Authors: S.R. Grey
Other Books by S.R. Grey
The Harbour Falls Mysteries
Judge Me Not
(coming May 2015)
A sexy novella where things are not always as they appear. Enter the Laid Bare world only if you dare.
There’s something about Lucien Chambers. Something beyond his amazing success, his good looks, and his uncanny ability to turn everything he touches to gold.
In the eyes of the world, Lucien is a sexy and savvy business man. But when a naïve photographer, Dahlia Vaughn, is hired to take pictures of the hot entrepreneur, she discovers Mr. Chambers may be much more than what he seems.
ust as I was taking in a sweeping gaze of the most magnificent Christmas party I’d ever attended, someone snuck up behind me and whispered in my ear, “You are such a little bitch, Dahlia.”
“Veronica,” I huffed, annoyed.
I tried to spin around to confront my verbal assailant—who also happened to be my best friend and cousin who delighted in driving me crazy—but before I could get my bearings, Veronica’s delicate, slender fingers slid over my eyes.
Everything went black, but the smells and sounds of the holidays were still all around me. Eggnog and cinnamon scents punctuated the air, and the comforting lull of classic holiday tunes filled my ears. But with my sight obscured as it was, there would be no more gazing at the yards and yards of multi-colored, twinkling lights draped from the raw wood beam rafters above me, and no more admiring the sparkling, decorated fifteen-foot fir in the far corner of the large banquet hall the party was being held in.
Prior to Veronica’s interruption, I’d been mesmerized by the tree with its shiny glass ornaments and bright lights adorning the branches. I found it amazing how the holiday glow made all the beautiful party guests look even more dazzling. Glamorous and sophisticated, all dressed in their holiday party finest and milling around, drinking too much champagne, having too much fun. But the glitz and glamour were momentarily hidden from me, thanks to Veronica’s hand over my eyes.
“Are you done,” I inquired. I made my tone sound miffed, but I wasn’t, not really.
“No, and don’t look now,” she replied from behind me, hand still in place.
“As if I could,” I interjected as I shifted from one way-too-high stiletto heel to the other. “So, why am I a bitch?” I continued. “And why in God’s name are you still covering my eyes?”
“First, you’re not really a bitch,” Veronica replied apologetically. “And secondly, the answer to your other question, my dear, just walked in the door.”
Aha! Her answer, not to mention her tone, meant one thing and one thing only—
I pushed Veronica’s hand away, blinked twice, and peered through the crowd. It wasn’t hard to spot the man I sought, not with his commanding height and his room-filling presence. He radiated confidence and outshined even the loveliest of guests. With his coal-black hair and, seemingly, even darker eyes, combined with a lithe body and the best bone structure I’d ever seen on a man, Lucien Chambers was quite the male specimen. Still, I could barely believe what was so clearly in front of me—Mr. Chambers, guest of honor at this year’s Lucent Magazine bigwig holiday party, had actually taken it upon himself to grace everyone with his presence.
Lucien, entrepreneur, millionaire at age twenty-four—
-millionaire three years later—was successful and loaded. And at age twenty-nine, as of last month, he’d been declared Chicago’s most eligible bachelor.
Well, he definitely deserved the title. Lucien was rich, stunning to look at, and available. I’d previously read that he dated frequently—usually beautiful models, of course—but he’d never gotten married. Perhaps he’d just never found the right one.
No surprise there. I imagined a man such as Lucien would possess rather discerning tastes.
Glancing over at my beautiful cousin, I thought about how Veronica would have been a good match for Lucien. With platinum blonde hair that flowed to her waist, a killer body, and icy blue eyes, she was almost as stunning as Lucien…almost. Oh well. Too bad she was engaged.
I returned my attention back to the situation at hand, murmuring, “Hmm, this
“What?” I could feel Veronica’s cool blue eyes on me, assessing.
“Nobody thought Mr. Chambers would put in an appearance tonight, given his reclusive nature.”
“Well, he’s here,” she replied matter-of-factly.
Yes, he sure was. And—uh-oh—he was currently walking my way.
“Shit,” I hissed rather loudly.
Veronica paid me no heed, though. She was too busy leaning into me and whispering in my ear, “Oh, Dahl, just look at him. That man is so damn sexy.”
“I am looking,” I said.
And, oh, was I ever. It was almost impossible not to stare, as Lucien was one smoking hot man. And tonight he looked especially magnificent in his dark gray suit, the ritzy fabric allowing his body to move elegantly and fluidly.
“Wow,” I sighed. “He is impressive, right?”
“For sure,” Veronica murmured.
There was something more about the man, though, something beyond his great looks that made him so appealing. Lucien was a man with great confidence.
Conversely, I was the exact opposite—a woman with very little confidence.
So, of course, as he neared me, I spun around and grabbed up Veronica’s hand. “Quick,” I said, “let’s get out of here.”
“What? Why? Are you crazy?” was Veronica’s certainly understandable response. She tried to twist away, but I kept my hold firm.
“Come on,” I urged once more, this time tugging for effect. “Please, V.”
Veronica held steady, but her voice turned soft and understanding when she said, “Why don’t you want to meet him tonight, Dahlia? You’ll be working with the man soon enough.”
“That’s exactly why I don’t want to meet him,” I replied.
I tugged Veronica’s arm again to get her moving, and added, “You know my rules.”
got her moving. And just in time, as Lucien was gaining ground.
“Okay, okay,” Veronica said as I turned us away at the same second Lucien’s searing gaze connected with mine.
Too late, I’m outta here
, my parting glance conveyed.
As I dragged my cousin in the direction of the rest rooms—surely a safe spot—she murmured under her breath, “How could I have forgotten about you and your weird idiosyncrasies?”
Okay, yes, she had a point. I was a little weird about my work, quirky even, but my weirdness kept my creativity at play. I am a photographer, you see, and a damn good one. Not meeting my subjects before taking their picture is an integral part of my creative process. I prefer to go in to photo shoots cold. That way I learn my subject as I work. It makes for a better outcome, and I have the award-winning photographs to prove it.
“Come on,” I hurried my cousin along, toward an alcove with a tastefully small, gold plate engraved with the word
“Calm down,” she said. “He’s not following us now. He stopped to talk with someone.”
“He may catch up,” I replied, worried.
“Oh, Dahlia…” Veronica shook her head.
She was sweet to indulge me, but she understood my idiosyncrasies. Veronica is a photographer too, and has her own quirks to contend with. The two of us freelance around the city. My cousin is good, very talented, but I am better. Not to brag, it just is what it is. That’s why I was awarded the prestigious gig of shooting Lucien Chambers the day after Christmas.
Interacting with him in seven more days would be soon enough. I’d have time to build up my courage by then and, hopefully, not make a fool of myself. Photographing Mr. Chambers—for a piece Lucent Magazine was running on him and his many business successes—had the power to make or break my career. He gave so few interviews and rarely allowed himself to be photographed, so this was a coup. The only reason he agreed to this news piece was because he’d recently bought a stake in the magazine.
Needless to say, I was nervous as hell. I could not screw up this job.
“I still can’t believe you’re passing up the chance to meet Lucien Chambers,” Veronica mused out loud. “Surely, a little preview won’t mess with your wacky ways.”
“I’ll meet him next week at the shoot,” I maintained, keeping Veronica moving through the crowd and away from Mr. Eligible Bachelor.
Finally, we reached the ladies room. I hurried in, Veronica in tow, and closed the door behind us.
Turning to me, Veronica rolled her eyes. “Well, you’re safe now. I doubt he’ll dare step in here.” She gestured around at all the feminine décor in the ornate facility. “There is way too much estrogen in this room for any man.”