A Limited Engagement255
A Limited Engagement255
Getting engaged was supposed to be the easy way out…
Derek Sawyer, sexiest bad boy on the racing circuit, is about to land a huge sponsor. The only problem is the oil baron’s daughter wants to make Derek part of the deal. Worried he’ll offend the old billionaire if he rejects his daughter, Derek comes up with the perfect plan—pretend he’s already engaged to his friend Lilly.
Lilly Harmon used to daydream about her childhood crush Derek proposing to her…but not like this. Since she just lost her boyfriend and her job, and her five-year plan is drastically off track, playing pretend with Derek just might be the perfect distraction from her life
Money. Family. Love. The truth could destroy everything. And to think this engagement was supposed to be the easy way out…
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|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|Series:||A Limitless Love Novel|
|File size:||2 MB|
About the Author
Bethany Michaels is the author of over a dozen contemporary novels and novellas as well as a handful of Regency-set historicals and light paranormal romances. The first book in her Nashville country music series, Nashville Heat, was an RT Book Reviews Reviewers' Choice Award nominee.
When not working on her next book, Bethany enjoys movies, traveling, camping, hiking, and volunteering with her kids' scout troops. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four teens. Bethany Michaels is the author of over a dozen contemporary novels and novellas as well as a handful of Regency-set historicals and light paranormal romances. The first book in her Nashville country music series, Nashville Heat, was an RT Book Reviews Reviewers' Choice Award nominee.
When not working on her next book, Bethany enjoys movies, traveling, camping, hiking, and volunteering with her kids' scout troops. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four teens.
Bethany loves to hear from readers and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her website at www.bethanymichaels.com
Read an Excerpt
A Limited Engagement
A Limitless Love Novel
By Bethany Michaels, Stephen Morgan
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2017 Bethany Michaels
All rights reserved.
I can't believe I'm doing this.
Lilly Harmon stepped inside the swanky Chicago restaurant where she was meeting Derek for lunch. Catching up with an old friend would be no big deal. But her secret teenage crush?
Her secret teenage crush who had gone from small-town heartthrob to worldwide auto racing superstar?
Yep, I'm in trouble.
Though they'd grown up next door to each other, she now only saw him on the rare occasions they both made it back home to Georgia to visit family for the holidays. He'd been generous in offering to give her a ride home to Georgia on his private jet after their impromptu lunch.
The restaurant was crowded with financial district executives, and she panicked for a moment. She really did not want to see any of her former coworkers — it would be too much like a morning-after walk of shame, especially since security had escorted her out of the office building.
Derek was already seated at a small table in the center of the room, but when he saw her, he stood up to greet her, and his big grin revealed his toothpaste-commercial-white teeth.
Her heart stuttered. He'd been hotter than asphalt in August when he was a teen, and he had gotten even sexier as he'd matured and filled out.
"Hey," he said when she made it to the table, thankfully without tripping and falling on her face. "You look great, Lil."
"Thanks. Um ... so do you."
Understatement of the year right there. His slightly shaggy sandy-brown hair — cut and styled expertly — still retained a hint of the untamable wave that had always driven her and all the girls in school crazy. Blue eyes beneath full brows sparkled with fifty shades of ornery, and the dimple in his left cheek backed it up. No wonder women wore his face on their T-shirts and hung out around his trailer at the track.
He opened his arms for a hug, and during that quick, friendly squeeze, she got a whiff of his soap and the freshly laundered scent of his shirt. The way her body instantly perked up, he might as well have been broadcasting pheromones. Suddenly it felt like it was a hundred degrees in the restaurant. Someone really ought to turn down the heat.
Fortunately, Derek didn't have an ounce of attraction for her, so it didn't matter how unexpectedly hot she still found him. To be honest, she'd missed him. While other women had always wanted him for his looks — and his money — she'd missed their conversations. He'd always made her feel safe in her own skin, a feeling she needed desperately right now.
He sat back, looking like a man who had the world at his fingertips. What was it like to not worry about money all the time? To get a hero's welcome wherever you went? To have the career you'd always dreamed of having? Watching him win at life was the closest she'd ever come to having all the shards of her life fall perfectly into place.
"I was surprised when Shana told me you were going home for a visit," he said. "When you didn't make it back for Christmas, I figured you were too busy showing those city folks what a Georgia girl can do when she sets her mind to it."
"Well, I have some time off." Not a lie. Not really. Quitting her job technically counted as the same thing.
Quit. Fired. Politely asked to leave. The details were murky. But she definitely remembered hitting her fiancé in the nose. And she absolutely remembered that he'd deserved it. But Richard had also been her boss, and that had meant the end of her engagement and her career at Reynolds, Sherman, and Green.
Big mistake. Broken heart. Broken career. Broken everything. Strikes one, two, and three, all in one day, and her five-year plan was toast. Especially since Richard had promised her, blood gushing from his broken nose, that he'd be calling every firm in the country telling them she was a violent nutjob. Getting fired meant her carefully plotted future was now decidedly undecided.
Hey, she'd progressed to admitting she was fired. Maybe she'd get over this latest disaster after all.
Her hand shook just a little as she picked up her menu. "I appreciate the lunch offer and the ride to Penny Ridge. If you knew the week I've had ..." She was nervous being with him again, even though she'd known him her whole life. He was the boy next door. Hell, she'd once seen him in his underwear doing the Tom Cruise Risky Business impersonation when he thought no one was looking. The first sign he was a star in the making. "I've never been on a private plane before."
"It's definitely better than flying commercial," he said. "I travel twice as much now as I did when I just drove the dang race car. All the endorsements and press, not to mention the extra responsibilities I've taken on as far as running the team, suck up all my time. The Gulfstream is smaller than Dad's jet. Small enough to land at Wright's Field."
Wright's Field had been the abandoned, overgrown airstrip where half of Penny Ridge High went parking. And now it was Derek's private airport. Traveling around on a private jet might seem normal to Derek, but then his family had more money than God, thanks to his dad's genius in predicting the boom in biotechnology when Derek was just a baby and investing heavily. He hadn't exactly experienced a normal childhood.
"You know your father wanted the city to rename the airfield after you when you won your first championship?" She laughed. "Crazy, huh?" His smile flickered. Just for a moment. "I'll bet he did."
She raised an eyebrow. "What?"
"Nothing." And then that bright smile was back in place.
She knew he had issues with his father. Once his parents split, he'd wanted nothing to do with him. She got that. A lot of kids resented one parent or the other when they divorced. She'd hoped that had changed over the years, but the wounds seemed more raw than ever, and she suspected it had to do with the race team Robert Sawyer still owned part of. His father had given him his start, but Derek's talent, drive, and resulting success were all his own.
And boy, did success look good on him. He'd been sexy before in an earthy, bad-boy kind of way. Now that he'd added a little masculine swagger to the mix, he was nuclear.
Was she staring? Luckily, he hadn't seemed to notice. She swallowed and looked at the menu.
"Shana said you might be checking out some firms in Atlanta. You're looking for a new job?"
"Something like that." She probably wouldn't even make it into the foyer of a respectable firm, let alone land an interview, thanks to Richard. She'd loved working in advertising, but she had to face the fact that a career change was likely now ... and the job would probably involve asking her new clients if they wanted fries with that.
"I'll bet your mama would be happy to have you closer to home. She told my mom that she wants you to marry a nice Southern boy and settle down."
She nodded, pretending to study the menu, hoping that her best friend, Shana, Derek's little sister, had not shared the reason she was looking for a new job. That would be too humiliating to bear. And she was definitely not looking for a spouse, Southern or otherwise. "Uh, yeah. I wasn't where I thought I should be after three years with RSG. There was no way I was going to be where I wanted to be in five."
He rolled his eyes. "You and your five-year plans."
Instantly, the stilted nervousness melted away and they were back in Penny Ridge, bickering like real siblings, as if they'd never spent a day apart.
She glared at him over her menu. "What's wrong with having a plan?"
"Nothing. Sometimes you just get so caught up in plans that you can't see the opportunities right in front of you, Lil. You've always been that way. Too serious."
"Wow. It's amazing how you can tell me my life when I barely see you twice a year."
He shrugged. "It's a gift. Are there any other life challenges you need me to sort out for you while I'm at it?"
He could be a little overbearing, always sure he was right, but she'd missed him and the teasing back-and-forth they had. When she'd seen him at Thanksgiving, even speaking to him had seemed like cheating on Richard, given the way her heart rate always jumped when he was near. No longer a problem.
"Please. Just because you're older, a lot older, doesn't mean you know everything."
"Ouch." He sipped his water, then set the goblet back on the linen tablecloth. "Fine. I'm sure you're perfectly able to run your own life and that the whole five-year-plan thing is the only way to get through the day."
"Some people would say a plan is how you accomplish anything."
He raised an eyebrow. "And I'd say that's how you overthink things to the point you never live. I try not to think past the next race. It keeps your head clear."
"I think that clear head of yours has bounced off the steering wheel a few too many times." She went back to perusing the menu, a little smile playing at her lips for the first time in longer than she cared to remember. He'd always had a way of teasing her out of a funk. He'd gotten even better at riling her up.
Well, two could play that game.
She opened her mouth to give him a piece of her mind —
Then he looked away and swallowed. He came back at her with those big eyes and a bigger smile, but it was too late. She'd already seen it.
He was nervous.
What the hell? Why was Derek, international playboy, media darling, and sinfully sexy god of auto racing, nervous about lunch with an old friend?
* * *
Asking a woman to marry me shouldn't be this hard.
Derek had been in a lot of sticky situations on and off the track. Proposing to a woman he'd known all his life should be easy as pie. But he knew he was in trouble the minute his fingers brushed Lilly's.
No, actually the trouble had started the second Shana had told him about Lilly's predicament and asked him to give her a lift home to Penny Ridge.
He should be thinking about how he was going to ask an old friend for a huge favor, but now that she was here in front of him, all he could think about were her curves and her vanilla scent that always reminded him of home.
Yeah, that didn't complicate things at all.
He seriously had to get a grip. Lilly was a family friend, not some racing groupie hanging around outside his trailer looking for a quick hookup with a celebrity. She was exactly the opposite, and that was why he'd never cross that line with her. Kissing her was off the table, but putting a ring on her finger was the reason he'd suggested meeting for lunch before their flight home.
He'd tried to think of another way to handle the Thomas Oil situation, but he'd always come back to the same conclusion. If he wanted to sign this sponsorship deal, he needed Lilly. And if his body wouldn't let him forget how much more gorgeous she was now than ever? He'd keep control of himself. He couldn't afford to think of her as anything but an old friend and hopefully a temporary fiancée. Period.
So just ask her.
He opened his mouth — but good Lord, what he'd give to put his mouth on her, to run his tongue along her neck and — Shit. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea.
He could still back out.
Except he would do whatever it took to escape the old man. Yeah, his father's money had helped him get his start. But the price? Wasn't worth it. Not just because his father second-guessed every decision Derek made. But because of the way his father had destroyed his mom. Hell, the entire family. This money from Thomas Oil would allow Derek to hang up the phone on his father and never speak to him again.
Just one problem.
The billionaire's daughter wanted Derek for herself. Well, that was never going to happen. But rejecting her would mean rejecting her father.
Unless Derek wasn't available. Enter Lilly. One of the only people left in the world who really knew him, and the only woman he trusted to help out on his terms.
It was a perfect plan. Now all he needed to do was find the perfect moment to ask her.
Five little words.
He'd known her forever; they ought to be so easy to say.
Lilly, will you marry me?CHAPTER 2
"Derek, is there something you want to —"
Then a familiar voice sent all the alarm bells in Lilly's head ringing. She peeked over her menu and saw the hostess seating someone two tables over.
No, no, no, no. It can't be.
It was Richard. Immaculately dressed in a suit that cost twice the rent on her apartment, not a hair out of place, and only a couple of inches taller than Lilly. The only thing that marred his perfect appearance was the swollen red nose Lilly had given him — totally by accident — when he'd ended their relationship by informing her she was being transferred to Fuggitt, Nebraska. Alone.
And while he had intended to send her into the middle of nowhere, the woman on his arm indicated he had wasted no time in filling Lilly's spot in his bed. Small comfort that this woman must have already discovered that spot was cold and orgasm-free.
"Rat bastard," she muttered and tried to hide her face behind the menu. So this was why he'd never wanted to take her out. Too much chance they'd run into the Other Woman. Or maybe Lilly had been the other woman. That was something to ponder the next time she woke up in a pool of cold sweat at 2:00 a.m. convinced she was going to die alone.
Derek was looking at her. "What did you call me?"
"Not you," she said. She couldn't help sneaking another peek at the pair. Wait, were they ... were they holding hands? She swallowed. It was one thing knowing Richard had been screwing around on her. But holding hands was the kind of casually intimate gesture he'd always refused, not to mention getting him to say the L-word. The closest she'd ever gotten was a hearty "back atcha" and a playful smack on the ass when she'd professed her feelings.
She ground her teeth to keep from screaming something that would get her kicked out of her second establishment inside a week. But if she got to dump something on his stupid cheating head before security got to her, it might just be worth it.
"Is that the guy?" Derek asked in a low whisper, leaning across the table. "He works fast. Y'all broke up, what, last week?"
Her eyes darted to Derek's face, so close to hers. Crap. He knew.
"What did Shana tell you?"
"Only that you had been messing around with your boss and that's why you had to leave." He sat back. "Oh, and something about a beat-down with a telephone."
She groaned. "It wasn't that sordid. We were a couple. It was a relationship with long-term potential." Or so she'd thought. "And it was only the handset, not the whole phone. My hands were a little sweaty and it slipped out of — never mind. Shana wasn't supposed to tell you."
"She swore me to secrecy."
"Well, it's a good thing you're not in the CIA."
His eyes narrowed. Something sparked in them. He swallowed — again with that uncharacteristic nervous tic — and then smiled. "How about I make it up to you?"
"How? Got a three-hole-punch in your wallet you don't mind me throwing at his face?"
"I left my office supplies in my other pants, but I've got a better idea." That million-dollar grin spread from ear to ear. "We'll make him jealous."
Her gaze slid to Richard and the way he was looking at his date. "I'm not sure that's going to work. He seems pretty wrapped up in his lunch date's breasts."
"Trust me. It'll work. You're a beautiful, intelligent, accomplished woman, and he'll spend the rest of his life kicking himself for letting you get away."
"Yeah, right." There was a twinkle in his eye, but Lilly didn't get the sense he was out-and-out mocking her. And the thought of revenge was tempting. Revenge that didn't end in security escorting her out of the building was even better.
"What did you have in mind?"
He took her hand across the table and looked deep into her eyes as if she were the most beautiful thing he'd seen in forever, instead of his little sister's best friend and the perpetual pain in his side growing up. "Just follow my lead. Act like we're gearing up for a nooner and are totally into each other."
His hands were large and warm, and the way he was looking at her, even if it was an act, made her squirm in her chair. As a lovesick teen, she'd spent hours imagining what it would be like having him look at her like this. It was everything she thought it would be, and maybe a little more. Only she wasn't a teen any more. So pathetic. Now she knew a fantasy was just a fantasy.
"A nooner? Seriously?" She sneaked a peek at Richard and caught him staring at her, unblinking, like the giant snake he was. The woman turned to follow his gaze — and Lilly recognized her as the busty receptionist at RSG she'd always had a feeling hated her. Now she knew why.
Derek dropped her hand and scooted his chair out, about to get up. "Or I could just walk over there and punch him in his ugly, cheating face."
Excerpted from A Limited Engagement by Bethany Michaels, Stephen Morgan. Copyright © 2017 Bethany Michaels. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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