Doctor Benny Sorensen has had it up to here with her party-throwing playboy neighbor. She’s declaring war. She doesn't care how gorgeous or charming he is, he's going down. That is until he proposes something she's not sure she can say no to...
Wealthy ad man Henry Ellison lives an uncomplicated life that revolves around work, women, and partying. In that order. Until Benny storms into his life. To placate his attractive but hotheaded neighbor, Henry offers to help her land a date with the man of her dreams. Only as Henry makes her over and coaches her on the fine art of flirting, he realizes that the idea of this woman in any other man’s arms but his own is unacceptable. But Benny's a forever kind of girl and forever might just be the one commitment he can't make.
Each book in the Sorensen Family series is a standalone, full-length story that can be enjoyed out of order.
Book #1 Her Backup Boyfriend
Book #2 Her Accidental Husband
Book #3 The Playboy's Proposal
Book #4 Her Surprise Engagement
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The Playboy's Proposal
A Sorensen Family Novel
By Ashlee Mallory, Alycia Tornetta
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Ashlee Mallory
All rights reserved.
The music's never-ending thrumming surrounded her. There was no escape, despite the bright pink plugs stuffed in her ears or the mountain of pillows stacked on her head. Her whole bed was now vibrating in sync to what sounded like Ariana Grande's latest release.
Benny Sorensen cracked her eyes open to stare at the clock on her nightstand. It was after one in the freaking morning.
That's it. This impossible, selfish cretin had to be stopped.
Red-hot rage surged through her as she tossed off the covers. It wasn't enough that she'd come home tonight to find someone had parked in her one designated parking spot, but then to have to park almost a block down the street thanks to the dozens of extra cars taking up the rest of the parking spaces in the visitor lot added insult to injury.
All because one extraordinarily selfish resident decided to throw a party. One of four in the past three weeks since she'd moved in.
She shoved her feet into the green dinosaur-foot slippers her nieces and nephew had given for her last birthday and stomped to the door as a new song began. Seriously?
Moving to this high-rise condo with the secured underground parking was supposed to have been a step up from her squalid little apartment with roaches and meth heads as neighbors. It was her reward for finishing her residency and getting the plum practitioner spot that had opened up at a prestigious pediatric clinic ten minutes from here.
Only Mr. Animal House from next door was determined to make what was supposed to be her sanctuary more like a sanitarium. She hadn't even met him, and she was already certain that there could not be a more selfish human being.
The sound intensified in the hallway as she strode furiously down it, stopping in front of the door before pounding. She waited, counting the seconds until she could lay into the guy.
She rang the doorbell three times, hoping to penetrate the unceasing sounds from inside.
Still no response.
Apparently they were all too busy doing God knew what to hear a simple doorbell. No matter. It wouldn't stop her if she had to rip the speakers from the walls with her own hands.
She tested the doorknob. Unlocked.
She pushed the door open, a little at first, almost afraid to look inside. The lighting was low compared to the glaring light in the hall, and it took a moment for her eyes to adjust. There were easily thirty people crammed inside. Didn't they have jobs? It was Monday night, for crying out loud.
No one seemed to notice her, even after she threw open the door and stood there for a good long minute taking it all in. The place was twice the size of her own modest one-bedroom unit, which she'd fallen in love with after her first look at the jaw-dropping view from the windows, the gleaming wooden floors, and the high-end appliances.
Her neighbor had the same wooded floors and appliances, and undoubtedly the same view, but that's where the similarities ended. Her place was cozy and classic and warm, while his was modern and sleek and opulent. His television alone was easily three times the size of hers ... and the grand piano in the corner? Nothing short of pretentious. But what had she expected? The guy drove a flashy red Ferrari.
She shut the door behind her, hoping the sound would draw the owner's attention to the fact that he had a new guest.
Fine. If her neighbor wasn't going to be a courteous host and greet his new guest, then she was going to have to track him down herself. Even if she had only a vague recollection of his profile from the glimpse she caught last week when he whizzed by her in the parking garage in his Ferrari. If she had any doubt, she supposed she could just look for the guy with the horns and cloven feet.
Benny zeroed in on every face, every voice, trying to determine who was her target. A few people finally noticed her, if the widening of their eyes and the slight grins that crossed their faces before they diverted their gazes were any indication. She'd bet the ratio of women to men was close to three to one. Although "women" didn't quite describe the beautiful creatures flitting around in short dresses and cleavage cut down to there. "Goddesses" or "supermodels" might be more appropriate. Maybe he was running a high-end escort service. What else could explain the number of frogs to princesses in this place?
Over by the windows was a guy in his midthirties with short, dark blond hair, a sculpted, cleanly shaven jaw, and a harem of women hanging on his every word.
Yeah, that was definitely him.
She headed directly toward her neighbor, her rage from earlier incensed at his entirely overconfident posture — and the amused smile that played on his lips when his brown eyes settled on her.
"Are you Henry Ellison?" Benny demanded, stopping in front of him.
"Yes," he said, looking her over, from the top of her hair to the slippers on her feet, before meeting her gaze. "I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage, though."
Of course he wouldn't have bothered to learn her name. Although to be fair, the only reason she knew his was because she'd already had three other residents — female residents — ask her what it was like living next door to the Henry Ellison. A quick Google search had shown her all she needed to know about her new neighbor. The man was trouble. A rich, entitled playboy who had more press covering his escapades than Justin Bieber. Okay, maybe not more, but close enough.
"Benny Sorensen. Your next-door neighbor, who, for the past couple of hours, has been trying to sleep despite the insanely loud music pouring from your unit," she snapped. "Do you have any idea what time it is?"
"Sorry, I'm afraid I'm still a little jet-lagged. Just arrived from Paris this morning." He looked at his watch. "Or I should say last night. But I'm guessing you didn't drag yourself out of bed to come and ask me the time."
She gritted her teeth. He knew why she was here. But he seemed to enjoy toying with her. Something she might find amusing in the light of day, but when she had to be up in less than five hours, it only served to seriously piss her off.
Flying off the handle, however, would only serve to amuse him further. She'd have to reason with him, tactfully. "I'm afraid not. You see, I have an early morning tomorrow. Patients who will want me to be awake and reasonably alert when I treat them, you understand. So maybe you'd consider turning the volume down a few thousand decibels so I can get some sleep and not have to come and rain on your party like this again."
"Oh, believe me, honey, you're not raining on my parade. Quite the opposite. I like your T-shirt, by the way." His eyes lit with humor as he stared at her chest.
She looked down. He'd have to be blind not to see the outline of her boobs under her favorite — if threadbare — T-shirt. Especially when, thanks to the slight draft by the windows, she was on high alert. She crossed her arms before meeting his gaze again.
He was smiling smugly. Aware he'd thrown her off.
Her hands balled into fists. She wanted to punch him.
* * *
Henry Ellison knew he shouldn't be smiling at his neighbor's discomfort, but the situation was so bizarre he couldn't help himself.
It had been quite a shock to look up and see a woman with dark brown hair poking out in every direction and wearing a T-shirt and purple flannel pajama pants storming toward him. Particularly in those clunky green dinosaur slippers. But it was her blazing blue eyes that completely enraptured him, despite the fact that she looked like she might try and kill him.
How could he not bait her, just a little?
She might have hissed at him as she narrowed those dark lash-fringed baby blues. "I'm afraid my invite for the black-tie event went missing and I threw on what I had available when you practically shouted come over with that blaring music." She leaned forward. It was hard not to notice the bright pink earplug stuck in her hair, which served to take the bluster out of her caustic tone. "I'm going to ask you nicely this one time. Turn the music down. Next time it won't be me breaking up your little party."
He raised his brows. "Are you suggesting you'll call the police? What, are we in high school?"
"That's a question that I might ask." She didn't look away, meeting his gaze for a long minute. She was a fierce little thing, he'd give her that.
"All right, Ms. Sorensen. I'll be sure to turn the music down, and I'll remind the kids to stay off your lawn while I'm at it."
Before he could make another comment, Benny Sorensen whirled around and stomped away. "Stomped" being the only appropriate term when she was wearing such awkward footwear.
He chuckled and took a sip of his almost forgotten drink. Tiffany or Tasha — he couldn't keep it straight — returned to his side, a sultry smile on her full red mouth. "Friend of yours, Henry?"
He ignored the question. "It's getting late. I should probably wind things down."
"You read my mind. I was just thinking we could use a little alone time." She licked her bottom lip — something that ordinarily should have been enticing to him, only now it seemed too practiced.
"Wish I could take you up on that, but I have an early morning. I'll have to take a rain check."
Tiffany-Tasha stuck her bottom lip out into a pout but, to his relief, didn't try to change his mind, instead slinking away with the grace of a cat. A much different departure than Benny Sorensen, in her flannel pants and crazy bedhead. Aside from her lack of taste in sleepwear and complete distaste for him, he had to admit his new neighbor was interesting, to say the least.
The start of another song blared over the speakers, which he'd only had installed last month. He briefly considered pushing the limit of Benny Sorensen's patience, to see if she'd really have the temerity to call the police on him — or, preferably, march back over here sans bra and lay into him again.
Maybe another time.
He noted the level of volume before turning it to a whisper. "That's it for tonight, folks. Thanks for coming."
* * *
It was close to nine the next morning when Henry reached his office. Marion, his assistant, was already leaning against his desk holding a cup of coffee in her hand.
"I was starting to wonder if you'd forgotten you worked here."
He took the cup and grinned at her. "You'd think after last week's announcement that Studio 180 is a finalist for the best ad campaign from a small agency I would earn a little slack from you."
"Not a chance." The woman smiled despite her words. "Becks was just here and wanted you to come by later today. Murdock also called and needs you to call him back ASAP and, in case you forgot, you're scheduled to meet with the department at ten on the Crombie account. Oh, and a Mrs. Davenport has called twice this morning. Says she's from your HOA. Seems kind of anxious to talk."
Good grief. Benny Sorensen hadn't taken long in making her complaint. "Thanks, Marion."
With coffee in hand, prepared just as he liked, Henry headed down the hall to Becks's office, returning well wishes and greetings from the half dozen people he passed. Outside her office, he paused long enough to make sure his boss wasn't on the phone or with someone before knocking. She waved him in, and he sauntered into the large corner office that was a smidge bigger than his own.
Becks gave him the same look of disapproval as his assistant when he walked in. "Glad to see you decided to come in today. What with the late nights you've been keeping and the high-profile guests you've been entertaining."
He didn't make any apologies, instead coming to stand casually in front of her desk. Becks, who managed to emanate authority and confidence but also cool beauty with her blond hair tucked back in a neat bun, didn't even look up, still staring at something on her computer screen.
Becks had taken him under her wing nine years ago, when he first came on the scene at the agency, and taught him what it took — once you had the talent, of course — to play the game in the advertising world. He'd risen in the ranks pretty fast with her help and his marketing finesse. He knew how to sell just about anything and it had been that talent that earned him the position of creative director two years ago. Although Becks was still his boss, she was also a good friend. A friend who didn't pull any punches.
"I figured that since I nailed the Crombie account I was due a little indulgence of a late night and even later morning." He took a drink of coffee, noticing she looked more high-strung than usual. "You and Stewart might want to try it some time." Stewart being her husband. "Might take the starch out of that shirt."
"I'll be sure to pass that on to him."
"I was referring to you."
"I know." She finally looked up from her computer. "Although I'd love nothing more than to spend the rest of the morning engaging in the usual bullshit, I do have something I need to talk with you about."
"You look so serious. Should I have a seat?"
"If you like."
He'd humor her. He leaned against the corner of her desk.
"We have a meeting this Friday with a prospective client. You may have heard of them ... AirPro Athletics? They're an older, well-established company specializing in fitness wear based here in Salt Lake, but they also operate across the western United States. They want to overhaul their whole image. I have it on good authority they were in talks with Blaine Thomas but decided they wanted to go with a more locally based ad agency. It would be quite a coup for us to gain someone of their stature as a client."
"Sounds exactly like my kind of challenge. What's the problem?"
She leveled her gaze on him. "You. Or, I should say, you and the playboy image you've been fostering for far too long. It's finally catching up with you."
She turned the computer screen around so he could see it. It was a picture of him and a few scantily dressed women in a hotel room in Cannes taking shots. The photo was contrived to make it look like he was almost part of some orgy — never mind the fact he'd been there with three other guys from the office and their wives, unwinding after a long week of workshops, presentations, and networking.
"It was an after-party. The picture makes it look far worse than it was. Ask John and Ted. They were there. Where'd you get that? TMZ?"
"It doesn't matter where I got it or how innocent it all was, the point is how you've let yourself be represented these past few years as this immoral, partying playboy with no ties to family or community. And now it might be coming to bite you in the butt. These clients are looking for a firm that they believe shares the same vision of community, of family values, of moral integrity as they do, or at the very least, they want to know we understand that vision. Photos like this popping up aren't helping, nor was the latest gossip that you're throwing all-night ragers at your place that have the residents of the building wanting you out."
He froze. "Excuse me?"
"I'll let you read all about it later, but apparently you're one complaint away from being tossed out on your butt if you don't clean up your act."
Had his neighbor actually had the temerity to go to the press?
He'd thought her fiery before. Now he thought she was a menace.
Becks sat back and studied him. "You know, Henry, I've seen how hard you've worked all these years to prove yourself, prove your merit to me and the clients, to not stand on your family name to get where you are. You're good. Very good. Which is why I'd hate to see everything you've worked for — that we've worked for here at Studio 180 — reach a plateau because of this public persona you've fostered. We need this account, Henry. Fix this. And for crying out loud, when we meet with these clients Friday to convince them we are the best agency to represent them, there had better not be any reports about the playboy heir getting kicked out of his condo for having too many damn parties."
Excerpted from The Playboy's Proposal by Ashlee Mallory, Alycia Tornetta. Copyright © 2016 Ashlee Mallory. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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