Seduced:The Unexpected Virgin

By: Emily McKay
One




The last thing Ana Rodriguez needed in her life was another preening, self-indulgent star. Mere weeks ago, she’d walked away from her successful career as a costume designer in Hollywood for precisely that reason. So when her best friend, Emma Worth, had suggested she apply for the job as the director for a charity starting up in her hometown of Vista del Mar, Ana had jumped at the chance.

A fresh start was just what she needed. Away from the drama of Hollywood. Away from stars who would make her life miserable just because she didn’t put out.

Since then, she’d found out she’d be working with Ward Miller, a musical superstar who glowed brighter than anyone she’d known in Hollywood. In her experience, the bigger the name, the bigger the ego. Only now, instead of merely dressing the megalomaniac, she had to pander to his every need, listen to his opinions, take his advice and generally make sure he was thrilled to be the celebrity face of the charity, Hannah’s Hope.

With a critical eye, she scanned the charity’s humble front office. As their mission statement said, they provided “mentoring and resources for disadvantaged individuals.” Which was a fancy way of saying “We help poor people.” In general, Ana wasn’t fond of fancy ways of saying things.

“You’re stewing,” a friendly voice chided.

Ana looked over her shoulder to Christi Cox, her assistant director. “I’m not stewing. I’m mulling.”

Which was just a fancy way of saying “stewing.” Ana uncrossed her arms to toy with the delicate trio of golden loops that comprised her earrings.

The furnishings of the front room were clean, but strictly utilitarian. Functional worktables supplemented with used chairs and bookshelves she’d picked up on Craigslist. The conference room, offices and kitchen in back were even less chic. She’d sent Omar, Hannah’s Hope’s third employee, out to the grocery store to buy coffee. But she doubted even the most gourmet of brews would impress Miller.

She’d dressed up the front room as best she could, with some throw pillows, a floor lamp—to soften the glare of overhead fluorescents—and a bright throw rug, all items she’d had at home. They reflected her eclectic style and added a touch of comfort to the room, but no elegance.

In short, the facilities for Hannah’s Hope looked exactly like what they were: fifty percent meeting space, fifty percent classroom, one hundred percent last, best hope for its clientele. Zero percent schmooze room for spoiled celebrities.

She couldn’t shake the fear that Miller would walk in here and turn his nose up at all they’d done. But underneath that was a deeper fear. That he’d walk in here, have one conversation with her and realize she was a fraud who lacked the skills to make Hannah’s Hope really soar.

If anyone could see through her, it was Miller. He wasn’t just a musical god, he was also legendary for his charitable work on behalf of the Cara Miller Foundation, an organization he’d started after the death of his wife. He’d donated and raised countless millions. He sat on the board of more charities than she could count, including the newly formed board of Hannah’s Hope.

And the truth was, she’d gotten this job only because Emma also sat on the board. Growing up with Emma was practically her sole qualification for being the director of Hannah’s Hope.

The hopes and dreams of the entire town rested on her shoulders. She didn’t dare let them down. Not when they needed her so desperately.

Besides, she needed this job. Not just because she’d quit her other one. Not because she’d invested all her savings in a tiny bungalow in one of Vista del Mar’s middle-class neighborhoods. But because after four years of draping fabric and making beautiful people look good, she needed to do something important. She needed to make a difference.

If only she had more time to get her feet under her before Miller showed up. It was bad enough that she felt so horribly unprepared for this job, why did she have to deal with him so early in her stint as director? Rafe Cameron, the charity’s founder, was an inattentive board member at best. Rafe—hometown bad boy turned corporate raider—was focused on taking over Worth Industries, the company that fueled the local economy. Rafe had started Hannah’s Hope to create goodwill within the community, but Ana suspected he was motivated more by public relations spin than true benevolence. Emma supported her one hundred percent. But Ward was the wild card. Would he swoop in and perform the kind of miracle he had for the Cara Miller Foundation? Or was he merely Rafe’s watchdog, sent here to judge her every misstep?

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