Christina Witten didn’t want to be an escort! She wanted to be an administrative assistant, not a make-believe trophy on a man’s arm. If she could only make a bit of money, she could finish her course at the college and have the career of her dreams. Fate, however, threw her nothing but curveballs. The men she dated as an escort were supposed to be boring and she was certainly not tempted to fall in love with one of them. It had been a breeze until Mark Lewis entered the scene.
Targeted Age Group:: 13 – 80
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I have always worn my hair long but decided to cut it very short for the experience. It turns out, I don't look good with short hair and resorted to wearing a wig. You would not believe the chaos that ensued. People didn't recognize me! I had to write a book about a girl and her wig!
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
It's a new adult book, so I started with a sweet little country girl in the big city for the first time. She is joined by her city-smart cousin who isn't a prostitute, but an escort. Then the whole party arrives with the surprisingly handsome date, his bitter ex-girlfriend, and her brother who likes to stir the trouble pot.
Christina popped her purple bubblegum and tried to work out some of the tension in her back. It was the dreaded night—New Year’s Eve. Rats! She was dressed like two billion dollars. Her dress was deep red, the color of the season, and she was wearing a long black coat with fur trimming Mindy had loaned her for the occasion. All her clothes were borrowed from Mindy, except for the inserts in her bra (those were a gift). To complete her look, Christina wore long dangling earrings with rhinestones inset in them and a choker to match. The wrap she would wear once the coat was hung up was black with deep red blossoms scattered across it in a gorgeous array. Christina thought it was prettier than the dress. The wig she wore that night was sandy blonde with bangs that fell slightly into her eyes.
That night she was supposed to meet Mr. Mark Lewis in the lobby of the Grand Morton Hotel—downtown—uptown—a really good part of town. There was a party there in one of the ballrooms and she was his insurance that he wouldn’t be going stag to the biggest party of the year.
She pushed through the revolving doors just before eight o’clock hoping she’d find him quickly. She was supposed to wait by the courtesy phone in the lobby. Phase one of the date wasn’t a big deal. She’d been meeting men that way all along. Even though it had barely been a month, she felt like a seasoned professional. The reason sweat was forming in the space between her shoulder blades was that she couldn’t stop thinking about the cold fact that she was going to have to kiss her date. Of course, Mindy was right. Having someone to kiss at the stroke of midnight was the whole purpose of hiring an escort on New Year’s Eve. It was socially embarrassing to have no one to kiss. Christina just needed to pull herself together. She’d been kissed before. Lots of times… she thought.
She rolled her eyes and looked around for a place to spit her gum before her date got there. But she was so nervous she accidentally started to blow another bubble.
“Looking for something?” a deep male voice said coolly.
Christina’s gum bubble deflated as her eyes met those of one of the most handsome men she had ever seen. Christina didn’t even get a chance to examine him closely when she realized he was holding a silver dust bin in his hand, poised to catch her gum.
Christina reached into her pocket and quickly pulled out a tissue. There was no way that guy was her date, but her date was probably in the lobby (if he was on time) and she didn’t want him to see her spit a wad of purple bubble gum directly into a waste bin. She already felt like she’d tripped up by being majorly outclassed in the fancy hotel. She rolled her gum up in the Kleenex and dropped it into the bin.
“Thank you,” she said, trying to cool her cheeks and manage some sort of composure. Then she moved away and stood closer to the courtesy phone. She leaned against the pillar and tried to look for her date.
But the guy with the trash can wasn’t leaving. He set the bin down near a chair, came around, and leaned against the pillar beside her. “Was your gum grape or raisin flavored?”
“Those are the same,” Christina said, still scanning the room and not looking at the man next to her. “It just depends on whether or not the French side of the package is showing.”
He laughed. “Are you waiting for somebody?” he asked, flirting.
“I have a date.”
“Is he handsome?”
“Your date,” he answered, chuckling.
Christina looked around nervously. She had never seen the man. How was she supposed to answer? The stranger was clearly playing with her. If she said her date was gorgeous, she’d be in trouble when the short, bald guy rolled in. After scrambling for a moment, she answered, “I like the way he looks.”
“Hmm,” the brown-eyed stranger said, as he suddenly turned around the corner and put his arm by her shoulder, nearly pinning her against the pillar. “And you’re friendly with him no doubt?”
She nodded and said testily, “That’s why you shouldn’t be putting the moves on me.”
“Mark!” someone suddenly called from the other end of the lobby. It was a silver tinkling voice, exactly like the sound of Christmas ornaments jingling.
Christina turned her head to see who had called her date’s first name, when suddenly the stranger in front of her closed in and whispered, “Sorry for the late introduction. I’m Mark and I’m guessing you’re my date. Tina? Am I right?”
“Yeah,” Christina breathed, very much aware of his cologne. Breathing it in was a new sensation. What on earth was he wearing? But Christina still had the presence of mind to say, “But you’re not behaving very well. Do you have to stand that close to me?”
“I need you to help me with a little problem,” he said, taking her hand in his and leading her toward the woman who had called to him. He held onto her hand and introduced her to a ravishing blonde.
Her name was Laura. It was only necessary to take one look at her to learn that she was eating her heart out for Christina’s date.
“Don’t you ever go out with the same woman twice?” Laura asked poisonously when Mark slipped his arm around Christina’s waist.
Christina smiled and looked at him. Yeah, he definitely looked like the heart-breaker type. She was smiling though because she was happy he had turned out to be her partner for the night. She couldn’t help it. So far, none of her dates had been with men that were above an average on an attractive-o-meter. Mark was undoubtedly a ten on any woman’s rating chart. At least she wouldn’t have to kiss someone at the end of the night she was not attracted to. So, she was smiling and enjoying the fun of being with a man who was obviously popular. Mindy had already prepared her for being a tool to make another woman jealous.
“Don’t scare Tina,” Mark said to Laura sternly.
“But I know how you like to give your flings the idea that it’s not just a fling,” she said, looking particularly wounded. “Someone needs to warn the poor girl.”
Christina smiled and answered before Mark had a chance to say anything. “Thanks for the warning, but I’m too young to settle down. You should just enjoy the moment. Don’t you think?" Even Christina thought her cheerful eyes and ringing voice were irritating as she said those words. Saying a line like that irked her conscience, even as she said it. She didn’t believe it at all. She wanted a steady boyfriend who wouldn’t just use her for a fling, but for a long life of deep, lasting love. However, Mark was paying her to be on his side, so she said what she had to without choking on her own tongue.
Christina knew she was successful when Laura gave her a disgusted look and then beckoned for someone across the room to join them. “He’ll make you sorry, even if you have that attitude,” she said crossly as she took the arm of a young man. He was tall and blond and Christina might have been mistaken, but she thought Laura's date looked at her a trifle longer than was necessary.
Christina flashed a smile back at him. It was all part of leading her secret life. Smiling sweetly at strangers was all part of being Tina. Well, she wouldn’t have to do it for much longer. New Year's was going to be the last night. Afterward, she’d have to make up the difference washing dishes in the back of the pub again. Maybe then she could relax because no one would ever find out what she’d been doing.
Mark led her over to the coat check and politely helped her remove her coat. “You really riled her up,” he said as he offered her an arm and led her down the stairs to the ballroom.
“Is she your ex-girlfriend?” Christina asked, trying to get a grasp of the situation. Maybe he would tell her.
“Not exactly. More like a hopeful girlfriend,” he explained.
Man alive! He had excellent posture. Christina pushed her shoulders back and tried to walk with half as much dignity as him. Having to match a guy like him was daunting, but she’d do her best. “And this is your way of letting her down easy?” Christina asked.
“Sort of,” Mark agreed, turning his dark eyes toward her.
“Did you have a fling with her?”
Mark looked annoyed, but it didn’t make him look like an ogre. With features like that, he couldn’t stop being gorgeous even with a scowl on his face. Even his arm was solid.
“I don’t think that’s any of your business,” he finally replied. “I said I need you to help me with something tonight and it wasn’t her. I assure you, I can take care of that situation myself. There's something else. Last year, at the New Year’s party, I had some… unpleasantness at midnight. You’re going to keep me out of trouble. All right?”
Christina smiled and promised she’d do a good job.
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