Sometimes bad isn’t good enough…
On the outside, Lyle Tarpin is a clean-cut Hollywood actor whose star is on the rise. Inside, he’s battling his own demons, shunning relationships and finding solace in the arms of a string of anonymous women paid very well for their discretion.
But when he’s photographed in a compromising position by an over-eager reporter, the only way to save his career is to say that the woman he was with is his fiancée. And now Lyle has to play a very public game with the only woman who’s ever managed to get under his skin.
Struggling waitress Sugar Laine agrees to spend one night with Lyle—but only because she’s desperate to save her family home. She never expects that a night of passion will turn into a pretend engagement … or that the heat between them will blossom into love.
But sometimes love has a price.
And now the only question is—can Lyle and Sugar afford to pay it?
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“As for the first, he probably did it to piss me off. He knows I don’t date and don’t like to be in the spotlight where relationships are concerned. And he’s a little jealous that I’m doing movies now, and his last show was a web series.
“And as for why I didn’t correct him,” Lyle continues, “I honestly didn’t think about it. Then again,” he adds softly, “maybe it was there in the back of my mind.”
“That if you were my pretend fiancée, I’d get to see you again.”
“Oh.” I draw a breath, hoping he can’t tell how much I like hearing those words.
“Will you do it?” he asks. “Backing off now would draw the kind of attention I don’t want. And besides, being engaged is a sure fire way to keep Frannie at bay for the filming.”
“The filming? You aren’t even set to begin for weeks, right?”
“Our engagement doesn’t have to be that long. Two weeks, very public. Then we can break up. With any luck, Frannie will have found another man. And even if she hasn’t, I can claim a broken heart and the hope of reconciliation. She’ll leave me alone,” he says with certainty.
“And that’s it? That’s all I have to do? Pretend to be engaged?”
He nods. “You in? I’m willing to pay.”
“Damn right, you are,” I say. “This is going to be an arms-length transaction or not at all.”
He laughs. “Well, then name your price.”
I think about it, then nod. What the hell, right? I might as well go for broke. “Sixteen thousand, nine-hundred seventy-four dollars.”
“Well,” he says with a small frown. “That’s a very exact number.”
“The amount I need to pay off the loan, minus the ten I already applied, and the five you paid me for our date. I’m not applying the value of the thousand-dollar bill, because I think it’s cool, and I don’t want to sell it. And I’m not applying the two grand I’ve saved because that would clean me out. Or the money I could get as a cash advance off my credit cards. Because then I’d just have more debt.” I shrug. “So that’s the number. Take it or leave it.”
“Really?” I grin. I was expecting more of a battle.
“Really,” he acknowledges. “You’re my adoring fiancée, in public and in private.”
I take a step toward him. “Fair enough,” I say. “As long as we’re clear on one thing. I’ll be your girl, and I’ll put on a show for whoever’s watching. As for the private part? You can sleep here, or I’ll sleep at your place. And we can take day trips together and put on quite the show for the media. And if you really want me to, I’ll even do your laundry.”
I’m right in front of him now, and I press my finger to his lips, then trace it down, down, down, all the way to the fly of his jeans. “But that’s as far as private goes. This,” I add, cupping his crotch, “isn’t part of our deal at all.”
I back away as I feel his cock stiffen under my hand, then smile sweetly. “Those are the terms,” I say. “Take them or leave them.”
J.Kenner (aka Julie Kenner) is the New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, Wall Street Journal and #1 International bestselling author of over seventy novels, novellas and short stories in a variety of genres.
Though known primarily for her award-winning and international bestselling erotic romances (including the Stark and Most Wanted series) that have reached as high as #2 on the New York Times bestseller list, JK has been writing full time for over a decade in a variety of genres including paranormal and contemporary romance, “chicklit” suspense, urban fantasy, and paranormal mommy lit.
JK has been praised by Publishers Weekly as an author with a “flair for dialogue and eccentric characterizations” and by RT Bookclub for having “cornered the market on sinfully attractive, dominant antiheroes and the women who swoon for them.” A five time finalist for Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA award, JK took home the first RITA trophy awarded in the category of erotic romance in 2014 for her novel, Claim Me (book 2 of her Stark Trilogy). Her Demon Hunting Soccer Mom series (as Julie Kenner) is currently in development with AwesomenessTV/Awestruck.
Her books have sold over three million copies and are published in over twenty languages.
In her previous career as an attorney, JK worked as a clerk on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and practiced primarily civil, entertainment and First Amendment litigation in Los Angeles and Irvine, California, as well as in Austin, Texas. She currently lives in Central Texas, with her husband, two daughters, and two rather spastic cats.