Millionaire tycoon Evan Lawford is the last person in the world ballerina Olivia Madison wants to ask for financial supportthe humiliation of their last encounter has haunted her for years! He might be the man who shattered her heart, but for the sake of her art she'll put on a smileand a killer dressand play nice
Except their chemistry is so insane that soon they're bypassing nice and going straight to all night long! Evan's the ultimate playboyhe's never had trouble sticking to his one-night-only rule before. But the passion between them is utterly addictive Can Evan really walk away from the ultimate temptation?
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"Somebody's got a hot date." It was hard for Olivia Madison to both roll her eyes and apply mascara at the same time, but she managed itjust barely. Rehearsals had run long today and she was now running late. She didn't have time for this. "It's not a date."
Her roommate, Annie, flopped across the bed and examined the outfit Olivia had laid out for tonight. "Hmm Silky top, the 'good butt' jeans and 'take me' boots. You curled your hair, you're wearing makeup, and " She stopped to sniff the air delicately. "I smell perfume. All signs point to a hot date. And it's about time. I was getting afraid we'd have to get a couple of cats soon and the lease doesn't allow pets."
"First of all, neither of us is in Cat Lady territory just yet. Getting married and having babies is what your thirties are for. Second, it's just dinner. Pretty much a business dinner, at that."
Annie still wasn't convinced. "In that outfit? Please. Did you shave your legs?"
Olivia had, but that was neither here nor there and had nothing to do with the person she was meeting for dinner. "It's with my brother's college roommate, for goodness sake."
"Is he cute?"
Olivia had to admit he was. She'd looked him up online to see if he'd changed much in the past nine years, rather hoping to find that he'd developed a paunch or lost a lot of hair, only to be disappointed in that hope. If anything, the past decade had been quite good to Evan Lawford, maturing his featuresand even the attitude he projected in the photoslight-years past the frat rat she remembered. The sun-bleached hair had turned darker, probably meaning he didn't spend as much time on the beach as he used to, but the color offset his blue eyes nicely. The cheekbones and the jawline she remembered quite well, only the two-day stubble look was also gone. The difference between boy and man was stark and startling at first.
Objectively speaking, Evan Lawford was hot. Male-model-broodingly-ad-vertising-expensive-suits-in-a-glossy-magazine hot. "It doesn't really matter. He's a jerk."
"Which means he is a hottie, and that's just wrong." Annie sighed and rolled to her back. "Why can't the really nice guys be drop-dead gorgeous, too? Is that really too much to ask?" she pleaded to the universe.
"All signs point to yes." Olivia tossed the mascara tube back into her makeup bag. Jerk was a nice word for Evan. He was a cocky, arrogant, ego-ridden player. But he was a successful cocky, arrogant, ego-ridden player, and that was what was important at the moment. She'd have to suck it up and deal with the rest.
"So why are you having dinner with him then?"
Because I'm forced to sell myself out in order to further my career. That wasn't entirely exactly true: no one at the Miami Modern Ballet Company expected her to actually sleep with someone for their money, but the trade-off still gave her icky vibes. "I need him to sponsor me."
Annie's forehead wrinkled in concern. "Like a twelve-step kind of sponsor? Are you okay?"
Olivia kept the sighand the smartass comebackbehind her teeth. It wasn't all that unexpected of a speculation, and at least Annie was asking it from a place of concern. Olivia had left home at fifteen to spend the next decade in studios and on stages, driving herself to reach this point: a contracted principal in an established, prestigious ballet company. Therefore, everyone assumed that she had to have something wrong with herdrug habit, an eating disorder, or even just a flat-out psychotic break a la Black Swan picked up along the way. She nearly snorted. There probably was something wrong with her, only they didn't have an official diagnosis for it yet.
And while she'd known Annie for only a few monthstrading the privacy of having her own place for the opportunity to live near the beaches and nightlife of Miami, even with an unknown roommatethey were getting along very well. "Not that kind of sponsor. An actual please-donate-your-money kind of sponsor."
Annie looked confused. "You're fun-draising?"
"In a way. Money is tight all over, and the arts are really feeling the pinch," she explained, slipping into her jeans. Annie averted her eyes as Olivia dressed, but Olivia had lost any kind of modesty years ago through one too many quick changes backstage in view of the entire corps and stagehands. "Our state funding has been slashed, ticket sales are down and corporate sponsorship in general is not as strong as it used to be. So nowadays, rich people can adopt a dancer of their very own. In return, they get all kinds of perkstickets, backstage passes, first dibs on tables at the En Pointe Ball and for the big spenders," Olivia continued, as she pasted a smile on her face and added a chipper tone, "the chance to have their dancer appear at their corporateor sometimes privateevents."
"That sounds cool." Her forehead wrinkled. "But kinda creepy, too."
"Tell me about it."
"And you need one of these sponsors? I thought you had a contract."
Annie, who worked as a Spanish-language interpreter for the city, was getting a crash course in the state of the arts in America these days. "I do, but my contract isn't cheap. And while MMBC has the option to pick up my contract for next season, there's no guarantee that they willespecially if I'm the only one without sponsorship to offset my cost. Sponsorship doesn't guarantee anything either way, but it won't hurt."
"I see. So you're hoping your brother's college roommate has that kind of money?"
"I know he does. I haven't seen Evan in years, but he and Jory are still real tight." Why that was, she didn't quite know. Evan had nearly succeeded in turning Jory into a carbon copy of himself in college, and while Jory had turned out okay anyway, she didn't really understand what the two men could possibly have in common. "He's got the money." She frowned at the mirror as she finger-combed out the curls and sprayed her hair into place. "I just need to figure out how to ask him for it."
"Why can't you just ask him outright? It seems pretty straightforward, and it's a tax deduction to boot."
"Yeah, but it's " She wasn't sure how to explain it, even if she wanted to. Which she really didn't. "It's complicated."
"Complicated?" Annie's forehead wrinkled again, then smoothed out as understanding dawned. "Oh. That kind of complicated."
"Let's just say that it's not complicated enough to keep me from asking, but complicated enough to make me want to handle the situation delicately."
"If it's going to be awkward, why not just call your brother instead? Get him to play middleman."
"No." No way. That was a can of worms she definitely wasn't going to open.
"Then maybe your brother or your parents could sponsor you, instead?"
She knew Jory. Telling him she needed sponsorshipor any money, reallywould lead him to opening his checkbook. He'd tell Mom and Daddy, and they'd want to do the same. And that was not going to happen. Jory needed to be investing his money into his own business, and Mom and Daddy needed to be saving for retirement.
Mom and Daddy were comfortable enough, but they'd sacrificed greatly over the years to support her dream. So had Jory, in fact. She wasn't going to take another blessed dime from them. Any of them.
She shook her head. "They're in Tampa, and the sponsors need to be local." Even as she said it, she had no idea if it was true. The company probably assumed sponsors would be localand that was how the donor rewards were struc-turedbut she couldn't imagine any company turning down money, regardless of the source. Still, it was a clean and quick explanation, and Annie accepted it at face value.
"That's a problem, then."
"And I've been in Miami for only three months. I don't really know anyone else." She paused in zipping up her boots to look hopefully at Annie. "Unless you happen to have thousands of dollars tucked away and a hidden, burning desire to support the arts in your community?"
Annie shook her head. "Uh, no."
"Then I'm off to dinner with Evan." She took one last critical look in the mirror, then turned to Annie. "How do I look?"
"Amazing, as always. And, as always, I kinda hate you for it. If you can't win Evan over with logic or reason, you should be able to flirt his checkbook right open." Annie rolled off the bed and got to her feet. With a cheeky grin, she added, "I won't wait up for you."
Olivia had no intention of flirting with Evan at all. She could be polite and friendly, but this was merely business. She'd flirted with him that one time, and the lessons learned stuck with her to this day. But she was older now, wiser, and she could look back on it for the educational experience it was, without feeling the pain or shame. Much.
The restaurant Evan chose to meet her at was only about six blocks from the condo she shared with Annie, and Olivia elected to walk it. Eventually, she'd have to buy a caran expense she'd managed to avoid for at least the past five yearsbut for now, Miami's public transport could get her pretty much anywhere her feet couldn't.
It might be November, but she didn't need a sweater. However, she grabbed a pashmina in case the air conditioning in the restaurant was set on "Arctic." After spending so many winters in more northern climes, it was so so nice to be back in Florida, with her winter gear shipped home to Tampa to the storage unit she kept there. The sun had been down for an hour, but the temperatures were still in the high seventies, perfect for a walk, but it was a little jarring for it to be that warm as businesses took down their Halloween decorations and replaced them with a mix of turkeys and Santa Claus.
She could come to really love Miami. MMBC was a highly respected company with a great mix of classical and contemporary in their repertoire. It may be not as prestigious as some in New York, but the trade-off was a lower cost of living and fewer up-and-comers nipping at her heels all the time. She could still do the occasional guest artist thing when the traveling bug bit her or things started to feel stale, but Miami was a great base.
And she needed to start thinking about the future, anyway. If all went well, she could get another six, maybe seven, years in before retiring, but she was feeling the effects of the past two decades already and her chances of injury increased each year. She needed to be building some kind of foundation, and Miami was ideal for that.
Plus, it was only four hours from home.
All this was great. Provided she could keep the job she'd worked so hard to get. The fact she was willing to turn to Evan Lawford proved how much she wanted her contract picked up for next season. That would give her time to build a reputation and network here in Miami and increase her chances of further seasons exponentially.
She just had to get through dinner with Evan and get his agreement first.
Oddly, Evan hadn't asked many questions when she'd emailed him, saying hello and asking if he'd like to get together. She'd provided her phone number, but he'd stuck to email, setting up the place and time with the minimum amount of communication necessary. She wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a not.
It had taken couragemore than she thought she'd need for something so simpleto email him in the first place, but he'd accepted so quickly that she'd only had forty-eight hours to figure out how to actually pull this off.