Available as an ebook, and in the print
anthology Ripe and Ready with three other great stories.
a Succulent novella
by Mardi Ballou
from Ellora’s Cave
an excerpt. Enjoy!
Her scent would make him crazy. Adam wanted nothing more than to grab Penelope
and sniff her everywhere, ’til he could get his fill. He wanted to stick
his nose in the soft, warm spot under her chin where her pulse beat strongly
and her scent would be especially concentrated. Then he’d want to stick another
part of him into another part of her. His cock ached with pulsing need.
As if he didn’t have enough trouble brewing.
If his business wasn’t at risk, he’d be directing their interactions in
a whole other direction. Right. And if beggars had horses --
“Where are we going?”
She licked her lips. His entire body groaned in silent mode. “I’m taking
you to my office, Adam MacKnight, which is also my home. You have an open
mind, right? I hope so because I’m about to convert you.”
There were lots more things he’d have preferred her to be planning for
him. Of course then she’d have to be the one with the open mind --
“Do you mind walking? It’s not far, and physical exercise helps me work
He couldn’t go there, couldn’t allow himself to picture them both engaged
in the best possible stress-reducing physical exercise. Walking didn’t even
Determined to remember he had a business that needed attention, he forced
himself to open their conversation. “While we are walking, I want to hear
your perspective on what’s going on. According to my sources, the Eden’s
Apple Tree brass have acted in good faith. They were caught up short by your
“How can you work for those people?” Penelope stopped abruptly and faced
him full-on. Her cornflower blue eyes glittered with anger and surprise
as a breeze riffled her long wheat blonde hair. He clenched his fists to
keep from smoothing down the hair and then --
He cleared his throat. “I’m an independent contractor, and Eden’s Apple
Tree is a good fit for the kinds of services I provide.”
She narrowed her eyes. “I thought I knew you, but I’d have expected you
to insist on working only for people with principles, integrity. Eden’s Apple
Tree is an example of one of the worst --”
“Hold on. You’re hurling accusations at me, at them. On what basis? And
do you know how gorgeous you are when you’re fuming?”
Penelope’s face was so expressive. Her eyes widened with surprise at his
misplaced remark. “Are you trying to distract me by taking advantage of
the fact I’ve had a crush on you for years?”
“No, oh no. Not. Sorry. Just wanted to lighten the atmosphere a bit. So,
you had a crush on me? Tell me more.”
She blushed, which did funny things to his equilibrium. “That wasn’t past
tense until you threatened to disrupt the Perfect Pear Posse.”
His heart made skittered. “You mean there’s a hope for you and me to be
together for something other than a business dispute?”
“Is that something you want?” Her voice turned sultry.
He swallowed hard. Business before pleasure. He repeated the mantra on
a continuous loop, but the words were less than effective. Actually, they
quickly became meaningless. “Yes,” he rasped. “Business first.” He said
the words with his last vestige of clarity.
“You’re a hard man.”
If only she knew.
Though Penelope realized she shouldn’t give in to her fascination with
Adam, this close she couldn’t resist the temptation. All her senses told
her he had to be persuadable. A guy so hot and tempting couldn’t be a lost
cause, plus they had a shared past. That had to count for something. She’d
prove to him how right her cause was and get him to throw his support with
her, after which she’d finally get him exactly where she wanted him. Talk
about fairy tales coming true. The prince arrived in time to save the kingdom
They continued to walk, though she now sensed a heightened awareness uniting
them both. She figured his erection made walking a challenge, especially
when he was trying to act cool and professional. Walking in a way that didn’t
look freaky wasn’t easy for her either. She was so hot for him, her panties
were soaked and she physically ached. Rather than allowing her desire to
distract her, she’d channel the energy of her passion into reasoning with
him. Once she persuaded him to see things her way, she’d screw his brains
“We’re here.” She indicated the Perdrix family pear orchard with a sweep
of her hand and watched with pleasure as he took in the sight.
“I didn’t know your family had an orchard here.” He seemed unable to tear
his gaze from her.
“Look at it, MacKnight.” She made a grand gesture with her hands to reveal
the full range of the orchard, which also pushed her very erect nipples
into prominent view. He stared at her even harder until she moved so he
had to turn his head and take in the panorama.
He whistled, low and long. “I can’t believe this was here all the time
I used to come to the house with Patrick.”
Good. She had his attention. “It makes me sad that we’d been kind of been
ignoring the orchard’s potential for too many years. Once I realized what
we had, I told the family my plans and got their approval. I took charge,
revitalized the orchard and started Perfect Pear. Here’s where I hang out.”
She nodded to a cottage with lots of large windows, looking out on the orchard.
“This looks fantastic. You’ve been busy.”
“You have no idea how much, but I want to show you. If I can convince you
how special our product is, will you throw your support to Perfect Pear?”
He raised an eyebrow. “I don’t want to mislead you. Your family is special
to me, but I can’t afford to let sentiment influence my business decisions.
Right now, Eden’s Apple Tree could become one of my most important clients.
And I have to admit, I think their product is pretty good.”
“Nothing like a challenge to get the juices flowing.” If hers flowed much
more, she’d have to do the breaststroke. She’d prefer for him to do any
stroking. Focus. “Let’s go to my office. Not only can I show you numbers
and impress you with my business plan, I also have samples to tempt your
“Come into my parlor said the spider to the fly,” he muttered.
“Nervous?” Her voice quivered. Even though they were on her home turf,
she was nervous enough for both of them, but, even stronger, taking him
into her lair excited her.
He raked her with his eyes. “Nervous, no. Juices flowing, oh yeah. Lead
on, best friend’s kid sister.”
Did he really have to call her that?
2009-2012 Mardi Ballou