highly anticipated release!
In the middle of the hallway, our guide stops and pulls back the curtains to reveal a spacious area featuring a square wooden table, close to the ground, surrounded by brightly colored cushions. It reminds me of something out of a movie, and even though I can hear the faint murmur of other diners over the gentle background music, the space still feels isolated and private.
"Here you are, Mr. Riley," the man says with a flourish as we enter. "I hope this is to your liking."
"Thank you, Georgios." Max shakes the man's hand, and I hear the faint crinkle of money between their palms. After Georgios bows deeply and exits, Max takes my shoes from me and places them in the corner next to his, then gestures for me to sit on one of the cushions. "Make yourself at home."
I’m grateful the dress Asha chose has a floaty skirt, and I manage to sit cross-legged without flashing my underwear.
"Comfortable?" Max asks, looking down at me as he pulls off his tie and shoves it into his jacket pocket.
He slips off his jacket and places it on his shoes. Then he pops the top button of his shirt, followed by the second button.
I raise an eyebrow. "Did we need to be this secluded so you could perform a full strip tease, or ...?"
He gives me a slow smile. "Not at all, but it's interesting that's where your mind went. Would you like me to strip for you?" He unclips his cuffs and starts to roll up his sleeves.
The truth is, just watching him reveal his delicious forearms is enough to make me feel warm in interesting places. With the amount of alcohol that’s still effervescing in my system, I may lunge at him if he reveals any more flesh.
"I doubt I could afford your stripper services," I say with a shrug as I pour myself some ice water from the carafe on the table. "I'm still not sure if I'm going to get a bill for this interview.”
I sip my water and try not to stare at his arms.
"No money is going to pass between us, Miss Tate," he says. "But even if it did, I assure you, my rates for stripping are very reasonable."
I almost spit out my water, partly because I didn't expect him to admit something like that so freely, and partly because I have a mental image of women throwing cash at him to get a good, hard look at his good, hard body. I saw parts of it yesterday. It would be worth the money.
When he sees my expression, he chuckles as he finishes rolling up his sleeves. "I'm kidding. I never strip for clients. And I'm sorry if removing my jacket got you excited, but I'm simply getting comfortable. Suits aren't my usual thing, and I always feel like an imposter when I wear one."
"But then again," I say, "don't you make your living out of being an imposter?" He flashes me a look, but I hold up my hands in defense. "I'm not being a bitch. That's a legitimate question."
I pull out my phone and start recording again.
Max eyes the device as he walks back to the table. "How much do you know about what I do?"
I'm surprised when he sits adjacent to me instead of on the opposite side, where the pheromones aren’t so deadly. As much as I hate to admit it, having him this close is distracting.
I adjust my position to put a little more space between us. "Very little. I've heard you act out romance novel scenarios. Play different characters and whatnot."
He presses his lips together. "I guess if you break it down into basic terms, that's accurate. In reality, it's a complex and time-consuming process to craft experiences for each lady. It's not as simple as throwing on a dime-store costume and saying lines. A lot of planning and research goes into every encounter."
"Is that why prospective clients have to fill out a questionnaire thicker than some books?"
He nods. "That's a big part of it. Learning about a client's life history, and what she's passionate about, helps me predict her behavior. And sometimes figuring out what it is she's not telling me is most important."
"My clients have definite ideas about what they'd like from me. Sometimes, they're wrong. I have a knack for giving them what they need, even if they're unaware of it."
"So, how does that work? Don't they just tell you they want you to be a sexy cowboy, or biker boy, or whatever?"
"They can, but that doesn't mean that's what they'll get. Their favorite books and movies tell me a lot about what they crave from their escapism."
"Uh huh. So, what did my list say about me?"
He chuckles. "A lot. In fact, it's what tipped me off that you weren't who you said you were. Not a big believer in happy endings, are you, Miss Tate?"
"No, because I'm a grownup, and I know damn well the only real happy endings are those that occur in certain massage parlors."
"I'm not disagreeing, but most of us like to escape the dark reality of our existence through entertainment. But not you. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen so many books that deal with a bleak, dystopian future on one list before. It makes me wonder what you do for fun."
"You don't think I have fun?" He gives a non-committal shrug, which immediately puts me on the defensive. "Oh, I have fun, Mr. Riley. Believe me. You'd be surprised by the amount of fun I have."
"When was the last time you had some?"
I start to say the other night when we were in the bar together, but it will be Turtleneck Tuesday at Hooters before I admit that I enjoyed being with him.
Max Riley is the man of your dreams. Or at least he will be, for a price.
As his alter-ego Mister Romance, Max is a drop-dead gorgeous escort who makes romantic fantasies come to life. No sex, just swoon-worthy dates to die for, and the cream of New York's socialites can't get enough. Whether they want a dominating billionaire, bad boy with a heart of gold, hot geek, sexy biker, or best friend who loves them from afar, Max can make it all happen, but he's careful to keep his real identity a secret.
Enter investigative journalist Eden Tate. Having caught wind of the urban legend of Mister Romance from a lovestruck client, Eden is determined to publish a scathing expose on Max and his ability to swindle lonely society women out of their fortunes.
Desperate to protect his anonymity and his clients, Max challenges Eden to give him three dates. If she doesn't fall in love with him, she can run her story with his blessing. If she succumbs to his charms, the story dies.
Cynical Eden has no doubt she can resist his fake romance personas, but when the real Max admits he’s falling for her, she has to decide if the professional liar is telling the truth, or if the passionate man with the mysterious past is just one more character designed to con her out of her career-making story.
Mister Romance is NOW AVAILABLE for Pre-order!
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Those plays were bad. Very bad. Well, her friends thought they were good, but that's because they were always cast in them and any opportunity to be on stage was met with an obnoxious amount of enthusiasm.
Since then, she's honed her craft, and several of her plays have been produced and toured throughout Australia.
These days, playwriting has given way to fiction writing, and she is now the proud mother of numerous book babies, including BAD ROMEO, BROKEN JULIET, and WICKED HEART. (Macmillan New York)
Leisa lives in Australia with her husband, two little boys, three judgmental cats, and a kangaroo named Howard. (*NB: Howard may or may not be her imaginary marsupial friend. Everyone should have one.*)
Follow Leisa on Amazon HERE