Excerpt From Ship of Dreams
Laura Armstrong strode toward the building housing the New York offices of Imperial Cruise Lines. Her stiletto heels clicked a staccato on the sidewalk as she tested the limits of her snug pencil skirt.
Tapping out a message on her smart phone, her mind five steps ahead, she nearly took a header when the heel of her shoe plunged into a sidewalk seam. The text message all but forgotten, she twisted and turned, unable to dislodge the stubborn heel.
Risking a tear in the cherry red patent leather of her sky-high Louboutin ankle-straps — the ones with the plunging vamp revealing her sexy toe cleavage — wasn't an option. But between the ankle strap and her figure-hugging skirt, she couldn't slip out of the shoe, nor could bend over and unfasten it either.
Perfect. She'd be late for her meeting with Imperial's CEO.
Daddy Dearest thought Giddings-Rose couldn't handle an account the size of Imperial. Check that. He thought she couldn't win an account the size of Imperial.
Determined to prove her father wrong, she'd get the account and the corner office. That is if she could pry her heel out of the sidewalk.
Bustling New Yorkers in suits and skirts just stepped around her, dodging her like an out-of-place trashcan. "Well, sh—"
"Hold still, Sugar, or you'll break the heel." The masculine voice called to mind the mellow sweetness of the fine Kentucky Bourbon she'd once sipped at the Derby. Rich and mellifluous, with a hint of Southern graciousness. Even so, there was no denying the authoritative tone. "And that would be a damn shame." The hand that wrapped around her ankle from behind was broad and masculine, but well-manicured, topped with an elegant Cartier watch.
Not her type. She preferred her men with a little more grit than polish. So why did tantalizing warmth spread up her leg?
With adept fingers, he unbuckled the ankle strap and lifted her foot from the still-lodged shoe. Having no other choice to avoid either resting her bare foot on the filthy Manhattan sidewalk or the humiliation of falling on her face, she reached back and grabbed his shoulder.
Hmm. No padding there. Nothing but muscle beneath that expensive tropical weight wool suit. She caught a glimpse of charcoal gray fabric, dark hair, and Italian shoes in rich mahogany leather.
But she'd yet to lay eyes on her rescuer's face.
Nathan Maxwell took advantage of the up-close and personal view. Trim ankles met shapely, muscular calves, and judging from the fit of her skirt, a firm derriere topped off those swimsuit-model legs. Beneath his touch, soft skin beckoned further exploration. Long honey-blond hair hung almost to her waist in a sleek ponytail. The fragrance of her haute couture perfume drifted over him, reminding him of magnolia-scented summer nights.
Focusing on the task at hand, he gently pried the heel from the sidewalk seam and examined it. "No harm done." He grasped her ankle and settled her foot back into the shoe and fastened the strap, but not before noticing the firecracker red nail polish. He laughed. "Here you go Cinderella."
The warmth of his laugh slid over her, knocking her a little off balance even though she'd placed her foot firmly back on the ground. "Thank you, uh . . ." She turned and looked up into golden brown eyes the color of that same sweet Kentucky Bourbon.
"Nathan, Nathan Maxwell. My pleasure, ma'am." He flashed a devastating grin, igniting gilded sparks in his eyes.
There was that Southern drawl again — subtle, like the peach undertones of a fine Pinot Gris. "You're not from around here, are you?"
"My accent give me away?" Her sardonic smile weakened Nathan's knees more than any toothy grin ever did.
"No, your courtesy."
Nathan chuckled. "My grandmother would have expected nothing less." Her eyes, cool blue like the May sky overhead, captured his and held. No shrinking violet, this one, he mused. A full, determined mouth painted to match the red of her toenails set off an arresting face with high cheekbones, a stubborn chin, and aquiline nose.
"Well, thank you, Nathan." Maybe she should add suave polished men with a hint of Rhett Butler to her menu, Laura thought.
Her phone, all but forgotten in her hand, buzzed. "I, uh, I've got to go. Thanks again, Nathan Maxwell." Something about the way his name rolled off her tongue. She answered the phone as she walked away, "This is Laura."
Nathan watched as she strode down the sidewalk, hips swaying to some inherent rhythm. "Come on, Laura, glance back." She turned and gave him what he wanted, another look at that bold, beautiful face.
"It's going to be a great day." Glancing at his watch, satisfied with the outcome of the errand that brought him to this part of Manhattan in the first place, he hailed a cab back to his office.