Sultry in Stilettos
Shy, Fantasy Event Planner, Ricca Munroe has never been
lucky in love, so when the latest in a long line of Mr. Oh So Wrongs publicly
dumps her, she focuses on her career.
All she has to do to land the job of a lifetime is work side-by-side
with the one man who can break her heart.
Beckett Mills has never been in love. Personal entanglements
are a recipe for disaster—that is until one kiss from Ricca Munroe changes
everything. Beckett needs this job
to fulfill a promise he made. All
he has to do is resist the seductive charms of his best friend.
Can Ricca come out of her shell to land her dream job and
the love of her life? Can Beckett trust himself enough to actually fall in love
and still keep the promise he made?
Warning: Sexy, sass talking women will make you laugh, cry
and want a pair of killer footwear.
About the Author:
Nana's love of all things romance and adventure started with
a tattered romantic suspense she borrowed from her cousin. It was a sultry
summer afternoon in Ghana, and Nana was a precocious thirteen. She's been in
love with kick butt heroines ever since. With her overactive imagination, and
channeling her inner Buffy, it was only a matter a time before she started
creating her own characters.
Waiting for her chance at a job as a ninja assassin, in the
meantime Nana works out her drama, passion and sass with fictional characters
every bit as sassy and kick butt as she thinks she is. Though, until that ninja
job comes through, you'll find her acting out scenes for hubby, baby and puppy
while catching up on her favorite reality television shows in sunny San Diego.
“I want to see other people. Starting right now.”
Ricca Munroe’s heart stuttered, and her whole world stood still. She blinked up at her boyfriend Charles Garber, trying to comprehend the words that came out of his mouth. But her brain only caught snippets. The phrases she did catch hit her like blows. “Too clingy…” Slap. “Too focused on marriage...” Slap. “…not enough fun…” Punch. “…Don’t care enough about your appearance…” Knockout. Apparently this asshole was related to Roberto Durant.
He was dumping her? In the middle of the Westhorpe Gala? Hell.
Right now, one of her best planned fantasies was happening, and not only was she missing it, she was getting dumped. By a guy she’d planned to break up with? While she was wearing Spanxx no less. The universe had a messed up sense of humor.
Her best friend Jaya was getting the proposal of a lifetime, and Ricca was here on the balcony listening to this asshole. When Jaya’s hope-to-be-fiancé had approached Ricca to plan the proposal, she’d worked hard to make it happen. At least something good would come out of this night.
She glowered at Charles. When he’d picked her up tonight she’d thought he looked dapper with his gray tuxedo complementing his smooth, café-au-lait skin. Now, he just looked like a slimy slug who’d ignored the black-tie attire suggestion. “Funny how you couldn’t do this back at my place before we came out tonight.” Fury and confusion made for a fiery cocktail in her stomach.
He had the nerve to look bored. “I’m not an asshole. I wasn’t going to let you walk in all alone. But we’re done. I’m going to go mingle.”
“Let me get this straight, you’re doing me a favor? Funny how this favor couldn’t wait until the end of the night.” She narrowed her eyes. “You met someone, didn’t you?”
His voice was smooth—velvety—slick. “I just need to be with someone a little more driven. You know, going places.”
“And you think because I’m nurturing, I’m not driven.”
“Let’s face it. You’re the type of woman who wants to be married with kids. And that’s fine. I just don’t want that now.”
Her hands shook as she spoke. “Get the hell out of my sight.” If he didn’t leave her field of vision, she was likely to slap him in the face with her Spanxx.
He shrugged and walked away. Even more horrifying than all of this was the fact that the sniveling asshole had dumped her before she could break up with him. She'd known for weeks that she had to do it. But the holidays weren’t ideal. And not because, as her friend Micha suggested, that she would eschew all the good gifts if she did it earlier, but rather because neither one of them was in town. Dumping someone over the phone, or worse by text message, was so the new Post-it breakup, circa Sex and The City.
Why the hell was she always making bad man choices? Guys that she thought were solid and nice and seemed to care about her. Then shit like this happened. They were either deadbeats like Royce, who’d asked her to buy him a car. They only cared about sex, like Alan. They wanted an in with her friends, like Antoine. Or worse—cheat on her like that asshole, Braedon. She was off men—for good.
Okay so maybe not for good, but at least for a really long time. Her problem was that she was always chasing the possibility of love. She’d never actually been in love, but she understood the difference. It wasn’t that she hadn’t met the one, but rather that he was actively hiding from her.
Move, she told herself. Move. Get somewhere safe, then you can cry and throw things. But her feet refused to budge. She couldn't move her arms, like she was frozen alive. Like her limbs didn't connect to her brain, and there was nowhere to hide.
The crisp clicks of staggering stilettos off the polished concrete floor filtered through Ricca’s numbness as did the cocktail chatter. At least she was on the exterior balcony where no one could see her face. Above her, only a few clouds marred the clear night. Since they were so close to downtown she couldn’t see too many stars, but the few she did twinkled cheerily, oblivious to her woes. Strong heat lamps bracketed against the side of the building were the only thing that kept the crisp air from slicing through her.
She had to get out of here before anyone saw her. If she ran into Jaya, her friend would insist on trying to help. And God help them all if she ran into Micha. She would slaughter Charles publically, CSI and prison be damned.
A tear escaped from her lashes. Shit. Nausea rolled through her belly, and she wanted to hurl. But there she was, rooted in place. With no one coming to her aid.
Shit, she had to move before everyone witnessed her crumble into sloppy reality TV star kind of tears. Bracing her hand on the steel railing of the balcony, she wrapped an arm around her waist. The borrowed Balenciaga corset dress was a bad call. Not only had she had to put a cropped blazer jacket over it to cover the girls, but now the damn thing was cutting off her circulation. Or maybe that was the Spanxx. She dragged in several deep breaths in a futile attempt to calm her nerves. How the hell did someone escape a crowded party with their boobs hanging out, teetering on four-inch stilts while being asphyxiated? The hint of Hugo by Hugo Boss cologne alerted her that she wasn’t alone on the balcony. The scent was as familiar to her as her Marc Jacobs Oh Lola! perfume. As her heart kicked, her breathing grew shallow, and her palms started to sweat.
“Help. I need a rescue. Stage one Annie Wilkes clinger on my tail.”
Ricca gasped with surprise as Beckett Mills practically skidded into her. Given his broad-shouldered, six foot five-inch frame, she would have been road kill if he’d actually run over her. But what a way to go. With his curly blond hair and piercing blue eyes, not to mention his swimmer’s body, she’d have been the envy of every woman here.
Quickly she wiped her cheeks with her drink napkin and plastered a smile on her face. She could do this. A little small talk and she could escape. Nerves of steel, Ricca. The last thing she needed was Beckett’s pity. Ricca was used to playing buffer between him and overzealous women. After all, what good were wing-women if not as buffers? This was familiar territory. She’d explore her feelings about Charles dumping her later. Just as soon as she burned her Spanxx.
“Sorry, B, you’re no Paul Sheldon. Besides, I told you not to bring a colossal clinger as your date. When I met her last week, I told you this one wanted to have your babies like tomorrow. But you never listen to me.”
Beckett’s aqua blue eyes narrowed, and he frowned as he scrutinized her. The frown hardened his too-handsome features and made him look dangerous. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” she answered automatically. Best friend or not, she didn’t want to talk about this. Not now. Not with him.
He sighed and adjusted his bow tie, sticking a finger between the tight knot and his Adam’s apple. “You might as well tell me. I’ll keep harassing you until you do, and that would be a waste of your holy-shit-you’re-actually-showing-skin party dress. Just tell me.”
Ricca squared her shoulders. “You’re very irritating, you know that?” Ever since she’d known him, he had a way of making her forget her inherent shyness and just be her. Probably because he was persistently annoying. “Charles dumped me, okay? Can we stop talking about this now?”
“When the hell did he dump you? I saw you come in with that sniveling moron. I mean, why would you come with him to the party if—” He snapped his jaw shut, and his shoulders slumped. “Shit. When I just saw him walking away…”
“Was me telling him to go screw him—”
She didn’t get to finish as she instantly came in contact with Beckett’s chest. His arms enveloped her, and he squeezed. “He’s an asshole. If you want, I’ll grab Micha, and we’ll go disappear Charles’ ass.”
For one overindulgent second, Ricca let herself sink into Beckett’s embrace. She inhaled his unique scent of ocean and Hugo cologne. She allowed herself just one second of flutter in her lower belly and a galloping heart. Then she very deliberately stepped away.
“Thanks, but I’m good. Now do you want to explain to me how you ended up with yet another clinger?”
His lips quirked into a parody of a smile, but his brow remained furrowed. “Well, I wouldn’t have had to show up with a sub-par date if you had come with me.”
Ricca schooled her expression, even though she winced inwardly. She’d been deflecting Beckett’s shameless flirting for years. But tonight it smarted. “Well, to be fair, I had a boyfriend when you came running to me needing a last minute date.” Sniveling asshole EX-boyfriend.
He rolled his eyes. “Whatever. Where is the asswipe, anyway? I’m going to see if I can get him tossed out.”
“Don’t bother. He’ll just cause a scene. God, I can’t believe I wore Spanxx for this guy.”
“What the hell are Spanxx? And can I see them?” He waggled his eyebrows.
She rolled her eyes. Ignore and deflect. “You don’t want to know. And no, you may not. Besides, I know you like your women modelesque. My Spanxx would scare you.” For years she’d tried telling Beckett he might have more luck with a longstanding relationship if he just picked someone a little less Starving-Barbie and a little more normal. Like me.
With practiced ease, she smothered the errant thought. Her college crush on Beckett always picked the most inappropriate times to rear its head. Beside, Beckett Mills was not the marrying kind. Nor, with her petite curvy figure, was she in any way his type.
He inclined his head and grinned. “Nothing wrong with hot women. I can’t help it if they want to date me.”
“So modest. But maybe just once you could date someone who looks like she actually eats. What’s her name tonight could do with a pork chop or some of my mother’s callaloo.” Growing up, the Trinidadian dish, with its spices and hint of sweetness from coconut milk, was one of her favorites. It also was probably the reason for half her curves.
He nodded. “Yeah, hot.” He licked his lips. “And don’t make me hungry. I love your mom’s cooking.”
“You’re incorrigible. You deserve what you get.” Good old Beckett, predictable in his flirting. Normally, she indulged herself and enjoyed the attention. One of life’s little indulgences and, save one night in college, she knew better than to take his flirting as anything more. But tonight she wasn’t in the mood. All she wanted to do right now was go home and crawl into bed. With Beckett. No. Not with Beckett. Even she wasn’t that self-destructive.
One of the many photographers rolled around and snapped a shot of them together, which they dutifully smiled for. The poor guy had a tough time trying to get the two of them in the same frame. At her even five feet, she was more than a foot shorter than Beckett.
Beckett stared gloomily into his empty champagne glass. “So, are you going to let Jaya put you in one of those hideous bridesmaids’ gowns? If you want, I can recommend those ones from the mermaid fantasy we did last year.”
She grimaced. “Don’t you dare. The color alone is enough to make me vomit.” Of course he would remember that fantasy. They’d both worked at Fantasy, Inc. as event planners for three years. Leave it to Beckett to remember her least favorite fantasy.
“You wouldn’t have known it from the way you encouraged that woman. You were so sweet. I couldn’t believe you were able to pull that one off. The bride was a nightmare.”
“Well, that’s my job.” She tipped her head up and narrowed her gaze. “You going to survive Jaya’s wedding? I know you and Alec aren’t the best of friends.”
Beckett shrugged. “I don’t have any problem with the guy. And he seems to make Jaya happy, though I could do without the two of them pawing each other every chance they get. It’s not too likely that we’ll be chummy. Besides, my little ducklings have to grow up sometime.” He reached over to tug one of the tendrils that escaped her side bun.
Ricca gasped and ducked out of the way. “Do you have any idea how long it took me to get my hair to do this?” The side-swept messy bun had just the right amount of control and fun to it. Her hair was hard enough to control she didn’t need Beckett adding to the mess. “If I were you, I wouldn’t let Micha hear you call her a little duckling. I don’t want to think about what she might do or say to you.”
“I’m not afraid of Micha.” But still he looked around to make sure she wasn’t standing nearby.
From behind them, someone said, “How about a kiss?”
Both of them whirled and gaped at the unassuming photographer. Ricca’s heart skipped into a trot at the suggestion. Even as she drew in a shuddering breath, she clamped the flare of desire quick. No. Not ever going to happen. That would be all kinds of fuckeduptitude. She opened her mouth for some pat awkward response, but Beckett beat her to it.
“Yeah, no. I don’t think so. We’re not a couple.”
The photographer held up the camera. “It’s for the charity kiss auction. Winners of best kiss will get twenty thousand dollars donated to their favorite charity. Are you sure you can’t muster up a kiss?”
Ricca could practically hear Beckett’s teeth grinding. He needed the money. He’d been dying to rehab an old gymnasium downtown for years. Besides women, it was all he ever talked about. Twenty thousand dollars would go miles toward rehabbing it into a practice pool for underprivileged kids.
Never mind that she’d only fantasized about him kissing her for a million years. But this would not be that kind of kiss, she admonished herself. It’s for charity, her inner diva whined. But one kiss from him and she’d be in a mess of trouble. He was too much like his brother Braedon.
Becket’s heart thudded, and in that breath, he leaped at the idea. Not just because of the charity earnings. He might tease Ricca, but flirting with her was about as close as he’d ever let himself get. She was the one relationship he couldn’t fuck up—wouldn’t fuck up. She was right. It would ruin everything if he kissed her. But God, of the most secret wishes, it was the one he kept closeted under lock and key and under a wardrobe trunk.
Still, twenty grand, and he could have that pool open by the end of the year if he busted ass. He already had a few architects he wanted to take a look at the place. All he needed was the start up cash—and to risk his most important friendship for a dream. Maybe it would be fine. Maybe.
All he had to do was kiss her. Something quick and brief enough to put a holster on any errant fantasy that might crawl its way to the surface, but with enough dramatic flair to win. Geez. He cleared his throat. Maybe if he made a joke of it, it would be okay. “Relax, Ricca. I promise you, I’m very good.” He waggled his eyebrows for effect. Keep it nice and light.
She wrinkled her brows as she looked between him and the photographer. “You’re kidding me, right? Beckett, this is insane.”
“This is for charity. And I know just the charity. Help some underprivileged kids get a pool. It’s for the kids, Ricca. I can’t help it if you want my body.” He could only wish.
She scoffed. “You’re an idiot.”
“That may be true, but your man has a point. The charity kiss auction has been a Westhorpe Gala tradition for thirty years.” Adele Westhorpe, the hostess and billionaire hotel magnate, interjected as she strolled up to them, looking regal in her shimmer and diamonds. “Besides,” she added, “You’re standing under the mistletoe. You almost have to kiss at this point.”
Beckett looked up, and his heart kicked again. When he glanced back at the old lady, he would have sworn there was a knowing look in her eye, but it was gone just as soon as he noticed it, replaced by an impassive stare. He cleared his throat. “It’s not me you have to convince.” He inclined his head at Ricca. “I’m afraid she thinks I’m beneath her.”
Ricca slapped him on the arm. “Would you stop?” She huffed a breath. “Fine. But if you’re going to kiss me, make it good for the camera. Some kids need a pool, or so someone tells me.”
Beckett watched as Ricca licked her full lips. His body jerked and went rigid. Shit. Breathe. His fingertips tingled with the urge to touch her. In so many ways this was a huge mistake. In so many ways this could ruin everything.
Too bad he didn’t care.
Ricca looked from side to side. “Okay, let’s do this.”
He looked over at Adele Westhorpe, who wore a beatific smile. Fine. He could do this. Stepping into Ricca, he inhaled her scent. Something lemony and sweet. As familiar to him as his own cologne.
She tipped her head up and gave him a wry smile. “Why do you look terrified?”
He hadn’t had to think through the mechanics of a kiss so much since he was sixteen. Beckett wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her into his body. She leaned back, and wide, honey-brown eyes stared up at him. He swallowed hard as he walked himself through the technical mechanics. Lean over. Hold her tight. Angle your head. Place lips on hers.
The instant electric sparks made his brain fuzz. All he heard was the blood rushing through his head. Immediately, they pulled their lips apart and just stared. Under his fingertips, he felt her racing pulse, and his eyes widened. She’d felt it too?
She puffed out a tiny breath, and he smelled champagne and mint mixed with her lemony scent. He couldn’t have predicted what would happen next. When her lips parted, cohesive thought didn’t even factor. He slid his lips against hers again. Her breath mingled with his and his tongue sought hers. When she tentatively met his tongue with hers, he devoured her. Clamping a hand behind her neck, he held her in place. His hands shifted from her waist to her ass. He held her against him and groaned when her hands tentatively went to his face. The soft, generous curves of her breasts pressed into his chest.
She made a soft mewling sound, and he immediately deepened the kiss as a low growl rumbled deep in his chest. His libido roared to attention, and his erection throbbed against his tuxedo pants. In this moment, it was him and Ricca, alone and both willing and ready to do something carnal and dirty and—No, they weren’t alone. And he wasn’t kissing some random chick he’d picked up in a bar. He was kissing Ricca.
His brain gave the command to remove his hand from her ass, but his body rebelled against the instruction. Ricca didn’t help matters when her hands shifted from his face and fisted into the hair at the nape of his neck. An errant thought intruded into his lust-filled haze. Is she pulling you in, or is she pulling you away? Shit.
He straightened and pulled her upright, separating them. He took a deliberate step away and met her gaze. Her lips, plump and juicy, parted just a little. Her dark eyes were heavy lidded, and her pupils dilated. His body screamed to go back for more.
Ricca blinked, opened her mouth to speak, then shut it again. Beckett racked his brain but didn’t have the words for what they’d just done. After all there wasn’t a Hallmark for this kind of thing. Sorry I just kissed you like you were some bar girl I picked up in Pacific Beach.
“Well, if that doesn’t win best kiss, I’m dying to witness what does.” Adele Westhorpe looked pleased with herself.
Beckett’s fingers twitched, and he still felt the tingles in his feet. There it was, the inevitable urge to flee. Far and fast, away from anything important and serious. But he couldn’t just walk away from her. “Ricca, I—”
She quickly averted her eyes. “I—um. I’m just going to go. I’ll see you later.”
Beckett watched as she nearly ran in the opposite direction.
“Are you just going to let her walk away?” asked Adele.
“I don’t really have a choice.”