“I’m really sorry.”
“Yeah, me too.” Ginger Maxwell’s hand tightened around her phone as another of her clients canceled. They were going to lose their thirty percent deposit, but unless she could book replacements, she was screwed. It was the fifteenth—or was it sixteenth?—cancellation in the last few days, and that left her calendar blank for months.
Sighing heavily, she sat on her living room couch and buried her face in her hands. Think, think, think. Should she run some kind of promotion or sale? The deposits gave her a little leeway. Some couples might be looking for a last-minute wedding photographer. Anything to fill up her schedule.
The doorbell rang and she thought, Finally, my pizza. She pulled the door open and shoved a limp twenty-dollar bill out with one hand, her eyes and mind on the food. Just as she realized that there was no cardboard box, a cool voice said, “I don’t need your money.”
She looked up into the face of Dane Pryce, older brother of her former fiancé Shane. Her brain sputtered for a moment. Was this some kind of nightmare? Finally she managed to say, “What are you doing here? How do you even know my address?” She’d moved a month ago.
“It’s not like you’re in witness protection.” Annoyance put an edge to his tone. “If you hadn’t refused to talk to my assistant, I wouldn’t have had to come.”
She crossed her arms. “We have nothing to say to each other.” Shane’s parents had never cared much for her. His siblings had been nice enough, but ever since his sister had seen Ginger on a date with another man and called her names, she
didn’t think the rest of Shane’s family had much in the way of warm and fuzzy feelings left for her.
Dane’s eyes grew hard. “Trust me. You’re the last person I want to hang out with.” He stepped around her and walked inside. Dressed in a ridiculously overpriced suit, he looked completely out of place in her modest one bedroom apartment.
Notes and memory cards were scattered everywhere on her dining table, and her laptop whirred, processing images. She cringed at the three old pizza boxes under the coffee table and shirts and shorts tossed carelessly over the back of her couch. She really should keep her place cleaner…except she hated cleaning.
“Pack your things and grab your passport,” Dane said, his gaze sweeping over the mess that was her apartment. “There’s a car coming in two hours.”
“For you to go to Thailand. There’s a jet waiting. Once you land, a driver will take you to our family vacation home.”
Her jaw dropped at his high-handedness. “I can’t just fly off to Thailand!”
“Of course you can. I’ll arrange for pizza to be delivered.” Dane gave her a frosty smile. “And you’ll be paid quite well for your time.”
She narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms. “Is somebody getting married in Thailand?”
He ignored her hostility. People were right. Ice water flowed in his veins. “I don’t particularly want you there, but Shane’s doctor recommended we send somebody. The requirement was that it be someone he’d had a positive relationship with for a long time.”
Doctor? She’d told herself she no longer cared about
Shane. He’d betrayed her, treating her like he didn’t even know her when she’d gone to him. But her heart stuttered anyway, panic flooding through her body. “Is he all right?”
“He had a head injury. I sent some men, but he doesn’t want to come home, and none of us are in a position to drop everything and go. That leaves you.”
“I have a job,” she said, although that wasn’t technically true. Every one of the clients she’d booked for the next six months had cancelled…
“Is that a fact?”
She scowled as a thought crossed her mind. “Did you get my clients to cancel?” When he merely looked at her, outrage closed around her neck. “How dare you!”
“You’ll make more money from this than those wedding jobs. People have said a lot of things about me, but stingy isn’t one of them.”
“Just asshole and bastard.”
A corner of Dane’s mouth lifted. “And proud of it.”
She glared at him. “I can just wait you out. I have the money and resources.”
“And I have more of both. You aren’t going to win this one.”
As infuriating as that was, he was right. She wouldn’t win this one at all.
“It’s hot and muggy in Thailand,” he said. “Pack accordingly.”
* * *
The camera shutter clicked as he took another shot of the name on a heavy ivory card in front of him. The late afternoon light was hitting it just right, and the paper took on a warm undertone.