All Night Woman

By: Abbie Zanders

Covendale Series, Book 2


Special thanks to Aubrey Rose Cover Designs for this amazing cover!

Also HUGE special thanks to Anjee, Deb, Shelly, Carol, and Cindy, (and a few of you who prefer to remain unnamed – you know who you are) for reading the first draft and making invaluable suggestions. I could not have done this without your unending patience, support, and encouragement.

Chapter 1

“Honestly, Holly. Hot wax on the nipples is not everything it’s cracked up to be.”

Across the table that separated them, Holly McTierney swirled the straw in her unsweetened iced tea and barely batted an eyelash at her BFF’s pronouncement, but she did lean forward a little.

“Do tell.”

Liz Benning flushed and averted her eyes. They’d had dozens, possibly hundreds of conversations over the years – some downright scandalous – about things like this. This time it was a little different, though, because they weren’t discussing a scene in Holly’s latest book or hypothetically pondering the pros and cons of the latest in erotic gadgetry. This time, it hit a bit closer to home.

Her gaze landed on the basket of warm, buttery rolls. They were nestled in white linen and baked to a perfect, golden brown with a slight satiny sheen that appealed to the eye. A bit of steam rose up from the top, carrying with it an aroma that had her mouth watering.

Why did restaurants feel the need to put those on the table like that? Why couldn’t they bring out complimentary celery sticks or baby carrots instead? It was as if they were trying to sabotage the carb-shunning, post-thirty metabolisms of women everywhere by providing enough enticement to test even the greatest of wills.

She moved the deliciously offensive basket to the inside edge of the booth table and arranged the stand-up menu in front of it to reduce the temptation, then groaned. The glossy 5 x 7 picture of a fried caramel apple cheesecake wasn’t much better, and she needed to be good. She had a birthday coming up soon, and she was going to have cake. Or at the very least, cupcakes.

“Is it that new guy in your complex?” Holly prodded, sweeping a lock of chestnut-colored hair away from her face, her green eyes sparkling mischievously. “The financial analyst? Based on what you’ve told me about him, he sounds like a real-life Christian Grey.”

Liz had no idea if her new neighbor was into that kind of thing, but he did look as if it was a distinct possibility. With his stylishly-cut sable hair, panty-wetting hazel eyes, and tailored suits, he certainly projected the image of a “realistic” version of the fictional billionaire.

“No such luck,” Liz sighed. “I had a bad day at work and thought I’d soak in the tub for a bit, you know? I turned down the lights, got some scented aromatherapy bath crystals, lit some candles -”

“What kind?” Holly interjected.

Liz didn’t mind the interruption; she was used to it. As an author of hot and steamy romance novels, Holly was always interested in the details, especially those involving the senses. More than a few of Liz’s confidences had ended up in Holly’s books over the years.

“Vanilla honey crystals. Buttercream candles.”

“Mmmm, got it. Go on.”

“So I’m relaxing in the tub and the phone rings. And of course the phone is on the vanity, so I have to get out of the tub to get it.”

“Perfectly reasonable.”

“Except those bath crystals had oil beads mixed in, too, and made the bottom of the tub slippery. I was halfway up when I lost my footing and went down on my ass. Of course I put my arms out to catch myself and knocked over a couple of candles. Voilà, hot wax on the nipples.”

Their server, an older, motherly-looking type, made a choking noise as she deposited their entrees rather hurriedly in front of them and scurried away. Neither Holly nor Liz paid her any attention.

“Oh Liz, were you hurt?”

Liz grimaced slightly and self-consciously patted the loose blonde knot at the back of her neck. “Just my pride. And my nipples. Well, the left one anyway. You know, because the wax was melted. And hot. I just don’t get why someone would want to do that on purpose. Unless you were into pain, I guess. Then it would make sense.”