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It was Valentine’s Day, a day that inevitably sucked if you were single, and though Izzy Dalton was definitely single, she thought of it less as the celebration of love and more as a working holiday. But to the guests at the party, she supposed she was just another young woman in a red dress, smiling at her date for the night.
Hoping to get lucky. Maybe even hoping for love. The truth was Izzy didn’t know much about love, but luck was something she could get behind.
Valentine’s Day, she thought impatiently, what a load of bullshit.
“You’re sure he’ll be here?” she hissed into the ear of the handsome man she’d been gazing gooily at all night. If she played it right, nobody at Ombre, the ultra-exclusive lounge Graham had dragged her to, would know that her smiles could have melted ice at a thousand paces, and they’d still never, ever melt him.
“He’s here. I know he’s here. Ombre’s the place for a first date in Seattle, at least according to some.” The fury in the man’s petulant voice grew louder and more noticeable, so Izzy gripped his arm harder and tried to smile brighter.
“Good. Just like we practiced then.”
“Why are you even doing this?” he hissed. “Nobody will touch your story. It’s bad press.”
The words were almost an exact replication of what her best friend Ava Reilly had said mere hours earlier when they’d been on their weekly skype call, and hearing them a second time made Izzy pause.
“It’s Valentine’s Day. You’d better have a hot date, and I mean something other than a carton of Cherry Garcia ice cream,” Ava had said pointedly, smirking because for the last few years, Ben and Jerry had been Izzy’s significant others with very few exceptions.
There was no reason to feel ashamed of this, Izzy had told herself, or to feel a sudden churning deep in her belly at the deception she was planning. It was business; nothing personal.
“Graham’s definitely hot,” she’d answered, but Ava hadn’t known her since college for nothing. Plus, she was an actress trying to make it in LA and therefore had developed a finely tuned bullshit filter.
“There’s something you’re not telling me, Izzy. Who’s Graham?” Ava’s increasingly stern expression wavered on the screen, pixelating with the mediocre wireless connection. Skype were the only way that they’d found to deal with the fact that Ava was currently broke and in LA and Izzy couldn’t ever take time off from being a slave to her job to see her best friend.
“A guy I met at Starbucks.” That much was technically true, but Izzy’s conscience pinged with the lie. The worst part of the entire situation was that it was probably inevitable Ava would figure out the truth, and then she’d know the worst about Izzy—not only about her lack of moral compass, but about what she was going to do to a man who couldn’t even see her coming.
“If this was a real date, and not something you made up to get me off your case, you’d have showed me half a dozen potential outfits and sent me pictures of every pair of shoes you own.”
It was all true. Ava, with her short choppy blond hair, gorgeous green eyes, and long legs, was one of those girls who always looked great. Izzy. . .well, she usually didn’t give a shit. And while she’d learned enough that she could get by well enough on her own, a hot Valentine’s Day date was just the sort of event that would typically send her running to Ava for advice.
“Fine, it’s not really a date,” Izzy sighed, leaning forward to prop her chin on the palm of her hand. “It’s technically work.”
Ava’s frustrated expression said it all.
“I know, I know, I work all the time. But this time, I’m the one who’s taking control of the situation. Graham knows something really important, and he’s going to help me get a huge scoop on a story.”
Frustration morphed into concern. “Izzy, I’m worried. This doesn’t sound like you.”
That was pretty much the problem. This whole thing wasn’t her at all, but she was committed now.