Skin Deep is my latest erotic romance – featured in the Wanna Be Bad Anthology
Skin Deep by Tina Donahue
The best is yet to come…
Turning forty and losing her job in the same week sends Tori into a tailspin. At her lowest point, she meets Jon. He proves there’s more to life than work, and she’s just getting started on the future she deserves.
Tori guzzled coffee at JR’s Java, a local coffeehouse, and checked her smartphone. Out of two thousand LinkedIn contacts, only ten had answered her buoyant emails. None could help her find new and interesting employment opportunities, nor had a single industry friend responded to her thinly veiled appeals.
Being unemployed was worse than having an STD.
Two full days had passed since UniAstro had axed her. She’d sent resumes to every major, midsized, and minor company in the vicinity and called numerous search firms. Her professional background, current certifications, and Stanford degree impressed, until the hiring managers and recruiters learned what year she’d graduated.
Google searches weren’t a miracle. They were a freaking curse. Even if she’d gone the Botox and facelift route, which she wouldn’t, nothing could erase a person’s history on the Net.
Edgy, she brought up attorneys. No matter her severance, she couldn’t sign the insulting separation papers without someone telling her she had no choice.
Loud laughter exploded from behind. Lucky them. They probably had jobs. Possibly her old one. Mark hadn’t fooled her. Eliminating a position was corporate-speak for wanting someone younger,
She scrolled through the area yellow pages.
A leather-and-tobacco fragrance wafted close, mingling with the café’s rich coffee and sweet pastry scents. Someone in black jeans lingered at her table.
Curious, Tori lifted her face.
His easy smile carved a dimple in his left cheek, shadowed with beard. “Doing okay?”
She wasn’t certain how to answer. Kindness shone in his gray eyes fringed with long, dark lashes. Ruggedly handsome, he belonged in an ad for luxury cars or executive services, not here holding a coffee pot. “Ah yeah, I’m fine. Thanks.” She lifted her empty cup for a refill.
Her hand trembled. Not entirely from too much caffeine. He radiated effortless charm, the kind a guy owns when he’s comfortable in his own skin. Whatever life circumstances had reduced him to work as a barista, he didn’t seem to mind. By her guestimate, he was in his early to mid-forties, his thick black hair combed back, faint silver streaks on the temples. An out-of-work actor or model? For some reason, he seemed familiar even though she’d never noticed him here before. Of course, she’d always been glued to her phone or tablet.
He glanced at her jittery fingers. “Sure you want more?”
“Please. Going to be a long night.”
“Boss keeping you busy, huh?”
His rumbling voice soothed more than she should have allowed. He’d folded the sleeves on his black shirt, revealing powerful forearms dusted with dark hair. “I wish.”
“Seriously?” Chuckling, he filled her cup. “You want more work than you already have? You must be some employee.”
“I wish.” Tears filled her eyes. Embarrassed, she blinked them away. She hadn’t cried since her mom died.
“Hey, are you all right?”
“Yeah, no, I don’t know. I will be. It’s nothing. You should get back to work before your boss gets upset.”
“Yo, Jon.” A young woman with lavender hair hurried from behind the counter and joined him. “Travis called. He won’t be in tomorrow. He’s meeting those people you set him up with. What now?”
“Call Amy and Scott. See if they can take his place. Tell them I’ll pay double for the short notice.”
“On it.” She bolted to the register.
Tori’s cheeks warmed. “You’re the boss, right? This is your place.”
“Yep. Jon Randall.” He offered his hand.
His grip was firm yet gentle, exactly as she liked, and pushed everything else from her brain except his warmth and strength. Still, something about him nagged. “Tori Samms.”
“Nice to meet you, Tori. From UniAstro, right?”
Not any longer. Her fingers went limp.
Uncertainty crossed his features. He released her. “Maybe I should explain. I’ve seen you there when I visited your bosses and the board.”
Everything fell into place: how familiar he seemed, him starring in a magazine ad…or a news article. He was a top venture capital attorney who helped snotnose kids get their IPOs. Many of those public offerings represented billions in investments. “Oh my god, what happened to you?”
Tori waved her hands. “Sorry, I didn’t mean that the way it sounded.” Although the patrons nearby weren’t watching them, she leaned close so no one would overhear. “Why aren’t you at your law firm? Did they…?” She couldn’t finish.
“Fire me?” He sank into the chair next to hers. “I left gladly. Truth is I couldn’t wait to get out.”
“You like this better?”
“My coffee isn’t good? My pastries suck?” He gave her a wounded look then winked.
Heat rolled through her, enticing and dangerous, wanted and feared. Romantically speaking, she’d never been good with men. Work had consumed her life and then the job went poof. “Starbucks could learn a lot from you. You actually develop the brews and sweets here?”
“It’s fun.” He leaned back and rested his hands on his flat belly. “What about you? Those turds you work for giving you a hard time on a project?”
Ashamed at her circumstances, she wanted to lie but couldn’t. News got around fast in the tech world. “They let me go this week.”
Empathy, rather than surprise, flashed across his face. “I’m sorry. Dotcoms can be cruel.”
Especially for anyone over thirty-five, in particular a woman. She’d lasted longer than many. “Yeah, they are. Speaking of which, I need an attorney to look at my separation papers before I sign them. Can you recommend someone who’s not too expensive? I do have savings and I’m scouting other positions, but I don’t know when I’ll be back to work. Don’t want to waste funds I might not have.”
“I’m not a labor attorney, but I’d be happy to read them for you.”
“I couldn’t impose like that.”
“Like what? I’m not doing anything now.” He held out his arms and unwittingly struck a pose that would have done GQ proud. Tall, muscular and lean, bronzed, relaxed, king of his world. A man who easily drew women to him.
Her nipples tightened. Warmth settled between her legs. She tried to shake off her emotions, but couldn’t.
Why some mature women craved younger men mystified her. Those guys made Tori feel even older and bored her beyond endurance. The ones at work claimed to know everything and understood zip. Most couldn’t string together two sentences and produce a coherent thought. They avoided conversation and tenderness, rather than encouraged it. Despite their legendary stamina in bed, making love wasn’t something they understood or cared about. Their cars and toys got better treatment than their girlfriends did.
She bet Jon knew exactly what to do between a woman’s legs.