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The Seduction Request
By Michelle Celmer
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Dress it up however you like, Conway, but behind all your money and fame, you'll always be trailer trash to the people of this town."
The line went dead and Matt Conway snapped his cell phone shut, fighting off a sense of unease. He should have expected his homecoming would ruffle a few feathers, that some people from his past would never accept him, yet it still stung. Despite everything he'd accomplished, he felt like a vulnerable kid again.
Shaking off the all-too-familiar sensation, he clipped the phone on his belt and gazed around the partially constructed restaurant interior, dragging a bandana across his sweaty brow. He breathed in the scent of freshly cut pine, waiting to feel the satisfaction, the deep sense of accomplishment he'd more than earned. This was to be restaurant number twenty in the Touchdown Bar and Grill chain, yet this one erected in his hometown of Chapel, Michigan, held special meaning. It was a symbol.
The kid who'd grown up on the wrong side of the tracks now owned sprawling homes in three different countries. He'd traded in the beat-up vehicle of his youth for a medley of vintage cars any collector would salivate over. He had achieved nearly every financial goal he'd set for himself.
So why, he wondered, would aman who had accomplished everything he'd set out to do feel this ... dissatisfaction? Why would he feel deep down that he was still, as his mystery caller had so succinctly put it, trailer trash. He worked longer hours, pushed himself to the absolute limit, yet that gratification, that feeling that he'd finally arrived, eluded him.
He was sure this restaurant would be the key. If he ever finished it, that is. Each day dawned with a new problem to delay construction further. They were set to open on Labor Day, only two months away, and were already three weeks behind schedule. He had too much riding on this. While there was always the possibility a restaurant could fail, the odds were stacked against him this time.
Chapel, Michigan, population ten thousand, wasn't exactly known for its trendy night spots. Touchdown would either bring in patrons from surrounding areas and boost revenue for the city, or it would flop within the first year.
It was a risk he was willing to take. A risk he had to take.
Someone called his name, and he turned toward the voice, grinning when he spotted his best friend, Tyler Douglas, standing in the doorway. Ty cleared the space between them in two long strides and pulled Matt into a bear's embrace, slapping him hard on the back. "Damn it's good to see you. What's it been, almost six months since I visited California?"
"At least that."
"So how does it feel? Your first return home in what, eleven years?"
"Things have changed a lot." But not so much that he didn't get the same feelings of inadequacy. The impression that when people looked at him, they would forever see his parents. In California, people saw a man who had everything he could possibly want.
Honestly, he couldn't decide who was more disillusioned.
"I should have known you couldn't sit around and watch without getting your hands dirty." Ty spun in a slow circle. "They've come a long way since construction started."
"Thanks for keeping an eye on things for me. And I can't thank you and your parents enough for selling me the property. I know it's been in your family for a long time. Sitting right on Main Street, I couldn't ask for a better location."
"Are you kidding? You're part of the family." Ty leaned against a stud that would eventually support the wall separating the dining area from the game room. "As a matter of fact, that's sort of why I'm here. I have an important favor to ask."
"Anything," he said without hesitation. "Just name it."
"I want you to seduce my sister."
Matt's heart skipped a beat - then it felt as though it had stopped beating altogether. If there was a last woman in the world he wanted to seduce - or more to the point, should seduce - it was Ty's sister Emily. "You're kidding. Right?"
Ty's expression was serious. "I know you guys had some kind of falling out before you left for California, but before you say no, hear me out."
"Falling out" was a mild way of describing what had transpired between himself and Emily. More like, he'd broken her heart and deserted her. But to have led her into thinking there was hope of a relationship would have been dishonest. Despite what he'd felt for her, she deserved more than he was willing to give. And though they'd vowed to remain friends, things had never quite been the same after their one night together.
He'd never been the same.
But it wouldn't hurt at least to hear Ty out before he said hell no. He crossed his arms over his chest and took a seat on an unoccupied sawhorse. "I'm listening."
"There's a problem with Emily's boyfriend."
A sensation that felt too much like jealousy soured his stomach. Of course Emily would have a boyfriend. She was a grown woman. Did he really think she'd been in limbo all these years, unable to love anyone but him?
Well, a guy could hope ...
No. He shouldn't hope things like that. He didn't. He wanted Emily to be happy. She deserved to be happy. "What kind of problem?" he asked Ty.
"I know she wants to get married and have a family, but this guy is in no hurry to commit. It's a dead-end relationship. I think deep down she's unhappy but isn't ready to admit it to herself. I'm sure it'll only take a nudge and she'll realize the mistake she's making. That's where you come in."
"What am I supposed to do?"
"Spend time with her. Show her how much happier she could be without him. My parents and I have tried to talk to her about it, but you know how stubborn she can be. She'll stay with the guy on principle alone if it proves us wrong."
"Ty, I'm not in the market for a wife and family. If that's what she's looking for, she's not going to find it in me, and I won't lie."
"I'm not asking you to lie. By all means be honest with her."
"I'm a little fuzzy on the seducing concept. How far do you expect me to take this?"
"As far as you have to."
Excerpted from The Seduction Request by Michelle Celmer Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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