Authors: Delaney Diamond
Tags: #seattle, #billionaire, #friends to lovers, #family series
Alannah giggled. “No, I’m not.”
“Okay, then. Let loose. And you might as well
look around for a few nice evening dresses, too, for when you have
to attend one of those fancy events with your other man.”
Alannah rolled her eyes. “Trenton is not my
“Honey, he’s so damn fine, I don’t know how
you resist jumping his bones every time you see him.”
“We’re just friends, Terri. How many times do
I have to tell you that?”
“Until I believe it. But anyway, if Connor is
as hot as you say, who cares about your hot best friend? Hang on.”
Terri covered the phone, and Alannah heard the muffled tones of her
conversation with someone in the salon. Finally, she came back on
the line. “Gotta run, my appointment’s here. Have fun and I’ll
catch up with you later. Smooches!”
Alannah disconnected the Bluetooth call and
continued to Westfield Southcenter shopping mall. With a massive
food court, clothing stores that catered to a variety of tastes,
and a movie theater, the largest shopping center in Washington was
often crowded. But upon arrival, she lucked out and cruised into a
vacant space when another driver pulled out.
In the parking lot outside Macy’s, she looked
at the six stores on her list. A trip to Soma was a must today. As
Terri pointed out, she needed new undergarments.
Right then, the phone rang. Trenton this
“What are you doing?” The sound of wind let
her know he was driving.
Alannah cradled the phone between her ear and
shoulder, folded the list, and tucked it into her purse. “About to
do some shopping. I need new clothes.”
“New clothes for what?”
“It’s all part of my makeover. I need new
going-out clothes. Plus, I have a date.” She squirted
candy-apple-scented sanitizer in her hands and rubbed them
together. The silence on the other end of the line prompted her to
hold the phone away from her ear and stare at the LCD screen,
wondering if the call had been disconnected. “Hey, are you
“I'm here. You have a date, huh? Who is
Alannah thought for a minute. “Someone at
work,” she hedged.
“The guy you mentioned the other night?”
“Thought you said he had a girlfriend.”
“I was wrong.”
“You act as if you don’t want to tell me
about this guy. You know I’m going to have to check him out.”
“Actually, that’s what I don’t want.” Alannah
pursed her lips.
“What do you mean? I always check out your
“This one’s different.”
“How’s he different?”
“I really like him.”
“So you don’t want to find out if he’s a good
guy or not because you really like him?” When he said it like that,
it sounded ridiculous.
“It’s not that.” Alannah watched the families
coming in and out of the mall’s entrance. A boy and a girl skipped
in front of their parents, and a mother juggled numerous bags while
reaching for her son’s hand. “I don’t want you to scare him off,”
Trenton chuckled, as if she were being silly.
“I won’t scare him off.”
“You always scare them off, and this time I
don’t want him to leave.”
“If he’s a real man, he won’t.”
“Trenton…” She had to make him see reason.
Connor was already intimidated by him, and his big brother routine
could spoil the relationship between them before it even
“All right, fine. I won’t scare him off, but
I want to meet him. That’s nonnegotiable.”
“You will eventually.”
Alannah looked down at her hands. They’d been
down this road before. Trenton always screened her boyfriends, but
she wanted him far away this time. She’d had lunch again with
Connor yesterday and could tell he was different. Sweet and honest,
he was the kind of man she needed to help her get over Trenton.
She climbed out of the car. “I have to run.
I’m about to go into the mall. Sadly, on my own. Terri was supposed
to come with me, but she had to cancel because of work. What are
you up to today?”
“Nothing. Want some company?”
Alannah closed the door and stood beside the
car. Trenton’s question made her frown. “Company for what?”
“Yes, I’ll take Terri’s place.”
He laughed, a rich, sexy sound that made her
toes curl in her low-heeled sandals. “Seriously. I’ll come and give
you my opinion—from a male point of view, which is probably better
“Trent, you hate shopping. If it weren’t for
your stylist, you’d wear the same clothes every season.”
Asking Trenton to go shopping was like
inviting a child to the dentist. Neither looked forward to the
He never shopped for girlfriends. The task of
purchasing their gifts was delegated to his assistant. He never
even shopped for himself, employing the same stylist as several
Hollywood leading men. She consulted with him on a regular basis
about his wardrobe, and when he had a special event to attend, he
gave her a call. Every few months she flew up with a barrage of
selections. They went through his closet and discarded the old,
brought in the new, and when the new season started, they did the
same all over again.
“I hate shopping, but I’m not that bad.
Besides, I’ll make an exception for my buddy.”
“Okaaay, if you’re willing, I’m fine with you
coming to offer your opinion. But I don’t want to hear any whining
if I take too long.”
“I promise not to whine. Where are you?”
“Westfield Southcenter. I’m going into Macy’s
“I’m not too far away. I’ll meet you at the
front door in ten, maybe fifteen minutes.”
When Trenton arrived, Alannah’s heart leapt.
He’d shaved and cut his hair since she last saw him and wore jeans
and a black V-neck shirt that played up the color of his swarthy
skin and left his tatted arms bare. Even in those ordinary clothes
he turned heads.
He stopped in front of her, his grin large,
lazy, and sexy. “Ready?”
Taking a breath to still her racing heart,
Alannah nodded. “Let’s go.”
Trenton stood behind Alannah on the escalator
to the women’s department of Macy’s.
Her hair was braided into a single thick
plait that rested over her right shoulder, and she wore fitted
jeans, unusual for her, but without being indecent. Unlike the
short-shorts she’d had on the other day, which he still found
An oversized shirt drooped off her right
shoulder. It was only a shoulder, but he wasn’t accustomed to
seeing Alannah dressed like that. She usually covered up.
Everything. That had to be the reason why his gut tightened when he
saw her, and his eyes were drawn to the exposed skin, again and
In the women’s department, they browsed racks
of clothes and accessories. According to what she’d told him, she
was on the hunt for a jumpsuit and two dresses—one for a formal
occasion and another she could wear out to dinner or somewhere
Minutes into the search, Trenton held up a
blue jumpsuit with long sleeves. “What about this?”
A few feet away, Alannah wrinkled her
freckled nose. “I want something a little more edgy.”
“Edgy?” he echoed, but she’d already moved
Trenton continued his search. Glances from
women came his way every now and again with the occasional smile,
but he focused on working his way through the racks. A few times he
held up an article of clothing for Alannah’s approval, and each
time she alternated between shaking her head and wrinkling her cute
After a while, Trenton knew he’d made a
mistake. Now he remembered why he avoided clothes shopping, and
especially with a woman. This excursion could take forever, and
there were other things he’d much rather be doing that were less
painful, more interesting, and less time-consuming. Such as
watching paint dry or driving nails into his hand with a
“I’m tired,” he announced, and looked up. He
searched the area for Alannah but she was across the sales floor,
talking to one of the sales reps. He sauntered over to join the
“That’s what I’m here for,” the saleswoman
was saying. Too much makeup covered her light brown skin, and her
almond-shaped eyes slanted upward to give her an exotic appearance.
She glanced in his direction when he walked over, and her
expression changed to one he’d grown accustomed to since his teen
years—one of female appreciation. “May I help you?”
“This is my friend,” Alannah said. “He’s
helping me pick out my outfits.”
“Well, it’s always nice to have a male
perspective.” She looked him up and down, unmistakable interest
flashing in her eyes, before she returned her attention to Alannah.
“Here’s what we’ll do. I’ll pull together some outfits based on
what you told me you’d like. I already have the perfect idea for a
dress. With your red undertones, it would look beautiful. Adding
the right amount of color to your cheeks, with a smoky eye, would
bring the outfit together.” Excited at the prospect of dressing
Alannah, the inflection of her voice surged higher and she talked
with her hands. “We’ll have sort of a runway experience where you
try on the different outfits with the accessories. And your
friend”—she cast another lustful look at Trenton—“can help you
decide. Sound good?”
“Sounds like a plan to me.” Alannah looked up
at Trenton. “You okay with that?”
“As long as I don’t have to walk around
anymore, I’m fine. I’ll gladly be a judge.”
“The fitting room is over there,” the
saleswoman said. She touched a hand to the name tag on her chest.
“Alannah, Trenton, there are seats near the
fitting rooms where you can sit down. Give me a few minutes and I
promise you won’t regret it.”
“Thank you.” Julia walked away and Alannah
clapped her hands together rapidly. “I’m so excited. Wish I’d done
Trenton flung an arm around her shoulders.
They strode toward the fitting rooms and
found a trio of dark blue sofas. They dropped onto the one in the
middle, sitting close to each other.
“This should be fun,” Trenton said dryly.
“You said you didn’t mind,” Alannah reminded
“I don’t mind at all, actually.”
Her face screwed up into a doubtful
“Trust me, I’m glad to be seated. This is way
more comfortable than running around the sales floor hunting for
“What did I tell you about whining?”
“I’m not whining.”
“You are. Not everyone can afford to have a
stylist shop for them, pick their clothes, and drop them off with
the snap of a finger.”
“You don’t know what you’re missing.” Trenton
slumped in the chair and spread his legs so that his knee bumped
Alannah’s. Crossing his arms, he let his head fall to the back of
the sofa and closed his eyes. “Wake me when she has your outfits
“Don’t fall asleep.” Alannah nudged him with
He kept his eyes closed. “Quit.”
Alannah rested her head on his left
shoulder—a comfortable, familiar position. “Julia is a personal
shopper for the store. Why didn’t I think of this before?”
The scent of honeysuckle filled his nostrils,
and Trenton turned his face into her hair. This time he didn’t just
enjoy the smell. He reveled in it, and a curious sensation rippled
across his abs.
He tugged her braid to distract from the
feeling. “You told me not to fall asleep, and look at you. Don’t
“I won’t.” She giggled, settling more snugly
against him. As if she belonged there. But she did belong, and
could always have his shoulder to lean on.
“Don’t be too sure. I’ve been told plenty of
times I have a very comfortable shoulder.” He didn’t know why he
said that. Almost as if he had to, because something felt off.
She didn’t respond at first, but then she
whispered, “I bet.” Her voice sounded odd when she said that.
Maybe he’d actually dozed off for a little
bit, but the next thing he knew, Julia announced herself and stood
in front of them with garments thrown over her forearm and numerous
belts and other accessories in hand.
“This way,” she said, and Alannah hopped up
from the sofa to follow behind. She cast a quick glance over her
shoulder at Trenton. She looked so excited, like a kid at a preview
sale for cupcakes. He smiled back, ready to perform the very
important task of critiquing her outfits when she came out.
But he wasn’t prepared for what he saw.
The first evening dress she tried on was
gorgeous—in the front, that is.
“The entire gown is made of chiffon,” Julia
The gown was halter-topped with a white
empire waist, and the bottom half, black, curved into a bell shape
and swept the floor. That was all fine, but when Alannah did a
one-eighty turn, Trenton saw the thigh-high split and that her
entire back was exposed.
Which meant no bra.
He sat up.
“What do you think?” Alannah grinned from ear
to ear. Examining her image in the mirrors, she turned this way and
“Where’s the rest of it?” Trenton asked.
Julia laughed. “This is the whole dress.” She
smoothed the material over his friend’s left hip.
Alannah tilted her head at her reflection.
“Do you have a smaller size? This is a little big up top.”
Julia shook her head. “You don’t need a
smaller size.” She pulled the edges at the back so the bodice
flattened against Alannah’s body and emphasized her small bust to a
distracting level. “Maybe a little tailoring at the top, but the
skirt fits you perfectly. You’ve got some hips, so we don’t want to
go too small.”