Outrageously Yours

By: Susanna Carr

CLAIRE MILLER’S CHEST tightened with anticipation as she turned her car into the parking lot. “Stop it,” she muttered. “He’s your best friend’s brother. A client. Nothing more.”

Her body wasn’t listening. It never did when Jason Strong was involved. The town’s golden boy now operated his family’s wine bar and tasting room. He was also the star of her wildest fantasies—and her wicked thoughts had become more frequent since they’d started working together. It was getting embarrassing.

The one fantasy that kept replaying in her head was inconveniently set in his office. During more than one of their meetings, Claire’s mind had drifted and she had imagined sweeping her arm across his desk and tossing everything to the floor. She would then lay Jason on the desk and rip open his shirt before she licked a path down his rock-hard abs.

He, of course, would then not be able to keep his hands off her. It was her fantasy, after all. In her dream, the man was overwhelmed with desire and stripped her bare before she straddled his hips and rode him hard. Yet somehow the fantasy ended with her bent over the desk as he took her from behind, the piece of furniture creaking in protest from his powerful thrusts and Claire encouraging him with delighted moans.

That was one of her tamer fantasies, but it kept looping in her head every time she visited him at work. It was worse when they actually met in his office. Last week she had been in there with him for a brainstorming session and she’d gotten so caught up in the fantasy that she actually pushed a pile of folders off his desk.

Claire felt her face turn red at the memory. After that, she’d made a point of meeting away from his office.

Still, her pulse skipped when she saw the sign for Mountain Creek Wine Cellars. Stay focused. No more fantasizing, she reminded herself fiercely as she parked her car.

She grabbed her messenger bag and hopped out of her car. Realizing that she was a little too eager to see Jason again, Claire stumbled to a stop and took a deep breath. The September air held the scent of turning leaves and chimney smoke. The familiar aroma of fall did nothing to calm her. If anything, it made her think of Jason sprawled on top of her next to a roaring fireplace.

Be professional. She pulled her blazer closer to ward off the breeze and looked out into the distance at the snowy cap of Mount Rainier. The wine bar had a great view and location, but so did all the other tasting rooms that sat side by side on the curving street at the edge of town. At the moment SUVs and sports cars zoomed by, but in the evening there would be groups of wine enthusiasts walking from one tasting room to the next.

Claire frowned when she noticed yet another winery shop had opened up across the street. She recognized the name and shook her head. No wonder Jason had asked her to drop by. Tasting rooms were a big business and she was Jason’s secret weapon.

As she strode to the entrance of Mountain Creek, she spotted a few of her neighbors sitting on the patio and enjoying the rare Pacific Northwest sunshine. She waved and they saluted her with their wineglasses. As she walked past them, she heard one of the women ask the others, “Who was that?”

Claire sighed as weariness settled in her chest but she didn’t turn around. She was used to that response. It was the disadvantage of always flying under the radar. Claire kept walking so she didn’t have to hear how the others would answer. From experience she already knew: they’d say she looked familiar but none of them would be able to place her.

Which should make her happy; she had cultivated her anonymity since high school. She’d grown up in the small and rural town of Woodinville but her former classmates would be hard-pressed to describe her as anything other than “nice” and “sweet.”

Claire was good at marketing her clients and one day she would work on marketing herself. But for now, it was better if she worked in the shadows and behind the scenes. It was safer. No one looked at her too closely or sensed the tension that resided in her every moment. She had hidden it well.

She stepped across the threshold of Mountain Creek Wine Cellars and was immediately aware of the casual and lively energy. The dark wood floors and red walls seemed almost too modern for the sleepy town. The wine bar was on the first floor and a large spiral staircase that wrapped around a huge wine rack led customers upstairs to the tasting rooms. There were windows everywhere, offering magnificent views of the mountain and evergreen forests. Instead of being stuffy and pretentious as some wine bars could be, she found Mountain Creek Wine Cellars warm and welcoming.

There were a few customers sitting at the dark wooden tables, enjoying the start of happy hour. Claire saw Jason walk out of the kitchen with a tray of appetizers. Her breath hitched in her throat as she studied him.