FEATURE: Tania Joyce

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Tania Joyce is an Australian author of contemporary and new adult romance novels. Her stories thread romance, drama and passion into beautiful locations ranging from the dazzling lights of Sydney Harbour or the glitter of New York, to the rural countryside of the Hunter Valley or Darling Downs.
She’s widely traveled, has a diverse background in the corporate world and has a love for shopping, shoes and shiraz. She’s rarely seen without glitter, sparkle and stilettos.

Tania draws on her real-life experiences and combines them with her very vivid imagination to form the foundation of her novels. She likes to write about strong-minded, career-oriented heroes and heroines that go through drama-filled hell, have steamy encounters and risk everything as they endeavor to find their happy-ever-after.

Tania shuffles the hours in her day between part-time work, family life and writing. One day she hopes to find balance

Excerpt from Propositions (Strictly Business, Book 1)

Prologue

Two suitcases packed to the brim. One suit bag bulged at the seams. Nate Somers stood beside his bed and assessed the luggage lying before him. He rubbed the back of his neck with the palm of his hand as he surveyed his room yet again. What else will I need? He was unsure if he’d packed enough—he’d never stayed in one location for more than a few weeks at a time since his university days.

Living in Sydney for the next six months overseeing the opening of the new hotel for his family’s business on one hand was exhilarating and exciting, while on the other it was making him apprehensive. Because this was his project. The first one he’d seen from the ground up. Location, designs and plans had all been his idea.

Out of the bay window of his Chelsea home he caught a glimpse of the dawn erasing away the night sky, and the glow from the streetlights shimmering upon the murky waters of the Thames River. He hesitated for a moment to take in the view before he crossed the room and drew the curtains closed. This time leaving London somehow felt different. He tried to shrug off the niggling sensation that had settled in the center of his shoulder blades. Surely it was nothing. Maybe it was because he had no idea when he’d be back here again.

He made one last round of his rooms to make sure he hadn’t missed anything. In his office, his desk was all in order. Not a pen out of place. Just the way he liked it. Back in his bedroom, the metal runners on his drawers glided smoothly on their tracks when he opened them. They were nearly bare of all contents. A few neatly folded socks and jocks remained. His walk-in robe echoed with the sound of his movements as he skimmed his eyes over the railings where only a few suits and shirts hung, half still wrapped in their dry cleaning plastic. In the bathroom he checked his toiletry tote again before packing it into his luggage. He should’ve found the time to go shopping because he didn’t like the toothpaste from Japan that tasted like strawberries, or the mouthwash from China that was too sickly and sweet. But yet again this had been a fleeting visit. He spent more time away from his home than he cared to think about.

As he started to zip up his bags, the picture of Lucy on his bedside table caught his eye. He picked up the silver frame and stared at the vision of his daughter before him. Her dimpled cheeks and long black hair always filled him with conflicting emotions because she reminded him so much of her mother. Heart heavy he opened his bag, tucked the frame carefully between his clothes and zipped up his case.

Nate lugged his bags down the stairs and stood them at the front door. He checked his watch. Yes, he had time for a quick cup of tea before his driver was scheduled to arrive.

As he savored the last mouthful, the doorbell buzzed loudly. Nate opened the door and greeted his driver.

“Hey Lawrence. There’s all my things.” He pointed to his luggage. “I’ll just be a few minutes.”

Nate scuttled over to the kitchen to clean up his dishes. As he picked up the cup, something caught him by surprise. For years the loose tea-leaf dregs in the bottom of his cup had never changed. They always fell the same way—in lines—indicating travel. But today they fell in the shape of heart. Love. He let out a loud snicker as he quickly rinsed the pot and put everything away. Love was the furthest thing from his mind. Not an option. Not going to happen. Regardless how much he had tried to ignore his grandmother when he was a boy, her silly superstitions and tea-leaf reading antics had become embedded deep within his psyche—whether he liked it or not!

Nate put the nonsensical thoughts out of his mind as he slid into his jacket, picked up his laptop bag, headed out the door and into the waiting limousine.

Stuck in early morning peak hour traffic on the way to Heathrow airport, he double-checked his flight itinerary on his phone. Yet again, he was flying through Singapore. Yet again unable to see his daughter because of the short timeframe between his connecting flights. He hadn’t played a major role in Lucy’s life since she was born, so why was it starting to bother him now? He strummed his fingers against his thigh. Should he ring her or not? It wasn’t time for his scheduled call, but he thought ‘What the hell’ and dialed the number.

“Hey Luce. How are you sweetheart?” He let out a sigh of relief when it was her voice on the line.

“Daddy!” Her excitement warmed his heart.

“Lucy—who is it?” The sound of his ex-wife Rachael’s voice in the background turned everything cold again.

“Daddy, Mommy’s mad at me for not eating my dinner. I don’t like sushi. It’s yucky. Do I have to eat it?”

Nate didn’t like sushi either, so he knew where Lucy was coming from. “I’ll talk to your mom about it, okay?

“Daddy, when are you coming to see me again?”

“Soon, baby. Soon. In three months. For the September holidays.”

“Nathan?”

He winced as Rachael’s voice suddenly screeched in his ear. What did she do, rip the handset out of Lucy’s fingers?

“What are you doing calling now? Lucy has to finish her dinner and her homework. Call back on your designated day.”

“Come on Rachael, it’s just a phone call. I’m stuck in traffic on the way to the airport—”

“No, Nathan. Lucy doesn’t need the interruption. We have a deal. If you don’t like it, you’ll be hearing from my lawyers.”

Nate’s back stiffened. He’d had enough of lawyers in business and in his personal life to last a lifetime. The thought of losing what little access he had to his daughter sent a chill through him. Rachael was pushing his buttons the wrong way. “Should we get the lawyers involved this time? I’m sure I could easily get partial or full custody of our daughter.”

Rachael laughed down the line. “Your threats have no substance, Nathan. You know that. You’re too tied to your business. What kind of life would Lucy have with you?”

He hated it when she dismissed him. She was the only person in the world who could get under his skin. He’d never suspected the innocent-looking Singaporean girl, who he became smitten with, would be the one to take him for a ride.

“Okay, Rachael. Enough is enough. I have to go. I’m nearly at the airport.”

Infuriated, he hung up and put his phone back in his jacket pocket. He massaged the tension throbbing in his temples. He hated to admit it—but Rachael was right. The truth sent a shudder through his body. What kind of father could he ever be? He had no time to be a father. Not now. Not ever. Business always came first. Always would.

Chapter 1

Rain pelted against the window of Jessica Mason’s office. She glanced out at the crowded Haymarket Street below where impatient drivers honked their horns and people hid beneath umbrellas as they darted along in the wet. She shivered, grateful to be indoors out of the cold June weather. She turned back to her desk to face the two large Mac screens that glared brightly in the dim room. Artwork for her Audi print advertisement was sprawled across one monitor’s screen and the word processor was open on the other. She rubbed her hands together to warm them and returned to typing. Her fingers tinkered across the keyboard as she wrote the advertising copy for her next campaign.

“You got a sec?”

Jessica looked up from her work. Her business partner, Alex Chambers, crossed the room with quick steps and sat down in the chair opposite her desk.

“I’ve only got about ten minutes before my next meeting.” Jessica noted the time on her watch. “What’s up?”

He wriggled around on the seat. “Do you remember months ago when we put in a bid for the opening of Somers Hotel—the one being built as part of the north-eastern redevelopment of Darling Harbour?”

“Yes. Of course.” She recalled countless late nights working with Alex on the creative elements for their proposal—advertising and promotions, social media, press and entertainment.

“Well, I’ve been to-ing and fro-ing with them for months …” He waved his hand about, rambling on about shortlists, amendments and costings, antagonizing Jessica to the point where she wanted to throw something hard at him. “And you know these things take time—”

“Are you going to get to the point or not?”

“Okay. Okay. Well, we won the job.”

“Really?” Her eyes widened with excitement. “That job was such a long shot. This is incredible news. We’ll have to celebrate tonight over a bottle of champagne!”

“Abso-freaking-lutely. But here’s the thing.” Stress crept into Alex’s usually happy face, making the creases around his eyes deepen. “I’ve just rechecked the figures and the margins on this job are low, leaving little room for error.”

The depth of his words hit Jessica hard. This would be the biggest project that they’d ever taken on. She wasn’t naïve to think everything would be smooth sailing, but … “We’ll be fine. If all goes well, this’ll put our name up in lights and we’ll attract a whole heap of new clients. You just wait and see.” She sucked in a deep breath. “Wow, we really beat EyeOn Marketing and Meredith Bowen?”

That did surprise Jessica and thrilled her endlessly. Meredith was ruthless competition with power and money behind her. Years ago when EyeOn, the American giant, entered the Australian marketplace, they’d approached Kick to buy them out. Alex had dollar signs dancing in his eyes, but Jessica had managed to keep his head out of the clouds. The very thought of selling Kick Marketing and Events Management was unbearable. She never wanted to be swallowed up in a company acquisition and lose everything that she and Alex had spent so long building. This was her life and the very essence of her soul.

“Yep, but here’s the deal,” Alex continued. “Somers have requested that only the best people work on their campaign and we both know you’re better at events management than I am. This is a huge multi-million dollar project and you’re the only one capable of pulling it off. So … the job’s yours.”

“What? But you did the tender.” Jessica looked at the overwhelming pile of work already mounted on her desk. She wasn’t going to deny that the thought of managing another big international client thrilled her to the bone. “What about one of the Account Managers? How about Mel? She’s good with hospitality.”

“No, Jess. Not Mel. She’s good, but we both know she can be a bit of a vamp in her outside-of-work behavior. I don’t need that around this client.” Alex sat up tall and straightened his tie. “It’s Mr Henry Somers coming here to personally oversee the final touches for the opening in November. And with his reputation, we don’t need the two of them together.”

Jessica smiled. “Henry Somers? The head honcho himself? You think Mel will throw herself at the old guy just because he’s rich?” Wouldn’t put it past her, given the opportunity.

“Yep. Come on, Jess. This is a huge client. We can’t afford to fuck this up.”

Jessica sighed and tapped one of her fingernails against the glass top of her desk. A vision flashed in her mind. She saw Meredith Bowen, the owner of EyeOn Marketing, raucously laughing if gossip hit the headlines or if they were unable to deliver the opening for whatever reason.

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