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Authors: Catherine Bybee

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BOOK: Seduced by Sunday
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Sapore di Amore Villa and Suites was a hell of a lot more than a hotel.

It was an island. A private island sandwiched between two of the larger keys. Getting there required a private plane, or a charter off the mainland. Helicopters were a favorite form of transportation for those wanting to bask in the Caribbean sun without the flash of the paparazzi cameras.

From the pictures Shannon had sent her after she and Paul returned from the resort, Meg made it a daily task to arrange her trip to Sapore di Amore.

She secured the finances to visit the island through Sam, and then procured Sam and Blake’s private jet to fly her there.

Now all she needed was a date.

The date was the kicker.

Until she remembered that Michael Wolfe, Hollywood hotshot movie star, was the big brother of her best friend, Judy.

Every uterus in the free world sought after Michael. Problem was, he didn’t play for that team, a fact that Meg had realized after joining Alliance.

The shock had come to Meg shortly after her BFF Judy married the love of her life, Rick Evans.

Meg and Judy had gone to college together and then moved to Southern California. Both were headed in different employment directions. Judy was destined to rise in the ranks of professional architecture, where Meg had no idea what she would do with her business degree. Luck and timing placed her with Samantha Harrison and Alliance. The matchmaking service for the elite wasn’t anything Meg thought she’d studied for. Yet the job suited her perfectly.

OK, maybe not with perfection.

Having grown up with very little, it was often hard to blend with the rich and famous. But in the last couple of years, she’d managed to do just that. She’d found a handful of clients, both paying men and willing women, to fill the client base of Alliance.

Once Meg proved herself to Sam, she learned the secrets of Alliance. She discovered that Michael had married a woman through Alliance simply to fend off any media or bad press due to his personal life.

Michael’s career was lucrative to the degree of thirty to forty million per film, and Hollywood liked their heartthrobs heterosexual.

Michael had opened up to a few family members and those within Alliance about his sexuality. His parents and the rest of the world had no idea.

In her opinion, Michael would probably keep his personal desires hidden for years to come.

So when she’d asked him if he would be game to a little cat and mouse in the Keys, he’d been more than happy to jump.

When she’d told him about how the resort was a paparazzi-free zone, and she was there on a recon mission to determine if the place actually kept secrets . . . secret, he was even more intrigued.

One tiny problem.

Meg wasn’t passing Sapore’s background check.

Or at least that’s how she translated the letter from the desk of Valentino Masini.

Valentino had some nerve.

Madam,
While we have accepted the application of Michael Wolfe, we’ve yet to secure the credentials of Margaret Rosenthal. While we respect the references of the past eighteen months, we’re concerned about the previous timeline. Please accept our apologies while we search further.
Please understand that every guest at Sapore di Amore is highly respected and their privacy is of utmost importance . . . as is yours if you join us.
We shall have an answer to your request within the coming weeks.
Sincerely,
Valentino Masini

Meg knew a form letter when she saw it. Place a name here, omit a name there . . . bottom line, before Alliance, Meg was a nobody.

In reality, she still was. She just knew some seriously loaded and influential people.

Meg’s own people were on the
nobody
side of life.

Letters like this drove home her biggest insecurity. She stood beside the elite, wore clothing from the same boutiques they did . . . rode in private planes for crying out loud . . . but she wasn’t one of them.

Still.

Rejection ate at the pit of her stomach and made her skin crawl.

How dare Valentino reject her. Valentino! What the hell kind of name was that anyway?

Made up, she decided. A name formed by ambition and not given by his mother.

Besides, Valentino’s secretary probably wrote the letter.

Valentino was probably a balding old man sitting in some musty brick building in Italy where the sun made him thick with musk that would choke anyone standing by.


If I join you
my ass,” Meg said to herself while she responded to the e-mail.

Dear Mr. Masini,
While I completely understand your concern and I respect your need for privacy, you’ll see by my references and my traveling companion, security and secrecy are just as important to me as they are you. More so.
I despise name-dropping, however, it seems necessary for me to encourage you to expedite our reservations.
Perhaps you’re familiar with Carter and Eliza Billings. I’d suggest you call the governor’s mansion, but the staff there would never let you through.
Enclosed is a personal number for Eliza and Carter. I’m sure you understand the need for their private number to remain private.
I expect to hear from you shortly.
Sincerely,
Miss Rosenthal

“Asshole,” Meg mumbled to herself before she called Eliza.

Once she hung up the phone with Eliza, she turned off her computer and walked into the kitchen.

Her boss and the first lady once occupied the Tarzana town house. Seemed Alliance had a steady home, but those in the day-to-day running of the business changed every few years. Early on, Meg had been told that those who slept in the master bedroom of the house found their spouse within a few short years of sleeping there. The evidence was in the vows exchanged by the employees of Alliance through the years.

Needless to say, Meg didn’t sleep in the master bedroom.

She’d always found herself attracted to men who couldn’t provide anything . . . emotional or financial. The thought of marriage and forever made her break out in hives.

She did not intend to find a mate. Living where she worked, however, made perfect sense.

When she’d first started working for Sam, she’d thought . . . maybe . . . maybe she could do the temp-hubby thing. What was wrong with finding a temporary spouse who would pay her off at the end of a year?

Then she realized she could make some serious money setting up said marriages and live her life as she saw fit.

Call it superstition . . . or maybe it was the scent of the pot her parents loved to smoke seeping in . . . but Meg wasn’t sleeping in the master bedroom for fear the room was cursed.

She banked the money she made, took a couple of trips to see her parents . . . paid off her student loans, loans she didn’t think she’d ever pay back. She’d always assumed those loans would be a part of a chapter,
something
in her future. Did anyone ever pay back their student loans these days?

As it stood, Meg made decent money and lived virtually free.

Trips to places like Sapore di Amore were on Alliance, and Alliance had deep pockets.

At the end of the day, however, when Meg tossed off her designer heels and slipped out of the evening gown, she sat in sweatpants with a big bowl of popcorn watching the latest action flick on TV. There were the nights she’d spend with her friends, shooting pool, or in her case, watching them shoot pool . . . or the occasional karaoke night where she’d dream.

Tonight was popcorn night.

Karaoke wasn’t in the cards without her best friend, and the other people she knew were all either married or busy.

Popcorn it was.

Taking a beer from the fridge, Meg walked over to the upright she’d purchased with her first paycheck.

The piano sat in the living room and did more than house family photographs.

After plucking a few notes, Meg found herself playing a classic.

Only the words she used for “My Funny Valentine” weren’t as the original composer intended.

No . . .
her
funny valentine had a few choice names and descriptions that fit her mood.

Valentino was an assable. And every day was
not
Valentine’s Day.

Chapter Two

“I can’t believe you’re pretending to date my brother just to check out a hotel.” Judy, Meg’s best friend, flopped on the bed and leaned on her arm.

Meg moved through the room while she packed.

“What better way to determine if this resort is everything the brochure says it is than to have Mr. Famous walking around the place? If it’s überprivate, then very few people will know he’s actually there. He won’t end up in a tabloid, and no one will think I’m dating him. Well, except for those at the actual hotel.”

“Why bother then? Might as well take me.” Judy grinned and batted her lashes several times.

“Neither of us are famous. No one will be looking for a beautiful blonde”—Meg flipped her short hair and winked—“and her sidekick friend. Michael, on the other hand . . .”

Judy shook her head and laughed. “I know. We can’t go to lunch without a camera lurking. How long are you going to stay?”

“A week.”

“Why so long? Seems like a lot for a recon mission.”

Meg rolled her eyes. “Recon mission? You’re starting to sound like Rick.” Judy’s husband was a Marine . . . well, former, retired, or whatever it was he called it. He said things like
recon mission
all the time.

“Isn’t that what it is?”

Meg packed the side pockets of her suitcase with a couple of bathing suits.

“I suggested four days, Michael wanted a week. Between him and Samantha, they’re buying. Who am I to say no?”

Judy pushed off the bed and moved to the closet. “You need more summer dresses. It’s going to be hot and humid.”

Having grown up in Washington State, where moss grew on every side of a stone, owning a pair of sandals, as in one pair, was more than enough for the summer. Adjusting to the California sun had been a pleasure, but Meg still hadn’t embraced summer dresses to the extent Judy had.

“Michael and I are going shopping during the layover in Dallas. If we don’t find everything I need, then I’ll have Michael take me to Key West.”

“Won’t that compromise your privacy?”

Meg wiggled her eyebrows, did her best
I’m devious
impression. “It will. I’ll be interested to see how the resort will handle an onslaught of lookie-loos boating up the Keys to catch a glimpse of Michael. If they can keep the cameras offshore, then I might have found the right place to recommend that our clients honeymoon.”

“What keeps you from texting pictures or hooking up with social media?”

“You hand over your cells when you arrive. If you want to make a call, there are phones in your room and around the resort. You’re not completely unplugged, but as close as you can be and still live in this century.”

“No cell phones? That’s crazy.”

“I know.”

“You’ll have to charter something and head to Key West. I think you’ll go nuts on a private island without the Internet.”

Meg shoved several pairs of shorts next to her bathing suits. “The lack of Internet isn’t my concern. It’s the week with stuffy people that I find troubling.”

“How do you know they’re stuffy?”

“They’re hiding. Chances are they’ll either be holed up in their bungalows banging someone they shouldn’t be, or holding their chins high and flaunting their wealth or fame. The place is stupid expensive.”

“Not everyone with money is stuck-up.”

“Did we ever meet any of Michael’s neighbors when we were living in his house?”

Judy wrinkled her nose.

“Exactly.” They’d lived in the Beverly Hills estate for eight months when they’d both moved to the state. Meg remembered talking with the hired help in the neighborhood, but not the owners.

Of course, many of them were like Michael . . . not home very often.

“Michael knows how to party. He doesn’t know how to hide in the background. I’m sure you’ll have a great time.”

Meg shrugged. She wasn’t going there for the ultimate vacation. She planned on finding the resort’s flaws. After waiting nearly two months for an approval from Valentino Masini, the man, and his hotel, deserved a microscopic test.

She planned on delivering it.

BOOK: Seduced by Sunday
13.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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