Authors: A.J. Pine
Tags: #Entangled, #Select Contemporary, #ticking clock, #A. J. Pine, #no strings attached, #Romance, #Kingston Ale House, #contemporary romance
She created the game, but the rules are about to change.
Hold fast to your single-minded nature today—no matter how long her legs or how lush her red lips.
You were a shining star last night, but reality can be a real—well, you get the picture. Just remember:
Tall, dark, and British
equals no corner office for you.
Will Evans never wanted a reason to stay.
Holly Chandler wants nothing more than for him to go.
But neither one is prepared for what can happen in six months. Because it doesn’t matter what you want when what you need walks out the door.
Holly’s been busting her butt to make partner at Trousseau, and there’s no way she’s going to let some stuck-up British arsehole get in her way—no matter how drop-dead gorgeous he is. But that doesn’t mean she can’t have a little fun in the process. She has a six-month rule: date just long enough for the honeymoon phase to wear off, then walk away before anyone gets hurt. If they both know the rules up front, walking away will be a piece of cake. Or maybe not…
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2016 by A. J. Pine. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Entangled Publishing, LLC
2614 South Timberline Road
Fort Collins, CO 80525
Visit our website at
Select Contemporary is an imprint of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
Edited by Karen Grove
Cover design by LJ Anderson
Cover art from Depositphotos
Kingston Ale House logo by Ashley @
Manufactured in the United States of America
First Edition July 2016
Journeys end in lovers meeting,
Every wise man’s son doth know.
Gemini: You are what you wear, so dress the part. Today more than any other day, make sure your clothes tell everyone who you are. Only when you show your true self can you truly be seen.
Holly’s smile faltered. What the hell did that mean? No one was truer to herself than she was, and she had the clothes to prove it. Okay, well, she had last year’s samples to prove it, but even on her worst day, Holly Chandler’s designer wardrobe was a force to be reckoned with. And she kept
hidden, yet her app seemed to be accusing her of quite the opposite. Despite what seemed to be a disapproving horoscope—which she insisted to her sister she only read for fun—Holly felt like a million bucks. And there was no question—she looked like a million bucks, too. After pulling off Saturday night’s fashion show as head assistant director, Holly knew her meeting with Andrea this morning was the one she’d been working toward for five years. Maybe all-black wasn’t Holly Chandler’s norm, but her sister said the dress made her look like Audrey Hepburn, and paired with the perfect Jimmy Choo peep-toe booties, the vintage black frock was exactly what she needed to show her boss that she could be taken seriously as a partner rather than an employee. Holly was never one for business wear, but she was sure this look
business, that it said she was ready to take on whatever Andrea threw at her. All she needed was her hazelnut soy latte, icing on the cake that she knew this day would be.
Yet just as the elevator doors were about to kiss, a polished, tan Cole Haan wingtip forced them back open. That would leave a scuff mark, which was why Holly was smiling when Charlie Tate, Trousseau’s finance director, invaded her early-morning daydreams—and her private elevator ride.
“Morning, gorgeous,” Charlie said.
Holly sighed. Conversations with him always seemed to circle back to when they’d been a
. But she wouldn’t let herself get distracted. Not today. “Morning, Charlie.”
She couldn’t help but admire everything above the wingtips. The navy suit, one of the three buttons fastened over the periwinkle-and-white pin-striped button-down. Maybe the jacket could be taken in a notch at the shoulders, but who was she to judge? Charlie worked in finance, not in design. On any given day, he blew most suited men out of the water. And damn, she really did love a man who could dress.
“Everyone’s talking about your home run Saturday night,” he added, his grin spreading across his lightly tanned face.
“Really?” She innocently raised her brows while offering him a fuller response in her head.
I know, right? Andrea gave me the reins, so I worked my ass off for that show. And guess what? I nailed it, and now she’s going to make me partner. Not bad for twenty-six, eh?
Charlie nudged her shoulder with his.
“Celebrate later after Andrea makes it official?”
Holly’s face erupted into the smile she’d been keeping at bay. Aw, screw it. Today was not the day for her poker face. Except her grin and Charlie’s grin were probably not about the same things. So she dialed it back a few notches.
“Thanks, Charlie. But I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Ugh, why did he have to be all blond and designer suit wearing and, if memory served, pretty damned sexy out of the suit as well?
“Still on that six-month kick, huh?” he asked as the elevator made its first stop—
stop—on the fourth floor.
The doors opened.
“It’s not a kick,” she insisted, watching him back away. “You
my rule eighteen months ago,” she added, reminding him that he’d jumped at the chance for a six-months-or-less, no-strings-attached relationship.
Charlie was over the threshold now, and a handful of people pushed past him, again invading Holly’s solo ride.
A sun-kissed wave flopped down over his forehead, and Charlie, laid-back as he was, let it hang there so Holly’s fingers itched to push it out of the way. Jesus, it was like he knew that, rule or not, Holly was having a bit of a drought, which meant something as innocent as unruly hair could set her mind in directions it really shouldn’t go on a Monday morning. The Monday morning when Holly would make partner.
There was a sobering thought. Work. Career. The reason for the rule in the first place. It wasn’t that she didn’t enjoy having someone to come home to at night. She quite liked that part. It was just that after the honeymoon phase—the part where everything was rainbows and puppy dogs and great sex all the time—then it became work. There were expectations that Holly couldn’t meet.
Can you stop bringing work home with you? Do you have to work on the weekend? What comes first, work or me?
The answer was always the same. Holly’s passion for Trousseau always trumped her passion for other people or things.
“And I’d like it again for another three to six,” he added with a wink. “Don’t I get a do-over after nearly two years?” he asked, but Charlie’s face was lost in the sea of people who didn’t care about Holly’s life enough to wait for her to finish a conversation with a man she used to sleep with and with whom she was considering—maybe—sleeping again.
As the doors made their way toward kissing again, she leaned her head back against the elevator’s wall, smiled, and reminded herself that after stopping for her latte on the fifth floor, she was riding up to ten, to where her life would be forever changed.
This time it was a black Ferragamo loafer that parted the doors. Yet it was as if the elevator knew not to mess with
shoe, that it was far too precious to carelessly scuff. Or, she decided as the wearer of said shoe entered the dwindling space, perhaps the elevator knew who was attached to it.
Holly’s eyes trailed from the soft, black leather of the loafer to the cuff of the slate-colored pants expertly cut to fit these legs and these legs only. Of this she had no doubt. Then there was the jacket and vest, same color, each buttoned snug over a lean, taut torso. Holly thanked the stars, every last constellation, for perfectly tailored suits. And vests. What was it about a man in a vest?
Holly’s head shot up to see the words directed at an older woman whose finger depressed the door-open button. The voice was deep and buttercream smooth. And was that…an English accent?
Her ovaries might have just gone supernova, but she could hold it together for one more floor. Holly Chandler wasn’t a girl to lose it in an elevator, no matter how much those two words, spoken in that voice, with that
, melted her insides.
This drought was going to kill her. Maybe another go with Charlie wasn’t the worst idea.
When the circle of white light lit up the number five, Holly let out a long breath. The doors opened, and she exited with all the other folk who were on their way to a caffeine boost. As she did, she caught Mr. Ferragamo checking out her four-inch peep-toe booties, and a surge of confidence jolted her back to the Holly she knew she was.
“Like what you see?” she asked, stopping to glance down the length of her own legs to where his eyes still rested. This brought his head up with a snap, and a dark wave tumbled onto his forehead before he finger-combed it back into place. He cleared his throat.
“You pull off last season’s design well enough, but I’d have gone for the red,” he said, and
words, despite the velvet ribbon they were tied up in, pieced her insides right back together.
Holly smoothed out a nonexistent wrinkle from her dress as she brushed past him, ovaries once again intact.
“Ass,” she muttered under her breath, and then let the promise of a hazelnut double pump patch up the tiny puncture in her bubble.
she could pull off last season’s design. She could rock the hell out of last season’s freaking design, because all she could afford right now were the free samples. But in less than an hour that would all change. The first thing she would buy with her new salary would be
season’s Jimmy Choos. But they sure as hell would
Bloody well done
, Will Evans thought as he rode the rest of the way to the tenth floor in perfect silence. First full day in the States and he was already letting the jet lag get the best of him. Or maybe it was that he loathed being across the Atlantic altogether.
He scrubbed a hand over the stubble he was sure made him look as travel weary as he felt, and then, because no one else was in the lift anymore, he took a picture of himself to document his transformation and then texted it to Sophie.
, he wrote,
I’ve not shaved and won’t until you see me again.
Will checked his watch to make sure he’d calculated the time difference well enough and let out a sigh when he realized it was early afternoon back in London. Surely she’d be awake. He just hoped Tara would respond.
Seconds later the response came through.
Sophie says to remind you to send one each day. But I can’t promise to respond each time.
Despite his ex’s evident irritation, Will relaxed just a bit. And again, because he was the only one in the lift, he let out a soft chuckle. His six-year-old daughter was the only one capable of making him laugh these days.
Tell her I haven’t forgotten
, he replied.
That’s what they’d agreed upon. Then he added,
Until your mum gets cross with me.
He’d already hit send when he decided that maybe Tara would take that last bit with offense. It wouldn’t matter that he’d meant it in good fun.
“You talk as if I’m some overbearing hag,” she’d say, exasperated with him once again. Christ, he knew he asked a lot of her with all the travel, but she complied each time. For Sophie. She was a good mum, and someday soon, he’d be a good dad.
For now, all he could give Sophie was a photo—one a day for the next six months. And he wouldn’t shave until he saw her on his visits—as many as he could squeeze in before he was home for good. That’s what she’d made him promise, so he’d think of her every time he looked in the mirror.
Didn’t she know he didn’t need a reminder to think of her? It wasn’t Chicago’s fault he could barely stomach stepping off the plane and into a city that would replace his home for half a year. He was sure it was a lovely place—as were New York, L.A., Milan, Paris—all the cities that served as surrogate homes for him in the past. But only the real thing—London—had what all the other cities lacked.
It had Sophie.
Right, then. He’d get through this meeting and head back to the hotel, where his suitcase sat still packed and the bed not yet unmade. It always took a day or two for his body to regulate to another country’s time zone. He’d sleep tonight. Right now there was the matter at hand—his new client’s account. If he pulled off this event without a hitch, he’d have enough time with the firm to take that yearlong sabbatical he’d promised himself. Time to spend with Sophie and be the father he should have been all along. But he had been too young and stupid when she was born to see past the money and the allure of travel, too afraid to step away from a competitive industry that would only replace him with the next up-and-coming young bloke.
Sophie had been an unexpected surprise, but it hadn’t been enough to save their already failing relationship. Tara wanted stability, and Will had wanted the world. So she found Phillip, who loved Sophie as his own, and Will became a third wheel in his own daughter’s life as the work kept piling on.
Give us another year, and we’ll give you six months
Come on, Will. You’re on fire. Another year and we’ll up it to eight months.
Sign this contract, Evans. Five years, and you’ll have enough in the bank to retire before you’re thirty-five, mate. We’ll even hold your position for a full year.
And so, like an arsehole, he’d signed on the bloody line.
Before he knew it, time had gotten away from him. Tara was happy with Phillip. Sophie was happy with them.
of a lift reaching its destination sounded in his ears. Seemed like he knew lifts better than the stairs to his own front door.
The doors opened on the tenth floor, and Will Evans strode into the offices of Trousseau,
office for the next six months.
He hadn’t realized until it vibrated that his phone was still clutched in his hand.
, Sophie had written back.
Love you, too
, Will replied, then slipped the phone into his suit jacket pocket.
One day started, 179 to go.