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The Stand In -- Jasmine Haynes


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The Stand-In
Courtesans Tales, Book 5
© 2016 Jasmine Haynes
Originally published in the 2010 the anthology Hers for the Evening

“The sex is scorching a la Haynes and had me eagerly turning the pages.”
Night Owl Reviews

“This is the second sizzling hot installment about the courtesans and the magic they weave for true love. A really hot read!”
Fresh Fiction

“Erotic and utterly satisfying on every level.”
Reader to Reader Reviews

A glitzy, sensual world of powerful people and the courtesans they’ll pay anything to have.

An exclusive and secret agency, for over two hundred years Courtesans has specialized in providing entertainment of a sexual nature. Its clients are rich, powerful, and influential men and women, and one only meets a courtesan through referral from trusted sources. Courtesans facilitates bringing together men and women to satisfy any sexual need imaginable, matching the perfect courtesan with just the right client. The agency prides itself on training its courtesans, male and female, to interpret and fulfill its client’s greatest fantasies, even the secret ones no one dares to say aloud. The price is high, but everyone who’s ever had the pleasure of a date with a courtesan will agree, the fantasy is worth every penny. And sometimes it changes your life.

In the high stakes business world, the CEO just doesn’t play around with the CFO. It’s totally unethical. Yet with every breath she takes, CEO Devon Parker wants her CFO Hunter Nash. She’s in danger of acting on her ill-advised desires, until Isabel of Courtesans comes up with the perfect solution: find a lookalike. Devon arranges a hot little interlude after office hours when she’s sure no one else will show up. She even has her courtesan call himself Hunter, and he plays the role to the hilt.

It’s absolutely perfect, satisfaction guaranteed. Except for one small detail. The real Hunter Nash is watching.

When he learns of Devon’s secret fantasy, Hunter devises his own plan to make her ditch the stand-in and take the real thing. And he has a merger of a more permanent nature in mind.

The Courtesans Tales in order
The Girlfriend Experience
Triple Play
Three’s a Crowd
The Stand-In
Surrender to Me
The Only Way Out
The Wrong Kind of Man
No Second Chances

Read Excerpt

The Stand-In
Courtesans Tales, Book 5
© 2016 Jasmine Haynes

Chapter One

Hunter Nash was intelligent, articulate, trustworthy, ethical, and loyal.

She made him sound like a Boy Scout. Devon Parker certainly wasn’t thinking of her second-in-command as any Boy Scout. That was her whole problem. She had the hots for her tall, sexy-as-sin, black-haired, blue-eyed CFO. Watching him in action was akin to foreplay for her. Today, she was content to sit back and let him duke it out with the auditors. As CEO, Devon was here only as a show of GDN’s—Grant Digital Network’s—solidarity.

“I don’t appreciate the implication that someone on my team is being less than forthcoming.” Diplomatic, Hunter also had a will of iron. When he believed he was right, he didn’t bend under pressure. Having hand-picked each and every member, he trusted his accounting team implicitly. He would not let the outside auditors impugn their integrity—or his.

Thus the need to drive up to San Francisco to meet face-to-face with the new partner. The company had a September thirtieth fiscal end, and this was the new guy’s first year-end audit with them. Myron Denwal, a thin man with pale skin, a forehead marred by deep worry lines, and type-A dark circles under his eyes, spread his hands on the table. “All we’re saying, Hunter, is that Jenna has created an overhead file so complicated it may easily mask any miscalculations that could potentially overstate your inventory values.”

“Have her sit down with your lead and walk him through it.” Hunter sat back in his chair at the conference table. “Though I’m surprised he’d need the assistance.”

A slam. The spreadsheet wasn’t rocket science. With a marketing background, even Devon understood the file. Hunter had been having run-ins with Larry, their lead auditor. The kid was taking the fast-track to manager level on the backs of his clients by trying to prove negligence and fraud. When compared with Hunter’s domain, both negligence and fraud were oxymorons. And the kid, he was just a plain moron. Devon had complete faith in Hunter. If he said Jenna had nothing to hide, then she did indeed have nothing to hide. Devon also liked the girl. She’d been their cost accounting manager for over a year.

The corner of Myron’s eye started to twitch. “At this point, I believe we need a third-party intervention between them.” He rubbed at his lid as if that would make the nervous tic recede.

“I would be happy to explain the file, Myron.” Hunter gave him a genial smile, but beneath it Devon sensed the leashed tiger.

Myron clasped his hands in a tight grip, his joints cracking. “I meant third-party intervention from outside Accounting.”

It was tantamount to saying Hunter couldn’t be trusted either. It appeared as if the new audit team was out for blood, creating an adversarial working relationship that would do none of them any good. After the last few years of accounting scandals, the general atmosphere between public accounting and private industry had taken a nosedive. Where once you went to your auditors for advice, you now kept everything as close to the vest as possible. In her opinion, a few bad apples had screwed the entire profession and made life with your auditors a pain in the ass. It didn’t necessarily mean the reporting was any better or more honest. Except in Hunter’s purview.

Hunter had the makings of a great CEO. She was well aware he would move on from GDN, sooner rather than later. Selfishly, though, she wanted to keep him forever. What would the company do without him? What would she do?

Devon leaned both elbows on the table and steepled her fingers. “I have the utmost confidence in both Hunter and his team, Myron. As you will learn once you’ve been through an audit with us.” Though she was fast beginning to consider they needed to find another audit firm. That, however, wasn’t the issue at hand. “I am familiar with the file.” Jenna had given a detailed presentation to management when she’d constructed the overhead rates. “I will sit down with Larry and explain the basics to him.” This was, in fact, the solution she and Hunter had devised before the meeting began. He was to be the heavy, she was the conciliator. Sort of a good-cop/bad-cop routine.

Myron opened his mouth, closed it. Like a fish.

“Or do you wish to call my integrity into question also?” She pinned him with a look.

Between her steady gaze and Hunter’s hard stare, sweat gathered in the creases of Myron’s forehead. “I assure you this has nothing to do with mistrust.”

“I suggest you accept my offer then. Or do we need to discuss this further with a more senior partner?”

He blinked, sucked in air. “No. Your offer is satisfactory.”

She smiled. “Perhaps you would like to be in attendance when I conduct the session with Larry.”

“No, no, Devon”—underscored with vigorous head shaking—“I’m satisfied.”

“Good.” She rose, meeting adjourned. Auditors weren’t generally a stupid bunch. In fact, she had great admiration. They had a bad reputation to overcome after the series of shakedowns, and the majority, in her opinion, were pretty damn good at what they did. It was Myron and Larry who were inept. The kid saw himself as some sort of investor avenger, ferreting out accounting evildoing and making a name for himself as hard-core and no-nonsense. Myron should have reined him in. What a team the company had been saddled with. Pulling out midstream, though, would not be good.

Damn. She was really bad off, because that last thought made her contemplate sex again. With Hunter. Though she could want all she wanted, but she could never have. That wouldn’t fly with the audit team. Collusion would be their first assumption.

Five minutes later, the meeting over, Hunter took her elbow, guiding her onto the empty elevator car. So polite. His touch sent a hot shiver through her.

“That went well,” he said.

She turned to him, liking the fact that she could still look up to him despite her three-inch heels. In the main, Devon didn’t like having to look up at men. Hunter was different. Always had been.

“He’s an asshole,” she answered. She’d known Hunter over ten years. They’d worked together at Simcoe Systems, moved on to other jobs, but she’d always had great respect for him. When she took over as CEO at GDN four years ago, he was her first choice as CFO.

They’d both been married back then at Simcoe. Now they were both divorced. She was also his boss.

Hunter unbuttoned his suit jacket. “We’re stuck with him, unfortunately.”

“And we’re stuck with that little pissant Larry.”

He laughed. “Your language is definitely colorful today.”

With Hunter, words popped out of her mouth, she was that comfortable with him and their working relationship. “I say it like it is.”

“You always have.”

In the garage, he led her to his car, beeped the remote, opened the door, and handed her into the passenger seat. In the coolness of the interior, his aftershave, something sexy and smooth, still lingered from the earlier drive up to San Francisco. His touch still heated her skin, reaching all the way to her belly.

Now that was bad. And getting worse.

He climbed in, shut the driver’s door, and the masculine scent intensified, tantalizing her senses. She closed her eyes to breathe him in, letting him fill her as he backed out and headed down the ramp for the exit.

“You want to stop for lunch?” he asked after paying the exorbitant parking fee. That was San Francisco for you.

“No,” she said, eyes still closed. The attraction had been slow-growing, infiltrating so subtly she hadn’t recognized it for what it was until it was too late to eradicate. Now she could only make sure she didn’t put herself into nonwork situations with him. “I’ve got a meeting with Garrison.”

Hunter snorted. “Our illustrious S&M veep has his head up his ass.”

Devon couldn’t help the answering smile. The moniker was their private joke. Garrison was her Sales and Marketing vice president. Hunter had coined the S&M phrase. He had a bawdy sense of humor he kept in check while in a work environment. They were friends. He didn’t worry she’d misconstrue. The mere allusion to sex did not constitute sexual harassment. However, that was her personal opinion. As a matter of company policy, she had to display zero tolerance. Garrison had stepped over the line with one of his subordinates.

Hunter’s lips curled in a semi-smile. “It’s humorous in a rubbernecker sort of way.”

“What the hell was the man thinking?” she mused, head back against the seat. Garrison’s antics had put her in a very difficult position.

“What the hell was his wife thinking? That’s what I want to know.”

Devon blew out a sharp breath. “God only knows.”

Garrison had committed the sin of having an affair with his administrative aide. He’d compounded the stupidity by e-mailing her from his home computer. Which his wife discovered. She’d started calling his peers in the company, all the other VPs, including Hunter, to ask if they knew anything about Garrison’s affair. Everyone was too dumbfounded to reflect properly before they answered. Only Hunter kept his cool and told her she should discuss it with her husband. She didn’t. She called his boss. Which would be Devon.

“I’m not saying what Garrison did wasn’t bad. You never screw your subordinates.” It was a proverb Devon had been repeating to herself. “Or anyone else in the company for that matter.” Especially at the senior level. It looked bad. “She went further and laid out her personal business for all the world to see.”

Despite being a midday Friday in San Francisco, Hunter made it to the freeway with a minimum delay. “Unfortunately, she’s tied my hands,” Devon said as he merged into traffic. “If she hadn’t made it so public, we could have gone for some sort of disciplinary action. As it is, I have no choice but to ask for his resignation.”

Per company policy, she wasn’t even required to give him severance. His resignation was better than getting canned for misconduct. Garrison had two kids in college. People talk, word gets out. It would be difficult for him to find another job at his age. Devon had come up with the strategy in tandem with Human Resources, but she wasn’t happy with it. There were no winners. Not the company, not Garrison, not his wife, not his kids. Garrison’s admin quit before she was fired. Devon sighed.

Hunter reached over to pat her knee. “He made his own bed, Devon. It’s not your fault.”

“I understand that,” she answered, concentrating on the conversation rather than how much she enjoyed his comforting touch. In a very noncomforting way. “But firing people has never been one of my favorite things.” Despite having the reputation for being unemotional and a hard-ass.

“Yeah, I realize that.” He squeezed her knee this time. He didn’t mean anything by it. He couldn’t guess the shivers the touch sent through her body. He couldn’t know how the heat of his hand skewed her concentration. “Have a good soak in the tub tonight, and you’ll feel a lot better.”

She’d once told him of her not-so-guilty pleasure. Steaming water, bubbles, chocolate, champagne cocktail, and a really good book. Problem was these days when she was having a good soak, a sexy novel wasn’t enough. Fantasies of Hunter kept wandering through the pages of her mind. Funny how everything came back to Hunter. Garrison and his peccadillo with his AA, the mention of a hot bath, her mind had a way of twisting every thought back to Hunter. She needed relief. But what? Not one of her male courtesans. More and more often, she found herself closing her eyes to imagine it was Hunter doing all those things to her. There had to be a way to tame this need. Maybe a new man. A substitute to take the edge off.

Because no matter what, Devon was not going to go the way of Garrison by compromising her relationship with Hunter for a little hot nookie.