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Dare to Believe tgc-1


  Dare to Believe

  ( The Gray Court - 1 )

  Dana Marie Bell

  He'll fulfill her wildest fantasies- but only if she believes.

  Leo Dunne has been searching his entire life for the one person born just for him. He finds her working in his own company, but the shy little Ruby Halloway constantly hides from him. He hatches a devilish plot with her best friend to bring her out of her shell, and the result proves her desire is more than a match for his own.

  Ruby has had the hots for her boss for some time now, but she knows business and pleasure shouldn't mix. While that can't stop a girl from dreaming, she sticks by her guns and does her best never to be alone with the handsome CEO. Until the company masquerade party, where she discovers a passion with him that leaves a mark on her soul.

  A family emergency calls Leo away, and rather than spend one night out of Ruby's arms, he convinces her to go with him. With his brother's life on the line, it's vital she learn how to deal with who, and what, her new lover really is--before it's too late.

  Dare to Believe

  The Gray Court - 1

  by

  Dana Marie Bell

  Dedication

  To Mom, guess what? He lied to you. I don’t care what he says, Dad DOES have scooter envy.

  To Dad, just admit it. It will be better in the long run. You’re jealous because I have a headlamp and I beat you in that race. Come to the dark side. Resistance is futile. Besides, we have cookies.

  To Dusty, thank you for daring to believe in me.

  And to the woman who wrote our beautiful wedding vows over ten years ago. I hope you won’t mind that I adjusted them to be the binding of a Sidhe lord and his mate. Even today I read those words and smile. To me, they really were magical.

  Chapter One

  “You want me to wear that?”

  “Shhh. Honey, this would look gorgeous on you.”

  Ruby stared at the skimpy outfit Mandy waved in front of her like a red cape. The move was totally appropriate since Ruby would feel like a cow in it. “Don’t they have a lovely pumpkin costume? Oh! How about a pony? I could probably pull off a pony.”

  Mandy glared at her. “You have a body most women would die for. You’re curvy, not fat.”

  “No. Seriously. How about one of those robe thingies? With a hood! I could get a rubber knife and be an evil sorceress slash human sacrificer!”

  “Ruby! Knock it off.” Mandy tapped one foot impatiently at Ruby’s attempts to get around her. “Try it on. I guarantee you’ll look incredible.”

  “I’m short and fat, Mandy. Short and fat. There is no way I can get away with that costume and not look like a complete idiot.”

  Ruby made one last attempt to move towards the evil sorceress robes, only to have Mandy hold up the red devil costume with an evil grin. The red leather miniskirt, red satin corset and red horns looked like something the blonde, beautiful Mandy could get away with. Short, well-endowed Ruby would look like a moron.

  “C’mon, Ruby.” Mandy rocked the outfit, grinning wickedly. “I dare you.”

  Oh, no. “No, Mandy.” Ruby turned away from the costume, praying she got away fast enough before her oldest friend said—

  “Double-dog dare you.”

  Aw hell.

  She never could turn down a double-dog dare. Mandy had gotten her into more trouble with those three little words than anyone knew. Mandy was the one who’d double-dog dared Ruby to go out with Bobby in the eleventh grade, though she’d long since apologized. She’d dared Ruby to get even when Bobby had bragged all over school that he’d “scored, but she was a lousy fuck”. That double-dog dare led to The Pencil Dick Poster Incident that had gotten Ruby two weeks’ suspension and a stag trip to the prom.

  In college, she’d found herself walking backwards for an entire day, just to prove she could. That had earned her a free meal at her favorite restaurant, though, so that one had been worth it.

  Childish? Yeah. But she just couldn’t resist when a dare was thrown out, especially the way Mandy did it. I can almost hear the chickens clucking in the background.

  Ruby huffed out a breath and turned. Mandy had added thigh-high black leather boots and a black leather belt. A red velvet choker with a dangling black glass gem completed the look. She grinned and waved the outfit in Ruby’s face.

  “Oh, great. I’ll be a demonic hooker.” Ruby raised one cynical brow and put her hands on her hips. “I suppose you’ll be going as an angel?”

  Mandy’s eyes went wide. “Oh, I like that idea. Wait right here.” And Mandy took off, dropping the Sexy Little Devil outfit to the floor. Ruby picked up the bustier and held it to her ample breasts, and sighed.

  It’s going to be a long party. Watching Leo with whatever blonde he’d decided to bring would just be the topper on what she just knew was going to be a pretty crappy evening.

  She had to stop wondering what Leo would think of the outfit. There was no sense in it. Leo Dunne, CEO of Fantasy Events, had women literally throwing themselves at him. The man had everything going for him. Black hair, brilliant green eyes and a body to die for all wrapped up in Armani, he epitomized tall, dark and handsome. Why the hell would a man like that look twice at five-foot-nothing Ruby?

  True, she wasn’t exactly a beer goggle, but she wasn’t the tall, thin, blonde model type Leo was known to escort around town. It was just too bad she had a huge crush on him. She needed to get over it and move on. Maybe she’d say yes to the date Mark in accounting kept asking her for. He might not be Leo, but he was cute, and, more importantly, available.

  Out of the corner of her eye she saw a tall, dark-haired man exiting the costume shop, and her heart nearly stopped. Leo? Nah. Couldn’t be. Every tall, dark-haired man looked like Leo these days.

  She snorted in disgust. Mandy had managed to find the exact same outfit in white and silver, complete with tinsel halo. Looked like she was stuck going to the party in the demon girl outfit. She picked up the rest of the costume off the floor and followed Mandy to the registers.

  Maybe I don’t need a date. Maybe I need therapy. A twelve-step program to get over my addiction to Leo Dunne. She purchased the devil outfit with a grimace, ignoring Mandy’s satisfied smirk. She grabbed the bag from the gum-snapping teenager, smiling weakly in response to the clerk’s “Happy Halloween!”

  Mandy made her purchase and the two women made their way out of the store. “I’m starved.” Mandy looked up and down the street before crossing. “How about we go for margaritas and Mexican? We can call some of the girls and have a night out.”

  Oh, yeah. Now that’s my kind of therapy. “Sounds great. Let’s go.” She got into Mandy’s white convertible with a happy bounce, eager for good food, a drink or two, and the comfort of her friends. With any luck Leo would stay out of her thoughts.

  Her head thudded onto the backrest. And maybe ducks will fly out of my butt.

  Leo looked around at the Halloween party and nodded. This one was strictly for employees of Fantasy Events, a thank you for all of the hard work they’d put in that year, and so far everyone seemed to be having a good time. Almost all of his employees and their significant others had shown up. They were even in costume. Fantasy Events didn’t do an office Christmas party. They usually didn’t have the time, with all of the parties Fantasy Events coordinated around that holiday. So this was their yearly bash, and he made the most of it.

  It was his favorite time of year, filled with everyone’s fantasies. And as an added bonus it was the one day a year when he could go to the office without a shirt on and not get arrested for indecent exposure or sued for sexual harassment.

  No children had been invited. This was an adult-only party, and it showed. A few people h
ad definitely had too much to drink already, so he was glad he’d contracted rooms in the hotel for anyone who felt they couldn’t drive home that night. Music played loudly, making conversation almost impossible.

  Couples danced together on the floor, laughing and talking. Little groups dotted the area around the dancers, enjoying the buffet dinner he’d had catered.

  It was going well, other than one little thing. She wasn’t there yet. Ruby Halloway, the woman who’d haunted his dreams for months. He turned, wondering where his personal siren was. The party had started over an hour ago, and Ruby and Mandy were nowhere in sight. He wondered if she’d decided to bail on Mandy. He hoped not. He was dying to see her in that red corset. He stifled a smile, remembering how she’d held it up to her chest, looking so uncertain. It had taken all of his willpower to stop himself from going to her then and there. He’d longed to soothe her but was afraid she’d once again disappear just like she always did.

  It had taken years to find her. When he’d first come into the company, he’d caught the faint, elusive scent that so drew him now. Maybe if he hadn’t been so busy learning the business and meeting with clients he might have put more effort into pursuing that scent and finding the woman who now held all of his attention, waking and dreaming. Instead he’d wasted all of that time. Oh, he’d hardly been celibate in the last five years. He’d dated plenty of women. Just none of them had been her. The one woman created by the universe just for him.

  It wasn’t until he’d already become CEO, taking over for the previous owner of the Washington, DC

  events’ company, that he’d finally caught a glimpse of her. Ruby Halloway. He’d been walking down the hallway in Accounting, talking to her boss, when Leo stopped dead. She’d been bent over a drawer, pulling out a file. The tight denim had stretched across the most luscious ass it had ever been his pleasure to see.

  He’d longed to walk over, cup that ass, and claim the owner before she knew what hit her.

  And then he’d caught her scent. He’d almost moaned at the savage rush of erotic heat. It was only his employee’s nudges that had made him realize where he was. He’d immediately asked who the woman was.

  She’d heard her name, started, and taken off for parts unknown before he could get an introduction.

  She’d been doing it ever since. As soon as she knew he was there, she either hid or left. It was driving him insane. He’d managed to hide his presence from her once or twice, and caught glimpses of the warm, funny woman she truly was. He’d finally called in the cavalry in the form of Mandy, who’d been delighted to set up her shy best friend.

  He’d have made his move sooner if it hadn’t been for Kaitlynn Malmayne and the negotiations with the Malmayne family. Hopefully she now understood that Leo was unavailable for anything she might want from him. He’d finally gotten Kaitlynn and her posse back on the plane to L.A. It was time, past time, to claim his woman.

  Tonight he was going to do everything in his power to see to it that this time Ruby had no reason to run. He turned in place again, sighing in disappointment.

  If I can find her, that is.

  When he finally saw her, he nearly choked. The two women stood together, looking around. They’d obviously just arrived, and were checking the party out, seeing who was there. Mandy wore a white leather miniskirt, white satin corset, silver belt, and white choker with a silver charm dangling from it. Her thigh-high white leather boots had four-inch heels, making her already impressive height even more impressive.

  White strips of cloth dangled from two wires protruding from her back, and Leo figured they were meant to represent wings. A silver halo gleamed above the golden curls that drifted across her shoulders.

  Peeking out from behind her white wings was the sexiest little devil Leo had ever seen.

  She wore the same exact outfit Mandy did, but in red and black. Gleaming red satin cupped the smooth golden globes of her breasts. Red leather clung to her hips. Black thigh-high boots hugged those delicious legs. Tiny red horns peeked out from her reddish brown hair. A black bit of glass dangled from the red choker surrounding her slender throat. She looked terrified. He studied her face, feeling a sense of completion that never failed to stun him.

  She was the most beautiful woman in the room.

  Dark brown brows arched delicately over a pair of sherry eyes tipped with the darkest, longest lashes he’d ever seen. Her nose had a slight tilt at the end. She nibbled anxiously at her full bottom lip, her high cheekbones flushed with excitement and trepidation. Her eyes darted around the room, searching for something or someone.

  Mandy pulled Ruby out from behind her and shoved her into the room with a grip that would do a cop proud. Ruby glared at her friend and wiggled, obviously trying to pull her arm free. That little jiggle did things for her body that had to be illegal in several states.

  He suddenly wished his leather pants weren’t quite so tight. His body saluted the little devil, straining against the leather. When she took a deep breath, those amazing breasts pushed up and out of the corset, forcing Leo to swallow a groan.

  Damn. Talking Mandy into giving him a hand getting Ruby to relax had been seriously worth it. The woman who’d haunted his dreams for months looked incredible. Even under the shapeless clothes she wore to the office he’d known she was sweetly rounded, just the way he liked his women. Ruby had generous breasts that begged for a man’s hands and mouth, hips you could hold on to while riding her to oblivion, and an ass he’d die to sink his teeth into. Voluptuous, that was the word. And her scent. That vanilla and peaches scent that drifted around her wherever she went. It was enough to drive him insane. Hell, he’d passed a bakery on his way home the other night and gotten hard just smelling the vanilla scents drifting out the door. If it hadn’t been for the negotiations with the Malmaynes, he would have been after her a hell of a lot sooner. Escorting Kaitlynn around town and showing her the sights had bored the spit out of him.

  Kaitlynn’s saccharine sweetness was like nails on a chalkboard, not that he’d tell the blonde princess that.

  And her sycophantic, selfish cousins were even worse.

  If he had to even look at another leggy, flat-chested, half-starved, self-absorbed socialite he’d go stark raving mad.

  Now he just had to convince his shy little devil to take a chance on him. He moved through the crowd, determined to claim her before anyone else could.

  Ruby glared at Mandy, wondering if a jury would convict her if she killed her best friend. Mandy merely grinned and nudged her again, causing Ruby to lose her balance in those damned four-inch heels.

  “Oh!” She squealed, preparing herself for a fall to the hard wooden floor.

  Instead, she landed on a hard, bare chest. An incredibly hot bare chest. The best male chest she’d ever felt before in her life. She had to resist the urge to pet and stroke the rock hard muscles rippling under that silky skin.

  “Sorry,” she muttered, feeling herself turn red. She risked a peek up.

  And up. The owner of the chest was tall. Her head barely topped his shoulders in her four inch heels.

  She nibbled again at her bottom lip, her eyes tracing their way up to the face above the chest.

  Oh boy.

  Leo Dunne’s green eyes twinkled down at her, his arms like steel bands around her waist. “Hello, Ruby.” The satisfaction in his voice was strange. The deep, possessive rumble sent a shiver down her spine.

  Her cheeks heated up when she realized just how close she was plastered to his body. She pushed against that smooth, hot flesh. He released her with flattering reluctance, his hands lingering on her hips even when she pushed back to a standing position.

  “Um, hi.” Ruby mentally winced at the lame reply and stared up into the amused, heated eyes of the CEO.

  Heated?

  “Would you like to dance?” His hands flexed on her hips, holding her even more tightly. She got the distinct impression the question wasn’t really a question.

  “You almost h
ave to,” Mandy’s amused voice came from her elbow. “The two of you match.”

  Ruby blinked and took a closer look at Leo’s costume. He wore tight black leather pants, black leather boots with lots of shiny silver buckles, and not much else. A pair of red and black devil horns peeked out from his dark hair. In one ear a ruby stud gleamed.

  Ruby shot one quick glare at Mandy. Somehow she wasn’t buying her best friend’s innocent act. Add in that Mandy knew all about her crush on Leo, and that she was close friends with the man’s secretary, and she had to wonder if Mandy had somehow set her up to match the hunky CEO. “You know, I’m not sure I can dance in these boots,” Ruby muttered. She wondered how quickly she could get away from Satan before she made a complete fool of herself and drooled all over him. She also wondered where his date was. If she was really lucky she’d be able to duck away before whatever blonde he was with saw them and ripped her hair out by the roots.

  “Double-dog dare ya.” Mandy chuckled wickedly.

  Aw hell. Here we go again.

  Ruby’s spine straightened, her eyes snapping with annoyance and determination. She seized his hand and practically dragged him onto the dance floor. She might not be able to dance in those heels but she could sure as hell stomp in them.

  He was grateful to his guardian angel back there, but what the hell was that all about?

  She turned in his arms in the middle of the dance floor and slapped her hands onto his shoulders hard enough to make him wince. He tried to get her to move with him, but her body didn’t bend. It was like dancing with an exotic piece of wood. Gorgeous but stiff.

  “Relax, Ruby. I don’t bite.” Much, he thought.

  She glared up at him. “Does your date?”

  He smiled, slow and hungry. “I came alone.”

  “Oh.”

  If anything, his answer made her tense up more. The only good part of the dance was the way her satin-covered breasts kept brushing against his chest. He saw the way her nipples beaded and his erection grew even more painful behind the tight leather pants. Thanks to the fact that he was at least a foot taller than Ruby he could see all that wonderful cleavage the corset displayed to maximum advantage. He had a hard time keeping his eyes on her face; hell, a saint would have peeked. She tried to control her breathing, but he could tell she was just as aroused as he was.

 
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