Wild child lingerie store owner Lucy Hamilton is a happily confirmed bachelorette. As far as she's concerned, men are something best enjoyed in small doses, never to be allowed too close. Then Lucy's mother tells her Aunt Bev that Lucy has eloped and is married—a tiny lie only meant to appease the dying woman...until Aunt Bev miraculously recovers. Now Lucy needs to find a "husband" for an upcoming family wedding, and fast.
Fortunately, Lucy's ridiculously hot, ridiculously straitlaced new accountant Dex Levian is willing to be her stand-in spouse for the weekend. And that's when the trouble really begins. For starters, Dex's "involvement" with a client?no matter how irresistible?might ruin a merger he hopes will make his career. Worse still, the chemistry between Dex and Lucy is more than convincing?it's sizzling. But for Lucy, falling for her fake new husband is the most dangerous thing she can do...
Each book in the Hamilton Sisters series is a standalone story that can be enjoyed out of order.
Book #1 The Surrogate Husband
Book #2 The Best Man’s Proposal
About the Author
Wynter Daniels lives in Central Florida with her husband of more than twenty years and their two college age children. They are all the slaves of a very demanding cat. After careers in marketing and the salon industry, Wynter's steamy prose begged to be set free. She has authored more than two dozen books including contemporary, romantic suspense and paranormal romance for several publishers including Carina Press, Ellora's Cave, Red Sage and Loose Id. She served as president of her local Romance Writers of America chapter and had taught creative writing workshops at libraries in the Central Florida area. Find her on the web at www.WynterDaniels.com, on Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest and on Facebook at Wynter Daniels, Romance Author.
Read an Excerpt
The Surrogate Husband
By Wynter Daniels, Tracy Montoya
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2014 Wynter Daniels
All rights reserved.
"I have something to tell you and you're not going to like it."
Lucy Hamilton stopped sorting through the box of lace bras and glanced at her mother. Had Mom mis-tagged another batch of panties again? As much as Lucy loved having her work at the lingerie store, sometimes it was exasperating. "What is it?"
Her mother wrung her hands. "Well, something happened when I went up to visit Great Aunt Bev a couple weeks ago."
So that would explain why her mom had been so jittery all morning. And so uncharacteristically quiet.
When her mom's aunt was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, Mom had flown up to Wisconsin to see Aunt Bev, with Lucy staying behind to oversee the big annual sale at Lucy's Lingerie.
Despite being ninety-one years old and frail, Aunt Bev had made it through, much to the surprise of the hospital staff and the delight of the family. But the new lines creasing her mother's forehead had Lucy wondering if all was indeed fine. Lucy owed everything to Bev. She'd given Lucy the money to buy the store after her former boss—the shop's previous owner—had decided to retire. "You're scaring me, Mom. What's going on?"
Her mother sat on a velvet stool in the brassiere section of the store and rubbed her forehead. "When we first got there, the doctor told us Bev wasn't going to survive the week. And you know how she is. All she was concerned with was the family. Was your sister going to make it through college? Would Uncle Steve quit drinking?"
"That sounds like her." Was that sweat running down the side of her mother's face? Lucy's gut twisted. "Mom, please tell me what's going on. Is Aunt Bev all right?"
"You have to understand that I thought she was dying," Mom repeated as she sank onto the ladder-back chair that used to reside in her kitchen.
"Yes, you said that already."
"I sort of told her that you were ..." Her mom wiped the sweat from her forehead. "That you had run off and gotten married."
Lucy gasped. "What? Why would you say something like that?"
Her mother's voice rose to a screech. "I didn't see the harm in it. I wanted her to die happy. Bev always worried about you. Your father was such a ... well, not the nicest person when you were growing up, and after Richard broke off your engagement, she feared you'd never give another man a chance." Her mother pursed her lips for a moment. "Then she called me last night and told me she hasn't been to Miami in four years, and she wants to come to Uncle Alan's wedding next month. She hasn't seen your shop since you bought it. And now I don't know what to do."
Lucy held her fist to her mouth as she tried not to scream and scare all of the customers away. Her mom was her best friend in the world, but at the moment, she was tempted to shake her good and hard. "Well you're just going to have to explain to her that you lied."
Her mom cupped Lucy's cheek. Were those tears in her eyes? Oh, man. No one knew how to play the guilt card so well. "But if you'd seen her face, how ecstatic she was at the news ... At first she was upset that you'd run off and eloped, and she hadn't gotten to see you walk down the aisle, but she was so happy that you'd finally settled down and opened your heart."
Lucy stepped out of her reach, heading for a rack of filmy camisoles and shoving the hangers back and forth without accomplishing anything useful. "I didn't elope, Mom. I didn't get married at all. Now what am I supposed to do when she arrives for Uncle Alan's wedding in a week and a half?"
She brushed a brown curl away from her face and sniffled dramatically. "I have no idea. I suppose we could tell her you got divorced, but she'll be heartbroken. And her heart is still so frail." She glanced up through her bangs at Lucy, her expression a bit too coy for someone who had just been on the verge of tears. "Unless ..."
Lucy gave the lacy underthings a final push to the side, then turned and set her hands on her hips. "Unless what?"
"You could say your husband is away on business. You can wear my wedding ring from my first marriage."
Lucy buried her face in her hands. Had the woman completely lost her mind? Was this the first sign of early-onset dementia?
"Or you could ask someone to pretend to be your husband, just for the wedding," her mother continued. "I'm sure you know a man who'd do you a favor."
Maybe she could borrow her friend Risa's boyfriend to play the part? No, Risa was crazy jealous when any woman went within ten feet of her man. There was that guy who worked at the coffee shop across the street, the one who always winked at her and gave her the occasional free latte. But she doubted he'd be able to carry on a conversation about much more than the weather. Last time she'd bought coffee there, she'd totally thrown him by giving him a five-dollar bill and a penny for a $3.51 tab.
"I can't believe I'm actually considering your idea. It's crazy." Everyone who knew her was well aware of her disdain for marriage. Thank you, Dad.
Not that she minded having a man around. Hell, she had itches—and no aversion to getting them scratched.
Her mom slumped her shoulders. "I know I shouldn't have made up a story, but if you could have seen her ... after I told her about your marriage, her face completely changed. She looked ... serene."
Lucy thought about everything Aunt Bev had done for her. She came to visit every Christmas when Lucy was a kid, no matter where the family was stationed. Not to mention that Lucy wouldn't have been able to buy the shop without Bev's help. She took a hard look at her mother. At the tender age of twenty, the woman had married a sergeant in the Marines who had verbally abused her for most of their marriage, speaking to her as if she were a dog he was training rather than his wife. She'd been too young to know any better, and Lucy had come along less than a year later.
The front door chimed and quite possibly the hottest preppy guy she'd ever seen ducked through the sheer curtain draped over the entranceway, blocking out nearly all the sunlight with his broad shoulders and tall frame. And while she tended to go more for guys in ripped jeans and moto jackets over guys in expensive suits and muted silk ties, she might possibly be able to make an exception for this one.
His eyes locked on Lucy's and lingered there a few seconds too long. "Hey." He glanced at her mom. "Nice to see you, Michelle."
Mom smiled up at him as she took a step toward him and shook his hand. "You always smell so good." Her mom knew this guy?
"Thanks." One side of his mouth curled in a grin as he glanced at Lucy. "You must be Lucy."
That voice. She knew that voice. Only one man she knew had such a deep, basso profundo voice that it reverberated in her bones.
"I was in the neighborhood, so I thought I'd pick up your receipts for the month and save you the postage. I know you were probably going to do this by mail, but I like to meet my local clients at least once."
Dex Levian. Founder and CEO of Levian Financial and her new accountant of six weeks. Marie, her old accountant, had recommended him highly when she'd retired, and they'd been doing business by phone, fax, and email ever since. His firm was small—he still had accounting clients of his own instead of focusing completely on running the show—but rising fast in Miami.
"I made you a spreadsheet that'll make your recordkeeping easier, for both of us."
Only Dex, with that voice, could make such a stunningly boring sentence sound like he was propositioning her for a night of seduction and sin.
Too bad she'd talked to him enough on the phone to know he was so not her type.
"Aren't you thoughtful?" Her mother narrowed her eyes at him for several seconds. "May I ask you a personal question?"
Uh oh. Considering what they'd been discussing before Dex had walked in, Lucy had a good idea what her mother had in mind. She stepped between them and gave her mother a warning look. "Don't you dare," she stage-whispered.
Then she spun around to face Dex. "I'm so sorry. Little personal crisis. Please forgive me."
"No need to apologize." Dropping his head forward, he reached into his briefcase and pulled out a paper.
Lucy couldn't help but notice how his thick brown hair fell over his trendy black glasses, strand over glossy strand. She glanced into his briefcase at the sections marked with one of those label-making machines. Proof positive that, as she'd suspected from their phone conversations, the man was just as neurotically hyper-organized as her father.
In fact, given the undeniable evidence of a buff bod under his expensive-looking suit and tie, he was an odd mix of stereotypical accountant and what a model would look like if he'd dressed up as the GQ version of an accountant for a photo shoot.
"Each box is tabbed so you can jot down expenses, broken down by category." Pointing to the spreadsheet, he explained where she was to write in this and that. "I'll email it to you so you'll have it on your computer."
God, that voice. It was like he'd just said, "I'll email you naked pictures of myself and then come over with a jar of honey and a can of whipped cream." It was so unfair that he had to look as good as he sounded.
Striding past them, Mom caught her foot on the base of a display rack and stumbled forward. Right into Dex's arms. The man was so muscle-bound that Lucy got the feeling he could have picked up her mother as easily as he had his briefcase. He caught Lucy's eye and gave her a subtle, reassuring grin. Okay, and he had incredibly green eyes, like the color of a meadow after a spring rain, with little flecks of gold and brown. And yeah, her mother was right—his cologne was amazing. If she had him stand in the display window, women would surely flock to her store in droves.
Her stomach did a little flip-flop. She set her hand on her abdomen. Shouldn't have skipped breakfast.
After he let Mom go, she straightened her shirt and chuckled. "That was the most fun I've had today. Thanks for catching me."
He stepped back to let her pass. "Glad I could help."
Did he really have to talk to her mother in that sexy tone? Of course, he probably talked to McDonald's clerks in that sexy tone. It wasn't like he could help it. A vision of him catching her popped into Lucy's head for a second, followed by a wave of heat.
Her mom winked at her. "He's a strong one. And handsome, too." She took Lucy's arm, yanking her closer, and said through a teeth-gritting, too-large smile, "So much more polite and helpful than the men you tend to go out with."
Lucy glanced at Dex, who was riffling through his briefcase again, giving no indication that he'd heard. "Mr. Hyper-Organized must remain firmly in my friend zone," she whispered. But he sure as hell was a lot better looking than the guys she usually dated. And a lot more freshly pressed and starched, too.
She hurried to the former dressing room that she now used as her office and grabbed the file folder full of the month's receipts. Returning to the sales floor, she handed the package to Dex, perhaps smacking it against his chest with more force than necessary in her deep need to get him out the door before her mom could ensnare a man Lucy had just met in her insane plan. "Please forgive my mother. She usually says whatever pops into her head, regardless of who she embarrasses. So glad you stopped by. See you again soon!" Oh God, was she actually chirping?
There was that oh-so-charming smile again. "No problem. She didn't embarrass me." He took the dog-eared folder and stashed it among ones she suspected were more pristine in his case. "I'm sure I'll have a few questions after I sort through all of it."
Her mother joined them at the counter. "Before you leave, Dex, could you wait here, but excuse me and Lucy for a moment?"
He raised a perfect eyebrow at Lucy, but she feigned confusion. "Just give us a moment." Hooking her mom's arm, she propelled her into the store room. "The answer is no," she said.
Her mother pulled at the hem of her Chanel jacket and frowned. "Aunt Bev would think he was perfect for you. I don't know why I didn't think of him before. We met when he stopped in a few weeks ago to drop off some papers for you, but you weren't here. Must have slipped my mind. But now that I look at him again, I don't know how I could have forgotten a thing about that man. He's absolutely perfect, honey. If I were twenty years younger and didn't already have a wonderful husband ... well ..." Lucy folded her arms over her chest. "We can't ask him to be my fake husband. First of all, I haven't agreed to play this game. Secondly, Dex is my accountant, not my boyfriend. I hardly know him outside our professional dealings. And I just met him in person for the first time five minutes ago!"
"Let's just ask him," her mom said. "See if he'd even consider it."
Through the door, Dex coughed loudly, as if to remind them he was still waiting.
Lucy motioned toward the sound. "Come on. We can't leave him out there. He's an important, busy man. I'm sure he has numbers to crunch or something." Swallowing hard, she pulled the door back open and headed to the sales floor. And found Dex examining a pair of red lacy crotch-less panties. He didn't look in the least confused by them, which sometimes happened to the more clueless men who came in to buy something for their girlfriends or wives.
His gaze skimmed over her body so fast she wasn't really sure she'd seen it. Was he imagining her in those panties?
A warm flush started at her ears and worked its way down to her throat and neck.
With a barely concealed amused expression on his face, he returned the underwear to the display table. "Everything okay?"
Mom went over to him. "I ... we ... Lucy has a question for you." Placing a palm in the middle of Lucy's back, she shoved her forward. Lucy stumbled, righting herself just before she slammed into Dex's broad chest.
A slow, sexy grin settled on his lips. "Something you want to ask me?"
Oh God. Did he think she was going to ask him out? He did, she could see it in his eyes. No one looked like he did and didn't get regularly propositioned by clients. Worst of all, the idea her mother wanted her to propose was even more unprofessional than that.
Last thing she wanted was a man who was as orderly and mathematically minded as Dex the accountant.
As her father. May his hyper-organized, abusive self remain far away from her and her mom.
It didn't matter that Dex was built like a linebacker and had a cleft in his chin like Ben Affleck, or that he smelled like a redwood forest. None of those things changed the fact that she went for leather jackets, not leather briefcases.
He didn't have a single tattoo or piercing, although who could really be sure under his suit? But it sure would be fun to rumple him up in the sack. In truth, the thought had crossed her mind more than once in the last six weeks during their phone conversations. But then he'd start talking about how her piles of receipts could be "more organized" and her penmanship on invoices "less messy," and that had always been more than enough to bring her back to reality.
But the very thought of being in his bed heated her cheeks.
He opened his jacket and pushed a pen into the inside pocket, next to a pencil and a stylus, all neatly lined up.
A distant memory of her father came to mind, of him taking a black marker out of the breast pocket of his uniform and drawing an X next to Lucy's name on the behavior chart that hung on the refrigerator. She couldn't even recall what she'd done that day to displease him, but there were few unmarked boxes. Lucy, with her creative mind and free spirit, had never managed to do anything right for Sergeant By-the-Book. Despite the fact that she hadn't seen nor spoken to her father in more than a decade, her stomach seized up with panic at the mere thought of his damn chart, just as it had when she knew he was about to mete out some draconian form of punishment.
Setting a hand on her belly, she stood taller and met Dex's stare. Maybe it would be better to find a different guy to play the role.
But her mother sidled over and spoke up before Lucy could stop her. "You see, we need someone—maybe you, if you would agree—to pretend to be Lucy's husband at a relative's wedding."
His eyes grew so wide, a rim of white appeared around his green irises. She had to give him credit; that was his only outward sign he gave of the panic he must have felt. "Her husband," he repeated.
Excerpted from The Surrogate Husband by Wynter Daniels, Tracy Montoya. Copyright © 2014 Wynter Daniels. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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