Undressed (Harlequin Blaze Series #473)

Undressed (Harlequin Blaze Series #473)

by Heather MacAllister

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Overview

These weddings are starting with a bang!

They never thought a fitting would lead to erotic confessions! But thanks to one very thin wall between the dressing rooms in a bridal shop and a tuxedo boutique, four lucky couples are about to be enlightened—and delightfully satisfied….

The bridal shop's assistant manager hears a very suggestive song from the dressing room next door…

An arranged marriage isn't always about love. But for one Indian couple, it might be about transcendent sex!

A bride-to-be has a flirtatious exchange through the wall…unknowingly with her fiancé's twin brother….

When a groom decides to surprise his busy fiancée with a romantic escape, he's in for a sexy shock. Because he accidentally kidnaps the wrong woman!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780373794775
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 05/26/2009
Series: Harlequin Blaze Series , #473
Edition description: Original
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.60(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Heather MacAllister has written over forty-five romance novels, which have been translated into 26 languages and published in dozens of countries. She's won a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award, RT Book Reviews awards for best Harlequin Romance and best Harlequin Temptation, and is a three-time Romance Writers of America RITA® Award finalist. You can visit her at www.HeatherMacAllister.com.

Read an Excerpt

"The new system seems to be working. So far, no glitches."

Lia Wainright smiled in satisfaction at the comment from her boss, Elizabeth Gray, owner of Elizabeth Gray Bridal Salon. Honest to Pete, she'd been trying to get the woman to go electronic for the past two years.

Elizabeth was all about elegance and class and to her, nothing said class like the thick bridal-white paper she and her staff used to write up orders or "record selections."

Lia got the whole upscale theme. And she agreed that the tone of a bridal salon influenced which designers would allow their gowns to be sold there, but maintaining the appearance of class and sophistication so important to Elizabeth Gray had become problematic. Lia didn't think the payoff was worth it. The thick paper they used for orders took up a surprising amount of file space. The copier didn't like thick paper, either. And all the information had to be duplicated onto an order form because the paper was too thick to make multiple copies.

The extra steps had caused errors more than once. Elizabeth caught most of the mistakes because she knew the design and stock number of every dress she carried. They should be doing so much business that Elizabeth couldn't memorize all the numbers.

Elizabeth felt electronics weren't elegant. But then Lia had found these beautifully sleek silver and charcoal-gray electronic-input tablets and carefully and painstakingly introduced them to her boss.

Why did it matter to Lia whether or not Elizabeth Gray Bridal Salon went electronic? Because efficiency meant increased stock turnover, which meant more profit, which meant eventually, Elizabeth Gray would need help. Lia's goal was to provide that help and, ultimately, become a partner.

Elizabeth Gray had the ideal setup here in Rocky Falls, Texas. Lia was that rarest of people—a Rocky Falls native. Her parents owned the Wainright Inn, a local institution that had seen its share of weddings over the years.

Lia liked Rocky Falls, the Hill Country weather, the scenery and the artsy shops catering to weekend tourists. This was where she wanted to live, and she wanted to support herself away from her parents. Working at the Wainright had been great for after school and summers between college, but Lia needed to prove she could develop a business on her own. The salon wasn't hers, but she'd been Elizabeth's first employee, and immediately had seen the potential.

The falls and the carefully lush landscaping of the park surrounding them were an increasingly popular choice for outdoor weddings. Elizabeth had the right idea to have a high-end bridal salon in the area and it was genius to partner with Tuxedo Park, the formal-wear store next door.

But Lia knew they could do better.

"The staff has made the transition to the input tablets without any problems," Lia assured her boss. Input tablets sounded more elegant than remote terminals.

The staff, all but one members of the iPod generation, had been thrilled to abandon the pen and paper. They'd made the transition in a matter of minutes.

"Another week or so and I think we can forgo paper backup," Elizabeth said.

Lia merely nodded. Elizabeth thought they were still using the pen and paper and then entering the information in their units, but Lia had been printing backups from the computer— not exactly what Elizabeth had in mind.

Elizabeth was being overly cautious. Inefficient. And so help her, a bit of a fuddy-duddy for somebody only in her early thirties.

She needed to loosen up and she needed to loosen up with Bill—William—her partner, the owner of Tuxedo Park. The man had it so bad for her and the toe-curling looks he gave her when he thought no one was watching made Lia bemoan the lack of eligible single men in Rocky Falls.

Where all these brides found all these men to marry was a mystery to Lia. But she wasn't going to settle and she wasn't going to worry about it. She was only twenty-five. She had plenty of time.

"Did you verify that all associates downloaded their information before they left for the day?" Elizabeth asked as she always did.

"Yes," Lia replied, as she always did.

"Did you know we're dressing the entire Brantley wedding?"

Lia had not known. "Even the mothers?" This was why she'd pushed for electronic efficiency.

"Even the grandmothers." A rare smile of triumph creased Elizabeth's face. "They made their final selections this afternoon. The whole wedding party will be wearing pinks ranging from touches of blush on the bridal gown to deep rose on the grandmothers. The photographs are going to be stunning."

Lia's heart actually started pounding. "That's so great." She was already visualizing advertising. The salon needed more big-ticket weddings like this. And an entire party willing to coordinate was every bridal designer and salon's dream.

"Yes. It is. It really is." Elizabeth exhaled and removed the scarf from around her neck.

All associates wore black suits and Elizabeth, and only Elizabeth, wore a tie or scarf. Lia had rarely seen her neck.

"We will monitor the selections very closely and I'm counting on you to impress upon the manufacturer how important this order is."

She reached for her collar and unbuttoned the top button.

Whoa. And then she unbuttoned the second one, actually revealing a sliver of skin.

She caught Lia staring. "Too much?"

She was serious. The woman was so tightly wound she had doubts about showing two inches of skin.

"For…?"

"William is taking me to dinner to celebrate."

Of course he was. Lia wished she could pour her boss into a sexy little black dress for the poor man.

"We're going to the Wainright Inn—are your folks at home, or is your dad still off on the wine-buying trip?"

"He's just back. Let me call them." Lia whipped out her cell phone. "Soft-shell crab is in season and he found a great wine to go with it."

"Oh, you don't—"

Lia held up her hand. If she couldn't get Elizabeth into the little black dress, then at least she could help William romance Elizabeth this way. "There's a private party tonight, so I want to make sure they keep at least one bottle back for you."

As she spoke to the Wainright sommelier she gestured that Elizabeth should undo one more button.

Elizabeth shook her head. "This isn't a date. William and I will be discussing the vests and cravats he'll have to order for the men. Naturally, we'll want them made of the same fabric."

Poor William.

Poor Elizabeth. Or Beth Ann, as he called her, except Lia knew better than to admit she knew that.

"Wear the lace jacket," Lia surprised herself by saying after she closed her phone.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Wear the lace jacket," Lia repeated. "Think of it as advertising. No one has ordered it because it doesn't look good on the hanger. It's such a great topper for the mothers and grandmothers." Before Elizabeth could object, Lia went to get the sample. The style came in the usual colors, including a black lace over nude, which was what Lia had originally been thinking of.

But that was before she saw the flesh-toned peach over nude.

Holy cow. Her boss's pale skin was an almost exact match. In the warm, carefully muted lighting of the Wainright dining room, Elizabeth wouldn't look as though she wasn't wearing much of anything.

Could Lia convince her to wear it? Should she convince her to wear it? In the bright interior light of the salon, it wouldn't look as sexy as at the Wainright. That could be a good thing.

Lia plucked the pale lace jacket from the rack and brought it to her boss. It was a size smaller than the black, but would fit if Elizabeth went without a blouse. "I found a flaw in the black lace, but I love this with your skin tone." Lia briskly removed the hanger and held the jacket out.

When Elizabeth took it and hesitated, Lia added, "Dinner at the Wainright is such a great opportunity to show the jacket. Put it on while I get the right earrings."

In the display case, Lia found the delicate sparkly hanging earrings she had in mind and returned to the dressing area, not sure whether or not she'd pushed her boss too far. But then she thought of William's lustful gaze—William's hot, searing, sizzling, I-know-my-way-around-a-woman's-body gaze… If a man ever looks at me that way, so help me I will pay attention, she vowed.

Elizabeth was tying the ribbon belt on the jacket when Lia returned with the earrings.

Omigod. Lia flipped on more lights before Elizabeth looked up and saw the full effect in the mirror. I am so ordering that jacket.

The thing fit her like a second skin and had the perfect V neckline, sexy but not slutty.

Maybe Lia should order it in two colors.

"This is a Clive Hamilton, isn't it?" Elizabeth smoothed the jacket over her hips and checked the rear view.

"Yes. This is the only design of his we carry."

Elizabeth merely nodded before they both heard William at the door.

"Hey, Beth Ann, you ready for a hot time in the old town tonight?"

Elizabeth grimaced and Lia wondered if William fully grasped how much her boss loathed it when he said things like that.

"William." Elizabeth closed her eyes.

And because she closed her eyes, she didn't see what Lia saw, which was the stunned expression on William's face when he first caught sight of her.

Lia dimmed the lights and watched his knuckles turn white where he gripped the door handle.

Yeah. She was definitely ordering the jacket for herself.

He visibly swallowed. Elizabeth was saying something as she hung up her blouse and suit jacket, gathered her purse and gave Lia totally unnecessary instructions for closing.

As Elizabeth approached him, William's eyes regarded her with possessive intent. Make that possessive, lustful intent.

Maybe not in the old town, but there were going to be hot times tonight.

All kidding aside, Lia did want a man to look at her with that same fierce longing—man being the operative word. Lia had seen plenty of grooms since she'd begun working here and knew she wanted a mature adult man who understood the give-and-take involved in marriage and was willing to make the commitment.

William was so willing. She sighed a little as he placed his hand in the small of Elizabeth's back and guided her out the front door. Just before the glass closed, he glanced back at Lia and the corner of his mouth lifted.

She gave him a thumbs-up. Not her place, but she didn't care.

Smiling to herself, Lia locked the door and watched until they drove out of sight.

She flipped off the showroom lights and headed to the office, already calculating the cost of the lace jacket once she applied her employee discount.

After inputting the order on her unit, she verified that all the associates had downloaded their orders and then cross-checked with their appointments for the day.

Everything looked just as it should. Lia cleared out the individual ordering units and plugged them in to recharge.

In another hour or so, she'd be able to do a live chat with Zhin, her Chinese counterpart at the manufacturing plant. With the Brantley wedding, she wanted to make certain the entire order was put through together so the dye lots would match.

She went to the kitchen at the back of the salon for a cup of coffee, but changed her mind when she saw the open bottle of champagne.

"We shouldn't serve our clients flat sparkling wine, now, should we?" Lia poured it into her coffee cup and returned to the office to wait until Zhin had arrived at work for the day.

It was funny that Elizabeth insisted on the finest of everything except champagne. Then again, an excellent sparkling wine beat cheap champagne any day. Except, this wasn't exactly an excellent sparkling wine. Either Elizabeth needed to upgrade or Lia shouldn't be drinking champagne out of a coffee cup. Probably both.

Lia idly searched Google for sparkling-wine ratings, and then Asti Spumante and Prosecco, the sweet Italian sparkling wines. Actually, she liked the idea of serving those. It seemed a hipper side of classy. And maybe they should invest in a cappuccino machine. Shopping for bridal and attendant gowns was an exhausting business emotionally and physically. Those beaded dresses could get heavy, and struggling into various girdlelike contraptions to support them gave a girl a workout. Elizabeth didn't provide cookies and tea sandwiches just to be nice, she served them to keep customers from leaving the store and maybe deciding to go elsewhere to shop after having lunch or dinner.

And speaking of…

After a few more sips of champagne, Lia went in search of the shortbread cookies Elizabeth kept on hand.

She heard rustling when she opened the cabinet in the kitchen. Rustling in a place where food was stored was never good. Lia closed the door and kicked it, hoping to scare away whatever she'd heard.

She didn't hear further sounds or find evidence that anything had been raiding the cookies when she looked inside. Okay, then.

Lia grabbed a box of shortbreads shaped like wedding bells and munched as she checked out Clive Hamilton's Web site. Any designer who knew a woman's body the way he did might have other outfits she'd like to order.

Hmm. The cookies were good and her cup was empty and Lia was thirsty. Virtuously, she drank a glass of water before filling her cup with more champagne. Leaning back in her chair, she propped her feet on the desk and the computer in her lap. That's why they called it a laptop, right?

Opening the chat interface, she typed, Zhin, are you there?

Several moments went by. "Late? Ooh, Zhin, you lazy thing. Big night last night?" she murmured aloud.

Elizabeth was impressed with Lia's willingness to work overtime, but the truth was that over the months, she and Zhin had become friends and Lia enjoyed "chatting" with her. Maybe someday they'd even meet.

"Zhiiiiiiiin. Where are you?" Lia spoke to herself as she typed. "Big order. Mucho importante. Major buckos. Lots o' pink."

Lia snickered to herself. Zhin prided herself on her English and would incorporate any new word she heard, slang or not. Sometimes those incorporations made Lia laugh until she sobbed and then her typing deteriorated, which tipped Zhin off that she'd been set up. Zhin took her revenge in subtle ways. Like only being available to chat at 2:00 a.m. or something equally hideous.

Hey you, Zhin typed. You're losing your touch.

Nice use of idiom, Lia noted.

So you've got an expensive, big-deal wedding to dress? Zhin typed.

Exactly, Lia typed back. So can we discuss it now and not in six hours? She added a smile emoticon.

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Undressed (Harlequin Blaze Series #473) 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have missed reading Heather MacAllister's books since Temptation went defunct. And Undressed I feel is a worthy return for her. It is quirky and funny - which is the thing that I love about her books. And I loved the concept for the book! What could be more anticipating to a bride but her wedding gown and her wedding night and hearing what the groom is saying on the other side of the wall. I am looking forward to reading more of Heather in the future. Welcome back... Lone Star Santa was just too long ago.
BookLoverEW More than 1 year ago
Shop manager Lia Wainright was working towards a partnership in the Elizabeth Gray Bridal Salon. What she wasn't expecting was a partnership with JC, the singing "drifter" tuxedo salesman working (and living!) next door at Tuxedo Park Formal Wear. Gina Wells did everything for her over-scheduled boss, Monica - even acting as a stand-in for Monica's bridal fitting, unbeknownst to fiancé Ford O'Banion who chose that particular day to kidnap "Monica" for a romantic getaway. Little did either know Gina would take Monica's place in Ford's heart as well. These and two other stories make up UNDRESSED, the latest release from Heather MacAllister for Harlequin's Blaze line, the love lives of four couples take unexpected turns. MacAllister delivers fun and sexy stories about finding love in the most unexpected place - the fitting room. Who knew a bridal shop could be so exciting!