A mix-and-match mock engagement? Ballerina Sofia Koslov’s career is on the line when she’s accosted at the airport by a rich, reckless playboy who thinks she’s his mail-order bride! But the playboy’s levelheaded brother, Quinn McNeill, solves the media snafu with a switcheroo. He’ll pretend to be her legitimate fiancé to protect her reputation—and to protect his family’s business deals from her father’s wrath. Sofia’s one condition: they’ll share the spotlight as a loving couple but won’t share a bed. But soon Quinn’s gentlemanly ways strike a chord, and Sofia’s dying to renege on that condition and have a real fling…
“I never would have guessed your brother would spend a small fortune on a ring for a woman he never met.” She edged out of his grip. “I thought he was a romantic, not completely certifiable.”
Quinn’s smile faded. “I assure you, Cameron is neither.” He set the ring on the steamer trunk beside her. “I’ll let you decide whether or not to wear it in the morning. And in the meantime, I’d better let you get some rest.”
He rose to his feet, leaving a priceless piece of jewelry balanced on last month’s Vogue.
“Quinn.” She stood to follow him to the door then reached back to grab the ring so she could return it. “Please. I don’t feel right keeping this here.”
He turned to face her as he reached the door, but made no move to take the glittering ring.
“If you were my bride-to-be, I would spare no expense to show the world you were mine.” His blue eyes glowed with a warmth that had her remembering his kiss. Her breath caught in her chest and she wondered what it might be like for him to call her that for real.
“I’m—” At a total loss for words. “That is—” She folded the diamond into her hand, squeezing it tightly so the stones pressed into her soft skin, distracting her from her hypnotic awareness of this man. “If you insist.”
“It’s a matter of believability, Sofia.”
“It’s only for one month.” She wasn’t sure if she said it to remind him or herself.
“We’ll work out the details tomorrow.” He reached to smooth a strand of hair from her forehead, barely touching her and still sending shimmers of pleasure along her temple and all the way down the back of her neck. “Sleep well.”
She didn’t even manage to get her voice working before he was out the door again, leaving her alone in a suddenly too empty apartment.
Squeezing the ring tighter in her fist, she waited for the pinch of pain from the sharp edges of the stones. She needed to remember that this wasn’t real. Quinn McNeill had only agreed to this mad scheme to clean up his brother’s mess. Any hint of attraction she felt needed to be squashed immediately, especially since Quinn was cut from the same mold as her father—focused on business and the accumulation of wealth. Her world was about art, emotions and human connections.
Her mother had taught her that people did not fall into both camps. In Sofia’s experience it was true. And since she wanted her own relationships to be meaningful bonds rooted in shared creativity and ideals, she was willing to wait until she had more time in her life to find the right partner. Romance could not be rushed.
“It’s only for a month,” she said aloud again, forcing herself to set the engagement ring on the hallway table.
Surely she could keep up her end of a fake engagement for the sake of appearances? She’d made countless sacrifices for her career, from dancing on broken toes to living away from her family on the other side of the globe to train with Russian ballet masters.
Ignoring the sensual draw of Quinn McNeill couldn’t possibly be more difficult than those challenges.
Yet, even as she marched herself off to bed, she feared she was lying to herself that she could keep her hands off the man anywhere near as easily as she’d set down the ring.
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