She studied Luc, so beautiful, then glanced behind him at her own reflection in the mirror. This wasn’t real—it was some sort of fairy tale, and she was filled with a longing to do as he asked. It might be pretending, but wasn’t that okay? Couldn’t she be Cinderella for one night?

She nodded, and he smiled, then lifted her hand and kissed her palm. A ripple of sensation shivered through her.

“Good,” he said. “I have something for you.”

Releasing his hold on her hand, he reached into his pocket, pulling out a small box. He flipped it open. Inside was a ring. Lia stared at it; she knew little of jewelry, but even she could tell it was fabulous—a deep, dark blue sapphire. Luc took the ring from the box and picked up her hand once more, stroking his fingers across the sensitive skin of her wrist before slipping the ring onto her finger.

It was beautiful but heavy, weighing her hand down.

“Don’t you like it?” he asked.

“It’s gorgeous. I wasn’t expecting it, that’s all. This whole fake engagement thing makes me feel a little uncomfortable. I’ve never been very good at lying. I know you think I’m some sort of actress, but honestly, I’m totally crap at it.”

“Well, leave the lying to me,” he said smoothly.

She looked at him closely. “Are you a good liar, Luc?”

“When I need to be.”

His words sent a ripple of apprehension running through her. What did she really know of him? She studied her pink-tipped toes, peeking out of her silver sandals, for a moment, unsure what to say. Luc sighed and slipped a finger under her chin, lifting her face so she couldn’t avoid his gaze.


“Don’t you like the ring?” he said. “I thought all women liked jewelry.”

He sounded almost bewildered and she patted his arm. “I do like it, honest. It’s beautiful—though I really can’t see myself grooming the horses in it.” She shook her head. “I wish I could tell Kelly and Pete the truth.”

“No.” The word was implacable. “Trust me,” he said. “Everything will be fine. Now come here.”

His warm hands rested on her bare shoulders, drawing her toward him. She stiffened for a moment, then allowed herself to be pulled gently into his arms. Staring into his face as it came closer, she was quite unable, or unwilling, to do anything to prevent the kiss she sensed was coming. His lips were on hers, and she melted against him, her hands sliding around his waist beneath his tuxedo jacket. He deepened the kiss, his lips hard against hers, demanding, and she opened her mouth to him. His tongue pushed boldly into her mouth, tasting her, probing as he pulled her closer against the hard length of his body.

It seemed as if she had waited forever for that kiss. She never wanted it to stop, meeting him more than halfway, her own tongue sliding against his.

He groaned. His hands on her shoulders tightened, then he raised his head and put her away from him. “We have to go.” Reaching out, he ran a finger over her lips. “I’ve ruined your lipstick,” he said when she remained silent. “I’ll give you five minutes. But Lia, tonight after the party, we need to talk.”

Lia watched him walk away; she turned to stare at herself in the mirror, trying to clear the sensual haze induced by his kiss. Suddenly, she wanted the party over, wanted to be back here with Luc. Just get through the night, she told herself.

How hard could it be?

“I presume this is some sort of alien abduction scenario,” Kelly said. “You’re not really my friend Lia—you’ve just taken over her body.”

“Ha, ha,” Lia said.

Lia had spotted Kelly the moment she came in. Her friend stood inside the door, wide-eyed and in awe of the entire proceedings. Hardly surprising—their life in the village hadn’t prepared them for this sort of thing—although Kelly devoured society magazines voraciously so she should have known what to expect. She had managed to dress the part very well, considering the short notice Lia had given her, in a floor-length dress in her favorite fuchsia pink. Lia let out a sigh of relief at the sight of a familiar face and rushed over. She hugged Kelly, not knowing whether to be flattered or worried by the absolute shock on her friend’s face.

“No, really, Lia, you look…” Kelly paused as if searching for the correct words, “…well, totally un-Lia-like.” She stood back and examined her. “It’s quite scary.”

Lia reached forward and gave her another hug. “I’m so glad you could make it. I know it was short notice, but I couldn’t bear the thought of not knowing anybody here.”

“Yes, well, really it was difficult fitting it in to my extremely busy social life, and I was going to say no, but after all you are my best friend so I thought maybe I should make the effort. It’s bound to be a drag—swanky parties get sooo boring after the first dozen or so.”

“Well then, luckily you’ve still got eleven to go. Did you come on your own?”

“Actually, I came with Pete. We thought we could give each other a little moral support.”

“You did? That’s great.”

“He’s really cut up about this, Lia.”

Lia shifted uncomfortably. “You know there’s never been anything like that between the two of us.”

“I know that, you know that, unfortunately Pete’s always been a bit confused on the issue. But don’t worry—this is probably the best thing that could have happened to him. Maybe he’ll take his eyes off you now and look at someone else.”

Lia narrowed her eyes. “Are you sure it’s moral support you’re after here, Kel?”

Kelly grinned. “Let’s just say I’m hopeful. Now, where’s this mystery man of yours? I’m dying to see him. I couldn’t get any details out of Pete.”

Lia knew exactly where he was. Across the room, he stood talking to a small group of people. The side with the scar was away from her and he was perfection personified, his black silky hair brushing his collar. As if sensing her stare, he turned from the people to face her. He raised his glass, his eyes on hers, and a slow, sensual smile curved his lips. The party vanished.

“Earth calling Lia, earth to Lia.”

Kelly prodded Lia sharply in the side when she continued to ignore her.

Lia shook her head. “What?”

Kelly rolled her eyes. “Mystery man?”

“He’s there.” Lia waved a hand toward Luc. He’d turned back to the group and stood in profile. Kelly followed the gesture.

Most Popular