Kyra Dixon, a blue-collar girl from the boondocks, is dedicated to her job at a community center that matches underprivileged kids with rescue dogs. When she runs into Will Chase—Connecticut blue blood, billionaire CEO, and her old college crush—she’s surprised that he asks a favor from her: to be his date for his uptight family’s dreaded annual garden party. If his parents don’t approve, all the better.
Kyra’s not about to say no. It’ll give her a chance to be oh-so-close to her unrequited love. What begins as a little fling turns so mad hot, so fast, that Kyra finds herself falling all over again for a fantasy that won’t come true. How can it? She doesn’t belong in Will’s world. She doesn’t want to. But Will does want to belong in hers.
All he has to do now is prove it. Will is prepared to give up whatever is necessary to get what his heart most desires.
“Speaking of my family, I came here with an ulterior motive.”
“Oh?” What on earth could Will want from her?
“My mother throws an annual spring garden party—she calls it her Spring Fling—in Connecticut, on the family farm. She invites the whole extended family, all her friends, and my father’s business associates. I wondered if you might be willing to come with me. Next Sunday. Short notice, I know.”
His gaze didn’t waver from her face, which made it hard to respond, since she had to concentrate on not letting her mouth fall open in astonishment.
“I, um, well, that sounds like fun.” Total lie. It sounded terrifying. But she had Sunday off from work, so she had no commitments to stop her.
“Fun?” He shook his head. “It’s stuffy and tense and boring. My family all snap at each other when no one else is listening. That’s why I’m asking you to come as a buffer.”
“When you put it that way, how can I refuse?” She would be like a fish that didn’t even know which way the ocean was. But the chance to see Will in his childhood environment was irresistible. In college, he’d dropped casual comments about racing his sailboat on Long Island Sound, or his sister getting thrown from her horse in a cross-country event, or his mother winning the club’s tennis championship. It sounded like The Great Gatsby come to life. She had to experience it just once. “I’d be happy to go with you.”
The expression that crossed his face was hard to read, except for relief. “That’s the best news I’ve had all day,” he said.
“What’s the dress code?”
“Casual. It’s outdoors. There are tents in case it rains. Although even the weather rarely dares to displease my mother.”
“‘Casual’ covers a lot of territory for women,” she said. “Not jeans, I assume.”
He thought for a minute. “Dresses, sort of colorful. Flat shoes because of the grass. Straw hats, if it’s sunny.”
“What are you wearing?” That might help.
“My uniform. Khakis and a button-down shirt. Loafers.”
“Hell, no!” he said. “Shirtsleeves rolled up, too.”
She got the picture, and she had nothing appropriate to wear. She sighed inwardly. This was going to cost her more money than she could afford. However, she couldn’t resist the opportunity to journey into the exotic country of upper-crust Connecticut. Not to mention, spending time with her college crush, who was even more crushworthy now.
“Okay, a rolled-up shirtsleeves kind of dress.” She took a gulp of her club soda as she debated where to find a dress that looked expensive but was bargain priced.
“I’ll pick you up at noon. We’ll make a fashionably late entrance. Which means we won’t have to endure the party as long.”
“This sounds more and more delightful all the time.”
Will finally smiled, albeit with an edge. “It won’t be as bad for you. They’re not your family.”
“I hear you.” But at least he still had his mother and father. As complicated as her parents had made her life, she sometimes felt terribly alone without them.
He sat back against the banquette. “Now I’m looking forward to the party.”
“You don’t have to flatter me. I’ve agreed to go.” But she couldn’t stop a smile of gratification from curling the corners of her mouth.
“You might begin to have second thoughts.” He pulled out his cell phone. “May I get your number so I don’t have to track you down?”
He tapped at the phone’s screen as she rattled off her phone number.
“Do you still have my cell number or did you chuck my card?” he asked with that self-deprecating smile that always charmed her.
“Just text me and I’ll have it on my phone.”
“So you chucked it.”
The disappointment in his tone surprised her.
“No, it’s at my apartment.”
His fingers flew over the keys of his phone.
A ping sounded from her back pocket, indicating she’d gotten his text, and she started to reach for her phone.
“Read it later,” he said with a roguish glint in his eyes. He placed his empty glass on the tray. “My apologies, but I have to go. Overseas business makes for odd working hours.”