Authors: Opal Carew
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who puts up with my nail polish obsession
with love and a big smile.
Thank you to Rose, my wonderful editor, for indulging me in my passion on this one. Thanks to Emily, my fabulous agent, who is always there for me.
As always, thanks to Mark, Matt, and Jason for your love and encouragement.
A special thank-you to the wonderful Amy Milder of Literary Lacquers for bringing my vision of the nail polish collection in this book to life.
You can learn more about Amy and her lovely nail polishes at:
For details about the nail polish collection, check Amy’s shop or go to
“Oh my God, I can’t believe someone is willing to pay five thousand dollars to have dinner with me.” River stared at the Kickstarter page on her cell.
“Really?” her friend Tia said. “Let me see.”
Tia pushed her long, red hair behind her ear as she peered over River’s shoulder. They were standing in the break room of Giselle’s, the cosmetics and accessories store where they worked. River was just checking her e-mails before she stashed her phone and other belongings in her locker and started her shift.
“Hey, your campaign looks like it’s fully funded,” Tia observed. “That was fast. Didn’t you just start it up?”
River nodded. “Two days ago.” She was shocked as she stared at the numbers. Tia was right.
“So have you figured out where you’re going to take this person? It better be a pretty nice place if they’re paying that much.”
River’s stomach clenched as she shook her head, opening the next e-mail. She’d never thought anyone would actually pay that much. She knew most campaigns had some extravagant options people could buy in order to get online donors to contribute to a business initiative. She’d thought of having the person’s initial tattooed on her thigh, but then discovered that someone else had done something similar. Then Tia suggested the dinner thing.
River had her own nail polish blog and had built up a bit of a following, but she never thought anyone would be enough of a fangirl to pay that much to meet her. In fact, the thought made her a bit nervous.
“Look,” Tia said, still reading the next e-mail over her shoulder. “She wants to do it on Saturday. And she’s even picked the place.” Tia glanced at River. “Can you afford dinner at the Carousel?”
“When she’s paying five grand I can.”
River turned off her phone and pushed her purse into the locker next to Tia’s then closed the door.
* * *
“Hello there. River, isn’t it?”
River glanced up from straightening the display of lipsticks and nail polishes into the face of the handsome customer. She recognized him from yesterday when he’d come in with his wife or girlfriend. He’d bought a lot of items for her, mostly high-end nail polishes and a few pieces of the boutique’s designer costume jewelry.
“Yes, sir.” River smiled. “Are you back for that onyx necklace for your friend?”
He smiled, his gaze gliding over her in a way that made her uncomfortable. “No, actually. I was hoping that maybe you’d join me for a drink when you finish work.”
Good God, he had to be kidding. She knew he had a girlfriend.
He knew she knew
he had a girlfriend.
“I’m sorry, sir, but I’m seeing someone.”
He shrugged. “So?”
Her skin quivered in revulsion.
“I spent a lot of money here. I assume you made quite a bit in commission.”
Anger surged to the surface and the polite comeback she’d fought to utter slipped away. “Does that approach actually ever get you anywhere? Because—”
But suddenly Tia grabbed her arm, startling her. “River, time for your break. I’ll take over here.”
Tia hustled River to the side and then went back and started talking with the man. His indignant expression faded as Tia turned on the charm, tossing her long red hair over her shoulder and flashing that beaming smile of hers.
River walked away, realizing her friend had just saved her from another reprimand from their boss.
You have to learn to deal with customers who come on to you in a polite manner,
her manager would always say.
Simply say no, and if that doesn’t work, excuse yourself and find another staff member or manager to step in.
River knew the drill, but any guy who betrayed his girlfriend, or tried to bully a woman into doing something she didn’t want to do, like go out with him, made her see red.
She walked to the break room door, watching while Tia chatted to the man.
“You had a little trouble, I see.” Her manager, Louise, stepped up beside her.
“Tia took over,” River said, a bit resentful that Louise had been watching her so closely. Waiting for her to make a mistake.
“I’m glad. I’d hate to write you up for being rude to a customer again.” Louise glanced at River’s hands. “I don’t recognize the shade of nail polish you’re wearing. It’s not one of ours, is it?”
River curled her fingers. “No,” she admitted.
“River, you know that everyone who works in the store is supposed to wear our nail polishes. Especially the new spring line.”
River cringed inside. Normally, she loved the products the boutique carried, and often gave rave reviews on her blog—that’s one of the reasons she’d wanted to work here in the first place—but the spring line was too ordinary for her. Soft pastels in a plain cream finish.
River liked some pizzazz on her nails. Bright colors or deep rich tones with multichrome flakies were her favorites. Maybe some flashy design in strong metallic tones. Or a leather finish with studs.
Cream pastels just didn’t do it for her. So she’d worn one of her own creations, a duochrome that shifted from turquoise to a rich blue depending on how the light hit it.
“Make sure when you come in on Saturday that you’re wearing one of the spring shades”—Louise raised her eyebrow—“or consider looking for a new job. Understand?”
“But I’m not supposed to be working on Saturday.” River had already sent the e-mail confirming she would meet the person who’d paid so much to have dinner with her. She didn’t want to jeopardize getting the investment. Starting her own nail polish company was her dream and if she didn’t honor the dinner, she could lose that investment and the whole Kickstarter campaign would drop below the minimum and she wouldn’t get anything.
“I changed the schedule. It’s posted in the break room.”
“Please, Louise, I have something else to do on Saturday. It’s really important.”
“Cancel it. I need you here.” Then Louise turned and walked away.
* * *
“Tia, please. I’ll take any shift you want. Just cover for me on Saturday.”
“Sorry, Riv. I told you I’m going to my cousin’s wedding. I mean really, I’d love to get out of it, but if I don’t go, my mom’ll kill me.”
River sighed. “I get it. Sorry to be a bug.”
“You’ve already asked everyone else?”
River nodded. She’d phoned everyone in the store over the past two days, but no one wanted to give up a Saturday off.
“Okay, look, move the dinner back to eight,” Tia suggested. “Louise always takes off midafternoon and Wendy’s closing that night. If you’re lucky, it won’t be too busy, so just ask Wendy if you can take off a little early. If you offer to work for her on a Sunday sometime, I’m sure she’ll say okay.”
* * *
She wasn’t lucky. River glanced at her watch and it was already seven o’clock and she was still waiting for her customer to decide between Pink Fizz and Seafoam. River was almost ready to tell her to take both, one as a gift, and River would pay for it out of her own pocket, but finally the woman chose the Pink Fizz, the one she’d clearly favored all along, and took her purchases to the register.
Wendy hurried over as soon as she finished with her own customer. “Go ahead and take off. Sue and I can close up.”
River headed to the break room and grabbed her purse. On the way through the store, the same customer stopped her.
“Excuse me, can you help me pick out one of these nail polish gift sets for my sister’s birthday?” It seemed she’d left her purchases at the counter and was talking another look around.
Oh, God, River was already late.
“I can help you with that,” Sue said, appearing from nowhere.
“Oh,” the customer said. “Okay, thank you.” She picked up two of the attractive boxes and showed them to Sue, who smiled and nodded.
River mouthed a thank you, then hurried out of the store.
* * *
As River approached the glass door of the restaurant, a woman in black pants, a crisp white shirt, tie, and red brocade vest opened the door from the inside and held it for her.
“Good evening,” the woman said. “Welcome to the Carousel.”
“Thank you.” River was a little intimidated by the posh décor as she stepped inside. “I’m a little late for a reservation. It’s in my name. River Cassidy.”
“Of course, Ms. Cassidy. I’ll take you to your table.”
River followed the tall, elegant woman into the dimly lit restaurant, candles illuminating the intimate booths. They walked down a hallway, River presumed to another section, but the woman stopped in front of a door and knocked, then opened the door.
River followed her inside and realized it was a private dining room with a chandelier of candles over the table, a lovely floral arrangement on the table and …
Her heart stopped as she saw the man rising to his feet from one of two upholstered armchairs arranged by a corner fireplace.
“River. How nice to see you again.”
Her chest clenched as she took in his chiseled jaw, full lips, perfectly proportioned nose, and mesmerizing indigo eyes.
She had hoped she’d
see Kane Winters again.
The sight of him triggered an array of painful memories. She remembered how sweet it had been to feel his arms around her, his lips brushing hers. His muscular body over hers. His cock driving into her and taking her to heaven.
And she remembered how he’d betrayed her … and humiliated her.