Title: Cinderella Busted
Author: Petie McCarty
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Cinderella's fairy tale moves to Jupiter Island, Florida where Lily Foster, owner of an eclectic landscape nursery, is mistaken for a wealthy socialite by billionaire resort developer Rhett Buchanan. Overdue for a little romance in her life, Lily is anxious for one fabulous date with her handsome prince, so she cultivates her inadvertent masquerade.
Rhett Buchanan has become jaded with the Palm Beach social scene, dominated by scheming women desperate for more money -- his money. Rhett falls hard when he meets Lily Foster. She is a breath of fresh air after the smog of gold diggers constantly surrounding him.
For Rhett and Lily, it's love at first sight until her deception comes to light and pitches their relationship into a disastrous tailspin. Well-meaning friends are determined to intercede and resort to inept high jinks to reunite the estranged couple while a wicked ex-girlfriend plays dirty to keep the couple apart.
Lily paused at the edge of the brick patio and stared out over a moonlit replica of an English courtyard garden that stretched to the Intracoastal canal at the back of the property. Walkways lined with immaculately trimmed hedges were flanked by gazebos on either side and crossed by a series of arbors at critical design points. Subdued landscape lighting provided a romantic atmosphere for the guests though no one had bothered to venture out into the night. Lily would have complimented Ms. Armstead if she didn’t already detest the woman for finding and catching Rhett first.
She briefly studied the garden layout to determine the shortest escape route, then relinquished her drink to the wicker end table flanking a settee. She had to hurry. Rhett would eventually search out his date, right? But then she had insisted on meeting him at the party, so maybe he felt comfortable staying inside with the beautiful socialite instead of hunting for Lily out here. He certainly hadn’t minded the woman smushing her breasts up against him.
The thought made Lily’s throat ache as she swallowed the ridiculous hopes she had allowed herself today. Slipping down the brick steps and into the maze of hedges, she forced herself to focus on a soundless escape. A left, a right and a left, and she should reach the side walkway she hoped would lead between the separate multi-car garage and the east side of the house. She listened for sounds from the patio, but only silence reigned in the garden. Rhett hadn’t yet thought to search for his date.
She reached the side walkway, which did indeed wind between the garage and the house. The brick path fell in line with an eight-foot Podocarpus hedge on her left and a variety of shrubs and evergreens woven together along her right, creating a darkened corridor with the house floodlights turned off to promote the landscape mood lighting in the garden.
She concentrated on her footsteps in the deepening shadows, not wanting to trip and top off her humiliation for the night. A few more yards, and she’d be back out in the well-lit front drive. Intent on her steps, she missed the figure emerging from the shadows ahead.
A hand grabbed her arm. She yelped in surprise and lost her balance as her feet tangled up in the heeled sandals. An arm clamped around her waist and hauled her up against a rock-hard chest.
“Going somewhere, princess?”
Though too dark to clearly see his face, Lily knew the voice belonged to Rhett, and he didn’t sound happy. Her heart trip-hammered like the fledgling mockingbird she’d picked up in the nursery a few days earlier. Like the fledgling, all she had wanted was an escape flight.
She took a long, shuddering breath to slow her heart rate. Suddenly conscious of her body crushed against Rhett’s muscular form, she couldn’t manage a second breath and hung onto the first breath as long as possible. This, of course, rendered speech impossible.
Rhett slowly eased her down along the front of his chest, letting her feel every square inch of him as she slid down his torso. Her sandals eventually touched earth, and still he held her until her full weight was settled and her balance uncompromised.
“I have to tell you, this is a new one for me. I’ve never had a date try to run out on me before.”
Her own anger flared. “Maybe you never took one to your girlfriend’s house before.”
The full moon escaped a passing group of clouds, and she could see his eyes glitter dangerously. “Touché.”
He waited for her to speak.
“I-I was—” She gulped a very obvious and very loud lungful of air. It was that or pass out from lack of oxygen. “—g-going for a walk.”
Her cheeks flamed with heat, and she hoped he couldn’t see.
“A walk to your car?” he said flatly.
Hank always said, “If you don’t like your answer, ask a question.”
“How did you find me?”
He still had one hand cupped on her elbow as though to ensure she didn’t bolt. If she did, she’d surely lose her slipper, and then where would Prince Charming be? She choked back a half-sob half-laugh.
“Am I missing some humor here?” he asked gruffly.
“No.” The meager light around them dissipated when more clouds drifted in to cloak the moon. She could no longer see the expression in his eyes, but oddly enough she could feel his expression—the anger and the hurt. “I just thought it odd where you found me and wondered—”
“How I found you? I saw you slip out to the patio, and after you met Delia, I figured you intended to run, so I went out the front. If I figured wrong, I could always find you in the garden later. Evidently, I guessed right.”
The moon broke free, and Lily could suddenly see the anger and hurt in his eyes. But he had hurt her, too.
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Cinderella Busted kicks off the Cinderella Romances series with each story a light-hearted retelling of this classic fairy tale plus plenty of humor and action and suspense.
Enter to win an e-book bundle of all 66 books featured in the Backlist Bonanza:
Runs August 25 – 31, 2020.
Winner will be drawn on September 7, 2020.
Petie spent a large part of her career working at Walt Disney World—"The Most Magical Place on Earth"—where she enjoyed working in the land of fairy tales by day and creating her own romantic fairy tales by night, including her new series, The Cinderella Romances. She eventually said good-bye to her "day" job to write her stories full-time. These days Petie spends her time writing sequels to her regency time-travel series, Lords in Time, and her cozy-mystery-with-romantic-suspense series, the Mystery Angel Romances.
Petie shares her home on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee with her horticulturist husband and an opinionated Nanday conure named Sassy who made a cameo appearance in No Angels for Christmas.
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