DAhhhhhhhh just did my taxes and I NEED something to cheer up this recently starving artist that I’ve suddenly become. Lol. And there’s only way to do that: EXCERPT TIME 🙂 Ready for some West’s Redemption? Good: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0BL914G17


Lauren had stolen another coat from West.

He was going to file a police report against her soon if she wasn’t careful.

Dang, he’d smelled good, and she wasn’t supposed to notice things like that when she was on the job. She’d done more than her share of unprofessional moves since getting to know West Slade.

Like this!

She tried on yet another dress. It was an elegant white satin one. She felt like a mermaid coming out of the dressing room. Lauren waited to hear Amber’s verdict. Her friend scrolled busily through her phone before glancing up. “Cute! That’s my favorite one so far.”

They all were!

Amber had a cousin of a friend of a friend who’d won VIP tickets to the fashion show from the radio. Lauren was thrilled, but she still had no idea how she’d get past West to talk to Trout anyway.

This whole operation was absolutely useless, but try to tell Amber that. “I can’t even afford this dress,” Lauren said.

“Think of it as an investment,” her friend said.

“Yeah, sure…” Her friend could justify every purchase. “I should just wear the red…” Lauren mused. After her fiasco with the zipper, Lauren wasn’t sure if she wanted to risk it, but this investigation was getting expensive.

“No, no, absolutely not!” Amber said. “West Slade can’t see you in the same dress.”

“Oh please, I don’t care what he thinks.” If anything, he’d take it as an opportunity to tease her about needing his jacket. Her face heated at the thought of exchanging more “friendly fire” with that guy.

“You might have to be nicer to him, ya know,” Amber said. “Stop blowing up.”

“He tried to bribe me.”

“I told you to say ‘yes’ to everything he said. If you’d just played along, you could’ve found out what they’re working so hard to hide. They already made a deal with FFearfA.”

They sure had! The rioters had mysteriously packed up their tents the day before and left the city. Trout had done something to appease their leader, but what?

Lauren sighed. She should’ve stuck with baiting West a little longer.

“You missed out, girl!” Amber said. “You’ve gotta play this smart.”

Lauren threw the bulk of her loose hair behind her shoulder. “There’s something about that guy that makes me crazy.”

“Right?” Amber picked up her phone again to check her messages. She’d been doing it since they’d gotten there. “You think he’s cute! You wore that jacket you stole from West Slade all day yesterday.”

Lauren immediately defended herself. “I was cold!” And the jacket happened to smell super nice—like West, actually, but that wouldn’t help her case against Amber. Lauren turned to the mirror to check out her dress from the back—the seams were flattering, unlike the last evening gown she’d tried on. She wondered if West would like it. The thought startled her. She pinned Amber with a stern look. “Can you for once help me act like a professional?”

“Professionals can think the enemy is cute.”

Lauren ignored that, checking the price tag on her dress. Her nose wrinkled. “It’s $3,500… I absolutely can not afford this.”

“Why not?” a male voice chimed in.

Her chin wrenched up and she saw West appearing from the stack of dresses. He looked way too good for a Saturday morning. He might’ve been in a ball cap and a relaxed gray T-shirt, but they were worth a fortune if she knew clothes. His dark jeans were stylishly wrinkled with an acid wash. The ends were folded into cuffs at the bottom. He was wearing those overpriced tan leather shoes without any socks.

It was like he’d walked out of the fashion show they were crashing. Lauren and Amber had come in sweats and messy bed hair.

“Are you following me?” Lauren squeaked.

“Do you want me to?” He sucked on the straw from the drink he’d brought into the shop. The shopkeeper didn’t make a peep of protest, especially since it looked like he might help sell the more expensive dress. West had found yet another jacket. The dark leather was much more casual than his suit ones. And still nothing hid how athletic he was. The guy was just built, and… she pulled herself together.

How had he found her here anyway?

And she was staring at him. Had he asked her if she wanted him to follow her? “No!”

Her emphatic—and very late—denial didn’t seem to convince anyone, especially Amber. An amused smile spread across her friend’s face. The only thing missing was her popcorn.

“Hmm, an investigative journalist who doesn’t like to be followed?” West asked. “Seems hypocritical.”

“I follow privacy laws,” Lauren said.

“Do you though?” It seemed a casual enough observation.

She ignored how close he’d gotten to the truth. Why was he still hounding her every step? She’d almost wondered if he’d stop after FFearfA had left town. He’d seemed pretty concerned about them… and then there were his probing questions about her informant. They didn’t even know who it was. She literally had nothing for him.

“Nice dress,” he said. “You know, if you wanted to go to the Marcel show, you should’ve just said something. I’d have gotten you tickets.”

Well, that was a maddening thought. They’d worked hard to score entry. And that wasn’t the point. “I can’t be bought,” Lauren retorted.

“This isn’t buying—this is just a man enjoying a woman’s company. I’d love for you to be my date.”

Amber hid an audible gasp… not very well.

The thumping of Lauren’s heart that had picked up when he’d first made an appearance rumbled into a monster truck engine against her chest at the suggestion. He was trying to throw her off the scent with his easy flirtation. “Really? You’d introduce me to all your friends there?” she asked. “The fashion designer himself?” She started naming off the richest cronies in Nashville that online sites like Flatter had spied West with. “Marian Dobbs, Felicity Shaw, Kyle Costella… Roy Trout?”

He turned silent.

West would keep Lauren far from anyone who mattered. “I’m not stupid,” Lauren said. She ducked back into the dressing room, trying to wiggle out of the expensive dress. “I know you’re not going to help me,” she called through the slats in the door, “but I don’t need you, turns out. I’ve got eyes in my head. I can see for myself who’s really working Trout’s strings.”

West took a second to respond. “Who?”

Well… she didn’t know yet.

“Everybody works his strings,” he said after her silence. “He’s a politician, last time I checked. You’re getting the white dress, right?”

“No!” He wasn’t distracting her from this. “FFearfA backed off. Who’s running them?”

“Some rich cronies somewhere.”

Lauren hated that she agreed with him. She threw on her shirt. “What kind of deal did you offer them to make them go away?”

“They probably got bored of living in sweat-infested tent cities. I mean, c’mon, they’re larpers playing at being revolutionaries. Even they need to take a shower every once in a while.”

“You did something!”

“Wow, Sherlock, you’ve really stumbled onto something here,” he said. “Too bad all the major networks stole your lead. That’s all they could talk about yesterday. You’re two steps behind them. Better luck next time.”

His sarcasm deserved a scathing comeback. She got busy throwing on the rest of her street clothes… as unimpressive as they were.

Before she could say anything, she heard West strike up a conversation with Amber outside of her door. “Nice to meet you,” he said. “You’re Lauren’s friend?”

“Yes, roommate… and editor,” Amber returned. “I’m a fan of your first date.”

He broke into a laugh.

“No, no.” Lauren broke out of the dressing room, still wrestling her shoes on. “You’re not making friends.” She grabbed a fifty-dollar dress from the clearance rack that she’d brutally rejected earlier. It was all black and not at all flattering, but it would do. “I found my dress,” she said. “Let’s go.” Throwing the simple sheath gown over her shoulder, she raced to the front desk.

Amber would have to catch up.

West laughed behind her. “I thought you were supposed to be the fashion queen? You’ll never blend into Marcel’s party that way.”

“Definitely, do the white one,” Amber said.

The little traitor! Did no one know what money was anymore?

“And I like the one that doesn’t break the bank,” Lauren said, setting the dress on the counter. She pulled out her card, really hoping that she didn’t reach her limit in front of West. “I’ll take this dress, thank you.”

The shopkeeper’s grimace showed that he agreed with West and Amber’s pick.

“You’re making a mistake,” West said. “You can’t wear cotton to Marcel’s. It just isn’t done.”

“By all means,” Lauren retorted. “Pick up the white dress for your date to the show. I’m sure she’ll look stunning.”

“That’s not a bad idea.” To her surprise, West rescued the dress from the hook in the dressing room. He cut in front of her in line.

“Excuse me!” Lauren complained.

A fleeting dimple punched into West’s cheek. “Ring the ugly black one up too,” he told the shopkeeper.

“No!” Lauren complained. There were too many strings attached to taking his charity. “You can’t buy my dress!”

He threw his cash down on the counter. Who carried that kind of money around? “Hey,” he said. “I’ll do whatever I have to do to make sure you don’t wear it.”

Oh! That wasn’t what she meant! Was he actually taking the dress from her too? That stinker! Lauren’s fingers tightened into fists while Amber giggled beside her.

Beeps followed the sheath dress and the white overpriced one, moments before they landed into a fancy golden box. The shopkeeper announced a final cost that made her wince.

“Keep the change,” West told the shopkeeper. He’d left a hefty tip. He gathered up the sheath dress, bunching it into a ball on his way out the door.

The bells jingled in his wake.

He left the white gown behind.

Amber’s eyes widened and she spun around to look at Lauren. “Did he just buy you that dress?”

Lauren’s stomach tightened. “I am not… taking that!”

“Oh, yes you are!” Amber snatched up the gold box.

No, no! They were not allies with that man! And she wasn’t accepting anything that looked like a bribe. Lauren marched outside to catch up to West. If he wanted her attention, he just got it.

“West!” she called out. “Come back here!”

THANK YOU FOR READING 🙂 If you liked what you read, KEEP READING HERE: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0BL914G17