The nineteenth entry of our Top 20 Undiscovered Shortlist is The Nanny's Revenge by Nikki Goodman.
Remember your favourite entry because you'll get the chance to vote after all twenty excerpts have been posted!
Over to Nikki Goodman…
THE NANNY'S REVENGE (BLURB)
Responsibility. Guilt. Rebound. Revenge. Love?Things have a habit of going wrong for Zoe Harper.Things have a habit of getting … complicated.So when she returns to the UK after five long years away, she’s looking forward to a simple life, with some platinum plated rules to follow:-Repair her relationship with her younger sister Melody, who she abandoned in order to follow the love of her life – who turned out to be the not so faithful type.Rule: Never put a man before your family.Recover from the break-up of her engagement.Rule: Never rely on a man to make you happy.Rebuild her life; get a job, reunite with old friends, settle down.Rule: Never forget that home is where you make it.But when Zoe lands at the airport, instead of the cosy catch up she’d imagined she finds Melody jobless, homeless, dumped and desperate at the hands of the Reilly brothers.Confronting the arrogant Matthew Reilly, and with his younger brother abroad, Zoe decides to get even with the famous but reclusive music producer…Go undercover as his live-in nanny.Fake a relationship with him.Sell a tawdry kiss and tell story to the Sunday papers with all the gory details in order to humiliate and humble him.But can it really be that straight forward?
The Nanny's Revenge by Nikki Goodman
Thud. Thud. Thud.
Zoe’s fist hit the front door, chest contracting with so much anger it felt like her ribs were suffocating her lungs. And the hard contact with the glossy black wood hurt, the thumps reverberating through her. She was surprised not to fall off her beloved black high heels.
This really was the latest disaster in a long string of them. And she was completely exhausted.
Still, right now she didn’t care.
Matthew Reilly was a complete and unbelievable bastard!
When no-one answered the door, a strong compulsion kicked in; the urge to knock it down and flatten the selfish arrogant idiot. Standing at five and a half feet and lighter than she’d been in years, success at that particular task was doubtful, and knowing her she’d sustain an injury, but if there was anything that was guaranteed to whip up her temper it was protective instincts for family. At least, the little that was left. Melody, her kid sister.
The truth was, if this guy did ever answer, she would hold back the inclination to punch him straight in the face – though only because she didn’t really believe in violence. Plus she didn’t want to ruin her beautiful nails, something she’d treated herself to just before leaving NYC, a city she’d come to love …
But better not to think of that. Stay in the now.
If Matthew tried to treat her like he had Melody, he’d get a verbal blasting never to be forgotten. Melody had been crying too hard for Zoe to fully understand what had happened but it had been enough to instantly trigger her big sister reflexes. Flagging down a black cab, she’d been immediately uncomfortable in the stale stuffy car and the scorching sunlight glinting off the windscreen had perfectly matched her heated, murderous thoughts.
On the way to Knightsbridge, Zoe had avoided direct eye contact with the chatty driver, too angry to speak, jaw clenched angrily as her sibling’s sobbed words had bounced round her head. Fell in love with Stephen … looked after kids … Matt ended it, fired me … kicked me out with no notice.
How dare an employer treat someone like that? It was outrageous. And the pig hadn’t even given her sister time to grab her stuff. So here she was on his front door step, fully intending to get Melody’s things back and tell what him what she thought of a guy who would treat a naive twenty-something like dirt.
Bloody men. They were a faithless lot at the best of times, the reason she’d just left the States after five long years, but this really topped it. How could anyone be so utterly uncaring of someone else to the extent that they did them out of a job, a home, a salary and their belongings all on the same day?
Zoe stood back to look up at the windows of the exclusive residence of the great Mr. Reilly. A rich and famous music producer, he was hardly ever out of the tabloids – whilst abroad, she’d never quite broken the habit of reading the English papers online every Sunday – and rumour had it that he had a new girlfriend every week. Obviously the press couldn’t be relied on to tell the truth, but still, there was probably a speck of reality in the gossip that circled the industry, despite the lack of information from Melody.
Though they’d seen each other only a handful of times over the last few years, she was still close to her sister, and whilst Melody had talked about Matthew’s children a lot in their emails and texts, she’d always been very discreet about his private life. Not that she’d got any thanks for her loyalty and professionalism.
She banged on the door again. Perhaps he was too much of a coward to come out? She hoped not, wanted to look him in the eye, hold him accountable for his behaviour. Then footsteps sounded inside the house, and the door finally swung open. This was it. Shudders of rage and adrenalin hit and mixed, combining with the giddy exhaustion of jet lag to make her feel lightheaded and dangerously out of control. Face hot and prickly, she started shaking, hands bunching into fists around her oversized handbag.
‘Hello.’ She stated it calmly, wanting to get over the threshold before letting hell loose.
Young cocky green eyes beneath stylishly messy dark hair took her in slowly, appreciative gaze moving from stilettos to slim but curvy body in a white lace dress, accessorized by striking black chunky jewellery. The guy’s lazy study finished on her pinned up black hair and the side fringe that was falling into sparkling blue eyes, which had he bothered looking closer, he would have seen were furious.
But he didn’t look and that was probably a good thing, so she ignored the instinct to ask if he was finished gawping, breathed in, arched an eyebrow, and asked politely, ‘Matthew Reilly?’
‘God, no! Definitely not,’ the guy replied with a smirk, before turning his head to yell over his shoulder, ‘Matt, there’s some sexy Katy Perry wannabe here for an interview, see you when I’m back.’
Hustling past, he almost knocked her over with his massive rucksack, flashing a careless grin at her open mouth as she turned to watch him. Wannabe? Cheeky sod! She was no wannabe, wasn’t here to audition for some tacky talent show. It wasn’t of any interest that Matthew Reilly was in the music business. Furthermore- interview? Her brain belatedly registered the whole comment.
But before she could make sense of it and ask him the obvious question, he threw his bag into the back seat of yellow convertible parked on the driveway and leapt into it like some dukes of hazard extra. Pulling away with a spin of wheels, gravel flying everywhere, he barely paused before roaring off down the main road. God knows how many people he was going to take out driving like that. What an idiot.
The heat from the midday sun scorched down on her dark head as she watched the sports car disappear rapidly, bemused, wondering how many speeding tickets he would pick up between point a and point b.
‘That was my brother Stephen. I’m Matthew Reilly. Ready?’ The deep impatient voice had her spinning back round to the door.
‘S- Stephen?’ She questioned in a high voice, her vocal chords pinched with dangerously see-sawing emotions. If she’d known that was Stephen she’d have wrung his neck. He’d played a role in her sister’s heartbreak; technically the starring one. But that opportunity was gone, for now. Bugger.
On the other hand, the man in front of her was ultimately responsible for her sister’s pain. He was the one who’d-
No. Keep calm, just breathe.
Blinded by the sun, red dots blotted her vision and stopped her from being able to focus on his face, which was partially hidden by the dimness of the wide hallway.
‘Yes, as I said, that was Stephen.’ He repeated, putting a hand on the door to start swinging it shut, ‘Now, I’m very busy and we’ve wasted enough time. Are you here for an interview or not?’
Her head jerked back at his abruptness and she bit the inside of her mouth. He was being pretty rude, but if she said so, or answered no to his question, he’d probably have no hesitation in slamming the door in her face. And she wanted in. Whatever got her through the front door … If she had to be charm personified she would, even if it was through figuratively gritted teeth. Now she just needed to work out what the hell was going on.
Relaxing her hands, she consciously loosened tight shoulders, ‘Of course I’m here for an interview.’ She replied, thinking fast. ‘There’s a problem though.’
The breath hissed loudly from between his teeth, ‘Which is?’
‘I flew in from the New York this morning and came straight here from the airport, so I don’t have my CV with me.’
‘How did you hear about the job then?’ He looked suspicious, and she could hardly blame him.
‘From a contact at the agency,’ she rattled out, hoping that her assumptions were correct, thrusting a hand into the space between them, ‘Zoe Harper, pleased to meet you.’ Not. When she felt a funny spark at his touch, she snatched her fingers away. Time to work that out later. ‘I was added to the list at the last minute,’ she continued smoothly, ‘have the agency not faxed you through the updated version?’
He grunted noncommittally as the sound of a mobile filled the hallway. Blowing an exasperated breath from the side of his mouth, he prised a small flip-lid 3G model out of his front pocket and pressed a button, the musical tone stopping abruptly.
As he thrust the phone back into his pocket, she chattered on, ‘I called to let them know I was back in the UK just after I landed and when the post was mentioned to me,’ and she had a horrible feeling which one it was, ironically something that would work in her favour, ‘I had to go for it, especially when it’s working for someone like you. Plus it’s such a nice area to live in.’ The idea of sucking up to him was icky, but if it did the job, there it was.
‘I’m on a tight timescale and I don’t have time to call the agency,’ he shot out, ‘so I’m sorry but-‘
‘But I’ve come all this way-‘ she interrupted.
His phone started ringing again before either of them could finish their sentences. He swore, wrestling it out of his pocket, and after a quick glance at the screen, flipped it open. Holding a finger up in front of her face to show that she should be quiet, he turned away, answered tersely.
Zoe’s mouth swung open in disbelief before she forced it shut, teeth gritting on a new wave of anger. Who did he think he was? As if she would try and talk to him whilst he was on the phone! Forcing a smile as he glanced over his shoulder at her, it wobbled slightly as she realised her was on the phone to the recruitment agency.
‘No, it’s not good enough,’ he stated, ‘I’m completely dissatisfied with the level of service I’ve received. I need to appoint someone urgently. Don’t you understand that? You sent someone else along, but- What? Oh, never mind, you’re clearly incompetent!’ Flipping the mobile shut irritably, he went to put it back in his pocket but appeared to think again, clenching it in his hand instead.
Ouch. She wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of him. No wonder Melody had been so upset. Luckily there was no time for anger to build at that thought because Matt started talking.
‘That was another no-show, unbelievably, the second one today.’ He paused and then shook his head, as if he was going to regret his next words. ‘Look, I’ve only got this afternoon set aside for interviews. As you’re here, you may as well come in.’ The last sentence was grudging and he stood back.
So gracious, what a charmer. She stepped through the front door into the hallway anyway.
‘You can talk me through your experience and then you can email me your CV later on through the agency if things go well.’ He stated, closing the door.
Gee thanks, she rolled her eyes at his back, stuck her tongue out, don’t do me any favours.
He turned around and she blanked her expression quickly, though it was doubtful that he could see her in the dim passage, which was lit only by an open door at the top of the stairs. Zoe spun away, picking up the scents of fresh polish and some unnameable but appealing fresh male fragrance, overlaid with the heavier smell of roses.
‘I’m presuming that the agency have up to date references and CRB clearance for you.’ Without waiting for an answer he stepped past her, leading the way down a dark white washed corridor, so she simply made an affirmative sound at his back. It didn’t matter that it was a lie; it wasn’t as if she was really applying for the job. This was just a way in.
Throwing open a glossy black door, Matthew strode into an airy white room filled with windows and light. After the gloom of the hallway, Zoe thought it was like coming out of the dark ages and into the modern 21st century. Pausing to blink and let her eyes adjust, she then followed the owner of the house – someone who was both a stranger but also part of her life, having been a part of her sister’s – over to a couple of spotless black leather sofas facing each other across a glass coffee table.
Sitting down she shuddered and hid a grimace as she tucked her bag by the side of the sofa. It was the kind of impersonal space she hated; more like a show home than a real one. It was too pristine, too perfect. Running a hand over the cold flawless leather, the fabric was chilly against her warm skin. How on earth did children live here? It was so immaculate. Perhaps they were kept in a cupboard under the stairs like Harry Potter? She wondered, tongue in cheek.
There was an eleven year old daughter and a five year old son from what she could remember of her sister’s emails. She couldn’t recall much else apart from the fact that the girl was exceptionally bright, didn’t talk much and loved reading. The little boy was a rude and unholy terror, maybe not much of a surprise given who his role models were – grown men who were immature and self-centred. Still, she doubted the children got locked away at night!
She straightened – for god’s sakes just get on with it – and looked up, blue eyes meeting Matthew Reilly’s properly for the first time.
Oh, man. The Americanism resounded in Zoe’s brain.
Freezing, heart thudding in her chest, her mouth fell open embarrassingly. Realising she must look like the village idiot, she closed it, teeth clicking together.
The guy across from her shared his brother’s colouring but the similarity ended there. Stephen was tall and slim, face still slightly delicate with youth. Matthew was tall, in the corridor she’d thought it, but now she could see from the long spread of his ridiculously muscular legs that he was much, much taller and broader than his brother. He was built more like a natural athlete than some arty creative type who spent most days holed up in a dark studio. And whilst she could reluctantly see, on looks alone, why Melody might have found Stephen attractive, Matthew was far more appealing; his face leaner, rugged with stubble and more mature, with a fierce intelligence shining in forest green eyes under thick dark brows.
Chiselled cheekbones and sternly beautiful mouth could have made his face model perfect but for two flaws, both of which she’d unfortunately always been a sucker for. A sinking feeling hit the pit of her stomach as she stared at a bump on the ridge of his nose – perhaps from a break at some point – and a small inch long scar that ran down into his top lip.
She’d had a thing about bad boys ever since a massive crush on Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones and Han Solo when she was a teenager. The character of Sawyer in Lost and Richard Armitage as Lucas in Spooks had prolonged the obsession. Matthew Reilly definitely looked like a bad boy, the kind who would ride up on a motorbike and whisk a girl away for a dirty and dangerous weekend.
It was pretty obvious that whilst Stephen was a boy, his older brother was very definitely a man.
Mind blowing, sizzling fact.
Zoe managed not to fan herself – just – as a prickling awareness of his appeal ran through her body, a purely sexual heat beating between her legs and tingling over her skin, raising bumps along it.
He was outrageously, jaw-droppingly gorgeous. But after the way he’d treated Melody, how angry that made her, how much she detested and resented him for it, he was the last man on planet earth she should find attractive.
Why? Why did he have to be so bloody gorgeous? Physically he was her dream man. But personality wise- ugh.
Struggling to get her hormones under wrap, she almost whimpered.
Oh, crap. Oh, great. Just fantastic.
And probably the beginning of another disaster.