The Cinderella Project

Available in stores

Mills & Boon Modern Extra

April 2006

ISBN: 0263849872

 

Harlequin e-book Special Release as part of the Best of Makeovers bundle

January 2008

ISBN: tbc

Ace architect Max Taylor would happily date Ms Right-Now (though not more than three times). He'd already met Ms Right a while ago - and she'd turned out to be Ms Horribly-Wrong...

Enter Cyn Reynolds, who needed Max's services as her escort at a scarily posh wedding. Max was expecting this allegedly workaholic IT specialist to be a geeky mouse. But instead of having pumpkin possibilities Cyn had princess potential: she was an attractive, down-to-earth kind of girl.

So Max got with the project and played Prince Charming. And when it came to midnight he kissed Cyn-derella, and realised that he really wanted her to stay...

Also released in Australia in paperback (October 2006, ISBN: 0733572901) as one of the launch titles for the Sexy Sensation line.

 


Behind the Book

I've always enjoyed reading the Temptations line; and I used to write rather raunchier books for Headline and Black Lace. When Temptations moved to London, my ed rang me and asked me if I'd write her a Temptation as one of the launch titles for the new line. Would I? Oh, yes!

I'd always wanted to do a class reunion type book. But that's been done to death. So then, I thought: what about a wedding - a wedding the heroine doesn't want to go to because she didn't fit in with the rest of her class? They think she's a failure because she's 25 and 'on the shelf' - even though she has a better job than any of them (and has concentrated on her career rather than her love life). Her best friend, Lisa, decides to play fairy godmother: she gives Cyn a makeover and talks an actor friend into being her a stunning date for the day.

Except there's a change of plan: Cyn's date isn't the actor. He's Lisa's boss. Who never dates, after a disastrous engagement.

What happens when two workaholics discover there's more to life, but try to resist it and stay in their safe workaholic cocoons?

It's dedicated to my husband, who still makes my knees go weak after half a lifetime. (And he went bright red when my author copies arrived, I handed one to him and asked him to check out the first page...)

Ben cooks Cyn a Thai chicken curry - a dish I adore.

I also enjoyed wandering around certain parts of London; Ben's an architect, so I had fun location-spotting. Oh, and I fell in love with his house!

The Book's Soundtrack

This book has a rather eclectic soundtrack - as usual, you'll have to read between the lines in the text to see where it fits in, as references to popular culture are pretty much frowned upon by editors (because they date your book). This was basically what I was listening to while writing key scenes, and they include:

  • Sheryl Crow - particularly Strong Enough and My Favourite Mistake
  • Jimi Hendrix - Voodoo Chile
  • Katie Melua - Blame it on the Moon)
  • Whitesnake - Here I Go Again (original version)
  • Richard Burton reading the love poetry of John Donne (sadly not the poem I quote in the book - though that's probably just as well, vbg)

Read a Bit

CHAPTER ONE

'All right. 'Fess up. Just tell me what you've done.' Max Taylor looked suspiciously at his PA.

'Nothing.'

Lisa looked the picture of innocence. Five foot ten, slender, pretty, with long blonde hair cut in the latest fashionable style. But Max knew his PA was more than just a clothes-horse for the designer gear she favoured. She was an organisational demon who could charm the hardest heart. When she had that kind of smile on her face, it meant she was plotting something.

'You brought me my favourite coffee first thing this morning.'

'I always do.'

'And chocolate biscuits. The really nice kind.'

'Because you deserve a treat, sweet cheeks.'

Fear lurched in his stomach. Was this a goodbye treat? He forced himself to sound light-hearted. 'Please don't tell me you've been offered a his 'n' hers film contract and you're going back to Hollywood with Joe.'

She laughed. 'No. He's got another month to go on this contract, and anyway if I went back to acting I'd rather be in theatre. Treading the boards is way better - you actually see your audience. With film, you just have a crew and the extras and amazingly hot lights and a cold, cold camera lens. And you don't get audience reaction from a camera.'

'You haven't been offered a dream job, one you can't refuse, and you're going to start it tomorrow?'

'I already have a dream job.' She batted her eyelashes at him, then blew him a kiss. 'And a dream boss.'

'OK, now I'm really worried. You normally spend most of the morning insulting me. Today, you've been all sweetness and light.'

'There's nothing to worry about. Hey, I know I'm not going to move you from that desk until you've tweaked those plans, so I brought some you lunch. Smoked salmon bagel. Oh, and some fresh strawberries.'

His favourites. And it was March, so the strawberries were out of season. So she was definitely up to something. 'Are you going to tell me or do I have to threaten to fire you?'

'OK.' She spread her hands, looking all innocence. 'I need a favour.'

He exhaled. Very, very slowly. He'd heard that before, so he knew what it meant. Business as usual. He wasn't about to lose the best PA he'd ever had and go through the headache of finding a replacement, then the inevitable settling-in period while they got used to the way each other worked. 'Don't tell me. There was a pair of shoes yelling your name, your credit card's up to its limit and you need an advance on your salary or some overtime, right now. All right. Whatever. It's fine by me.' He waved a dismissive hand. Problem sorted. Now he could get back to work.

'Actually, no. It's kind of... personal.'

Now she had his attention. She wasn't coming on to him, was she? He liked Lisa - he liked her a lot - but she wasn't his type. And she was already engaged, to an actor. Joe was filming away on location most of the time, so the relationship tended to be long distance, but Max was sure he'd seen her flicking through a stack of bridal magazines recently. . . hadn't he? Besides, he didn't do serious relationships. Not since Gina. Right now, he was focused on his career - on bringing neglected houses back to life and winning awards for his work. Which meant he didn't have time to lavish attention on a serious girlfriend. And if Lisa had split up with Joe, he definitely wasn't going to be her 'transition' relationship. No way was he going to exchange a brilliant working relationship for one night of good sex. For one night of wonderful sex, even. Lisa was in the pigeonhole marked 'colleague' and she was staying there. 'How do you mean, personal?' he asked suspiciously.

'I have this friend. She has to go to the wedding from hell - and she needs a partner to go with her.'

'So how does that involve me?'

'Well, duh.'

He couldn't help laughing at the look on Lisa's face when she realised what she'd said and tried to backtrack fast. 'Oh, no. I was going to play this sweet. I was going to be so nice to you.'

'I knew it couldn't last. You want me to be her date for the day?' He shook his head. 'Sorry, Lise. It sounds like a bad idea.'

'No strings. You never, ever have to see each other again after this one day.'

'It's very sweet of you to try and fix me up, but I'm not looking for Ms Right.' He was perfectly happy with Ms Right Now - someone who knew the rules: that a date was for fun, and having sex didn't mean that he was desperate to put a platinum band on the ring finger of her left hand.

'I'm not fixing you up,' Lisa protested. 'It's... escort duty. A favour to me, as your best-ever PA.'

Max raised an eyebrow. 'You want me to go to a wedding with a girl I don't even know.'

'She's lovely,' Lisa said.

'If she's so lovely,' Max asked, 'how come she doesn't have a date already?'

'Because...' Lisa growled in frustration. 'Look, she's like you. She loves her job more than anything else, so she doesn't date.'

OK, he'd concede the point on the job front. But he dated. Just not the same woman more than three times. 'Hasn't she got any male friends she can ask? Someone she works with?'

Lisa scoffed. 'Hardly. She works in IT. This is a flash wedding, so she needs someone who can wear a suit without looking like a schoolboy who's been forced into it to please his mother. I would've lent her Joe for the day, but you know he's on location. He can't get the time off. And anyway, you look fabulous in a suit.'

The suit he wore to planning meetings and client meetings. On site, he was more likely to wear jeans and a hard hat. Brick dust didn't go well with Italian designer suits. 'Sorry. Count me out.'

'You never know, you might even enjoy it,' she wheedled.

'Yeah, and I might enjoy having all my teeth extracted without any Novocaine. Weddings aren't my thing, Lisa.'

'Then pretend it's not a wedding. Pretend you're schmoozing a client.'

He folded his arms. 'I don't schmooze.' He didn't need to, because he already had the best advertising: word of mouth from satisfied clients whose houses he'd restored. To the point where he had a waiting list.

She lifted her hands in surrender. 'I take it back. Wrong word. I meant charm. All you have to do is smile and be nice. You can do that.'

He sighed. 'Lise, I don't have time for this. I have work to do. Like now.'

'One day, that's all I'm asking.'

'No.'

'It's this Saturday. And I know there's nothing in your diary. Please?' At his silence, she added, 'I'll work overtime. For free. I won't make any personal calls for a whole month.'

Max, who'd been about to point out that she had yet to earn her salary today, let alone overtime, was disarmed into laughing. 'Now that I'd pay to see.'

She brightened. 'Then that's my price. All you have to do is drive my friend to the wedding, stick by her side while you're there, and you'll be home by midnight.'

'You make her sound like Cinderella.'

'I wouldn't ask you if it wasn't important.' Lisa did the thing with her eyes that really annoyed him - it made her look like a cute little puppy-dog nobody could say no to, and even he wasn't completely immune. 'Cyn means a lot to me.'

'Cyn?' He did a double take. 'You mean her name actually is Cinderella?'

'No.' Lisa flapped her hand impatiently at him. 'It's Cynthia.'

Not a particularly modern name. According to Lisa, Cynthia didn't date, and she was a workaholic IT specialist. Max had a nasty feeling he knew the type. Mousy, no make-up and terrible clothes. Clever, but no social skills whatsoever. So Lisa wanted him to spend the whole of Saturday at a wedding where he wouldn't know anyone - as the escort of a woman who'd probably say no more than half a dozen words to him and really wanted to be back hiding behind her computer screen? He could think of a quite a few things he'd much rather be doing. 'I'm sorry. You'll have to find someone else. I know Joe's away, but you know loads of people in showbiz. People who would be far more suitable than I would at playing Trophy Boyfriend for the day.'

'Think about it, Max. Please.'

Then again, his PA could nag for two continents, and he didn't have time for this right now. 'OK, I'll think about it,' Max said, just to shut her up. Except when she asked him again at the end of the day - as he just knew she would - the answer would still be no.

From the book The Cinderella Project by Kate Hardy.

Harlequin Mills & Boon Modern Extra
Publication Date: April 2006
ISBN: 0263849872
Copyright © 2003 by Pamela Brooks
® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher.
The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
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