Thursday, February 12, 2015

Release Day Blitz: To the Max by Elle Aycart

Happy Release to Elle Aycart!  
To The Max is NOW LIVE! 

Forensic accountant Annie Griffin has always suspected she's a bit jinxed, so when 
she finds herself 35, single, temporarily homeless, and pregnant on a technicality by a gigolo, her fears are confirmed.

Adrenaline junkie and professional stuntman Max Bowen needs a house-sitter to
 watch after his pets while he's out of town. Annie needs a place to stay. Standard 
quid pro quo. No biggie. She can handle that, whatever hellhounds he owns. Until 
Max, the most sought-after bachelor in the county, comes back ahead of schedule and 
suddenly she's roommates with a 27-year old sex God who turns out to be so much more than what she expected.

Max might have had the attention span of a humming bird on crack when it comes to 
women, but that was before Annie. Her quirkiness and sweet contradictions soon 
captivate him, not that she's inclined to give him the time of the day. With his 
reputation preceding him, he knows the odds are badly stacked against him, but he 
will do his best to prove her that he's what she needs, stuck-up socialite 
grandmothers, doomsday preppers, groupies, pregnancy hormones, and repentant
 biological dads be damned.


Chapter One

“You know, if the idea behind a midnight wedding was to discourage people from 
attending, I think we can fairly say it hasn’t worked,” Annie Griffin heard from 
behind her.
Shit, busted.

She whirled around so fast, she not only got a dizzy spell but almost fell from the 
hammock she was sitting on. Thank God someone with a very strong grip reached 
out and steadied her.
“Wow, careful there.”
As she regained her balance, Annie lifted her gaze to find Max Bowen, the groom’s 
younger brother, smirking at her. She brought her hand to her thumping heart. “Jeez, 
\you scared me, Max.”
“Sorry,” he said, his light eyes sparkling with amusement. “What are you doing 
They were in the unlit part of the backyard, as far away from the wedding reception 
as possible without actually leaving the Bowens’ property.
“I’m in hiding. Go away.” She shooed him, peeking around to make sure no one had 
followed him. “You always have a string of girls attached to your hip. Soon they’re 
all going to be gathered here giggling, drawing attention, and I don’t want to be 
Her duties as bridesmaid were done. Tate and James were already on their way to 
their honeymoon; she could disappear in good conscience.
“Hey,” he complained, sounding offended. “I may need to go into hiding for a while 
She gave him a disbelieving look. “You? Why?”

Max loosened his tie and, unfastening the first button of his shirt, sat beside her on 
the hammock. “Why? Because my ass has been pinched so many times tonight, I 
swear I can barely feel it anymore.”
Annie stifled a giggle. “Your ass is sore?”

“Like you wouldn’t believe,” he said, breathing out slowly and running his hand 
through his shoulder-length hair.
She locked eyes with him, realizing too late he was smiling less than three inches 
away from her face. The sight of him all but knocked the wind out of her. Max in 
faded old jeans and a tee was breathtaking. In a tuxedo? A total heart-stopper.

She wasn’t too fond of blond men, but Max was in a league all his own. With model-
\perfect masculine features, wicked blue-green eyes, and his usual weeklong golden 
stubble, Max was sexy as hell. Add to his Hollywood looks his laid-back disposition,
 kick-ass body, and roguish smile, and, well, it was almost impossible not to drool in 
his presence. A fact the charming devil knew very well and played to his full 
Annie wasn’t sure how, but she managed to break eye contact. “I think the senior 
contingent from Eternal Sun Resort might be the ones primarily responsible for your 
ass condition.” She got it that both Mr. Bowen and Tate’s mom lived down there—
were neighbors, in fact—but they should never have told the other residents about the
 wedding. The Bowen brothers were popular enough in the greater Boston area. No 
need to bring reinforcements from the South.
“Probably.” Max pondered for a second and then grinned at her. “I should just count 
my lucky stars those ladies are on the short side and can’t reach my nipples, huh?”

Annie burst into laughter. God, Max was such a clown. Although on that one he 
might be right. “I hear they chartered a bus and made regular stops along the way 
from Florida to Boston to pick up their granddaughters and nieces.”
And who could blame them? It was not every day that one of the Bowen brothers tied 
the knot. The standard guest plus one had transformed into guest plus ten. Not to 
mention the groom’s wedding party, which alone was a sight to behold. All those 
hunks in tailored tuxedos, standing tall and proud and yummy. Talk about eye candy. 
She must have gotten a couple of extra cavities tonight just from staring.
Max smiled. “That would explain it. This is the first wedding I’ve attended where 
there are more people crashing the damn event than actual guests. James should’ve 
hired his own security company to guard the place.”

He should have, but judging by the way he’d looked, he’d been so over the moon 
lately that he probably hadn’t thought about anything besides putting his ring on 
Tate’s finger.
Max seemed to be able to read her mind. “Yeah, I know my brother is in married-man 
bliss, but there is Cole and me to think about. Well, okay, just me now that Cole is 
engaged,” he conceded with a rueful grin. “But seriously, with how fiercely 
protective Cole is of Christy, and the mean right hook she’s developed, I’d say some
 guests would have thanked him for the extra protection too.”

“Please. Christy is a pussycat.” Nevertheless, Annie sure relished the yellowish
 remnants of the black eye Rose was still sporting, which, by the way, she’d totally 
deserved. A real pity no one had gotten that on video. “And you, mister, don’t need 
protection from women.”
If anything, it was the other way around. He was the ultimate ladies’ man. He’d never 
hurt for female attention before, but now with James married and Cole engaged, Max 
was getting so much action he was gorging on it.

His cheeky grin lit his face. “True, under normal circumstances, but that back there is 
a bit overwhelming, even for me.”
Annie was about to answer, when suddenly Max moved, making the hammock rock 
like crazy. “What are you doing?” she squeaked, gripping the net hard.

“Lying down. I need to give my poor, abused ass a respite. Come on,” he said, patting
 the spot near him. “Lie down with me. I don’t bite.”
Oh, she wouldn’t bet on that.
She warily eyed the net. Forget the spiky high heels she was wearing and the 
skintight bridesmaid’s dress, which was the shit but didn’t allow for much movement. 
She’d spent three hours in the beauty salon getting her unruly mop of hair pinned up 
and adorned with dozens of tiny white flowers. “If my hairdo gets tangled in that, I 
won’t be able to yank it free without looking like the modern version of Medusa.”
“Here.” He stretched out his arm and offered it as a pillow.
Annie doubted this was a good idea, but she was so tired. “I’m not that great with 
hammocks. I may roll us both over.”
“I’m a professional stuntman. I think I can handle a hammock.”
Well, he had a point there. She’d seen him on the big screen doing the craziest things. 
Not to mention his fondness for extreme sports.
“I’ll keep us steady,” he insisted. “Come on. You’re messing with the center of 
gravity by sitting there.”
She hesitated for just a second, then shrugged. “Fine. But I’m not too coordinated. 
Don’t come crying to me when we find ourselves on the grass, Mr. Hotshot 
Stuntman.” She slowly moved to lie beside him.
It was a two-person hammock, but he was so big and his shoulders were so damn 
broad, he took more than his fair share of space. She rested her head on his arm and 
tried to keep her body at a distance from his, but he was much heavier and her whole
 left side ended up glued to his right.
“Comfy?” he asked.
Actually, yes, but that was beside the point.
She tried separating herself from him, but gravity and his massive body worked 
against her. The more she moved away, the more the net bounced her right back 
against Max.
“Not that I’m complaining, but you’re rubbing against me. Anything you want to tell 
me, Miss Griffin?” he asked, his words laced with laughter.

This was the closest she’d ever been to Max. She could feel every flex of his 
muscles, his warm breath tickling her face. In spite of herself, his low, deep rumble 
and hard body had all her girlie parts tingling, which was so inappropriate on so 
many levels, she refused to even think about it.
She cleared her throat, trying to sound outraged. “Of course not. Besides, you’re way 
too young for me.” Eight years younger. Not to mention that at thirty-five, Annie was 
a good decade older than the women Max usually dated.
“Sure, you’re ancient. Now stop squirming, Ace. You’ll break your femur, and at 
your age any fracture could be fatal.”
She saw the smirk on his face and went to elbow him, but there was not enough space 
between them to get a good jab in.
“Watch it. You could easily dislocate a shoulder. I hear all you have to do is sneeze, 
and there goes the hip.”
“Oh please. Just shut up,” she said, unable to contain her laughter.
Annie hadn’t had much contact with Max before. But since Tate and Holly had 
started to hang out together, and Christy and Cole had become an item, the Bowen 
brothers and their crew had ceased to be a bunch of gorgeous guys she admired from
 afar and had become permanent fixtures in her life. It was hard to get used to such an 
overabundance of panty creamers, but she was coping. With the occasional panic 
attack, but she was coping.
Chuckling himself, he pinned her by his side and turned his gaze to the sky. “Settle 
down and look up, Ace.”
Bossy guy, she thought, but she found herself obliging him. “Wow,” she whispered as she took in the view.
“Everything looks better from a hammock, doesn’t it?”
It sure did. “I’m going to take one to the Friday-night outdoor movie instead of 
sitting on those wooden chairs. The Arnie marathon they’re running won’t be better, 
but at least the hammock will improve my viewing experience.”
“I hear they’re preparing a Mel Gibson marathon for next year.”
“That’s marginally better.”
His low voice rumbled in the night. “How do you figure that?”
“More rom-coms, less commando crap. Plus, I could stand to see his milky-white ass 
again in Braveheart.”
She felt him turn to her and shake his head.
Max lowered a foot to the ground and kicked, gently rocking the hammock. They lay
 there in silence for a long while, enjoying the view. She should have been more 
freaked about being there with Max Bowen, but the truth of the matter was she didn’t
 have the energy to get herself worked up.
It had been a very hectic day. The wedding had been beautiful, and everything had 
gone according to plan—more or less—but it had been taxing. For a while she’d felt 
dizzy and out of breath from the excitement and the place being packed. And then 
there had been the cake. Annie loved cake, even risqué ones, but she must have eaten
 the poisoned piece intended for Tate—or Christy—because, boy, the little sucker had 
repeated on her. Now though, away from the crowd, her gaze on the black sky, gently 
rocking, she felt totally relaxed and at ease.
“The wedding was beautiful,” she said.
“Aunt Maggie and Tate’s mom really thought of everything.”
“Except for the electrified fence around the yard.”
Max chuckled. “Yes, except for that. I could have done without the impromptu conga 
line during the reception too.”
“Come on, Max, you rocked the conga line.”
It had been one of the highlights of the night, second only to seeing Tate all but run 
down the aisle and kiss the living daylights out of James before the priest had gotten 
a word in, that amazing green dragon tattoo swirling on the small of her totally 
exposed back. Ah, and the dance of the best man and the maid of honor. There had 
been so much tension rolling off Jack and Elle, it was palpable.
“Did you see Elle’s face when the bouquet hit her on the head?” Annie asked.
Max nodded. “Epic. I hope the photographer got it. That picture is so going to the 
wall of fame in Rosita’s.”
Elle hadn’t looked happy the bouquet had defied physics, changed trajectory in 
midair, and landed on her head while she’d been standing beside her date—Kai, a 
gorgeous Japanese American full of tattoos. Jack hadn’t looked much happier either. 
It wasn’t clear if his displeasure had to do with Kai or the bouquet. Both, probably.
 Not that Jack himself could talk, considering the exuberant blonde he’d had perched 
on his arm.
“So, why are you in hiding?” Max asked, turning his captivating gaze on her and 
disrupting all her thoughts. God, the guy was stunning. And this close, there was all 
the olfactory and tactile data to deal with. Even in his relaxed position, Max oozed 
masculinity and testosterone. His smell, a mixture of aftershave, clean sweat, and a 
hint of tobacco from the cigar James had given him, was so male it gave her goose
 bumps. She couldn’t explain it, but to her, Max smelled like summer and sunshine. 
Even now, in the middle of the night.
She sighed and turned her face up to the sky. “I’ve been in the dating arena long 
enough to know that when your date starts talking about himself in the third person, 
it’s time to hide.”
The hammock shook with his muffled laughter. His hard body too.
“Not to mention the more he drinks, the more arms he grows. And the more his eyes
 bulge every time he sees a pair of boobs. It’s bad enough that he’s spent the last two 
hours talking to my nipples, but ogling other women’s goodies on top of that? 
Steven was a coworker from her office. She’d gone out with him once this past 
month. The first date hadn’t turned out too horribly, so she’d given it a second try.
 Bad, bad idea.
He tsked. “Moron. Doesn’t he know your goodies are the best?”
She felt her face flame. Then she realized what he was probably referring to. “You’re 
talking about the candy basket from the fund-raiser, right?” A couple of weeks ago, 
for the annual town fund-raising dinner, her candy shop had donated a basket of 
gourmet candy, which Max had bid on and won.
“Those goodies too.”
God, he was such a shameless flirt. Gorgeous, charming, easygoing. Pity when it 
came to women, he had the attention span of a hummingbird on crack. Which was 
irrelevant, really. Not only was he totally out of her league, but there was the age 
difference to contend with. Eight years might not seem like much, but in mind-sets,
 they were light years apart. Annie was ready to settle and marry, and Max was… 
Well, Max was most definitely not. He wasn’t playing the field; he owned the 
damned field.
“Behave,” she admonished him.
“I am, Ace. I am,” he said with a chuckle. “I’ve been meaning to tell you those 
chocolate things were fantastic.”
“You liked them?”
He nodded. “Don’t misunderstand me; traditional candy is great, but this new shit 
you’re bringing…mouthwatering.”
Annie smiled, pleased as all hell. She’d inherited the little candy shop in Alden five 
years ago, when her mom remarried and moved to Ohio. Annie already had an office
 job in Boston, but she hadn’t wanted to close the place down. So she’d hired a girl to
 run it during the week, and Annie took care of Saturdays and the odd afternoons 
when the girl couldn’t.
The shop had barely been turning a profit. With the extra salary to foot, Annie had 
decided to upgrade the whole concept. Along with jelly beans and candy canes, she 
went for a more sophisticated line, sporting gourmet chocolates and truffles from 
Brussels, strawberries with champagne and white-chocolate frosting, and all sorts of 
products for special occasions.
“Remember to come ready to tweet.”
He winked at her. “Don’t worry. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, the whole shebang.”
“You have all of those?”
“Actually, no, but I’ll sign up. How did you think of the whole concept?”
“Honestly? I didn’t. Christy did.”
One day, brainstorming while chatting with Christy about how to reach more 
customers, her friend had come up with the idea of using Twitter. The shop Sweets
 had become Sweets and Tweets, and clients got a discount if they tweeted on the 
spot about the goodies they were buying. Word got out about the new products, and 
in no time they had people coming from Boston to get their sugar fixes or to buy 
treats for special dates. This past Valentine’s Day had been crazy. The line had gone 
all the way to the street and around the corner.
Max smiled. “My future sister-in-law is a charming geek.”
“That she is.”
Annie and Christy had met in college and had kept in contact ever since. A bit over 
six months ago, Christy had taken a sabbatical from her job as a software engineer 
and moved temporarily from LA to Alden to get away from her ex-fiancé. Now she 
was engaged to Cole Bowen and ran Alden’s library. Funny how things changed.
They swung in comfortable silence for a while longer.
“So, I have to ask,” he said after a long pause. “How often do you end up in hiding 
during your dates?”
She snorted. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. I’d be hiding in the bathroom 
right now if I could be sure that the Women Only sign would stop that self-absorbed 
pompous ass from entering.”
Annie was an active dater—an optimist. Yeah, the world was full of frogs, but there 
were princes out there. She just had to persevere until she found hers; it was a matter 
of probabilities, pure and simple. Easier said than done. A romantic at heart, she’d 
always kept faith that everyone got a happily ever after, but with the luck she’d had 
lately and all the frogs she’d had to deal with, she’d begun to suspect “everyone” just 
didn’t include her.
Max barked out a laugh. “Self-absorbed pompous ass?”
Annie nodded. “Aka Steven.”
“You’re dating the wrong guys.”
Didn’t she know it.
Not that Max would understand her predicament. The guy went through women like 
most men went through potato chips, a handful at a time. He charmed girls out of 
their panties as if it were an Olympic sport. Nevertheless, Annie hadn’t heard a single 
complaint from the female population. Far from it.
“What about the stud gala? Did you end up in hiding there too?”
Annie stilled. “How did you know about the gala?”
“You kidding me? I heard Cole grumbling about you guys buying the gala invitation 
for Christy. Then I had to listen Tate complain about not getting one. And then James 
growling and threatening Elle with bodily harm if she dared to buy one for Tate.”
She cleared her throat. “That wasn’t a date. But, no, I didn’t end up in hiding then.”
No, sir, not at all.
“Guys, what are you doing there?” a woman asked.
Annie turned her head to see Christy and Cole approaching.
“His ass was hurting and he needed to lie down,” Annie blurted, tensing. Under 
somebody else’s scrutiny, lying there with Max felt suddenly awkward.
Christy looked confused. “What?”
“Never mind,” Annie mumbled, clumsily hauling herself up and out of the hammock.
 Max followed her much more gracefully, holding her when her wobbly legs and the 
rocking made falling on her face a very distinct possibility.
“How’s it going?” Max asked his brother. “Is the party winding down already?”
Cole looked toward the reception and grimaced. “Nope,” he muttered. Then he turned 
to Christy. “We’re eloping.”
She smiled widely. “Sure, let’s elope to Vegas.”
Cole’s expression tightened. “I’m not getting hitched by Elvis,” he warned, wrapping 
his arm around her shoulders and bringing her front to his side.
“Who said anything about Elvis? I was thinking more along the lines of Captain Kirk.”
“So not happening.”
Christy, bless her heart, ignored him and smiled even wider. “Or Spock. We could 
book the Star Trek package, marry with a Vulcan and a Klingon as witnesses. And 
wire the chapel so that our friends could follow the wedding through the Internet. 
Wouldn’t that be a blast?”
He kissed her hard, then whispered against her lips, “I love you, baby, but no fucking 
way.” If his expression was anything to go by, it was a good thing Cole loved Christy 
to pieces, because he sure as hell wasn’t a man to be led by his dick, much less into a
Star Trek wedding.
“Elope all you want, but I’m organizing your bachelor party. Imagine all I could do 
with Vegas as the backdrop,” Max said, to which Cole grimaced even more strongly.
“Here you are,” Annie heard someone say.
Shit. Steven, aka Pompous Ass. Her stomach roiled and realization dawned. Oh God,
 the spell of sickness she’d experienced during the reception? Apparently it had 
nothing to do with the crowded yard or the cake. She’d reached a milestone—her 
dates were physically making her sick. Way to go.
Max came closer and whispered, “Is this the guy?”
She nodded and turned to Steven, who was obnoxiously grinning.
“Ready to dance with the king of the night, darling?”
He was now close enough that his sugary smell reached her. Nausea rose in her belly. 
Trying not to cringe, she took a step forward, frantic for an excuse.
Suddenly, someone tugged her hand from behind. “Sorry, man,” Max apologized. 
“The prettiest girl in this wedding owes me a couple of dances, and I’m ready to 
Max twirled her and wound her in, winking. “Let’s give him a show,” he whispered.
 Before she could react, Max wrapped one hand around her neck, the other around
 her waist. Exaggeratedly bending her backward, he placed his lips over hers.
She hadn’t regained her breath or her bearings when he pulled her up for another 
Oh God, too much movement.
“I’m not feeling good,” she managed to get out. Then she leaned over and threw up
 all over Max’s shoes.
* * * *
“Okay, spit it out, Annie,” Holly prompted, tapping at the table. “I’m the dispatcher 
for the sheriff’s department. Whatever it is, I’m sure I’ve heard worse. Although, if 
memory serves, Ben switching teams on you was a DEFCON3 emergency. I truly 
have no clue what possible planetary disaster DEFCON1 could refer to.”

Annie glanced around, making sure they were alone in the terrace. Then, trying not to 
hyperventilate, Annie uttered those two tiny words, the ones that had her freaked out 
of her ever-loving mind.
Holly, Christy, and Sophie gaped at her, totally shocked. Thank God they’d been 
sitting; otherwise her friends’ behinds would have had very close encounters with the 
“Definitely DEFCON1,” Christy mumbled and Sophie assented.
“Pregnant? What do you mean pregnant?” Holly asked, sounding stupefied.
“Pregnant,” Annie choked out. “As in knocked up.”
“How? When? Who?” Then, before Annie could answer, not that she was too eager 
to answer anyway, Holly continued, “Please don’t tell me it’s Steven’s.”

At least there was that: a positive side of this whole mess she hadn’t thought of. 
“Eww. You nuts? I didn’t have sex with Steven.”
Her friends let out a collective sigh of relief. “Thank God,” Holly muttered.

Annie had been about to chide them for even thinking she’d had sex with Steven after 
just two dates, but she saw the irony in her predicament and decided to bite her 
“If it isn’t his, then…?” Christy asked, motioning with her hand for Annie to go on.
Annie cleared her throat. “Remember the gala a while back?” she said 
with a grimace. “The nice Italian escort I met there? Luigi?”
Complete silence.
Annie had attended the yearly gala in Christy’s place. The most prestigious escort 
agency in Boston had hosted it a month ago at the Ritz Carlton downtown. The girls 
had managed to buy an invitation for Christy’s birthday, after her vow to get 
professionally laid, but once Cole had heard about it, he’d put a damper to the whole 
plan. So they had drawn straws, and surprise, surprise, Annie had won.
“You’re shitting us,” Sophie said.
Annie shook her head. No, she wasn’t shitting them. She wished she were, but she 
It had been a great night. Magical, with all the candlelight, the unending flow of 
expensive champagne, and the great company. That it was a masquerade ball had also 
added an extra layer of magic and privacy that had been exhilarating.
Apparently’s escorts were highly sought after. They traveled all over 
the country accompanying clients, some of them very powerful people, to high-
profile events. They were not only gorgeous; they were extremely well educated and 
charming. One of the escorts she’d met that night was a dark-haired, handsome man 
by the name of Luigi. One thing led to another, and she most definitely had not ended 
up hiding in the bathroom.
Holly cursed. “What about the whole stash of condoms I put in your purse? Didn’t 
you think of using them?”

“I used condoms; I swear I did.”
“How exactly did you use them, sweetheart?”
“What do you mean, how did I use them? How does anyone use condoms? Are there 
so many different ways of using them?” Annie asked, out of breath, her tone of voice 
rising. She was freaking out. Big-time. But all in all, she thought she was entitled to. 
“I certainly didn’t put them on my head as new-age hats.”
“Did it break?”
She shook her head. If it had, she would have gotten the morning-after pill, and she 
wouldn’t currently be about to pass out.
“Are you sure it’s not a false alarm?” Sophie asked, trying to calm her down.

“No false alarm. Five peed-on sticks and two blood tests confirm it. I’m pregnant up 
to my eyeballs,” Annie said as she, very ineffectively, fanned herself with a napkin.
 Damn hot flashes. Before she found out about the pregnancy, she’d been having so 
many of them, she’d even considered going to the doctor to make sure she hadn’t 
entered some sort of freaky early menopause. Wouldn’t that have been a laugh.
“How did this happen?” Holly asked.
Sophie waved at her. “The usual way?”
“Not helping, sweetie.” Holly chastised Sophie with a look and then turned to Annie. 
“If you used condoms, how did you get pregnant?”

And here was where it got embarrassing. “It seems there’s an infinitesimal chance of 
getting knocked up if you start rolling the condom on, realize it’s inside out, and then
 turn it the right way. Drops of precum get onto the outside of the condom, and voilà, 
if the semen is of quality and has great mobility, you’re in deep shit.” Annie looked at 
them, fidgeting. “I was a bit nervous, and there wasn’t too much light…”
She should have left the logistical details to the pro.
All the head shaking she’d done when women in her office got pregnant out of 
carelessness, and look at her: knocked up on a technicality.
Sophie whistled. “Wow, some super-duper power sperm those studs have, huh?”
“Tell me about it,” Annie muttered.
“Could it be someone else’s?” Christy asked.
“It’s either Luigi’s or an immaculate conception.”
The good thing about getting laid so seldom was that she could pinpoint the 
conception date with 100 percent accuracy, which meant that if her baby was as anal
 as she was, he or she should be born in the early hours of March thirty-first.
Holly looked at her, worried. “I hate to say this, honey, and I know these guys are the 
best of the best, but did you get checked for diseases?”
“Yeah, no STDs.” That was what she’d done first once she’d found out about her 
pregnancy. And hadn’t that been fun, explaining to Alden’s only doctor, the same one 
who had treated her all her life, why she needed testing for STDs right after he told 
her she was pregnant. “All I got from the superstud is a baby.”
“At least you had a valid excuse for throwing up on Max the other night,” Christy 
Annie cringed at the memory. Talk about making an ass out of herself. The most 
sought-after bachelor in the whole state was being sweet and offering her a way out 
so she wouldn’t have to dance with Steven, and what had she done in exchange? 
She’d puked her brains out all over his shoes, messing his pants too. Well, on the flip 
side, the second she’d started throwing up, her oh-so-attentive date had all but run in 
the opposite direction.
Max, on the other hand, had been very nice and understanding. He’d even joked that 
if he’d been saddled with a date like Steven, he would’ve been puking too.
“Does Luigi know about any of this?”
“Nope. And I never got a last name, so I don’t know how to contact him.” Or even if she wanted to.
Annie had been dazzled by Luigi, who had been so not what she’d expected. He 
wasn’t a young, buff stud with more muscles than brains. No, he was in his mid-to-
late thirties, sophisticated, elegant, and a great conversationalist. She wasn’t a 
knockout, but she was pretty enough. And so far her body was holding its own
 against gravity and time, if one could ignore the expansionist tendencies of her ass. 
Still, Luigi favoring her company had kind of blown her mind. Between that, the 
alcohol, and the privacy the masks offered, she’d just let go. In the morning, though,
 she’d panicked and, much to her shame, run out on the guy before he even woke up. 
How the hell was she supposed to face the proverbial morning after when she had 
slept with a professional escort in his spare time? At least she thought it had been in 
his spare time. She didn’t even dare consider he’d been working and she’d stiffed 
him of his fee. That was just too much.
“It seems Italian escorts are in fashion. has eight Luigis on staff. I’m 
going to have to ask them for pictures.”
If the conversation at the doctor’s had been fun, she shuddered to think about the one
 with the stud-agency receptionist.
She might never find Luigi again, and she couldn’t say she felt particularly sorry 
about it. After all, she didn’t know the guy. But a man had the right to know he was a
 father. And although she didn’t need a husband, the thought of raising a kid all by 
herself sucker punched her. Money was not an issue; she had a good job, the shop 
was doing well, and she still had the untouched trust fund her paternal grandparents 
\had created for her. They hadn’t trusted her flighty father, and thank God for that, 
because the man was already on his fifth bimbo wife, who was bleeding him dry like 
three of her predecessors.
So financially she was more than covered, but there were other things to consider. 
Some mornings it took her forever to decide whether she wanted to have cornflakes 
or honey puffs—how the hell was she going to choose a school for the kid? He or she 
would be old enough for junior high by the time Annie had made up her mind.
“You know, I somehow envisioned embracing motherhood differently. Not at thirty-
five, without a partner, and knocked up by a gigolo who might or might not be named 
After all, maybe Luigi was just his stage name.
“It beats the hell out of a sperm bank, which is what I can see in my future,” Holly 
They were silent for a while. Then Annie sighed. “I’m so screwed, guys. I’m a 
forensic accountant. What do I know about kids?”
“You own a candy store. I’d say you’re already ahead,” Christy offered.
Well, there was that.
“I should have never gotten up on that flower pot after you,” Annie said to Christy.
 “You got the good stuff. I got…backlash.” Annie covered her face with her hands.
 “This is so unfair. You and Cole are the ones humping like rabbits all the time. Me? 
It was just once. One little screw. Why me? The universe hates me.”
She should have suspected there was some mega cosmic catch to it when she’d won 
that gala invitation. She never won anything. Ever. On the contrary. She was that 
Holly interrupted her mental rant. “Wait a second. What do you mean, only once? 
Wasn’t he, you know, up for a rematch?”
“It was good, don’t misunderstand me, but let’s just put it this way: when an
 overpriced European escort isn’t working, he starts snoring after the deed.”
“Are you sure he was a member of and not some nutcase 
impersonating a stud, like in True Lies?” Sophie asked.
Oh crap, she hadn’t thought of that possibility. Annie panicked for a second, then 
shook her head. “No, can’t be. He knew everyone there.”
True Lies?” Holly repeated.
“You know, the waiter in that Arnie movie, the one who got chicks by impersonating 
a spy,” Sophie explained.
Christy frowned. “A waiter? Wasn’t he a car salesman? I—”
“People, people. Concentrate,” Holly interrupted, out of patience. “I told you to quit 
with the outdoor movies.” She turned to Annie. “Are you going to keep it?”

Annie looked at her friends. “Forget the fact I’m thirty-five and my clock is ticking. 
What are the chances of getting pregnant like this? One in a frigging billion. This 
baby hasn’t been born yet, and it’s already a damn superhero. Of course I’m keeping 

About the Author

After a colorful array of jobs all over Europe ranging from translator to chocolatier to travel agent to sushi chef to  flight dispatcher, Elle Aycart is certain of one thing and one thing only: aside from writing romances, she has abso-frigging-lutely no clue what she wants to do  when she grows up. Not that it stops her from trying all sorts of crazy stuff.

While she is probably now thinking of a new profession, her head never stops churning new plots for her romances. She lives currently in Barcelona, Spain, with her husband and two daughters, although who knows, in no time she could be living at the Arctic Circle in Finland, breeding reindeer.

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