Authors: Julianne Floyd
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary
|Sexy Southerners |
Have you found your perfect match?
Certified fraud examiner Jessica Barlow catches liars for a living. After a sexless first year of divorce, she decides to branch out of the traditional dating scene to find romance at LoveLines, an upscale online dating service with a guaranteed success rate. But just when things get interesting, she’s assigned to snoop on the very company that might show her a good time.
Texan horse rancher Matteo Brandt is secretly the corporate owner and mastermind of LoveLines’ thirty-one point matching system. He suspects Jess might be a plant for a pending court case. She just can’t be as good as she looks. He’s determined to save both his company and his reputation-- even if it means seducing Jess himself.
Will it be all work and no play? It’s all clothes barred in this battle for truth and love.
LIAR, LIAR is a deliciously decadent contemporary romance about the perils and possibilities of finding love online. And each Julianne Floyd book includes a feature recipe with more posted on her website at www.juliannefloyd.com.
Note: This book contains adult content--a deliciously hot hero and explicitly good romance
For JoJo Biggs and Shannie MWL for inspiration.
To Mom and HK for always cheering me on and making me feel I can do anything.
And RJC-I remain, as ever, yours.
Are you hungry? Every Julianne Floyd book features a deliciously decadent recipe—with even more on her website! Don’t forget to check out the deliciously decadent feature recipe for LIAR, LIAR at the end of this book. And find bonus recipes for this and other books in Julie’s Kitchen at www.
© Julianne Floyd 2013
All rights reserved. This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual individuals or businesses is purely coincidental. This e-book is sold on condition that it shall not be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the copyright owner's consent, and without a similar condition being imposed on a subsequent purchaser or the romance gods will torment you for the rest of your days. Which may actually be fun.
“Oh, no!” Jessica Barlow scanned the email with disbelief. They had to be kidding, right? She shook her head, feeling sick. This was some prank, pulled by someone at the office. It had to be. She was a Certified Fraud Examiner, and she’d just been assigned to scrutinize the legitimacy of LoveLines’ guaranteed online matchmaking program--her first solo investigation. It should’ve been a dream come true. There was just one teensy problem….
Jess snatched up her cell and hit the memory button. InvestiCorp’s chipper after-hours receptionist answered.
“Put me through to Maxwell. It’s Jess.”
The phone hummed with irritating Muzak while she waited for the line to patch through to his number.
“Jess! Good to hear from you. How’s my girl? Did you get the attachment?” Max didn’t even snicker. Phone equivalent of a poker face.
Jess fumed. “Whose idea was this?” How had they found out? She’d been so discreet, so careful. The only person who knew about her situation was Suze and she was partying in Barbados with her cousin Caroline.
Maxwell paused. “Don’t know what you mean, Barlow.”
She took a deep breath, her eyes scanning the outline documents. “You mean to tell me this is legit, Max?”
“It’s all there in black and white. Came through the wires just this week. Someone’s got it out for them, bad. Her name’s Alicia Lange. Some ballsy chick in the entertainment industry. The attorney’s office said to make the investigation a priority—they’ve got a court case in less than a month.”
Bad didn’t accurately describe the situation.
Oh, the humiliation! How long would it take the office rumor mill to circulate that Jessica Barlow had to resort to a high priced online matchmaker to find romance? She wanted the earth to swallow her up. She pulled her blanket tighter across her shoulders. Maybe she could hibernate for the spring.
“The problem, Maxwell, is that I’m already on it. Er…in it. I…” she took a deep breath. “I’m a LoveLines client,” she blurted. “And you’re asking me to examine them.”
Outside of walking in on her ex-husband playing hide-the-salami with the housekeeper, this was the single most embarrassing moment in her life.
Maxwell had the good grace not to even laugh, though it was hard to say what his expression might be over the phone.
“Well? Does it work?” Max cleared his throat. “This Lange gal says ‘no’ but if you’re having success…well, could make for an open and shut case.”
“I don’t know. I haven’t been in the program that long.” Jess bit her lip. “And it hasn’t so far. Not for me, anyways.”
“Well, then.” He paused. “Shouldn’t be a conflict of interest. Gives you some legitimacy, and it’ll give you easier access to the information you need. Hell, you can write it off as a business expense.”
“What? Like posing as a ‘secret shopper’ and see if I get the same negative results?” She rubbed her forehead. “I don’t know, Max…” It was one thing to go in to a corporate office where they knew she was investigating. Quite another to pose as a client and investigate without a signed court order to proceed.
“It’s up to you, Jess. The other partners didn’t think you were up to this challenge, but I told them you were ready. I’d hate to see you prove me wrong.” His tone was casual, but she knew a thinly veiled warning when she heard it.
She sighed. “And no one needs to know I was a member before the investigation?”
“It’s litigation support, Jess. Dig up what dirt you can, but be sure it’s legit. I don’t want any calls about scorned clients funneling back to my office. You know what I mean. Your personal life is your own, but business is business.”
“Yes, sir.” She swallowed the hard lump of embarrassment lodged in her throat. “I’ll handle it.”
“You’re my best girl, Jess. This is your shot to run an investigation. Do more than ‘handle’ it. Make me proud.”
“Right.” Jess nodded. She hung up the phone feeling more depressed than ever.
Nights like these made her wonder why Maxwell tried so hard to help her. She’d been with InvestiCorp for a year now, and she wanted to make Max proud of her, but this was beyond simple litigation support. Jess grabbed the remote and clicked on her television to fill the silence in her apartment.
Meet the man or woman of your dreams--guaranteed!
The screen buzzed to life and greeted her with the latest LoveLines commercial. A bikini clad woman cavorted on a pale brown sugar beach. The television vibrated with soothing New Age music.
Jess groaned and sank further into her woven blanket. Just her luck. She rubbed her forehead. Providing litigation support was enough to drive any woman to celibacy, but it paid the bills. She needed a massage and a glass of wine. Scratch that, she needed to get laid.
At LoveLines, all your fantasies can come true--and with real people just like you!
Bikini Babe turned, drawing attention to her perfectly flat abs, and flashed a toothy grin at the camera just as a hunky male model greeted her with smoothly practiced enthusiasm.
Don’t you deserve more?
“Yeah, right.” Jess took another swallow of hot tea. “I deserve more. I deserve to look like that.” All the five a.m. weightlifting before work hadn’t tightened her buns to steel, but she had to admit she looked better since the divorce. Not perfect, but definitely do-able.
Your heart is guaranteed to find a match or your money back.
Hunky man removed his shirt. His biceps bulged almost as much as the crotch of his navy swim trunks.
“As if guys like him are in the program!” Jess gestured with her mug, sloshing tea onto the hardwood floor.
She’d been a LoveLiner for the past three months with less than stellar results. She’d filled out the profile questions, uploaded photos and a LoveLines video clip, even clicked the little box that certified all her responses were true to the best of her knowledge. Jess loved surveys—answers were either right…or wrong. And she was sure she’d done everything right.
But while the hits on her profile had soared, she hadn’t had a single successful date. Or even a hot hook-up. So much for their highly touted matching system. Her gaze drifted to the files spilling out of the folder on her desk. It seemed unlikely that internet matchmaking could guarantee success. With Maxwell depending on her, she desperately needed to get the dirt on LoveLines.
The male model gave Bikini Babe a healthy squeeze, molding her lithe frame to his body. Her breasts didn’t move. She gave a silent squeal of delight, as the music thrummed in the background.
Jess sighed and clicked off the tube. Desperate was her perfect description. She’d been working too hard and she was tired. Worse than that, she was horny as hell.
An ache built up between her legs, a sure sign that it was going to be another long night. Setting her mug on the bedside table, she snagged her trusty pink butterfly vibrator--a “Happy D” gift from her best gal pal Suzanne--from her nightstand drawer. She flopped on the bed and considered surfing for the latest offering on one of the adult movie channels. Something with full frontal and good action.
It had been so long since she’d had non-mechanical company in her bed. Jess sighed. She knew what she wanted. A hunky shirtless man who knew how to fill out a pair of navy trunks pumping between her thighs. Long kisses. Slippery skin-on-skin action from someone who appreciated a real woman without plastic enhancements.
Unfortunately, duty called.
“Looks like it’s you and me, Pinky.” Jess sank into her down-filled pillows and flicked on her trusty companion. Pinky whirred to life, his batteries revved to full throttle.
B-b-r-r-ra-aaaang! The phone jangled, startling her almost off the edge of the bed.
She struggled to untangle her hands from her drawstrings and grabbed the receiver on the third ring. Pinky bounced to the floor and sputtered to a stop.
“We’re sorry,” her answering machine echoed from the kitchen. “We’re not available to take your call….”
“Hello?” The receiver squawked. “Hello?” The voice was surprisingly male.
“Ha-hang on a minute.” Jess shouted over the mechanical machine litany. “It’s almost over.” She covered the mouthpiece with her hand and swallowed hard. Who was calling her at this time of night?
The clock read 9:37 pm. Way past time for telemarketers to annoy her.
She waited for the telltale beep before speaking. “Hello, who’s this?”
“Jessica Barlow?” The voice was guttural with a slight accent that she couldn’t place. Jess shivered deliciously. She had a thing for men with husky voices.
“It is. Who’s this?” she repeated.
“You’ve been selected,” he began.
A sales pitch? At this time of night?
“You must be out of your mind!” she interrupted. She and Pinky had some unfinished business, and some creep with a sexy accent thought he could bypass the sales call ordinance? “Do you know what time it is?” She made a mental note to register her new phone number on the no-call list.
A long pause. “I’m sorry for the late hour, Ms. Barlow. We’re calling from LoveLines. You have an account with us. We’d like to make you a special offer.” The voice sounded tense. Jess imagined a manager moving in to eavesdrop on the line.
She seethed inwardly. Her personal and professional lives were filled to the brim with scam artists. “What now? My trial subscription is almost over. You can’t possibly expect me to sign on for another six months. Not unless you have access to….” Well, she couldn’t say a larger expense account, could she? “To some suitable candidates.” Like hunks in navy swim trunks, she added in her head.
“That is exactly what we are offering, you, Ms. Barlow. The volume of hits on your profile makes you an excellent candidate for our extended LoveLiners special program. You rank in the ‘highly desirable’ category. Very highly desirable.” The voice was softer now. She could have sworn she heard the caller exhale. “Any man would be crazy not to want you.”
Liar, Liar… she chimed in her head. Her bullshit meter was set on low dosage tonight.