Authors: Jo Leigh
Single Gal Seeks Naughty Inspiration
Aubrey Hayes @windowUndresser
Window dressing at Le Muse lingerie = best job ever. LOVE. But must design The Ultimate Window Display Of Hot Sex before Xmas. #panic
A Hot Guys Trading Card just fell from the sky. Could this beautiful piece of man be my muse? It’s raining men. #hallelujah
OMFG, Detective Liam Flynn even hotter in person. May explode into a million pieces of lusty lady bits. #HandcuffMeNow
It’s on. Have convinced the über-hot cop to be my naughty muse until Xmas. Two weeks of sex, here I come! *ahem*
Muse Plan already working. Creative juices flowing. And Detective Liam Hotness is the best “inspiration” ever. Owe the Fates BIG time.
But I only have him until Christmas. Keep it together, Aubrey—and DON’T fall for him. #SexNotLove
Sexy, contemporary romance stories for today’s fun, fearless female.
Cosmo Red-Hot Reads from Harlequin
To the fabulous Breetel, Yael and Debbi—you guys rock!
And to my editor Birgit Davis-Todd for always being in my corner.
Did you know trading cards aren’t just for sports anymore? There are all kinds. For movie and television shows, comic books, music…you can even collect history trading cards. What they don’t have is Trading Cards for women. One man per card, all the really important stats and preferences listed on the back. Like…is
Marry/Date/One Night Stand material?
, the trading cards are real, but window dresser Aubrey Hayes doesn’t know about them until one literally falls into her hands. It’s serendipity at its sexy best, as Aubrey decides Detective Liam Flynn is destined to be her inspiration as she designs a sexy Christmas holiday window. The poor man doesn’t know that he’s about to embark on the craziest and best adventure of his life.
I’ve always loved twist of fate stories. And no doubt about it, I’m a romantic at heart. Writing for Cosmo’s Red-Hot Reads from Harlequin combined two of my favorite things and was more fun than I ever imagined. I’m wild about New York, men who serve and protect, and women who don’t
a man to be happy, but know that it helps…if he’s the right one.
Sexy, contemporary romance stories for today’s fun, fearless female.
Cosmo Red-Hot Reads from Harlequin
Jo Leigh is from Los Angeles and always thought she’d end up living in Manhattan like any good
girl should. So how did she end up in Utah, in a tiny town with a terrible internet connection, being bossed around by a house full of rescued cats and dogs? What the heck, she says, predictability is boring. Jo has written more than forty-five novels for Harlequin. Visit her website at
or contact her at
Books by Jo Leigh
227—MINUTE BY MINUTE
516—SEXY MS. TAKES
730—LYING IN BED
752—ALL THE RIGHT MOVES
All backlist available in ebook format.
Even Florence killing “Shake It Out” couldn’t pull Aubrey Hayes out of her funk. She balled up her latest sketch and tossed it atop the pile of previously crumpled drawings that cascaded out of her trash can like a river of failure. She should have brought in the Dumpster from outside just to handle the night’s work. A glance at her watch told her the store had been closed for twenty minutes and that the inspiration she’d sought at the old drafting table her boss, Yvonne, had shoved in the corner of the stockroom had deserted her like a rat on a sinking ship. She might as well give it up before she imploded into a puddle of dark curls and red lipstick.
She grabbed her bag, slapped her fedora on her head, wrapped a stripy scarf around her neck and kicked her way out of the mess she’d made. At least the one on the floor. The mess she’d made of her life would take a bit more work. She’d heard about a monastery in upstate New York. Were there female monks? Was the vow of silence a deal breaker?
Aubrey slipped on her coat and made her way into the store proper, where the girl-on-girl mannequin display she’d set up last week caught her eye. The lingerie was part of the Deco collection. Two styles, both see-through bra and panty sets with detailing to die for. She’d been pleased that Yvonne had approved of her decision to position the two girls a hairsbreadth away from a steamy kiss. Equally pleased that a complementary duo had been installed in the men’s department, but with dudes, of course.
That was her boss all over. Groundbreaking, savvy and always standing at the very edge of a cliff, whether she was mounting risqué displays or building a whole new empire of lingerie stores to rival La Perla and Agent Provocateur. Yvonne’s risk-taking had gotten Aubrey her job. A quirky window display at a Brooklyn boutique had caught Yvonne’s attention last August. The fall window design for Le Muse—daring and different enough to catch the eye of anyone walking down Broadway—had been her triumphant debut.
Yvonne’s voice scared the bejesus out of her as she reached the front door. “Aubrey, my love, I meant to come see you. How are things coming along?”
Panic blossomed like a mushroom cloud. “Great,” she lied, hoping against hope that her high voice didn’t give her away. Although next to Yvonne’s elegant French accent, Aubrey always sounded like the hick she was.
“Of course it is. I know it will be fantastic, but the suspense is driving me mad.”
“Me, too,” Aubrey whispered, then called out, “Have a great night.”
“You, as well.”
It took longer to lock up because of her shaky fingers, but finally she was outside, the sounds of Manhattan soothing her more than a hot bath. She might have been raised in a flyspeck town in Utah, but the minute she’d walked off the plane at JFK, wow, four years ago, she’d found home.
God, she needed a drink or seven. It wasn’t even nine yet, so she had a good chance of getting the roomies together for cocktails. She could always count on Sanjula and Caro for support when her own life went up in flames.
Although this crisis was particularly difficult because there was a secret she had to keep from her friends. The night of the Christmas window extravaganza, the one that was giving Aubrey fits, Yvonne was hosting a celebrity cocktail party in the store. So many models and designers and movie stars would be passing through, her roommates would go insane. But Aubrey couldn’t mention a word of it to anyone until Yvonne gave her the go-ahead.
As she pulled her cell out of her bag, her gaze returned to Le Muse. The display window itself was one of the largest in the city. Yvonne had made sure it was equipped with everything a designer could hope for, including enough depth to stage a play if she wanted to. The only limitation Aubrey faced was her own creativity. Or lack thereof.
She had to admit her fall design had been a stroke of genius. A fluke, but a brilliant one. The window display had launched the store’s soft opening in October and everyone loved her flashers. Three mannequins wearing opaque plastic raincoats held wide open, their feet planted far apart, arms spread. Really flashing the hell out of the city. Though not at first glimpse.
From the front of Le Muse you could only see the girls’ backs. Luckily, a columnist from the
had been the first to discover that the whole window was a puzzle. Using mirrors, monitors and cameras set up from different angles, there were all kinds of ways to see that the mannequins wore to-die-for sexy lingerie. A bustier and thigh-high stockings on the redhead, a nearly nude—and barely-there—push-up bra on the brunette, and the blonde dressed in a strapless bodysuit. At least, that’s what they were wearing now. Aubrey changed things up from time to time, from the outfits to the film clips playing on the monitors. It had been the talk of the town, and in a remarkably short time they’d built a solid base of repeat customers.
If only it hadn’t been the very last good idea Aubrey would ever have.
She turned, unable to look at the display for one more second. That drink was calling her very loudly. A gust of wind hit her out of the blue, almost carrying away her hat. Quick reflexes saved the day, and as she reached up to grab for her fedora, she noticed something drifting down from the darkish sky. At first she thought it was a piece of paper, then a floating leaf. She couldn’t imagine where in the world it had come from, or why it dropped straight into her up-stretched hand.
Aubrey blinked at her prize. It was a picture. Of a man. A very gorgeous man. She didn’t recognize him, and she was familiar with most of the current models working in the fashion world, but from the size of the card, she thought he might be a sports star. Although, didn’t they wear uniforms? Mr. Blue Eyes was in a leather jacket, with a white Oxford shirt underneath.
He had dark, thick hair cut with a knowing hand, a bone structure that made her wish she sculpted and lips…well, damn.
Turning the card over led to another surprise. It
a trading card, like for a baseball star or something, but she’d never seen a baseball card with so much information up front and center. His name, the very Irish sounding Liam Flynn, was accompanied by his phone number. A Manhattan area code. Huh. Submitted by Mary Whittaker.
That was odd.
His profession was listed as Detective. Interesting. Private? Police? Other?
Then came the jaw-dropping words…Marry, Date or One-Night Stand
He wanted to Date. It said so, right there in black and white.
“Oh,” she whispered. This must be one of the cards from that Hot Guy thingy. The one she’d read about months ago. Actually, she’d only read the first paragraph, but if she recalled correctly, there were groups all over New York that were dedicated to women setting up their girlfriends with guys they knew.
Sanjula would know all about it. Her roomie was a sponge when it came to stuff like this. She was up-to-date on every piece of celebrity gossip, and could explain the ins and outs of Manhattan nightlife in excruciating detail.
Aubrey squinted at her phone, then hit speed dial two and waited, her freezing cold nose and earlobes reminding her that if she had any sense at all, she’d go inside.
“Are you still working?” Sanjula asked when she picked up.
“No. I’m done. But I need you to tell me everything about that Hot Guys thing. The cards.”
Not missing a beat, Sanjula said, “Hot Guys Trading Cards were all over the news a while back. Someone who owns a printing company came up with the idea for her weekly lunch group. To belong you have to submit at least one guy you can vouch for, a friend, relative or someone you dated. If you choose a card, you have to check in with the person who submitted him, then you call your hot guy and make a date. I personally haven’t seen a card so I don’t know what kind of stats—”
“Fear not,” Aubrey said with a grin. “I happen to have that information at my fingertips.”
“Name and phone, Submitted by, Marry, Date or One-Night Stand—”
“If you knew, why did you ask me?”
‘I didn’t know. I saw a card. A trading card from Hot Guys etcetera. It came out of nowhere. Literally. It floated into my hand.”
“Huh? What do you mean floated?”
Aubrey sang the first bar from “It’s Raining Men.” “Like that.”
“Is he hot?”
“Hold on.” She turned her phone, snapped a pic and sent it directly to Sanjula’s cell.
“I know, right?”
Sanjula sighed. “Read me the rest of the card while I try not to hate your guts for being the luckiest woman on earth.”
“Okay. He’s a detective.”
“Ooh, how Sherlock of him.”
“He wants to date. Not marry, not have a one-night stand.”
“Well, that’s good, isn’t it?” Sanjula said. “You’d want to have second helpings of that dish.”
“Maybe. The thing is, he’s awfully good-looking.”
“And that’s bad because…?”
Aubrey sighed. “The being-beautiful baggage,” she said. “Ego. Competition. Ego.”
“All right. I’ll give you that. But it’d be worth it for those blue eyes. Anyway, continue.”
“His fave restaurant is Parlor Steakhouse. His secret passion is the Mets. Ugh.”
“Hey, it could be worse.”
“I know, but come on. Baseball? I was expecting more from you, Liam.”
“No editorials please,” Sanjula said. “What else?”
“His Bottom Line is ‘To find a woman who shares my goals and values.’” Aubrey turned to face the store as another gust of wind hit. “He needs a one-night stand. He just doesn’t know it yet.”
Sanjula snorted. “Yeah. Or two or three—one for each of us.”
Aubrey laughed as she looked up. There, above the doors, was the perfectly lit logo for the store. Her gaze snapped back to the card, then up again at the two bold words. Le Muse.
Sanjula was still talking, but Aubrey couldn’t focus on what she was saying.
“Yeah, right,” she mumbled. “Love you.” Aubrey hung up, and stared at his picture some more.
“Oh, my God,” she whispered, letting the breeze carry away the words. She had to admit the whole thing was a bit heavy-handed, but the Fates weren’t known for gentle nudges.
Liam Flynn had clearly been sent, special delivery, to be her own, personal muse.
A beer sounded great. Liam hung up his suit jacket, then turned on his computer terminal as he sat at his desk in the squad’s bull pen. He straightened his desk plaque, which someone had knocked sideways. Detective Liam Flynn. He’d never felt more deserving of the title than he did tonight.
“Well done, Flynn.” Detective Lieutenant Posner, the woman in charge of the detectives at the Midtown North precinct, stopped in front of his desk. “The bastards were right where you said they’d be. All of them and their computers brought in with no surprises.”
“I had some good intel,” he said. “My CI really came through.”
“I’d heard you’d made an impression on the locals when you were a beat cop. I’ve always believed that the best safety net is a community that has your back.”
“Yeah, well, I made my share of enemies, too.”
“I’d have been suspicious if you hadn’t.” She leaned in, lowered her voice. “Don’t think I’m not aware of your impact here. Most of these bums would rather chew off their own arms than do thorough reports, but in the end, seventy-five percent of convictions come from dotting the
’s and crossing the
’s. Keep it up.”
Detective Lieutenant Posner smiled and went over to join the huddle of “bums.”
Liam heard them laughing from the other side of the bull pen, although he hadn’t caught the joke. He rarely did. But he knew that the vice team would be planning which bar they’d go to after shift. They’d choose between the White House, which had the prettier waitresses, or the closer O’Malley’s, where the drinks were less expensive.
Maybe, this time, he’d say yes when Harry came around to invite him. The bust on the money-laundering operation had gone like clockwork. It warranted a hoisted glass or two.
they decided to go to O’Malley’s. The White House was off-limits for him. The one time he’d gone, a waitress had tried to convince him to go home with her. He’d declined, but that hadn’t been enough to satisfy Detective Tony Ricci, who’d been trying to score a date with her for months. Tony still hadn’t forgiven him.
Liam’s jaw flexed at the nickname he hated. Especially coming from Ernie Rogers, one of the most decorated detectives in the NYPD. Rogers was nearing his twenty, and Liam had wanted to get to know him before he retired, but it had been seven months since he’d joined the team, and so far, they’d talked nothing but ongoing cases. “The name’s Flynn,” he called out, knowing it wouldn’t make a difference.
“You comin’ with? We owe you a drink for today’s bust. And then you get to tell the class how you figured out that Stevens and Isaacs were both going to be at that apartment.”
“The nation’s capital.”
Harry Bigalow, another old-timer, clapped Rogers on the shoulder as he shook his head at Liam. “Screw Ricci. You can’t help it if the ladies are all over you.”
“You know what? I’m beat. I’m gonna go on home. I’ve been up since three this morning.”
“You change your mind, you know where we’ll be,” Rogers said.
Liam nodded, then pulled up the first of several forms he’d need to fill out. He stopped listening to the chatter, the laughter. Fuck them and their juvenile humor. And fuck the complete stranger who’d taken his picture at last year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade back when he was still in uniform.
He’d found out that she’d put it on the internet a couple days later. By then it was too late to do a damn thing about it.
She’d dubbed him
Ridiculously Good-Looking Cop,
and posted it to the massive social media site Reddit. It had already gone viral by the time one of the cops at his old precinct had sent the picture and the caption to everyone in the department. Maybe not the chief of police, but he couldn’t be sure.
He’d been Ridiculous ever since. By all rights it should have died down by now, but no. He had no idea why he’d imagined setting up today’s bust would change anything. Normally he wasn’t that optimistic. Now he was pretty damn certain the nickname would end up on his tombstone.