Masquerade: Book 1 in the Lovers Unmasked Series
Publisher: Crimson Romance
After being humiliated by her fiancée, Sophie Franklyn has decided that getting involved with work colleagues and men in general isn’t for her. Now her focus is going to be on her career and her recent promotion. That is until at a New Year’s Eve masquerade ball, she meets a man that tempts her to question her choices. Alex Scavoni is extremely dedicated to his job, so dedicated that his first marriage crumbled under the pressure of his dedication. Now he’s happily single, with a new job he’s excited to start. When he meets a masked Sophie at the ball, she fires desires in him he thought long dead. He spends a wonderful night with her, but wakes up alone. The next time the two meet, it’s in the high pressure world of Emergency Room medicine where they must work side by side. While they deal with the stresses of the Emergency ward, they endeavor to keep their feelings for each other on a professional nature. When the desire that pushed them together that one night flares to life again, can they ignore them or will their one night together have consequences neither of them planned on?
Read an Excerpt
Sophie adjusted her feathered mask, smoothed down her dress, and took a deep breath before pressing the button that would whisk her into a world she tried hard to avoid.
The doors whispered open and an empty cart greeted her. She was glad. She needed a few more minutes of peace. A few moments to cool down before being caught up in the vortex of New Year’s Eve celebrations.
As she stepped in, the mirrored back wall reflected an elegant vision in silver. The woman in the mirror looked in total control of herself.
Looks could be deceiving.
The last thing she felt was calm and in control. Her father backing out of attending this function at the last minute annoyed her immensely. It was clear his latest lover wanted to hail in the New Year at some trendy nightclub, not a boring annual hospital fundraiser at Perth’s premier Casino Complex. An event that was extremely important to Sophie, his only daughter. But her father always pushed her feelings aside. At least she had friends attending. She could spend the night celebrating with them. It didn’t matter that she was now arriving alone.
Pressing the little white disk, illuminating the floor number she required, she waited as the doors closed.
She was preparing for yet another year without a memorable New Year’s Eve kiss. When she’d confirmed her attendance, she had been engaged.
Now she was single.
She had no time to worry about her single status anymore as the doors opened and the buzz from the people congregating in the foyer reached her.
Sophie glanced around, excitement filling her. She loved New Year’s Eve. Tonight, all the guests were in masks. It was difficult to recognize anyone, and she should know quite a few of the guests. The mysteriousness added to the excitement.
She plucked a flute of champagne from the tray of a passing waiter, and took a fortifying sip. As she continued looking around the foyer, she noticed the pictures of the children the ball was raising funds for. Their laughing smiles, in the face of their illness, made her feel selfish for her earlier thoughts. These kids faced trials every single day and here she was, worried about her father ignoring her.
“Wow, Sophie, you look fabulous. The description you gave of your dress was way off.”
She whirled around at the sound of her best friend’s voice, glad Phoebe had somehow found her. Sophie leaned in to give her friend a slight hug. Phoebe looked gorgeous in her red dress. Red was proving to be a popular color among the female guests. Sophie was glad her dress was silver. She’d briefly played with the idea of not wearing it. But it had winked out at her, enticing and pulling her under its spell.
“Thanks, I really needed to hear that.”
Behind the mask, she could see Phoebe’s eyes fill with sympathy. “I know tonight is probably going to be tough, but you’re better off without that loser hanging off your arm.” Phoebe flung her hand with a flourish of twists. “The room is littered with eligible bachelors. Hook up with one, even if it’s only for the required New Year’s Eve kiss.”
“I’ve sworn off men for the time being. My career is going to be my focus now,” Sophie said as she ran her eyes over the mingling guests. Trying to imagine what some of the men looked like behind their masks. All men looked handsome in evening dress. The mysterious allure of what lay behind the mask only added to the ambience of the evening.
She was about to turn her attention back to Phoebe when someone walked into the room. Their eyes met and Sophie caught her breath. She was too far away to see the color of his eyes, but he had an undeniable presence that called to her in the most basic of manners. She wanted to answer the call, but after what she’d been through the last few weeks, she had to protect herself. She pulled her gaze away from his. It was likely she wouldn’t encounter him again that evening. Besides, he was probably with someone. Still Phoebe’s words ran around her mind, like a mouse running around a tumbling wheel.
Could she hook up with a stranger? Just for a midnight kiss? As tempting as it was, after her recent appearances in the tabloids, it would be wiser not to give in to the temptation of a masked man dressed to kill in a tuxedo.
“That’d look good in the gossip papers. It’s the last thing I need. It was pleasant to read the paper today and not see my and Neil’s names and our broken engagement mentioned.”
Concern laced her friend’s voice as she asked. “You are over him, aren’t you?”
Sophie took a sip of her champagne, the bubbles tickling her throat on the way down, and thought again about Phoebe’s question. She loved her friend dearly, but sometimes her insightful questions bothered her.
Was she truly over Neil? Had she even been in love with her ex-fiancé? A resounding no echoed through her mind. She’d been in love with an illusion. The real Neil was the man she’d found with his face buried in his secretary’s bountiful chest. The man whose actions had made her remove her rose-colored glasses. The man who’d been the hospital’s CEO, and her boss. She was so glad he’d taken up a new position at another hospital and she would never have to see him again.
She gave herself a mental shake, firmly putting all thoughts of Neil and their ill-fated engagement out of her mind. Neil didn’t warrant her time or energy anymore.
“I’m well and truly over him.” She linked her arm through Phoebe’s. “Let’s make this a night to remember.”
“You’re on.” They touched their glasses. “I heard the new director of emergency could be here tonight.”
Sophie laughed as she looked around the room once again. “And just how are we going to tell which one of these masked men is the man in question?”
“You have a point. Guess we’ll just have to be on our best behavior.”
The announcement for everyone to make their way into the ballroom sounded. She waited a few moments until the crowd lessened before searching for her name on the seating chart. She rolled her eyes when she saw the organizers had seated her at one of the main tables.
For once, she just wished she could go to a hospital function as herself, Sophie Franklyn, emergency nurse. Not Sophie Franklyn — the one and only daughter of property tycoon Richard Franklyn. She was sick of being referred to as “the princess playing at being a nurse.”
She made her way to the table, weaving her way past people who’d spared no expense with outfits or visiting the high-class jewelry stores around the city. Women’s masks and necks glittered. Jewels sparkled, dresses shone and shimmered under the glow of the chandeliers. She reached her table and found she was the first to arrive. No doubt everyone else wanted to make a late but grand entrance.
She sat down and waited for the rest of the guests to seat themselves, wondering where the guest she’d seen earlier was seated.
“Good evening, may I take this seat?”
Sophie turned her head to the sound of the warm masculine voice as it washed over her skin. A slight accent colored his words. It took all her willpower not to let her jaw drop open. Standing next to her, looking too good to be true, was the guest she’d locked eyes with earlier. Sophie didn’t know how she was so certain it was the elusive guest, she just did. The unbidden thought that maybe the night wouldn’t be too bad after all flittered across her subconscious.
She nodded her acquiescence and he seated himself next to her. Behind the plain strip of black, which emphasized his presence more than a highly decorated mask, she was able to make out his eyes, which were a dark chocolate brown.
Sophie tried to recall the names of the other guests due to sit at the table, but her mind was drawing a blank. Aware that she was still staring at him, her manners kicked in and she smiled, holding out her hand in greeting. “Hi,” her voice squeaked out and she swallowed quickly. “I’m Sophie Franklyn.” This time she sounded like herself.
He took her pale hand in his darker one. A tingle of electricity zigzagged its way up her arm at the contact. The sensation quickly intensified to high voltage as he gallantly placed a kiss on the top of her hand. His lips were warm and soft on her skin and his eyes bored directly into hers, holding her captive once again.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sophie. I am Alessandro Scavoni, but everybody calls me Alex.”