Two colleagues. One conference. No strings attached?
Two people who’ve been burned by past lovers settle for a conference fling while secretly wanting more.
Jules lives in her comfort zone. Years ago, taking a risk left her dumped and heartbroken, and now the status quo is her safe space. It’s not so bad. She lives with two awesome friends, has a manageable crush on Cameron, a colleague she’s never met in person, and her job … well, she used to love her IT job at a publishing company. Now it feels like ticking a box. So when she’s asked at the last minute to attend a conference, she figures it could be the thing she needs to reinspire her. And then she finds out Cameron is coming too.
Cameron left his last workplace abruptly after a break-up gone wrong. In a new city and a new team, he’s content to keep everyone at arm’s length so there’s no chance of the past repeating. Except for one person in the IT department who always answers his calls for help, and shares his humour and taste in music. But they’ve never met face-to-face, so it doesn’t count. Until they get sent to a conference together and suddenly, Cameron realises it does count. A lot.
Thrown together away from the office and their colleagues, Jules and Cameron decide to have a conference fling. It’s risk-free and has a guaranteed amicable ending. But emotions are never predictable …
‘Four Night Stand is a great read – flirtatious fun becoming hot and spicy and layered with deep, emotional vulnerability.’ – USA Today bestselling author Alyssa J. Montgomery
Jules: Think I’m getting busted for reading a novel at my desk.
Cat: Reading what?
Jules: That erotica Tori was raving about.
Cat: What makes you think you’ve been busted?
Jules: I’ve been summoned to Patricia’s office.
Jules: Do you think I’ll have to do a course about work appropriate activities? I probably should. Bet she’s with HR.
Cat: Deep breath. I just saw her on level 4 with Jonathan. She’s probably running late.
Tori: Or they’re preparing your termination notice?
Jules: Don’t joke about that!
Tori: It’d save you having to make the choice…?
Tori: Jokes. They’d never fire you. The IT team would fall apart without you.
Jules: Oh! Think that’s her. I’ll catch you up later.
Jules pops her phone down and folds her sweating hands on her lap, looking around Patricia’s office. Just because she was caught reading a workplace erotica at work, doesn’t mean she has to feel embarrassed. Which she’s not. She’s aware work isn’t the best place for it, but lately, her job hasn’t been holding her attention, even with the extra responsibility of covering her boss’s role while she’s on maternity leave. And the numerous daily phone calls from people in this company with an ‘urgent’ tech issue that has to be fixed ‘ASAP’ because they have ‘deadlines’ only add more stress to her doubled workload. They don’t provide enough of a challenge to alleviate her boredom, hence the ill-advised stress-relief reading material.
Patricia’s cloying perfume signals her arrival a second before she enters. Jules straightens and watches the door as her boss’s boss slides into the room, still graceful in heels in her seventh decade.
‘Julianne. Sorry to keep you waiting,’ she says with her Irish lilt, dropping a stack of books on her desk before sorting them onto the shelving behind her. ‘I was in a meeting with Jonathan and getting anything succinct out of him is like asking my grandkids about their day. I do not need to hear what time you woke up and what you had for breakfast. Bless them.’
Patricia sits behind her desk and readjusts her cat-eye frames on her face. ‘No doubt you’re wondering why you’re here.’
Jules swallows. ‘I have some idea.’
‘Samantha spoke to you, did she?’ Patricia asks.
‘You’re all good to cover her, I assume. I would have expected to hear from Samantha before now if that weren’t the case.’
‘Yes?’ Jules’s shoulders creep towards her ears. She hasn’t spoken to Samantha since she left for maternity leave a few months ago, but it seems like the right answer.
‘Perfect. It’s a week-long conference. Everything has been booked already.’ Patricia rifles through her filing cabinet as she talks.
Jules blinks. ‘Conference?’
‘The Australasian Publishers Conference. Down in Sydney. You’ll be going to represent Infinity Press.’ Patricia pulls out a lime green folder and passes it over. Jules stares at it for a second before taking it. ‘That’s a full itinerary for you. Have a look through and if you’ve got questions, email Lindsay and she’ll help you out.’
Jules opens the folder. There are dozens of printouts. She skims the top sheet, trying to absorb the information, then flips the page and reads the next header. ‘Hang on.’ She lifts her gaze to Patricia. ‘This is next week?’
‘Yes. Samantha did mention that, didn’t she?’
‘Uh … Yes. Of course,’ Jules says, not wanting to be caught in a lie. Besides, this is all much better than what she thought she was summoned for.
She flips through pages until she finds the conference program, running her gaze down the list of presentations. This might be the exact thing she needs to reinspire her sagging motivation.
‘Perfect. Lindsay will update everything with your details,’ Patricia says, assuming Jules is onboard though she’s said nothing to confirm that. Jules has always admired Patricia’s full steam–ahead attitude but this is the first time she’s the one getting steamrolled by it. ‘You’ll be going with our new marketing expert. Joined us about a year ago from Cable and is finally making some decent digital progression with the company.’
A knock sounds from behind Jules.
‘Ah. Just in time.’ Patricia readjusts her glasses. ‘Come in.’
Jules swivels to watch a man enter the room. She can’t help her appreciative once-over. He’s got the look of someone in marketing, that put-together beauty which belongs in magazines. Not that his navy slacks and loose white polo shirt are especially magazine-worthy. He’s got the light brown eyes and dark brown hair combo that Jules loves, though, and a strong jaw graced with stubble that would feel amazing between her legs.
Jules’s eyes widen and she lifts her gaze over his shoulder, feeling her palms tingle. Wow. Where did that come from?
She stands and tries to keep her smile polite and not sleazy when his focus shifts to her.
He extends his hand and Jules does not think any inappropriate thoughts about how thick his fingers are. ‘Hi. I’m Cameron. Nice to meet you.’
Jules’s legs tremble and her smile slips. Oh dear lord. She knows that voice. She’s fantasised about that voice.
At least once a week, often more, she’s been getting a call from someone in the marketing department wanting help with their image archiving system. Someone with a beautiful voice and a rare patience and politeness that had her eager to keep him on the line instead of hanging up to get back to her own work.
Apparently, that call has been coming from Mr Stubble-and-Caramel-eyes.
Holy shit. Tori and Cat are going to flip when she tells them she’s finally seen Cameron in the flesh. His company profile doesn’t have an ID picture, so they’ve been trying to convince her to find his desk for months, but Jules has held firm in avoiding where marketing sits. They tease her about having a crush on a disembodied voice but by god it’s a voice. Deep, but not smooth deep, it’s got some grit to it. Their phone calls have become the best parts in her monotonous weeks.
His hand still hovers in front of her and Jules is a little eager when she grips it. ‘Nice to meet you too. I’m Julianne.’
There’s only one guest chair in Patricia’s office so Cameron stays upright and gestures Jules back into the seat.
Jules shifts in place, fixing her gaze determinedly on Patricia’s face as she talks. A little bit of harmless fantasy about a co-worker who was just a voice on the phone is one thing. Now, she has a visual and is going to be spending a week in Cameron’s company.
Jules’s fingers twitch around the folder in her lap, her thoughts skittering to the possibilities of next week, until something Patricia says brings her back.
‘I have to make a speech?’ Jules checks she heard correctly.
‘Yes,’ Patricia says. ‘Samantha was going to be presenting about the e-commerce system the company developed. You’ll be fine to cover.’
It’s not a question. Jules swallows roughly. ‘I can handle it,’ she assures Patricia. ‘I co-developed the site with her.’
‘Julianne.’ The way Cameron spaces her name out makes Jules’s stomach wobble. Plus he’s looking at her with questioning eyes, which only adds to her wobbling stomach situation. ‘You’re the one who keeps helping me out with the image archive, aren’t you?’
‘That’s me.’ She lets out a relieved sigh. ‘I normally go by Jules.’
‘Jules, of course,’ Cameron nods, smiling now he’s placed her. ‘Can’t believe I didn’t pick it from your voice. I think I speak to you more than some of my team members.’
Jules lets out a breathy laugh that barely resembles her normal laugh. In her defence, Cameron’s eyes are really beautiful up close and he’s staring right at her from less than a metre away. Cameron. In the flesh. Close enough to touch.
‘I hope that’s a good thing?’ She bites her lip. That came out far too sincere.
Thankfully, Cameron’s still smiling when he answers, pressing the button to call the lift as he does. ‘I don’t mind. I do feel bad for taking up so much of your time, though.’
‘Don’t be. I enjoy our calls.’
She wants to take the words back as soon as they’re out, especially when Cameron turns his head and his caramel eyes fix steadily on her flushed face.
He holds her gaze for an electric three seconds before simply saying, ‘Me too.’
Jules breathes out slowly, hearing something else in his tone besides polite congeniality. Imagining something else in his tone. She’s gotten so good at conjuring it in her mind these last few months that her fantasy is bleeding into reality. That’s what she gets for fantasising regularly about his voice.
Her phone vibrates in her hand, and she glances at the screen to see new messages from Tori in the group chat.
‘So,’ Cameron says. ‘I’ll pick you up from here on Monday, or is your place better?’
Jules nearly drops her phone, then fumbles so badly to catch it she does drop it, along with the folder of conference documents. The excursion to pick them up brings her face where it ought not to be at work – crotch level. Then Cameron drops down to help her and it’s even worse because his face is right there.
She shoves the papers back into the folder, accepting some from Cameron, and quickly rights herself.
‘Your place or here?’ he repeats.
Jules’s cheeks heat. She’s imagined Cameron asking that in any number of scenarios. The real thing has her sweating in a less fun way. ‘For?’
‘The conference. The company hired a car for the two of us to drive to Sydney.’
Jules nods slowly. ‘Right. The two of us.’ Alone. In a small space together. For hours.
Jules’s insides goop all over the place. It’s tempting to say her house for no other reason than he’d be at her house. But also, then he’d see her place and she’s not sure that’s wise considering Tori and Cat also live there and would turn the simple event into an Event complete with spying at the windows and maybe wolf-whistling.
Away from Patricia’s office, she can smell him for the first time, which sounds strange, but when you’ve been fantasising about a voice and suddenly the other senses get to come out and play, they go overboard. He smells like coffee and something floral. Jasmine? Rose? She’s never been good with plant stuff. The house plants in her share house aren’t alive because of her. Maybe if she shuffles closer, she can pick what it is.
Her body trembles hearing her name in his mouth unfiltered through a phone line. ‘Here would be great.’
‘I’ll meet you in the foyer at 7 am Monday then.’
‘Okay,’ Jules says faintly, so busy gaping like a codfish at the early departure time she misses the chance to check out his ass when he steps into the lift ahead of her.
On sale 1st of March 2024