Becca Davis has always played it safe–denying her passion for fashion design in a dead-end job and letting her pragmatic boyfriend (mastermind of the ‘Kevin Bradley Ten-Year Plan”) make the tough decisions in life. Stunned into saying yes when Mr. Predictable springs a surprise proposal on her, Becca realizes that she’s running out of time to turn her life around. She’s only got one more chance to chase her dreams and no one–not her control freak fiance, not her dramaholic sisters, not her overprotective parents–will talk her out of it.
He’s right on time.
Terrified but determined, Becca breaks off her engagement, moves in with her sister in Los Angeles, and prepares to take the fashion world by storm. The reality of the Hollywood scene is much harsher than she anticipated–lots of slamming doors, snooty clients, and double-crossing celebrity stylists–but she won’t give up. And while she’s waiting for her big break, she meets Connor, a sexy risk-taker who’s the polar opposite of her ex-fiance. Is Becca ready for his all-or-nothing approach to love? With her design business taking off and her family starting to fall apart, she’s about to learn the timeliest lesson of all: Love and fashion wait for no woman.
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“We’re buying a house,” Kevin announced.
I choked on my final sip of white wine and signaled the bartender at Park Wines for a refill.
“Becca? Are you all right?” Kevin placed a hand on my shoulder, then turned to the approaching bartender. “She needs a glass of water.”
“I’m okay,” I croaked. “Really. No water needed.” I scanned the list of tonight’s offerings and decided, “I’ll try a glass of the Johannesburg Riesling, please. And keep ‘em coming.”
Kevin frowned. “I don’t think you’ll like the Riesling. It’s too sweet; youprefer drier wines. Why don’t you stick with what you already know you like?” He nodded to the bartender. “She’ll have another glass of the Fumé Blanc. Thanks.”
I smiled sweetly until the bartender was out of earshot, then whirled back to Kevin.
“Darling. I’ve already had the blanc. I want to try something new.”
“But I’m telling you that you won’t like something new,” he explained patiently. “You’ll say it’s too sweet and then you’ll have wasted seven bucks. Just have the blanc again.”
“I don’t want the blanc again. I want to try something new.”
He stared at me for a long moment. “Why are you being like this?”
“Difficult. Contrary. Are you upset about something?”
This was it: the perfect lead-in to tell him how I really felt. I could slip free of the paralyzing dread brought on by this diamond ring. Taking a deep breath, I put down my wineglass. “Yes, actually, I am a bit upset.”
He sat back on his barstool and stacked his hands under his chin with indulgent, almost paternal concern. “What’s going on?”
I glanced down at the ring. “Here’s the thing.”
“I just…sometimes I just feel like I’m not…ready.”
I flung out my arms. “For any of this! A ring, a husband, and now a house?”
He nodded. “You’re surprised about the house.”
“Of course! A house is huge! That’s like a thirty-year financial commitment! And that’s nothing compared to the commitment of getting married—”
He jumped right in to solve my problems and, in so doing, cut me off before I could get to the biggest one of all. “Don’t worry, I’ve got everything figured out. You know I wouldn’t risk our financial future if we weren’t ready. One of the guys in my office is married to a mortgage broker and I’ve already sat down with her.”
The choking started up again. “You already spoke to a mortgage broker? When?”
“A few months ago. I didn’t want to tell you until after I’d given you the ring. I like to do things in the right order. But now that we’re engaged…” He leaned over and gave me a quick kiss. “Surprise, sweetie. I love you.”
“And that’s not all.”
“It’s not? Where the hell is that wine?” I demanded, just a tad louder than I’d intended.
“Your blanc.” The bartender materialized right on cue. I snatched the stemmed glass from him and gulped.
“See?” Kevin seemed pleased. “You like it. I told you to stick with the blanc.”
I fought the urge to start screeching and tearing my hair out. “Just tell me the rest of your news, okay?”
“Okay. I met with this mortgage broker and she pulled my credit rating—which, of course, was excellent—and she said that, given the disparity in our income, we could probably qualify for a home loan with just my salary.”
I flushed. “You know the boutique gig is just temporary. As soon as I can find something better in my field, I’ll be making more, but there’s not much work in fashion design locally so—”
“I know, sweetie, don’t feel bad.” He patted my hand. “Besides, we’re better off budgeting with just my income because once we have kids…” His grin widened.
I chugged the rest of the wine. “Yeah?”
“Well, you’ll be home with them, right?” He shifted in his seat, his grin wilting. “We’ve talked about this. It’s part of the ten-year plan.”
Oh God. Again with the Kevin Bradley Ten-Year Plan, a plan I’d agreed to three years ago when I was fresh out of college and had even less direction in lifethan I did now. Wedding, house, kids, careers—he’d plotted it all out in black and white with absolute confidence. He’d made it sound so simple; we’d never have to struggle. I’d always gone along with the idea of staying home to raise our two children (who would be spaced precisely four years apart, as recommended by the child development textbooks Kevin had consulted) but suddenly, the idea of giving up my miserable job—a retail peon at a third-rate boutique where the owner kept reneging on her promise to start stocking my designs—made me want to impalemyself on my pinking shears.
And he’d saved the best for last. “…So I put a down payment on a plot of land. I want you to come look at it tomorrow.”
My kingdom for a brown paper bag. “You already made a down payment? On a piece of land I’ve never seen?”
“You’re going to love it.” The grin reappeared. “It’s a brand-new development out by Camelback Farms. Great schools, great view, great neighborhood. Our yard is going to back up to a greenbelt, and the floor plan has four bedrooms so we’ll—”
“You already picked out a floor plan?” I gasped.
“Well, I didn’t think you’d be interested in the construction aspect.”
“Yeah, but if I’m gonna live there…”
“Don’t worry—you’ll have free rein to decorate.”
“Oh my God.”
Maybe it was the tone of my voice or the expression on my face, but Kevin finally realized that this surprise was not going over as planned.
“You seem a little shocked.”
“But you know I would never do something like this unless I really believed that it was the best thing for us. I want you to be happy, Becca, you know that, right?”
I nodded again, bile rising in my throat.
“So just trust me.”
“But, when we started this conversation, you said, ‘We’re going to buy a house.’ Which, I mean, I don’t want to be Little Miss Literal, but I didn’t realize that meant you’d already picked out a parcel of land, talked to the builders, and arranged for a down payment.”
He brushed this off. “I know it’s a lot to take in. A wedding, a new house—things are stressful right now. But we can handle it! We’re a great team.”
I closed my eyes and tried to see this whole thing from his perspective: a grand romantic gesture in the same vein as the surprise engagement ring. Except even more expensive and permanent.
“We’re going to have a great life together.” He reached over to rub my lower back. “All I want is to make you happy. Are you happy?”
The left side of my face started twitching uncontrollably.
“We’ll go see the land and the plans this weekend,” he continued, “and if you don’t like it, we’ll find something else. Okay?”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too,” I said.
Then I scurried off to the ladies’ room and threw up.
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