Home > Cherish Hard (Hard Play #1)(7)

Cherish Hard (Hard Play #1)(7)
Author: Nalini Singh


In Which Devil Ísa Makes Her Debut



“OH MY GOD! OH MY God!” Ísa couldn’t believe what she’d done—and what she’d almost done.

She’d made out in the parking lot of her school. A stately and prestigious school known for its high standards and pristine reputation. Teachers attached to it did not go around accosting innocent gardeners and agreeing to crawl into the back seat of their trucks!

If anyone had seen her…

“Breathe, breathe, breathe,” she told herself. “It was only a kiss.” A hotly sexual kiss that had made her nerve endings sizzle and her thighs clench together in delicious, greedy want.

Clearly there was nothing wrong with her hormones.

If not for that piercing instant of blinding sense when she’d realized she was about to put her entire career in jeopardy because of a combination of Slimeball Schumer, Suzanne, Jacqueline, and a hot gardener whose name she didn’t even know, she’d be in the back seat of his truck right now.

Probably with her panties off and her mouth fused to the gardener’s.

Her thighs twinged, her core feeling hot and swollen. Ready.

Devil Ísa sulked. And whispered, Go back. Get into that back seat.

“Stop it,” she told herself, horrified. “That was a moment of madness, never to be repeated.” Ísalind Magdalena Rain-Stefánsdóttir did not accost random hot men on school grounds. While it was still light out!

And she definitely did not dig her nails into his sculptured chest and have thoughts that involved licking him up like her favorite ice cream.


No way could she turn up to the board meeting in the state she was in. She had to calm down. Maybe have a few stiff drinks—and her head examined. Followed by a cold shower—because her body was not getting with the program. It wanted more of the hot gardener’s hard body, more of his ravenous kisses, more of his appreciative hands roaming all over her.

No man had ever touched her that way, as if she were a porn fantasy come to life.

Turn around and go back, Devil Ísa whispered again, her horns shiny and red. Live a little. Or a lot. I’m easy. Be easy. I’m sure he’d forgive you for running away if you turned up and began to unzip your dress, all slow and sexy.

“Shut up,” Ísa muttered to that lunatic part of her psyche.

Devil Ísa shrugged and crossed her legs. At least then you’d have a wild and fun story to tell your grandchildren. Unlike the current scintillating tale of your life. A huge yawn. It’s like you’re a ninety-year-old trapped in a twenty-eight-year-old’s body. Booooooooring.

Ísa’s eye caught on the street name she was about to pass. She made the decision without even thinking about it, turning left instead of going right. Heading down the main strip used by countless commuters through the day, she reached the busy section of boutique restaurants and trendy cafés where traffic was clogged up from dawn to midnight.

Who were these people who always had time to sit around sipping lattes?

Devil Ísa had the answer. People who have a life of their own. Harlow’s seventeen. Catie’s thirteen. Not long before they don’t need you. What’re you going to do then, grandma?

“I have a plan!”

Woof, woof.

Ísa wondered if this was what it felt like to go insane. Having an argument with yourself was surely not a sign of sanity. But she’d heard more than one author talking about the voices in their head, so at least she wasn’t the only one. It’s a creative thing, she told herself. It means my poems don’t totally suck.

Sure, granny.

The light changed.

Changed back before her car made it to the top of the queue.

The fruit and vegetable shop on the corner was doing a brisk business, and across from it, a number of people sat at the outdoor tables of a café that had been there forever. Usually when she came this way and had to stop at the red light, Ísa liked to people watch, especially when the all-sides crosswalk signal came on and people streamed left and right and diagonally across the intersection.

It felt as if a microcosm of Auckland passed through Mount Eden on any given day while the mountain itself rose behind them like a silent guardian.

Today wasn’t a normal day.

Skin about to split from the force of the emotions inside her, she had to sit through another light change before she could slip through to the other side of the intersection. Less than ten seconds down the road and she was out of the Mount Eden gridlock and heading toward the upper end of the long road.

Her destination, however, lay well before the end—in a quiet section sandwiched between the café district she’d just passed and the bigger businesses close to the city proper. She was nearly there when she lucked into a parking spot on the street.

Getting out, she barely remembered to lock the car before she looked both ways, then ran across the street to the white villa that functioned as the offices of Hillier & Co. Chartered Accountants.

Nayna’s green MINI Cooper was the only car in the staff parking lot.

Dammit, she was an idiot. She could’ve parked next to her best friend’s car—but well, she wasn’t exactly thinking straight, was she?

Not with the gardener’s scent still in her lungs and Devil Ísa along for commentary.

Telling herself to breathe, just breathe, she ran up the villa steps and turned the knob on the front door. When it swung open, she wanted to slap the person who’d forgotten to lock it. The firm had a policy that if only one person was to be at the office after closing time, the second-to-last person had to lock up behind themselves for safety.

Ísa did that before walking quickly down the thickly carpeted hallway. It wasn’t as if this well-heeled area was a hotbed of crime, but the villa was on a main street with countless people passing it day and night. No use taking chances, especially with a lone woman within.

As she’d expected after spotting only Nayna’s car in the parking lot, the front offices were empty, as was the receptionist desk usually occupied by the two admin staffers shared between the four accountants in Hillier & Co.

Going all the way to the back of the villa—and passing the firm’s little kitchen and social area along the way—she turned left into Nayna’s office. As the most junior member of the firm, Nayna had had no choice in her office space, but the back room got plenty of light, and Nayna actually preferred it to the larger offices up front.

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