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Project: Runaway Heiress [Mass Market Paperback]

Heidi Betts

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Book Description

April 2 2013 Harlequin Desire (Book 2225)
Undercover Fashionista

When her designs keep showing up on a rival's runway, heiress and fashion designer Lily Zaccaro vows to catch the thief. She comes up with the perfect plan—run off to L.A. and go undercover as personal assistant to the other label's CEO, Nigel Statham, aka the sexiest Brit alive.

As long work days turn into sizzling nights, Lily struggles to stay focused on her secret mission. She desperately hopes that Nigel is innocent because their relationship is anything but! In the face of so much deception, pretty soon their newfound love is hanging on by a thread….


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin (April 2 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0373732384
  • ISBN-13: 978-0373732388
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 10.5 x 16.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 68 g

Product Description

About the Author

USA Today bestselling author Heidi Betts writes sexy, sassy, sensational romance. The recipient of several awards and stellar reviews, Heidi's books combine believable characters with compelling plotlines, and are consistently described as "delightful," "sizzling," and "wonderfully witty."

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Impossible. This was impossible.

Lily Zaccaro maximized her browser window, leaning in even more closely to study the photo on her laptop screen. With angry taps at the keyboard, she minimized that window and opened another.

Dammit.

Screen after screen, window after window, her blood pressure continued to climb.

More angry keystrokes set the printer kicking out each and every picture. Or as she was starting to think of them: The Evidence.

Pulling the full-color photos from the paper tray, she carried them to one of the long, wide, currently empty cutting tables and laid them out side by side, row by row.

Inside her chest, her heart was pounding as though she'd just run a seven-minute mile. Right there, before her very eyes, was proof that someone was stealing her designs.

How had this happened?

She tapped her foot in agitation, twisted the oversize dinner ring on her right middle finger, even rubbed her eyes and blinked before studying the pictures again.

The fabric choices were different, of course, as were some of the lines and cuts, making them just distinctive enough not to be carbon copies. But there was no mistaking her original sketches in the competing designs.

To reassure herself she wasn't imagining things or going completely crazy, Lily moved to one of the hip-high file cabinet drawers where she kept all of her records and design sketches. Old, new, implemented and scratched. Riffling through them, she found the portfolio she was looking for, dragged it out and carried it back to the table.

One after another, she drew out the sketches she'd been working on last spring. The very ones they'd been prepared to work with, manufacture and put out for the following fall's line.

After a short game of mix-and-match, she had each sketch placed beside its counterpart from her rival. The similarities made her ill, almost literally sick to her stomach.

She leaned against the edge of the table while the images swam in front of her eyes, sending a dizzying array of colors and charcoal lines into the mix of emotions that were already leaving her light-headed and nauseated.

How could this happen? she wondered again. How could this possibly have happened?

Wracking her brain, she tried to think of who else might have seen her sketches while she was working. How many people had been in and out of this studio? There couldn't have been that many.

Zoe and Juliet, of course, but she trusted them with her life. She and her sisters shared this work space. The three of them rented the entire New York apartment building, using one of the lofts as a shared living space and the other as a work space for their company, Zaccaro Fashions.

Although there were times when they got on each other's nerves or their work schedules overlapped, their partnership was actually working out surprisingly well. And Lily showed her sisters all of her design ideas, sometimes even soliciting their opinions, the same as they shared their thoughts and sketches with her.

But neither of them—not even slightly flighty party girl, Zoe—would ever steal or sell her designs or betray her in any way. Of that, she was absolutely, one hundred percent certain.

So who else could it have been? They occasionally had others over to the studio, but not very often. Most times when they had business to conduct, they did it at Zaccaro Fashions, their official, public location in Manhattan's Fashion District, where they had more sewing machines set up, with employees to produce items on a larger, faster scale; offices for each of the sisters; and a small boutique set up out front. Something they hoped to expand upon very soon.

Of course, that particular dream would be nearly impossible to realize if their creations continued to get stolen and put on the market before they could release them.

She collected all of the papers from the cutting table, being sure to keep each of the printed pictures with its corresponding sketch. Then she began to pace, worrying a thumbnail between her teeth and wearing out the soles of her one-of-a-kind Zoe-designed pumps while she wondered what to do next.

What could she do?

If she had any idea who was responsible for this, then she might know what to do. Bludgeoning them with a sharp object or having them drawn and quartered in the middle of Times Square sounded infinitely satisfying. But even going to the police would work for her, as long as the theft and replication of her clothes stopped, and the culprit was punished or fired or chased out of town by a mob of angry fashion designers wielding very sharp scissors.

Without a clue of who was behind this, though, she didn't even know where to begin. Wasn't sure she had any options at all.

Her sisters might have some suggestions, but she so didn't want to involve them in this.

She'd been the one to go to design school, then ask their parents for a loan to start her own business. Because—even though they were quite wealthy and had offered to simply give her the money, since she was already in line for a substantial inheritance—she'd wanted to do this herself, to build something rather than having it handed to her.

She'd been the one to come to New York and struggle to make a name for herself, Zoe and Juliet following along later. Zoe had been interested in the New York party scene more than anything else, and Juliet had quit her job as a moderately successful, fledgling real-estate agent back in Connecticut to join Lily's company.

Without a doubt, they had both added exponentially to Zaccaro Fashions. Lily's clothing designs were fabulous, of course, but Zoe's shoes and Juliet's handbags and accessories were what truly made the Zaccaro label a well-rounded and successful collection.

Accessories like that tended to be where the most money was made, too. Women loved to find not only a new outfit, but all the bells and whistles to go with it. The fact that they could walk into Zaccaro Fashions and walk back out with everything necessary to dress themselves up from head to toe in a single shopping bag was what had customers coming back time and time again. And recommending the store to their friends. Thank God.

But it wasn't her sisters' designs being ripped off, her sisters' stakes in the business being threatened, and she didn't want them to worry—about her or the security of their own futures.

No, she needed to handle this on her own. At least until she had a better idea of what was going on.

Returning to the laptop, she hopped up on the nearest stool and straightened her skirt, tucking her feet beneath her on one of the lower rungs. Her fingers hesitated over the keys, then she just started tapping, not sure she was doing the right thing, but deciding to follow her gut.

Two minutes later, she had the phone number of a corporate-investigation firm uptown, and five minutes after that, she had an appointment for the following week with their top investigator. She wasn't certain yet exactly what she would ask him to do, but once he heard her dilemma, maybe he would have some ideas.

Then she continued searching online, deciding to dig up everything she could on her newest, scheming rival, Ash-down Abbey.

The London-based clothing company had been founded more than a hundred years ago by Arthur Statham. Their fashions ranged from sportswear to business attire and had been featured in any number of magazines, from Seventeen to Vogue. They owned fifty stores worldwide, earning over ten million dollars in revenue annually.

So why in heaven's name would they need to steal ideas from her?

Zaccaro Fashions was still in its infancy, earning barely enough to cover the overhead, make monthly payments to Lily's parents toward the loan and allow Juliet, Zoe and herself to continue living comfortably in the loft and working in the adjoining studio. Ashdown Abbey might as well have been the Hope Diamond sitting beside a chunk of cubic zirconium in comparison.

The hijacked fashions in question had originated from Ashdown Abbey's Los Angeles branch, so she dug a little deeper into that particular division. According to the company's website, it was run by Nigel Statham, CEO and direct descendant of Arthur Statham himself.

But the Los Angeles offices had only been open for a year and a half and were apparently working somewhat independently of the rest of the British company, putting out a couple of exclusive lines and holding their own runway shows geared more toward an American—and specifically Hollywood—customer base.

Which meant it wasn't all of Ashdown Abbey out to ruin Lily's life, just the Los Angeles faction.

Lily narrowed her eyes, leaning closer to the laptop screen and focusing on a photo of Nigel Statham. Public Enemy Number One.

He was a good-looking man, she'd give him that much. Grudgingly. Short, light brown hair with a bit of curl at the ends. High cheekbones and a strong jaw. Lips that were full, but not too full. And eyes that looked to be a deep shade of green, though that was difficult to tell from a picture on the internet.

She wanted to despise him on sight, but in one photo, he was smiling. A sexy, charming smile that went all the way to his eyes and threatened to turn her knees to jelly.

Of course, she was sitting and she was made of sterner stuff than that, so that wasn't going to happen. But at first glance, she certainly wouldn't have pegged him as a thief.

She continued to scroll through pictures and articles and company information, but much of it was for the U.K. division and the other European stores. The Los Angeles branch still seemed to be finding its footing and working to establish itself as a British clothing company on American soil.

Deciding there wasn't much more she could do until she met with the investigator except seethe in silence, Lily began to close up shop. She checked her watch. She was supposed to meet her sisters for dinner in twenty minutes, anyway.

But as she was shutting down b...


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mystery and intrigue... April 3 2013
By On_A_Jet_Plane - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Very clever title but the book falls flat. Too much of the book leaves large holes or introduces characters and small story lines that promote what is meant to be a series of three books about three sisters who are fashion designers. The heroine in this book has her designs stolen so she goes to look for them. The culprit is a character just thrown in. The talented blond beauty also makes a great cup of coffee, knows how to use a complete tea service and can be a runway model in a pinch. The hero is a Brit with a father who doesn't think he is doing a good job. What that adds to the story I don't know.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Runaway Heiress April 10 2013
By MK - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
**SOME SPOILERS**
I read this book in 2 days, the beginning was somewhat hard to get through and a little boring but once i got past 30% stage in my Kindle it got good. There time in MIAMI, i thought was HOT! I liked that once they got to that point the characters started to develop more, Nigel was a great guy and Lily felt so bad deceiving him and falling for him at the same time. I liked that the ending wasn't as typical some stories are like, it really surprised me and of course i hope lily's sisters get their own stories!!!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars fun contemporary April 19 2013
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Project: Runaway Heiress
Heidi Betts
Harlequin Desire, Apr 2 2013, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373732388

In Los Angeles, Ashdown Abbey fashion owner Nigel Stratham needs a new personal assistant as the latest quit with no notice after receiving an acting gig. At the same time New York based designer Lily Zaccaro of Zaccaro Fashions is outraged that Stratham stole her designs. She vows to find the thief and hiding her mission from her sisters, she goes to L.A. Undercover Lily becomes the CEO's latest PA.

Lily proves her value right away, but struggles to figure out who stole her designs. Worse for Lily is that her siblings wonder what is going on; and the worst is her attraction to "Public Enemy Number One" Nigel. As they fall in love, she fears how he will react to her going undercover.

The first Project: Passion romance is a fun contemporary that provides readers a glimpse of the designer business. The lead couple is nice paring of the two coasts although the audience will have doubts ultra-passionate with a cause Lily can conceal her stealth amateur sleuthing from her siblings, her new office, and her boss the love of her life. Readers will appreciate this designer tale and look forward to Lily's sisters starring in their personal romantic project.

Harriet Klausner
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars an enjoyable read. April 10 2013
By Harlequin Junkie Blog - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In Project Runaway Heiress, fashion designer Lily Zaccaro has just found out that her designs for her fall fashion have been stolen. Now she has gone undercover at Ashdown Abbey to try and find out who the thief is.

Nigel Statham, CEO of Ashdown Abbey, needs to be find a PA that is not an actress. Being based in LA, does not help him at all, all his previous PA's quit as soon as they get a hand commercial or something else. It takes him more time to train PA's than the actual time he spends working on making the LA branch successful.

Lillian his new PA, seems perfect on paper, now he needs to see how good of a PA she turns out to be. He asks her to a business dinner to interview a designer, and on pure impulse he asks her what she thought of the candidate. To his surprise she voices his very thought of the interview.

Finding the thief will not be easy for Lily, there are many employees at Ashdown Abbey, and to make things worst her older sister is making noise trying to find her. But she will have to try and keep a lid on her attraction to her boss.
Not only is the attraction mutual, so is the denial, but their chemistry will not be denied for long. They will spend many happy days and night together, but once Lily finds the thief she will have to return to her life in New York.

Lily and Nigel will have many obstacles on their way to happiness, not only the distance between their companies, but also accept that the lies told in the past were not meant to hurt them, and that their love was not part of the lie.

Reviewed at HarlequinJunkie.com
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars sweet contemporary romance April 2 2013
By D. Antonio - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Lily has created something to be proud of. She has started her own fashion house in New York. With her sisters doing the accessories and shoes they are a creating something special. When her designs start showing up in LA at a competitors house she is determined to find out who is stealing her designs. To that end she takes a job as personal assistant position with Nigel Statham, CEO of Ashdown Abbey the company at which her designs are appearing. She doesn't expect to be so darn attracted to him. All she can hope is that he isn't involved with the theft.
Nigel Statham is trying to bring Britain's Ashdown Abbey fashions to America. He works hard and is having trouble finding a PA he can keep. In LA everyone is an actress or a wanna be designer. He needs a PA so when Lily shows up and is competent he is conflicted. He is thrilled to have an efficient PA but his attraction to her is darned inconvenient. Will the attraction last when he finds out she is not who she appears to be?

This is a sweet contemporary romance. I really liked Nigel and Lily and wanted to see them succeed but they had a lot of obstacles in the way. Heidi Betts handled it realistically and well.

On a side note: I've followed Ms. Betts blog [...] for a year or so now and have enjoyed her humor and watching the book writing process from afar. She had a couple of days where this book tried her patience. All I can say is that from my perspective it was well worth the angst because the final product was so well done.

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