Friday, 5 May 2017

Sneak Peek: His Laughing Girl - a BBW-Billionaire romance by Ellen Whyte

I'm off to see my mum for three weeks. Back on 1 June. 

His Laughing Girl
A BBW Billionaire Romance
By Ellen Whyte
31,000 Words

Pre-Order Price 99 cents 
Regular Price $2.99
Release Day 15 June 2017

On Amazon USA
On Amazon UK

I've written a second story, and will be releasing it on Amazon only to start with. If you're not in a kindle country, email me and we can sort something out.

Chapter One: Sophie

     “What have you got in here? Bricks?” Ali was moaning theatrically as he heaved my packing cases onto six trolleys. “These weigh a tonne!”
     “I’ve got everything but the kitchen sink.” I was ticking off items on my list. “That’s all the boxes. Now for the bags.”
     “You know they have shops out of London, right?”
     “Sure, but I’m not going to get truffle oil in the village shop, am I? Or mentsuyu!”
     “What on earth is mentsuyu?” Ali asked.
     “It’s that Japanese noodle sauce you like.”
     “Oh, right. Think they’ll be lusting for it in the wilds of northern England?”
     “The client is entertaining. There’s a Japanese guest and two Russians, so I raided Fortnum and Mason for gourmet treats.”
     “Sounds wild.” Ali examined a suitcase, pink polka-dotted leather. It’s gaudy and I love it, but it’s practical, too, because my stuff is recognisable a mile away. That means it’s less likely to go missing or be picked up in error by a stranger. Ali, though, was looking a bit poleaxed by the sea of flashing polka dots. “And this? The one with wheels?”
     “My frying pans and my Thermomix.”
     “Weren’t joking about the kitchen sink, were you?” Ali grinned. “We’ll need another trolley.”
     I’m a caterer, you see. I trained at Cordon Bleu, then did stints at Maxim’s in Paris and the Dorchester in London, and then I set up on my own. I don’t have a restaurant; I do parties.
     Some of my clients have lovely homes, but there are also overseas people who rent. That’s why I deliver a complete package. Hire me, and I’ll cook, plate, serve, and do the dishes, too, leaving you to chat, dance, or otherwise entertain your guests.
     I also do house parties, especially in the shooting season when all the smart set leave their cosy town flats for their ancestral halls. Most of those have been renovated upstairs, but the kitchen is usually a Tudor or Victorian dungeon, and there’s barely an unchipped plate in the place.
     As you might imagine, I need a lot of kit. My gear is packed in eight custom-built packing cases and four suitcases, all numbered, labelled, and weighing a tonne. Honestly, the British army going on manoeuvres takes less gear than I do.
     Any other man would’ve made a big production out of it, but Ali is the best concierge in London. That why I’d begged him to let me hire him. What would have taken me three hours and a nervous breakdown to shift from the van to the train took a happily smiling Ali twenty minutes.
     Now he simply murmured at one of his mates, and a second later an extra trolley whisked up. “All done, except for that pink satchel!”
     “That’s coming with me!” I clutched it quickly. “That’s my knives!”
     “They’ll confiscate those if they see them,” Ali predicted.
     “Out of my cold, dead hands!” I quoted.
     I was kidding, but at the same time I was quite serious about guarding them. Ask any chef, and you’ll get the same response. I could bear to lose the truffle oil, the chanterelle mushrooms, the mentsuyu, or even my mandoline for julienne veg, but my knives are my most precious possessions.
     “I think we’re done.” Ali finished stacking the trolleys and gazed at the leftover soft bag. Unlike my pink work gear, my carry-on is a basic blue, patterned in cats and kittens. “Hang on. What’s in that?”
     “Oops, let’s not forget that! That’s my clothes! I can’t go around starkers, now can I? Not with Jamie Oliver already claiming The Naked Chef!”
     Ali burst out laughing. “You’re a nut, you know that, don’t you, Sophie?”
     “And lovable with it!”
     We went up to the train in fine procession, eight porters for goodness’ sake, so I was feeling like royalty. Ali and his boys whisked all my gear on board, and then he saw me to my carriage. Personally. Isn’t that sweet?
     “First class,” Ali approved. “Very posh.”
     “The client’s paying. Isn’t that nice? Usually I travel cattle class!”
     There were four large leather seats facing each other. A Barbie blonde, dressed in a blue business suit with a super short skirt showing off endless legs lounged in one of them. She looked up, looked me over and smiled. Not a nice smile but a smug one. That happens to me all the time.
     I’m a chef and it shows. I’ve got more curves than an F1 track. I like my body, but superior looks and fat-shaming are part of my everyday experience. It gets to me sometimes, but I usually shrug it off. After all, I have a great life: a job I love, success, and freedom.
     This particular job was a coup, too. You see, I was recommended by the Duchess of Weir. When her own chef broke his arm last Christmas, I stepped in and did a dinner for her. The guests of honour were Will and Kate, the two most popular royals, and as it went well, she was singing my praises.
     The sweetheart got me some lovely work, including this delicious job. A billionaire had hired Basildon Hall, one of her estates up in Chester, and as the chef there was off on his annual holiday, I’d been hired for a whole month.
     It would be hard work, but it would net me a fortune. So when the Barbie doll’s blue eyes and pursed mouth signalled contempt, I smiled.  Extra wide, just to annoy her. Because I am a happy person, but I can also be a bit of a bitch.
     Seeing my grin, Barbie pouted and looked away.
     “Who’re you working for this time?” Ali was stuffing my bag into the overhead bin. “Someone rich and shameless?”
     “Richard Cummings.”
     Ali shrugged. “Never heard of him.”
     “I think he’s a scientist,” I was digging through my handbag, looking for the envelope I’d stashed there.
     “Don’t you know?” Ali asked.
     “He and his team were in the US, so it was all done over email by one of his staff.” 
     “Well, it’s probably okay, but I like to know who I work for.”
     I’d only asked about the food, because that’s my passion, but I could see Ali was a little worried. I wracked my brains, trying to remember what I’d been told about Richard Cummings. “His PA said he’s in AI—that’s artificial insemination, right?”
     “Is it?” Ali was fascinated. “Like fertility clinics?”
     “Maybe he works at a posh private hospital or something, but it might be cows or pigs.” Yes, I’m a twit, I admit it. “Whatever he’s inseminating, he must be coining it, because he’s hired Basildon Hall, a smashing country estate in Chester, and me, for a whole month!”
     Ali was laughing. “And his name is Richard Cummings, as in Dick Cumming? Classic!”
     “Lord, it does sound unfortunate, doesn’t it?” I finally found the envelope, in a side pocket, of course. I half noticed the blonde glaring, but it didn’t register properly because I was hugging Ali. “Here’s the fee, love. With a tip.”
     “Aw, you didn’t need to!” He’s nice, Ali. Always generous to the bone, too.
     “I know you gave me a massive discount. Thanks. Really, you’re the best.”
     “Best of the best, that’s me.” He gave me a smacking kiss and then he was off singing, ‘T’was on the Good Ship Venus’ and giving extra volume to the bit about, “There’s frigging on the rigging; Wanking on the planking, Tossing on the crossing!”
     “Well, really!” The blonde was fuming. Her exquisitely tailored suit quivered with annoyance. “How rude,” she snapped.
     I took in the pretty face and swallowed my irritation. People these days are too damn touchy for my taste. Still, on a four-hour trip from London to Chester, I decided to be diplomatic.
     “He didn’t mean anything,” I told her. “He’s a sweetheart really.”
     “AI stands for artificial intelligence!”
     “Does it?” I had to laugh. “Oh my god! Computers not cows, right?”
     “Robots! Cutting-edge technology!”
     Then it twigged. “Oh, was it you who phoned to make the booking? You’re the PA, Andrea Gould?”
     “Yes! And Richard is one of our foremost robotics experts.”
     “Is he? That’s nice.” She was clearly deeply invested in her boss. “I like nerds.”
     “Excuse me.” He was tall, broad-shouldered, blond, grey-eyed and knicker-dampeningly handsome. “I think that’s my seat in the corner.”
     Oh yummy! I was drinking him in. Big grey eyes, lengthening as he smiled, good bones, nice, wide, kissable mouth, and a grin that was infectiously happy. “I’m Sophie.”
     That’s an advantage of having curves. When you’re skinny and glamorous like Ms Barbie, you play games. Like pretending you’re too cool to be interested. Me, I don’t have men drooling over me, so when I see one I like, I have to say so. And quick, too, before they’re distracted by a predatory size eight.
     “Sophie who likes nerds.” He was laughing, and I was thinking of kissing him right there and then. He looked good and he smelled like heaven, a light grassy aftershave. Clean and fresh, like meadows after the rain.
     I batted my eyes and flirted shamelessly. “I adore clever men, and nerds are usually sensitive, too. What’s not to like, right? But let’s not talk about them; let’s talk about you!”
     “Richard,” Barbie was quacking with outrage. “Your seat is here, next to me. I got you the FT, and we have reservations for breakfast.”
     So that’s why she’d been so touchy. She’d already claimed my handsome hunk. Clearly this was Richard Cummings, the tech billionaire. Oh well, that’s life, right? At least I would have something pretty to look at over the four-hour train trip and for that month in the country.
     But Barbie was striking out.
     “But didn’t you hear?” The dreamboat looked down into my eyes. “As Sophie has the rare taste to like nerds, I should strike while the iron’s hot.”
     I was already giggling. “You’re Richard Cummings?”
     “I am.” He was sitting down next to me. “And you’ve met Andrea Gould, my PA.”
     He was lovely, handsome and with nice manners. This was getting better and better, so I smiled at him. “Gosh, what a way to make a first impression! You didn’t hear me say I thought AI was artificial insemination, did you?”
     Richard exploded with laughter. “Ohmigod, that’s a good one! No, I didn’t!”
     “I don’t think it’s funny,” Andrea sulked. “Richard is famous! Everybody knows him.”
     “I’m just a caterer, love. I don’t read the FT. I watch the Food Channel.”
     “I hear you’re a brilliant chef,” Richard remarked.
     “Really?” I’m super invested in my food, so any compliment goes straight to my heart. I could feel myself blush pinker than my polka-dotted bags. “Oh, how sweet!”
     “The Duchess of Weir told me you’re the best chef in London. You worked at the Dorchester, and you do house parties for Elton John and dinners for Ricky Gervais.”
     See? Told you I was successful! “And now I’m working for you,” I flirted on. “Anything special you want? Something sweet, maybe?”
     He grinned appreciatively as I batted my eyes suggestively but he said seriously, “Did Andrea tell you we have rather a mixed bag of guests?”
     “Sure! I can offer classics like tempura and sukiyaki, and I’ve brought all the spices I need for formal and informal Japanese cuisine. As for your Russians, I’m ace at making borscht, shashlik, blinis and golubtsy, too.”
     “Oh good!” Richard breathed a sigh of relief. “Give them whatever they want, okay? My chopper is at Heathrow, waiting for Tanaka. If you need to courier something from London, just tell Andrea, and she’ll arrange for it to be picked up.”
     “Will do!”
     Shopping by chopper isn’t new for me. I had a Saudi prince who sent off to New York for bagels and a Chinese business tycoon who insisted in flying in dim sum from his favourite street stall in Hong Kong. When you have tonnes of cash, you don’t think about these things.
     Richard hadn’t been boasting, though. Clearly the tech tycoon was nervous. This house party was important to him, and from the vibes he was giving off, he wasn’t totally confident that he had it in the bag. I’d have cuddled him in a heartbeat, you know, to give him comfort, and perhaps to cop a feel, but at that point the horn blasted, and we began to move.
     “I have some correspondence you need to see.” Andrea was determined to monopolise Richard. I was tempted for a minute to flirt on, but my business sense kicked in. These were my clients, and so I had to keep them sweet, including sulky Ms Barbie.
     I picked up my newspaper, the Daily Mail, because I love gossip over serious Financial Times pieces any day, and I settled down to read. It was just as well that Richard was engrossed in paperwork because there was a double-page spread on him.
     ‘The End of the Party’ was the headline, ‘Tech Tycoon Splits from Glamour Girl’, and they went to town on all the gory details. Although it’s a bit of a rag, they are good at digging. In just a few hundred words they covered ten years of history, and it wasn’t good reading.
     Barbie had been right: Richard Curtis was a big wheel in the tech world. Inventing some little doodad at age seventeen that made rockets fly higher and faster, he’d become a millionaire overnight. Another innovation, a toy car with a computer system that learned, earned him more millions when driverless carmakers bought into it.
     Rich from young, Richard had worked hard and partied harder. There were snaps of him with models, film stars, and the rich and famous from Kim Kardashian to Cara Delevingne.
     Everyone thought he’d settled down six months before when he started going steady with Celine Claude, a hot fashion model. But it hadn’t been a Happily Forever After. From her side—a tearful inset titled ‘Crushed and Discarded’—he’d swept her off her feet, become instantly bored, and it had gone downhill from there.
     Ex-girlfriends might be bitter, and glamour girls are often more interested in publicity than truth, but apart from Celine Claude, there were half a dozen others, all claiming to have had their hearts broken.
     So much for a nice, sensitive, intelligent bloke; Richard Cummings was a player. A hard-hearted one, too, by the looks of it. Shame, right? I’m all for enjoying good-looking men but I’m not the kind of idiot who lets herself be taken down the garden path.
     I looked at the gorgeousness sitting next to me and sighed. Richard Cummings was trouble, plain and simple, and I’d better stay well away from him.
     “We’re off to breakfast.” Richard was smiling at me, his grey eyes sparkling with fun. “Want to come, Sophie?”
     Okay, that wasn’t the plan. So much for staying away from trouble, right? But as Andrea glared and Richard fussed, helping me out of my seat and handing me my bag, I caught a whiff of that clean scent again. It bypassed my heart and went straight downstairs, starting a pleasant pounding.
     I love to flirt, don’t get me wrong, but that kind of reaction isn’t me. It caught me totally by surprise. So much so that I was standing there, gawping at him like a total fool, when Andrea’s cell rang. “It’s the Guardian,” she hissed. “They want to know about the new patent we registered. But it’s the girl from the gossip page, not the tech editor.”
     “Excellent,” Richard was expansive. “You deal with it, Andrea. Give her the press release and fob her off on everything else.”
     Andrea nodded. “Rebuff and redirect. Got it.”
     She was clearly super capable, and I could see why Richard liked her. But he was abandoning her and cornering me! “Sophie and I will go ahead. I’ll order your tea and fruit for you.”
     At that, Andrea actually growled at me, which was rather nice. Ignoring her petulant frown, Richard took my arm companionably and began walking me down to the dining carriage. “I was thinking this week was going to be complete hell, Sophie. I’m so glad you’re going to be there.” The grey eyes were warm. “At least you and I will have a bit of fun.”
     He wanted to have fun. With me. “We’re going to have a blast,” I heard myself say. “Trust me!”
     Breakfast wouldn’t lay me open to more than pleasant chat, I told myself. It wasn’t like we would be joining the Mile-High Club or whatever the railway equivalent was.
     “They’ve got eggs Benedict and a sausage platter. Do you like eggs and sausages, Sophie?” Richard was walking right behind me, leaning down a little so his lips were near my ear. The feel of his breath warming my neck was giving me thrills.
     “I eat everything!” I squeaked. “And there’s nothing like a hot sausage, is there?”
     “Quite,” he chuckled. And the thrills from that dirty laugh went straight from my ear to my nipples.
     It didn’t mean a thing, I reminded myself. My ears are sensitive. Even a blow dryer can give me shivers. It’s purely a physical thing. An involuntary reaction. Totally impersonal.
     I’d just focus on business. Virgin had announced a new menu based on responsible British farming, a move that I wanted to check out. Also, it’s good to hobnob with clients. Word of mouth is how I get my clients, and with Richard Cummings knowing everyone in the model world, he’d be a good contact.
     The train swayed, and Richard’s arm curled around my shoulders protectively. “Promise you’ll not abandon me,” he murmured. “Andrea is a clean-eating vegetarian.”
     “Sounds hell.”
     “Exactly,” Richard chuckled. “I want real food, and with you backing me up, I won’t feel guilty.”
     I remembered Andrea’s disapproving frown and knew I’d enjoy teasing her. “Partners in crime,” I told him.
     “To being wicked.” His grey eyes were laughing at me. “Together.”
     The pleasant thumping in my knickers became a vigorous pounding. Richard Cummings was gorgeous. I could feel his charm wrapping around me like a warm blanket.
     Irresistible, right? I heard myself quip, “Are you Cumming onto me?”
     He bounced right back, “Absolutely.”
     Oh well, I told myself. It’s just a flirt fest. I have those all the time, and it hardly ever comes to anything. Because of the curves, probably. Men like me, but after we’ve had a laugh, they go to bed with someone skinny.
     This was no different. I’d have a giggle with Richard, enjoy the charm and the good looks, lust after him a little bit, and know it was purely a game. Because tech billionaires with a penchant for A-list models don’t fall for curvy caterers.
     “How about we have some Buck’s Fizz with that eggs Benedict,” Richard suggested as he settled me into a seat. He really had lovely manners. “I’m in a party mood.”
     I took in the kissable mouth and the slanting cheekbones. “Sounds terrific,” I heard myself say. “There’s nothing as decadent as champagne for breakfast!”
     Yes, yes, I know! But you only live once, right? And anyway, it was just a bit of flirting. What could possibly go wrong? 

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