Title: A Model Engagement
Author: Charlotte O’Shay
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Lacey Reed jumps at the chance for independence with a career in the big city. But her naivety and ambition blind her to the lure of a blackmailer. With her savings gone, she has nowhere to turn when she literally runs into financier Connor Devlin. Though dazzled by Lacey, Connor sees the desperation she tries to hide. His gut tells him to help, and he hires her as his fake fiancée. Now Lacey has a job, and Connor has put a bandage on a family crisis. When the blackmailer ups the ante, Lacey resolves to face him down—no matter what the consequences.
Will Lacey lose the only man who’s ever seen who she truly is?
Lacey Lee Reed was at the type of event, which for years had been, if not her life’s blood, then at least her meal ticket. Anyone who knew her, or thought they did, would say she was in her element—smack dab in the middle of a society party with every A-lister in New York in attendance.
But she couldn’t breathe.
The combination of exotic perfumes and expensive colognes in the warm room hit her harder than the kick of a mule. She swayed on her five-inch heels.
Focus, Lacey. You will not have a panic attack in the middle of your best friend’s wedding.
She pasted on a smile as she scanned the sparkling sea of Prada, Gucci and Dior visible over his head, scoping out her escape.
She inhaled again, slower this time, then eased out a steady, candle-extinguishing breath. Ridiculous to feel trapped. Another focused breath. She wasn’t alone. Not by a long shot.
She was in the middle of the most enormous ballroom the Pierre Hotel possessed at one of the splashiest New York City weddings in decades. The VIP crowd was nothing new, nothing she couldn’t handle.
It was individual people that creeped her out.
The old Lacey would have told this SOB staring straight into her cleavage where to go. Politely and with every bit of the charm her mama taught her. But that was the old Lacey. Current day Lacey’s head was spinning, just like it had that one time when they were thirteen and she and Mandy snuck a cigarette out by Mandy’s grandparents’ barn. That memory put a genuine smile on her lips.
Against her every instinct she extended her hand.
“It was a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Calloway.” The manners drummed into her through generations of Reed grandmas meant she remembered his name, met his lascivious eyes, and continued to smile even as she yanked her chilled hand from his too-familiar grip.
Their three-minute conversation had gone two and half minutes too long. Lacey had learned, at long last, to trust her intuition, and she needed to be gone.
“Please, call me Artie.” He leered toward her again.
She managed a quick step backward, and collided with the kind of human bulk that could be put to good use working Navy’s under-appreciated defensive backfield. Sure hands gripped her elbows lightly, steadying her.
She twisted round and looked up. And up some more. He towered over her, even though she stood at least six feet in her heels. Her pulse slammed through the gate and charged into a full gallop as she appreciated just how well he filled his three-piece bespoke tux.
He was a heaven-sent opportunity and she grabbed hold of her chance to escape.
“Su-gar! There you are!” Lacey slathered on the down-home greeting like grease on a hot griddle. “You promised me a dance and listen,” she tilted her head toward the band, “it’s our song.”
Not sparing her savior another glance, she dragged him farther into the center of the ballroom where Sabrina and Vlad’s couture clad guests were swaying to Adele’s “Someone Like You.”
He gathered her close, pulled her fully into his arms. The heat of his large hand warmed her bare back, placed as it was right where the deep drop of her couture dress finished just above the curve of her rear.
It was a daring dress and since it was backless it meant she was braless but if there was anything Lacey knew, and these days she doubted she knew much, it was how to wear a dress. With an in-your-face confidence that allowed none of her inner turmoil to show.
“Are you kidding?” Sabrina said when she described the skimpy dress, “the blue is gonna look fabulous with your eyes. I just want you to be there, Lacey, I don’t care what you’re wearing,” she said. “Or not wearing. Go for it.”
Lacey hadn’t told her best friend that this dress was her sole choice. Who would believe it? Once she’d used up all of her savings, she had e-bayed, consigned or otherwise cashed out her entire wardrobe of runway outfits and designer accessories.
This blue dress, the bejeweled clutch she was, well, clutching, and her favorite, red-soled stilettos were the only dressy pieces she had left from her modeling days. They were classics and her favorites and she trotted them out on occasions like this when she had to put on a show in public.
“This is our song? Really?” Amusement laced his dark voice. “I don’t know if I like the idea we chose this song. Way too sad.”
The smile in his voice trickled down her spine like warm honey while his large hand stayed, just there, in the small of her back.
To break the spell of his voice, Lacey tilted back her head to get a better look at him. Big mistake! The eyes that glittered with bad boy confidence were the same rich brown as Grandma’s gingerbread. His short hair was several shades darker and liberally threaded with silver at the temples.
She pressed her lips together, pushed out a nervous breath.
She wanted to laugh off the desperate need to escape creepy Calloway. Instead, she was as jittery as a newborn foal and twice as clumsy.
Wow Lacey, when did you become so pathetic?
He stopped moving for a moment and looked straight into her eyes. His dark eyes danced with devilish humor, the kind of eyes that always saw the funny side of things. She hadn’t seen the funny side of anything in months.
Try to relax for a second, Lacey. This man thinks you’re crazy.
“So what song would you choose?” She looked up into his laughing eyes and her curiosity was genuine.
“Hmm.” She felt his chest expand against her own as he took a thoughtful breath. “Definitely something slow, something classic.”
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