Today we have a special treat for you. Julie Garwood is one of those authors who I will always buy, no matter the book. I’m just as in love with her contemporaries as I am her historicals. Her new book Sweet Talk comes out in Aug, and we’ve been given a fun snippet for you (It’s one of me personal favorite parts of the book).
Olivia was ready by six-thirty Saturday night and spent the next half hour catching up on emails. She wore a black floor-length gown. The silk hugged the curves of her body, but it wasn’t obscene, by any means. The scooped neck showed a little cleavage, nothing that would have men ogling, she thought. Her neck was bare, and her only jewelry was a pair of teardrop diamond earrings that her Aunt Emma had given her for her birthday. Her hair was swept up in a cluster of curls. A few tendrils escaped at the base of her neck.
Grayson was five minutes early. She opened the door and stood there staring up at him, speechless. The man was even more sexy in a tux. James Bond, all right, she thought. No, she corrected. Better.
Neither of them moved for a few seconds, and then Grayson said, “You look nice.” He sounded hoarse.
“Thank you. So do you,” she said as she stepped back. “Please, come inside. I’ll just get my purse and wrap. ”
He stepped into a small foyer and followed her into the living room. Olivia lived in an upscale neighborhood on the edge ofGeorgetown. The building was old, the third floor apartment was spacious and comfortable. Tall arched windows and worn hardwood floors were the backdrop for her overstuffed sofa and two matching chairs. The walls had been painted a pale blue, the windows were trimmed in white, and the furniture was a soft yellow color. A black square coffee table sat in front of the sofa with a stack of books on one side and a white vase filled with fresh daisies in the center. Colorful rugs brightened the area.
He noticed a pair of worn tennis shoes under the coffee table and a pair of flats in the doorway of a small room off the living area that Olivia obviously used as an office. Her laptop sat on an old, dark cherry, wood desk that had been beautifully restored. Bookcases flanked the desk, the shelves bowed from the heavy books.
Grayson was an armchair architect at heart and appreciated the unique features of these older buildings. He would have loved to see the rest of the apartment.
Olivia came back into the living room and noticed Grayson staring at her ceilings. He caught her watching and said, “I like the moldings.”
“I do, too. That’s one of the reasons I bought the apartment. ”
“Ten foot high ceilings? That’s rare.”
“Bet it gets cold in here in the winter, doesn’t it?” he asked when he noticed the old-fashioned radiators.
She pointed to the afghan draped over a chair. “I wrap up in that.”
He nodded. “How many bedrooms?”
“One large, one small?”
“No, both are quite spacious.”
“Has the kitchen been remodeled?”
Puzzled by his interest, she answered. “Yes, the whole building was remodeled a few years ago.”
“How long have you lived here?”
“A little over two years. Are you interested in the neighborhood? Thinking about moving? ”
Grayson didn’t explain that he bought buildings, renovated them, and either sold them or rented them out. It was an expensive, yet profitable, hobby.
“Just curious. Are you ready?”
He took the key from her and locked the deadbolt on their way out. Neither said another word until they were in his car and on their way.
“Tell me what Jorguson is saying happened,” she began.
He glanced at her. “You attacked him.”
She was properly outraged. “That is absolutely not true.”
“Special Agent Huntsman has been after Jorguson for some time. He wants to know if you’ll testify should he take him to court. ”
“Yes,” she said without hesitation. “But do you really think it will get that far?”
He grinned. “Those were the exact words my partner, Agent Conrad, said. Jorguson knew you worked for the IRS, so, in fact, he attacked a representative of the IRS, didn’t he? It’s my understanding the Internal Revenue Service doesn’t like it when one of their own is assaulted. ”
She laughed. “No, they don’t.”
“Huntsman wants to push this.”
“I’ll help any way that I can,” she promised.
“How much research did you do before your interview with Jorguson?”
“Very little,” she admitted. “I didn’t have the time. A big mistake on my part. I never should have gone to the interview.”
“Jorguson’s client list is filled with real bad . . .” He started to say “asses” but substituted “people ” instead.
She laughed. “Bad people? You sound like one of my kids.”
“One of your kids?”
“The kids I represent. When we had lunch, I thought I mentioned I do some work on the side for Judge Bowen and Judge Thorpe.”
“Yes, you did mention it. It just jarred me to hear you call them your kids.”
“When they’re in trouble, they are my kids. In most cases, I’m all they have.” Her voice had turned serious, passionate.
“I’ve got a feeling it’s enough.”
“Tell me more about these bad people.”
“Jorguson Investments is legit as far as Huntsman can tell, but some of his clients have brought in copious amounts of cash. One in particular, Gretta Keene, was very active. Her base was inBelgiumbut she operated in theUnited Statesfor several years. The federal government took action a few months ago to have her deported, but she disappeared before that happened.”
“Where’s all the money coming from? Drugs?”
“Among other endeavors, we suspect.”
“So let me go out on a limb here. If and when I talk to Agent Huntsman, he’s going to tell me Jorguson is money laundering for either the mob or perhaps one of the drug cartels.”
He smiled. “Maybe.”
She switched gears. “Did you talk to Jorguson about his threat to have me killed? ‘One phone call and you’re a dead woman.’ I believe those were his very words.”
“He denied threatening you. When I mentioned the number of people who heard him, he said they were all mistaken. While he was spewing his ridiculous lies, his two attorneys’ heads were nodding up and down like they were bobbing for apples. We happened to have a video from one of the waiter’s cell phones and played it for him. ” He grinned as he added, “His expression was priceless.”
“Bet he changed his story then.”
Grayson nodded. “As a matter of fact, he did. The alleged incident was all a big misunderstanding, and he was bluffing when he pretended to threaten you.”
“He actually said he pretended to threaten me?”
“I can’t make this stuff up,” he said, laughing.
“What else did he say?”
“He’d love it if you would come work for him.”
“The thought of seeing that pervert every single day sends shivers down my spine.”
“Then that’s a ‘no’?”
They’d stopped at a red light, and Grayson glanced over at her with a warm smile. Olivia was suddenly tongue-tied, and her heart skipped a beat. She didn’t know what to make of her physical reaction to him. She was usually so professional and composed, and this was a business evening, wasn’t it?
“You’re blushing,” Grayson said. “How come?”
She didn’t answer his question.
The light turned green, but Grayson didn’t notice. When Olivia had turned in her seat to face him, the slit in her gown exposed part of her thigh. Her skin was golden, and he wondered if the rest of her was as flawless. The driver behind them honked, and Grayson’s gaze was pulled back to his driving.
“Have you ever been to theHamilton?” he asked.
“No, I haven’t. It only just opened a couple of months ago. I’ve stayed at the one inBoston. It’s beautiful and quite elegant. Have you been to this one?”
“Yes, I have. Aiden Hamilton threw a party a couple of weeks before the grand opening. I’ve known Aiden and his family for some time now. My cousin, Sam, helped on a case for Aiden’s brother-in-law, Alec, and he introduced us. Alec’s also FBI and works out of theChicagooffice.”
“How was the party?”
“Good,” he said. “I ran into a lot of old friends I hadn’t seen in a while who’d flown in for the party. I was ready to take my date home when it was suggested by Alec that we play a little poker. I got home at six the next morning.”
“And your date?”
“I took her home and came back for the game. She wasn’t happy about that.”
“Did you win any money?”
“Aiden decided to join us, so, no. When he plays, he wins. I lost the girlfriend and a lot of money. Had fun, though.”
“You don’t sound too broken up about the girlfriend.”
“The relationship wasn’t going anywhere,” he said. “And hey, it was poker.”
“And she didn’t understand. I do,” she said. “I love poker.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Yeah? You really like to play?”
“I think I am.”
He grinned. “We’ll have to see about that.”
They pulled into the circle drive in front of the hotel, ending the conversation. Two attendants rushed forward to open their doors. Grayson’s BMW was whisked away by the valet, and he took hold of Olivia’s arm and walked by her side up the wide steps to the entrance.
The Hamilton Hotel facedPennsylvania, a busy and noisy street, but as soon as they walked through the doors, Olivia felt as though she’d entered another world. There was a perfect blend of old world charm and sleek contemporary touches. Massive columns stretched to the ceiling of a soaring lobby, and grand curved staircases on either side led to a wide mezzanine overlooking the main reception area. The polished brass balusters on the steps were topped with a carved railing of rich mahogany. Every table and chest was adorned with fresh flowers. Beautiful marble floors were covered in rich oriental rugs, and the luxuriously upholstered furniture was overstuffed, inviting guests to linger and relax in this elegant and quiet setting, forgetting the turmoil and demands of the outside world.
All sevenHamiltonhotels were known for unparalleled luxury, absolute discretion, and impeccable service. The hotels catered to discriminating clientele and were dedicated to protecting privacy. Because of their reputation for pampering their guests and taking care of their every whim, dignitaries, politicians, lobbyists, and celebrities had already booked the four ballrooms in this hotel well into the future.
The Capitol League gala was being held in the largest ballroom, which was located on the first floor at the end of a long, wide corridor. Outside the large double doors leading into the ballroom was an open area with a magnificent fountain. Directly beyond were tall windows overlooking the serenity gardens.
Two Capitol League attendants stood side by side at the doors. Olivia pulled her invitation from her beaded clutch and handed it to one of them. Grayson noticed the man was so preoccupied staring at her, he barely glanced at the card.
There was already a crowd gathered inside, but the flow was good, and it was surprisingly easy to get from one side of the ballroom to the other.
Olivia hadn’t attended many of these events. When she could afford it, she donated to causes that were close to her heart, most having to do with children in need, yet she rarely went to the parties, and for that reason she knew very few people attending the celebration.
Grayson, on the other hand, was the man of the hour. He seemed to know everyone, or rather, most of the guests seemed to know him. He was immediately surrounded by friends and donors. A senator on the finance committee stopped to talk about his reelection campaign and to ask what Grayson thought about a certain stock. Olivia wasn’t sure what to do. This wasn’t exactly a date, so she didn’t think she should stay and listen to his conversations with friends. Or should she? Feeling a bit awkward, she decided to find her Aunt Emma, but when she tried to step away, Grayson took hold of her hand and pulled her into his side. He wasn’t at all subtle. She gave him a disapproving frown. He responded by winking at her.
Olivia decided to be accommodating and humor him, and as it turned out, she was very happy she did. She soon lost count of the number of powerful men and women he introduced her to. She patiently stayed beside him for a good twenty minutes, smiling until her face felt frozen, and chatting amicably with the CEO of a cereal conglomerate, a Nobel Prize winner for physics, a real estate tycoon, an Internet software whiz, two art gallery owners, a couple of ambassadors, and a congresswoman. She even had a brief, though surreal, conversation with a senior advisor to the President of theUnited States. The topic was yoga, of all things.
The second there was a lull, Grayson suggested they go find her aunt. Then James Crowell stopped Grayson to say hello. Olivia recognized him from the cover of Time.
Crowell was Person of the Year. It was a well-deserved honor, she thought. Crowell was a genius and a self-made billionaire, and like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, had donated most of his fortune to charity. Olivia was star-struck. Crowell was one of her heroes because of all of his humanitarian efforts. How did Grayson know him? It was obvious that Crowell liked Grayson, and from their conversation and their ease with one another, she concluded they had been friends for some time.
Just who was Agent Grayson Kincaid? The real Bruce Wayne?
Grayson was watching Olivia as Crowell shook her hand and walked away.
“Your face is flushed,” Grayson remarked.
“I admire Mr. Crowell. He’s done a lot for the poor in this country.” She turned to Grayson then and said, “May I ask you a question?”
“If it will get you to quit frowning, sure.”
“I’m not frowning. This is my puzzled expression.”
“Yeah? Good to know. What’s the question?”
“You are with the FBI, aren’t you? It isn’t just a hobby, is it?”
He laughed. “Yes, I’m with the FBI, and no, it isn’t a hobby.”
“So if I were to look in your garage, I wouldn’t find a Batmobile?”
He looked at her as though he thought she was crazy. Shaking his head and looking very serious, he said, “Of course not.”
She felt foolish for making the comparison and for asking such a silly question.
Grayson put his arm around her waist and pulled her close so that an elderly couple could get past. Then he leaned down and whispered into her ear.
“I keep it in my cave.”
Attorney and IRS agent Olivia Mackenzie is the kind of tough, wise-cracking, powerful woman fans expect from a Garwood protagonist—but this time she has outdone herself. Olivia is not just any woman, she is every woman; flawed in the familiar ways so many of us are.
On the trail of an elaborate Ponzi scheme, one that threatens to ruin the lives of naïve and unsuspecting victims, Olivia suddenly finds her own life is in danger after she asks questions of the wrong people. She is accustomed to fighting for the underdog, but being vulnerable herself is a very different story. Smart enough to know when enough is enough, Olivia calls for reinforcements.
When she meets FBI Agent Grayson Kincaid there is an immediate and obvious attraction, palpable on both sides. Together they make an excellent team to fight corruption but Olivia is also fighting the immediate and intense attraction she feels for Agent Kincaid, and that may be a battle she is bound to lose.