flames and tears were pouring from her eyes. She was positively blubbering, and she’d never been so humiliated and sore in her life. “Please!”

He paused, his hard hand sliding over her stinging behind slowly and gently again. His fingers slid into her thong and found their way to her feminine center. She could feel the pleased exhalation of air from his chest as he explored her dripping quim. “Wet. I expected as much.”

She was panting, the pain of her bottom fading slightly as he stroked her sex. “Oh God, I’m so embarrassed.”

“It’s over. Go back to your seat.”

The marble hard erection she felt against her belly told her that he didn’t want to stop at all. She wanted him to take her, right there in the big car, but she’d insisted on no sex. It was confusing and discomfiting.

“You hurt me,” she hissed as she slid her stinging butt into her skirt and onto the leather seat.

“I didn’t harm you. I may hurt you, but I will never, ever harm you. I give you my word.”

“Yeah, right.” She bit her lower lip and decided to ask the question that was chapping her. “Why did you stop touching me?”

“Punishment isn’t supposed to be fun, Kiki.”

“So…if it makes a person excited, it’s all part of the punishment not to get to, well, f- er…fool around?”

He nodded.

“But you didn’t get anything out of it either.”

“Didn’t I?”

She swallowed hard.

He patted her hand. “Just watch your language, okay?”

Kiki nodded and then realized that he wasn’t looking at her. Maybe he was uncomfortable, too. Well, of course he was. He’s got a throbbing erection. I wonder how it would feel… She cleared her throat. “Yeah, I’ll be more careful. Are we still going out on a second date?”

“You agreed,” he pointed out. “Chickening out?”

Rummaging around in her purse for a tissue, she looked up at him as he handed her a big, monogrammed handkerchief. Who used handkerchiefs anymore? “Thanks. No, I’m not chickening out. I won’t renege on a deal.”

“Good enough.” He toggled an intercom switch. “Ernie, take us back to the young lady’s apartment.”

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