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Exclusive Excerpt - Only Ever You!

March 18, 2020

 

Exciting announcement! Due to demand from my Kindle Unlimited readers for my Mercy Island series, I will be releasing Only Ever You one month early on 20 March 2020!!. It feels like the right time to offer light entertainment into the world to provide reprieve from all else that is going on.

 

To give you a taste of this fast-paced, fun romance, I'm offering an exclusive excerpt of Only Ever You below.

 

Happy reading!

 

Jacquie xx

 

Only Ever You is available from Amazon stores in paperback or the e-book can be pre-ordered and will download onto your Kindle or Kindle app tomorrow!

 

All purchase links can be found HERE

ONLY EVER YOU

Jacquie Underdown

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Natalie

 

The flight attendant tossed aside the curtain and led me down the aisle towards the front of the aeroplane. The front!

He gestured to a single seat on the left side of the aisle. “Here you are, Miss Richardson.”

My seat—big, fully retractable with loads of space and a sliding door to shut out the world when I wanted to sleep. As I sank into my chair with a pleasured sigh, I couldn’t even muster the effort to feel sorry for all the people who would be loading into coach as soon as the first-class ticket holders were comfortably tucked away. I’d had my fair share of coach torture; I didn’t need to relive it.

I stroked the plush blue fabric of my seat and leaned against the comfortable backrest. Legroom for days. Nope, coach wasn’t going to enter my thoughts for the next twenty-one hours as I made my way home to Australia in comfort. Comfort, I undoubtedly would never get to experience again in my lifetime.

“Would you like a glass of champagne?” asked the flight attendant in his London accent.

“Yes. Yes, I would. Thank you.” I couldn’t coax the smile from my face. This weekend had been a once-in-a-lifetime grace of good luck. Ordinarily, I would never have been able to afford this flight, but I had won return first-class tickets from Brisbane to London in a radio competition, along with Wembley Stadium concert tickets and a backstage pass.

I was looking in all the nooks and crannies like a child on Christmas morning to see what little gifts were onboard for me—an exquisite case of skincare, a toiletry pack, slippers and pyjamas—when footsteps and shuffling sounded behind me as a flight attendant escorted a passenger to his seat.

The passenger’s scent found me first, made me sit taller and turn my head. Soft powder and the old-school fragrance of shaving balm—the type that is woodsy and spicy and makes you think of a towering lumberjack dressed in flannel, chopping wood, each muscle flexing as he swings a heavy axe.

But my gaze met no such man; instead, found polished, black-leather shoes—not a scuff on them. Long gunmetal-grey tailored pants. Crisp, white long-sleeved shirt with gold cuff links. No tie. A jacket draped over a strong arm. A Rolex wristwatch. Height. His clothes couldn’t hide the powerful body beneath—thick and long.

His eyes met mine. The palest blue framed by sandy blond lashes. A strong jaw and nose. Broad, full lips that held the shape of cruelty. No, not cruelty, that wasn’t the right word. Unfaltering confidence was the better choice. His hair was the same colour as his lashes. Short and expertly groomed. A whisper of a five o’clock shadow.

He smiled at me, and his eyes brightened. That hard line of a mouth softened into a shape that hinted at a gentle heart and yet something hidden and erotic. I had to cross my legs and hide the shudder in my next inhale.

I mustered a smile back. I think. It felt like a smile—I hoped it looked like one.

My stomach was swirling, tightening, for now, this small-town girl was getting a chance to rub shoulders with handsome devils in such luxury.

He did something then that made me lose myself. He winked. Not in the Aussie way that was usually accompanied by a nod and a ‘how ya going?’. No, this wink was sex. Well, as close to sex as you could get with your clothes on in an aeroplane with an aisle between us.

I giggled. I did. I’m not proud of that, but as I said, I had lost control. Don’t you dare think you would have reacted in any other way. If you had seen this wink from this man, you would have giggled too. I promise you, you would have.

I know this all sounds superficial. Quite frankly, it was. It was all about his appearance. His mouth, those eyes, that body. Biology—plain and simple. I couldn’t tell my brain to stop, especially when my attraction dial was turned up to eleven. Eleven doesn’t even exist, but that’s what this man was—a freakin’ unicorn.

He turned away and I stared at my lap, eyes wide, breathing deeply, trying to recover from another new milestone in my life—setting eyes on the most handsome man I’d ever seen.

Calm down, Natalie. Make the most of this moment—don’t blow it.

The flight attendant startled me when he returned with my champagne. I eagerly reached for it knowing this would help calm my sense of inferiority because on this aeroplane, in first-class, smiling at unicorns, I didn’t belong. Not one bit.

And it was true—I didn’t belong. I had lived most of my life in the small town of Mercy Island, tucked away on the Central Queensland coast. Sure, I ran my own business, but it was a small fish-and-chip shop, only busy enough to cater to the slow tourist trade and three thousand residents. I had a couple of employees. My profits covered my rent, modest living expenses and left me with a little to set aside for a deposit on my own house one day.

I wasn’t first-class. Not by a long shot. And, honestly, I didn’t care. I loved my life, my friends, my family. Each day was good. I lived in one of the last unspoiled coastal regions in Australia where it was hot enough to swim in the ocean nearly all year round.

But just for today, I wanted to be more. That’s not so bad, is it? To pretend that I should be here. I sipped my champagne—crisp, tangy, bubbly—and with each sip, I convinced myself that this was exactly where I belonged.

“Pleasure?” came the man’s honeyed baritone voice.

My head couldn’t move fast enough to face him. Eyes widened. “Pardon?”

“Your trip. For pleasure, not business, I presume?”

The way he said pleasure made his deep, husky voice strum upon my flesh. My cheeks were hot. “Yes. Um… pleasure. How could you tell?”

“No laptop. No buzzing phone. Near empty flute of champagne in your hand.” His eyes dropped to my lips.

I instinctively darted my tongue over my bottom lip, then subtly shook my head. “Great powers of observation.”

He chuckled, his whole face changing and lightening. 

“Business?” I asked him.

He arched a brow, the corners of his lips quirking. “How can you tell?”

I eyed his immaculate shirt, unbuttoned at the top as though he’d stripped his tie off and loosened his shirt after a long day. The flight attendant had taken his jacket to be hung so it didn’t wrinkle. He had a rectangular bag at his feet, no doubt housing his laptop. And his pants pocket bulged with the familiar shape of a mobile phone that hadn’t stopped vibrating since he boarded.

Realising where my gaze was lingering, I quickly averted my attention from his lap and met taunting blue eyes.

“Discover all you need?”

I nodded quickly and giggled.

He stretched across the broad aisle, extended his hand. “I’m Carlin.”

I leaned closer, gripped his hand and wondered at the long, warm stream of sensation that started in my fingertips and rocketed up my arm. His shake was strong, regardless that I was a woman, and his strength sent a thrill down my spine.

“Nat…” No, I’m not going to be boring old small-town Natalie today, “...Natasha.”

He smiled, and it was glorious. “Lovely to meet you, Natasha.”

“And it’s lovely to meet you too, Carlin.”

“From the Australian accent, I presume you’re headed back to Sydney?

“Full of presumptions, aren’t you?”

He shrugged. “At this stage, I have to be. At least until I know you a little better.”

I had to look away for a moment. Swallowed hard. “I have a connecting flight to Brisbane.” Wasn’t technically a lie. I simply omitted that I had another connecting flight after that to the regional town near Mercy Island. “And you?”

“Sydney.”

Of course. How could I expect anything else?

“What do you do for a living, Natasha?”

“I’m a… CEO of a retail business.” Again, not technically a lie. “And you?”

“I work for my family’s investment management business.”

I shuddered. “I don’t think I could ever work with my family.”

He laughed. “It’s not so bad. I enjoy it. We’re close, so that helps.”

“I’m close to my family too. That’s the problem.”

His laugh rang out louder this time and leapt across the space between us, filling my chest with a mixture of happiness and desire. 

A flight attendant interrupted then. She carried a tumbler filled with a thumb of amber spirit. “Here you are, Mr Levy.”

Soon after, the engines were started, and the aeroplane took off from London Heathrow Airport. I relaxed in my seat, looked out the window, taking in the cold, grey expanse of the city below. Despite how much I enjoyed my time in London, the sun, sand, heat and blue skies of home called hard to me. 

“It’s always good to be heading home, isn’t it?”

I met Carlin’s gaze. “Absolutely.”

His smile was warm, full of understanding. “Enjoy your flight. I’ve got a little work to do.”

“Thanks. You too.”

He pulled out his laptop, set his drink beside him and like he was someone else entirely to the relaxed, charming man he had shown me glimpses of, he sat straighter, chest proud, face determined and lost himself in whatever work was waiting for him on his smartphone and laptop.

Disappointment clanged in my chest. I was hoping to have maintained his attention for a little longer. I turned to the in-flight entertainment—an array of newly released movies. I settled on a romantic comedy and slid the door across, shielding me a little from the outside world.

For the next eight hours, I snacked, ate the most delicious meal I’d ever been served on an aeroplane, watched movies, read and napped. But first-class or not, hour upon hour of sitting was not compatible with my body. I was used to being on my feet most of the day. I exercised religiously, and I always had an unusually high energy level. Sitting was torture. There were only so many trips to the bathroom to stretch my legs I could take before I looked like I had a bladder problem.

I had to move. I strode up the aisle as inconspicuously as I could. Then paced up and down a short, tight staircase a few times to get the blood flowing and eventually found my way to a small bar.

As I ordered a glass of champagne, a familiar face entered the room. Carlin. I wasn’t sure what to expect after he politely but effectively disengaged from me for the past eight hours.

He grinned. “Great minds think alike.”

“I can’t sit down any longer.”

“I share your sentiments.” He met the bartender’s eye. “A whiskey, please. Neat.”

He undid another shirt button and leaned against the bar, though didn’t sit. When his drink was placed before him, he closed his eyes as he swallowed a mouthful. His shoulders relaxed. Everything about that one motion told me that he worked incredibly hard. Long hours. Probably loads of travel. It must be difficult, amidst the dull roar of engines, at an on-board bar, talking to a stranger, that this was the only place he could unwind.

I didn’t take his need to work so personally now—he obviously had a lot of responsibility. As I watched him, the deep desire to take him home, sit him down, fix him a drink and cook him a good homely meal overcame me.

He opened his eyes again and met my curious gaze. A slow smile spread across his lips.

“All finished with your work?” I asked.

He nodded. “For today.”

I checked my watch. “What even is today? Whose time are we on at the moment?”

“It’s 1 am in Sydney right now.”

I blinked away the rush of weariness that reached me with that fact. “Shouldn’t have told me that.”

He laughed. “I apologise. Let me rephrase—it’s 3 pm, UK time.”

“That’s more like it. Perked me up right away.” I sipped my champagne then rested my glass on the bar top. “Do you come here often?”

His grin was broad. “This onboard bar or London?”

“Both.”

“Every so often.”

“For business?”

He nodded. “I meet with investors, potential clients, that sort of thing. What about you, Natasha?”

I was momentarily confused to hear the unfamiliar sounding name I had told him earlier but squared my shoulders and fixed a smile on my face. “No, and not really.”

“You said you were travelling for pleasure. Holiday?”

“Kind of. I went to a concert at Wembley Stadium.”

 “Amazing atmosphere, isn’t it?”

“Like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. I’m still on a high.”

“No partner to accompany you?”

“Nope.” I inconspicuously eyed his left hand for a wedding band. It was clear—not even a tan mark.

He chuckled, held up his hand and wiggled his fingers. “No wedding ring.”

I lowered my head to hide my blush. “Good to know.”

“So, tell me about this family of yours?” he asked.

“Where do I start? I have one big brother. Graeme. He’s about to make me an aunty, so I love him to bits for that. I am dying to meet my new niece or nephew.”

“I’m an uncle three times over. Julie, Renee and Kobe. All five and under.”

My eyes widened. “My goodness. Are these your sister’s children?”

He shook his head. “Brother’s.” He laughed as though thinking of a private moment. “He and his wife have their hands full.”

“One baby will do for now. I want to spoil the absolute heck out of this kid. Makes it a bit difficult to accomplish the more that come along, I’m sure.”

He shrugged, grinned. “Yes and no. I still manage to.”

“I also have younger siblings. A sister and brother. They’re from Mum’s second marriage.”

He lifted his glass to his lips and swallowed. “And your Dad?”

“He works as an engineer in a mine in Western Australia.”

“An engineer?”

“Yep. Every stereotype you can think of about engineers sums up my dad. Meticulous. Mathematical. Slightly OCD. Throw in the fact that he was in the Army for twenty years. After his last tour, he was… ah… never quite the same, though.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

I shrugged. “It was the reason my parents divorced.” Seriously depressing and inappropriate topic of conversation. I shook my head. “Enough about me. Do you have any other siblings besides your brother?”

“Just the two of us.”

“And your mum and dad both work in your family business?”

“Dad does. It’s his empire, and I can’t see him handing over the reins until the day he dies. Mum retired about five years ago. Focuses more on her grandchildren these days.”

Empire? How big is this business exactly? Perhaps it was best I didn’t know. I didn’t need to feel that hard hit of imposter syndrome much more than I already was.

By drink number two, our conversation had moved onto our schooling. I explained how I had moved schools nearly every year because of the Army until finally settling in my hometown for my first year of high school and thankfully staying there until I’d graduated.

I wasn’t surprised that he had attended a boarding school followed by university in the UK.

By drink three, we chatted about music, movies and pop culture we enjoyed. Because we were almost the same age—me, twenty-eight and he, twenty-nine—we had similar tastes. I eagerly offered him a long-winded, detailed account, replete with goosebumps and slightly teary eyes, of the concert I’d just attended and my experience backstage.

By drink four, I had developed a subtle lisp, a light head, and a tendency to laugh loudly. We spoke about our shared interest in keeping fit. He had hiked trails all over the world.

I told him of my love for the coast. How I could walk for hours in the late afternoon as the cooler evening temperatures settled in, listening to the rhythmic rushing waves. The space. The salty scent. The restless sea breeze that would flick my hair around my face.

He stretched his hand out and gently gripped a strand of my hair, slowly sliding his fingers down the long length. His face was relaxed, lips slightly parted. “You have beautiful beach blonde hair. As soft as I imagined.”

My breaths came faster as I met his heated gaze. Cheeks grew hot. A great current of desire squeezed in my stomach. I couldn’t manage a thank you. Instead, as I was prone to do, I giggled. I know, I know—completely unsophisticated. But as I mentioned earlier, if faced with this man, you would have done the same.

By drink five, we were a raucous duo. No one else existed. The bartender was a mere bystander sitting somewhere hazy and ill-formed in my peripheral. Carlin had loosened up. We had both taken seats. His cuff links had been shoved into his pocket, his cuffs unbuttoned, and his sleeves rolled up to his elbows. His forearms bared the first skin I’d seen, apart from his throat, and it was a delicious offering because that glimpse of lean muscle was a strong indicator of the body still hidden beneath clothing.

We moved onto anecdotes about ourselves, which naturally led us to share our most humiliating moments. I could barely breathe from laughing so hard.

“I used to babysit on weekends when I was in my senior year. A little boy, Stanley, who was eight. He had snuck into my bedroom drawer and found a…” I cleared my throat, lowered my voice to a whisper, “…vibrator. He was curious about what it was. I had to make up a lie on the spot because no way I was explaining to a random kid what it was. I said it was a massager. I promptly snatched it from him, shoved it to the very back of a drawer, and told him he wasn’t allowed to go into my room ever again.”

Carlin’s gaze was bright with humour. He was smiling. “Do I want to hear the rest of the story?”

I shook my head. My cheeks burned with the memory. “You don’t.”

“But you’re going to tell me. You can’t back out now.”

I let out a huff of breath and mustered my courage to continue. “Stanley’s dad came to pick him up later that afternoon. I was chatting with him in the living room about how the day had gone. Next minute, Stanley comes out of my bedroom, and he has the vibrator in his hand, it is on and loud, and he is pressing it against his shoulder muscles…”

“Like it’s a massager?”

I nodded, cheeks ablaze.

Carlin burst into laughter.

“I quickly ran to him, seized the vibrator and raced it back to my room. I was humiliated. Afterwards, I had to talk to his father…”

Carlin’s shoulders were shaking with each laugh.

“For a seventeen-year-old girl, that’s about the worst thing that could ever happen. Ever.”

“I can imagine.”

“I wrapped that vibrator in newspaper, shoved it in a plastic bag, covered it in sticky tape, and dumped it in the bin the moment Stanley and his dad left. I have never owned one again. Too risky.”

He dissolved into laughter—a gorgeous, husky rasp of sound.

I finally stopped giggling enough to speak and met his blue gaze. “You’re the first person I’ve ever told that story to.”

“I’m honoured,” he said, and we both burst into laughter again.

By drink six—I think, maybe I was still making my way through my fifth glass of champagne—my mind was so, so light. We’d gravitated closer to one another, my shoulder pressed to his, our heads arching closer as we spoke.

Intense energy throbbed between us. I was overcome with a sense of familiarity, as though we had sat like this, talking, laughing and stealing touches, a thousand times before.

He would rest his hand to my thigh when he spoke and despite my alcohol-induced daze, his hot hand against my flesh had heat pooling in my lower belly.

Slowly he leaned in until his lips were only centimetres from my ear and whispered, “You’re incredible, Natasha, and I don’t ever want this flight to end.”

I couldn’t think. A resounding surge of sensation flooded my body. He wrapped an arm around my waist, pulled me towards him and kissed me so gently, I thought I would melt off the seat. The heady scent of him lit my senses afire. Heat and darts of electricity shot through me.

When his tongue slid against mine and I tasted him, I gutturally groaned, which only made everything fifty times hotter because he reacted to that groan with passion. He kissed me harder, held me tighter.

Somehow, after who knows how long, we managed to restrain ourselves, and he shifted back, breathless, eyes soft with arousal. The barman cleared his throat and I only then remembered he too was there.

We both turned to face him. “There was an announcement that passengers need to go back to their seats. We are getting ready to land. There is a weather situation, so things may get bumpy.”

I looked at Carlin, eyes wide. “A weather situation?”

He held his hand out for me as he got to his feet. “It’ll be fine.”

We bustled back to our seats and I buckled myself in. The long descent into Singapore was horrendously bumpy, and when the wheels landed on solid ground, I let out a long sigh of relief.

The captain’s voice came over the speakers. “Due to unforeseen weather, the connecting flight to Sydney, Australia, will be grounded overnight.”

I turned to Carlin. “Grounded?”

“We should be able to secure a room at the airport hotel.”

I nodded slowly, though my heart was racing. His statement was too ambiguous, and I was too cowardly to ask him to clarify. Did he mean that he and I would share a room, or we would secure a room each?

At the hotel, I waited behind Carlin as he stood at the hotel concierge desk.

“A room for one?” the perky receptionist asked.

Carlin turned to me. “Would be uneconomical to book two, right?”

Okay, there was no ambiguity with that statement. My breaths deepened and my pulse raced, but I managed to find words enough to answer. “Absolutely. Uneconomical.”

His lips slanted into a cheeky grin. “Glad we’re on the same page.”

The receptionist dropped a room key into his palm, and he slid it into his pocket. With some semblance of control, we made our way through the plush lobby, filled with marble and chandeliers, and rode the elevator up to our floor.

As the lift doors opened, he gestured I exit first. My breaths were coming faster as anticipation worked through my veins. We walked briskly up the long, carpeted hall to our room. Outside the door, he turned to me, something primal and unyielding in his gaze. His mouth was my undoing. I wanted to kiss him so much I ached. Without words, he spoke to me. Wickedly delicious promises. I stepped closer. Then another step until I could feel his body heat, hear his breaths.

“I want you so much,” he said, voice a low growl. I rushed to close the space between us, and he hoisted me into his arms. My legs threaded around his waist and his mouth crashed against mine. I had never needed a man as much as I did him.

Between feverish kisses, he managed to open the door, shove it closed with his foot and carry me to the bed.

 

 

I hope you enjoyed this sample of Only Ever you. If you want to secure your copy now, Only Ever You is available from Amazon stores in paperback or the e-book can be pre-ordered and will download onto your Kindle or Kindle app tomorrow!

 

All purchase links can be found HERE

 

ONLY EVER YOU

Jacquie Underdown

 

 

Opposites attract when this small-town girl meets a successful, city businessman. But with such different lives, does their romance stand a chance?

Wealthy, handsome and heir to his father’s empire, Carlin Levy has unfairly earned a reputation in the media of being a playboy. When Carlin’s status causes trouble for the family business, his father gives him an ultimatum—he is to find a suitable bride and walk her down the aisle or he is struck from not only the business but also the will. Carlin has no choice but to comply or he loses everything he has worked for.

Natalie Richardson is a born and bred small-town girl. She loves her simple life in Mercy Island, a tiny town tucked away on the Central Queensland Coast. But when she meets Carlin Levy, a confident, successful businessman from Sydney, she questions if her humble existence is enough.

With chemistry that sizzles, Carlin and Natalie free-fall into a romance that moves at a whirlwind pace, but they soon crash into barriers that threaten their future. If only Carlin can look past the life his father has laid out for him and discover what is truly in his heart. And if Natalie can stop hunting for reasons why she isn’t good enough, she may see that what she deserves is right in front of her.

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Jacquie Underdown 2018