Between the fall-out from his father’s latest shady business dealings and his wife Charisse’s alcoholism, Evan Murdoch has his hands full. But he should be most concerned about the scandalous affair Charisse is having right under his nose–with his half-brother. Evan’s being pushed to the edge, and no one knows that better than Leila Hawkins… Leila is back in Chesterton, divorced, penniless, and desperate enough to do anything to save her mother’s home from foreclosure–including turning to Evan, her former best friend. But Evan isn’t interested in friendship. Instead he makes Leila a shocking indecent proposal… Meanwhile, Evan’s newlywed sister, Paulette, wants to be the perfect wife. But a blackmailing bad boy ex has reappeared in her life–and he’s threatening to reveal her most painful secret… The scandals just won’t quit–and for everyone involved, desire, betrayal, and lies are all in a day’s work…
Hey, sexy,” a female voice said from over Evan’s shoulder. He turned to find one of Paulette’s bridesmaids smiling up at him. She laid a warm hand on his arm. “Wanna dance, baby?”
“There you go! A distraction, Ev,” Terrence said. “Just what the doctor ordered! Go out there and get your groove on, boy!”
“Uh, I’m married,” Evan muttered to her, holding up his ring finger and ignoring his brother. He returned his gaze to the ballroom.
“So! I’m not asking you to run away with me! I’m just asking you to dance,” the bridesmaid persisted. She wrapped an arm lazily around his shoulders. “Come on! Dance with me!”
Evan narrowed his eyes down at her.
Her name was Angie. Or was it Amy? Something that begins with an A, he thought.
Loose curls had fallen out of her chignon and one lock hung limply over her heavy-lidded, glazed brown eyes. One of the straps of her satin dress was hanging off her shoulder, revealing the lace bra underneath.
If he had wanted to dance with a drunken woman tonight, he would have just asked his wife for a twirl on the dance floor.
“Look, why don’t I do this?” he asked, gently shifting the young woman toward the bar counter. “Instead of us dancing, why don’t I get you a cup of coffee?” He then motioned to get the bartender’s attention.
“I don’t need a cup of coffee,” the bridesmaid argued. “I said I wanna dance!”
She then shoved away from Evan and turned, snagging the heel of one of her stilettos in the hem of her dress. She stumbled forward with arms flailing wildly.
“Oh!” Terrence shouted. “There she goes!”
Both brothers caught her just before she tumbled.
“You got her?” Terrence asked, shifting her toward his older brother.
Evan nodded, slowly bringing her back to feet. “Yeah, I got her.”
The bridesmaid gazed up at Evan and Terrence woozily. She slumped against the older brother’s broad shoulder. “I don’t . . . I don’t feel so well. I think I’m gonna be sick.”
“Sick?” Terrence exclaimed. He eased back and pointed at his tuxedo. “Oh, no! Not on this! This is a Tom Ford.”
“You’re a real prince, Terry,” Evan murmured sarcastically. He then returned his attention to the bridesmaid. “Let’s get you out of here. I’ll get you to the ladies’ room. All right?”
She closed her eyes and weakly nodded.
Evan guided her across the crowded ballroom to the double doors, drawing a few curious stares from wedding guests. There was nothing he hated more than making a scene. Having a woman besides his wife clinging to him was bound to cause some talk, but he couldn’t let her stumble drunkenly around the reception, or worse—lose her five-star dinner right there on the parquet dance floor. Like with his wife, Charisse, it was better to spirit away the bridesmaid to a place where she could recover privately. Terrence was obviously no help so Evan would have to take care of this himself.
Evan stepped into the carpeted foyer with his arm wrapped around her waist and her arm draped around his neck.
“I’m really going to be sick,” she murmured again.
“I know. I know. I’m working on it,” he grumbled, glancing frantically around him.
He struggled to remember where he had last seen a women’s bathroom. Finally, he saw a few women streaming out of a door on the other side of the foyer’s winding staircase. He walked toward them and started to ask if one of them could help him, but when the women’s bathroom door opened again, the words halted in his throat.
Leila Hawkins stepped out of the tiled bathroom into the foyer. She dropped a compact into her clutch purse, snapped the steel clasp shut, and looked up to find Evan staring at her. Her mouth fell open in shock.
“Evan,” she whispered breathlessly.
His jaw clenched. “Leila.”
As much as he hated to admit it, Leila was as gorgeous and sexy now as she had been ten years ago. The only thing that was different was her hair. It was shorter now, chin-length and cut in a fashionable bob. He also noticed that she was wearing heels, something she had never worn when they were younger because she had said she didn’t know how to walk in them.
Her honey-hued skin glowed under the foyer’s chandelier lights, and she looked elegant and alluring in the simple pale yellow cocktail dress that hugged every delectable curve in just the right place.
She doesn’t have a right to look this good, he thought. He’d prefer for her to be a hunchbacked cyclops, or at least to have gained forty pounds or more. Then he wouldn’t have to worry about reacting to her like the way his body was responding now.
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Shelly Ellis is a NAACP Image Award-nominated women’s fiction/romance author and creator of the Gibbons Gold Digger series. Her fiction writing career began when she became one of four finalists in a First-Time Writers Contest when she was 19 years old. The prize was a publishing contract and having her first short-story romance appear in an anthology. She has since published five novels and has been chosen as a finalist for 2015 NAACP Image Award in the Literary Fiction Category, 2012 African American Literary Award in the romance category, and won a 2013 Angie Award. She is married and lives in Maryland with her husband and their daughter.