When Julie Hong wins a spot on a fashion design reality TV show, she celebrates by picking up a hot English guy in a hotel bar. But too many drinks leads to a night of embarrassment and a major hangover, and wow is she glad she’ll never see him again.
Until the show starts, and he’s on it too.
Julie quickly realizes she’s out of her league among the other designers, and Gavin Bennett, with his cocky grin and sexy accent, is her biggest competition. Julie can't decide if she wants to kiss him or kill him. Or both.
After she’s almost kicked off, Julie convinces Gavin to pretend they’re sleeping together for the camera. The ploy works, but as they get closer to the show’s finale their fake relationship starts to become too real. But only one of them can win the show—and they might both end up heartbroken.
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Or the night before going on a reality TV show that could change my life forever.
I tipped back my head, swallowed the last of my pink martini, and slammed the glass down. Staying up all night with a mix of anxiety and excitement swirling in my gut wouldn’t do me any good. If I wanted to forget what was coming, for a few hours at least, I had to find a guy to take my mind off things.
I surveyed the hotel bar. Everything in it was shiny and slick, from the countertops to the lights to the barstools we sat on. The place was dark enough to give everyone a little anonymity and privacy, but not so dark it looked seedy. Most people sat alone or in pairs, travelers searching for a quick drink before bed or for someone to make their stay a little less lonely. Places like this always had guys interested in a casual, no-strings-attached hookup. Which is exactly what I wanted, too.
“Julie, are you really going to pick up a guy tonight?” Carla asked from the barstool beside me.
“You already know I am.”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Her voice had that annoying tone it always got when she didn’t agree with something I did. Which was pretty often.
“Hey, don’t get all judgy on me.”
“I’m not. I’m just…suggesting you might want to go to bed early. You have a big day tomorrow.”
“Which is exactly why we need to celebrate tonight.” I waved a hand at the bartender and ordered another strawberry martini. My third. Fourth? Eh, who was counting?
Carla still looked dubious, swirling the ice cubes in her drink, which had been empty for fifteen minutes now. She was probably right about heading to bed early, but hello, we were in New York, in a free hotel, and tomorrow I would embark on the most incredible and terrifying thing that had ever happened to me.
I’d won a spot on the fashion design reality TV show Behind The Seams through a costume contest at San Diego Comic-Con. For the next few weeks, I’d be trapped in a building and competing against other designers to impress the judges with our clothes. And if I won the entire show? I’d get $200,000 to launch a business, plus a complete sewing studio, a year’s worth of hair and makeup products, and a fashion spread in Charmed magazine for me and my model. It was the kind of prize that could launch a career in fashion.
I had to win it.
“We’re going on Behind The Seams,” I said. “Maybe that’s not a big deal to you, but it is to me.”
Carla gave me a warm smile. “It is a big deal. And you’re going to be amazing.”
“Hell yeah, I am.”
I chugged my martini. I had to be amazing. I’d already seriously pissed off my parents by agreeing to go on the show in the first place. My senior year at UCLA started in a month, but they didn’t approve of me spending the rest of my summer break on a reality TV show. Nope, they wanted me to do something productive that could go on applications and resumes, even if it was only for a few weeks.
I could still hear my mom’s shrill, nagging voice through the phone when I’d told her my plans. “But why couldn’t you volunteer at a local hospital?” she’d asked.
“Mom, this is a big deal for me. I was invited on the show by Giselle Roberts, the woman who created it. I didn’t even have to audition! And don’t worry, I’ll be back in LA in time for classes to start again.”
“You should have done an internship this summer. Your sister could have gotten you one at her hospital. Or found you a job at a local practice. It would look much better on your medical school applications. Have you even started on them yet? And don’t forget you have to study for the MCAT…”
I’d rubbed the bridge of my nose, a sharp headache coming on as it always did during these discussions. “I didn’t get a job or an internship because we had the Seoul trip already planned. Should I have stayed here instead?”
My grandmother was ill, and the entire family had gone to visit her in Korea for two weeks. And I didn’t even want to think about my med school applications, which were due way too soon. Or the MCAT exam, which I had been trying very hard to pretend didn’t exist.
“No, don’t be silly. But your sister could have asked someone for a favor…”
That was when I’d tuned her out. On and on it went until she’d finished with her endless speech about how I wasn’t living up to my older sister’s shining example. Helen had become a doctor like they’d wanted, and I was expected to follow her path. They would never see fashion design as a valid career choice.
Which meant I had to win the show to prove them wrong.
Which meant tonight was about getting drunk and finding a man to make me forget all of that.
I gazed across the bar, looking for the perfect guy. Most of them were too old or too married—men on business trips trying to hook up for one night without their wives knowing. No thank you. I wanted no-strings-attached sex, but I wasn’t ruining any marriages. Alas, tonight I didn’t see even one fuckable guy in the entire bar.
Screw it, maybe it was time to head back to my hotel room and get some sleep.
Just as I was about to give up, a guy sat down at the other end of the bar who instantly caught my eye. His silky chestnut hair was short on the sides, but long enough on top to tangle my fingers in. I couldn’t tell what color his eyes were in the dim light, but he had the perfect amount of dark stubble dusting his strong jaw and framing his very kissable lips. A stylish charcoal button-up shirt clung to his broad shoulders and fit like it had been made just for him. The sleeves were rolled up to his elbows, revealing colorful tattoos running down both arms. Something about the contrast made him even sexier—that balance between classy and edgy, hard and soft, good and bad.
I nudged Carla. “I think we have a winner.”
He looked at us then, hit by that sixth sense hot guys had when you were talking about them. Carla immediately dropped her eyes, but I let a sultry smile curl across my lips. My gaze lingered on him long enough to let him know I was interested, before I turned back to Carla.
“Yep, definitely him.”
“He’s hot.” She yawned and set her empty drink on the bar. “And I’m heading to bed.”
“Already?” I pouted, although I wasn’t too sad. Being on my own tonight would give me a better chance at picking up a guy. Ideally Mr. Gorgeous Hair over there.
She stood up and grabbed her purse. “You found your guy, and I need my beauty sleep.”
“Oh, please. You’d make everyone in here look like trolls even if you stayed up all night and didn’t shower for a week.”
Carla laughed and gave me a warm hug. “Not true, but I love you for saying that.”
It was true, though. Carla was ridiculously, impossibly beautiful, no exaggeration. She towered over me, with boobs I would kill for, rich dark skin you couldn’t help but want to touch, and a head full of bouncing, natural curls. Without even trying, she put every other girl in the room to shame. And even though her pouty lips and mysterious eyes could be seen on billboards, ads, and runways across the world, it never went to her head. She was the sweetest, most loyal friend a girl could have. She’d even come to New York to go on Behind The Seams with me.
Normally designers didn’t have any say over which model they worked with on the show, but she’d pulled some strings so we could be together. I suspected her famous supermodel mother had something to do with it, but Carla told me not to stress over it. It meant a lot to me that she was taking time out of her summer break to come with me. Sure, if we won, she’d get a sweet prize herself—$10,000 plus the photo shoot in Charmed magazine—but she didn’t need it. She’d been in Paris last week doing a photo shoot and had cancelled others to go on the show. She was here for me, and I loved her for it.
She kissed me on the cheek and said goodnight. From across the counter, the guy’s intense gaze lingered on me. He took a sip of his drink, and I spotted a tattoo of a rose on the back of his right hand. I gave him another flirty smile, leaning forward on the bar to show off my cleavage in my low-cut red dress. The hint of a grin touched his full lips.
He was hooked. Time to reel him in.