Instead, she’s been spending her days battling her co-workers at Wunderthings Lingerie International and her nights trying to avoid her grandmother’s possessed cat. And though she gets a great employee discount, she hasn’t needed it since well, it’s been a while. Even her grandmother has a more active social life. So when a chance to go to Sydney to open up a new lingerie store lands in Darcie’s lap, she jumps at it.
Australia is incredible, and so is Dylan Rafferty, the Aussie sheep rancher she falls into bed with. But now that she’s met a man capable of giving her multiple orgasms and multiple laughs, Darcie bristles at his fantasy of her barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen, no less. Should she marry him, or send him back to the set of The Donna Reed Show?
Caught between romance and reality, Darcie vows to define life, and happiness, her own wayeven if that means risking it all and going strapless!
|Publisher:||Red Dress Ink|
|File size:||1 MB|
About the Author
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Read an Excerpt
By Leigh Riker
Harlequin EnterprisesCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises
All right reserved.
Chapter One"I mean, it's just logical - stuff happens. Right?"
Like muttering to herself, Darcie Elizabeth Baxter thought, or trying to make sense of things, this was nothing new. Stuff happened, especially to a twenty-nine-year-old woman trying to figure out her life. Happiness. Men. Work. You name it.
So on a sleet-drizzled Monday morning in January, it didn't surprise Darcie to march into her cubicle at Wunderthings Lingerie International six floors above the Avenue of the Americas - and find Greta Hinckley rifling her desk. Again. Still, Darcie's heart stalled. Even her grandmother told her she could be too trustingly naive. Although Wunderthings was not a huge corporation on the order of Warner, Maidenform, or Victoria's Secret - the industry superstar - the smaller company had potential. Darcie wanted to be part of that, but she felt a sinking sensation. Had she left the draft of her proposal for this week's development meeting in plain view?
"Morning, Greta." The other woman jumped - not high enough for Darcie's taste - then whirled around, a sickly smile pasted on her narrow mouth. It made Darcie feel lush, as if she'd sprung for those silicone lip injections like all the female news anchors on TV. Everything about Greta Hinckley seemed narrow. Her horsey face, her shoulders, her blade-slimbody ... her mind.
"Take anything that appeals to you." Darcie set down her foam container of coffee, determined not to let her incipient PMS this morning send her over the edge. "Don't let me stop you. Mi casa es su casa." She didn't know the Spanish word for desk. House would have to do. Greta wouldn't notice.
From the crinkle lines around her pale brown eyes, the faint gray streaks in her medium brown hair, Greta had passed her thirtieth milestone years ago. Still single, without a man in her life, according to the office grapevine, Greta lived alone in Riverdale and devoted her entire being to Wunderthings - and whenever she could, to stealing Darcie's creative output.
Too bad Darcie was the only person who knew that. It was enough to make her yearn for a full bag of red licorice whips for comfort. Darcie didn't like confrontation, especially with Greta, and usually Greta's "borrowing" concerned lesser issues. A suggested design to showcase next season's bras or bustiers. An Un-Valentine's Day Sale. New, high-traffic quarters for a not-quite-profitable-enough branch store. Not this time. A glance at the pile of papers on Darcie's desk confirmed that her proposal for Wednesday was missing. Her global plan.
She opened her coffee, took a sip, and burned her tongue. "Damn." She liked to think of herself as a controlled person, even today when she knew better. With difficulty she mellowed her tone. "If there's anything I can clarify, let me know."
"Clarify?" Darcie perched on the edge of her desk, crowding Greta. She hated the dumb act. As if this wasn't enough of a disaster, Darcie's mother was in town - the worst week she could pick for one of her surprise visits to check on Darcie's "decadent" lifestyle in the big city. If only a fraction of that were true, Darcie thought, and struggled to remain calm. Maybe if she explained her position to Greta ...
"We've done so well in the States, in Europe, blah, blah, as Walt Corwin said at last week's staff meeting, that the board has voted - as you know - to open up the Pacific Rim market. With the imminent recovery of the Japanese economy - let us pray - the decline of the Australian and New Zealand dollars, which gives us a growth opportunity at bargain prices, I'm suggesting ..."
Greta straightened. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
Darcie arched a brow. "Then may the best woman win."
"Walter will decide -" Instantly, with their boss's name, Darcie noticed Greta's expression soften. "We'll know then, depending on the board's input, who will become his new Assistant to the Manager of Global Expansion. With my experience -"
"Your brilliance," Darcie supplied, her astonishment growing. Did she only imagine it, or did Greta's tone turn to maple syrup when she mentioned Walter? Interesting.
"Morning, ladies." As if Darcie had cued her, Walt Corwin's administrative assistant swept along the aisle between cubicles, dispensing her usual brand of daily cheer and memos. Greta beamed. If nothing more, Greta was a political barracuda, but Darcie, shaking over this latest intrusion into her space, into her mind, could only smile weakly in response. And wonder if Greta really had a yen for their boss, the least of her problems.
This reminded Darcie of her own precarious hormonal state. Tonight, she would see the man in her life - a loose term to be sure - for their weekly "get together." With luck, those few hours between the sheets might help her forget Greta and her own mother.
As she passed by, Nancy Braddock brushed the edge of Greta's desk across the way. The in-basket wobbled and a sheaf of papers that had been sticking out slid onto the floor. In the midst of her morning parade, Nancy paused.
"Sorry, Greta." Deliberately, she picked up the stack, tamped the pages into precise order - for Nancy, everything had to be in order, a habit Darcie admired - and started to set them back on the desk. Then she stopped again, glancing up with an intent frown in Greta's direction, the most expression the unflappable Nancy ever showed.
After a brief inspection, she handed the papers to Darcie then walked on.
Darcie stared down at them. My proposal. How long would it have taken Greta to scan the document, change the author's name, then print out a fresh copy for Walter Corwin - and even more important, for the Board of Directors?
Darcie nudged Greta away from her desk. "Excuse me. This has to be in Walt's office by ten today and I need to make a few additions. I can't imagine how it ended up on your desk, Hinckley."
The words didn't satisfy. She couldn't seem to blast Greta, except in her mind, and mentally Darcie stiffened her spine. She would let the proposal speak for itself. Damned if she would go under without a fight.
* * *
"If my hormones weren't on a total rampage, I'd just leave."
Ever since Greta that morning, Darcie's day had gone downhill. Muttering to herself that night, she stared into the mirror of the usual room at the Grand Hyatt Hotel and shuddered at the sight. She always cringed at this time of the month, so that was certainly nothing new. She had a dozen friends who felt the same way about their appearance - miserable fat slut no one could love - twelve times each year. Darcie was in her own puffer fish phase: four extra pounds, cheeks too full, breasts engorged and aching, belly out to here ...
PMS Psycho. Unfortunately, she also felt horny.
Darcie caught Merrick Lowell's reflection in the glass and frowned. Only moments ago he'd plied her with kisses, soft and hard, a caress or two of her tender nipples, before he abandoned foreplay, and her, for the telephone.
"I mean, go. As in, 'I'm outta here.' Let Mary Thumb and her four daughters 'handle' his problem."
The selfish thought couldn't be avoided. What about her problem? Why stand less than six feet away from a man who obviously wanted her only one night a week? Darcie considered moving straight toward the door, into the hall, down in the elevator and out onto Forty-Second Street. Since she'd begun to think of chain saw murder, tonight no longer held the promise of passion. She'd just grab the shuttle to the ferry, then cross the Hudson for home. Merrick seemed more interested in checking his voice mail - again - than in making love.
When Darcie turned away from the mirror into the room, he held up a finger. Wait a minute. Then we'll screw. And her resolve tightened.
Lovely. She should leave him. Her friend Claire told her so, repeatedly. Give up, Claire said. Darcie's relationship with Merrick - Darcie couldn't even call it that - wouldn't go anywhere. And when Darcie, who prided herself on logic, began to believe the same thing ...
As if he knew what she was thinking, Merrick put down the phone with a smile that could melt granite.
"Sorry." And that fast, her mood lifted. No more holdover from this morning with Greta Hinckley. No more chain saws. No more PMS. Again, she was a normal person, sort of, with regular moods instead of periodic plumpness, a human being with a job at risk, Darcie admitted, a woman who needed a man. Now.
"No problem," she murmured.
Excerpted from Strapless by Leigh Riker 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I liked this book.
This book was moderately entertaining...It gets much better in the second half of the book. While I was 'interested' in this book, I still felt that the storyline and characters needed more development. I wished that Darcie's relationships with every other character had more depth.
Darcie Baxter is twenty-nine, has moved to the Big Apple from her native Cincinnati, and is a mover and shaker at Wunderthings International, an up-and-coming star in the lingerie industry. She also has parents who constantly nag her to move back to Ohio, she shares an apartment with her grandmother and a killer cat, and is on less than good terms with a back-stabbing, idea-stealing co-worker named Greta. Her love life is limited to once-a-week encounters with Merrick, a rather secretive fellow that her best friend suspects is married. After Darcie is promoted to a management position, she accompanies her boss to Australia to scout locations for their new Pacific Rim expansion. In the hotel bar she finds the perfect man ¿ a tall, dark, and handsome sheep rancher named Dylan Rafferty who has a sexy smile and 1950¿s attitudes toward hearth and home. After two weeks in Sydney, Darcie must return to New York, but Dylan remains on her mind as she juggles job, family, and friends. And along the way, she makes some valuable discoveries about herself. Can she have it all? Can she have it all on her terms? Or will it be not quite what she expected? STRAPLESS has a large cast of characters and several underlying plots which all converge in the end. It has the feel of ¿Sex and the City¿ with some international adventure mixed in for fun. It¿s a quick and entertaining read that will leave you whistling ¿Waltzing Matilda¿ and wishing your man wore an Akubra. Leigh Riker has been added to my ¿authors-to-look-for¿ list.
A friend of mine from England came over this summer and had several books she called "Chick Lit," which is not advertised heavily here in the US, unless I have just not been paying attention. Chick Lit is for the college aged and thirtysomething (and beyond) crowd...more of a modern romance. This is not your "old school romance novel" which I always associate w/ Fabio covers. It's a story of a young woman torn between feminist ideals and "primal" urges to settle down and be a wife. From what I read on the Red Dress Ink website there are more of these books out there and I can't wait to pick another one up. A great modern romance, I would reccomend!!
Manhattan¿s Darcie Baxter feels quite good about the opportunity to travel to Sydney to open up a branch of the company she works for, Wunderkings Lingerie International. She leaves behind her roommate grandmother, her parents on the other side of the Hudson, and a nasty peer Greta Hinckley trying to undercut her on the job. On her first night in Australia, Darcie meets sheep rancher Dylan Rafferty. To her shock, they make love that evening. This is the best sex of Darcie¿s life though her few experiences lack depth of comparisons since her occurrences are so sparse she never even uses her company discounts. Soon Darcie and Dylan fall in love, but he wants her to marry him and raise children on his station, but she cannot cope with the barefoot pregnant image that his desire portrays in her mind. STRAPLESS is an engaging contemporary romance that adds the flavoring of Sydney to the mix. The story line is fun especially when Dylan talks in 'Ozspeak' and Darcie communicates in 'Manhattanese' mindful of Crocodile Dundee without the adventure. Though the nastiness of Greta is too obvious for her to get away with her shenanigans, readers will relish Leigh Riker¿s wild Down Under ride. Harriet Klausner