Authors: Edie Hart
Tags: #After doing a favor for her boss, #Tessa ends up being a mistaken target and falling for the sexy cop determined to keep her safe.
One Bad Day
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
One Bad Day
Copyright © 2013 Edie Hart
Cover Artist: Victoria Miller
Editor: Spencer Freeman
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
To my husband for your love, support, and faith in me.
To Brigid for teaching me how to see rainbows on the cloudiest of days, for helping me find my way, and for giving the best hugs.
To Sandy for being so excited for me.
And last but not least, to Spencer for giving me the opportunity to publish my story, for being kind and patient, and for making
One Bad Day
better than I ever thought it could be.
Tessa hurried from the parking lot to the hotel, taking tiny, deliberate steps in her two-inch, black, strappy stilettos. She hated being late and really needed this job.
She stumbled and caught herself before she fell. She knew she shouldn’t have worn these shoes. She’d left the apartment in a hurry and figured since Irene had her working the check-in table the shoes would be fine. And, they were really cute.
Tessa rushed through the hotel’s automatic doors and headed for the Light Bulb Convention check-in table. Who would have guessed there was a whole convention dedicated to light bulbs? But, according to her boss, Irene, sales reps from all over the country came together to see the latest and greatest in light bulb packaging and technology.
Irene waved her over with a smile. “There you are. I was starting to worry you wouldn’t make it.”
“Traffic,” Tessa gasped, trying to catch her breath.
“I need a huge favor from you.” Irene put her arm around her and gave her a tight squeeze.”Claudia is supposed to be the mascot and she hurt her ankle.”
Tessa noticed a tall, willowy blonde seated at the table. “Okaaay.”
“You’ll have to wear the mascot costume for the convention and work a little longer than originally scheduled. But that means more money. And all you have to do is walk around.” Irene gave her a hopeful smile. “You don’t need to talk or anything.”
“Um...” A mascot? What kind of mascot would a light bulb convention have?
“I’ll give you a bonus on top of the extra hours.”
Tessa thought about the stack of unpaid parking tickets in her glove box. “I’ll do it.”
“Great! Claudia will take you to the locker room so you can change into the costume.” Irene waved to get a nearby waiter’s attention. “I’ll come by and check on you later,” she said, walking off toward the waiter.
Claudia limped over to Tessa. “Bring your stuff,” she said, gesturing to Tessa’s giant bag that she’d looped over one shoulder. “You can hang it up in the locker room.”
Tessa followed a hobbling Claudia. They shuffled their way through the hotel atrium and into the gym. Passing the workout equipment, they headed for the locker room.
Tessa set her bag on a long bench and hung up her coat. She looked over at Claudia’s bandaged foot. “How did you hurt it?”
“Oh, I twisted it on the stairs this morning.” Without looking at Tessa, she grabbed a bag off a hook and rummaged around inside it. She pulled out a pair of nylons, white gloves, a tank top, miniskirt, and a pair of white boy shorts. “Here’s what you need to wear. There’s a big light bulb head that goes over everything. I’ll show you once you’re dressed. Thank goodness you’re wearing heels,” she said, looking at Tessa’s feet. “We can make the costume work, but shoes would be harder.” She handed Tessa the clothes, pushed her in a dressing room, and pulled the curtain shut.
Tessa stood on the other side of the curtain and looked at the tiny outfit. When Irene had said mascot, Tessa thought maybe a cute kitty cat or bunny costume. She had no idea the mascot would be dressed like a bulbous Rockette.
“Hurry up!” Claudia called out. “The convention will be starting soon.”
Tessa hadn’t even had time for her usual morning coffee before Irene had called her, begging her to come in as soon as possible. Now she was standing in a locker room stall, trying to figure out how the hell she was supposed to squeeze into a pair of hot pants. She could forget about sneaking one of the bear claws she spied at the buffet table.
Tessa quickly removed her clothes and put on the ones Claudia had given her. Because of her short frame, she had to roll up the nylons to make them fit. The shorts covered her ass—barely—and the skirt covered the shorts, ending just below her rump. Shit! She looked like a hooker.
The curtain rustled moments before Claudia pushed it open, grabbed Tessa, and tugged her toward the row of benches and lockers. Next to her bag sat a giant girly, glittering light bulb head. The bulb head had blue colored eyes with curled eyelashes, blonde hair, and a purple sparkly hat perched jauntily on top. Tessa really hoped the bonus Irene promised would be worth it.
Claudia pulled Tessa’s clothes out of her arms and placed them on the bench next to her bag. Then, she picked up the giant light bulb and put it over Tessa’s head. It came to her waist and had holes on the sides, which she stuck her gloved arms through. Mesh cutouts placed over the costume’s eyes allowed her to see out, but not very well.
Claudia made a few more adjustments then said, “That looks great! I have to go. People are going to be checking in.”
Through the mesh Tessa saw her limping her way out of the locker room.
“Put your stuff away and come out when you’re done,” she called over her shoulder. Then she was gone.
Tessa turned to pick up her clothes and accidentally snagged the handle of her bag. Change, dollar bills, keys, lip gloss, mascara, her driver’s license, a cell, and a variety of other items went scattering across the floor.
“Tessa!” Irene called through the door, “Hurry up. They’re here.”
On hands and knees, Tessa grabbed her bag, stuffing clothes and other items haphazardly into it.
“What are you doing?” Irene laughed from behind her. “Here, give me the bag.” Her boss took the bag from her and hung it on the hook next to her coat. “You missed your keys and some change.” Irene picked up the mound and started to throw it in her bag.
“Just shove it all in my coat pockets,” Tessa told her. She tried to stand up and bonked her light bulb head on the bench. “Crap.”
Her boss grasped her arm. “Let me help you up.”
After being helped to her feet, she tried to pull the skirt down.
“You look cute. Stop fussing,” Irene told her. She grabbed her arm more firmly and led Tessa out to the convention.
Tessa made her way through the convention with slow and cautious steps.
Damn. Why do they make mascot costumes so hard to see out of?
The woven cutouts were teeny tiny, which meant she could only see straight ahead. Between the heels and the bulbous head she was lucky that she’d only bumped into one waiter and two displays. Thank goodness light bulb people had a sense of humor. They all laughed at her like she had done it on purpose and knocking things over were part of a show.
She turned so that she could see the check-in table through the mesh eyeholes and saw that Claudia had already left. Irene was buzzing around in the crowd making sure that everything was flowing smoothly.
Gray stepped outside of the hotel ballroom hoping the air would be cooler out there. He hated stuffy gatherings. Hell, he hated weddings. How two people could think they’d love each other forever was beyond him. Gray didn’t do love. Which was why he was stag at a co-worker’s wedding. He’d originally planned to invite Monique, but several months back she’d become demanding and talked about moving into his place with hearts and flowers in her eyes. So he’d ended it. Deep down, he’d known that she didn’t really want
. She wanted any warm body that would take care of her. She had slowly been trying to mold him into some GQ tycoon, telling him what to wear, how to act, and even going as far as telling him what he needed to do career-wise.
A loud crash on the other side of the hall caught Gray’s attention. In the open ballroom across the way he saw legs. Glorious legs in strappy high heels. The beautiful legs were tangled on the floor and attached to an ass that was just as gorgeous. After taking a closer look, Gray realized that above the amazing ass was an enormous, white light bulb-shaped head with blue googly eyes. It had blonde hair and wore a glittery purple hat. The tangled-up legs and heels were flailing around in a pile of what looked like empty light bulb boxes. Several gentlemen nearby were quick to help Legs get her feet beneath her. From their smiles and laughter he could tell that they were all quite happy to be of assistance. Gray didn’t blame them.
He watched Legs find her balance in those high heels, and with a little wiggle and tug of her skirt she went on her way.
Eight hours later, Tessa sat on the locker room bench struggling to get the cumbersome light bulb off her head. Her feet hurt and she was sure she had several blisters from her stupid, but still cute, shoes. She made a mental note to request to see the costume ahead of time if she was ever asked to be a mascot again.
“Let me help you get the head off,” Irene said while lifting the giant light bulb off of Tessa. “I’m going to put this in the main office and then I’ve gotta run. After you change, just take Claudia’s gloves and stuff home and wash them. I gave her your number. She said she’ll text you to get it all back.”
“Okay.” Tessa began pulling off the white gloves.
“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you doing this for me.” Irene opened the locker room door, awkwardly clutching the mascot head. “Turn off the lights when you leave. Have a great weekend,” she called over her shoulder as she left, the door closing behind her.
Tessa sighed and then caught her reflection in the locker room mirror. Oh crap. With the thin, white tank top that showed the outline of her bra, the white skirt that came to the tops of her thighs and her strappy stilettos, she totally looked like a hooker. She went over to get her bag so she could change into her own clothes and saw it wasn’t there. Remembering how she’d knocked all her things all over the floor, she looked around. She found a stray quarter under the bench, but no bag. She clearly remembered hanging it up. She checked around the locker room to see if it was hanging somewhere else. No bag. Well didn’t that just figure? Now she’d have to go home in the hooker clothes.
Tessa grabbed her coat off the hook and put it on. After rolling off the white gloves and jamming them in a coat pocket, she stuck her hand in the other pocket and sighed with relief when she felt her keys. Jiggling them a bit to loosen the change and other items tangled with them, she fished around until she found her cell phone. At least she had her phone and a way of getting home. She would hate to have to walk home looking like an exotic dancer from the waist down.
Gray glanced across the parking garage and smiled. Legs in hot pants was coming out of the hotel and walking toward the parking garage. Her gloves and huge light bulb head were missing but—lucky for him—she still had on the strappy heels and tiny white skirt. Without the head she was tiny. She walked under the light in front of the hotel and he saw that she had light brown curly hair that came to her shoulders. She looked to be a couple of years younger than him. She stumbled and he thought her heard her say “Shit!” which made him chuckle out loud. She righted herself while tugging at her skirt.
Tessa tried to remember where she parked. Was it on the third deck of the parking garage or the fourth? She entered the garage and a breeze blew her skirt up. Damn, it was cold tonight. She smoothed her skirt down and stopped to brush her hair off her face. Which way? Right or left?