My next book, Best Intention is due out in September 2008. Below, for Coffee Thoughts readers, is the first ever excerpt. I don’t even have it up on my website yet. But I couldn’t resist! Enjoy…

Best Intention – blurb

When details of Sunberri’s latest computer game are leaked onto the internet, the company is in real danger of going bankrupt, taking with it the fortune of Zani Best’s family. Persuaded to leave her settled life, she’s goes undercover as a PA to discover who the culprit is. Top of her list is Corbin de Villers, her new boss. Sparks fly between them and Corbin, who is conducting his own investigation into the leaks, soon realises that his secretary is not all that she says.

Events spin rapidly out of their control. Everything that Zani considers secure and ordinary begins to unravel, and she just can’t shake the feeling that someone is watching her. As she stands beside her father’s hospital bed she discovers her brother has disappeared, leaving behind a very pregnant girlfriend. Her dream client has suddenly become obsessed with tea and a trip to Finland has disastrous consequences.

Available 23 September 2008.

Best Intention – excerpt

Sheltering in the lee of the bell tower, Zani Best stared up at the imposing Edes House, and tossed up whether suicide would be an easier option than going inside. It probably would. If she chose a painless, non-messy version. A bus roared past, charging up North Street towards the Market Cross. She almost managed a smile at the irony.

Cyanide perhaps? Strychnine? She glanced around, at the grey council chambers across the road, and then the huge cathedral that loomed behind her. Little chance of finding cyanide around here.

A movement in the shadowy cathedral porch, made her hesitate and look more closely. She peered towards it, shivering a little, trying to make out the dark figure she thought she’d seen. The light rain had misted her glasses, and she pulled them off, squinting uneasily as she polished them dry on a corner of her scarf. The porch was empty when she put them back on. Must have been the ghost.

The wind gusted, and a cold drip from the roof of the bell tower landed on her head. She couldn’t stand there forever. She had a choice. Go inside, face Corbin de Villiers, lie, spy, do everything required to find out if he’d begun to stealthily orchestrate a management buyout. Or, she could leave, go back to her own warm, safe office at the marina, and seal her father’s fate.

She glanced up at the building again and shivered. Her father’s voice echoed, “Please Zani, I could lose everything. We need you darling.”

A tight ball of guilt lodged in her throat. She didn’t have a choice at all. She never had. Suddenly impatient, she hurried into the building.

“Just go on up, two flights of stairs then first on your right,” pointed Sunberri’s cheery receptionist. “He’s expecting you. Don’t take the lift, it’ll be hours,” a local girl, with the soft Sussex accent, hours sounded like aaaahs. “Good luck,” she added, with a grin.

Zani climbed the stairs slowly, her legs felt like lead. Each step took her closer to Corbin de Villiers. Closer to the man who could ruin her family. Anger at his transparent greed warred with fear. What if he succeeds? She couldn’t bear to think about it

“Hello,” she called in a wavering voice, when she arrived at the first on her right. She cleared her throat, and peered anxiously into the empty office, taking a couple of hesitant steps through the door.

Papers rustled and there was movement through a doorway on the opposite side of the room.

“You’re nearly four hours late,” he strode in frowning. “And then you go and waste even more time hanging about outside.” His French accent made the words sound clipped and arrogant.

“What?” stuttered Zani. “I’m sorry, I…” She scrambled to come up with an apology, twisting the end of her scarf around her fingers.

“Still, I suppose you’re here now, and that’s better than nothing,” he continued. “Do you suppose you’ll be as useless as the last temp I had?”

Zani knew one thing for sure. She’d make the last temp, no matter how woeful, look like an administration angel.

“Only if she spat in your coffee,” she said.

She tried not to enjoy the startled silence. She unwound her fingers from her scarf and settled her bag more firmly on her shoulder.

“I beg your pardon,” he said, dripping incredulity.

“I said, only if she spat in your coffee. It was a joke.”

She’d seen a couple of blurry photos of him in the tabloids, but they hadn’t done justice to the black smudges under his eyes, and his grey face. He looked awful.

“I don’t appreciate your sense of humour,” he said.

“That’s probably because you’ve got a cold.” She smiled sweetly at him.

“Somehow I doubt that, and I’m not sick.”

“You look sick, your eyes are all bloodshot and our nose is red,” she said with some satisfaction. It wasn’t every day you got to tell local-most-eligible-bachelor he looked awful. Though despite the cold his wavy chocolate hair and crystal blue eyes made an enticing combination. She’d imagined him to be shorter, more evil looking. Piggy greedy eyes or a hunch or something. “You should take something for it.”

His frown became even more forbidding and there was another silence. She might have gone a little far. She needed to say the right things, wheedle her way in, and find out the truth. Not pick fights with Mr High and Mighty Computer Games CEO.

“Look, here,” she dug about in her handbag and produced a crumpled foil packet of paracetamol. “Take two of these, they’ll make you feel better.”

His forbidding expression didn’t budge. “Thank you but no, I don’t believe in drugs. When I’m sick I believe in letting my immune system fight the infection,” he said.

“What, your body a temple is it?” she said, snorting in amusement at the thought.

“What temp agency did you say you came from again?” He asked the question mildly, but the threat was crystal clear. Zani twisted her fingers in her scarf again, she hadn’t come from a temp agency. Her brother Paul, Sunberri’s Chief Financial Officer, had hurried her into the role, telling the head of Human Resources she was his stockbroker’s niece. Obviously nobody had told Mr de Villiers.

She wasn’t sure what to say. Suddenly everything seemed to be a tangled web of lies. She hated lies. For the first time she realised exactly how tenuous her position really was. De Villiers gaze dropped to her hands and the twisted scarf.

“Is this my desk?” she asked, pointing with the end of her scarf and pinning on her most enthusiastic smile.

“Yes, but you haven’t told me your name yet.” He came closer, and she automatically moved away, around the desk, keeping it between them.

“Oh Zaniah, er, Chis… um, Chiswick, but everyone calls me Zani,” she couldn’t look at him, she’d never lied to anyone about her name before. It didn’t come easily. She wondered if she should hold out her hand, shake his, but then baulked at the thought of touching him. Touching tended to be something she avoided, especially when bad-tempered Frenchmen were involved.

“Zani then. My name is Corbin le Joli de Villiers de Saint Marc, I shorten it to de Villiers, but you can call me Corbin. This is your desk Zani,” he gestured with a wry smile. “Please, take a seat.”

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