Mission: Build a new life. Confront the past. Plan the wedding of the man she loves.
Tulle and Tulips, Book 1
Lori Mullins yearns to shake off her past and live free of shadows and fear. Yet her only shot at obtaining the capital to launch her business rests in a man she met during a lie. A man whose voice alone turned her from jaded escort to giddy schoolgirl. A man who almost died because of her.
Trevor Masters can call off his search for the woman he loves. The woman he dreamt of while comatose. The quest for her heart, however, is only beginning. The trick will be convincing her he doesn’t blame her—and that she deserves to accept herself as the woman who holds his heart.
Business negotiations land Lori in a heavenly hell. Heaven that Trevor is close enough to touch. Hell that she’s planning her first designer wedding. His. And something’s not quite right. The kind, compassionate man she fell for all those months ago, the man who’s engaged to another, seems intent on wooing her
Product WarningsThis title contains a balloon-toting rodent, a hero scheming for love, a heroine evading complications, and hot sex.
Copyright © 2011 Nikki Duncan
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
“I can’t do this.” Lori Mullins reached over and pushed the button to lower the top on her best friend’s convertible despite the chilled Miami air. A Christmas carol jingled from somewhere in the distance, though it was over a month away.
Inside the car-fume-scented parking garage fear squeezed her lungs faster than walls moving in on a claustrophobe. She needed fresh air, reassurance, courage. The confidence she’d had as an operative for a clandestine arm of the CIA had dehydrated into a pea-sized shell and been squashed.
“You can,” Misty didn’t acknowledge the cooler air sweeping away the heater’s warmth as she pointed toward the automated doors across the parking garage. “Just go into the lobby, walk to the elevator and push the ‘up’ button.”
“Then when the doors open…” Lori trailed off, lost for a moment in the squeals of tires, the slam of doors and beep of an alarm, the stink of exhaust and rubber. She may not have been the highest level Whitestone operative, her final mission as an escort may never make sense, but she’d had a one-hundred-percent success rate on her jobs. Self-doubt had never been in her cache of attributes. Until now.
Until the last one, which had cost her the man she’d loved, ended her career and nearly claimed her life.
“You see the man who can grant your dreams,” Misty put in when Lori said nothing more.
“If only it were so simple.” Past success meant nothing. For that matter, few things from the past mattered beyond their power to impact her future.
“You shouldn’t be afraid of this.”
But she was. Maybe if she’d talked about why asking Trevor Masters for help was so tough she could’ve convinced Misty to pitch the business plan. The fact remained that while Misty was interested in working with her as the head floral designer, Tulle and Tulips Designer Weddings was Lori’s chance for a new beginning. A new life and talking about Trevor meant thinking about the part of her past she was trying to escape.
“You’ve covered every angle of the business plan. Your projections are smart and conservative.”
Misty speared her with a hard glare, cutting off her arguments. “If Trevor Masters is half the businessman you claim, he’ll see your brilliance and will have no choice but to back you.”
“Except wedding planning has absolutely no relation to technology.” And he has every reason to want to turn me away. “I shouldn’t have contacted him.” Not that she’d gotten past his new assistant.
“Successful, smart business ventures are one and the same no matter what name you put on them.” Misty reached over Lori and opened the door. “Get out. Go. I’ll be here when you’re ready.”
Putting into words what could happen, why facing Trevor was so painful, hurt more than thinking about it—and that was plenty debilitating—so Lori nodded once and swung her legs from the car. The click of her heels on the concrete vibrated up her thighs. The vibration reminded her of the first time she’d taken this same path to see Trevor Masters.
The assignment to accompany the CEO to a business dinner had seemed simple, yet her life had been forever changed.
Misty reached for the button to raise the car top. Holding Misty’s certainty close, Lori grabbed her briefcase and torture forged determination. “You can be a real pain in the ass.”
“Eh. What good’s a friend if she can’t give you a kick in the keister on occasion?”
“No good at all.” The Misty inspired, cheek-stretching smile erased Lori’s concerns and fears. Misty was the single person who’d stayed permanent in her life, and had known she worked for the government. She’d been the one to help her heal and discover a sense of freedom from the past.
Even if the freedom wouldn’t last, Lori laughed. Feeling stronger, she crossed to the doors and approached the elevators. Three times she stopped, turned and contemplated running away.
A bell chimed. The doors opened to reveal the posh marble elevator she’d once felt comfortable in.
She smirked and stiffened her spine.
As the doors closed, cutting off her retreat, Lori’s mind slipped back to the last time she’d pushed that button to take this ride.
The knee-length, form-hugging cocktail dress finished off with delicate jewelry and rhinestone covered stilettos whispered seductive power and made her feel strong. Or maybe that came from the anticipation of seeing Trevor again.
He captivated her. Had from their first meeting. Still did.
Serious-minded with a reputation for caring first and foremost about business, he’d allowed her glimpses of his melted-fudge heart. He’d laughed with her and shared casual dinners with her. He’d pulled her in until she cared more about the man than the job.
He’d become emotionally dangerous.
That last night together, with the city lights caressing the waters lapping at the beach, while they sat on the couch in the apartment off his office sharing pizza and tingling from sex, she’d become the dangerous one. The weapon.
She’d almost gotten him killed because she’d failed to discover Madame V’s goals or how far she’d push things to win.
Only after she’d returned to the Elegant Entertainment mansion had she overheard Madame V, her boss of the moment, boasting about how Lori had helped ensure that Trevor would sign a high-profile contract before the night—and his life—were over. She’d only barely managed to get back to Trevor’s office in time to stop his suicidal rush into traffic.
The elevator chimed with the announcement of Lori’s arrival. Her heart slowed to a crawl. I should have found another backer.
The doors opened. In slate-gray suit pants, a crisply pressed, pale blue shirt which matched his eyes perfectly and a tie a shade darker stood the man she’d longed to see. Dreaded to see.