Home > Cherish Hard (Hard Play #1)(8)

Cherish Hard (Hard Play #1)(8)
Author: Nalini Singh

Her best friend looked up with a start from behind a pile of papers, her face a lovely oval and her silky black hair pulled back into a sensible bun, her skin tone dark mahogany.

Taking off the little glasses she wore for reading, Nayna pressed a long-fingered hand to her heart. “Ísa! You gave me a fright!”

A huge smile followed, the other woman getting up from behind her desk to reveal the black skirt she wore with a silky blue shell. The matching black jacket was hanging on the back of her chair. “You’ve got great timing though. I’m starving—missed lunch and just ordered a giant pizza. We can—”

Pausing mid-monologue, Nayna took a good look up and down Ísa’s motionless body… then did it again. “You look like you’ve been doing the wild thing in a messy bed with a hot, hot man.”

Ísa knew her friend was joking, but she groaned and collapsed into the small leather sofa on this side of the office. It was where Nayna met with clients, preferring the less formal approach. “You won’t believe what I did.” She hid her face in her hands.

“No.” Work forgotten and eyes huge, Nayna kicked off her low-heeled pumps and sat down on the sofa beside Ísa. “Start from the beginning. And I mean the beginning.”

A tinkling sound rang through the room just as Ísa parted her lips to confess her sins.

Nayna glanced at her watch. “Oh, that’ll be the pizza. Don’t move.”

As her friend ran barefoot out of the office, Ísa pressed her head against the back of the sofa and tried the meditation technique again. Devil Ísa was having none of that, insisting on tormenting her with the remembered feel of the gardener’s silky hot flesh, the raw scent of his body, the voracious delight in his kiss, in his touch.

Her toes curled.

“Good thing you came along,” Nayna said as she entered the room, pizza box and two cold bottles of water in hand. “Or I swear I’d have inhaled this entire pizza by myself. Here.” She gave Ísa one of the bottles. “Grabbed this from the fridge. You look like you could do with some cooling down.”

After placing the pizza box on the small table in front of the sofa while Ísa guzzled some water, Nayna found a couple of paper napkins in her secret drawer of candy bars and foil-wrapped chocolates—hidden under piles of the most boring tax forms she could find.

Napkins down beside the pizza, Ísa’s best friend and partner in crime sat again, her legs folded under her. “Okay.” Dark eyes locked with Ísa’s. “Confess already!”

Ísa scrunched up the fabric of her full skirt with her free hand, released it, her hand sweaty. “There was no sex,” she said straight out. “Nothing even close.”

“Then why do you look like you were busted by the cops with your bra off and a smokin’ man between your thighs? Obviously it was one who knew what he was doing to get you into that state.”

“This isn’t funny.” Ísa’s glare had no effect on her friend.


“You know I went in to school to work on my night-class lessons?”

Nayna, who by now had a generous bite of pizza in her mouth, nodded; she’d had a firsthand hearing of the upstairs neighbor’s vigorous hammering habits when she’d dropped by for lunch one day last week, on her way back from an external meeting.

“Well,” Ísa began, “there was this dangerously hot gardener outside.”

Nayna squeaked. “Oh please, Ísa,” she said after quickly swallowing her bite of pizza, “please, please, please, please, please tell me that you made out with him at least.”

Ísa stared miserably at her friend. “I attacked him like a wild animal.”

A blink. Two. At last Nayna whispered, “Really?” When Ísa just nodded dumbly, her best friend gave a shout, then, slice still in hand, rose and did a little dance, complete with a booty shake and a one-woman stadium wave. “My hero!”

Ísa scrubbed at her face with her hands. “No,” she said, “no, no, no. What if someone saw? I’m a teacher, Nayna. Not only did I throw myself at him, I did it on school grounds.”

Sitting back down on the sofa, Nayna stuffed the rest of the slice into her mouth and managed to swallow it before saying, “School’s out for the summer right? Was anyone else there when you left?”

Ísa shook her head.

“In that case, I think we can chalk this one up to experience and, well, an attack of gardener hotness. Consider it compensation for all those teenage years when neither one of us got any action at school.”

Ísa laughed, the sound coming out this side of hysterical. “I need ice.” She pressed the cold water bottle to one cheek, then the other.

It had no discernible effect.

“Lots and lots of ice,” she added. “I can’t stop thinking about his eyes.” Such a distinctive lightning blue, a color her mind kept insisting she’d seen before—but Ísa wouldn’t have forgotten eyes that striking. Or a man that primal. “In fact, I think I’ll go home and have an ice bath.”

“I don’t care how mortified you are right now”—Nayna’s grin cracked her face—“you’ll look back on it one day and cheer your badass self.”

Huffing out a breath and seriously doubting her friend’s prediction, Ísa said, “Enough about my temporary bout of insanity. How’s the suitor situation?” Ísa was still struggling to accept that her savvy and highly educated friend was happy to go along with her family’s desire for a traditional arranged marriage, but if Nayna was at peace with it, then Ísa would support her all the way.

“All my eager ‘suitors’ so far,” Nayna said in a tone as dry as the desert, “are more interested in my being a newly minted chartered accountant than anything else. Most of them are accountants too—they want to acquire a future business partner via marriage.” She made a face. “It’s all very dynasty building. Your mother would approve.”

The words “your mother” had Ísa glancing at her watch with a scowl. “Damn it,” she muttered. “I have to go home and have a shower to wash off my stress-sweat… and the dirt from his body that transferred to me.” She’d just noticed the specks on the deep aquamarine of her dress.

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