Re-released 13 March, 2017
She’s gotten herself into hot water, and the heat just keeps on rising.
When it came to men, Gina McKenzie didn’t make the same mistakes her mother did. She just made different ones. Like trusting a bad guy, and driving away a good one.
Blackmailed by an ex-lover, Gina is forced to reunite with an old college crush to get the dirty on him. She once resorted to humiliating Mitchell Coleman to protect her heart and now it seems she has no choice but to let history repeat itself.
When Gina walks back into his life and starts seducing him, Mitch can’t help but be suspicious—the last time she’d done that she’d tossed him to the wolves. But if she intends to serve herself to him on a plate, who is he to refuse? He’ll just make sure to show her exactly what she missed the first time around.
But Mitch soon realizes that Gina’s plans involve more than heating up the sheets, and this time he’ll be ready for her. This time he’s not going to let her play him for a fool.
At the sight of the glitterati filling the ballroom, Gina McKenzie fought back the desire to run. The sanctuary of her fitness studio or small apartment seemed pretty appealing right now, but since running wasn’t an option, she forced herself forward into the throng of people. The velvet clutch bag brushed her outer thigh, a reminder that she hadn’t worn a dress this short since she turned sixteen. Thankfully, Pilates classes had kept her in shape, and meant she could hold her head, or rather flash her leg, with confidence.
She couldn’t see her prey—damn, when had she started thinking of him as prey?—but caught sight of her mother waving unobtrusively from across the ballroom. Before Gina could respond, Cheryl McKenzie was whisked away by her personal assistant, no doubt to engage in beneficial conversation with people who could assist her mayoral campaign.
Grabbing a glass of champagne from a passing waiter, Gina watched her mother for a few more moments. It was great to see her so happy and fulfilled, contented even. Not only because she was a definite contender for borough mayor, but because of the man whose arm stole possessively around her shoulders while they chatted with the beneficial couple. Gina had met him a couple of times and he seemed nice enough. He was obviously besotted with her mother, which made a change from the cheating apology of a man who was Gina’s father. After many years of heartbreak, her mother deserved happiness and Gina was determined nobody would take it away from her.
Which was precisely the reason she stood alone in the glitzy ballroom of a swanky hotel in the center of London, seeking out the one man who could help her ensure her mother’s continued happiness—and prevent Gina from becoming a media joke and worse.
She took a fortifying swig of champagne, scanning the beautiful people in all their finery. She was about to take another slug of bubbly when she saw him.
Mitchell Coleman. The man she’d spent most of her college years avoiding.
Over the years, she’d seen photos of him in the financial newspapers, but they hadn’t done him justice. Taller now, more imposing, and while he still bore those impressive shoulders she remembered so well, he seemed sleeker, more polished. Probably because a boardroom table didn’t offer the same opportunity for physical excellence as the sports field he’d once favored. Not that the man she covertly appraised had lost an iota of physical excellence in the intervening years—no way in hell had he done that. He filled his no doubt designer suit to perfection. His white shirt juxtaposed with the tanned skin, and when he smiled at something the woman currently clinging to his arm said, he displayed teeth as white as that shirt.
Some things hadn’t changed, Gina thought as she watched the woman virtually plaster herself to him. Mitchell Coleman had always drawn women to him like the proverbial fly to honey. Not only because of his masculinity, his sheer raw power, but because of his charm and magnetic personality.
Briefly, she wondered why she couldn’t allow herself to pick a man like him, but dismissed the thought as she swallowed down the last of the champagne.
Mitchell had always been one of the good guys, which was precisely why she’d steered clear of him in college, and why she’d steer clear of him now, had she the option. Which she didn’t.
She popped her empty glass onto a side table and glanced over to where her mother remained deep in conversation. Gina had hoped to procrastinate a little longer by going over to greet her mother first, but with that course of action denied her, she took a deep breath and steered her course directly to her target.
Her heartbeat picked up as she weaved her way through the crowd, heat pushing into her face which had nothing to do with the warmth of the packed ballroom. She couldn’t dwell on the reaction she anticipated when he saw her again, or consider if he’d bear a grudge because of what happened between them all those years ago.
She had a purpose. She was out of options. There was nothing for it but to bite down on the bile rising in her throat. This was not the time to remonstrate with herself, again, for her stupidity. What was done was done, and now she had to face the consequences and put things right.
As she came near, Gina took another steadying breath and smoothed down the front of her simple black shift dress. She could do this.
With a hard swallow, she moved to Mitchell’s free side and gripped her clutch tighter. It seemed she couldn’t stop swallowing, but before she could back away, Mitchell turned his head and looked straight at her.
The punch of his gaze hit her full center. She’d forgotten how blue his eyes were, how they had the ability to push deep into a person and hold on. She felt her knees go weak, swallowed again, and managed a shaky smile. “Hello, Mitch.”
He continued to stare at her, then something flashed in his eyes. Recognition? His gaze traveled insolently up and down her body, lingering for telling seconds at her thighs and breasts, before that dazzling blue met her eyes again.
“Gina McKenzie,” she offered when he remained silent. “We were at college together.”
He nodded, almost imperceptibly, and continued to subject her to that steady, mildly insulting, perusal.
Gina resisted the urge to swallow. “I was wondering if I could buy you a drink.”
He raised his eyebrows. “It’s a free bar.”
Damn and blast the man. This was not going to be easy.
The woman on his arm clung more desperately. “Have we met?” she asked, her gaze flicking to Gina before settling back on Mitchell.
“I don’t think so,” Gina said and offered a smile. “And I’m so sorry to intrude, it’s just that I recognized Mitch and thought I’d say hello. It’s been a long time.”
Gina wanted to duck as daggers flew in her direction.
“Mitchell.” Pointedly, the woman turned away from Gina. “We should take the opportunity to speak with Derek and Jennifer before dinner is called.”
Gina’s fragile spirits dropped. The woman obviously saw her as a threat and the last thing she wanted to do was cause any misery or upset to an innocent party. But she was on a mission with no choice but to see it through.
Another glance at her radiant mother renewed her resolve. She turned back to Mitchell, opened her bag and took out her business card. “I really would like to speak with you sometime. Perhaps I could give you a call and buy you that drink.”
Mitchell took the card, but kept his eyes on hers for seconds longer than comfortable. Then he glanced down. “Are you scouting for business?”
“No. Nothing like that. I’d just like some advice.”
Mitchell slipped the card into his jacket pocket. “Call my office,” he said. “They’ll arrange for an appointment.”
Gina flinched at the dismissal. While she hadn’t expected an open arm greeting, she hadn’t anticipated a brush off. He wasn’t much like the old Mitchell she remembered.
“Okay. I will. Thank you.”
He nodded and gave her a last derisively slow perusal, then turned as the woman at his side almost yanked him away from Gina’s company.
Copyright © 2015 Faye Avalon
All rights reserved