She wants the full fairy tale. He’s no prince offering a happily ever after. True love may have met its match this time.
True love… Happily ever after… The full meal-deal fairy tale…
Glamour girl Gia Hellman almost had it all until death stole the love of her life. Two years and a string of dead-end hook-ups later, she’s through fooling around. Love will be hers again, but sexy, one-night-only lawyer Ian O’Connor doesn’t fit into the equation. No matter how charming or tempting, he’s neither knight nor prince, and she’s done kissing frogs.
Prestige… Power… A pristine reputation… Ian O’Connor allows nothing to derail his goal of becoming the next partner in the most distinguished firm in town, not even Gia, the curvy vixen in sparkles and pink stilettos who haunts his fantasies. With a past full of long-buried secrets, he never breaks his rule of only one night with any woman. But when the case to propel Ian to the top requires working with Gia, and a slip-up results in a fake engagement, keeping his distance may be the trial of his life.
As the passion between them builds and rules break one by one, Ian must decide between protecting a secret that could destroy him or risking it all for Gia’s dream of happily ever after. If only Ian believed in fairy-tale endings…
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“This wasn’t part of my ultimate, diabolical scheme, I assure you.” Ian planted his butt on the arm of the opposite chair, the casual pose probably meant as some sort of peace offering. “I don’t mix work with pleasure. Ever. Finding Frankie at the stables simply came back to bite me.” He shrugged. “It happens.”
“Bite you?” She snorted. “What about me? Pretending to be engaged to you for an indefinite amount of time is not part of my quest. I don’t want a chapter in my new life book titled Trashy by Association.”
“The suffering will be mutual, Ms. Hellman.” He smiled, the jerk. “Once our client is in the clear, we call off our engagement and move on with our lives. Easy come, easy go.”
“I am not ‘easy come, easy go’. If you want me to postpone my personal life mission and sacrifice months to play along with this charade, I have conditions.”
His eyes glinted dangerously.
“Since I’ll be required to spend my very precious free time with you, everything after five p.m. is overtime.” She lifted two fingers, holding his gaze. “While posing as your fiancée, I choose where we go, what we do.” Finger number three flicked up. “When the case is over, I get to break up with you—in a really public, creative way.”
At his cold look, she batted her eyelashes. Glitter Girl wasn’t her only nickname. There was a solid reason her family and friends sometimes referred to her as General Gia, affection not always included. She studied the pink glitter on her acrylic fingernails while he sorted it out.
What had started as the makings of a nightmare had morphed into an unexpected challenge. Resisting Ian’s undeniable charms would test the devotion to her decision to wait for love, but with the extra money, she could buy the luscious, overpriced stilettos with the killer bling she drooled over every time she walked by the shoe store next door. She’d be the one girl in town who had managed to win Ian O’Connor’s black heart—falsely, but no one else would know—then stomp on it. To every woman who’d hopelessly pined for him, she’d be a hero. But more than that, if pretending she’d fallen for Ian meant helping a woman escape her scumbag abusive husband, she’d do it for free with a huge smile on her face.
Ian didn’t need to know the last part.
“I doubt Mr. Hamilton will approve overtime while we pretend to be happily engaged,” he said at last. His smooth voice clashed with the fire in his eyes.
“Overtime is nonnegotiable.” She folded her arms over her silk blouse. “You didn’t consult me before throwing around the F word, so this is all on you.”
His mouth tightened, an almost imperceptible move she would have missed if she hadn’t been nailing him in place with the Hellman stare-down. “Very well. Overtime.”
Gia smiled sweetly.
“But you don’t get to choose every detail of our courtship, Ms. Hellman.” He straightened from the chair and loomed over her, and her annoying pulse jumped. “This situation, after all, is partially your responsibility.”
“Mine? In what possible way?”
“You and your sexy, spun-sugar perfume.” He leaned closer, and his eyes held a predatory gleam. “You and your man-killer heels. I couldn’t possibly manage to present you as a family member. People would think I’m pervy.”
“You are pervy.” She ignored the heat curling through her. “What I wear is my own business. If you can’t handle it, that’s your problem”—she smiled again—“Mr. O’Connor.”
“Ian,” he corrected, easing even closer, his gaze unabashedly fixed to her mouth. “We’re engaged now, love.”
“I don’t recall any proposal on bended knee.” She waggled her fingers in his face. “Oh, and look… No ring.”
His smile was all bite, his eyes fierce as he smoothly knelt before her and took her hand. “Be my one and only accomplice for the next few months, Gia Hellman.” Without breaking her gaze, he pressed his lips to her fingers, a soft disparity to the unyielding grip. “I promise not to ruin your reputation in the process, and I’ll concede to a break-up in the manner of your choosing.”
“Do you even know how to date?” She refused to squirm beneath his intense scrutiny. “We both know you don’t do relationships, at least not real ones. To be clear, I’m
certainly not going to be paid for any questionable activities, particularly with you.”
His right eyebrow twitched. “Questionable activities?”
“Exactly. The stuff real couples do together behind closed doors.”
“Like talk and eat dinner?”
“Don’t be obtuse, O’Connor.” She tried to pull her hand free with zero success. “You know I’m referring to all the things that are constantly slithering around in the gutter that’s your mind, all the questionable activities you do in your free time with whatever woman is dumb enough to agree. I’m not that girl.” Anymore.
“I’ve never once thought you were dumb, Gia.” His voice was matter-of-fact, none of the seductive purr he used when going for the throat.
One truthful compliment wasn’t enough to make her melt. “What about PDA?”
“Private time with me isn’t part of the negotiations.” Oh, he was definitely smirking now. “I believed I made it clear that I never mix business with pleasure.”
“Public displays, psycho.” Gia wrestled her hand free as his smile widened. “How much pawing and slurping in public from you will I have to endure?”
“The bare minimum to make it believable.” Leaning over her again, he rested a hand on each armrest, caging her. His tie swung gently between them, a silken noose. “But feel free to paw and slurp me as much as you wish.”
She rolled her eyes, even as his clean, spicy cologne invaded her lungs and warmed her blood another degree. “Pretending to be engaged to you is in direct opposition to my personal goals. What if my true love shows up, thinks I’m with you and keeps on going?”
“Then he wasn’t yours in the first place.” His voice lowered to a husky whisper as his gaze dipped once more to her mouth. “No man deserving of you would surrender without a battle—or at least a siege.” An odd expression softened his features, there and gone so fast that she couldn’t peg it. He suddenly straightened, all cool courtroom composure. “Do we have an agreement?”
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