Welcome back to another #FreeReadFriday!
As the holidays approach, life is going to be hectic as preparations are made to celebrate with friends and family. But book lovers know, your’s still going to squeeze in a few minutes to hide out to get your read on! To wet your appetite, I’m sharing another chapter in the The Butterfly Memoirs series.
Jaded is a story of two people who’ve been hurt by love and refuse to give in to temptation. Their attempts to be just friends evolve into a Friends with Benefits relationship.
But what happens after a couple finds their Happily Ever After and REAL LIFE sets in?
Get to know Yasmine and Zachariah….and fall in love again….
A devastating breakup leaves Yasmine Phillips in shambles. Unable to trust another man with her heart, she focuses on the one thing she can control—starting her own business.
When her computer crashes, taking months of hard work with it, she must rely on computer genius Zachariah Givens to save her. A complete opposite of men from her past, she doesn’t expect the passion that ensues. But just as she finds happiness, she learns the truth about the other women in Zachariah’s life.
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Prologue and Chapter One
Despite setting my alarm clock for four-forty-five, I overslept. At least I had taken a shower before going to bed. I selected my clothes the night before, so all that was left to do was make-up.
A horn honked behind me at the light. I finished applying eyeliner, flipped the visor up, and pushed on the gas. I fluffed my hair with one hand, glad my ear-length bob had a loose curl making it easy to style. It was easier to manage than the shoulder length hair I slaved over a few months ago.
The decision to cut my hair was about more than easy maintenance. It was about forgetting my past life and settling into reality.
No more expectations; no more games.
I drove into the Inn’s parking lot and parked, overwhelmed by the hard work of my family. The Phillips’ Family Inn I managed was larger than the original location and nestled in the rolling hills, minutes outside of Los Angeles. The hotel used to be an old Hollywood mansion until the area was re-zoned and the home remodeled to house eight regular rooms and two honeymoon suites. My parents lucked out on the property during a real estate auction.
Like others in the area, the property had beautiful landscaping. I’d recently contracted the yard maintenance to my best friend, Ebony’s fiancé, Brian Young, who owned a lawn care service. Even though he wasn’t always available to accompany his workers when they came, he’d trained them well. Over the last few months, Brian’s music career had taken off. He spent a lot of time in the studio of B&D Records.
After all, I owed them. Helping Ebony plan her dream wedding and hosting it at the Inn still didn’t feel like it was enough. I would do anything to help make their marriage possible.
Two months had passed since discovering my fiancé at the time was a bastard. After what he’d done to her…I still couldn’t fathom how she managed to pretend it never happened.
I sat in my car for a moment to gather myself, and ran a hand over my eyes, trying not to smudge my mascara. Now was not the time to think about the past. There were too many things to focus on, such as getting the hotel financial records to my mother. As predicted, she was not happy to hear she would not receive them last night. I covered myself by saying the computer crashed right before I sent them. The little white lie bought me time to get them completed today.
I seriously needed to step up my game. In order for my parents to be willing to fund my business as a fashion consultant, I needed to maintain the family business first. Now was not the time to slip up.
I exited my car and noted the time, six-thirty. I spied a car out of place in the parking lot and assumed it was the technician. I shut my door, walked around to the trunk of my cherry red Honda Accord, and retrieved my laptop bag. When I turned around, he had climbed out of his car, strapped a bag across his chest, and was unloading a large box from the trunk. I hurried up the steps of the Inn to open the door.
His smile was wide as he approached. “Good morning.”
Morning people get on my nerves.
“Sorry I’m late,” I said, trying to keep the irritation, stimulated by his cheery grin, hidden.
He adjusted the weight of the box in his arms. “Not a problem. Where are we going first?”
He followed me through the grand opening of the hotel living room, past the check-in counter, down the narrow hallway, and past the kitchen to a smaller room that served as my office.
The smell of burnt plastic assaulted us when I opened the door. After setting my bags on the floor, I immediately dug the Febreze air freshener from my desk drawer, sprayed, and opened a window.
“When you said your computer burned, I took that as a figurative statement.” His eyebrows furrowed as he looked for somewhere to settle the box. When done, he unhooked the bag strapped across his chest and went under my desk to access the damage. “It’s a good thing you used a surge protector or it could have been a lot worse. What happened?” He sat up from underneath the desk and adjusted the dark square frames on his wide nose.
Large, dark hazel eyes captured me. For a moment, I imagined him watching me as he explored my body.
“Ms. Phillips, did you hear me?”
I rubbed a hand over my face and blinked. “Sorry, still waking up.”
Yeah right. I was awake all right, along with other parts of my body. This man had some of the sexiest bedroom eyes.
His chuckle was deep. “Not a morning person, I remember.”
I walked over to the desk. “I saved a document and opened the accounting software when the screen went blank. I thought there was a power outage. I flipped the power switch on and then, poof,” I demonstrated with my hands. “Sparks flew.”
He smiled and a set of deep dimples appeared on both sides of his goatee. My attention went to his thick lips, imagining what they would feel like against mine.
The warm feeling taking over my body made it impossible to think. I forced my attention to the items on my desk. I hadn’t been this attracted to a man in months. Why now? Why him?
Even though he appeared to have a nice build, despite his geeky appearance, Zachariah Givens was not my type. When I was sure my thoughts were clear, I allowed myself to watch him. He’d disappeared under the desk again and proceeded to disconnect cords, leaving his firm derriere in plain view. I swallowed a groan. His butt looked good in those jeans.
I blinked. Jeans? He wasn’t wearing the geek uniform of black pants. When he emerged from beneath the desk, I realized he wore a polo shirt.
“How come you’re not in uniform?” I blurted.
“What?” He dragged the burned-out equipment from underneath my desk and glanced at his attire. “Oh, it’s my day off.”
My eyes widened. “Wait, you’re here off the clock?”
“I didn’t have anyone to send in at this time of the morning.” He dumped the cords in the trash and turned to retrieve the old computer tower. “Besides, I miss this part of the job. Being store manager keeps me inside all day. Don’t get me wrong, it has its benefits, but I’m good with my hands.” He glanced over at me. “And since you said our customer service over the phone sucks, I had to make it up to you.”
Good with his hands…God. I felt my face redden.
I forced myself to laugh. “Thank you, Mr. Givens.”
The old equipment removed, he walked over to open the new box. “Call me Zachariah, or Zack.” He smiled and those dimples popped again.
“Okay. You can call me Yasmine.” I stared at him a little too long.
He nodded in the direction of the old computer tower. “I’ll be honest…Yasmine, I don’t know if I’ll be able to salvage anything for you. I’ll get the new system up, start loading your programs, and then check it. I want to have you up and running as soon as possible.”
I sighed and glanced at the burnt shell. “I could use a miracle right now, and a cup of coffee. Would you like one?”
“No, I’m not big on caffeine. I’m a morning person by nature.” He chuckled when I rolled my eyes.
“To each his own,” I replied.
Several hours later, all of the computers – mine, Brandon’s, and the one at the check-in counter – were up and running and the software was nearly loaded. Mine took the most time since it was the hub for everything in the hotel. He’d even been nice enough to load the hotel business software, free of charge.
I sat on the other side of the office, working furiously on my laptop to compile the data for the business reports and receipts I kept in the filing cabinet- information that had been lost when the computer died. I promised myself to keep a backup on my laptop, USB drive, and any other digital format outside of the main office set up from now on. I did not intend to repeat this scenario.
“Yasmine, a few more minutes and I’ll be done,” Zack said. “Sorry I couldn’t save the hard drive.”
I glanced up from my screen. “No need to apologize. I should have had everything backed up. You live and learn.” I saved my work and checked the time on my laptop. “I can’t believe it’s that late already.” It was nearly eleven; I stood up and stretched. “Would you like something to eat? I don’t know about you, but I missed breakfast. It’ll be my treat. The kitchen is open and Mrs. Davenport will be making lunch.” I studied him for a moment. “I bet you’d like one of her Double Decker Monterey burgers. They are to die for.”
Zack appeared surprised by my offer. “I’d like that.”
I stopped in the doorway. “I’ll come get you when it’s done.”
Twenty minutes later, we sat in a booth in the rear of the dining room, away from the guests.
“This has got to be the best burger I’ve ever eaten. I would drive all the way back for another one.” Zack bit off a large bite. He’d finished half the thing in record time.
I smiled. “I’ll be sure to give your compliments to the chef.”
“I’ll be sure to kiss her.” He drank from his cup and pointed at my salad. “Why aren’t you eating one of these?”
I stabbed at my chicken salad with my fork and glanced at the remains of his burger. “Good question.” I laughed. “I ate one yesterday for lunch. Too many of them will mess with my figure.”
Zack’s eyebrow arched, but he remained silent.
My gaze dropped to my plate. In my past life, flirting was my way of determining if a man would be competent enough to handle my sexual needs. It was second nature.
But this was now.
Besides, trying to seduce Zack would be a waste of time; he didn’t seem interested anyway. Unlike most men I ran across, he didn’t flirt with me at all. Any other man would have taken my comment and told me how fine I was, or some other line, to find a way into my bed.
Not Zack. He was the epitome of the perfect gentleman, never uttering a suggestive comment or taking the obvious stroll over my body with his eyes. I caught him watching me once or twice, but it wasn’t lust in his gorgeous hazel orbs, it was something I had never seen before.
To be honest, it made me nervous not knowing what he was thinking. Yet at the same time, it was refreshing to be in the company of a man who was able to have an intelligent conversation without his panting tongue being in the way.
My cell phone rang. I glanced at the caller ID and excused myself. “Yes, Mrs. Langford, how are you?” I waited a beat for her reply and dug into my purse for pen and paper to write notes. “Perfect, I’ll see you then.”
A smile of satisfaction spread across my face when I hung up.
“Must be good news,” Zack said before popping the last of the burger in his mouth.
“Very. I work with this program called Dress for Success. It helps underprivileged women prepare for job interviews. We take them shopping, show them what to wear, how to apply make-up, and do their hair. Anything we can do to help them succeed.”
Zack wiped his mouth with his napkin. “Really? What made you decide to do that?”
His question startled me. I looked up and found genuine interest in his eyes. Men in my past couldn’t care less what I did when we weren’t together. The only thing that interested them was what I did in the bedroom.
“I’m starting a business of my own outside of managing this hotel,” I said slowly, deciding whether I wanted to share the details.
“What kind of business?”
Apparently I had his full attention.
“As a fashion consultant. I’ve been helping friends and family for years. I’d like to help as many people as I can. Participation in a program like this allows me to give back to the community and help people free of charge. As a bonus, I get to build my portfolio and gain experience working with a variety of clients.”
I held my breath, waiting for a laugh or sarcastic comment sure to come.
“Do you work with more than underprivileged women?”
“What do you mean?”
“Would you work with a cancer survivor?”
My curiosity peaked. “Who are you talking about?”
Available on AMAZON, B&N, iTunes, and SMASHWORDS for $3.99! Also available on PAPERBACK!
***JADED can be read as a stand-alone or as part of The Butterfly Memoirs series. Buy your copy today!***
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Looking for Book 1? Follow this link to learn more about A Heart Not Easily Broken!
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