Fantasy for Hire - Erika Wilde

Chapter One

Teddy Spencer’s two good friends, Kayla and Laurel, could always be counted on for a good time, especially when it came to marking a special occasion. It was the perfect excuse for them to get wild and crazy, and although Teddy considered herself the more reserved of the trio, after a few Appletini’s that feisty, rebellious side of her personality—the one her parents hadn’t been able to tame—usually made an appearance.

After spending the past hour and a half at a subdued birthday dinner with her parents at the local country club, and listening once again to her parents’ favorite speech lately—that she was getting older and needed to settle down like the rest of her siblings had—Teddy welcomed the opportunity to let loose with her friends. She was on her second Appletini, and thoroughly enjoying herself, even if Kayla had embarrassed her by swiping the deejay’s microphone and announcing to everyone in the Frisco Bay Bar that it was Teddy’s twenty-sixth birthday. Teddy had thought that fairly obvious by the half-dozen balloons attached to her chair and the I’m-the-birthday-girl pennant Kayla and Laurel had insisted she wear, but Kayla had a way of coaxing everyone to join in on the fun.

If that hadn’t been embarrassing enough, having twenty-five extra pairs of eyes watch her open presents from Kayla and Laurel brought a warm flush to her cheeks. The gifts had included an array of skimpy lingerie, not to mention other sensual delights. The single men in the room had issued wolf whistles, and Teddy found herself overwhelmed by invitations to model the silky, provocative underwear.

The bartender delivered the chocolate cake Laurel had smuggled to him earlier and, as Kayla lit the single “26” candle, the deejay played “Happy Birthday.” Everyone in the lounge chorused the traditional song just for her.

It was all in good fun, and just what Teddy needed to take a break from the stress she was under at work, and make her forget about her parents’ quest to diminish the independence she’d worked so hard to gain over the past few years. She knew her mother and father meant well. Unfortunately, their views of what was important to her, and for her, varied drastically from her own.

Determined to enjoy the evening, she pushed aside those troubling thoughts. As the lounge settled back to its normal din, and she was able to relax without being the center of attention, Teddy shook her head at her friends. “You two are outrageous.”

As if Teddy had just issued a compliment, a grin brightened Laurel’s classical features. “Yeah, we are outrageous, aren’t we?”

“And damn proud of it, too,” Kayla added, her eyes dancing with mischief. “Heck, there’s no telling what we might do next.”

Teddy lifted an eyebrow at the insinuation in Kayla’s voice, but her friend merely feigned innocence. Suspecting something was up, but unable to guess how they could possibly top the evening so far, she glanced at her cake…and frowned at the inscription they’d chosen.

“Happy birthday and congratulations?” She looked from one friend to the other.

Kayla nodded. “We’re combining your birthday and your senior graphic design promotion all together.”

Teddy smiled, genuinely touched. “That’s sweet of you, but I haven’t gotten the promotion yet.” Whether she did or not wouldn’t be decided for another two and a half weeks, just after the new year.

Laurel gave Teddy’s knee an encouraging pat. “See how much faith we have in you?”

Teddy wished she had that much faith in herself. It wasn’t that she wasn’t qualified for the job—she’d majored in graphic design and had a master’s degree in business administration, not to mention being an exemplary employee. It was her boss, Louden Avery, who was making her advancement within Sharper Image Advertising so difficult.

“Come on, Teddy.” Kayla nudged her with her elbow. “Blow out your candle and make a wish.”

Teddy absently toyed with the ruby and diamond band on her left-hand ring finger. It bothered her that she felt forced to wear a ring to discourage Louden’s subtle interest in her, and back up the claim that she had a steady boyfriend. But it was the only thing she could think of. Taking a deep breath, she blew out the single flame and hopefully secured her future. Her wish was simple. She wanted that promotion, awarded to her on her own merit.

“Wow,” Kayla breathed dreamily. “If I had to make a wish, he would be it.”

Teddy followed her friend’s line of vision to the entrance of the Frisco Bay, and caught her breath at

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