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Authors: K. M. Jackson

Romancing the Fashionista

BOOK: Romancing the Fashionista
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When fate offers a second chance, only a fool waits for the other shoe to drop.

The Flirty Fashionistas
, Book 1

Manhattan fashion maven and magazine editor Melinda Mitchell shuns the social media spotlight. That is, until a tipsy girl’s night out ends with her first Facebook account and a friend request from none other than her secret high school crush, Nolan Parker.

When Nolan lost his chance at the big leagues, he signed on with Doctors Without Borders and never looked back. Now he’s back home to help out his ailing father. Running into Mel at his fifteen-year high school reunion rekindles old feelings he thought he’d buried for good.

Intrigued by Nolan’s irresistibly sexy profile, Melinda heads to the reunion with her best friend to see if the picture matches up to the man. Their instant attraction flares brighter than the Manhattan skyline.

Although the tough fashionista and accomplished ex-jock rub each other the very
right
way, a few stumbling blocks will decide if the heat between them is a symptom of forever love, or a past that should be left where it belongs.

Warning: Contains a tough, no-nonsense, Big-Apple businesswoman who likes to call her own shots, and a hot doctor who can turn her on with surgical precision.

Romancing the Fashionista

K.M. Jackson

Dedication

To Will

My perfect fit

Acknowledgements

No stories are written in a bubble, or at least, not a complete bubble, and definitely not any stories of mine. I imagine my tales sort of as large bubbles blown through a wand on a summer day with the added joy of many smaller bubbles formed inside to make something much more colorful, dynamic, and exciting than the original single large bubble could have ever been on its own. I’d like to thank all the mini bubbles that helped make this story happen.

First and foremost, my family. My dear DH, Willie, for his unwavering love and support. My children, William and Kayla. My mom, Kay, for the inhale and the exhale. My stepdad James and my brothers, Ashley and Semaj.

Thanks to my fabulous editor Latoya Smith for bringing out the best in this story. It is a pleasure to work with you and I’m over the moon that we’ve made it happen. Thank you to the Samhain family for making
Romancing
shine both inside and out.

Thank you to my super agent, Rachel Brooks, for waving her magic wand. You are a true treasure! And many thanks to Lori Perkins and the team at the L. Perkins Agency. You all rock!

To Falguni, thank you for your friendship and for the read. You are fantastic! To my dear friends Farrah, Laura, Alyssa, Lena, Jax, Adrienne, Megan, Stacey, Synithia, Lauren, Robin and Piper. You all are a constant inspiration. Thank you.

To RWA/NYC and all my writing friends in RWA thank you for the kindness and the support.

To Team KMJ. Thanks for holding me down!

Thank you to my Twitter posse. You all are my friends in my head and thanks for the support of #WeNeedDiverseRomance.

To my dear Aunt Cynthia, always and forever a fashionista.

To Nana…you taught us all how to live with style, and most importantly, grace. Thank you and I’ll love you always.

And finally, thank you God. Bubbles are magical.

Chapter One

“Screw you, Facebook!”

“Mom, your language! And shhh or you’re going to wake Aunt Lexi with all that yelling.”

Melinda Mitchell, better known as Mel to all in the know, tore her heated gaze away from the laptop screen and the horrifying fifteen-year-old tagged images of herself. Mel grimaced as she sat up straighter, crisscrossing her legs and placing the offending laptop by her side on her bed before looking over towards her doorway and into the more amiable, though now admonishing, soft brown eyes of her eleven-year-old daughter, Bailey.

It was Bailey’s eyes that never failed to give her pause. The very present reminder of what some would call her biggest mistake was what she’d come to think of as her greatest triumph. Eyes that were the mirror image of her father’s, he who should not be named, though sadly, did have a name, Professor Richard Wallace.

Yes, the professor had a name and a family. The bastard had more than the usual mom and plucky little sister who lived to catch him and his girlfriend making out in the basement. Mr. “Yes, Please Do Stand Close To Me” Wallace had a wife, a son and twin daughters stashed back in Whateverville, USA where he was visiting from while teaching at the college Mel just so happened to be attending. A fact Mel found out four months after her graduation from college and one month before Bailey was due.

She knew it was such a stupid cliché the way it all went down. Girl comes to the big city and is seduced by its charms. Girl is simultaneously seduced by mediocre at best, powerful, older man, who makes proclamations of love and forever, conveniently leaving out detail of the wife and kiddlets he has stashed away. Not to mention the fact he was two minutes away from catching the next train smoking.

In the end, although Mel had it rough as hell, it had all been worth it. She struggled, sure, but she had her baby girl, Bailey. That and a new hardened resolve to never be that
naïve
ever again.

And I’m not naïve
, she thought now as she turned from Bailey to the screen again and shook her head.
At least most of the time I’m not
. Hell, she was the editor of her own fashion and lifestyle magazine that shared her name,
Mel
. A supposed trailblazer and a trendsetter. The woman who was not so affectionately called “Mel-Bear” behind her back.

So how could I be caught out there like this?
She knew better than to mess around on social media. And now, to have her old high school frenemies tag her in every unflattering picture they could find, was so stupid.

She forced herself to put the bear back in her cage. “I’m sorry, sweetheart, you’re right,” Mel said. “I shouldn’t be cursing. It’s terribly low class of me. But right now I don’t care if I wake up Lexi or all of Harlem. Besides, you know she’s not your real aunt anyways,” she added, brushing her side-swept, layered bangs off the top of her horn-rimmed glasses.

“Oh, Mom, really? Could you just chill for once?” Bailey huffed.

Maybe it was the aunt comment, or it could have been the low-class one, that got the eye-roll and the head shake from her daughter that she expected. And although she chuckled at her sweet girl’s reaction, Mel seriously didn’t care if she woke Lexi up or not; chilling was not on today’s agenda. Not after last night.

Mel should have known no good would come of indulging Lexi in a “girl’s margarita night in.” The woman was always dangerously heavy handed, and that heavy handedness was the reason why she was likely in the guest bedroom drooling all over Mel’s eight-hundred thread count guest sheets. But worse, she had Mel looking at what had to be some of the worst pictures she’d ever seen of herself, and here they were plastered all over the Internet for the whole world to see!

Mel stared at the images again and her mouth went dry.

How could she be so dumb? Dammit, mix in Lexi plus nostalgia; add to that, a bottle of tequila and margarita mix and it was bound to be nothing but trouble with a capital “T”. It had been that way since they were kids, why should it be any different now that they were both grown women with jobs, lives and images to protect? Mel let out a low moan.

“What’s with all the racquet?” a groggy-voiced Lexi now said from over Bailey’s head.

Mel scoffed at her friend and would have laughed if she weren’t so angry. Lexi looked like Mel felt, so at least there was some justice in the world. There stood her normally perfectly put-together, stylist friend, sporting mascara smudged so low it almost went down to the center of her smooth brown cheeks and her hair was matted on one side, sticking out at an almost gravity-defying angle on the other. Just to fix her, Mel should have snapped a picture right then. But she stopped herself. She was a highly respected member of the New York fashion community. Or at least she had been until this morning.

“Oh please, don’t sound so innocent,” Mel said. “Thanks to you, my reputation is probably being flushed down the toilet as we speak. You need to get over here and show me how to undo this damage. I can’t believe I let you talk me into signing up and getting on this stupid site last night!” Mel ran a hand through her hair and made a mental note to be sure her assistant had made room in her schedule for her standing blowout; she could practically feel her hair frizzing up as her anger rose. “Worse yet,” she continued, “I’m now getting tagged in all these horrible photos from high school. These things are probably going viral as we speak! What beast from hell invented this tagging crap?”

Both Lexi and Bailey now wedged through the doorway in unison pushing at each other, then looked over Mel’s shoulder to see the laptop screen. She clicked to enlarge the current image and they both pulled back and gasped when they saw the old high school photo of Mel and Lexi.

Shit, it’s as bad as I feared!

Mel moaned as she stared at the offending photo of a time she would just as happily forget. There they were, freaking live and in color. Mel and Lexi standing in what could only be described as a retro B-girls back-to-back stance. They both wore matching oversized multi-color bomber jackets over high-waisted boyfriend jeans and not so ironic tees with high top sneakers. The picture was obviously two semesters before Mel went into her full-on fade to black New York mode. Her lips were spread wide showing off her blue highlighted braces and what was probably a drugstore-brand magenta lipstick. Looking closer she could tell the same magenta color highlighted her eyelids and her overly done-up mocha cheeks. But her hair was probably the saddest part of all, as it was an outward expression of her inner teen identity crisis with its two-toned asymmetrical crimped bob. High on one side and swooped low on the other.

“Oh hell,” Lexi groaned. “Your reputation? What about mine? I’m the one who’s supposed to be a stylist. Look at me! Clients are probably deleting my number as we speak. You think we can pass this off as a Halloween costume gone wrong?” She shook her head. “I think I need some coffee. Is there even enough coffee to take this on?”

Bailey giggled. “Well, I think you both look cool. I may dress as you now to go to Emily’s retro party, Mom. I was going to be one of the Britneys, but you look way better!”

Mel shot her daughter a look. “Very funny, missy. Stick to Ms. Spears. And shouldn’t you be getting ready for dance class? You’ve got a half hour before your grandmother comes to pick you up.” Mel shook her head as her daughter left the room then she turned back to Lexi. “Okay, seriously I need this gone before any more people see it.”

Mel’s cell rang and she let out a sigh reaching for it. “And so it begins.” Clicking over she was greeted by the smooth, but at this moment, uncharacteristically slightly panicky voice of her assistant, Shelby.

“Mel, dear heart, what is going on? My cell is blowing up with calls from all the entertainment outlets wanting to know if you have some comment about these Facebook photos tagged Melinda Mitchell with the tragic crimped hair that are making their way across the interwebs. Please say it’s a hoax so that I can get back to them and go on with my weekend. I have an appointment for a salt rub at eleven.”

Mel let out a long breath, eyeing Lexi as she mouthed out a “sorry” while nibbling on the end of an acrylic nail. “Sorry Shelby, it’s not a hoax. Can’t you tell that’s Lexi next to me in one of the photos?”

With that, it was Shelby’s turn to let out an audible gasp.

“I heard that, Shelby!” Lexi yelled from Mel’s side as she folded her arms.

“Well, you tell Miz Lexi Lou that whatever she paid her surgeon, it was clearly not enough and he should forever be on her prayer list.”

Mel shook her head, putting Shelby on speaker. “Okay, cool it, Shel. I don’t have time to deal with this and the two of you bickering.” Her oldest friend and her trusted assistant, for some reason, always snipped at each other. But today was not the day, so Mel called for a truce and focus. “We have to somehow contain this. You don’t see old pictures of Ms. Anna floating around whilst sporting a spiral perm and Hammer pants. I’m sure she’s sent agents from MI-5 and maybe Mr. Bond himself to make sure all traces of any unfashionable past she had are good and buried.” Mel made a zip-it motion when Lexi opened her mouth to say her piece, cutting her off. “That was my first mistake, but now that this is out, I guess we have to go on the defense and block. First, I’ll deactivate my account and make sure I can’t be tagged in any more photos, then I’ll try my best to go back to the way things were and forget this ever happened. Starting with ignoring all these ridiculous friend requests.”

“You may forget, but don’t think the rest of the world will be so fast,” Shelby piped in. “Google sticks like fly paper.”

That’s what she was afraid of. Freaking social media.
Hell, if I want new old friends, I’ll volunteer at a nursing home
, Mel thought. The last thing she wanted was to be reacquainted with old friends from high school; they weren’t her friends then, and they surely wouldn’t be now.

One of the little boxes she thought she’d cleared in the upper right of her screen flashed red again. Just perfect, it was yet another friend request. She swore this site redefined the word friend like nothing else. Mel circled her pointer finger around to bring the mouse to the appropriate spot to do a quick decline, but she froze. Her finger stilled along with her breath hitching in the most embarrassing way…Nolan Parker.

As Mel focused on his profile photo, Lexi let out a little catcall whistle from her side, and all Mel could do was blink in solidarity as she took in the image before her. Sure, he was a little older and not the sweet young thing she remembered at graduation. But Mel couldn’t help but smile at the image of Nolan smiling back at her from the screen. He was smoldering while sporting a scruffy beard that could almost border on passé hipster if he didn’t pull it off so well. The scruff, plus that smile and gorgeous, clear light brown skin along with the almost clean-shaven head, was a good package all around. But what said it all were his eyes. With Mel, it was always the eyes and Nolan’s, well, his were amazing. She could see his eyes hadn’t changed a bit from the ones that held her captive as a lovesick teen pretty much all through high school. Not even a thirteen-inch laptop screen could dull the magic of their deep honeyed depths.

And that’s when the debacle of events from the night before came back to her in a rush at the same time, it seemed they came back to Lexi, who put her hand over Mel’s, yanking it away from the mouse, preventing her from hitting delete.

“Hold it there, Trigger! Not so fast. Now I remember why we did this.”

Yes, and Mel remembered too.

“Does anyone care to fill me in?” Shelby’s voice came from over Mel’s cell speaker, but she wasn’t answering just then. She was lost in thought. Thinking of that damned high school reunion weekend. Lexi brought it up somewhere in between the third and the fourth margarita, talking about how she’d gotten an invite over Facebook. She thought it would be fun if they both went back to their hometown reunion, if only to show the snobby cheerleader chicks turned mommy mafia how far they’d come.

All her protests about having nothing to prove and no desire to ever go back to Timber Falls, the tiny upstate New York town she was from, fell on deaf ears as Lexi looked in her eyes and called her a chicken. Daring her, over a shot of tequila, to stop hiding behind her horned rims, her signature dark shades, and her perfected media image to live a little. To go on and sign up with a profile page under her given name. But Mel would not budge—that is, until Lexi pulled out her secret weapon, and dropped the name Nolan Parker in her lap.

“Who knows, maybe Nolan Parker will show? I know you always had a crush on him,” Lexi had said in a teasing singsong voice.

Mel shot her a harsh look, or at least she thought it was harsh-ish, who knows, things got fuzzy after so many margaritas. “So what if I had a crush on him. Who didn’t? And what does it matter anyway? We were kids, and it’s not like he gave me the time of day. He had it bad for Ramona Spencer and she for him. Hell, she hung on his neck most days like a tarnished name chain.”

Lexi rolled her eyes and they both raised their glasses in mock toast, speaking in unison, “Fucking Ramona Spencer!”

A few clicks later and there he was, his photo blazing on her screen. Those eyes. That smile. They were all the same. And worse, so was her escalated heartbeat. Mel couldn’t believe that was all it took. Drinks and a probably over-enhanced pic of an old crush and there she was, signing up onto a social media platform that she loathed. Now, it was morning and Mel was faced with the consequences of acting like a silly sixteen-year-old the night before and giving into peer pressure. She shook her head and looked at her friend who still held her hand preventing her from deleting Nolan’s request. “Can you let go of my hand, I need to do this?”

“Come on, we should at least check him out. Find out his status before you go running away and switching into Mel Bear the Buster mode like you always do.”

Mel let out a snort. “Don’t start, Lex. And where did ‘the Buster’ come from? I don’t need any more handles. I only put up with your shit because you’re my oldest friend.”

BOOK: Romancing the Fashionista
5.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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