Kaylee’s First Crush has a silver star over at ARe! That means it’s a bestseller! In celebration, I’m posting a first chapter excerpt!
I hope you enjoy the fun of Kaylee running into her first crush five years after she last set eyes on him: Mr. Hugo Valtree, ex-teacher, billionaire extraordinaire, ultimate hottie.
The last person Kaylee expects to run into when her flight is cancelled is Mr. Hugo Valtree, her favorite high school teacher. It’s been five years since she graduated and she’s never forgotten the sexy man who’d been her first crush. Now she’s all grown up, but he’s still out of her league: he’s inherited his father’s company, making him a billionaire. She’s still shy, still a virgin—what can she possibly have to offer him?
Surprisingly, Hugo offers her something instead, something she desperately needs: a place to stay for the night. It’s storming outside and just her luck, all the hotels in the city are booked. Of course, there’s only one bed in his hotel room…
Where to Buy:
Kaylee startled from her light doze, groaning as the muscles in her back protested the hard airport chair. She’d been dreaming about him again: the delicious Mr. Valtree. He’d been her English teacher in her last year of high school and her first crush, so yeah, he’d been a big influence in her life, but dreaming about him five years after graduation was just ridiculous. She was twenty-two now! She had two college degrees! She rubbed her eyes. Clearly, the amount of time that passed didn’t matter. The man had made a hell of an impression on her young mind.
You and all the other girls in his class, and probably a few of the boys, too, she thought, amused. He had to be at least in his mid-thirties now. She closed her eyes in an attempt to capture the remnants of her quickly fading dream. He’d been smiling at her, she recalled, warm brown eyes crinkling at the corners. They were somewhere hot, maybe at a tropical island or a resort. He’d had his shirt off, like that one time right before graduation when the air conditioner at school had broken. She’d walked into class early to find him wearing a skin-tight undershirt while eating his lunch. He’d draped his dress-shirt over his chair. Beads of sweat trickled down his hairline.
Kaylee smiled to herself as she abandoned her dream and instead remembered the look of surprise on his face when he realized he was no longer alone. She could still recall with perfect clarity the dusky outline of his nipples beneath the thin fabric. The sexy tendrils of hair under his arms as he stood up. The way he’d left the top button of his pants open, probably so he could quickly and neatly tuck his shirt back in before class. He’d smiled at her then, too. He hadn’t seemed at all bothered that she’d caught him with his pants undone. She’d been mortified and stopped in her tracks, frozen with embarrassment, but he’d taken her entrance in stride.
“Kaylee! You’re a little early,” he’d said, grabbing his shirt and putting it on. He left it open, tantalizing her with glimpses of his chest, but buttoned his pants.
Kaylee had just stared at him, mouth open. She couldn’t move. Couldn’t speak. Just the suggestion of possibly catching a glimpse of his underwear had her flushing from head to toe. His pectoral muscles had flexed in a most amazing fashion as he moved his chair away from his desk. She remembered that had been the day she’d broken her glasses and had to tape them back together at the nose. She’d been trying to grow her hair out of a horrible haircut, and to make matters worse, none of her clothes fit right because her mother didn’t have the money to buy her the right sizes. She’d always worn her sister’s hand-me-downs. Amanda was a lot taller and thinner than Kaylee and her clothes looked terrible on her. No doubt about it, she’d been a nerdy, ugly mess her senior year of high school.
At least now your clothes fit, she mused. You may not be skinny like Amanda, but your curves aren’t hideous. They just seemed that way back then when you were trying to cram double-Ds into your sister’s sweatshirts. Even so, she squirmed on the airport chair, remembering how embarrassed she’d been. How aroused.
Mr. Valtree had been the hottest teacher in the school. All the girls flirted with him, not that he ever responded to any of them. There was never even a hint of impropriety in his manner or dress. He’d been the perfect teacher, the perfect gentleman. He always wore a shirt and tie, almost as if he knew how attractive he was and didn’t want to provoke the girls, yet that day, there he’d stood, half-naked right in front of her. She hadn’t known what to do with herself, so she’d just stood there, wringing her hands like an idiot.
You wouldn’t know what to do with him now, either, she told herself, suddenly irritated. She’d never had a boyfriend. The few dates she’d been on had been unmitigated disasters. You may be a college graduate, but you’re still an introverted nerd. A virgin. She frowned, angry at herself for thinking about it. She’d been trying to act more confident lately. She had a job all lined up in New York, for God’s sake. She was an adult now. So what if you’ve never had sex? That’s doesn’t mean anything, not really.She slumped down further, trying not to remember what had happened next, but the images ran through her mind anyway. Ugh. Remembering the rest of that particular day was never pleasant.
“Kaylee?” Mr. Valtree had asked gently. He’d always been super-nice to her for some reason. When the other kids made fun of her presentations, he’d praised her creativity. When she’d frozen up during the class discussions, he’d always made certain to wait for her to speak, never pressuring her. Not only was he gorgeous, he was also the kindest, most patient man she’d ever met. He’d been her favorite teacher. Her crush on him had assumed epic proportions and clearly hadn’t lessened in the five years since she’d last set eyes on him.
Which doesn’t say a lot about your self-respect, Kaylee, she thought to herself. She sighed, remembering the rest of that encounter, the most horrifying experience of her life to date. It had been even worse than her dates in college. Worse than the time she’d walked out of the girls’ bathroom with toilet paper hanging out of her pants.
“Kaylee? Did you want to talk about your paper? It was excellent,” he’d said. Inexplicably, he’d licked his lips and put his hands in his pockets. Helpless to resist the temptation, Kaylee’s eyes followed the lines of his arms and landed on his groin. What she saw there had her gasping, certain she was about to have an asthma attack, even though she hadn’t needed her inhaler since third grade.
Mr. Valtree has an impressive erection, she remembered thinking, shocked, as she stared at the outline of his cock, clearly visible through his pants. She’d been unable look away and utterly certain he didn’t know she could see his arousal—why else would he have stuffed his hands in his pants? He’d probably been trying to hide it from her. She remembered him tilting his head nonchalantly, waiting for her response as though she couldn’t tell he dressed impressively to the left.
She’d taken one look at his face and run the other direction.
Of course, for her, successfully fleeing the room hadn’t been an option. As she’d whirled around, she’d tripped over her own feet and sprawled on the floor, legs spread. That hadn’t been the worst part, though, oh no. The crowning achievement of her complete and total humiliation had been the sound of something ripping in her crotch. She’d split her pants open right in front of handsome Mr. Valtree. She hadn’t been able to look him in the eyes for the rest of the year, not even when he’d handed her the award for her senior essay at graduation.
Then, as now, though, she couldn’t help wondering: why had he been so aroused in the middle of the day? While eating a sandwich?
Kaylee snorted to herself and opened her eyes. She’d never find out the answer to that question. And she was hungry. She wondered if she had enough time to grab something to eat before she had to board her plane. She rubbed her face tiredly, thensquinted at the display for outgoing flights. She didn’t think hers was scheduled to leave Chicago for a couple hours yet, so she could probably get a sandwich—
“Crap,” she said out loud, sitting up abruptly. The list of numbers across the screen showed Cancelled, Cancelled, Cancelled…
“Just my luck,” she muttered, disgusted, all thoughts of her dream about the gorgeous Mr. Valtree dissipating in a rush. Her plane was grounded. She looked outside. It was nighttime, but there was so much snow on the ground and in the air that the light from the airport reflected through all the white. She could see workers scurrying around the luggage carts, trying to get them to move on the icy tarmac. Even as she watched, one of them skidded and landed face first in a snowdrift. Clearly she wasn’t going anywhere tonight.
The people around her were wearily gathering their luggage, heading for the terminal exit. Kaylee stood up, wondering if would make more sense to stay put, when a voice on the loudspeaker announced that the airport would be closing in one hour due to the winter weather that had deepened into an unexpected blizzard.
Guess I’ll have to get a room at a hotel, she thought, joining the rest of the people making their way to the exit.
An hour later, she stood just outside the terminal doors, shivering and frustrated. There were no rooms available anywhere. She’d called every hotel in the city and they were all booked solid. The airport was shutting down behind her. She had nowhere to go. She didn’t even have winter boots on! She’d just come from sunny California where she’d finished up her last semester of school and all her stuff was packed onto a storage pod on its way to New York. She’d managed to cram in an MBA with her work for a bachelor’s degree in marketing with only a few extra semesters, but her degrees sure as hell wouldn’t help her now. Neither would her thin sweater. She hadn’t been expecting this. Stupid winter weather.
“Well, damn,” she said aloud. The wind snatched at her voice. “Maybe I can catch a cab to a diner? I’m sure I can nurse a coffee for a long time.” It was worth a try, especially since she didn’t have any other options. She waved at a lone taxi driving slowly past the doors, only to stare, utterly dismayed as it ignored her and sped up. She looked through the snow flying in her eyes, trying to see if there were any more coming. She couldn’t see anything but more snow.
She frowned. I’m hearing voices now? I must be colder than I thought, she mused, staring down at her shoes. Her feet were freezing and the snow had wet her slacks to the knee.
“Kaylee Paulson?” a man’s voice penetrated her reverie. “Is that you?”
With a snap of her head, Kaylee looked up. And up. And up some more until warm brown eyes met hers. What the—? Am I hallucinating? she wondered. In front of her stood a man who looked exactly like the Mr. Valtree of her high-school crush: six foot tall, dark-haired, warm-brown eyes, and broad-shouldered, just like she remembered. It was strange that she recalled him so damnably well, enough to imagine him when she was having her very first bout of hypothermia. She frowned, opened her mouth, and then closed it again. Instead of speaking, she reached under her sweater and pinched herself. Hard. Ow.
“What are you doing?” he asked, clearly amused.
“Um,” she said, when he didn’t seem to be disappearing.
“You are Kaylee, right?” he asked again, untucking his scarf from the neck of his black wool coat. It looked warm.
“Mr. Valtree?” she finally managed to ask, half-stupefied, half-disbelieving.
The man who looked exactly like her high school crush nodded.
Impossible, she thought. “I’m definitely hallucinating,” she said out loud. Her head felt fuzzy.
He shifted closer. “How long have you been out here?” he asked, putting a hand on her cheek. His palm was shockingly warm.
She blinked snow off her eyelids. “Mr. Valtree?”
He nodded. “Trust me, you’re not hallucinating.”
“I think I’ve been out here for way too long,” she muttered.
“I think you have too,” he said, and then, weirdly, he took off his coat.
She stared at him, even as the snow fell on his designer suit, ruining the fabric. What was he doing? Hell, scratch that. What was she doing? She needed to call a taxi and get herself somewhere warm. She fumbled with her purse, trying to extract her cell phone. When he dropped his coat over her shoulders, she gasped, finally stunned out of her cold-induced shock.
“Mr. Valtree? What are you doing here?” she asked, shivering violently as the body-heat trapped in his coat penetrated the fog she’d fallen into. “Oh my God, that feels so good.” She clutched the wool closer and looked around. “I was trying to get a taxi.”
“I think they’ve all left,” he said, squinting against the snow. He turned to her. “I’ll give you a ride to your hotel.”
She tried not to stare at him and failed. He looked just as gorgeous as he had back in high school, if not more so. He was still tall, still muscular, and still really nice. His eyes had a few more lines around them and there was a trace of silver at his temples, but those were the only changes she could see. Well, that and the million dollar cufflinks he’s wearing, she thought, eyeing the platinum studs at his wrists. I don’t remember him being particularly wealthy, although there were those rumors about his family… And he has the Valtree name.
She shook her head, dismissing her speculations, even as her eyes roamed over him. “You don’t have to do that, Mr. Valtree.” She attempted a smile, but another shiver wracked her body just as she looked up again.
His brown eyes looked down into hers in concern. “I think I do.”
She pursed her lips, suddenly irked. “I’m not seventeen anymore, Mr. Valtree. I can take care of myself,” she said, just as a dark limo pulled up to the curb. She watched as at the driver got out and waved to her old teacher. “It was nice seeing you, though,” she added, not wanting to be entirely rude. She wondered what he was doing in Chicago.
He shot her an amused glance, then leaned down and picked up her overnight bag. “It’s nice to see you too. You must be done with college by now,” he said as if he hadn’t just shoved her bag into the car.
“What are you doing? That’s my bag…” she trailed off as he shut the trunk.
“Come on,” he said, taking her elbow.
“Hugo,” he interrupted even as he towed her to the curb.
“What?” she asked, slipping on a patch of ice.
He caught her before she could go down. “My name is Hugo.”
She blinked. “Mr. Valtree, I need that bag.”
“You need to get somewhere warm.” He smiled and helped her into the car.
She nearly swallowed her tongue as the sheer beauty of the man hit her all over again, just as she sat down on the soft leather seat of the limo. Five years and he still had the power to turn her into a babbling idiot.
“Where is your hotel?” he asked, climbing in after her and closing the door.
She licked her lips, trying to get her brain to start working. “Um, I don’t have one.”
He frowned at her.
She stared at him. Jesus. He’s just as handsome when he’s frowning. I forgot about that, she thought, surreptitiously pinching herself again. Yup. Awake and cognizant, though the warmth of the car was making her feel drowsy. At least her shivers had stopped. She sank down into the seat. His coat smelled really, really good. He’d definitely invested in some kind of insanely expensive aftershave. She blushed, feeling weird sitting her, wearing the coat of her high school teacher. The teacher she’d mooned over so often she still dreamed about him. This evening had definitely taken an odd turn. And how the hell could he afford a limo like this? The last time she’d checked, English teachers didn’t make that much money. Certainly not enough for a chauffeured car.
“I’ll take you to my hotel. We’ll find you a room there,” he said decisively, rapping on the front seat divider. The vehicle began to move.
Kaylee was going to protest, but then she looked outside again. If anything, it had begun to snow even worse. She sighed and forced herself to sit up straight. The least she could do was act like a grown-up. “Thank you, Mr. Valtree.”
He sighed exasperatedly. “My name is Hugo. I thought I told you that.”
She felt herself flush. “I can’t call you Hugo. You were always Mr. Valtree,” she said, uncomfortable. “The girls’ favorite teacher,” she added impulsively. Inside she wanted to smack herself upside the head. You sound like a twelve-year-old!
He laughed. “You’re not in high school anymore, are you?”
She shook her head, lips pressed together so nothing else stupid could come out of her mouth.
“Well, neither am I,” he added. “Not for years. Every time you call me Mr. Valtree, it reminds me of my father.” A dark expression passed over his face, so fast Kaylee wondered if she’d imagined it. “My name is Hugo.”
She cleared her throat. “Mr. Valtree—”
He glared at her.
“Hugo,” she tried, forcing her lips to move around the sounds of his first name. “Thank you for the ride.”
“That wasn’t so hard, now, was it? It’s not a difficult name to say.” Hugo grinned. “And you’re welcome. For the ride,” he added when she looked at him blankly.
Kaylee was still reeling from the sheer force of his grin. She cleared her throat again, hoping she wasn’t getting sick. “My flight was cancelled.”
He nodded. “Mine too. The weather took a nasty turn. Where were you headed?”
Now’s your chance to act like an intelligent person, she told herself. “New York. I have a job waiting for me in the city. Marketing.”
His eyebrows lifted. “That’s where I work now. I like the city, but sometimes I still miss teaching.”
She glanced around the car. There was a large “V” inscribed in the back of the seat. Suddenly, all the little clues that had been knocking on her skull coalesced into an impossible realization. “Wait,” she muttered. “Valtree…” she trailed off.
Hugo was nodding. “Just so.”
She swallowed, hard. “Valtree Enterprises is huge.”
“Yes.” He didn’t elaborate. He didn’t have to.
“I don’t understand,” she said, trying to put the pieces together. “You taught high school English?”
He ran a hand through his hair, ruffling it. “My father was pretty angry with me for doing that.”
Kaylee traced a finger down the butter-soft leather of her seat. “Your father worked in the company?”
He aimed a sardonic look her way. “He owned the company.” He looked away, the lights from the street illuminating the stark expression on his face. “And then he died.”
Kaylee stopped breathing. She knew what that meant. She’d heard the news when the head of Valtree Enterprises died three years ago, but she’d been way too busy with school to read about it or watch the news. She’d never seen a picture of Herman Valtree’s son, as impossible as that seemed, and now her lack of knowledge had come out of nowhere to bite her in the ass. She blinked, trying to wrap her brain around the information.
Her high school crush, her favorite English teacher, Mr. Hugo Valtree, was the richest man on three continents.