Monty (A St. Claire Novel) - Excerpt

September 2, 2014

Chapter One


 I’ve never been the type of woman to completely lose my mind over a man but Montgomery St. Claire has always had that effect on me. I try to hide it but it’s always there. He makes my head go blank. Makes me lose words, thoughts and involuntary bodily function such as breathing and blinking. It’s been that way since I first started working at The Hawthorne Estates two years ago and it’s that way now. I think it’s the beard – the way it frames his lips and adds a contrast to his caramel skin – the color of Milk Maid candy made by Brach’s. Then again, it’s not only the beard. It’s the whole tower-of-a-man himself. He’s just…
Strikingly stunning. The kind of fine that slaps you in the face like a sweltering summer heat wave. A man so fine it does crazy things to your eyes if you stare too long. Not that he’d ever catch me staring.
He doesn’t know I exist. I’m just his measly personal assistant – well let’s just say assistant – because there’s nothing personal about it. He doesn’t make meaningless small-talk with me. Doesn’t speak, ask me how my day is going or crack any jokes. I’m willing to bet every dollar I have he couldn’t tell you the color of my eyes. He never looks at me. Doesn’t talk to me. When he wants my attention (and that would be only because he needs something), he says, excuse me.
I guess that’s my name.
Excuse-Me Stevens instead of Cherish.
I know why he does it. Why he avoids me. Men with money do it all the time. It’s his way of refusing a connection with me and keeping to his no-nonsense business model of being strictly business – professional at all times.
I can’t say I blame him. Montgomery is a very wealthy man. He’s not just rich. He’s rich, rich – worth $50 million dollars – but his company, Hawthorne Innovations, Incorporated is worth $5 billion. He comes from a family of inventors. Before his death, his father, Caspian Hawthorne, patented ten, profitable inventions. Montgomery must have his father’s business savvy because to date, he has five inventions under his belt and is working on a sixth that he and his team are keeping top secret.
Honestly, that’s what attracts me to him the most – his brilliance. Most women look at Montgomery and see the green-eyed, biracial man with S-curls (AKA good hair) who lives in a mansion and drives expensive cars, including a Porsche Panamera Turbo and a Mercedes AMG SL65.
What do I see when I look at him?
I see his drive. His work ethic. I see his brain working even when he’s just walking around the house or standing at the window in one of his fancy suits, admiring all the acres of land he owns. But, I’m not blind. I see how fine he is, too! The man is so fine it wreaks havoc on my entire nervous system. It’s like torture to be near him. That’s how I feel on a daily basis.
Like that military-style torture that happens to POWs. Stuff that plays with your mind and changes you in ways you can’t explain.
Sometimes, I’m so caught up in the magnificence of him, I forget entire trains of thought. One minute I’m walking around the house with a dust rag in my hand, the next, I have no clue what I’m supposed to be dusting. He does that to me.
Even still, I have to be honest about something – most days I absolutely despise him. Why? Because he’s a jerk. There. I said it. He’s a world-class, Grade-A, top-shelf jerk! He’s a guy who demands respect but chooses not to give it. The kind of boss who doesn’t give a crap about his employees as long as, at the end of the day, the company is still posting million-dollar profits. With him, it’s all about the money. The company. The status. Nothing or no one matters.
These are my thoughts as I’m sitting in my car, gathering my braids into a ponytail at three-thirty in the morning before driving to the estate. I get up super early since I need to be at work by four since Montgomery works from 5:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Long hours for him means long hours for me.
I’m especially dreading work today because he’s working from his home office this week. Yesterday he was yelling and tossing papers, hot under the collar about some patent that was filed incorrectly. Had the lawyers ready to quit. No one wants to be near Montgomery when he’s angry. He’s like a grenade. Once you pull the pin, he’s guaranteed to go off. But he pays me fifty-thousand dollars a year to assist him so I’m hoping as long as I do my job and steer clear of him, I won’t get blown up.
My official work hours are 4:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. I devote fourteen hours of my day to everything Montgomery St. Claire. As his assistant, I do practically everything for him and have access to his residence and every room in his wing of the house – his office, the libraries, the bedrooms, the kitchen, the gym, the indoor pool room and the conference room where he has a lot of his company meetings. Nothing is off limits to me because he – well his team – never know where I’ll be needed.
As I’m driving north on Interstate 85, heading to Concord where he lives – a city right outside of Charlotte known for its forever-crowded Concord Mills Mall and the Charlotte Motor Speedway – all I’m thinking about is what suit Montgomery will want to wear today. I pick out his clothes every morning. And then there’s the matter of food. I always stress myself over his menu, wondering if I made the correct choices in what I think he may want to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’m not his cook, but I curate the menus for her and I think I have it down to a science, but you never know when you work for a grenade. Grenades are sensitive. Sometimes they blast off for no reason.
In the mornings, he usually likes something healthy to eat like a protein shake with a side of mixed fruit, granola and yogurt. Or sometimes he likes peanut butter and banana toasts. He’s not a bacon and eggs kind of guy, but he guzzles coffee like water. Drinks it black, too, like the bitter, awful taste of black coffee is second nature to him. As malicious as he is, he probably can’t taste the bitterness. Bitter goes well with evil.
For his lunch menu, I chose a club sandwich on wheat with a side of pickles. He loves pickles with his sandwiches, but not the flimsy ones you can buy out of a jar at the grocery store. He likes the ones that have a crunch to them like those fancy deli pickles. And then there’s the matter of dinner…
When he’s had a hard day, which is every day, he likes a heavier, more filling meal, especially since he’ll quickly burn off the calories with a gym workout or laps in the indoor pool. Today, it’s mozzarella chicken breasts, rolls and a salad.
I pull up at Hawthorne Estates, park my Mazda Protégé in the designated parking for guests and yawn. I take more breaths before I get out of the car. I’m tired, but duty calls.
I let myself inside the mansion and deactivate the alarm while standing in the foyer beneath an elegant, crystal chandelier that, if it were to ever fall, it would totally kill somebody just by its weight alone. There are three staircases in the foyer. The one to the left leads to Montgomery’s residence. The one in the middle leads to his brother’s quarters and his mother, Sylvia Hawthorne, lives up the right set of stairs. They’re together, but separate – three huge separate living quarters tied up in one enormous mansion. The bottom level has a conference room for the family business, a kitchen, a private indoor pool that’s only accessible through Montgomery’s residence, a dining room, laundry room and a living room, but no one is usually down there, and why would they be when they have all those things in their private residences? It’s one, great-big, twisted, strange family setup.
I huff. I’m too tired to puff. I really don’t feel like working today. I have to give myself a pep talk. “A’ight, pull it together, Cherish. You know the routine. Do your job and get out of the way.”
I secure my purse in the coat closet and proceed up the west wing set of stairs to Montgomery’s residence. I unlock the door, let myself in and head straight for the master bedroom. He doesn’t like the maids in his bedroom so I’m in charge of organizing it as well. At this time of the morning, he’s in the shower. I can hear the shower jets spraying while I’m working. I clear the empty water bottle from the nightstand. I put away his slippers, the Rolex and platinum cufflinks he wore the day before.
I go to the linen closet to get new sheets and pillowcases and start making the bed. He sleeps on the right side. The left side is always undisturbed. When I’m done with the bed, I find myself distracted. I’m usually super-focused with a get-in-get-out mentality but this morning, I’m lollygagging. I take a minute to look around his bedroom. It’s massive – about the same square-feet as my two-bedroom house. Yeah, that’s right. His bedroom is larger than the floor-plan of my house. And it’s laid out – there’s a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows draped in cream-colored, sheer curtains. He never closes the blinds in his bedroom. Through them, I can see the darkness that hangs before dawn.
A massive TV is mounted on the wall above his dresser – one that gets no play. The batteries in the remote are surely dead by now. His room is always neat and clean. Everything is organized and in its proper place. He’s not a messy person and doesn’t carelessly toss things to the side even though he knows he has workers to clean up after him. I find it truly amazing. I never knew men were so orderly and tidy. It’s probably just him. I get a completely opposite vibe from his brother, Major. I’ve been to Major’s residence a few times. He’s definitely more laid back.
I snap out of my trance to busy myself with the next task on my daily chore list – picking out his clothes for the day. I open the double doors to his walk-in closet, flick on the lights and look around at the wide array of suits arranged by color. So are his shoes and neckties. He prefers dark colors over lighter ones, although he still orders light-colored suits for a reason that’s beyond me. Seems like such a waste, but when you’re a billionaire, what does that matter?
Fanning through the suits, I go with a navy blue Kiton suit and a pair of black Ferragamo leather shoes. I lay the suit out on a bench that’s about the size of a twin bed. It sits in the center of his closet. Studying the suit, I decide I don’t like the way it looks with the shoes, so I hang it back up and try again. I’m fanning through the black suits now – the Armani’s, Tom Ford’s and Brioni’s. He has all types of high end, name brand clothing. Gucci this, Valentino that. I end up going with a black Givenchy suit. That seems to be his favorite brand of late and this suit is everything. It’s so nice, I don’t even want to touch it. I look at it and imagine how it would look on his lengthy body. I begin to think about which necktie would go good with it and which pair of cufflinks he should wear.
Then there’s the matter of socks, the watch, and—
“What are you doing in my closet?”
Crap! I’ve been caught.
The sound of his husky, deep voice electrocutes me. That’s the only way I can explain the awkward jerking motion my body makes at the deepness of his words. He’s never found me in his closet before, but he’s here now and I’m afraid to turn around.
What is he doing here so early? Or am I late? Am I late??
Crap! What now, Cherish?
He doesn’t know I lay out his clothes for him hence his question what are you doing in my closet? Leave it up to him, he’d think I was trying to steal something and fire me on the spot.
I turn around to face the heat – to see if he’s a grenade with or without a pin this morning – and I nearly faint.
Oh…my…goodness…freakin’…gracious! He’s naked. Tall and naked.
Well, not completely naked, but partially. He just got out of the shower (how did I not hear the shower go off?!) and now he’s standing here with his full, hairy, beefy chest on display. His nipples are looking at me, peeping out from beneath all that silky, black hair.
My eyes feast on muscles, nips, abs and hair. Lots of hair. Hair for days. More hair than I would’ve imagined on a well-kempt man like Montgomery, but something about it turns me on. Gives him that real man vibe. And then there were those carved-to-perfection arms and green eyes of his that are locked on me like the laser of a military-grade sniper rifle. I suddenly have a fever. I’m as good as dead.
Like a wimp or a person who’s been busted, I halfway glance up at him. My body doesn’t budge. Only my eyes are brave enough to move at this point.
He frowns.
I still don’t move. I look, look away then look again.
His frown deepens.
His lower half is wrapped in one of the white Egyptian cotton towels I stocked his bathroom with yesterday before my shift was over. He only uses white towels. Only the Egyptian ones.
His curly, black hair is still wet – the hair on his head and chest. Even the thin strip of hair that travels down the center of his abs to the part of him that’s hidden behind the towel is wet. I’m sure he can hear my heart pounding against my rib cage. It only beats more ferociously when he takes steps toward me. My body does that awkward jerk again, a motion I suddenly have no control over.
No, no, no. Stop. Don’t come any closer. Stop. Stop!
He stops as if he’s read my mind. Well, he probably thinks I’ve lost my mind. Yeah, that’s it. He thinks I’m nuts.
“Excuse me,” I hear him say.
He’s standing on the opposite side of the twin bed – I mean – bench.
“Excuse me,” he says again, louder this time. “Cherish.”
I frown when I hear my name come forth from his mouth. It’s too early for this. My heart can’t take this kind of stress. What in the world is going on here? Did he just call my name or am I hearing things? He knows my name? Montgomery St. Claire knows my name?
I look up at him, try to swallow but my throat is dry like I just ate a pack of graham crackers. I instantly feel like I’m in trouble. Like the feeling of knowing you’re speeding and you glance in the rearview and see a State Trooper on your bumper except this trooper is half naked, fine as all get-out and is staring at me like I’m a foreign object that has infiltrated his precious world.
I have.
I’m in his closet.
When I finally manage to swallow my anxiety and accept my fate, I look at him since he’s still a safe distance away from me and say, “You—you know my name?”
His forehead creases. “Why does that surprise you?”
He’s still frowning. Nipples still looking at me. Chest hair still beading with water. His eyes are lulling me into submission like those spinning red and white striped hypnosis wheels in cartoons.
Stop looking into his eyes if you know you can’t handle it, girl. Just stop…
I’m not breathing. I’m going to die here today. I’m sure of it. A heart attack is coming in three…two…
“Ye—yes, Sir?”
He smirks. Shakes his head. He must know I’m distressed and somehow he finds humor in that. I’ve never seen the man smile but knowing I’m about to come to my end gives him a satisfying grin. Go figure…
“What are you doing in my closet?”
Just tell him what you’re doing and get the freak out of here. Tell him. You can do it. He’s just a man. No, he’s not just a man. He’s Montgomery-Freakin’-St. Claire. He’s THE man. He’s the boss. The HNIC. He has the authority to fire you, so tell him why you’re here. Go on. Tell him!
“Okaaay. Gosh!” I say.
“What?” he asks, looking puzzled.
“Oh, nevermind.” If he didn’t think I was crazy before, I’m sure he does now.
“I’m going to ask you for the last time—what are you doing in my closet?”
I want to tell him, but my mouth isn’t cooperating. It opens, but words don’t come out. The pit of my stomach has bottomed out and hit the floor. Still, I make an attempt to answer him. I say, “Um—I—suit—water, hair—I mean shoes…”
“What?” His forehead creases. He crosses his arms. Muscles are bulging from every which way and the towel covering his male parts moves. And it wasn’t his hand that made it move. He’s standing still. The towel jerks forward again.
Oh my…
My fever increases. I feel like I’m going to spontaneously combust and burn down his whole house – well at least the west wing and all his luxury suits with it. I make another attempt at speech and say, “I—”
His dark brows raise. “You, what?”
“I was—um—I was picking out your suit for the day, Sir.”
“Picking out my suit?” he says, he’s eyes on me something fierce.
“Yes, Sir.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I do this every morning,” I explain. “I—I just don’t—I don’t usually get caught.”
You lay out my suits every morning?” he asks.
“Yes, and your necktie, shoes, socks and cufflinks, Sir,” I respond, wondering why he added the extra emphasis on you like I’m incapable of doing this for him when I’ve been doing it for two years, ever since Sylvia Hawthorne hired me and told me this was one of my many duties that would make her son’s life more comfortable.
“I thought Paige was in charge of this?”
Well, you thought wrong, wit’cho…wit’cho…good-looking self. Wait? What? How’s that a diss, Cherish?
Paige – she’s his mother’s assistant – the privileged white girl who walks around here like she owns the place and calls herself wifey although she’s not Montgomery’s wife. Girlfriend, maybe – and I use that term loosely – but definitely not wife. Montgomery doesn’t wear a ring and Paige never spends the night. Besides, he’s too busy making money to be concerned with a wife and even if he had one, I doubt she’d be a little booty white girl who wears about ten layers of foundation on her face that’s slathered on so thick, you could cut into it like a slice of pie and not draw blood.
 “No, Sir. This duty falls under my umbrella.”
 “Well, go on. Do your job,” he tells me. His arms are still crossed as he stares. Muscles bulging.
I take the Givenchy suit and lay it on the bench. Then I find the perfect tie, cufflinks, socks and shoes to match.
“There you are. I’ll get out of your way now,” I say, trying to make my great escape.
“Yeah, you do that,” he taunts. “Oh, and by the way, if you’re telling the truth and this is one of your duties—”
“It is one of my—”
“Do not interrupt me when I’m speaking,” he says curtly. Then he starts again and says, “If you’re telling the truth and this is one of your duties, I would suggest you have it done before I’m out of the shower. That way, we don’t have to have this extremely awkward exchange. I don’t have to see you. You don’t have to see me. Understood?”
“Yes, Sir. It won’t happen again. Sorry to have interrupted your morning.”
I plaster a fake smile on my face and haul it out of there feeling small and stupid. That’s what Montgomery does to people – make them feel insignificant. I’ve seen him do it to his mother, his brother and the rest of the staff. We’re all insignificant compared to a man of his great wealth. That still doesn’t give him the right to disrespect anyone. We’re all here to serve him. To help him be comfortable so he can continue to amass his wealth. The least he could do was throw out a ‘thank you’ every now and then.
I hold on to the railing as I descend the spiral staircase. My heart is still racing. Palms, sweaty. Feet, unsteady. When I make it to the kitchen, I drink water and double check the breakfast menu I supplied to Naomi. I don’t need any more run-ins with Montgomery today.

Amazon #1 New Release in African American Literary Fiction

* * * 

Read the Book Description.

Book Extras:
See inspiration photos for MONTY on Pinterest.
Listen to the soundtrack for MONTY on Spotify.
Watch a reader video review on YouTube.

*The St. Claire novels are all standalone books about the St. Claire men (brothers and cousins). You do not have to read them in any particular order.

Book 1 - ROYAL (Royal and Gemma)
Book 2 - RAMSEY (Ramsey and Gianna)
Book 3 - ROMULUS (Romulus and Siderra)
Book 4 - REGAL (Regal and Felicity)
Book 5 - MAGNUS (Magnus and Shiloh)
Book 6 - MONTY (Montgomery and Cherish)
Book 7 - Honeymoon With a St. Claire (Montgomery and Cherish follow-up story. You must read MONTY first.)

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