KISS & MAKEUP
Harlequin Blaze
Do Not Disturb Mini Series
ISBN 0373792018
August 2005

Bartender Shandi Fossey is mixing cool cocktails temporarily at Hush — the hottest hotel in Manhattan. The place practically oozes sex...has sexual fantasy written all over it. For Shandi, it’s a stopover on her way to finding her dreams. And a very long way from pulling beers at the Thirsty Rattler in tiny Round-Up, Oklahoma. So what’s a girl to do when sexy Quentin Marks comes by every night offering to buy her a drink?

To music producer Quentin, Shandi is one part sweetness and two parts sass with a dash of the unexpected thrown in. He wants to taste every inch of her...bury himself in her soft skin. He can open a lot of doors for Shandi, yet the only door he wants to lead her through is right upstairs…at Hush.

But will everything change the morning after...?

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BOOKLIST

The Comfort of Favorite Things - Bliss and the Art of Forever - The Sweetness of Honey - Beneath the Patchwork Moon - Boots Under Her Bed - A Blue Christmas/Jingle Bell Rock(Digital Edition) - Unforgettable - The Second Chance Café - Unbreakable - Undeniable - Holiday Kisses/This Time Next Year - Twenty-One Hours/SEAL of My Dreams - At His Mercy - Playing Love's Odds (Digital Edition) - Love Me Tender (Digital Edition) - Love In Bloom - (Digital Edition) - The Icing On The Cake - With Extreme Pleasure - One Good Man - No Limits - A Long, Hard Ride - Maximum Exposure - Kiss & Tell - Deep Trouble - In Danger - At Risk - Tex Appeal - The Perfect Stranger - Beyond A Shadow - Infatuation - The Complete Idiot's Guide To Writing Erotic Romance - Deep Breath - Goes Down Easy - Red Letter Nights - Totally Charmed - Kiss & Makeup - Undressed - Larger Than Life - Sara Smiles/Beach Blanket Bad Boys - The McKenzie Artifact - The Beach Alibi - The Samms Agenda - The Shaughnessey Accord - The Bane Affair - Mother, Please! - Indiscreet - Wicked Games - A Blue Christmas/Jingle Bell Rock - Striptease - The Sweetest Taboo - Bound To Happen - No Strings Attached - Roped Into Romance - All Tied Up - Love In Bloom - Four Men & A Lady - Love Me Tender - The Badge And The Baby - The Grinch Makes Good - The Heartbreak Kid - Call Me - Playing Love's Odds

To Shandi Fossey, the sky was the limit. And if there was one thing she missed about Round-Up, Oklahoma, that was it. The sky. Pinpoints of white light twinkling in an inky black bowl. Cotton-ball clouds scooped high on a pale blue plate. Butter spreading at dawn. Orange Julius at sunset.

The sky above Manhattan was about wedges cut between buildings, streetlights reflected in windowpanes and flashing neon colors — or so it seemed, sitting as she was, cross-legged and lights-off in front of the floor-toceiling windows of her sixth-floor West Village apartment at three-thirty in the morning.

But that was okay. The wedges thing. Really. Because there were lights a whole lot brighter and much more meaningful here in the Big Apple than found anywhere in the sky over Oklahoma.

And that was why she was here, wasn't it? For the lights on Broadway as well as those off. The theaters and cabarets, sets and stages and clubs. All of those myriad places offering canvases for her work.

Eyelids and lashes and lips. Brows and cheekbones.

The slope of a nose. The line of a jaw. These were the landscapes she transformed, shaping and coloring and creating, turning the ordinary into the fantastic with her brushes and sponges, her pots and tubes and jars of colors and creams.

She leaned her upper body to the left, stretching dozens of muscles as she draped her right arm as far as she could over her head and down toward the floor. Her shift as bartender at Erotique in the hotel Hush meant long hours on her feet at least five nights a week, many times six.

Afterward, unwinding beneath her own personal wedge of what sky she could see had become her routine. She enjoyed the silence, the dark, the sense of so much life teeming around her — even though what life she could see from here was so very, very still.

She imagined patrons talking long into the night, discussing and arguing over the shows they'd seen. She pictured the ushers, hostesses and attendants waiting for the venues to empty so they could kick off their shoes, along with their frozen smiles.

She thought of the actors easing out of their roles much as she eased from hers when she sat here each night, leaving behind the Shandi who mixed martinis and margaritas for Erotique's sophisticated clientele and slipping — reluctantly? regretfully? naturally? — back into the role she'd lived so long.

That of a long-legged, willowy cat's tail of a filly from Oklahoma — the description she'd been tagged with by the beer-and-whiskey crowd at the Thirsty Rattler, her family's bar in the small town of RoundUp.

One of these days she would figure out which of the two women she was, whether she needed to make a choice between them or combine them. Had she left Oklahoma to encouraging farewells instead of predictions that she'd return in six months, her tail tucked between her legs, she might find that integration a whole lot easier.

As it was, there was a big part of her that just couldn't let go of the doubts planted by her family when she'd announced her decision to leave Round-Up for a life in New York City.

For the last year she'd been pursuing a bachelor of science degree in cosmetics and fragrance marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology. During that time she temped for a living — most recently at the law firm of Winslow, Reynolds and Forster — until hearing whispers around the office about the opening of Hush.

And for the same very long year she'd been satisfied with the status quo of her studies, her work schedule and her friends, needing nothing more. Or so she had thought.

Until tonight, when he had sat down at the bar.

She realigned her body to stretch her left side, her fingertips hovering over the hardwood floor at her right hip. Oh, but if he hadn't been the most gorgeous thing she'd ever seen. Better even than the actor from that television show about Navy investigators, who had stayed at Hush during the hotel's grand opening.

Only this guy was real, not an elusive Hollywood fantasy. One who'd wanted to talk to her. Thankfully Erotique had been busy beyond belief, giving her a legitimate excuse to walk away and catch her breath when their flirtation took on a sexually dangerous edge, as it had so quickly.

At least walking away had worked tonight.

But he was a guest at Hush, meaning the odds were that she would be seeing him again. And the bar wouldn't always be as hopping as it had been this evening. He was going to lose interest if she couldn't get her act together and keep her mind — and her ever-wavering sense of self-worth — out of Round-Up.

Keeping her mind out of the bedroom was an entirely separate matter. It was hard to talk to the man when she couldn't stop herself from thinking about getting him out of his clothes, but that's exactly how she'd spent a large chunk of the night's long shift.

His hair was blond, or had been when he was younger. It had darkened, leaving him with lo-lights instead of high. And it was long, a bit wavy — a leonine mane. He wore it pulled back and wore a goatee and soul patch, as well.

His smile twinkled. His eyes twinkled. His personality, too. She'd had the best time exchanging bantering quips and innuendo. She'd appreciated his wit. Appreciated, too, calls from the other patrons allowing her to step away and gather her thoughts while mixing drinks and serving.

She'd asked him what had brought him to the city and to the hotel. He'd told her it was a business trip — the business of money, music and women. She'd teased back that she wasn't much for helping him with the first two, but the third….

For a long moment then he'd held her gaze, and she'd imagined his fingers that were slowly stroking his glass stroking her instead. Her body had responded, her filmy bra beneath her sleeveless black tuxedo shirt doing little good to keep her private thoughts private. He'd noticed. He'd lifted his drink, his eyes on her as he'd swallowed, his throat working, his jaw taut, the vein at his temple pulsing.