Home > The Love Plot

The Love Plot
Author: Samantha Young


Chapter One



I’ve never been one to swoon over a man.

   I’d felt attraction to gorgeous guys and had pretty good sex in my twenty-eight years on this planet. But swooning?


   In many ways, I was like the character I’d donned for the eight-year-old’s birthday party that day. My strawberry-blond hair wasn’t the right hue, so I wore a wig of tumbling, riotous bright red curls that were vivid against the teal velvet fabric of my medieval-style gown. I had a bow (fake weapon) looped over my shoulder and a brown belt slung across my hips, with a quiver holding plastic arrows attached to it.

   It wasn’t too hard to guess that I was Merida from Disney Pixar’s Brave. This was a new character for me. I’d dressed up as many a Disney princess for parties, but it was the first time someone had paid me to play Merida. This character meant practicing a Scottish accent, and I didn’t think mine was too shabby. Och, ah was quite proud o’ it, so ah was.

   The birthday party was hosted in the fanciest Upper West Side apartment I’d ever set foot inside, and I was feeling pretty connected to wee Merida because we were both independent women who had no intention of settling down with a man as a way of finding fulfillment in our lives. Merida would never swoon.

   I was pretty damn annoyed that while I was in that moment, really feeling the character, making the kids laugh with my boisterous boasting and brogue, my gaze lifted for a second from the birthday girl and I saw him.

   The sight of the stranger struck me in a way I didn’t understand. But it was like all the air fled my lungs. It felt like that time I got mugged when I was nineteen and I tried to fight the guy instead of letting him take what little money I had. He’d punched me so hard in the gut, I couldn’t breathe. It wasn’t a pleasant sensation. It was discombobulating.

   “Merida!” The birthday girl, Charmaine, tugged on my dress. “You were telling us about the Loch Ness monster!”

   I blinked, dazed. Thankfully, I was a great multitasker, because I launched back into my story of being sent to kill the Loch Ness monster to protect my people only to discover that he was a hilarious big softy that I needed to protect from my people, and all the while I kept throwing glances at him.

   Who was he?

   What was he doing at a children’s birthday party?

   Whoever he was, he was a wondrous mix of male beauty and primal masculinity who just the sight of—once I got over the horrible breathless moment—made me tingle delightfully between my thighs.

   Tall, very broad-shouldered, and from the thick forearms revealed by the pushed-up sleeves of his sweater, it was more than obvious he worked out. You could see the man’s biceps shaping the fabric. I’d never been into working-out types. However, he was a very fine specimen, with his tapered swimmer’s waist and long, long, long legs. What was also puzzling about my physical response to the stranger was the fact he hadn’t smiled once the entire time I surreptitiously eyed him up. I was into happy, funny guys. Not brooding, surly types. Usually, they were a hard pass. A frown marred his strong brow, and his full lips flattened into a grim line. That face. Boy, was that a face that could launch a thousand ships. All chiseled angles. I couldn’t discern his eye color from across the room, but it didn’t matter. He was just . . . sexier than a night in with hot chocolate and Netflix’s The Witcher.

   Yeah, I said it.

   While, like Merida, I might not want to play arm candy to some man intent on being “my king,” I wouldn’t mind banging a headboard with a burly warrior in a kilt.

   I imagined the stranger in a kilt and what I would do to him if we were alone.

   Oh my.

   That imagery was a keeper.

   By the look of things, I wasn’t the only person in the room affected by the gorgeous stranger. Three women currently surrounded him and he appeared rudely bored by them, while others eyed him from across the room.

   “Are you hot, Merida?” Charmaine asked innocently. “Your cheeks are all red.”

   Wow, I was having sexual fantasies about a stranger at a children’s birthday party dressed as a Disney character. There was nothing right about that sentence.

   Forcing myself to ignore this shockingly strong physical reaction to a man I didn’t know, I focused on the kids.

   A little while later, when Philippa Whitman, the mom who’d hired me, appeared to lead the kids away for snacks, she told me I could take a break. I beamed gratefully and ignored the amused stares of the attending adults before I slipped out onto the balcony. It wasn’t every day I got to visit swanky New York apartments with balconies overlooking Central Park. While I held little stock in material things, I could appreciate a superb view.

   “This balcony is occupied,” a gruff and pissed-off masculine voice sounded from my left.

   Glancing that way, I was delighted to discover Mr. Sexual Fantasy leaning on the railing of the narrow balcony. He glowered at me so ferociously, I wondered for a second if he’d mistaken me for someone else. Though it was pretty difficult to mistake me for anything other than a children’s entertainer.

   Intrigued by my outrageous and unusual attraction to him, I drifted toward him despite his less-than-welcoming comment. My bow got caught on the balcony door as it shut and I snort-laughed as I freed myself. The stranger didn’t even so much as break a smile. I badly wanted to see him turn up the corners of his mouth, so I closed the distance between us. “I just needed some air. This is some view, huh?” I gestured with a grin over the city and the park.

   Before his eyes narrowed on me, I noted they were a lovely denim-blue color. “So that’s what you sound like when you’re not butchering a Scottish accent.”

   My smile wavered, not sure if he was being mean or just bantering. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and responded in my awesome brogue, “Ah’ll have ye ken that ah am the daughter of a Scottish king, dinnae ye ken.”

   “That sentence made little sense in English or fake Scottish.” The stranger searched my face and then dragged his gaze down my body. He was studying me like I was a bug he’d never seen before. Inwardly, I bristled, but outwardly, my smile stayed in place. I’d adopted a “kill ’em with kindness” approach to mean people since I was a teenager. Some people couldn’t help but melt under my niceness, and others got even more pissed at me. I found both reactions satisfying. “So, this is a job?” He didn’t attempt to hide his disdain. “You actually do this for a living?”

   Yes, you arrogant snob. I grinned. “Yeah. Isn’t it great?”

   He stared at me like I was babbling nonsense. “You think dressing up as Disney characters to entertain children is great? As a career?”

   I shrugged. “I’m a costume character actor, so I dress up like lots of characters in pop culture to make other people smile on their special days. And, yeah, I think making people happy is a worthy endeavor. Don’t you?”

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