Skin Deep

Skin Deep

3.7 4
by Tori Carrington

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As exciting as a pile of cracker crumbs...?

That's what Kyra White's ex thinks of her. Well, she'll show him--and every other guy who's ever dumped her! Toting the book that will transform her into a sex kitten in twelve simple steps, gal-next-door Kyra sets out to go from blah to breathtaking with the help of blond hair dye and barely there clothing.<

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As exciting as a pile of cracker crumbs...?

That's what Kyra White's ex thinks of her. Well, she'll show him--and every other guy who's ever dumped her! Toting the book that will transform her into a sex kitten in twelve simple steps, gal-next-door Kyra sets out to go from blah to breathtaking with the help of blond hair dye and barely there clothing.

But architect and best friend Michael Romero isn't so sure he likes the new Kyra. With her fresh confidence and "come on to me" looks, she's making it even more difficult for him to keep his feelings for her under wraps, but he'd better soon reveal that his attraction runs more than skin-deep because now that Kyra's making serious waves in the XY gene pool, her makeover could turn into his game over.

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Skin Deep

By Tori Carrington

Harlequin Enterprises

Copyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0373259905

Chapter One

Section I: Change is good ... Real good

Aw, hell, what was it about her?

Michael Romero absently rubbed the back of his neck with his palm and eyed where Kyra White sat two tables away at the Tampa, Florida bar and grill frequented by employees of neighborhood businesses, including the architectural firm where he and Kyra both worked. Aside from being co-workers - he was one of four partners while she did the bookkeeping - they were best friends. A relationship that had been cemented when she'd first hired on at Fisher, Palmieri, Romero, and Tanner four years ago. The first week on the job, she'd made a number of nervous mistakes and his partners had wanted to let her go. Instead, Michael had realized where the problem lay - her fear that she wouldn't live up to the job - and had befriended her. No big sacrifice. She'd turned out to be one hell of a bookkeeper. And the status of their relationship quickly escalated to them becoming best friends and led him to where he was right now. Essentially lusting after a woman who was off-limits to him.

Well, maybe "lusting" wasn't the word. But there was something about Kyra that jumped up and nipped him on the butt whenever he wasn't looking. Scratch that. Whenever he was looking at her, while she didn't have a clue about thedirection of his thoughts. A strange kind of gravitational pull that made it virtually impossible to think about anything or anyone else.

Of course it didn't help that Kyra was sitting with the latest in a long line of short-term boyfriends, guys who would rate high on anyone's moron scale. His gaze skimmed over Kyra's long, shiny chestnut-brown hair, her oval green eyes, her clean, girl-next-store features, and her slender form beneath a long, loose-fitting khaki skirt and boxy white blouse. Funny, he never much thought about her in sexual terms whenever they were face-to-face, trying out a new restaurant, playing on the firm's softball team, or watching the latest video. Then she was his best friend, full of enthusiasm and challenging ideas, ready to laugh at his lamest jokes, constantly carping about his poor diet and his need for a woman deserving of him.

At times such as these, however, Michael wondered if the guy she was with knew how lucky he was that he could press his mouth against her soft pink one. Fan open her blouse to expose her elegant throat. And then, Michael pondered whether any of Kyra's boyfriends had a clue how to handle a woman like her. Touch her in just the right way. Stroke her slick heat until her breath came in quick gasps and her body tensed in climax.

Aw, hell. Michael stared at jerk number - Hell, he'd lost count over the past four years, stopping at somewhere around number ten, though he suspected there had been a few more since then. Thirteen. He'd label this one Thirteen just because it felt right. Aside from being a very smug, up-and-coming attorney, Craig Holsom was attractive and he knew it. Kyra had been dating him for three weeks. A record even by her standards. Holsom's gaze wandered to a passing waitress, making no secret of his interest in the girl's generous physical assets. Michael stared down to his lap, where he was scratching his palm, and realized he was filled with the sudden urge to knock the grin straight from Holsom's face.

He grimaced, then took a long chug of his beer. He should have gone home instead of dropping by Lolita's for a brew with Kyra. Especially since he knew Kyra was meeting Craig. He was incapable of saying more than a semicordial hello to any of her dates before begging off with one excuse or another to settle at another table. Tonight's excuse had been a nonexistent date that was supposed to meet him there. It had become nonexistent as of two hours ago, when Jennifer Polasky had called him at work and told him she had to work late and was turning down his dinner invitation. She'd wanted a rain check, but Michael wasn't that interested and told her he'd call to reschedule sometime next week. He didn't bother to write a note to himself because he knew he wouldn't be contacting her.

Michael's mind ventured back to the object of his gaze. He'd already figured out that some of what he felt for Kyra stemmed from his need to protect her. He took great satisfaction in knowing that he knew her better than any other person alive - her sister Alannah aside - including all of the men she dated put together. He admired her strength when she'd told him she'd grown up in a two-room shack in a small town outside Memphis, Tennessee. He was equally as appalled when he'd learned she'd been working since she was ten, baby-sitting, pet walking, newspaper delivering, then graduating to fast-food joints so that she and her older sister Alannah could eke out a living after their parents had died. And he was even strangely proud that he'd been able to help her help herself when she'd flubbed up a receivables report and was almost dismissed from her job at the firm. Now she practically ran the place, keeping everything and everyone in line, proving to be the glue that held them all together when things got rough.

She was a breath of fresh air to a man who had grown up in a confused family environment. And she was a harsh taskmaster who refused to let him feel sorry for himself.

"Remember ... things could always be worse," was one of her trademark sayings.

And she was living proof that they, indeed, could be. But why she continued to prove the point by dating men who didn't have a clue about her true worth ceaselessly mystified him. Whenever he brought it up, she laughed, waved her slender hand, and told him that she was attracted to whichever guy she was attracted to, simple as that.

And Michael had been there to help pick her up whenever one of the jerks dumped her, as they all eventually did.

Kyra's face turned suddenly ashen. It was only then that Michael realized he'd been staring at her nonstop. He looked at Holsom, the way he held his hands, palms up, the elevated state of his brows as if explaining something Kyra wasn't equipped to handle.


Michael's fingers tightened on his beer bottle as Kyra reached out and rested a hand on Holsom's sleeve. Michael wished he hadn't sat so far away. If he were closer, he'd be able to listen in on what they were saying. Then again, he didn't have to hear the words to translate their meaning.

"I ... don't understand," was written all over Kyra's pretty face.

Holsom plucked her hand from his forearm and put it down in front of her, then patted it patronizingly. The bottle in Michael's hand nearly shattered. "It's over," Jerk Number Thirteen mouthed.

Here we go again. Michael started to get up from the table. It was getting a little old, this playing the knight-in-shining-armor bit. Especially since he never earned the princess's traditional gratitude.

Kyra urgently said something to Holsom and he coiled back, staggering to his own feet.

Double uh-oh. Michael forced himself to leave his beer where it sat on the table and began to make his way toward his best friend.

But he was afraid he was too late. "Oh, yeah?" Holsom said, his face turning an unappealing shade of purple. "Well you're about as lively in bed as a dead fish."

Oh, boy.

Excerpted from Skin Deep by Tori Carrington Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Skin Deep 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Tampa, Florida, though he hides his feelings, Michael Romano, a partner in an architect firm, knows that he wants the company¿s bookkeeper his best bud Kyra White as his own though he fears risking their friendship in any attempt to romance her. Following her latest rejection from some office loser, Michael takes Kyra to her favorite spot, a bookstore. Tired of male rebuffs, Kyra buys Sex Kitten 101 planning to remake her image from competent numbers manager to sexy siren.

From her hair to lip gloss to clothing, Kyra radically changes her appearance. Men, including a recent rejecter, desire her, but one kiss makes Kyra realize that she wants Michael. As they fall in love, Kyra quits her job because of an embezzlement charge hanging over her head. Additionally, Michael detests introducing his beloved to his parents because he feels ashamed of their old country ways. Thus, what easily should be a love of a lifetime built on passion and friendship appears doomed.

SKIN DEEP is a well-written torrid romance that reminds this reviewer of a General Hospital sub-tale (included Carl Anderson¿s song Friends and Lovers). The story line is what readers expect from the talented writing team Tori Carrington as the plot emanates heat from the two delightful lead characters. Though the embezzlement is interesting, the tension between Kyra and Michael is so hot that the money stealing becomes a minor nuisance rather than a strong subplot. Fans of equatorial relationships will want to read this tale because no one turns up the solar heat quite like this author team does.

Harriet Klausner

RtBBlog More than 1 year ago
Review by Jen: A classic friends to lovers story. Kyra goes through boyfriends like they are Kleenex and Michael, her best-friend and co-worker, sits on the side lines and pines for her. After Kyra's most recent breakup, she decides to transform and Michael can't resist the new, more confident Kyra. But can their new relationship last? This book was a very quick read and is a good "beach read". I have mixed feelings about the story. I liked the plot line, but I couldn't really find myself caring about the characters and that's a big problem. Kyra was too self-centered for my tastes and Michael just allowed her to walk all over him. I think I prefer my literary heroes to be a bit more "alpha male".
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago