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Picture Me Sexy
By Rhonda Nelson
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMEMPHIS LINGERIE QUEEN Delaney Walker jilted - again!
Delaney muttered a soft oath as she stared grimly at the newspaper. Given the state of the economy, the scandal with the Catholic Church, and the recent war, one would think that the River City Herald could feature something besides her pitiful social life on their front page. It was ridiculous really. Journalism and the state of society was at an all time low if her busted love life was considered news. Hell, it wasn't news, Delaney amended - it was entertainment. She grimaced.
She was entertainment.
The moment she'd gone from being a struggling designer to an overnight success, Delaney had become Memphis's bad-girl icon. Never mind that the moniker didn't fit, that the reputation was a complete figment of society's imagination. She designed hot, racy lingerie, ergo she must be hot and racy. Her lips curled wryly.
Ha. Nothing could be further from the truth.
That mentality coupled with her penchant for dating the occasional baseball star and for her alarming tendency to get engaged and - just as quickly unengaged - didn't help matters in the least. Memphis journalists followed her every move with avid interest, got paid to print her humiliations as if her life were merely the next chapter of a running joke. Most of the time, Delaney didn't care. Any publicity was good publicity as far as she was concerned. She'd always fumed about it in private, then laughed all the way to the bank.
But for reasons she didn't understand, it was harder to summon the laughter this time, and even harder to laugh her way to the bank.
Delaney suspected that glum realization stemmed from the fact that Roger worked at the bank.
Her spineless ex hadn't even had the common courtesy of calling off their engagement in person - he'd taken the hi-tech approach and e-mailed her. That had been a first. She'd been dumped over dinner and over the phone, but this was the first time she'd been given the old heave-ho via the information superhighway.
But it would be the last. She was absolutely, unequivocally finished with men.
Delaney read through the article, winced at the accompanying picture. Hogsville. She looked huge. She was no dainty miss by any stretch of the imagination - she'd been an overweight child and still suffered the effects of that mentality - but in all fairness, the photo wasn't an accurate depiction of her true self. Her lips curled. If that were the case, then Roger would have scales and a long forked tongue, which more accurately matched his character.
"Delaney ... I have bad news."
Delaney looked up from her desk and met the worried gaze of her personal assistant. She blew out a breath and slouched back into her leather executive chair. "I've already seen the paper, Beth. You can lose the gloom-and-doom expression. Honestly, I'm surprised that they hadn't gotten wind of it before now." She and Roger had been officially un-engaged for almost a week now. Clearly someone at the Herald was losing their touch. The last time she'd been jilted, it only taken a couple of days for the story to break.
Beth shook her head, winced. "It's not that."
Delaney hummed under her breath. Interesting. "Am I going to need a Kiss or the Big Block?" she asked, using her own personal uh-oh scale. Amazing how many things could be gauged by chocolate. Some problems could be handled with a mere satisfying Kiss of chocolate. Others - like being dumped for the second time - required a larger dose. That's where the Big Block came in. She'd consumed quite a bit of chocolate over the past week - the only food weakness she'd allowed herself to keep once she'd finally carved the pounds off she'd hauled around as a child - but she'd vowed to get her addiction under control. Amazing what a new attitude could do.
Beth bit her bottom lip. "Definitely a Big Block."
Uh-oh, Delaney thought. That didn't bode well for her peace of mind or her hips. Thank God for antidepressants and Lycra, she thought with a droll smile.
With a silent sigh, Delaney tossed her pencil aside and donned a friendly expression despite the familiar sensation of dread swelling in her belly. She'd detected a flash of pity in Beth's tense gaze and instinctively knew that this particular morsel of bad news wasn't business related - it was personal.
The worst kind.
Nevertheless, Roger had already called off their engagement. Whatever Beth had to tell her couldn't possibly be any more humiliating than that.
Delaney pulled in a bolstering breath, plucked a block of chocolate from her drawer and sat it on her desk. Still, it couldn't hurt to be prepared. "Well?"
"You know that trip to the Greek Isles you wanted me to cancel?"
Delaney snorted and rolled her eyes at her assistant's attempt at tact. "You mean my honeymoon?"
"Er ... that would be the one, yes."
The one that she'd spent months planning, that she'd insisted on paying for herself because her dream honeymoon had been so exorbitantly expensive she'd felt guilty asking Roger's proud but poor parents to foot the bill. Roger, the tightfisted bastard, had never offered to share the cost with her. Thrifty, she'd rationalized. A good money manager. He'd routinely stuck her with bills that he should have paid all under the guise of not "infringing upon her independent nature." What a jerk. Delaney mentally tsked and shook her head. How plainly she could see that now.
"What about it?" Delaney finally asked.
Beth shifted miserably. "I, uh, can't cancel it."
Delaney blinked, taken aback. "What? Why? I know that it's last minute, but I still should be able to get a partial refund." Roger's cousin owned a local travel agency and had pulled the honeymoon together for them. Considering she'd been the injured party in the breakup, she never expected any problem in canceling the trip and recouping part of her funds. In order to avoid further humiliation, she'd given Beth the job of calling. She should have known she wouldn't be so lucky. "Get them on the phone," she sighed. "I'll take care of it."
"Believe me," Beth sighed wearily. "If it was that simple I wouldn't be in here."
"But it is simple," Delaney insisted as an insistent quiver of annoying alarm vibrated in her belly. "I've paid for a honeymoon package that I no longer need - being as I'm no longer going on a honeymoon," she added pointedly.
Beth chewed her bottom lip. "You might not be going on a honeymoon ... but Roger is."
Excerpted from Picture Me Sexy by Rhonda Nelson Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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