Saturday Excerpt: One Week with the French Tycoon by Christy McKellen
Would you offer to share the last hotel room with a stranger? What if that stranger was a handsome French tycoon? For Indigo Hughes, heroine of Christy McKellen’s One Week with the French Tycoon, her offer could just lead to love! Check out the except below to read Indigo and Julien’s first meeting and look for One Week with the French Tycoon from Harlequin Romance on sale now…
About the Book:
Indigo Hughes spends her life taking care of everyone else. But after she’s unceremoniously dumped, she finally puts herself first and books a holiday on the Amalfi Coast. Fine food, stunning views and time alone to heal her heart…bliss!
Instead, she’s thrown together with tycoon Julien Moreaux! He’s cynical, sexy and recently divorced—exactly the kind of man she should avoid. But big-hearted Indigo hopes to help Julien find his faith in love again—she just doesn’t expect to find her own happy-ever-after in his arms!
Arriving in Amalfi—a most lively and dramatic town in which to begin your journey…
When Indigo Hughes had spent long hours daydreaming about her walking holiday along the Amalfi Coast of Southern Italy, this wasn’t exactly what she’d envisioned.
Luggageless—after the airline had inexplicably sent her backpack containing her carefully organised walking gear to goodness knew where instead of Naples—and apparently dispossessed, because of a foul-up on the computer with her hotel booking, she was now facing the reality of spending the first night of her much anticipated holiday sleeping rough on the streets of Amalfi.
Whilst she wasn’t averse to roughing it—she’d travelled to enough festivals and partaken in enough camping trips for that not to be an issue—she’d been looking forward to falling into a comfortable bed after a crazy week of late nights and early mornings, and was not in the mood to laugh this off.
‘But my ex-boyfriend booked a room in this hotel months ago,’ she explained again to the receptionist, her voice now projecting the disconcerting characteristic of a crow with a sore throat.
The intimidatingly poised receptionist pursed her blood-red lips and tightened her arms across her impressive cleavage. ‘I’m sorry, Signorina. As I said, I have no record of your booking and we are fully booked. If you had the documents to prove it, or even the credit card it was booked with, I could perhaps do something for you, but as it is…’ From the look on her face, she clearly wasn’t keen on having someone as scruffy as Indigo messing up her beautifully appointed five‑star hotel reception desk whilst also challenging her competency.
Panicky heat rushed to Indigo’s face. ‘As I explained, my ex-boyfriend booked the room so I don’t have the credit card or documents.
I assumed a booking reference number would be enough.’
The woman’s helpless shrug, then her overemphasised shift in eye contact to the next person in line, tipped Indigo over the edge of frustration into fiery indignation. But before she could draw breath there was a movement behind her and a tall man in a beautifully cut casual suit stepped forwards to stand next to her at the desk.
‘Pardon, mademoiselle,’ he interjected smoothly, his fresh, spicy scent hitting her nose at the exact same moment his eyes locked with hers.
Indigo had never related to the expression of being ‘swept off her feet’ by a man before, but that was exactly how she felt right now. As if the power of his presence had physically lifted her into the air, her internal organs quivering as if she were in free fall. She gazed up at him, his unusual combination of whisky-brown eyes and sandy-blond hair keeping her transfixed as her pulse beat an enthusiastic rhythm in her throat. But apparently she didn’t capture his interest in the same way because, after giving her a curt nod, he turned sharply away, bringing her back down to earth with a thump.
‘I have a reservation,’ he said to the receptionist in a deep, smoky, French-accented voice, which made Indigo think of the actors in the Gallic art house films she’d been so in love with during her college days.
Lounging against the desk, he held up his smartphone so the receptionist could see the screen and type the booking reference into her computer.
Indigo looked from one to the other in disbelief. She seemed to have been well and truly dismissed.
Something she’d become rather too familiar with recently.
Before she could open her mouth again to point out that they were both being utterly rude and that she wasn’t going to be ignored like this, the receptionist shook her head and looked up at the Frenchman, her expression projecting a lot more contrition than when she’d dealt with Indigo.
‘I’m sorry, Signor, I don’t have a record of your booking.’
‘That’s not possible. Check again, please,’ the man replied in a tone that clearly brooked no argument.
Indigo watched with a sense of self-righteous vindication as the receptionist typed the number in again, then checked something else on another screen, her shoulders stiffening as she finally accepted there was a problem with the booking system.
She seemed a little pale when she looked back up at him. ‘My apologies, Signor,’ she breathed. ‘I don’t know what could have happened. It appears there was a glitch with the computer and I’ve given your room away. I only have the honeymoon suite available now, but it would be my pleasure to let you stay there tonight. We will correct the mistake by tomorrow and I will have your original suite available for you then.’
Indigo frowned as she twigged what was going on.
‘Hang on a second. Why didn’t you offer me the honeymoon suite? I was here first!’ she protested, feeling a cocktail of humiliation and umbrage warm her face again.
The woman’s gaze slid to hers. ‘Because the gentleman booked a suite, Signorina, so this room is more in his…category.’ She gave Indigo a tight little smile as if to say, That’s not the word I was grasping for, but you get the message.
‘Okay—’ the Frenchman began in his smooth, lyrical accent.
But even the strength of his charisma couldn’t keep the bubble of anger from rising through Indigo’s body.
‘Really?’ she spluttered, taking a step back to run a critical gaze over his long, lean body. ‘You’re really going to take the room when you can plainly see that I was here first!’
He turned to look at her again, his expression giving nothing away as his heavy-lidded gaze swept over her face.
She felt exposed, almost naked under his scrutiny, and had to fight not to wrap her arms around her body for protection against it. Locking her jaw, she stared him out, knowing from experience that not backing down was the only way she was going to get what she wanted. Or, in this case, what she needed—a comfortable bed for the night. Which had already been paid for!
A muscle twitched in the Frenchman’s jaw as he kept his gaze fixed on hers. He really did have the most striking face, with prominent high-set cheekbones and a broad masculine brow above those mesmerising eyes. What was it about French men that made them so unutterably sexy? The ones she’d met throughout her life had all had the same confident, direct gaze that made her feel simultaneously appraised and giddily unnerved. It was as though he was scrutinising the whole of her exterior whilst also looking deep inside her.
The feeling of being so thoroughly examined made her whole body tingle.
She stared harder at him to combat her dip in concentration.
Something flashed in his eyes and the corner of his mouth lifted fractionally. Was he amused by her determination to win?
Scowling as frustration pricked at her skin, she opened her mouth to restate her case—but he beat her to it.
‘You’re right,’ he said bluntly. ‘You must have the room.’
Indigo blinked at him in surprise, snapping her mouth shut. This, she had not expected.
‘Oh! Okay.’ She frowned, a little dazed by how easy that had been. ‘Really?’
Sighing, he ran a hand over his clean-shaven jaw. ‘To be honest, mademoiselle, I’m too tired to argue. It’s been—’ he winced, his expression turning troubled ‘—an intense day for me and I want to relax before starting my walk tomorrow.’
‘Wait—you’re walking the coast too?’ she asked in surprise. Looking at him, standing there in his expensive suit with his designer bags sitting prettily at his feet, she’d imagined he was here to do some upmarket sightseeing in the town, or perhaps conduct a high-powered business meeting in the hotel.
His eyes crinkled at the corners as he half frowned, half smiled. ‘Is that so unlikely?’ he asked, his voice tinged with playful irony.
The bottom fell out of her stomach. ‘No! No, I guess not.’
‘Anyway, what kind of a man would I be to leave a lady stranded in a strange town in the middle of the night?’
Something about the way he said this, with a twist of wry humour, stopped her from telling him she didn’t need a man’s help—that she’d managed perfectly well on her own for the last three months without one, despite the challenges she’d faced.
‘But, Signor, there are no other rooms available in Amalfi!’ the receptionist cut in before Indigo could form a reply. ‘It’s a busy time and all the hotels in the town are booked up. I know this because I’ve already phoned around for another traveller.’
The Frenchman turned to face her. ‘You’re telling me you can’t find me an alternative room for the night?’ he stated with unnerving calm.
She shrank away from his gaze, suddenly seeming a lot less self-assured than she had a few minutes ago. ‘Yes, Signor, I’m so sorry,’ she said, her swallow appearing to catch in her throat. ‘I’ll be able to give you the suite you booked from tomorrow, but tonight there aren’t any other rooms available—’
‘This is unacceptable,’ he said quietly, but with a girder of steel to his voice. ‘I do not expect this level of incompetence from an establishment like this. Fetch your manager.’
The receptionist’s shoulders tensed as if she’d balled her fists and her eyes widened. ‘I can’t disturb him—he is sleeping right now and has given strict instructions not to be woken—’
‘I don’t care. Get him.’ He leant forward, pressing his hands against the desk. ‘Now.’
‘Please, Signor, I’ll lose my job,’ she whispered. ‘I’m new here and I can’t afford to make any mistakes.’ Her brow tensed as her eyes took on a look of abject panic.
The desperation in her voice made Indigo’s stomach tighten as a wave of pity washed over her. She could see by the way the young woman’s eyes had pooled with impending tears that she was both terrified of her boss and totally inexperienced in dealing with this level of cold assertiveness from a customer.
‘Describe the suite to me,’ Indigo blurted to the receptionist before the Frenchman could respond.
The receptionist turned to stare at her in surprise before recovering quickly, using the question as a lifeline to pull her professional self back to safety. ‘There is a beautifully appointed bedroom with a super king-sized bed and an en suite bathroom—’
‘Does the bedroom door have a lock?’ Indigo asked.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw the Frenchman turn to stare at her in baffled disbelief. She ignored him.
‘Yes, Signorina,’ the receptionist replied, looking confused to have her patter broken into with such an odd question, ‘and the separate living area has the latest entertainment system—’
‘And a large sofa?’ Indigo cut in again.
The receptionist blinked hard and frowned, then her expression softened with a mixture of relief and gratitude as she realised where Indigo was going with this. This time she didn’t falter with her answer. ‘Absolutely! It is very comfortable—large enough to fully stretch out on. There is also a separate bathroom with a whirlpool tub and a waterfall shower.’
Indigo nodded decisively. ‘Okay then, we’ll share it.’
‘What?’ The word jumped from the Frenchman’s mouth as if he’d not been able to stop it.
She took a breath and turned to face his incredulous gaze. ‘I’ll take the sofa in the living room, you can have the bedroom; that way we both get to sleep tonight.’
The Frenchman’s brow crinkled in disdain. ‘Non. Thank you, but I don’t think that’s appropriate.’
She raised an eyebrow. ‘I don’t bite, you know.’
His mouth twisted into a wry smile. ‘I’m sure you don’t, but it seems improper to ask you to share your room with a strange man.’
‘You don’t seem that strange to me.’ She cast him a smile, which he begrudgingly returned, one eyebrow raised.
‘But, seriously, it’s fine,’ she said. ‘I don’t mind sharing and I’d hate to feel responsible for this woman losing her job.’
He flapped his hand, dismissing her concern. ‘It wouldn’t be your fault.’
She looked him hard in the eye. ‘But I’d still blame myself and it would ruin my holiday. Anyway, it doesn’t sound like you have a better option.’
He gave a gentle snort and shook his head, wearily rubbing his hand over his forehead, as he appeared to give her suggestion some serious consideration. ‘Are you sure you’re happy to do this?’ he asked, his eyes dark with indecision.
‘Yes, of course!’ she said brightly. ‘When life throws problems at you, you have to do whatever you can to make the best of a situation.’ She produced a firm smile. ‘Anyway, what kind of a woman would I be to send an exhausted man out into the night to sleep on the streets in such a beautiful designer suit?’
He looked at her intently for another few seconds, as if giving her the chance to change her mind, and when she resolutely kept her mouth shut he gave a sharp nod.
‘Okay, but you take the bedroom so you can lock the door; that way you have no reason to feel unsafe. I’ll take the sofa. I’ll be up and out early in the morning so I won’t be in your way.’ Without waiting for her response, he bent down to scoop up his luggage.
‘I’m getting up early myself,’ she said to the top of his head, her cheeks heating a little as she realised how defiant that sounded. For some reason she didn’t want him to think she was some kind of lazy slob.
‘Then we’ll each have to pretend the other doesn’t exist,’ he said with a flash of droll humour in his eyes as he looked back up at her, pushing a hand through his hair as he righted himself.
An impossible feat, Indigo thought, her eyes following the movement of his long fingers and the way his hair fell perfectly back into place, as if it didn’t dare defy him. There was no way a man like this could ever be ignored.
Turning back to the receptionist, he held out his passport. ‘If you’ll give us two key cards we’ll find our own way up to the room.’
With an air of sombre apology, the receptionist checked the passport, then picked up Indigo’s—which was still lying on the reception desk—and tapped something into her computer. After swiping a couple of key cards through a machine, she handed everything back to the Frenchman. ‘There are extra blankets and pillows in the wardrobes. I hope you will be comfortable,’ she said sheepishly, before scurrying away to serve someone who had just arrived at the other end of the desk.
Handing Indigo her passport and key card, he turned abruptly on his heel and, without another word, strode away from her, bags swinging from his hand.
Clearly he was a leader, not a follower.
Indigo paused for a moment, staring after him, suddenly feeling a little unsure of herself.
Had she really just offered to share a suite with a complete stranger?
* * *
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