Read an Excerpt
In Hot Pursuit
By Joanne Rock
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Chapter One"Step aside, ladies. Jailer coming through." Dangling handcuffs from her manicured fingers, Lexi Mansfield swept past the other socialites thronging the ladies' room mirror in the trendy Manhattan bar.
She didn't need to see her reflection to confirm she looked as good as her hodgepodge of features would allow. She'd blown two paychecks to ensure New York's best hair and makeup people maximized her questionable beauty assets for tonight's fund-raiser.
A girl couldn't go into battle unarmed, after all. She stuffed her handcuffs into her purse for safekeeping until her jailer stint for tonight's Buy a Celebrity's Freedom event kicked in. She would have served as MC tonight, if not for the rampant gossip currently making the rounds about her. Being demoted to jailer might be a step down, but Lexi was determined to wrest all the fun she could out of the handcuffs.
Behind her, a compact snapped close and a pair of high heels clicked double time on the ceramic tile. "Hold up, Lex," Lexi's girlfriend Amanda called.
Lexi forced herself to stop, even though she couldn't wait to leave the smothered giggles and gossipy whispers of the powder room behind. She knew all too well that she was the hot topic of the night, and the knowledge ate away at her stomach far more than did the two glasses of merlot - although the smoke and hair spray fumes didn't help much, either.
No doubt the ladies' room rumor millcouldn't wait for Lexi to scram so they could continue their discussion of the day's scandal. Lexi Mansfield - one of New York's leading fashion reviewers and most popular magazine columnists - had been shredded to ribbons in a scathing letter to the editor written by an up-and-coming designer.
The designer in question, Simone Bertrand, had been Lexi's nemesis since boarding school. A trustfund baby with more boobs than brains, Simone had the morals of a tomcat, but her scads of money usually covered up the fact.
Amanda smoothed a hand over a nonexistent stray lock of light brown hair and frowned at Lexi. "You are dangerous tonight. I about twisted my heel to catch up with you."
Lexi couldn't help a twinge of envy for her gorgeous friend, a ringer for a young Grace Kelly, except for the darker hair. Despite Lexi's designer duds and expensive makeup job, she paled in comparison to Amanda's born beauty.
"Amanda, I appreciate what you're doing, but you don't need to baby-sit me. I'm a big girl, I can handle the gossip hounds." Lexi opened the bathroom door to greet the pulsing bass of a pop dance tune.
Amanda pushed the door shut again and grabbed Lexi by the elbow. Lexi squealed, but allowed her friend to tug her back into the restroom toward the semi-quiet corner by a condom-dispensing machine.
Lexi snorted at the picture of the ecstatic-looking couple plastered on the front of the dispenser. It had been far too long since Lexi had needed condoms for a damn thing.
"Why do I get the feeling you want me to leave?" Amanda huffed, crossing her arms over her blue taffeta gown. "Don't tell me you'd rather face the vultures by yourself."
Lexi shrugged. "Maybe I'd be better off facing them on my own, so people can say what they want about the letter and get it over with." The charity they were raising money for tonight - Shelter the Homeless - was one of Lexi's pet projects. She wouldn't leave until she'd done her job.
Amanda studied her for a moment. "Are you sure?"
What was the worst people could say? I agree with Simone's letter to the editor and I think you are a blot on the concept of style, too? I second Simone's observation that you have all the magnetism of a houseplant? Besides, Simone's public attack might be embarrassing, but it didn't scare Lexi half as much as the anonymous threatening notes she had been receiving for the past month.
She didn't breathe a word of those letters to anyone, however. Lexi had grown accustomed to fending for herself a long time ago.
Lexi nodded. "I'm sure. I've made my entrance. I've scoped out my territory. I'm ready to take them on."
"I don't know, Lex." Amanda glanced uncertainly over one shoulder toward the crowd of cackling social divas spritzing hair spray and layering on lipstick. "They look like they can't wait to get their talons into you. Want me to wait until the Buy a Celebrity's Freedom event begins? Once you start your gig locking up the celebs, you should be okay."
Lexi still fumed to think she would be stuck filling the makeshift jail cell with wealthy patrons. She should be the MC tonight, but after the scathing letter, the charity had asked her to let someone else take center stage.
"If they get too rough before then, I'll just latch on to someone else." Lexi eyed the stud on the condom machine and wondered if maybe tonight she'd live on the wild side and find herself another protector - one who wore a tux instead of blue taffeta. "Besides, how can I feel like I have more magnetism than a houseplant when I'm walking around next to the Revlon girl?" She shoved Amanda toward the door. "Get lost, girlfriend. You've got better ways to spend your Saturday night."
Amanda flashed a wicked grin. "Duke did say something about waiting up for me."
"See?" Lexi brushed away an escapee spiral of hair from her face and winked. "You're supposed to be packing for your getaway, anyway. What time do you leave tomorrow?"
"Nine. I can't believe he's taking me on a motorcycle trip. I've never done anything so exciting in my whole life."
"Call me a city girl, but I don't know if three days perched on a motorcycle seat is my idea of fun." Lexi grinned, the first smile she'd managed since waking to find the derisive letter to the editor in the very magazine she'd given the past five years of her life to. "Go home, Amanda. I can take it from here."
Amanda nodded as she adjusted Lexi's borrowed diamond collar. "You're right. You look ready to kick some gossipmonger hind-end."
Lexi laughed, tugging open the rest room door. "I dressed to kill for a reason, honey." She withdrew her silver handcuffs from her purse and slid one end over her wrist. "Besides, maybe I can squeeze a small amount of satisfaction from my detractors by playing the dominatrix."
"No brutality, Lex," Amanda warned. "And if you find yourself in any provocative situations with those cuffs, I highly recommend capturing it on videotape."
Lexi laughed, knowing she'd never have anywhere near the kind of sizzling adventures Amanda had stumbled into a few months ago with Duke Rawlins.
"I'll leave the video to you. I'm just going to have fun being Lexi, Mistress of the Night."
After they exchanged a quick hug near the bar, however, Lexi's smile faded as she watched Amanda disappear in the cloakroom.
Leaving Lexi alone to fend for herself. In a room stuffed full of people who couldn't wait to see her crumble.
Excerpted from In Hot Pursuit by Joanne Rock
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.