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Authors: Kate Perry

Project Daddy

BOOK: Project Daddy
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FINGER PAINTING 101
“Are those paints?” I got down on the floor next to Luc and picked up a small container. “Finger paints? I haven’t finger painted since—” I frowned. Actually, I couldn’t ever remember doing it before.
“That’s why I got them. You need some fun in your life. You’re too serious.”
“I am not. I have fun all the time.”
Luc gave me the shortest sidelong glance ever. “Like when?”
“Like at work.”
“Work is work. It’s not entertainment. Here.” He handed me a piece of paper. “Let loose. Humor me.”
Intent on drawing a snake with Luc’s face, I didn’t register the feeling of cold wetness tickling my leg until it was too late. I glanced down and gasped at the blue streak on my bare leg.
Luc grinned, looking like a mischievous little boy. “It looked like it needed color ...”
I shrieked when he grabbed me and set me on his lap. Holding my leg in place with his, he began to write on it. I bent over to read what he was writing.
KM has cooties
... “Oh, really mature, Luc.”
I don’t know the exact moment it happened, but suddenly things changed. His fingers stroked rather than painted. I knew then I was going to do something stupid. Like push my paint-coated fingers into his hair and pull him down so I could find out exactly what the girls were talking about in high school when they whispered how he had such an excellent mouth....
Project Daddy
Kate Perry
ZEBRA BOOKS
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
To
Nate and Parisa
both.
Equally.
I love you.
Acknowledgments
If I listed everyone who deserved thanks, this would read like a novel. But there are a few people who need to be mentioned ...
Melissa Ramirez, Susan Hatler, Allison Brennan, and Michele Acker, without whom I’d be twitching in a dark corner. (Special thanks to Melissa for critiquing above and beyond beyond the call of duty.)
Parisa Zolfaghari and Chuck Jaffee, who both insisted this was the story I should write.
Steve Grant, who champions my work and doesn’t complain that I’m a pest (at least not to my face).
Ron Cherry, Joyce Starling, Laurie Zmrzel, and Bob Heinrich, who listen to my very rough drafts and manage not to gag—for the most part. (Babette, Gina, and Larry, too.)
Everyone in Sierra Writers and Sacramento Valley Rose, with a special shout out to Lisa Sorenson and Phylis Warady.
But especially Nate Perry-Thistle, who believed with unwavering faith that this day would come.
Chapter One
My boss is a crazy bitch.
No, that’s not true. She isn’t really crazy. She’s driven. Focused. Often obsessive. But there usually is method to her madness.
So let me rephrase that statement: my boss is a heinous bitch.
Tonight, that’s my mantra. Lydia Ashworth, CEO of Ashworth Communications, Inc., my esteemed boss and role model (God help me) is a heinous bitch.
But it didn’t matter how much I resented Lydia and the assignment she gave me—I just had to get it done.
I sighed and turned to the guy standing next to me at the bar. I stared at his cheeks, wondering if he had dimples. “Excuse me.”
He glanced down at me.
Blue eyes—at least he had that going for him. “Does your family have a history of mental illness?”
His lovely eyes widened with something reminiscent of horror. He snatched his drink and hurried away.
Maybe that wasn’t such a great opening question.
I rummaged through my Coach bag—I got it from a thrift store on Fillmore for a steal—and pulled out my handheld. I turned it on and accessed the spreadsheet I’d put together earlier that afternoon. With a few clicks, I rearranged the questions on my list.
Better.
I smoothed down my straight black skirt, straightened the strand of faux pearls I’d added to dress up the outfit, pushed my wire-rim glasses up my nose, and looked for my next victim—uh, candidate. I needed to find a man and I didn’t have much time.
At the end of the bar, there were two men standing together watching the dancers on the floor. They looked friendly and open-minded.
Gripping my handheld, I pushed through the masses to them.
“Hi,” I squeaked when I reached them.
The blond guy glanced at me and looked away without saying a word. The other guy smiled and nodded.
This was going to be easier than I thought. Heartened, I forged on. “Uh, I was wondering, um ...” I looked down at my spreadsheet. Shoot, I was going to ruin what was left of my eyesight trying to read in here.
He looked at me kindly. “Can I help you?”
“Well, yes, actually. Do you smoke?”
“No, sorry. But there’s a store around the corner. I’m sure they have cigarettes.”
I turned to look where he was pointing. “Oh. Oh, well. Thanks.” I checked “No” next to that question on my survey and jotted down that he was helpful and solicitous in the Notes area.
Next question. “Where did you go to college?”
He squinted at me in confusion. “SF State. How about you?”
“Stanford.” Educated. I marked that down. “Did you know at Stanford it’s tradition for seniors to kiss freshmen at midnight under the first full moon of autumn quarter?”
He squinted at me, so I noted that he had poor eyesight.
“Have you ever sired any children?”
His face scrunched but before I could say anything, his friend poked him in the ribs and they disappeared into the crowd.
“Well.” I hit Close, opened a fresh spreadsheet, and surveyed the club.
If I had to picture hell, it would be like this, only less scary. There was a diffused red glow and loud thumping bass accompanying the music. At least I thought it did—the thumping was all I registered. I could make out the outlines of figures, but they looked otherworldly.
“What am I doing here?” I murmured, shaking my head.
I had no one to blame but myself. It was my brilliant idea to come to GY-R8. This afternoon when I cooked up my plan, it seemed so simple. I’d go to the hottest club in town, find a man, and go home happy.
I should have known it wouldn’t work out that way.
“Suck it up, kiddo,” I told myself. “This is your ticket to the big times.”
All these years, that was what I wanted—a chance to strut my stuff. The opportunity to prove that I, Katherine Murphy, was capable and worthy. Lydia had handed it to me on a silver platter and all I could think of doing was shoving it back with a polite “no, thank you.”
I sighed again and considered ordering a stiff drink. Only I have zero tolerance for alcohol. The fumes from all the drinks around me were making me tipsy.
I waved at one of the bartenders. He finished flirting with a tall blonde and came over.
He gave me one of those thorough look-overs that guys give women—minus the sexual appreciation—and said, “The librarian’s convention is down the street at the Hilton.”
So I wasn’t exactly dressed for a night of boogying to what the masses called music these days, but neither was I a hag. I was wearing my best Ferragamo pumps (from Nordstrom Rack—so deeply discounted I bought two pairs to alternate during the week).
I gave him my fiercest “you better do as I say or I’ll eat your lunch” look that I learned from Lydia and waved my hand in front of his face. “You
will
get me a Shirley Temple.”
Hey—it worked for Obi-Wan.
With a few quick movements, he whipped up my drink and slid it across the bar.
That’s more like it.
I took out a few dollars and handed them over reluctantly. At least I’d be able to expense this, and the twenty I’d spent on the cover charge. “Did you know Shirley Temple always had exactly fifty-six curls in her hair?”
He looked me over again and shook his head before moving along to a more trendily dressed, better-endowed woman.
“Hmm.” I took a sip and looked down the bar.
Most of the men were in groups of four or more. I cringed. There was no way I could approach a large group. My stomach flopped at the thought.
Then I saw a guy seated all by himself at the other end of the bar. Even better, he had a goatee. I enthusiastically checked that box on my survey.
“I knew I was going to get lucky.” I pushed my way through the crowd, stopping every now and then to make notes. Like that he was drinking a beer, sipping not guzzling. He was dressed in a custom-made suit (working for Lydia I’d learned a thing or two about expensive clothes).
Fortunately, the tall stool next to him was unoccupied. Unfortunately, I overcompensated for my purse, which really doesn’t weigh as much as most people say, and almost fell off the other side.
“Careful.” He reached out to steady me, helping me settle on the stool.
My hands got sweaty with excitement. Deep voice, big hands. Big hands had to count for a lot, right? I tapped it into the Notes area.
I could feel his gaze on me, so I looked up and genuinely smiled—that’s how excited I was. “Hi.”
He grinned. “Hi.”
My, he was lovely. “Do you come here often?” A clichéd question, yes, but I needed to know how much of a partier he was. I wasn’t looking for someone who habitually frequented bars.
“No, actually. I usually work late and go to the gym afterward.”
My heart beat faster and I could barely keep from squirming. A workaholic who kept in shape? Could he be more perfect?
“What type of work do you do?”
“I’m an attorney.”
Yes, he was more perfect.
“What type of law do you practice?”
“International finance.”
I was so excited I almost forgot to note that. “You must have to travel often.” I was very proud of myself. And Luc said I was an abysmal conversationalist.
“Yes, though not much in August. This time of year is slow.”
I leaned closer to him. Just as I opened my mouth to ask him about his family, a tall blonde swooped down from behind.
“Hi, baby,” she drawled and kissed him.
Goodness, it was voracious.
My ears went red, but I watched avidly. Maybe I could learn a thing or two.
When they finally broke apart, she glanced down at me. Apparently I wasn’t considered a threat because she dismissed me with a casual flip of her hair. She tugged on the guy’s sleeve. “Come on.”
He smiled at me and said, “It was nice talking to you,” and disappeared into the crowd with the bim—er, woman.
“That was
my
man,” I protested, deleting his questionnaire. Sighing, I turned to search for another candidate.
For a brief moment, I was tempted to order myself a stronger drink for fortification. It was a fleeting thought, though. The last time I’d imbibed, it was only half a beer, and I still don’t remember how I ended up at the beach.
“Okay,” I mumbled under my breath. “The One is in here. Somewhere. I just need to find him.”
I studied the scene. Easier said than done.
“I can do this.” I took a swig of my Shirley Temple for courage.
A man leaned onto the bar next to me, trying to get the bartender’s attention. I pursed my lips in consideration. Not bad. He didn’t have a goatee, but he was dressed nicely and was handsome enough.
He must have felt my stare because he glanced at me. I attacked before I lost my nerve.
“Have you ever had any social diseases?”
His skin paled and he rushed away from me, heading toward the back where the bathrooms were.
“Poor guy.” I shook my head. “Probably had too much to drink.”
BOOK: Project Daddy
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